Kaneland teachers to provide details on strike notice

Updated 11/9/2015 5:48 PM

Whether the Kaneland school district is paying teachers enough to keep them is the main area in dispute in negotiations for a new contract, according to the chief negotiator for the Kaneland Education Association.

The teachers union issued an intent to strike notice Nov. 5.

"Salary is always one of the considerations people have when they leave a position" to teach elsewhere, said Susan Acksel. She said one-third of Kaneland's teachers are nontenured, which means they have been with the district fewer than five years.

Kaneland's starting salary, for a person with a bachelor's degree and no experience, is $37,210. That makes it one of the lowest in the area. In contrast, beginning teachers in neighboring West Aurora District 129 make $42,991, and Geneva starts at $39,651.

Acksel said higher salaries is in the best interest of Kaneland students, "so it (the district) is not a training ground."

According to the state's 2015 school report card data, Kaneland had a three-year average teacher retention rate of 85.4 percent.

Also to be resolved is how salary increases will be determined in the next contract after this one.

The proposed contract will still use the step-and-lane approach to salary increases. It creates a grid, based on the amount of education a teacher has and how long they have worked for the district. Districts throughout the suburbs are dropping the method.

The union is having a public forum Thursday to discuss what each side is offering, and the district's finances. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Kaneland Harter Middle School, at Esker Drive and Harter Road.

Negotiations began in March and the last contract expired June 30. In September, both sides agreed to start using a mediator. They last met Nov. 2, and no other sessions are scheduled, Acksel said.

State law requires a 10-day notice before a strike can occur. It also says that a strike can't happen until at least 14 days after the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has posted both sides' "final offers." Neither side has declared an impasse or submitted final offers.

The contract covers 357 teachers, librarians, social workers and school psychologists.

"We are hopeful and confident we can get this resolved," Acksel said.

Representatives of the district and school board could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

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