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Article updated: 1/2/2013 6:31 PM

Dist. 46 sets town hall as teacher strike looms

Grayslake Elementary District 46 teachers seeking a new contract rallied outside Park School Campus in Round Lake in October. District 46 plans to host another town-hall meeting at Grayslake Middle School at 6 p.m. Jan. 9 that would focus on a possible walkout. Teachers intend to strike Jan. 16 if they donít have a new contract by then.

Grayslake Elementary District 46 teachers seeking a new contract rallied outside Park School Campus in Round Lake in October. District 46 plans to host another town-hall meeting at Grayslake Middle School at 6 p.m. Jan. 9 that would focus on a possible walkout. Teachers intend to strike Jan. 16 if they don't have a new contract by then.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Grayslake Elementary District 46 school board members plan to host another town-hall meeting to discuss with the public the potential impact of a looming teacher strike later this month.

The town-hall session will take place at 6 p.m. Jan. 9 at Grayslake Middle School, Route 83 and Library Lane, before a regular board meeting that night.

Teachers plan to strike Jan. 16 if a new agreement isn't reached by then.

About 120 parents and others attended the first town-hall session Dec. 11 in an effort to gain answers about issues such as the district's finances, contract negotiations and replacement teachers in the event of a walkout.

In a statement, District 46 officials said the union was informed that some who attended the first town-hall meeting wanted a similar session to hear the teachers' side. However, Lake County Federation of Teachers union business agent Jim Pergander said Wednesday that he doesn't plan to initiate a town-hall meeting or send representatives to the district's meeting next week.

"I believe we'll just let it be the district's show," Pergander said.

Pergander said a bargaining session is set for Jan. 11. Union and school district negotiators began the contract talks in February 2012 and last met Nov. 28.

District 46's latest offer is a two-year deal under which teachers would not receive base salary hikes. But the latest proposal calls for a $1,000 stipend paid to them in the 2013-14 school year if they have not submitted a retirement notice. While both sides agree on the contract length, they remain apart on compensation.

School board candidate Paul Sprenger was among those who spoke at the first town-hall meeting. He said teachers should realize they are threatening to strike in the middle of a struggling economy and at a district in financial difficulty.

"I really appreciate what the teachers do," Sprenger said. "I think they put their hearts out for their jobs, but they all have to realize that from an economic standpoint, this community cannot afford to do what it is doing."

Under District 46's latest proposal, raises based on longevity and education would not be provided to teachers in either of the two years. Stipends for extracurricular and supervisory duties would be frozen at current levels. Instructors initially sought 3 percent base salary raises in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years but have dropped that request.

However, the teachers still object to the district's proposal that would eliminate varying raises based on longevity and education. The union's revised offer calls for those hikes that are due in 2012-13 to be delayed to the 2013-14 school year. Teachers union members also have objected to 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.

On Dec. 20, the district began seeking replacement teachers to work on a temporary basis should regular instructors strike. District 46 said in its statement the school board "may consider providing services to students during a strike, if feasible."

"Appropriately certified teachers" are encouraged to apply for the potential replacement jobs.

District 46 also is soliciting applications from candidates interested in support staff positions -- such as reading assistants, nurses and secretaries -- covered by a separate union agreement. Though not at an impasse, District 46 says it must be prepared if negotiations for a new support staff union contract break down.

Pergander said a federal mediator will preside over contract talks between the district and support staff union for the first time Jan. 11.

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