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Mendota board and union meet Thursday

A federal mediator will meet again Thursday with Mendota Education Association and Mendota grade school board representatives in an effort to settle contract negotiations and avoid an Oct. 16 strike.
A federal mediator will meet again Thursday with Mendota Education Association and Mendota grade school board representatives in an effort to settle contract negotiations and avoid an Oct. 16 strike.

MENDOTA — A 5 p.m. meeting Thursday with a federal mediator has been scheduled for the teachers’ union and Mendota Elementary School board to settle a contract and possibly avoid an Oct. 16 strike.

Tuesday, the teachers’ union needed to hear that the board indeed was willing to negotiate before they would agree to meet.

On Monday, Mendota Education Association co-president Brandon Scheppers reiterated to the NewsTribune that the were are ready to meet but he also made mention of the desire for the board to “rescind” the offer that the board told the press and public was “final” last Friday.

Tuesday, Scheppers said the Illinois Education Association’s Uniserv director (who is providing information on protocol, etc.) would meet with the MEA Tuesday night. Prior to that meeting, he indicated that there were legal ramifications Friday when the board specified it had made a “final offer,” in addition to the difficulty in having negotiations when one side says its offer is final.

“We cannot do anything until they rescind the idea that that was their final offer,” Scheppers said.

The negotiation climate evidently changed sometime Tuesday.

“After meeting last night with our UniServe Director I can confirm that we do indeed have a meeting scheduled with the board for Thursday at 5 p.m.,” Scheppers emailed this morning. “While the board stated on Friday 10/4 that they were issuing their ‘final offer’ to the association, we received an email yesterday from the district’s lawyer stating, ‘The answer is, no. the last offer of the board is not a final offer — ‘take it or leave it” and the board wants to meet on October 10 with the assistance of the mediator to attempt to reach a settlement that is acceptable to both parties.”

The board on Tuesday stated: “We look forward to meeting, we will continue to negotiate in good faith, and hope to reach a settlement with the union.”

In a press release Tuesday, attributed to board president Sean Pappas and board vice president Tim Pohl, the board said its “most recent offer” is a competitive salary and benefits package.

“This offer costs nearly $1.3 million in additional funding, for the 79 certified positions in the district. The cost of the current offer is nearly double that of the last three year contract that recently expired and the largest ever offered,” the board stated in a press release.

“The board acknowledges that while there may be positive fund balances in some areas of the district budget, the district does have outstanding debt. The board doesn’t believe it is in the taxpayers’ best interest to have to issue additional debt in the future to cover regular operating expenses.

“With a delay in proactive maintenance spending, restructuring debt, cost controls and the additional funding received through Medicaid reimbursement and grants, the district is finally in a more secure financial position. The board does not feel it would be prudent to put the district back in an unstable situation by committing all of the reserves to salary raises. Again the board’s position is not that the teachers aren’t deserving of salary increases, it’s that in order to safeguard the financial future of the district it is not wise to meet the teachers’ demand for salary and TRS increases in year 1 of 10.99%, Year 2 increase of an additional 6.98% over the prior year, and year 3, another 6.71% over the prior year.”

“We know that all of our efforts and concentration are best spent on developing the minds of the students we are charged with educating, and we hope that soon we are reunified in our goal of helping students succeed.”

“… The expenses incurred to this point, along with the additional financial costs a strike would generate, are substantial. The disruption to education and stress to children and families remain avoidable. We hope that the dates offered to the union through the mediator will be accepted and negotiations will continue, and a resolution agreed upon.”

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or csterrett@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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