Classes off in McHenry again Wednesday as negotiations continue

 
 
Updated 10/6/2015 8:51 PM

Classes are off once again Wednesday in McHenry High School District 156 as talks between the school board and teachers union went late into the night Tuesday.

Both sides returned to the negotiating table Tuesday night after yet another unsuccessful round of talks Monday. But before the negotiating session even began, officials had called off school for a fifth day.

 

Even if a deal were reached, the union's 160 members would have to get together to take a vote on a potential contract, and there wouldn't have been enough time to do that Tuesday night, said Heidie Dunn, spokeswoman for the McHenry County High School Educators Association.

The district's 160 teachers have been on strike since last Thursday. Its two campuses serving 2,550 students remained closed Tuesday.

An emergency negotiation session Monday night that lasted more than two hours failed to produce a new contract, Dunn said.

Salary schedule and health insurance premiums are major points of contention for both sides.

The school board's last publicized offer was a flat 2.7 percent yearly increase on average for four years, including step and base pay raises.

Teachers countered, seeking an automatic step increase of 3.64 percent plus an extra 1.36 percent increase to the base pay, amounting to an overall 5 percent yearly increase. They also are asking the district to pay 100 percent of the increase on health insurance premiums.

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Several proposals have been exchanged since, but details have not been released.

"We're throwing ideas back and forth," school board President Steven Bellmore said. "Our sticking point is replacing the current salary schedule and they are not agreeable to it. There's a number of (school districts) that have gotten rid of their salary schedules. On a percentage basis, we were pretty much at the top end of where we can be on our offer."

With the strike now in its fifth day, officials will have to figure out a long-term plan for how students can make up for lost time, aside from using up the three or four snow days districts typically build into their calendars.

"Anything beyond that we have to make alternative schedule plans," Bellmore said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.

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