Teacher contract talks stalled in Evanston’s District 65
Updated: August 2, 2012 3:38PM
Yard signs expressing support for Evanston-Skokie School District 65 teachers have been popping up in Evanston, adding to parents’ uncertainty that the School Board and the District Educators Council will be able to settle a contract dispute before the start of the school year.
The School Board and teachers collective bargaining agent are negotiating a new contract to replace a four-year pact that expires this summer. They have agreed to use a federal mediator during August negotiating sessions.
DEC president Jean Luft said that while the two sides have agreed on some issues, talks have stalled around a series of scheduling and work-load changes announced by the District 65 administration in the spring. They include a 40-minute reduction in the weekly minutes devoted to fine arts instruction for most fourth- and fifth-graders and the addition of a seventh teaching period to the work load of music and art instructors across the elementary grades.
The council also is resisting some reductions in planning time for fourth- and fifth-grade teachers, and additional teaching time for physical education teachers. More fine arts and physical education teachers would be splitting their time among schools, they note.
“DEC believes these changes will have a significantly negative effect on the quality of education in District 65 and impair the district’s ability to recruit and retain excellent teachers,” Luft said.
District 65 officials have declined to elaborate on the issues that remain on the table “out of respect to the negotiations process.”
But speaking in late May, School Board president Katie Bailey said, “We know that our plans call for asking middle school teachers, fine arts teachers and physical education teachers to teach more next year.” She indicated the additional time was within the terms of the existing contract.
“By working within the budget-management strategies, we are avoiding the massive layoffs that some districts have faced,” Bailey said, noting that mounting deficits could lead to more massive cuts in the future and have a destabilizing effect on the district.
Before school recessed for the summer, members of DEC, which represents more than 600 teachers, authorized leadership to call a strike, if necessary. Both sides have expressed hope that a strike can be averted.
In 2008, the contract was not settled until November, but no strike was called.