Teachers, staff members rally as strike looms in Grayslake District 46
Accompanied by the honking horns of passersby, Grayslake Elementary District 46 teachers and support staff members rallied outside Frederick School on Monday to demonstrate for higher pay.
With contract negotiations stalled, unions for the workers have notified the school board of their intent to strike, with a walkout possible as early as Nov. 7.
Ahead of a bargaining session with the school board Monday, teachers, support staff and community members gathered outside the school where they waved signs reading "Won't raise taxes" and "Fair pay means staff stays," and chanted, "What do we want? Fair pay! When do we want it? Now!"
Negotiations have stalled over financial issues -- specifically, wages and salaries.
"It's a state of being at odds," said Matthew LaPierre, staff representative for Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504. "(A strike) looks more likely than not. We're just not in agreement, and people are feeling disrespected."
District leaders voiced disappointment with the strike threat.
"We remain hopeful that a contract can still be settled without disruption to our students," school board President Jim Weidman said. "The District 46 board strongly supports and respects our excellent teaching, office and support staff and wants to compensate them fairly for their work while operating within the financial means of the district."
Union leaders say the raises offered have been minor compared to increases in the cost of living.
"The district has millions of dollars more than they did two years ago, but they're offering us a smaller percentage raise," teachers union President Michele Beye said. "Our community deserves strong schools with strong teachers and support staff."
"Our biggest concern is the number of staff that we have that are making less than $15 an hour," added Leah Brown, the union president for the support staff.
Support staff members at the rally also voiced concern over a potential strike. But they said the board is not listening to them.
"We deserve a raise and a salary for the work we do," said Cheryl Tednes, an administrative assistant at Frederick. "I'm on my 20th year in this district and I have to work two jobs."
Teachers said they hope to avert a strike, because that's time they wouldn't be able to work with students.
"We are the third-lowest paying district in Lake County," music teacher Kathleen Davis said. "They had told the community they would not negotiate any further, but we're hopeful that they will."
After marching down Frederick Road, union leaders vowed to protest again at the school board meeting next Wednesday if their differences with the administration are not resolved.
"I love this work, love the kids," said Cecelia Secour, a paraprofessional holding a sign that read, "If you care for the kids you need to pay the teachers."
Still, some seemed resigned to the possibility of a strike, like paraprofessional Sherly Johnson.
"If we do, we do," she said.