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D300 teachers union gives its side at meeting

LEAD spokesman Mike Williamstalks room full parents during community meeting for District 300 parents hosted by teachers uniWest Dundee Safety

LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson talks to a room full of parents during a community meeting for District 300 parents hosted by teachers union at West Dundee Safety Center 2 in West Dundee Thursday night. November 29, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:26AM

WEST DUNDEE — “There are two sides to every argument,” said Peggy Hanley, a teacher at Dundee Highlands Elementary School.

“What’s said at this meeting is from the point of view of LEAD,” the Local Education Association of District 300, Hanley said.

LEAD members shared the teachers union’s point of view with about 50 community members at a sometimes-contentious informational meeting Thursday evening at West Dundee Public Safety Center II.

Meantime, the rest of the union’s bargaining team was in negotiations with the Community Unit School District 300 Board of Education, with teachers just days away from a possible strike.

And LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson said, “We’re preparing for it, and we really hope we don’t go there.”

Friday puts the sixth-largest school district in Illinois four days away from that point. Teachers can walk out as soon as Tuesday, two weeks after the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board posted both the school board and union’s final offers on its website that day.

Williamson said Thursday those offers since have changed: LEAD just had presented a counterproposal to the school board before he left negotiations that night for the informational meeting. That included movement by the union on salary and class sizes and “a pretty big leap” toward the board’s offer on retirement, he said.

“I don’t know that they’re willing to accept it,” he said.

The union spokesman said the issues important to LEAD in these negotiations have been threefold: bringing down large class sizes, bringing up compensation to be comparable to surrounding districts, and improving the learning environment for both students and teachers.

Salaries, experience

Several people questioned the union’s argument that District 300 is a “training ground” for new teachers who leave in part because its salaries are not on par with surrounding districts. Williamson said this year the English department alone at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, where he is a teacher, has six new teachers.

The average experience of a teacher in District 300 is 11.7 years, the highest it has been since 2006, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card. That number had dropped as low as 10.4 in 2006 in the Carpentersville-based district, report card data said.

By comparison, teachers have an average 14.3 years of experience in Elgin School District U46, 11.4 years in Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301, and 10 years in Huntley Consolidated School District 158, according to report card data.

And teachers in District 300 make an average $61,714, compared to $72,404 in U46, $72,404 in District 301 and $56,532 in District 158, report card data said.

Another questioned teacher Mike York’s public comments at Monday’s school board meeting, read by another teacher Thursday: “Never have I been under an administration that has caused so much dissension in such a short period of time.”

And several argued with the union’s use of the word “bullying,” one asking whether Williamson was calling Superintendent Michael Bregy a bully.

“Yes, there have been cases people have said that,” he said.

LEAD also filed its intent-to-strike notice last week with the labor relations board.

District 300 responded to by releasing its emergency plans: All but its middle schools would close Tuesday if teachers walk out. Those three schools would be emergency attendance centers for students in kindergarten through eighth grade who have no other place to go.

The last time District 300 teachers walked out was in 1972, according to Williamson. Teachers also had approved a strike in the 1980s that ultimately never took place, he said.

The union spokesperson said LEAD now is planning a Sunday afternoon meeting for all its members, more than 1,100 teachers.

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