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updated: 1/8/2013 3:35 PM

District 220 board, teachers optimistic on contract talks

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While avoiding discussion of specifics, Barrington Unit District 220 school board members and teachers union representatives are reporting positive progress in negotiations toward a new contract, nearly a month and a half after requesting the help of a federal mediator.

"We are very optimistic that something is going to be done soon," said Melanie Collins, president of the Barrington Education Association which represents the teachers.

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School board President Brian Battle agreed with that assessment.

"We had two productive sessions during the month of December with the mediator," Battle said. "I think both sides are optimistic that a positive outcome can be reached."

There are three more meetings already scheduled in January, beginning with one on Thursday.

Though the mediation process has already passed the point when either side could declare an impasse, both Collins and Battle said the fact that neither side has done so could be correctly interpreted as a sign of mutual good faith.

Neither side, however, is willing to share specifics about the original areas of disagreement that first led to the request for the mediator, or those that still linger.

The teachers union's last three-year contract expired on Aug. 31. Battle said this is the longest it's taken during his decade on the board for a new contract to be approved.

He added that increasing funding uncertainties in Springfield have played no small role in that -- making even year-to-year budgeting decisions more difficult.

District 220 teachers last went on strike in 1980, a third of a century ago.

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