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Article posted: 1/9/2013 9:54 PM

Grayslake Dist. 46 makes case in town hall as strike date looms

Teachers union may strike Jan. 16; sides meet again Friday

By Bob Susnjara

Grayslake Elementary District 46 officials made their case for the district's contract offers in a town-hall meeting Wednesday related to a possible teacher strike Jan. 16.

About 60 parents and others attended the session at Grayslake Middle School. It was the second town hall meeting the district hosted that focused on the contract talks.

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 the instructors 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.

District 46 Chief School Business Official Anna Kasprzyk began Wednesday's town hall gathering with a presentation that noted contract talks began in February 2012, with the sides having met 12 times and participating in four federal mediation sessions. The next bargaining session is set for Friday.

Kasprzyk also showed the audience a graphic with the teachers' average salary hikes since the 1999-2000 academic year. The average accounted for a base salary boost, plus extra cash for longevity and additional education.

District 46's total average raise for instructors was 9.9 percent in the 1999-2000 school year, followed by a 6.5 percent hike in 2000-01. The last time the teachers topped 5 percent was in 2007-08.

"You can see the raises are way above 5 percent," Kasprzyk said, "until 2008-09, when the economy was going down."

Teachers received a total average pay increase of 4 percent in the 2011-12 academic year. Kasprzyk said the raises have been "way above" the consumer price index or inflation rate.

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.

Colleen Wade, a parent and former school board member, was among the speakers at Wednesday's town hall meeting. She questioned the idea of having children attending classes staffed only with substitute teachers. One concern is the subs wouldn't be properly trained for District 46's curriculum.

"While there may be qualified substitute teachers out there, I would challenge you not any one of them, on an average, would be better suited for our schools than our (regular) teachers," Wade said.

District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll said substitute teacher applications are still being accepted. She said all applicants would be interviewed and that plans call for building principal to participate in the hiring process.

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