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Bitter Words on Both Sides As D124 Board Ratifies Teachers Contract

Teachers will make up six of the eight strike days, district to forfeit two, state-required student attendance days.

The Evergreen Park Dist. 124 school board ratified the hard-fought teachers contract after more than a half-year of fruitless bargaining and an eight-day work stoppage that disrupted the education of 1,800 elementary school students.

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Before board members voted on the four-year contract, there were harsh words from both sides of the spectrum at Wednesday’s special school board meeting at Central Junior High School.

Students returned back to school on Monday.

“I wanted to tell you how immensely disappointed I was in the board during negotiations the last two weeks,” Liz Gorman, the mother of eighth-grade triplets said during public comments.

Gorman chastised the school board for not attending a community forum organized by the teachers union and moderated by an impartial third-party, even though board members had been invited.

“You represent the taxpayers of Evergreen Park and when your constituents requested a meeting. It seems that you should honor that request of the people you work for,” Gorman said. “You did not.”

Chuck Radgowski, father of four D124 students, said for the first time he was disappointed in the district’s teachers.

“I don’t know what goes through people’s heads out there today, but if you watched [the presidential debate] there is 8.6 percent unemployment,” he said. “If you don’t like what you got there are plenty of people sitting out there that if help wanted sign went up those positions would be filled.”

D124 School Board President Kathy Rohan said by the end of the strike, all seven board members became involved in contract negotiations.

“We wanted to make sure that we had everyone’s input because we obviously needed a majority vote for this to pass,” Rohan said. “In terms of people being free or not being free [for the community forum] might have been a misconception.”

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Rohan explained that board members returned parents’ phone calls and email, as well as communicated on the district’s website “factual information of how our [teacher] salaries compare to other districts.”

D124 school board member Beth Amado cast the sole vote against the contract, calling it “fiscally irresponsible.”

Amado said she couldn’t support the contract because of current economic conditions, inconsistent and reduced state funding, and the district’s projected budget deficit of $1.2 million over the next two years.

“I believe it is fiscally irresponsible to approve a contract that the district simply cannot afford,” Amado said, as union members sighed in the audience. “This will increase budget deficits and jeopardize our financial good standing. It could also place the current level of staffing and programs in jeopardy.”

After board members ratified the contract (the union ratified it 136-43 earlier this week) Evergreen Park Federations of Teachers co-president Mariellen Newquist was free to talk about the contract’s details.

Teachers would be making up six of the strike days, but missing the state’s 176-day attendance requirement by two days. Originally the school board said that teachers would not be making up strike days, tipped the first work stoppage in the school district's history.

Instead, by docking teachers for two days.

“Certainly you would think that would be a priority that those eight full days be made up from a student’s perspective,” Newquist said. “Taking students out of the classroom for two days out the educational year in response to wanting us docked for two days.”

At the final bargaining session, Newquist said the union's negotiating team just wanted to end the strike and get kids back in school.

“We feel we came in from a ‘zone of possible agreement,’ where you think you’re going to come in with the most fair proposal that you can and get the contract done as quickly as you can,” Newquist said. “We had to work really hard to get our membership back into a situation where we were coming out with some things that we were really trying to just maintain, that [the school board] was trying actually to do away with completely.”

The union’s biggest concession was merit pay, where teachers are rewarded when students meet “measures of academic progress”—educational standards used to assess instructional levels and measure children’s academic growth. Teachers can expect to gain bonuses if classes perform well as a whole on reading and math MAP tests.

However, there was compromise. Newquist said that teachers would take part in the assessment plan and help create parameters of what is considered to be students’ “academic growth.”

“In the end we had to do our best to come up with something the rest of our membership could live with and ratify in order to get this done so our kids could get back in school,” she said.

Asked if she thought Amado’s remarks about an unaffordable teachers contract in the face of projected $1.2 million budget deficits, Newquist said of the district’s infamous “$16 million nest egg”:

“The district came out with surpluses [for] the past five years,” she said. “To me, there has to be fiscal responsibility tied with that as well because this is a non-profit organization. To have those kind of surpluses, why isn’t that money being put back into the school system for whatever the need is for infrastructure and technology.”

The tentative teachers contract will undergo legal review before it is finalized over the next few weeks.

Read full strike coverage.

 

  • Letter to the Editor: Time For Healing
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The teachers did indeed agree to the days, very true.
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Wow, your get so off track. Stop cherry picking and read the first sentence of I care's post.
Concerned October 18, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Just chiming in my support for the board, now that Southside is keeping score. I thought the teachers would feel victorious with the new contract, especially since they knew the board's stance on missed days before they decided to strike. My kids have already learned the concept of "you work, you get paid; you don't work, you don't get paid." I think getting paid for six of eight days missed is rather generous. I applaud the board for all of their hard work, but wish more of them agreed with Ms Amado. We elected them to oversee the school revenue, and they have done a commendable job under very difficult circumstances.
R Gibbons October 18, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Ep95. I did. I'm asking for an explanation of the senior comment. Is there a reason not to explain?
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Truth hurts, I guess Tracie.
Another Taxpayer October 18, 2012 at 07:54 PM
My viewpoint, this was the BOE strike. Not caring how much taxpayer money they payed that lawyer to hack away at the union contract. Pretty much a no brainer that it would lead to a confrontation/strike. That board even has to be confrontational with the Sisters of Mercy. Suing the nuns to make their retirement home smaller, with private money, but under the guise of Dist. 124. That's just an embarrassment to the community. April can't come soon enough!
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 08:13 PM
It may be a no brainier for you, but not to hard working people who would never walk away from their jobs. And the nursing home isn't even half finished, yet look at it. Enough said. Have fun after your election to the BOE. Good of you to give to the community that way!
kmnr232135 October 18, 2012 at 08:21 PM
BOE were embarrassing how they handled this strike....regardless of what teachers were fighting for.....
Concerned October 18, 2012 at 08:23 PM
"If more Seniors were on computers maybe you would be run out of town." What's not to understand? I think I Care is saying that there are a lot of Senior Citizens in town that did not support the strike. Is that accurate, I Care?
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 08:28 PM
And who voted for that strike?
Southside October 18, 2012 at 08:35 PM
If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, seniors love me. The only people being run out will be the board in April 2013.
Southside October 18, 2012 at 08:46 PM
If they agreed with Amado they would still be on strike. She didn't care when it got settled. Her kids go to catholic school. Her sky is falling attitude gridlocked the process long enough. All the what ifs. C'mon. Amazing she can leave the house as something bad might happen.
R Gibbons October 18, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Ep95...again implying negativity towards someone's heartfelt post with caustic and crass comments directed at the person posting. I understand we have a right to free speech in this country which includes "Another Taxpayer".
R Gibbons October 18, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Concerned... I and my husband supported the strike and we are baby boomers so well within a senior classification I believe you fail to realize that our taxes are and have been supporting all of EP for quite some time. We are not complaining about money paid for a quality school district . We need to attract young families to stop the trend in our housing market. Young families come to quality school districts. And we are hard working professionals. With hard working adult children.
DCH October 18, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I have lost all respect for the teachers of district 124!!!!! The only thing they have proved through this whole thing is all they care about is money!!!!! They say they care about the children missing 8 days of school. If you ask me they don't care a rats butt about the kids,all they care about is the money they will not be getting. There is a real easy way to prove me wrong. All they would need to do would be work the 8 days probouno thats right put the kids before themselves and do it for free. I am also disapointed with the board. They should have called in the subs when the union kept submitting the same offer over and over. The board was trying to reach an agrement the union / teachers were not. No matter how you look at it the only ones that truly lost was the kids!!!!!
Kells October 18, 2012 at 09:01 PM
That is absolutely correct. My block was completely divided - half for the strike, half against. I have too many senior citizens leaving on a fixed income on my block that were against the strike. I also have many on my block who are either unemployed or underemployed and could not stomach seeing the teachers act so out of control. Everyone should be for fiscal responsibility. Wait until after the election. All these people who favored giving everything to the teachers will be crying when their taxes skyrocket. Gov Quinn has on his desk the pension reform bill to be signed. We will then be responsible for the EP pensions. Guess how high our taxes will go!!!
jhawker October 18, 2012 at 09:11 PM
And whose caustic and crass?
I care October 18, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Exactly! I knew it did'nt need clarification. I figured that if R Gibbons was that confused over the post that maybe it would keep her off this site for a while!!
Concerned October 18, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Southside, who cares if Ms Amado's kids go to Catholic school? She still lives here and pays taxes, which is more than I can say about the union negotiators. You all should have known that before you elected her to this position. You and the rest of you who want to board bash should take a look in the mirror. They were all elected democratically and have served this community with their time and attention, and all that the bashing is accomplishing is keeping other qualified and dedicated citizens from running for an open position. Who wants that job after all the BS they've had to put up with?
Southside October 18, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Sky is falling!!! Sky is falling!!! What if!!! What if!!! At least those who support educators will only be crying later instead of the anti-teacherites who cried 2 weeks ago, are crying now, and will cry later. Teachers negotiated, then compromised and got better a deal they knew was possible. They are smart like that. They will not ruin EP. The sky is not falling.
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Exactly concerned, as if the members of the SB all really sat there for hours on end, wanting to deprive the teachers and ruin public education. That's exactly why upstanding members of the community get involved....to ruin the community in which they live.
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Maybe mot the sky...but take a look at the real estate transactions shown on the home page of the patch. Ouch! Not so much of a stretch to worry about district finances.
Southside October 19, 2012 at 12:35 AM
It is so all about punishment. You people would rather make sure the teachers and their families go without, rather than make sure the students get their full school year. You can't spin it any other way. And there will be accountability and responsibilty- in April 2013.
EP95 October 19, 2012 at 01:00 AM
"Make the teachers and their families go without". Without what? Whatever, stretch, oh I mean southside.
EP95 October 19, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Southside Stretch Armstrong for SB! April 2013. That's kind of catchy! Make sure you get your nominating petitions in by the deadline. Oh wait! You might have to get off the patch!
Southside October 19, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Put up or shut up EP95. You got stones saying I am on The Patch too much. You're on here more than me. Pot calling the kettle black. You wouldn't want me anyway. I would work with the teachers. Not blame and punish them.
EP95 October 19, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Hey, just wondering if your willing to put your money were your mouth is. I'm perfectly satisfied with the representation, and your clearly not satisfied. So lets see you put yourself out there. Sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry.
EP Lover October 19, 2012 at 11:28 AM
I agree with Concerned. I realize that Ms. Amado has been a lightning rod for controversy with the lawsuit against the Sisters of Mercy and perhaps for other reasons. However, I believe an ideal composition of the School Board would be a mix of D124 parents, Catholic School parents and people of varied professions/retirees who no longer have school age children. You need all interests represented at that table. I shudder to think of a Board comprised of entirely D124 parents. In the most extreme instance, the D124 could easily generate huge deficits because parents would vote for programs, thinking onlly of their children. However, sound financial management is vital to our children as well. I don't think any of us want D124 to be in the same situation as Mokena.
EP Mom October 20, 2012 at 03:00 PM
The teacher were going to provide FREE services to kids at Jacob's Well until the BOE said they couldn't... I am sure you would go to work for 8 days for free just for the good of your boss...
I care October 22, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I agree DCH! EP Mom-Any person can do what they want. This is America. They didn't need aproval from anybody to babysit.

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