Both sides report progress in Dist. 121 teachers union contract talks
Warren Township High School District 121 officials and union representatives are reporting progress toward a teachers contract as they head into a daylong meeting Friday, working to avert a strike that could start as early as March 13 if the two sides fail to reach an agreement.
During a Daily Herald endorsement interview Wednesday, Board President Tom Drake said the many talks between the two sides have been productive.
Teachers in the district have been working without a contract since June 30. Officials from the Warren Township High School Federation of Teachers and the district have met to negotiate more than 25 times.
"Both parties understood this was going to take a long time, we're leveraging an extremely positive relationship," Drake said. "We aren't at an impasse, we aren't close to an impasse, it's just taking a long time."
Drake said one of the reasons it is taking so long is because in the past certified teachers and classified staff each had their own contracts with the district.
"We're taking them on simultaneously and combining into a single contract," Drake said.
Jason Jecmen, the president of the teachers union, agreed with Drake's assessment of the talks.
"We are doing the best we can toward reaching a fair agreement that is best for students and the WTHS community," Jecmen said.
Last Wednesday the teachers union announced via its Facebook page that reps had initiated the public posting process mandated for a possible strike. State law requires the teachers union to wait a minimum of 28 days to strike after officially starting the process.
Matthew Beverly, a field service director with the Lake County Federation of Teachers, said the two sides are getting closer.
"Progress has been made and will continue to be made," Beverly said.
Beverly said the two sides don't have a meeting on the calendar beyond Friday but can schedule more if an agreement is not reached.
Beverly said he is hopeful that they can get the negotiations wrapped up before the 28-day waiting period is over.
"We look forward to wrapping up the process soon," Jecmen said.