Deal reached in District 300; school resumes Wednesday
A tentative agreement between Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 and its teachers ended a one-day strike that kept almost 21,000 students and nearly 1,300 teachers out of classes Tuesday, according to district and union representatives.
Details of the three-year agreement were not released Tuesday night, but in a message on the school's website, district officials said the tentative agreement was fair to teachers and responsible to taxpayers.
Joe Stevens, school board member and district spokesman for negotiations, commented on the contract talks Tuesday through a mass voice mail and email blast to parents and staff members in the district.
"Both LEAD and the board deeply appreciate the amount of public input we have received on these incredibly important issues," Stevens said. "Your support for our efforts and for the learning environment was impressive. It is clear that we all share a mutual concern for our students' success."
The teachers union, LEAD 300, released a similar statement. Union spokesman Mike Williamson said the details of the agreement will not be released before the union members have a chance to see it. A meeting is tentatively planned for Sunday but not confirmed yet, Williamson said.
The union declared a strike after negotiations stalled late Monday afternoon. Williamson said compensation and class sizes were the two sticking points with teachers wanting lower class sizes and higher salary increases than the district was willing to give.
Union members showed up to all 27 District 300 schools Tuesday morning, forming picket lines outside their buildings from Algonquin at the north end of the district, south to Carpentersville and west to Hampshire. They carried signs calling for a fair contract, lower class sizes and more teachers rather than administrators, all wearing "We LEAD 300" T-shirts. Some students showed up on the picket lines, as did parents. And almost 1,000 union members and their allies gathered for an 11 a.m. rally outside the district's administrative offices in Carpentersville.
When an eight-hour negotiating session ended Monday without a deal, neither side was sure they would be back at the table Tuesday. But union and district representatives began meeting again at 3 p.m. at Westfield Community School in Algonquin with the tentative deal announcement at about 9 p.m.
The board of education is expected to vote on the contract "no sooner than Dec. 18," according to Stevens' comments.
During Monday's negotiations, the district's final offer included a 3 percent raise for this academic year, 2 percent next year and 3 percent in the 2014-2015 school year. The teachers' last contract, a one-year agreement, expired July 1 and included a pay freeze.
The district also agreed to reduce class sizes at all grade levels next year, capping classrooms in kindergarten through second grade at 27 students, third through fifth grade at 30 students, and middle and high school at 32 students, excluding physical education and music classes. In the 2014-2015 year, all those caps would decrease by one more student.
This contract marks the first time caps have been considered at the middle and high school levels. The district's earlier proposal would mean hiring 60 new teachers in the next two years, plus another 10 to shift from an eight- to a nine-period schedule in the high school.
Williamson said before the last round of negotiations that teachers were asking the district to cap middle and high school classrooms at two or three fewer students and to cap elementary school classrooms at three or four fewer students.
The LEAD 300 proposal included salary increases of 3 percent in each year of the contract, plus step increases for experience, which the district has also included in its proposals.
Desiree Sulzmann, a senior at Dundee Crown High School, picketed at various locations in Algonquin and Carpentersville with teachers and other members of We ARE 300, a student group that formed after the union declared an impasse in contract negotiations. Sulzmann said the name came from a play on the teachers union's slogan, We LEAD 300.
She and her peers held signs that read, "If you can read this sign, thank a teacher," and "Teacher working conditions are my learning conditions."
Sulzmann said picketing was the least students could do to support teachers who have always been there for them.
"Ultimately what the teachers are asking for is for us," Sulzmann said.
Although the striking teachers saw a lot of support from cars passing their picket lines, all were not in favor. A car parked near the district's administrative offices at 300 Cleveland Ave., in Carpentersville, sported posters that said "Stop the Greed" and "Children Held Hostage Day 1."
Stevens, who could not be reached after Tuesday's tentative deal announcement, said Monday the strike was unfortunate because it would damage relationships and disrupt the community. Williamson said connections among union members and between the union and the community seemed strong after the one-day strike. But he expected some work in repairing relationships between the union and the board of education.
"To be honest, those relationships have been bad for a number of years," Williamson said. He added that the difficulties during the last 11 months of bargaining for this contract as well as bargaining for the last agreement must be addressed.
"I think both sides are aware of that and I'm hoping that we do in the near future."