The Ottawa Township High School board is looking into ways to put substitute teachers to work and to get students back in the classroom.

On the afternoon of the first day of the third week of the Ottawa teachers' strike, OTHS board president George "Skip" Hupp told the NewsTribune the district is working through La Salle County Regional Office of Education to investigate "the practicalities of" calling in substitute teachers.

He said there's a list of about 500 substitutes in La Salle County, but he's not sure all have the needed skill set to be able to temporarily handle the positions, such as some of the special education jobs.

The school has 1,500 students and 113 teachers.

"We are working to get subs in, and we understand the union has been calling substitutes and telling them not to cross the picket line," Hupp said.

That was news to Ottawa Township High School Education Association negotiator Glenn Weatherford. He said he was not aware of whether the board or someone on

behalf of the board has been calling substitute teachers.

He also said he had not called any substitute teachers to tell them not to cross a picket line. He said if union members called substitutes they are acquainted with to tell them not to cross a picket line, he was not aware of that, although they would have the right to do so.

As far as the board calling for a substitute staff, Weatherford said: "If they're doing that, it's probably not the best decision ever made."

The union issued a news release Wednesday indicating the teachers contended a community forum Tuesday night showed "increased support for neutral, fair arbitration as a means to settle the contract dispute."

"At the end of the forum many in attendance expressed support of arbitration," Weatherford wrote. "They've got it right. Both sides must get together now. It's time either to arbitrate this dispute or negotiate it to settlement. The board of education needs to show up and work to the end to get this finished."

Weatherford reiterated teacher negotiators are available to meet at any time. The teachers association has requested negotiations to resume each day since the dispute started. The board of education has declined to meet since ending negotiations at 9 p.m. on Sunday, he said.

"What we confirmed (at the community meeting)," said Weatherford, "is that the community wants this to end one way or the other. We do too."

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