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updated: 12/12/2012 5:19 PM

Labor board reviewing contract offers in District 33 dispute

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Both sides in the West Chicago Elementary District 33 labor impasse have submitted their final contract offers. The clock is now ticking on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to review the offers and make them public.

Earlier this month, school board officials declared teachers and administrators were at an impasse after 14 months of contract negotiations.

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The declaration required each side to submit its final offers to the labor board on Monday. That board must now wait seven days before making the proposals public Dec. 17 on its website, www2.illinois.gov/elrb.

From there, labor board special counsel John Brosnan said it will be up to both sides to reach an agreement.

"These negotiations are held privately so once they declare the impasse, we post the offers so the public can weed through them and see where both sides stand," Brosnan said. "If it was a football game, we would be the referees, not the players."

In West Chicago, the two sides have been unable to reach agreement on salaries, retirement plans and insurance benefits. Also still on the table are issues involving class sizes, teacher workloads and the length of teachers' work days.

Both sides asked for a federal mediator to enter the talks in September and have met a handful of times since, most recently on Dec. 3.

School board President Christine Scheck said it's time for a deal to be struck.

"We've been working at this for 14 months, the last two with a mediator. We really couldn't go any further with our discussions of salary and health care," Scheck said Wednesday. "But I still think we'll be able to work it out. The (school) board hopes we can continue to talk and work through this."

Mary Catherine Kosmach, the union's chief negotiator, could not be reached Wednesday but previously stressed the board acted alone in declaring the impasse.

She called the declaration an "unnecessary action that will only further divide us and make it even harder to reach a fair agreement."

She has said the union has offered "economic concessions that would guarantee significant long-term savings for the district in salary and retirement costs." Instead, she said, the board has rejected those offers.

The most recent pact for the district's 284 teachers, a four-year contract, expired Aug. 30. Negotiators for both sides said they were far apart in September when they called for a mediator and there has been little progress since.

District 33 serves roughly 4,000 students at six elementary schools, one middle school and a preschool that meets at two locations.

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