D300 board ‘shocked’ by teachers’ impasse declaration
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2012 6:36PM
Updated: November 7, 2012 11:47AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Community Unit School District 300 board members were “rather shocked and surprised” by the teachers’ decision Monday night to declare an impasse in their contract negotiations, board spokesman Joe Stevens said Tuesday.
For one, Stevens said, the school board was in a closed session meeting that the bargaining team for Local Area Educators of District 300 had encouraged them to have. That was because, he said, the district bargaining team felt it had exhausted its authority without talking to the rest of the board.
Also, the district bargaining team didn’t feel the two sides were deadlocked in their negotiations, he said. That’s the nature of an impasse as described in Illinois Senate Bill 7, signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last summer, he said.
“When you declare impasse, you are declaring you are deadlocked, and the board did not feel we were deadlocked,” Stevens said.
“They’re also saying they want to continue to negotiate. So I’m not exactly sure where things stand right now. Our attorney is trying to decipher that right now, actually.”
LEAD declared an impasse in negotiations, sending notice to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and district officials at about 5 p.m. Monday.
That starts a 28-day countdown before the union can declare a strike, according to Senate Bill 7. First up, both sides have seven days to make public their last, best contract proposals by sending them, to the state labor relations board.
That follows a vote Oct. 14 by 97 percent of the union’s membership to give its bargaining team the authority to call a strike.
Negotiations between District 300 and its teachers union started nearly a year ago in November 2011, and in earnest in January.
No direct notice
Stevens said that because it had been in a closed-session meeting to discuss negotiations, the school board learned about the impasse when members of the press began to call for comment.
“To have them send out that kind of a notice while we were in that meeting and not bother to pick up the phone and call us, it’s kind of symptomatic, I think, of the whole problem right now,” he said.
The biggest sticking point in negotiations reportedly has been class sizes, but the school board spokesperson said, “We have addressed that big time.” Both district and union officials have said the district’s last contract proposal to the union included lowering class sizes in elementary schools.
LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson said Monday night that the union hopes the impasse declaration will show the board “we’re pretty serious about this and we’re serious about them making larger movement than they have already.”
It also still intended to meet tonight to negotiate with the district as planned, he said.
Stevens called the union’s insinuation that the board isn’t taking negotiating seriously “offensive.”
And, while the district’s lawyer reviews the situation, he’s not sure what will happen now.
“What it really boils down to is — maybe what it’s been about all along and we’ve been naïve — it’s all now about salary and retirement and benefits,” he said. “I guess the public will have to decide.”