District 109 Teachers Authorize Strike
Work stoppage may not happen and is at least 30 days away, according to union president.
In the face of a vote Friday to authorize a strike by Deerfield Public Schools District 109 teachers, union representatives are trying to accelerate the mediation process to avoid a work stoppage, according to union President Dennis Jensen.
The Deerfield Education Association (DEA) teacher’s union voted 261-2 Friday to allow its leaders to call a strike if negotiations, which have been ongoing since their contract expired in August, fail.
Both sides were disappointed at the lack of progress at Wednesday’s session with a federal mediator.
Neither Board President Ellen London nor District 109 communications director Cathy Kedjidjian responded to Patch’s request for comments before deadline.
The next mediation session is scheduled Feb. 21 but Jensen hopes it will be sooner. “We have asked our Illinois Education Association representative to see if they (the mediator and the District 109 negotiating team) have time next week.”
Before the union can actually strike, either the DEA or District 109 must declare an impasse, according to Jensen. Once the two sides reach that point, they have seven days to submit their final offer. The mediator then has seven days to make it public.
“Then there is a 14 day cooling off period. On the 29th day there can be strike but that doesn’t mean there will be one,” Jensen said. “I don’t know,” he added when asked if the union would declare an impasse before the next session.
Though no impasse has been declared, the DEA took the strike vote because Jensen believes the negotiations have stalled. “No substantive progress has been made on the core issues,” Jensen said. “We believe that this has gone on long enough.”
The core issues are certain workplace rules the teachers feel they must have, the method of evaluating teacher performance, compensation and special education.
According to Jensen, the union wants a return to resource periods for middle school students, freedom for teachers to offer their opinion on special education issues without reprisals or consequences, more time to meet with aids to determine the best way to service caseloads and minutes kept of meetings to be approved by everyone present.
Teacher evalutions have also been a point of contention between the parties. Jensen believes the District wants to revamp the process to give teachers less ability to know how they are being evaluated and how they can make adjustments to their performance.
Though teacher salaries have not been mentioned as a point of disagreement, union members are concerned about the amount of burden they must bear over increasing health care costs as well as possible decreases in pension benefits. Jensen has previously said salary will likely be the last thing negotiated.