Deerfield District 109 teachers authorize strike
Updated: March 17, 2012 8:22AM
Members of Deerfield School District 109’s teachers’ union today voted 261 to 2 to authorize a strike if the union’s negotiating team believes contract discussions have reached an impasse.
“The Deerfield Education Association and the board have been in contract negotiations for more than a year,” union President Dennis Jensen said. “There has been a little progress made and though that ‘little progress’ has occurred recently, it has been over tangential issues.
“No substantive progress has been made on the core issues. We believe that this has gone on long enough.”
Calls to School Board President Ellen London were not immediately returned Friday. Cathy Kedjidjian, the district’s communication liaison, said Friday she did not believe the board would issue a statement this weekend over the vote.
Jensen said the vote came about because of the “sticking points in the talks — special education delivery and teacher evaluations — as well as guaranteed bathroom breaks; working in 0 degree wind chill; no regard for teachers’ opinions; and salary and benefits.
“With few exceptions, the board has rejected our proposals without offering meaningful counter-proposals,” Jensen said.
He added that the board won’t agree:
To return resource services in resource rooms when deemed necessary by a Joint Special Education Team;
That teachers can offer opinions in special education sessions without reprisals or consequences;
To allow time for special education teachers to meet with aides to determine how best to service their case loads;
That minutes should be kept of special education meetings that are approved by everyone in attendance;
Or to establish a procedure for determining special education case loads.
Jensen said that though the Board has stated that it will allow the present teacher evaluation form to remain in the contract for two years, its proposal would eliminate safeguards that treat teachers fairly and give notice of such deficiencies as:
Removing the provision giving teachers “early feedback” about job performance problems and an opportunity to improve;
Deleting provisions that tell teachers what will be expected of them in their observation before, during and after evaluation;
Insisting that a new evaluation system be agreed to by a joint committee (the DEA has agreed to the committee) and be implemented for the 2013-2014 school year — or the State Model Teacher Evaluation Plan will be implemented, though this plan does not yet exist;
Refusing to agree to a reasonable “pilot program” so that the bugs can be worked out of a new evaluation system before it is implemented;
Refusing to include any evaluation plans or procedures in the contract to enforce fairness in the evaluation process.
“We have not seriously engaged in negotiations on salary and benefits for some time because of the (preceding) issues,” Jensen said.
But he added that the board’s proposals would:
Double, triple and quadruple health insurance co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. And when coupled with the board’s salary offer, which eliminates the present salary schedule in the contract, would result in a pay decrease;
Reduce many pension benefits for teachers upon which they have counted, since they don’t receive Social
“Teachers who have ‘family coverage’ already pay their percentage of premium increases every year with no limit. And at present, teachers pay about $9,000 per year. Administrators have their premiums paid by the district in full,” Jensen said.
As of June 30, the district had more than $17 million in its general education fund. The district also has added more than $5 million to this fund during the past two years, Jensen added.
In the next two to three years, more than 30 teachers will retire, saving the district millions of dollars, Jensen noted.
“Our goal is not a strike. Our goal is to reach a fair contract settlement that benefits the teachers, the students, the board and the taxpaying residents of Deerfield,” Jensen said.
“These negotiations have gone on long enough. We must move forward on this settlement and we must do so soon.”