District 211 teachers picket at administration building
An estimated few hundred Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 teachers picketed in front of the district's administration building on Roselle Road in Palatine during the evening rush Tuesday to draw attention to their demands in stalled negotiations for a new contract.
Union President John Braglia said he especially wants to raise awareness of a more substantial presentation to community members and an opportunity for them to provide feedback at a town-hall meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, in the auditorium of Palatine High School, 1111 N. Rohlwing Road.
"If they feel we're out of line, we'll take that into consideration," Braglia said. "I want to hear what the community has to say. I don't know who will come out."
Braglia and other union members -- holding signs reading "Help Us Support Our Students" and "It's About People & Programs, Not Bricks & Mortar" among others -- said they believed their proposal was neither unreasonable to the district's finances nor disrespectful to its taxpayers.
"The bottom line is we're not asking for a whole lot," he said.
One of the major financial disparities between the union and school board is over annual increases to members' base pay in a potentially four-year contract retroactive to July 1.
The union is asking for a 2 percent increase the first year and the yet-to-be-determined rate of inflation for each of the three remaining years. As has been the case through many previous contracts, this would be in addition to annual step increases as members move up another year in experience.
District officials say step increases differ depending on where an employee is on the salary schedule. But for the current school year, even under the terms of the previous contract, they averaged 3.7 percent for all teachers.
The district's latest offer was a 2 percent increase on the base for the first year of the contract and 75 percent of the rolling average of the rate of inflation for the previous 10 years for those still on the salary schedule during the following three years. For those off the salary schedule after 25 years of experience, the annual increase during the latter three years would be 100 percent of the same 10-year average of the inflation rate.
Rob Higgins, a math teacher at Fremd High School in Palatine for 22 years, was among those who explained why they thought support for the teachers was reasonable even among those without children in the schools.
"There is no question in my mind and the minds of all these people (in the picket line) that people move to this community because of the schools," he said. "And the teachers are the backbone of those schools."
Marc Mantasoot, an English teacher at Hoffman Estates High School for 14 years, said the property values the schools provide the district is one concrete example of their contribution.
Only slightly more subtle are the character-building, work ethic and communications skills that help make the district's students and graduates good citizens, he added.
Among the former employees who turned out in support were Alan Prochaska, who founded the union in 1978, and husband and wife Dennis Nykiel and Maureen Donehey, who credit the district's special-needs teachers with enabling their autistic son, Jack Donehey-Nykiel, to graduate in 2004 with sufficient skills to attend DePaul University and graduate from there magna cum laude.
District officials Tuesday said though the union has previously quoted raises of 0 percent, 0.2 percent, 0.25 percent and 0.4 percent over the four years of the previous contract, those were only the increases to base salaries and not reflective of the annual step increases that accompanied them.
Union members plan to picket again from 3 to 7 p.m. today in front of the administration building at 1750 S. Roselle Road.