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.
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.”