DeKALB – The DeKalb Area Teachers’ Association has filed an intent to strike because of stalled negotiations with the District 428 School Board.
The earliest possible strike date is Oct. 1.
T.J. Fontana, spokesman for the DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association, said the intent to strike right now is a formality in case negotiations should fail to progress.
“We hope to come to an agreement without taking further action,” Fontana said in a statement Monday.
He previously has said that teachers wish to remain in the classrooms to prioritize student learning, despite uncertainty about their future.
When reached for comment Monday afternoon, Samantha McDavid, president of the school board, said she had not yet heard about the intent to strike. According to a DCTA news release, both sides agreed to mediation sessions, but no resolution has been reached.
The union represents more than 500 educators. In addition to teachers, the union also includes coaches, counselors, social workers, speech language pathologists, psychologists, nurses, librarians, and instructional coaches, among others.
In the past month, DCTA members have staged demonstrations outside the DeKalb Education Center and during school board meetings as negotiations continue. A contract was expected to be signed July 31, but McDavid has said additional bargaining meetings are planned. District 428 educators have been working without a new contract since the school year began Aug. 15.
Fontana, who works as a math teacher at DeKalb High School and is entering his 20th year with the district, said this year marks 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. The previous three-year contract expired Aug. 15.
Key concerns during the bargaining process have included the union’s request for smaller class sizes, which they said would allow students to have more personalized instruction, as well as dependent health insurance contributions and the length of the contract.
In August 2016, the union signed a three-year contract with the district after a tumultuous negotiation which almost culminated in a teachers’ strike shortly before the first day of school in 2016.
As part of the 2016 three-year union contract, teachers received pay increases of 1% the first year of the contract and 2% in each remaining year of the three-year deal. The district also continued to cover 95% of single employees’ health insurance costs and 50% of costs for a plan with dependents. Teachers also continued to receive pension-boosting 6% raises in each of the final four years of working before retirement in the three-year contract.
The length of teachers’ workday in 2016 was also extended by 10 minutes, with teachers required to arrive five minutes before the school day began and stay five minutes after it ended. The 2016 contract did not call for a cap on the number of students per class that teachers wanted, according to terms of the contract.