What you need to know if West Chicago High School teachers strike

  • Teachers Paul McLeland and Annika Dockstader marched outside West Chicago High School during an informational picket last month. The teachers union is planning to march to district offices Thursday night.

      Teachers Paul McLeland and Annika Dockstader marched outside West Chicago High School during an informational picket last month. The teachers union is planning to march to district offices Thursday night. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, January 2018

 
 

West Chicago High School teachers say they'll strike Friday if contract talks fall apart during a last-ditch negotiating session Thursday night with the school board.

The two sides began meeting nearly two years ago but an agreement remains elusive.

Here's what you need to know about the talks and what happens in case of a strike:

Q. When did negotiations begin?

A. Discussions started in April 2016. Teachers have been working under the terms of a one-year contract extension that expired in August.

Q. What are teachers planning Thursday?

A. The union and supporters will march from the school at 4:30 p.m. to a rally outside district offices in downtown West Chicago. Teachers then will return to school for a "grade-in" until the two sides finish bargaining.

Q. How will parents know if there's a strike?

A. Parents and students will receive a recorded message Thursday from Superintendent Doug Domeracki through the emergency calling system about the threat. The district will notify parents of a strike through another automated phone message if teachers make a decision before 10 p.m. Thursday.

If negotiations run later, the district will post alerts on its Facebook page and website, D94.org. A phone message before 6 a.m. Friday will reinforce those updates.

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Regardless of when teachers make a decision, the district will use an emergency school notification system to announce the closure at Emergencyclosingcenter.com.

Q. How many teachers and students would be affected?

A. The West Chicago High School Teachers Association represents 141 educators. The school serves nearly 2,100 students from West Chicago, Carol Stream and Winfield.

Q. What happens to extracurriculars and sports?

A. The school would forfeit games unless officials can reschedule contests.

The last two regular-season games for the boys basketball team are set for Friday and Feb. 21. A strike means students could not compete at sectionals in a swimming co-op with Batavia.

West Chicago also is due to host a track meet Feb. 20, but that would have to be moved to another school.

No matter what happens, one wrestler will take the mat in a weekend state tournament because IHSA policy allows athletes from a striking school to participate in state-level competitions if regional contests already have started.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q. What if a student shows up to school and it's closed?

A. Administrators and support staff still will work and assist students who may need items from their lockers.

Q. What programs would be available to students?

A. The district has made arrangements with park districts and libraries in Carol Stream, Winfield and West Chicago to offer programming. Teens should bring their student ID's.

Q. How would students make up missed days?

A. The district has up to five emergency days built into its calendar. If it doesn't use them, classes end May 24. If a strike lasts longer than five days, the board and teachers would have to negotiate additional time educators are in the classroom beyond June 1.

Q. What are the sticking points in talks?

A. The two sides agree the new contract should run four years, but differences remain over pay, health benefits and retirement incentives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The school board presented a contract offer Monday that included a traditional salary schedule and would increase salaries an average of roughly 12 percent over four years.

A teacher with a bachelor's degree and no previous experience who was hired at the beginning of this year would continue to make $42,932 in the first year of the contract, retroactive to August. That salary would increase to $44,669 in the second year, $45,902 in the third and $46,935 in the final year.

The teachers are seeking pay increases of roughly 20 percent over four years, district officials say.

The board wants to phase out a retirement incentive that gives teachers a 6 percent salary increase in the final four years of their employment. That 6 percent cap allows the district to avoid paying penalties established in a state law meant to discourage schools from giving late-career pay raises to boost pensions.

The district would eliminate the incentive when the contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 school year. The board also wants to sunset a provision that pays insurance benefits for retirees until they qualify for Medicare.

Teachers would have to declare their intent to retire before the end of the contract to be eligible for the salary raises and post-retirement health insurance reimbursement.

The union wants to retain existing contract language, which does not sunset those two provisions.

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