DeKALB – District 428 teachers and staff have been working now for six days without a contract, and while they staged a second protest during Tuesday’s school board meeting, no DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association union agreement has yet been reached.
T.J. Fontana, the spokesperson for the DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association, said that while there’s no strike planned, DeKalb educators are feeling unsupported by the school board.
“I think they feel a little undervalued, underappreciated by their school board,” Fontana said, standing with dozens of fellow DCTA members and their children outside the Education Center, 900 S. Fourth St., on Tuesday shortly before the board meeting.
“Especially with a board that has many members we supported while they campaigned on issues that are important to teachers that seemed like they were student-centered,” Fontana continued.
Fontana, who works as a math teacher at DeKalb High School and is entering his 20th year with the district, said it also is the first time in 34 years that teachers have returned to work without a contract, when the DCTA organized a strike in spring 1986. Although the board met in closed session Tuesday, no vote was taken, after the previous three-year contract expired Thursday.
“We are seeking a contract that fairly compensates our teachers, that creates new sports, clubs and activities that better serve the needs of our students, and that addresses the major issue of class size in District 428, while still keeping the district in good financial standing and remaining responsible to the taxpayers,” Fontana said.
Remembering the students is also the reason educators returned to work when school began Thursday, Fontana said. He said DCTA members will continue to operate under the terms of the expired contract and do not expect to miss a paycheck.
After the meeting, board President Samantha McDavid said the board plans to continue bargaining with the DCTA. She has said the board had hoped to sign a contract by July 31.
“At this time, I don’t have anything new to report,” McDavid said. “We still have some dates ahead of us for bargaining and we continue to bargain in good faith, as do the teachers.”
Fontana said the DCTA represents over 460 members, not all teachers. The union also includes coaches, counselors, social workers, speech language pathologists, psychologists, nurses, librarians, instructional coaches and more.
“I think our group is very admirable and they do a great job of making it clear that we’re still here for our students, to serve this community,” Fontana said. “With all the work left to do, whether it’s paid or unpaid, they continue to do that and have done so admirably even though they’ve got that thought of uncertainty hanging over their heads.”