Geneva teachers, school board thankful for deal
Two sides now must vote on undisclosed deal
The Geneva school district has apparently avoided a teachers strike, with negotiators reaching a tentative deal early Monday morning.
But the cost of that deal won't be made public for several days.
Negotiators met for more than eight hours, starting Sunday afternoon and wrapping up at 12:30 a.m. Monday, hours before teachers had planned to go on strike.
"It was a long process," school board President Mark Grosso said at Monday night's school board meeting. "It was tough, tough on everybody ... emotionally, very stressful."
"Last night either side could have walked away," Grosso said. "I think it took some fortitude on both sides, and we stuck it out and nobody took the easy way out."
Word of an agreement brought a word of thanks from a teacher Monday night.
"I want to say thank you both to the board of education and my negotiation team," said Tina Gaetani, starting to cry. "I'm thrilled we have reached an agreement."
"We're happy that no strike occurred and that we have school today as normal," Superintendent Kent Mutchler said earlier Monday.
Geneva Education Association President Carol Young could not immediately be reached for comment.
The union will present the proposal to its members Tuesday, and they will vote on it Wednesday. The school board hasn't set a date for its vote. Both agreed not to release details of the three-year agreement until after both sides vote.
The district told parents of the agreement via its emergency notification system around 5:30 a.m. Monday.
The contract will cover 422 teachers, psychologists, librarians and social workers, 388 of whom belong to the union.
Saturday, the union had filed an unfair labor practice charge against the board, with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. The union contends that the district tried to intimidate employees last week when it sent them a letter saying that if they went on strike, they would have to make arrangements to pay their full health insurance premiums if they wanted coverage to continue during a work stoppage. Young said the letter also addressed negotiation items that at the time were undecided.
The school district's attorney said the letter was written in response to "numerous questions" the district had received from teachers about would happen during a strike.
Parent Leila Fakhoury said some residents of Geneva should apologize to teachers for the way they treated them during negotiations, including calling teachers greedy. She suggested many parents could afford to pay more for education, if they were to give up some other expenses, such as eating out often.
"I think teachers are taking a high road in all this," she said.
The board's latest public offer to the union was made Thursday. It called for:
• A salary freeze in the first year, except for two groups of workers. Those who have completed certain levels of graduate education would receive lane increases of 2.65 to 5.37 percent, and teachers who had given notices of retirement in the past three years would receive pay increases.
• In the second year, salaries would rise 1.95 percent, while salaries for teachers with 23 or more years of experience would rise 1.5 percent; beginning pay would be raised to $40,905; eight teachers could get unrestricted raises based on graduate work, while other teachers' graduate-work raises would be limited.
• In the third year, salaries would rise 2.75 percent, while salaries for teachers with 23 or more years of experience again would rise 1.5 percent; beginning pay would rise to $41,413; and teachers could advance one lane.
The union has not publicized its offers since Oct. 29. That offer called for a salary freeze for the first year, with only raises for graduate work; full experience and education increases in the second year, plus making up the raise for half a year's experience; and full experience and education increases in the third year, plus making up the raise for half a year's experience.