Evanston District 65 teachers consider strike


Daily file photo by Courtney Morrison

District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren attends a meeting. Goren and Board President Candace Chow said in a update on the website they were “disappointed” that the District Educators’ Council had started the initial process for a strike.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Teachers in District 65 could strike as early as the end of November, after initiating the process last week.

Nearly two months into the school year, the District 65 Board of Education and the District Educators’ Council have yet to come to an agreement about teachers’ contracts. The council notified board members at a Wednesday meeting with a federal mediator, and the earliest teachers would strike would be after Thanksgiving, council president Paula Zelinksi said.

The council is still hopeful the two sides will come to a compromise, Zelinski said. The council and the board are stuck on several issues, she said, including compensation, classroom safety, a shortage of substitute teachers and time for teachers to plan lessons.

The move comes after nearly eight months of negotiations over the contracts. A federal mediator was brought in to help the situation in last month.

The council is required to notify the board and the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board of their intention to start the process to strike, Zelinski said. After several more steps, teachers could strike after giving the board 10 days notice of their intent to do so.

“From the union’s perspective, we have been working on (the contract) for a very long time,” she said. “We’re still hopeful that we’re going to get this thing done.”

The two sides are meeting with the mediator later this week, Zelinksi said, and another meeting is scheduled for Nov. 18.

In an update on the District 65 website, Superintendent Paul Goren and board president Candace Chow said they were disappointed the council had taken the initial steps to strike.

“Having been at the table as recently as yesterday, their action to initiate the public posting process is disappointing because we continue to make progress and have scheduled several bargaining dates over the next several weeks,” the update said. “With the initiation of the public posting process by DEC, the threat of a strike becomes more likely.”

The notice said the board will continue negotiating in “good faith” and that they will try to make arrangements if a strike occurs.

Bill Farmer (Weinberg ‘03), who is the Teacher’s Council president at Evanston Township High School, said the strike could have implications for District 202 as well.

“Parents are going to have to find alternative daycare. A lot of the people that work in (District) 202 have children that attend (District) 65, so that creates internal strain for us,” he said.

Although Farmer acknowledged the strike could make things difficult for ETHS teachers, he said from the outside, it was clear the two sides were not on the same page.

“Both sides say that they ultimately want to have a fair agreement, but between the two of them it doesn’t seem like they’ve really made much progress to that,” he said.

Farmer says he keeps in contact with Zelinski on the issue as District 202 is also negotiating their contracts for next year. Although the two negotiations have no bearing on each other, Farmer said in September the two districts face similar challenges in the process.

Farmer — who said he feels some of the steps the District 65 Board have taken would never happen in District 202 — said he knew the decision to strike is tough to make.

“A strike is kind of like the last resort,” he said. “Teachers don’t want to be walking away from their students in the classroom, and they would only be taking that step if they really felt that they’re trying to do something that is going to be in the best interest of the students that they’re serving and the district as a whole.”

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