No Deal After Marathon Session to End EP Teachers Strike

Contract talks ended early Saturday after nine hours of negotiation. Evergreen Park teachers union and D124 school board set to resume talks on Sunday.


The Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers and D124 school board couldn't close a deal for a new teachers contract after a marathon barganing session to end a four-day-old teachers strike.

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Both sides negotiated over nine hours beginning Friday evening and finishing up around 3:15 a.m. Saturday. After in which the union bargaining team claimed they were verbally attacked by the school board's attorney, teachers and board members have been meeting in separate rooms, passing proposals back and forth through a federal mediator.

Another round of contract talks will resume at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Teachers and paraprofessionals from Evergreen Park's five public grammar schools walked off the job on Tuesday. Three bargaining sessions have taken place since then, focusing on insurance, one of the sticking points in a new contract agreement.

Deneen Pajeau, the Illinois Federation of Teachers representative for the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers barganing team, said that proposals were passed back and forth throughout Friday evening into the early morning hours.

The ball is now in the school board's court, which is expected to respond to the union's latest proposal on Sunday, Pajeau said.

Earlier Friday, the Evergreen Park teachers union announced that it would be holding a community forum at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, at the Evergreen Park American Legion Post 854.

The union said the intent of the community forum was to allow parents and residents to ask union and school board representatives questions about the ongoing contract negotiations and strike.

The announcement prompted a release from the stating that school board members--at least those sitting at the bargaining table--would not be attending the forum.

The school board said it was disappointed by Pajeau's announcement in that it implied that the union had no intention of negotiating to end the strike at the Friday session.

The union said it was only responding to parents who met with D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak earlier this week requesting that a public meeting be held about teacher contract negotiations.

Later Friday evening, the following statement appeared on the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers' Facebook page:

"We have every intention to try and reach a settlement prior to Monday. However, we have heard the community's request for a public forum and wanted to make the arrangements to fulfill that request. If a settlement is reached before the forum, which is our hope, we will cancel the forum."

Machak said he planned to spend Monday evening at the bargaining table, and that the union's bargaining team should plan on being there, too, so that students could go back to school.

D124 school board members said they had received reports that union leaders were instructing teachers to call parents asking them to email or call board members demanding that the strike be settled. 

The school board also alleged that some parents with unlisted phone numbers were being contacted by teachers, implying that teachers were using confidential records to conduct union business. D124 board members apologized in a press statement to parents "who object to or are inconvenienced by unsolicitied calls by district employees."

Machak said he had received one phone call from a parent wanting to know why teachers were given unlisted phone numbers to call.

“He asked how the teachers got his unlisted numer and I said I didn’t know,” the D124 superintendent said. “I can tell you a number of parents have emailed and asked me to forward various messages to the board to give teachers increases or telling board members the package they’re offering is fair in these economic times.”

Parents’ questions about the strike and teacher contract negotiations have been fielded to D124 board president Kathy Rohan, Machak said.

Pajeau countered that school board members who are not part of the teacher contract negotiations have also been emailing parents.

“I’m not aware of the board initiating emails about its position,” Machak said in response.

Machak said if progress was made Friday evening, both bargaining teams would meet this weekend “in the hopes that our kids would be back in school on Tuesday.”

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Another Taxpayer October 06, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Considering what we pay our high school teachers, I don't think EP has to be cheapskates to our elementary teachers. This strike and negotiating for hours on end is totally unnecessary. The only one getting alot of money is the lawyer!!!
Hold strong October 06, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Please don't speak unless you have something constructive to say. Don't embarrass yourself and your family with your lack of knowledge. We need this school board do be strong and hold their ground. if it was a diffrrent six people the union would walk all over them and get whatever they want. the high school board who gave the superintendent $340000 in his last year of his contract and now is retired making $270000 the rest of his life. They should be locked up in a psycho ward. He was the superintendent for 800 student one school. "Are you flipping kidding me" just so you know that's about 70 houses in evergreen park paying one mans retirement until he is dead. In my opinion that moment can't come soon enough. Hold strong board do not give in to these ruthless greedy people.
Perry Gnoid October 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Where is the push from the concerned taxpayers of Evergreen Park to consolidate the two districts? There is money available from the state to fund a consolidation. How does a town this small justify having two separate school districts? Why have two separate boards and two separate superintendents making that kind of money? It would save money and be the better way to control education k-12. I agree that it is pretty ridiculous to have a man who is still in prime working condition earning $270,000 in retirement. Why not have him work for that money? Retiring in your early 50's is sweet. However, Evergreen Park isn't paying his retirement. TRS is. They use money that they collected from his employer during his career as an educator. They use money that they collect now from people paying in. And they use state money. It doesn't come from local taxes. Your problem seems to be with TRS. I will agree that a reasonable fix to the pension system would be to cap everyone at $100,000. A man who earned over $300,000 for the last several years of his working life can figure out how to get by on $100,000 a year. Capping pensions doesn't seem to be on the table in Springfield, but I wish it were. What the taxpayers of Evergreen Park did pay was that superintendent's contribution to TRS while he was working at E.P.H.S. And you are doing it with both superintendents now. If you consolidate, E.P unified district would still be a small district.
Plectrum October 06, 2012 at 02:47 PM
For context: The fiscal situation in Illinois is probably going to get a lost worse before it gets better. TRS is a basket case, which is relevant to EP because municipalities may end up directly funding their portion as costs are shifted. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-09/illinois-is-pension-basket-case-you-forgot-about.html http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111217/ISSUE01/312179972/pension-peril-illinois-trs-goes-higher-risk-with-investments http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/sns-ap-il--illinois-pensions-20120921,0,3974794.story It looks likely that come January, pension reform will be picked up again by the lame duck session of the legislature. The plan on the table looks to shift the cost of teacher retirement to the municipalities: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-13/news/chi-illinois-senate-president-no-vote-on-pension-reform-until-january-20120913_1_pension-reform-cost-shift-pension-costs If you want even more good news, on a national level, the country faces the "Fiscal Cliff" in January 2013. http://bonds.about.com/od/Issues-in-the-News/a/What-Is-The-Fiscal-Cliff.htm
Frank Moriarty October 06, 2012 at 02:48 PM
My second grade teacher taught me not to mix apples with oranges. School district consolidation and the salary of the school superintendant are not the same issues as the classroom teacher concerns. These are the same classroom teachers that we entrust with our children. These are the people who spend hours five days a week interacting with our children. These are the professionals that guide our children on their learning adventure. They are not the overpriced superintendents nor do they have the authority to consolidate school districts. They are teachers. I am very proud of my child. I am very satisfied at the education my child received in district 124. I laud the teachers of the school district who taught my child to read and write and think. I am elated that my child has developed social skills. If every child was like my child, the teacher’s job would be quite satisfying; but not every child is like my child. I forget the hours that my child's teachers must spend on correcting homework and preparing for class. When I look at my child, I feel grateful for her teachers.
Frank Moriarty October 06, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Have you seen the bumper sticker: "Have you thanked a teacher today?" Or have you heard the politicians proclaim how underpaid teachers are? If you're reading this…… Every day of every week of every month of every year, we should thank a teacher. Not every teacher that we have encountered has been a great one or even a good one but all of us can remember a teacher who greatly influenced our life. That is what this is all about. The high paid superintendents and school district consolidation are different issues. Previous commentators have addressed these issues. These are very valid issues. However, we are not speaking of superintendents or district consolidation; we are speaking about your classroom teachers. The teachers are looking to be treated fairly. They are not asking for extraordinary pay raises or exorbitant benefits. They are just trying to hold on to what they have now. I heartily support our teachers. I do believe teachers are underpaid.
R Gibbons October 06, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I strongly support our teachers, secretaries, and paraprofessionals in SD124. I believe disclosure to the public regarding how much the lawyer for SD124 is receiving not only during these late night sessions with negotiations and but also the entire year, and disclosure of where the Federal funding is applied as well as the Real Estate tax money in SD124. Additionally, where is the $1.3M+ promised by the new big box development specifically to SD124 to be applied and have they received that money yet as it was reported in the Patch that this money will begin in 2012.
R Gibbons October 06, 2012 at 03:27 PM
In the following post, Hold Strong states "Please don't speak unless you have something constructive to say. Don't embarrass yourself and your family with your lack of knowledge." Constitutionally, we have the Right to Free Speech. So it would behoove you to critique your postings before you infringe on the rights of others.
Teacher October 06, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Was that constructive?
Another Taxpayer October 06, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Well I think it is constructive to point out that the billable hours of the board lawyer must be enormous. This contract negotiation should have been handled back in April. Asking for a 3% raise for a teacher with many years of experience and a Masters degree is not an obscene raise. So a teacher making $60k would get about $112 a month after taxes. That's ruthless and greedy?????? That 3% could have all been negotiated back in April. It was more like the board walking all over the teachers by ripping their contract to pieces. Who's idea was that...I wonder???? Your superintendent example is apples and oranges. Their not union workers.
Plectrum October 06, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Some benchmark comparisons are useful: According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, looking at a national comparisons of those with full-time employment at levels of educational attainment, the compensation for teachers in EP is in line with median compensation levels for comparably educated people. I.E. those with bachelors or masters degrees: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm $54,756 annual for FT employee with Bachelors degree $65,676 annual for FT employee with Masters degree
nooneyouknow October 06, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I certainly hope the district is ready to open schools on Tuesday no matter what happens with the negotiations. It is time to bring in substitutes if the union members won't return to work.
Sarah Rees-Consiglio October 06, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Most recent info posted on the D124 site today: "The Board met with the union from 4:00pm Friday to 3:15am this morning. Both sides exchanged counter proposals and will meet again this afternoon at 4pm. Parents should check the district website for updated family activities and resource information."
ray richter October 06, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I just want to say thank you to both sides for giving there time and effort to try to come to an agreement to get the students back into the classrooms.
Hold stronger October 06, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Frank, My point was how important the school board is. If you have a group of people just willing to give give give it puts us in situations like we are in now. We need a solid crew of of educated, businesslike people on theses boards and that's what we have now. I agree with you that there should be cap on retirement. I also believe if your a public servant you should have to live in the town you work.
Maria Michaels October 06, 2012 at 10:31 PM
You truly believe that if you are a public servant you should have to live in the town you work? The problem with that statement is if we are not compensating these public servants adaquately, how do they even afford to purchase a home or pay the property taxes? This district has paraprofessionals that are the bread winner, single parents and even widows and we are paying them annually $12,000.
Frank Moriarty October 06, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Hold Stronger, I fully agree with you that the school board is very important. It is their job to represent the parents and members of the community to oversee the actions of the superintendent and agree to the educational program. However I do have a problem with the "solid crew of educated businesslike people." I have a terrible fear that there is a rising concept that education is a business. Business looks to quality control, quantity of products and financial profit. I don't think education should be that. The quality of our education is discovered over a long period of time. Quantity is not a part of education. There are those who are trying to sell us on the idea that a standardized test result can show success. My child never performed very well on the standardized test but she graduated at the top of her class with all kind of honors. Education is not a profit producing operation. Although we disagree on some issues, we certainly agree that the school board is vitally important. School boards should be composed of reasonable people who represent the community.
WorkerBee October 06, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Why would you take a $12k job as a bread winner, single parent or widow. Wouldn't you shoot for a job that is 12 months out of the year to maximize your salary goal? Or a pm job with a shift differential? Many people who live in EP pursue these paraprofessional positions to work close to home, to be home when there children are and off summers. Nothing wrong with that. So lets be honest, if it was such a crap job it would not be so difficult to get. Any statistics on the amount of applicants for paraprofessional position vs actual hires?
WorkerBee October 06, 2012 at 11:01 PM
A basic principle of business, however, is sustainability. I think what hold strong is saying is that you can't spend as if you will always find the money somewhere else. Or that the state will give it to you, etc. Money in money out. Just because you are a business person does not mean you do not understand the ins and outs of educating. We all educate in some manner. I'm not a teacher, but I love teaching my kids...from early childhood skills, reading, study habits for success, analytical skills, common sense...
siumom October 07, 2012 at 12:16 AM
CQM, I'm trying to find any sense of logic in anything you say. Why are you questioning why someone would take a particular job? Who are you to question that? Are you above everyone else? Who are you to judge? If people didn't want a paraprofessional position, there wouldn't be any in the school district. Then who would help the students? Twenty-five or more students in a classroom who have different abilities and needs and only 1 teacher for them!
WorkerBee October 07, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Did you actually read to the end of my post? I said that the paraprofessional job is actually desired by many in EP, due to the schedule and closeness to home. Sometimes that is the trade off. I just don't buy all this poor me stuff...I'm so underpaid and disadvantaged. You can always improve yourself in some way. The job I have pays low, but I need to work close to home. So I accept that, for now. But I know that I can parlay my skills and experience into a better job when I'll have the freedom to do that. If not I'd be checking into the various programs that could give me a higher earning skill set. I worked my way through school, I believe anyone can accomplish what they want. Sometimes you just have to make thing happen. That's not logical? You simply are not listening, just jumping to conclusions.
mamadontplaythat October 07, 2012 at 02:29 AM
siumom, I think you missed CQM's point. It was a very logical point.
mamadontplaythat October 07, 2012 at 02:31 AM
I should have saw this before I commented above! Thanks again for your comments ;)
WorkerBee October 07, 2012 at 04:06 AM
No prob Mama, thanks for your voice of reason.
Perry Gnoid October 07, 2012 at 03:34 PM
If people are concerned about taxes paid to school enough to stomp on teachers, then it is reasonable to ask where these people are when money is being wasted elsewhere. The state of Illinois has made it clear for almost three decades that having two separate school districts in one town is a major waste of funds both from the state and locally, which is why they offer incentive to consolidate. If people are really concerned about tax dollars than they would demand some limits on their superintendent's salaries and benefits. I guess I was trying to point out the hypocrisy. People are posting that they are concerned about the rising taxes and the waste of those dollars. But they only see it as waste if the money is paying teachers, those who have direct influence and contact with our students. As to the comment about the fact that superintendents are not union workers, I promise you start to pay teachers like superintendents and other administrators, even taking into consideration the difference in hours worked, you would have no need for unions. I argue that if someone really cares about taxes, then they really press the board to save money across the board. I say you have the board promise they will not increase taxes for the next two years. When they make that promise, then tell the teachers that they need to make the sacrifice and take less in pay raises. But right now, there is no proof that sticking it to the teachers will save taxpayers any money.
R Gibbons October 08, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Plectrum- NATIONAL average. So in Los Angeles where cost of living is probably 2-3 times ours in Illinois you're saying they should get a pay cut and receive the NATIONAL average? Oh then all people doing the same job with the same job description across the entire U.S. should all earn exactly the same. Do I understand your post correctly ? Because that sure is what it sounds like you're suggesting.
Plectrum October 08, 2012 at 04:45 PM
No, that is a misreading of the comment and no such claim was made. To follow the line of reasing you indicate, one could just as well claim that those in Paducah, KY deserve raises because they are underpaid relative to the median. The median is useful as a benchmark for comparison, it is not an absolute value. A statement was made in a previous comment: "I do believe teachers are underpaid." This type of statement is fine as an opinion, but it is not evidence. The general tone of these discussions tends toward sloganeering. Slogans are fine in their proper context but are not useful for reaching an accurate understanding of an issue. What is claimed in my comment is that the compensation of educators in EP is " in line with median compensation levels for comparably educated people." I think the BLS data supports this conclusion.
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.


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