Teachers union, Warren Township High School District 121 upbeat about talks
More than 25 negotiation sessions have come and gone between Warren Township High School District 121 officials and teachers union representative, but despite reports of progress from both sides, a resolution remains elusive.
Teachers in the district have been working without a contract since June 30 and last week began the mandated public posting process for a possible strike. Officials from the Warren Township High School Federation of Teachers and the district have met to negotiate a number of times, including a daylong session Friday.
Superintendent John Algrim said the two sides have come a long way, in particular during the last eight sessions when they've been joined by a mediator.
"Substantial progress has been made on salary, health care and retirement benefits, which are the most significant issues," Algrim said. "We've definitely made significant progress and Friday helped."
Matthew Beverly, a field service director with the Lake County Federation of Teachers, said he too thought the talks went well Friday.
"Despite the fact that we did not settle on Friday, progress was made," Beverly said. "There is no impasse as we speak here today."
Last week the teachers union announced via its Facebook page that reps had initiated the public posting process required for a potential strike. State law requires the teachers union to wait a minimum of 28 days to strike after officially starting the process, which means they could go on strike as soon as March 13 if the two sides fail to reach an agreement.
School Board President Tom Drake said Wednesday that the board's bargaining team continues to be hopeful that an agreement will be reached.
"We believe the agreement will honor the important contributions our teachers and staff make to the overall success of our students, allow the district to attract and retain quality employees and maintain the financial health and stability of the district," Drake said in a statement.
Although the two sides do not have another meeting scheduled, Beverly said talks will continue.
"We're optimistic that we'll get this done," Algrim said.