DeKALB – Many more than 100 supporters of the DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association packed the Forum room at DeKalb High School in a show of support for DeKalb School District 428 teachers and their ongoing contract negotiations with the school board at its Tuesday meeting.
Teachers, their families and friends, parents and community members lined the walls and stairways and took all available seats in the room. Many wore DCTA T-shirts and some carried signs calling for a fair teachers' contract, but those at the center of the negations stayed tight-lipped on the talks despite the approaching start of the school year.
“We are still working along right here,” DCTA spokesman T.J. Fontana said. “We’ve been negotiating with them … really since January, and we’re still looking to get a deal done, but nothing yet.”
The school board designated Vice President Tracy Williams as its spokesman. He couldn’t say whether or not a deal would get done before the start of the school year Aug. 28.
“That’s everyone’s goal,” Williams said after the meeting. “I don’t want to speculate as to the chances of something working or not, but it’s certainly everyone’s goal. It’s our goal. It’s the goal of everyone in this room, and I like our chances as long as that’s the case.”
Fontana refused to comment on the likelihood of a strike or the negotiation schedule, but said that several meetings still were planned between the union, the board and District 428 administrators between Tuesday and the start of the school year.
“We are still working really hard right now, and we’re really optimistic that we’re going to get something done before it comes to [a strike],” he said.
During the meeting supporters used the public comment period to voice their support of teachers.
“I know that all of you don’t want to have anything happen to interrupt the start of school,” Tom Burski, a former District 428 educator and a former president of the DCTA, said. “... I want to see our district continue to treat our teachers as professionals, not as hourly employees.”
Teacher Chris Perkovich thanked the board for its work and assured those present that it has the best interests of the community in mind.
“I’m here, and they’re here, to thank all of you for the time and effort that you’ve put into our contract negotiations. It takes a lot of time; you don’t get paid; we appreciate it,” she told the board. “In wanting to negotiate the best possible contract that we can, we want you to know that this does not negate in any way our desire to continue to do what’s best for the children in our community. In fact, we feel that those are one in the same.”