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D-428 Board, teachers union strike tentative, 4-year contract

Avoiding strike, DeKalb board, educators’ union to finalize 4-year deal

DeKALB – The DeKalb School District 428 Board has reached a tentative, four-year contract agreement with the DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association less than 48 hours after the union filed its intent to strike.

Board President Samantha McDavid said reaching a point where both sides could agree took longer than expected. The hope was to have negotiations completed before the previous three-year contract expired Aug. 15.

“As we got closer financially, there’s always a few sticking points and we just had to make sure that we were able to maintain healthy finances within our district and meet the needs of the DCTA while keeping students in mind,” McDavid said Wednesday. “We wanted to also make sure we spent the right amount of time really fleshing out the details and making sure everything would work for the whole district.”

T.J. Fontana, spokesman for the DCTA and a math teacher at DeKalb High School, has said the union hoped the strike filing was just a formality and that an agreement would soon be reached.

Fontana declined to comment further Wednesday and said he would not be speaking on contract specifics until the final agreement is voted on and signed.

The board and the association said they worked “collaboratively” to keep the needs of students and the DeKalb community a priority, according to a joint news release early Wednesday. Contract details will be presented for final approval by both parties for a final vote, after which it will become a public document for anyone to view.

On Monday, the DCTA announced it had filed an intent to strike, with the earliest possible date being Oct. 1 if negotiations continued to stall.

Key concerns during the bargaining process have included the union’s request for smaller class sizes, which it said would allow students to have more personalized instruction, as well as dependent health insurance contributions and the length of the contract.

McDavid said the board looks forward to moving on with the union.

“I’m really encouraged by the public support that was shown for our teachers throughout this process,” she said. “Their work is important and I appreciate the board feels they do deserve a fair contract.”

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 district board meetings as negotiations continue. A contract was expected to be signed July 31, but McDavid has said additional bargaining meetings were needed.

DeKalb teachers, educators and other members of the association have been working without a contract since school began Aug. 15.

District Superintendent Jamie Craven said he’s “happy to be at this point in the process.”

“This has been a very long process for both groups,” Craven said, adding that initial bargaining began in January but continued in earnest in the spring.

“It’s not just negotiator teams meeting,” Craven said. “There’s a lot of planning and preparation outside of the meeting. It’s an arduous process. So I’m just very happy for the negotiation teams and the teachers, board and community that we’ve reached a tentative agreement. Now we’re just in the cleanup process to get these approved.”

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