Geneva school strike enters fourth day after talks end with 'progress'

 
 
Updated 12/7/2018 8:50 AM
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  • Kate Hertz pickets outside Geneva High School Tuesday. Hertz, an English teacher, has taught there for 19 years.

      Kate Hertz pickets outside Geneva High School Tuesday. Hertz, an English teacher, has taught there for 19 years. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Progress was made Thursday night in negotiations between Geneva teachers and the school board, according to the union spokesman, but teachers will continue their strike for a fourth day.

Spokesman Bridget Shanahan said negotiations will resume at 6:30 Friday evening at the district's headquarters at 227 N. Fourth St., Geneva.

"We made some progress and the board asked for some to review our offer. We felt that was a reasonable request," Shanahan said.

Teams for the school board and the union, plus a federal mediator, met for more than three hours Thursday night.

Earlier in the day, Geneva District 304 officials had released a chart of what each teacher would be paid under the terms the school board proposed early Tuesday morning.

The report, which can be found on the district's website, came on the third day of a strike that has canceled classes for nearly 6,000 students.

"The timing and tone of this does not set a real positive stage for our negotiation session tonight," Geneva Education Association President Kevin Gannon said Thursday afternoon.

Besides the report, the district's release included comments disagreeing with several union statements.

The news release from the district said starting salaries "lagged" in recent years due to the "step and lane" salary schedule method the district has used for at least 50 years.

Gannon disagreed.

"That isn't telling the whole story," he said.

He said the teachers' salaries are behind due to agreements the union made in the 2012 and 2015 contracts to either delay pay increases or limit them. As a result, the district could use more of its money to pay off debt without increasing property taxes.

"We walked that path together," Gannon said. "It is not the (salary) model that has caused (the lag)."

The report lists certified personnel from A to Z. It shows their current salaries, years with the district ("step") and graduate-level education ("lane"). It also shows what they would be paid as their experience increases over the four years of the proposed contract. For some, it also includes a pay increase because of additional graduate education.

According to the district's calculations, individual teachers' pay would increase, in four years, by as little as 6.56 percent to up to 44.71 percent for one individual.

Actual dollar increases per person range from $4,044 over those four years to $28,796. The first figure is for a teacher who is on step 17 and does not have any graduate credits. The latter is for a teacher who is on step 16 with a master's degree but who has now attained either a doctorate or a second master's degree.

Activities that have been canceled so far include a high school choir concert that was supposed to happen Thursday. The girls gymnastics team was supposed to participate Friday in the DeKalb invitational; their participation is listed as "canceled" on the school website.

Girls and boys basketball teams were supposed to have home games against St. Charles North on Friday; they are listed as "postponed." The boys wrestling team's meet against St. Charles North is listed as "postponed."

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