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Article updated: 11/9/2012 3:53 PM

Grayslake District 46, teachers union set to resume contract talks

By Bob Susnjara

Grayslake Elementary District 46 officials and teachers union representatives plan to resume negotiations Monday for a new teachers contract.

Both sides have forwarded final, best offers as required to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board since District 46 declared an impasse in negotiations last month. The documents show differences between the district and union include pay and contract length.

"Teachers' salaries are already below average when compared to area districts and the board's proposal would make them even less competitive," according to the union.

But the district counters in documents it has only so much money available, given the reductions in state and federal aid and limitations on generating tax revenue.

Negotiators for the Lake County Federation of Teachers union and school board are scheduled to restart contract talks Monday, District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll said. The last bargaining session occurred Oct. 30.

Teachers last month voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing union leaders to call a strike, if necessary, in the wake of the district declaring an impasse.

Union business agent Jim Pergander said while teachers can legally walk out because enough time has elapsed since the strike vote, no date has been set and it's hoped an agreement will come at the bargaining table.

"Are we at the point we can settle in one (negotiating) session? Yes, we are," Pergander said Friday.

District 46 instructors want a deal that would cover the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years. They seek 3 percent base salary raises in each of the two years.

In contrast, the school board is offering a salary freeze and a $1,300 bonus as part of a one-year contract to all teachers except those who have submitted retirement notices. There also wouldn't be any raises for length of time on the job or additional academic credentials.

All stipends for extracurricular and supervisory duties would be frozen, according to District 46's offer to the teachers. The instructors want an increase of 2.5 percent for all stipend amounts in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Union members are balking at the district's effort to end 6 percent annual base salary raises over the final four years of employment for teachers who give their retirement notices. Instead, the district wants to limit retiring teachers to 5 percent annual raises in their final three years of work.

At a District 46 board meeting this week, Correll said about $45,000 has been spent on legal fees for the teacher negotiations. Talks started in February.

Responding to a question from board member Shannon Smigielski, Correll said negotiations are allowed to be in public with feedback from residents. However, she said, such won't be the case for the current contract talks.

"Our attorney suggested at this time it might not be a good idea because, as we began negotiations, there was an agreement on both sides to keep things confidential," Correll said. "And we would have to go back to the union and negotiate that change in the way we are working."

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