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Support Showed for D181 Teachers' Contract Offer

Locked in so-far-fruitless mediation with the school board, the HCHTA's offer was favored by most of the public commenters at Monday night's board meeting.

The teachers’ choice to leave their blue shirts at home wasn’t the only thing that made Monday’s District 181 Board of Education meeting feel different from the last. Supporters of the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association (HCHTA) in the ongoing negotiations stalemate with the board were more vocal, as well.

Eight of the 13 people who stepped to the microphone during the public comment section of Monday’s meeting to voice an opinion on the ongoing negotiations stalemate between the board and the HCHTA spoke in support of the teachers’ union.

At , only two of five speakers backed the union and one of them was HCTHA President Justin Horne, a fifth-grade teacher at .

Three speakers Monday spoke in support of the board’s offer, while two spoke not in support of either side, but in support of a reasonable agreement.

Horne said he thought mailings from community members last week that criticized the union in part led to the change.

“I think the community is surprised that the board has not accepted the teachers’ offer,” Horne said after the meeting.

Three of the pro-union speakers were teachers, one was the husband of a teacher, and four were community supporters.

Mike Sprengnether, who's wife Mary works at (CHMS), said his wife is the "hardest working, most dedicated" person he knows and, in addition to work-time spent at school, puts in 20 to 30 extra hours per week working at home during the school year.

"These negotiations are not a time for any personal agendas or drawing lines in the sand," Sprengnether said. "I think it’s time for all fair-minded and reasonable people to find a common ground."

Ellen McGann, the parent of a District 181 graduate, said she supports the HCHTA and the reason she and her husband moved to the area 21 years ago was the schools.

"It's not just the curriculum, it's the teachers," McGann said.

The VP and managing director for JP Morgan Chase said what her business values.

"We pay for performance, we reward loyalty, and most of all, we encourage longevity."

Steve Woodward, a community member who runs a website that has backed the school board during the negotiations, said the board's efforts have been overlooked.

"They’ve been made a very generous offer. I haven’t heard that once [at this meeting]," Woodward said. "But I do hear it in the community. I hear it on the telephone. I see it in the emails." 

The most recent contract between the board and union expired on Aug. 24.

Horne and HCHTA negotiation chair Mario Castillo, a CHMS history teacher, said offers from the two sides have not changed since the Aug. 22 meeting.

According to offers made public that night, both the board and the HCHTA want no base salary increase for teachers in the first year of a new contract. The union, however, wants to keep in place step increases, which are raises teachers get based on their longevity in the district. The board’s proposed salary freeze would not give step increases in the first year. Nelson said the average step increase is 2.8 percent.

Offers from the two sides continue to diverge in year two of a potential contract. The union wants a 1.75 percent base salary increase, plus step increases; the board offered step increases in the second year but still no base salary increase.

In year three of a potential contract, the board has offered a base salary increase equal to 50 percent of the CPI increase in year three (not to exceed 2.25 percent), plus step increases. The union offer does not detail a third-year scenario.

After saying on Aug. 22 that the board is interested in a more market-based approach to the new contract, Board President Michael Nelson said after Monday’s meeting that he had no comment on the negotiations and will not have a comment until either a deal is reached or an impasse is declared.

District 181 Assistant Superintendant Mary Ticknor said that, according to new Illinois state regulations, an impasse can be declared by one of the two sides after 15 days of mediation, but there is no maximum number of mediation days.

Jackie Woodward September 13, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Thank you for noting the number of speakers who were teachers or spouses of teachers. Discounting them, there were 4 pro-Union and 3 pro-Board community supporters. Pretty even. However: One of the pro-Board speakers brought 133 verified email signatures to a pro-Board petition. The community is overwhelmingly in support of the Board. Thank you for clarifying the facts.
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) September 13, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Thanks for the comment, Jackie. It's true that four community members stepped to the mic Monday in support of the union, but that's a big increase from just one community member the meeting before. There was definitely a different feel, I thought.
Jackie Woodward September 18, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Two meetings aren't necessarily an indication of the community collective. I'm hearing a growing chorus of neighbors who support the Board -- from supportive friends to absolute strangers who recognize my name due to the publicity. The Board is standing firm, which is what the majority of their constiuents want. In the interest of balanced reporting, perhaps a relevant question would be, is the Union doing the same for its constituents?
Kerry Comstock September 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM
I think the teachers are being reasonable and I support them. Once people I have talked to know the facts; they agree. They are asking for no pay increases this year, and modest increases next year. During tough economic times; teachers jobs are even harder. There are many families hurting now; teachers are always on the front line. I hope they come to an agreement soon.

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