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Public Hears 109 Board Stand on Talks

Board explains positions for first time. Union president clarifies union’s issues.

Public frustration erupted over the lack of public information provided about ongoing contract negotiations between and the at Monday’s school board meeting. 

Teachers have been since before the school year began and started informational picketing in November. Both sides have been working through a federal mediator. The next session is Thursday followed by two more on Jan. 31 and Feb. 8. 

The seeds for Monday’s emotional meeting attended by more than 400 people were planted earlier this week when Deerfield parent Susan Peterman sent an email expressing fears of a strike. “It’s not out of the question,” she said. “At some point they may reach an impasse.” 

indicated no movement toward a strike will be made before the Feb. 8 meeting. “Nothing is going to happen before those dates,” he said. 

The board responded by making its first public comments about the negotiations at Monday’s meeting. read a prepared statement and board member Steven Schwartz, part of the negotiating team, explained some of the board’s position in the negotiations for the first time. 

Statements Are Not Enough For Some 

The board’s first public statements about the negotiations were not enough for some in the crowd. “Let us hear from the other side,” one person said. “There must be someone here who can speak (for the teachers).” London would not allow it. 

Eric Hogberg, a Deerfield parent, made it clear he was not happy with either the board or the union. “I’m frustrated by the lack of information on both sides,” Hogberg said. “I’m being asked by both sides to express a position I know nothing about.” 

With both the board’s comments and conversations with Jensen after the meeting, the positions of the two sides began to emerge. Schwartz talked about compensation including both salaries and benefits, special education and teacher evaluations. 

Evaluations may prove to be the biggest sticking point. Teachers are currently graded on an old system which the board claims needs upgrading including the use of technology, according to Schwartz. 

“If we want to change it it must be bargained,” Schwartz said. “A final evaluation instrument is being dealt with in the negotiation process. The procedure stays,” he added referring to procedural rights teachers currently possess. 

When pressed by parents, Schwartz admitted the goal was to give the administration the final say over evaluations. Jensen made it clear that is not acceptable to the union. 

Union Firm on Evaluation Issue 

“We are very firm on it being kept,” Jensen said about maintaining teacher evaluations as a bargained right. 

Schwartz made it clear the board’s negotiating team had strong feelings as well. “So are we,” he said responding to Jenson’s statement. 

London emphasized she wants to see a fair contract for all sides. Schwartz talked about compensation and health care benefits. There appears more flexibility there but the board has its limits. 

“We will not dip into reserves and we will not ask the taxpayers for more money (through a referendum),” Schwartz said. “Greater than CPI (consumer price index) we can’t do without dipping into reserves.” He also wants to make some alterations to the health care package to offset annual “double digit” cost increases. 

Jensen said he has not been privy to the board’s finances to evaluate Schwartz’s position. Those records are public, according to District 109 Communications Director Cathy Kedjidian. He clearly sees room to move on the health care package. 

Many of the parents who spoke were concerned about . The removal of resource rooms giving special needs students a period in the day for closer attention aroused great passion. “I came last month and I’ll keep coming every month until you restore the resource rooms,” one parent said. 

Originally Schwartz said special education issues were not part of the negotiations. “It is not a contract issue,” he said. “It’s not in the contract now. Special education should not be part of it (the contract).”

Jensen said the resource rooms were part of the negotiations which was confirmed after the meeting by board member Nick Begley. Jensen said negotiating working conditions for teachers will also have an effect on special education services. “It will trickle down,” he said.

London told the crowd the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting Jan. 23 would include a presentation on special education. She also said there would be three parent meetings.

Mara Meyer January 12, 2012 at 02:34 PM
This problem with providing services also is coupled with the judgments these indivduals make supposedly on behalf of the community. Truth be told, this Administration and Board is egregiously making decisions in areas.
A January 13, 2012 at 03:53 AM
And seriously why were there 4 new administrative staff hired in the past few years when support and special education has been reduced and minutes are not being met in accordance with the law? These 4 hires, and increased amount of spending are not apparent in the budget (under sections school or general administration) because they pushed it into business and instructional staff. They actually do not do anything instructional from what I have heard. Isn't this hiding the truth and very deceiving? The district functioned without these 4 positions wonderfully for years. Is this their idea of fiscal responsibility......hiring staff to make administrative workload lighter while our students and staff struggle in this situation?
Harry Steindler January 13, 2012 at 03:59 AM
What are these four new positions?
A January 13, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Communication, 21st Century Skills, Benefits, and Student services over the past few years
Lisa Polisner February 07, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Though I am responding to your post from January 10th, you should know that a teacher at Caruso just "resigned" last Friday. He was one of the weaker teachers and had been for many years. He was definitely a teacher that needed to be replaced. I don't know the full details of why he resigned, however, I do believe it was not by his own choosing. I think this should show that a teacher, whether tenured or not, does need to perform to certain standards and is not impenetrable.

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