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EP Teachers Union Organizes Community Forum - UPDATE

The Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers is hosting a community forum regarding ongoing contract negotiations on Monday, Oct. 8. Contrary to an earlier release, the D124 school board won't be involved.

Update - 5:45 p.m.

Contraditicing a community forum release from the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers, the Dist. 124 Board of Education won't be attending Monday's community forum at American Legion Post 854 on Monday.

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Teachers and paraprofessionals from the district's five public grammar schools have been on strike since Tuesday. The Evergreen Park teachers union and D124 school board are attempting to reach a final agreement on a new teachers' contract.

D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak said that both he and school board memembers were both disappointed by Illinois Federation of Teachers field services director Deneen Pajeau's invitation to the community forum prior to another contract negotiation session scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.

"It suggests to the board that the union has no intention of negotiating in earnest tonight or over the weekend to reach agreement so that students can return to school on Tuesday. The board believes that until the parties have settled the negotiations, the board and union's best efforts are spent at the negotiations table so that students can return to school as soon as possible."

Machak said that he and school board memebrs would be working on Monday, if necessary, to reach an agreement with on a new contract for the district's teachers and paraprofessionals.

"The board is not involved with [the community forum]," Machak said.

Evergreen Park Patch will be updating Friday's contract negotiation session after both sides have finished for the evening.

Original story:

The Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers has organized a community forum in which members of the union and Dist. 124 Board of Education will address parents' and community concerns about the ongoing teacher's strike contract negotiations.

The  teachers union and school board will both be provided with a platform to deliver information and and answer questions from the audience. The forum is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 8, at 6 p.m. at the Evergreen Park American Legion Post 854 located at 9701 S. Kedzie Ave.

Evergreen Park D124 teachers and paraprofessionals have been on strike since Tuesday.

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Proud EP Resident October 05, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Hopeful both sides will compromise to reach an agreement and we won't need a meeting.
siumom October 05, 2012 at 10:06 PM
The negotiation's team has every intention to try and reach a settlement prior to Monday. The community has requested a public forum. Therefore arrangements have been made to fulfill that request. If a settlement is reached before the forum, the forum will be cancelled.
creampuff October 05, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Exactly, siumom. The Union has every hope that an agreement can be reached during negotiations tonight or, if not, during and further negotiation meetings that may be scheduled throughout the weekend. By scheduling the public forum the Union is simply responding to the requests made by the parents and community members of D124 and Evergreen Park. It would be in poor favor to simply ignore, deny, or further delay these requests. If a settlement is (fingers crossed) reached before 6 p.m. on Monday, October 8, then the public forum will most likely be cancelled.
jane October 06, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Exactly
EPDad October 06, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I am disappointed to see that the district is putting a negative spin on the union's attempt to have an open and honest discussion with our community's parents. At the parent meeting on Wednesday the Superintendent said that he would plan an open forum and the parents still haven't heard back. The union offered to put the meeting together to honor this request and now they are being portrayed negatively. Of course it is the hope for everyone that negotiations go well this weekend and the forum would then be canceled. This is yet another example of the board's lack of transparency and honesty.
anonymous October 06, 2012 at 03:38 AM
the public forum will not get the students back in the classroom any sooner nor will it solve any of the disagreements between the Board and the Union. I believe all energy should be spent in negotiations, not in a community forum at this time. A forum can always be held after an agreement has been reached and students have returned to school.
EPMom October 06, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Well said anonymous - the energy and focus should be spent working towards a settlement to get the children back in school.
Taxpaying_Parent October 06, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Of course the Union has not tried to put a negative spin on anything.
Charles Johnson October 06, 2012 at 02:24 PM
This is nothing more than a publicity stunt staged by the union. They'll pack the room with yelling, screaming teachers and nothing will be accomplished. Except for amping up the already rancorous relationship between the two sides. If you want the strike to be over soon, this is a stunningly BAD idea.
Rudy October 06, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Exactly Charles, I prefer that the negotiations are bases on mathematical fact and figures. State mandate formula, etc. The room would be packed with screaming teachers, per their behavior on the picket line all week. Act as the professional you claim to be, do not walk off you job and allow your team to negotiate.
Donald Quinn October 06, 2012 at 03:04 PM
@Chuck...When I expressed concern over the size of the location where the forum is to be held I was told there should be plenty of room as this meeting is for parents not teachers.
Rudy October 06, 2012 at 03:17 PM
At one of the local hospitals, it is not uncommon for a CNA who has the same educational level and certification as a paraprofessional, if not more, to be on Medicaid (public aid) because their salary does not cover health insurance costs. Many see nothing left of their check to cover their health benefits that they elect to carry. And this is at an institution that provides healthcare services. Just giving some perspective as I hear examples of paraprofessionals not being able to afford certain option levels on the BOE offer.
Rudy October 06, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Sorry for the typos, I need new glasses!
R Gibbons October 06, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Just to add to Rudy's post…Medicaid (Public Aid) is State of Illinois Taxpayer money. It's not a win win! It just puts Illinois in a greater deficit. It effects every single working individual in the state of Illinois. It's not 'free' as some individuals might think. So, a much better option is to continue the health insurance program as it is currently in SD124. Teachers, secretaries, and paraprofessionals are not asking for a change, just to stay the same as they have currently. I find it unacceptable that working people are forced to use a State Medicaid program as you stated CNA's at a local hospital are forced to use. A Hospital as an employer, no less! Does anyone else see what's wrong with this picture?
Rudy October 06, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Thanks for adding because you have actually proven my point. Something is clearly wrong with this economy and this state and country's financial health. So what are the answers? To continue spending outside of limits? That's the thinking that contributes to this mess...spend without regard to budget. We have a BOE that wants to be finically responsible, and I support that. So they offer a new plan that may be different, but offers options of affordability. So the sd employee is not in the same position as the CNA. It is a mess out there financially, but spending, spending, spending is clearly not the answer...it's the problem
Rudy October 06, 2012 at 04:27 PM
If the union was concerned about the parents, they would not have the teachers on the picket lines. They'd have them continue to teach while negotiating. It just demonstrates what a strike really is...a bully tactic. Professionals do not behave this way. The meeting would not be productive, even if true intentions where there. Just believe it is grandstanding.
R Gibbons October 06, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Well not totally affordable however! Because of the wage that the paraprofessionals, secretaries, and teachers, their pay would be cut drastically if they were to shoulder the entire health insurance cost. I worked for SD124 back in the '90's and at the time as support staff, I was the only employee in the district that paid entirely for my health insurance that was offered from SD 124. My take-home pay back then was approximately $100 every two weeks after paying for the health insurance. I was discriminated against at that time by the SD and was one of the issues on the table for the Support Staff Negotiations during their first Union Contract. And I know you will ask why I would take such a job knowing I would only receive $100 every two weeks. Well there was a preexisting condition in my family and only obtaining a Group health plan avoided discrimination against the preexisting at that time. Private health insurance was not an option because of the preexisting. That is why I have suggested on other posts to go out and actually speak with the teachers, paraprofessionals, and secretaries.
creampuff October 06, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Respectfully, I completely disagree. As anyone can see, negotiations have not been going so well. And the simple problem is that everything--meaning the ultimate decision--is in the Board's hands. Sure, the Union can choose to accept or deny the Board's offers, but they are still THE BOARD'S offers. If this all is going to end it is going to come down to parent and community involvement. Let's look back at earlier in the week. As of Wednesday morning there were no negotiation meetings scheduled. The Board had announced that the Union had until Friday, October 5 at 5 p.m. to accept or deny their offer from Monday, but no meeting was scheduled. Then all of a sudden a meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night. Why? Because the parents and community members demanded it! To get the children back in school PEOPLE MUST GET INVOLVED! Go to the forum on Monday night. Let your opinions be heard. DEMAND THE BOARD ATTEND! They need to take responsibility for their actions, too!
Rudy October 06, 2012 at 05:31 PM
So why do you feel sd employees should not be in the same boat as the rest of us? I don't know any one who has not have health insurance premiums increases, thereby decreasing the wage. This includes people who have not seen raises in the last few years or even sustained pay loss. Many could make the same argument. And sd employees are not being asked to shoulder their entire healthcare cost, entire implies 100%. It looks like the offer is 85/15 from 90/10. Way better than what most are getting these days. Had many issues with catastrophic healthcare limits, preexisting issues with my family in the 80's as well, so I hear you and respect you for doing what you needed to do. I understand the fear and see the basis for your opinions. But that was then, this is now....sd employees are not the only ones that have to deal with these facts of the economy. The offers are fair, the BOE has to be financially responsible in this economy and it is refreshing to see them act as such. And in the face of all this rancor.
jane doe October 06, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Rudy and Charles I totally agree with you. These teachers say it's all about the kids, it's all about them! They make a very good buck with a decent insurance package, more then most. Quit your crying and produce some kids with a great education! Think about the kids that you just disrupted from school and taught them how silly your behavior is. Tax payers pay your salaries and my bill has been paid. Get back to work while you're negotiating! Now kids are suffering on my dime not yours!
siumom October 07, 2012 at 01:52 AM
EP Dad, I agree with you. Obviously another tactic to make the negotiation team look bad. The union is hiding nothing and is more than willing to meet with the public. Dr. Machek said he was going to plan an open forum, but never initiated a date or time. The union went ahead to schedule a date before rumors and wrong information was circulating. Obviously, the union is willing to negotiate. That is their top priority.
Perry Gnoid October 07, 2012 at 04:00 PM
1. Those who say that teachers need to negotiate while they teach. Isn't that what they did? They went back to work in August with good faith that the Board would negotiate fairly and settle the contract. Now you want them to work indefinitely without a contract. If they did that, the board would have no motivation to get the job done. 2. Does anyone know how often they negotiated over the summer? It should have been every day until the contract was negotiated. 3. If you read the media release on the district's website, anyone who is reasonable should see this as hostile. At this point, why doesn't either side request arbitration. Get a federal arbitrator in there and have the contract settled immediately. Right now, it doesn't seem like this superintendent is ever going to be able to lead this group of teachers. He comes off as extremely hostile and a bit ignorant of education. He might be very savvy with numbers and dollars. I say you have an arbitrator come in settle the situation and then give walking papers to the superintendent for creating the first teacher strike in Evergreen Park. This guy is an outsider and he comes into E.P. and creates a storm of negativity and divisiveness. The union tries to create a forum to answer all questions to the community. They invited the board to have a seat at that forum, then this guy uses it against them. He implies that the union has done something illegal or unethical by contacting parents.
Concerned October 07, 2012 at 05:50 PM
What specifically is "hostile" about the boards media releases? I've read them and they seem rather non-emotional to me. And if you think the superintendent is an outsider, what do you make of the union negotiators?
Ken Fryer October 07, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Perry, they do have an arbitrator now. This really has nothing to do with the current super. The teachers I've talked to like him and are ready to work with him. There are however bad feelings from the last super and that hang over these discussions. The board is doing the right thing by trying to be fiscally responsible, but have gone about it the wrong way. We can all see that in the future if the economy doesn't turn around the contracts will be leaner and leaner. But trying to bust them instead of beginning that conversation was not a good tact. Now things are gettting ugly. I feel for the board members and the pressure they've been under, but how could they not see this coming after all that's happened over the past few years? I encourage the board to give the teachers fair deal, in particular the paraprofessionals. If? Over the coarse of the next 3 or4 year we run deficits the board will better position if major cuts are needed. That's not the case now. What's fair now may be different in a years. I hope the both come together because if they do then maybe it was worth it for both sides.
Concerned October 09, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I think it's time to let the EPFT know that the silent majority exists, contrary to what you may think after reading the above article. Please continue to email the board (d124.org) with your support, but now also send an email to epft124@gmail.com.
EP95 October 10, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Concerned, I will send my emails today. Ken, I don't think a strike implies a willingness to participate in a conversation. The flip side of busting is abuse of power. I see what you are saying, but all American workers are facing higher healthcare costs. We pay 30% for family coverage right now with about the same salary, having the same education level, and work 12 months. Yet we are asked to support more than what is typically available in today's economy? Why? As for the paraprofessional job, it is close to home and allows you to be home when your children are. That is the trade off. Does anyone know how many people apply when one opens up? You pretty much have to know someone in the district to get that job. And as far as the board members go, two were recently elected as a result of dissatisfaction. Now they are on this board that has presented the current offer. That's somewhat telling.
R Gibbons October 10, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Thank you Concerned. I sent EPFT my total support!!!
R Gibbons October 10, 2012 at 10:32 PM
EPFT124@gmail.com

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