Geneva teachers union says talks will resume Thursday

 
 
Updated 12/6/2018 6:06 AM
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  • Community members and District 304 staff demonstrated at Geneva High School on Wednesday in support of striking Geneva Education Association members. Offers presented by the school board were rejected by union leaders, citing a desire for equity in raise allocation and a more traditional "step and lane" salary schedule format.

      Community members and District 304 staff demonstrated at Geneva High School on Wednesday in support of striking Geneva Education Association members. Offers presented by the school board were rejected by union leaders, citing a desire for equity in raise allocation and a more traditional "step and lane" salary schedule format. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Kate Hertz carries her homemade sign as Geneva teachers continue picketing Wednesday outside Geneva High School. Hertz, an English teacher, has taught there for 19 years.

      Kate Hertz carries her homemade sign as Geneva teachers continue picketing Wednesday outside Geneva High School. Hertz, an English teacher, has taught there for 19 years. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Classes for nearly 6,000 Geneva students were canceled again Wednesday as the teacher strike continued for a second day.

      Classes for nearly 6,000 Geneva students were canceled again Wednesday as the teacher strike continued for a second day. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva teachers continue picketing outside Geneva High School on the second day of their strike that has canceled classes for nearly 6,000 students.

      Geneva teachers continue picketing outside Geneva High School on the second day of their strike that has canceled classes for nearly 6,000 students. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Jessie Egan and her fellow Geneva teachers picket outside Geneva High School. Egan has taught Spanish for 15 years.

      Jessie Egan and her fellow Geneva teachers picket outside Geneva High School. Egan has taught Spanish for 15 years. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva teachers high-five as they walk the picket line outside Geneva High School on the second day of their strike.

      Geneva teachers high-five as they walk the picket line outside Geneva High School on the second day of their strike. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva High School senior student Aydan Fusco addresses the crowd at a Geneva Education Association rally Wednesday outside of the school. Members, teachers and community residents participated in support of striking teachers.

      Geneva High School senior student Aydan Fusco addresses the crowd at a Geneva Education Association rally Wednesday outside of the school. Members, teachers and community residents participated in support of striking teachers. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Negotiations between striking Geneva schoolteachers and the Geneva school board will resume Thursday, according to union officials.

The announcement by Geneva Education Association President Kevin Gannon, at a rally outside Geneva High School Wednesday afternoon, drew cheers and applause from strikers, and other supporters.

Pickets chanted "2-4-6-8! What lets us collaborate? Step and lane! Step and lane!" and "Strong teachers! Strong school!" One marcher carried a sign saying "Ho! Ho! Ho! Mark Grosso has to go!" referring to school board President Mark Grosso. Some students served hot cider and doughnuts to the marchers.

Gannon credited pressure from the teachers and the community for getting the board to come to the table earlier. The district had announced Wednesday morning there wouldn't be new talks until Sunday, as it awaited a response from the union to the proposal the board made during a bargaining session late Monday night.

Union spokesman Bridget Shanahan said the strike was the union's response.

Gannon urged union members and residents to keep up the pressure, "so we can push this thing to the finish line tomorrow night."

The strike will enter its third day Thursday.

Teachers went on strike Tuesday after a nearly eight-hour bargaining session that started Monday evening failed to resolve remaining issues with salaries and the structure of raises. The union wants what it calls a "traditional" step-and-lane schedule, where steps are for years of experience and lanes are for graduate-school education attainment.

Grosso and the district's spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The union represents 465 teachers and other certified personnel, educating more than 5,800 students in the unit district.

Negotiations began in February and the teachers' last contract expired in August.

With schools closed, extracurricular activities, and sports practices and games have been canceled, including Wednesday's matches for the girls bowling teams, gymnastics team and underclass basketball teams.

The school board Tuesday released the offer it made to the union Monday night. The proposal says it would provide more than $5.5 million in new money for teacher pay over the life of a proposed four-year contract.

The salary increases offered are:

• 2018-19: 3.5 percent to 6.3 percent

• 2019-20: 3.4 percent to 5.8 percent

• 2020-21: 3.3 percent to 5.4 percent

• 2012-22: 2.7 percent to 4.6 percent

Contract talks are scheduled to resume Thursday in Geneva District 304.
  Contract talks are scheduled to resume Thursday in Geneva District 304. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

The union tendered a counteroffer Sunday night to one made by the district last week.

Shanahan said Monday the offer would increase starting salary by about 12 percent over four years. Veteran teachers' pay would increase by 4.2 percent over those four years, she said.

The salary increases sought by the union are:

• 2018-19: 4.19 percent to 6.68 percent

• 2019-20: 5.12 percent to 6.61 percent

• 2020-21: 3.53 percent to 5.51 percent

• 2021-22: 2.66 percent to 3.45 percent

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