Monday, May 10, 2021

No contract for W. Chgo. teachers; students frustrated


Teachers at West Chicago Community High School have decided to stop acting as faculty adviser for some clubs and after-school activities unless they get paid for their time, and so far, after their union has been negotiating with the District 94 school board over contract terms since April 2016, there’s still no deal.

About 100 people heard complaints from students and community members at a regular school board meeting Tuesday. One parent summarized the frustration of many about the board’s and union’s failure, after more than a year and a half of negotiations, to reach a deal.

“We are entering dangerous waters,” the student newspaper quoted Bob Brown as saying. “When the talk turns to federal mediators, informational picketings [the union held one of those before the board meeting convened], final contract offers, declaring an impasse, and the public posting of the offers, bad things can happen to a good school district. It is well beyond the time for posturing. It is a time to find a way to compromise.”

As of our publication date, no final offers were posted to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board in reference to West Chicago Community High School District 94.

But the effect on students has been a cause for concern—particularly among students who had come to enjoy their participation in after-school activities, according to a report of the board meeting in the Wildcat Chronicle. Some teachers have reportedly been working to rule, which means they’re in school from the first bell to the last bell but don’t run after-school clubs.

“I miss [Gay-Straight Alliance] and I miss Animé. I used to let it all out with my friends after school, but when my sister comes here as a freshman, I’m not sure she’ll be able to do that because there aren’t many clubs left,” the student newspaper at West Chicago Community High School quoted one sophomore as saying.

Another student said to the board that reaching an acceptable deal with teachers would be “affirming that you recognize the impact they have made in our lives”:

It is declaring that you hold their talents and dedication in high regards. The time has come for choices to be made and acted upon. Either your choices or your actions will express what you hold most important. Do you want them to reflect your pride, your personal agendas, or validate what you claim to be your priority?

The district has made arrangements for some teacher essentials, such as health insurance and retirement stipends, but none of that makes school more enjoyable for students; the clubs that have been abandoned would do that. Getting those back in swing would require a deal.

The Daily Herald reported in November that the main sticking point in the contract talks was teacher salary and that a federal mediator had been called in.

“I’m hopeful they’re becoming more focused with the mediator present, that he can help direct us all toward something that’s going to be agreeable to both sides,” the paper quoted school board President Gary Saake as saying, when the board’s proposal offered annual pay raises that weren’t approved by the teachers.

“We’ve still got a considerable gap to close,” he added. “I always remain optimistic. Nothing is insurmountable. We just need to have both sides understanding what’s possible and what’s not.”

Back in November, the union’s proposal sought a twofold increase in the stipend teachers would be paid for advising any extracurricular activities, like the Animé Club.

Actual terms won’t be disclosed to the public until the district and teachers declare an impasse, if that ever happens, and post what they say are their best and final offers to the IELRB website. A strike could begin as soon as two weeks after those offers are posted.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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