Grayslake D46 contract talks fizzle again
Teachers strike continues
Grayslake Elementary District 46 teachers will be on strike for a third day in a contract dispute, with the next bargaining session set for Sunday.
District 46 board members and Lake County Federation of Teachers union representatives, with assistance from a federal mediator, met for about five hours without a successful conclusion Thursday at Park School Campus in Round Lake. The school board and union previously met for eight hours Tuesday night without reaching a deal.
"The parties met (Thursday) and discussed possible changes to their positions but were unable to reach an agreement," District 46 board President Ray Millington said in a statement. "The federal mediator adjourned today's session. Both sides will be getting back together on Sunday evening."
Union business agent Jim Pergander said the mediator ended Thursday's contract talks. Pergander said he thought the sides would be drawing closer to a deal heading into the strike's third day, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
"What it will take to settle this is the board will have to get off the square where it has been sitting for quite some time," Pergander said.
District 46 teachers walked off their jobs Wednesday over retirement incentives, base salary and extra compensation for job-related advanced degrees. The 325 instructors, who have been without a contract since July 1, have been picketing at the district's seven schools.
Superintendent Ellen Correll announced classes will be not held Friday due to the strike.
Negotiations between the district and the union began in February 2012. District 46's latest, publicly known offer is a two-year deal under which teachers would not receive base salary hikes or step increases for longevity. Teachers would receive a $1,000 stipend paid to them in the 2013-14 school year if they have not submitted a retirement notice.
In a statement, the District 46 board addressed the federal mediator's proposal that purportedly represented a "middle ground" contract the union was willing to accept Tuesday night.
"The board appreciates those efforts, but it is ultimately the board, and not the mediator, who must find the money to pay the increased costs of any agreement," the statement says. "During a time when the board is facing serious multiyear budget deficits and declining revenue, this is not an easy task. When projecting budget deficits in excess of $2 million, adding more money to that deficit is not an obvious solution."
Pergander said he questions the district's true financial condition because board members in December voted 5-2 to reject a requested 4.5 percent increase in this year's tax levy. District 46 Chief School Business Official Anna Kasprzyk said an extra $750,000 likely would have been received if the tax levy hike had been approved.
"On one hand, they're talking we can't give you any money because we have a deficit," Pergander said. "But on the other hand, they refused to raise the normal money they can raise ... that would have helped alleviate the deficit."
Board members said they needed to reduce the tax bite on property owners. Officials said an owner of a typical $200,000 home can expect to pay $90 more to the district in 2013, as opposed to $400-plus if the higher levy had been approved by the board.
Instructors initially sought 3 percent base salary hikes in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, but have dropped that demand. Union members have objected to the district's effort to end 6 percent annual base salary raises over the final four years of employment for teachers who give their retirement notices.
With an enrollment of nearly 4,000 pupils, District 46 serves parts of Grayslake, Third Lake, Hainesville, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach and Lake Villa. Two park districts have stepped in to offer parents safe places for idle children to spend their school days.
Grayslake Park District is offering a "strike camp" with crafts, movies, games and more from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at its Commerce Drive recreation center. It's $30 per child and $25 for each additional sibling.
Park District Executive Director Jeff Nehila said 14 children attended Thursday's camp. He said park employees worked quickly to start the program.
"We're pretty happy with the product," Nehila said.
Nehila said he expects interest to grow if the strike continues, so Tuesday's camp would be held at the much larger Grayslake Middle School.
Round Lake Area Park District made extra space available in its full-day child care program. Options include care from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. for $9 per day or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for $26. Executive Director Bob Newport said 13 children were signed up for Thursday's program.
Oregon-based Knowledge Universe United States is running a fee-based, day-care operation through its Champions brand at Prairieview School in Hainesville.