Geneva schools closed today: Teachers go on strike
Geneva teachers are on strike this morning, leaving nearly 6,000 students out of classrooms.
Schools are closed today after teachers called a strike when contract negotiations broke down early Tuesday morning.
The Geneva District 304 school board said representatives of the Geneva Education Association walked out after 7½ hours of negotiations that had begun at 6 p.m. Monday.
"The Board of Education is grateful for the many calls and emails urging both parties to resolve their differences and to put the needs of our students first by reaching agreement on a fair and fiscally responsible multiyear contract that compensates our teachers fairly and competitively for their work, while operating within the financial means of the District and advancing the best interests of all District 304 stakeholders, including our students, parents and community," the district said in a Tuesday morning note.
The board said no new negotiations were scheduled.
The Geneva Education Association issued a statement Tuesday morning from union President Kevin Gannon that said the two sides worked for nearly eight hours to reach a tentative agreement.
"In the end, we made the difficult decision to go on strike," Gannon said in the statement. "The board's salary model continues to be an untested model that no other school district in Kane County uses to compensate its educators. Our members and the community have been very clear that a traditional step and lane salary schedule that determines salary based on experience and education is important to them. The board's latest offer does not meet that expectation.
"Our educators want nothing more than to be in their classrooms instead of out on a picket line. This is our last resort. We remain open to meeting with the board anytime to reach a tentative agreement and return to our students."
Geneva teachers, and community members who support them, had rallied late Monday afternoon at the Geneva school district headquarters, just before negotiations resumed. They waved signs and sang strike songs such as "Step and lane, step and lane, standards should remain" to "Jingle Bells," and "Summer pay, summer pay, it hasn't changed since the '80s," to "Silver Bells."
Several students spoke, including a third-grader from Harrison Street Elementary School who told the crowd: "The teachers there are beyond amazing. I think everyone should be treated as well as they treat us."
"Like many of you tonight, my heart is in my stomach," said Kerri Heilman, whose children attend Fabyan Elementary. " ... Our school district has been given the bounty of our hard-earned tax dollars. I can't think of a better way to show Geneva teachers we value them (than with the contract the union wants)."
The union tendered a counter-offer Sunday night to the district, in response to one made by the district last week.
Union spokesman Bridget Shanahan said Monday the offer would increase starting salary by about 12 percent over four years. Veteran teachers' pay would increase by 4.2 percent over those four years, she said.
In the 2018-19 year, the increases would be between 4.19 and 6.68 percent, Shanahan said; 2019-20, 5.12 to 6.61 percent; 2020-21, 3.53 percent to 5.52 percent; and 2021-22, 2.66 percent to 3.45 percent.
The union also wants an increase in the stipends paid for teachers who lead sports and other activities outside school hours, and an increase in pay for summer school and curriculum-writing work.
No details on Monday night's and Tuesday morning's negotiations were released.
According to the Illinois Report Card, the Geneva school district had the equivalent of 393 full-time teachers in the 2017-18 school year. It had 5,831 students.
Librarians, social workers and psychologists are also covered by the contract.
The district came close to a strike on 2012, reaching a tentative deal the evening before.
The district is notifying families in several ways this morning.
It is posting news on the district's website, and the website of each school. It also is sending a 304 Connects email and posting the news on social media. And it will use its emergency telephone notification system, but not making calls until 5:30 a.m.
Students who attend Fox Valley Career Center will still attend those classes, as will children who attend classes through the Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative. Transportation will be provided as usual for those two programs.
The Geneva Park District's Friendship Station preschool, housed at Geneva Middle School South, will remain open.
But extracurricular club meetings, as well as sports practices and games, will be canceled. Nonschool feeder club practices held at the schools would also be canceled.
The Kids Zone before- and after-care school program at the elementary schools, run by the park district, are canceled Tuesday. It will resume Wednesday at the Sunset and Persinger recreation centers, the district said.