District 204 teachers want 'multiple working conditions' addressed
"Multiple working conditions" need to be addressed before teachers and the school board governing 28,500 students in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 can reach a contract, officials said Monday.
Teachers rejected a tentative agreement between union and district negotiating teams for the second time last week, leading Paul Gamboa, president of the Indian Prairie Education Association, to tell school board members more compromise needs to occur.
The 2,100 teachers in the union rejected the three-year pact 57 percent to 43 percent during a vote Friday. That shows improvement from May, when 85 percent of union members opposed an earlier tentative agreement.
"Our members have shown that we need to continue to address the multiple working conditions that exist in our contract to help make our district a place where all students can truly succeed," Gamboa said Monday. "We stand here in unity before you tonight and again commit to working together to come up with a fair contract for all parties."
Superintendent Karen Sullivan nearly echoed Gamboa when she told a packed board room of more than 200 parents, teachers and high school students that the district is committed to a fair deal for union educators.
"We'll regroup and get right back to work with the IPEA team to craft an agreement that hopefully is agreeable and fair to all sides," she said.
The previous teachers contract expired at the end of June in the district that serves parts of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.
The deal teachers shot down last week would have provided an average 3.2 percent salary increase the first year, an average 2.07 percent increase the second year and an average 2.08 percent increase in the third.
The proposal teachers rejected in May would have given raises the next two years but would have eliminated post-retirement insurance and the 6 percent raises teachers generally receive in their last years of employment.
Between the first and second tentative agreements, Gamboa said negotiations aimed to address four top concerns teachers voiced through surveys. He would not say what those topics were.
Meanwhile, three parents spoke to the school board Monday evening with concerns about large class sizes they call "unacceptable."
Jamie King said she fears her children never will experience a class smaller than 30 students, causing worries about "constant distractions, safety, loss of instruction time, discipline issues," she said.
Parent Sally Glavin said classes of 35 in middle school or 38 in some high school courses cause not only academic problems but social/emotional issues as well.
Gamboa would not say if class sizes are one of the "working conditions" teachers want to see improved before they agree to a new contract. Nor would school board President Lori Price, who said she was "disappointed" teachers again rejected the proposal but was looking forward to reaching a successful deal soon.
But class sizes, according to district administrators, average 25 students at elementary schools, 28 in middle schools and 26 at the district's three high schools. Elementary grades also have class size maximums that when reached prompt an aide to be added or a new section to be created. The maximums are 27 for kindergarten, 28 for first-graders, 30 for second-graders and 31 for students in grades 3 through 5.