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Mediator joins DeKalb School District 428 teacher negotiations

Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 6:19 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 4:21 p.m. CDT
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Jim Briscoe, superintendent of DeKalb School District 428

DeKALB – A federal mediator is helping negotiate a new union contract between DeKalb School District 428 and its teachers, who have the option to strike as early as Sunday.

“We’re still at the table talking,” District 428 Superintendent Jim Briscoe said Friday afternoon. “Negotiations have been set up this week through next week; other than that I can’t really comment. Both parties have agreed not to comment.”

The DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association filed notice of its intent to strike Aug. 8, which means union members legally can strike 10 calendar days later. The notice doesn’t necessitate a strike, but school and union leaders typically begin working with a mediator within a day of the notice being filed, said Victor Blackwell, executive director of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

“It’s a typical measure that the unions use, because it’s an option they have,” Blackwell said, of the notice of intent to strike. “It doesn’t mean that they are going to strike.”

In the final offers both sides filed Aug. 8, the union had agreed to a pay freeze for teachers’ base salaries for the 2013-14 school year, along with a freeze on compensation for teachers with a master’s degree in 2014-15.

The teachers received a 6.21 percent raise in 2012-13, but would receive a 2.89 percent raise in the second and third years of the district’s final offer, while the union’s final offer had a 4.52 percent raise in the second year and a 4.26 percent raise in the third year.

An apparent disagreement outlined in the final offers involved adding 45 more minutes before and after the school day so that teachers, instead of teacher aides, can assist with bus operations. In the paperwork, district officials said this would increase safety, but the teachers said it would not be any safer but would take away from one-on-one student time.

Details about both sides’ final offers can be found at www2.illinois.gov/elrb.

The current contract between the board and the more than 400 teachers represented by the union took effect in 2008 and expires at the end of August.

The district’s proposed budget for the upcoming school year includes a $2.7 million deficit that will eat away at the $24.6 million fund balance, or savings, the district had in July. That fund balance includes a $21 million construction grant the district received in 2011.

Calls to union President Virginia Omerod and District 428 board President Tom Matya were not returned Friday.

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