Teachers in have been working on an expired contract since August and have been picketing outside the administration office each weekday afternoon since Friday letting people know they are not happy with their situation.
Teachers of the Deerfield Education Association union have been negotiating with a team of administrators and School Board members through a federal mediator in hopes of reaching an agreement.
Though both sides are hopeful mediation sessions Monday and Dec. 14 will bring the teachers and administration closer together if not to a settlement, union President has not ruled out a strike. Jensen teaches social studies at Caruso Middle School.
“We took a vote to see if our members would support informational picketing and a possible strike,” Jensen said. “They supported both overwhelmingly,” he added while stressing they were nowhere near taking a strike vote or authorizing one.
School Board President has lived in Deerfield 17 years and been a member of the board for the last 11. In her memory there has never been a strike. Negotiations have required the assistance of a mediator for two of the three contracts arranged during her tenure. She too is hopeful.
“Can we settle this in as short a time as possible,” London said? “I would hope so. While the teachers charted a list of grievances, London would not comment. “I’m not going to get into any issue,” she said. “I’m not going to negotiate in public.”
While both sides agree compensation should be fair, the teachers are also concerned about working conditions, classroom environments and health insurance benefits. A 30 percent reduction of students classified as needing special education is a particular worry.
“They didn’t go away,” Kipling fourth grade teacher Amy Karasick said referring to children who previously received special attention. “They’re in the regular classrooms. This affects everyone in the classroom.”
Jenson is also upset with an effort to increase health insurance costs for teachers that were covered in the past. “They want to double, triple and quadruple the cost of co-pays,” he said.
While teachers contend district business manager Greg Himebaugh has said District 109 has been in solid financial shape for the last seven years, they do not understand why the administration is not more generous with its offers.
London will not comment on any specific issues. She said she must balance the concerns of Deerfield’s citizens with the teachers’ needs. “We have to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers and at the same be fair with faculty and staff,” she said.