Prolonged contract talks between the school board and teachers in Mundelein Elementary District 75 could be nearing a conclusion after another mediation session that stretched into the early hours Thursday.
"Both the board of education and the teachers association were actively engaged and made substantial progress on a lot of issues. We hope to come to an agreement soon," said board member Wells Frice, the point man for the school board.
An issue regarding a training program remains outstanding but otherwise the board has made its final offer and the union will share the tentative agreement with its members next week, said Lupe Roznowski, a second grade teacher and co-president of the Mundelein Elementary Education Association representing about 140 employees.
"We have a verbal agreement (but) we as a union have not signed off on it," she said. Union members will review details and eventually vote on whether to accept the terms.
Neither side has disclosed details, but teachers say they have been among the lowest paid and are seeking a three-year contract and a raise.
The most recent contract was for two years and included a combined salary increase of 2.5 percent for 2012-13 and 3.5 percent for the 2013-14. The contract ended June 30.
Negotiations for a new pact began early this year and were referred to a federal mediator in June. An estimated 13 sessions in all have been held.
In advance of the mediation session Wednesday, about 120 current and retired teachers, parents and supporters wearing red T-shirts saying "MEEA 100%" gathered and walked a half mile from Carl Sandburg Middle School to the district offices in support of the negotiating team.
A petition signed by about 120 members was presented to Frice saying teacher retention was a priority and calling for a fair contract acknowledging past teacher concessions.
"We have a serious problem with retention of teachers, up to 20 percent a year in turnover," union co-president Nick Ciko told the Daily Herald at the rally.
"Teachers are leaving because salaries are better elsewhere -- benefits, the whole package," he added.
The idea of the rally and walk came from the membership, he added, saying teachers did not want to disrupt the classroom and hoped the show of support would "kick start things."
Before accepting the petition from Ciko, Frice told teachers the board was aware of "how hard you've been working." He said the union had asked the district to address pay, salary schedule, extra duty and professional development days.
"We've made proposals that have addressed these concerns in substantial ways," Frice said.
Ciko's response hinted all has not gone smoothly.
"We appreciate all that the board has said, however, we believe that words are subject to proof and that this board's past deeds have shown an unwillingness to place a priority on the teachers in this district," he said.
Teachers also have been critical of a 40 percent increase in administrative salaries. That is the result of having former Superintendent Cynthia Heidorn's salary on the books through September and the hiring of a business manager, the district contends.