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EP Teachers Set Oct. 2 Strike Date

Evergreen Park elementary school teachers are poised to strike on Oct. 2 if an agreement for a new contract cannot be reached with the Dist. 124 school board.

The Evergreen Park teachers union and Dist. 124 school board are scheduled for another bargaining session on Wednesday after failing to reach an agreement on a new teachers contract earlier this week.

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Contract talks broke up after four-and-a-half hours of negotiations on Monday evening, prompting teachers to set an October 2 strike date. Both sides have been bargaining for a new teachers contract for five months.

Earlier this month the teachers union and school board released what was dubbed as their final offers.

Read both proposals.

Tony Demma, a speech language pathologist at Southeast Elementary School and member of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers bargaining team issued a written statement on behalf of union members.

Demma said it was the union’s goal to reach a settlement on Monday and end its dispute with the school board.

“The union bargaining team offered some ideas to try and reach a contract settlement,” Demma said. “The school board didn’t like the union’s concept and an agreement could not be reached.”

The teachers union further asserted that the board made a new demand about student test scores in their final offer after five months of bargaining that had never been discussed.

According to the teachers union, the district “claimed for the first time” that a portion of the district’s $16 million surplus fund had been earmarked for “mysterious, unnamed projects.”

Dist. 124’s $16 million surplus is above the state recommended 25-percent fund balance. Demma called the district’s surplus “abnormally large.”

“We have made every effort to reach a resolution, but the board’s refusal to work with us has forced us to set a strike date of October 2,” Demma said. “We need the community to continue voicing their opinion to let the board know that they are tired of the games and they want the board to compromise to keep kids in school.”

The district has outlined its reasons for maintaining the $16 million surplus on its website. D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak told Patch in a previous interview that some of the surplus would be used for building projects and hiring additional staff.

Funding for these projects and new hires would not be decided until after the Illinois General Assembly's fall veto session, when state lawmakers are expected to vote on ending the state's contribution to the state-run Teachers' Retirement Fund.

Machak called Demma’s statement “disappointing” and said he left Monday’s session with “an entirely different feeling than what was presented here for public consumption.”

Addressing the union’s contention that the district’s offer is not competitive because it does not attract nor retain quality teachers, Machak said he has recommended "25 quality candidates" to the school board for employment as teachers or paraprofessionals for the district’s five public elementary schools. Some of the candidates include teachers' that were previously laid off by the school district.

“As far as retention goes,” Machak said in an email, “teacher attrition since the end of last year has had much more to do with part-time employees being offered full-time employment, or certified teachers working as a paraprofessionals being offered full-time teaching positions, in other districts than it did with the poor compensation package being offered by D 124.”

The district superintendent said the teachers union’s demands have had less to do with working and building conditions and class size and more about compensation.

“The union voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, voted overwhelmingly to intend to strike, and then established a strike date of October 2 even before all scheduled negotiation meetings had taken place,” Machak said. “I have shared with union leadership on several occasions, most recently as this afternoon, my concern for the irreparable damage that a teacher-initiated strike will have on the children of this school district and on the Evergreen Park community.”

The teachers’ union has been distributing flyers to the community and started an online petition. Teachers are planning another rally on the front lawn of Central Junior High School at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday prior to the evening’s bargaining session. Parents and community members are encouraged to attend.

How would a potential teachers' strike impact you and your family? Tell us why in the comments.

Evergreen Park Teachers September 26, 2012 at 05:28 PM
We want to respond to some earlier remarks made by the board in the comments section on another page on this Web site. The board’s proposal would actually change the existing salary schedule, so that salaries wouldn’t even keep up with the cost of living once any benefit costs are taken out of CPI. Teachers have concerns with the board’s proposal to tie bonuses to MAP scores. Materials form the company that make the test say, “Nobody should wonder when an individual fails to meet his/her growth estimate, since the law of averages suggests that half of the students will not.” They go on to say that if “significantly more than half” meet their growth estimate, “then we may suspect that something strange is going on.” We do not believe this test is a solid measure of student growth and there are a number of studies that show Merit pay in general does not increase student achievement. We have information from the district showing that just 3 financial years ago they made over $500,000 in interest earnings. The numbers continue to change, but the point is that even last year’s interest earnings of $193,179 pays a large portion of the cost. The district can easily afford the union’s proposal given their solid financial status.
Evergreen Park Teachers September 26, 2012 at 05:28 PM
The district has 3 times the amount of reserves needed to be fiscally responsible as defined by the State Board of Education. Spending a very small portion on the people who educate children is not unreasonable. The cuts the district is demanding will make Evergreen Park less competitive. Obviously, that affect couldn’t be seen today since a contract with a less competitive salary and benefits package hasn’t been enacted. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out the true effect. The district’s initial demands were so extreme that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they have more room to make tactical moves at the bargaining table. The union’s goal has been to reach a settlement and not play the same negotiating game. The union’s last offer was truly an attempt to go as low as they could while still retaining a fair contract that members could vote to approve.
EP Lover September 26, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Now that we're facing an almost certain strike, I find myself thoroughly disgusted by both sides in this contest. I am frustrated with the the teachers for expecting EP taxpayers to support a generous level of salary increases and benefits when the average resident has seen their take home pay shrink as a result of rising property taxes, gas prices, health care costs and stagnant or declining wages. I have been very pleased with the teachers at my children's school and in a good economy, would fully support greater increases for them. However, I am quickly losing respect for them as a result of their single minded insistence that they deserve to have their demands met no matter how damaging the impact may be on the community. EP is not Orland or Palos in terms of potential propety tax revenue, demographics or student performance and I find the Union comparisons to those districts almost laughable. As far as the Board is concerned, while I applaud their financial conservatism in light of the looming pension issue, I am very frustrated that these negotiations have been so acrimonious despite Dr. Cody's departure. I would have expected the Board to wipe the slate clean and communicate to the teachers how much the entire community values their efforts. It is now very obvious that there are lingering bad feelings among some of Board members toward the teachers/union. Personal feelings and bias have no place in this negotiation.
siumom September 26, 2012 at 10:15 PM
District 124 teachers are, have been, and always will be professional. The negotiations are not about personal feelings and bias. Get your facts straight.
EP Lover September 26, 2012 at 11:18 PM
SIUmom, I think you should reread my post - my point was that the Board is unprofessional in that at least some members are letting the acrimony of past negotiations and conflicts impact this contract.
R Gibbons September 27, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I am an Evergreen Park resident for 56 years, born and raised. This town always was better than Orland or Palos as we were the small village that knew each other and we cared!! I am disappointed in villagers that do not respect nor support what this village was based. I fully support the teachers in their fight for fairness among others greed. Everyone pays taxes , gas, electric, phone, water. sewer, groceries etc. I wish people would enlighten instead of criticize. There are persons in this State that abuse your taxes everyday and never put in a days work. Why in the world would anyone not take the time to really understand the issues of this contract. Teachers are TAXPAYERS also. Come on now...
David W October 01, 2012 at 03:24 AM
They have a $16 million dollar surplus. That money came from property taxes. Apparently OVER TAXING over the years! How many businesses and residents could have used their money to help during these though times? Looks to me like a tax rebate needs to be sent out!

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