Mediation sought in Geneva teachers’ contract talks

A federal mediator has been asked to help resolve contract talks between the Geneva public school district and its teachers union.

Tom Summers, of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service’s Chicago office, Friday said both parties signed the request. Carol Young, president of the Geneva Education Association, said there have been four sessions.

In July, the district and the Geneva Education Association filed a 45-day notice with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. That notice details the status of negotiations 45 days before a contract expires.

According to the IELRB, the notice listed compensation, benefits, services to be made available to serve special education students and involuntary transfers as “issues in dispute.” They have not been resolved, according to Young.

The special education services clause of the expired contract, which expired Aug. 15, applies to elementary schools. It concerns planning time for teachers and special education assistants, before and during the school year.

The district is honoring the expired contract, according to school board President Mark Grosso.

Members of the union have attended the last two school board meetings, beseeching the board for better compensation.

Saying Geneva students’ standardized test scores were among the best in the state, Geneva High School teacher Kevin Garnett told the board Aug. 13: “And yet our teachers are paid significantly less than some of our neighbors, such as Batavia and St. Charles.” While praising the board’s goal of using a surplus in the education fund to help pay down debt, he also said the district needs to support its students by “investing in our teachers,” to attract, retain and hire the best.

A beginning Geneva teacher, with a bachelor’s degree and no experience, started at $39,651 in the 2011-12 school year, according to the expired contract. In Batavia, such a teacher starts at $40,905 this school year; in Kaneland, $36,650; and St. Charles, $42,250.

Pay rises with longevity and advanced education. Under the expired Geneva contract, top pay is $99,069. Batavia’s is $108,632 for a person with a doctorate; Kaneland, $83,787 for a person with a master’s degree plus 36 hours of postgraduate study; and in St. Charles, it is $94,501. Kaneland’s contract also offered longevity stipends of up to $5,500 for teachers at the top end who have hit the wall on step increases.

None of the figures include stipends for extra duties, such as coaching sports.

At that same Aug. 13 meeting, Geneva TaxFACTS co-founder Bob McQuillan suggested money for teachers could come from reducing spending in other areas. But he also pointed out that in 2011, the average Geneva teacher salary, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card website, was higher than St. Charles and lower than Batavia’s. And since Geneva has a list of about 1,000 people who have applied for teaching jobs, “There is not a problem in attracting or hiring excellent teachers.”

Last school year, 381 out of 420 eligible certified workers belonged to the GEA.

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