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posted: 1/17/2014 5:38 PM

District 57 contract negotiations getting heated

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After almost a year of negotiating, contract talks in Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 are no closer to a resolution.

Both the school board president and education association made public statements at a school board meeting on Thursday addressing the distance between the two, which has now resulted in the union filing that an impasse has been reached.

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On Thursday the Mount Prospect Education Association began the "public posting process," formerly called "filing an impasse," according to a public statement from Carolyn Story, association spokeswoman.

"After seven months without a contract and 11 months of negotiations, the Mount Prospect Education Association has seen little progress at the bargaining table, despite the presence of a federal mediator," Story said. "While the (association) remains ready to negotiate in good faith, the board of education has been unwilling to discuss the issues important to District 57 teachers."

Story listed those issues as including a fair compensation package, quality professional development and clearly defined teacher evaluation and reduction in force (RIF) policies and procedures.

The public posting process means that each bargaining team must now post its last best offer with the state Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board where they will be made available to the public while the two parties continue to bargain, Story said.

Meanwhile, school board President Karen Nejdl responded to the union on Thursday with a statement she said was intended to quiet community rumors.

"We have heard the rumors of the union discussing 'impasse' and 'considering a strike' from community members. There has been no indication of this in negotiation," she said.

She said the two groups met on Jan. 7 and Jan. 14 with a federal mediator and that the school board requested a face-to-face meeting with the union on Jan. 14, but the union refused.

"It was stated by the union that 'negotiations are not going well.' The process of negotiations is not supposed to go well. It is a series of discussions that require give and take over a period of time and work toward compromise," Nejdl said. "The time frame under which we are working is much longer than anticipated and we have been unable to meet at a compromise."

Nejdl said several issues that the union is concerned about, such as reduction in force or performance evaluations, are now outlined in Illinois state laws.

"In proposed contract language, the (association) wants to go beyond the stated law and asks for administration to give up management rights stated within the law," she said. "The district needs to operate within the letter of the law."

On the issue of time for professional development, Nejdl said the union has requested four half days, while the school board has proposed two.

"The board does not want to trade professional development time for student instructional time as requested by the union," Nejdl said.

She said that until now the board has not made public statements about the negotiations because members did not think it would be helpful.

District 57's teachers have been without a contract since June 30, when their previous deal expired. In the interim, teachers have been working under the terms of the old contract. The last proposal from the board was on Sept. 16.

The district and the education association are next scheduled to meet with the federal mediator on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Feb. 5 and Feb. 10.

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