With a strike date less than one week away, at least 50 residents turned out for a 'Town Meeting' Wednesday night hosted by the Grayslake School District 46 Board. The public was given a chance to voice concerns about the contract negotiations between the board and the teachers' union.
One concern brought up by several residents was the safety of students if a strike were to happen.
"The substitutes that would come in are not trained on the safety procedures in the school," said Colleen Wade of Grayslake, questioning how the board could ensure the students are safe in the case of an emergency with 99% of the staff unfamiliar with the buildings.
The district is accepting applications for temporary substitute certified teachers and non-certified staff in the event of a strike.
Superintendent Ellen Correll said they are interviewing all substitute teachers and would have them trained to ensure the safety of the students is the top priority.
Another concern raised was about working parents, and where they could send their children. Correll said the plan is to provide childcare at Meadowview and Prairieview Schools.
At the first town hall meeting Correll stated that she has reached out to the district's Champions childcare program, which agreed to offer programs from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at those schools for $33 per day, per student.
One bus driver urged the board to remember who is ultimately being affected. "I saw it when we consolidated bus routes; some of the kids are on the bus for 25 to 45 minutes. It has affected the students. These little things are big adaptations for the kids, please remember that."
Another parent suggested the board consider an if-then clause in the contract in regards to state funding changes. According to the board,
Beth Schwab said teachers may be more willing to negotiate a contract if they see a future plan for grant writing if state funding is decreased.
The Contract Terms
The board and union's 'best and final offers' were brought forth at the last bargaining session Nov. 28. The terms currently stand as:
- Both sides agree to a 2-year contract term.
- The district is sticking to a salary freeze with no step or lane changes for the first year. In the second year the board has offered to give all certified staff who have not submitted for a notice to retire a $1,000 stipend, which could cost the district about $300,000.
- The union agrees to continue working at their current 2011-12 salary schedule for next school year, but they want lane change compensation paid in February 2013, which would cost $200,000. Teachers are also asking for two salary steps scheduled for Sept. 2013 and March 2014, which would cost $750,000, according to the district.
In the Event of a Strike
Supt. Correll said they will continue to post updates regarding negotiations on the D46 website.
In the event of a strike on Jan. 16 Correll said parents should check the website often and that the automated phone system would call all parents Tuesday night, Jan. 15.
The Next Step
The school board and union are scheduled to meet Friday, January 11 in hopes of coming to an agreement.
Ray Millington, D46 school board president and D46 union president Diane Elfering can agree on one thing. Both have told Patch they are willing to meet as long as it takes to reach an agreement in hopes of averting a strike.