Evergreen Park teachers, District 124 school board resume talks - FOX 32 News Chicago

Evergreen Park's District 124 contract talks end in screaming match

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EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The school board and teachers union in Evergreen Park School District 124 held a quickly called negotiating session Wednesday night and were still meeting as of 10:30 p.m., 51/2 hours after gathering at the village hall.

The union representing striking teachers and school board went back to the table at 5 p.m., according to Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman Dave Comerford.

District 124 Supt. Robert Machak said he reached out Wednesday morning to Deneen Pajeau, a field representative for IFT, to try to schedule a resumption of negotiations.

The two sides previously met Monday night for about 51/2 hours — a session that ended when the board threatened to not allow students to make up school days lost to the strike or pay teachers for those lost days, union officials said.

SEE: No school for Evergreen Park students again as teachers strike

"I don't want to speak for Deneen, but she sounded as eager as I am to get back to the table and get a fair settlement done so we can get the teachers and kids back to school," Machak said Wednesday morning.

"I hope they have something to offer," said Pajeau, who was with the teachers at Central Junior High School earlier in the day. "You can sit ... it's the willingness to settle."

Another surprise found Machak meeting with about 100 parents at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Central to discuss the strike that began Tuesday, according to Shelly Murphy, who attended the meeting.

"One parent asked to talk to him and word got out. It got kind of heated because parents are frustrated. The kids are suffering," she said.

Murphy's main concern is when her sons Thomas, 10, and Andrew, 9, who spent Wednesday playing outside their home in the 9600 block of Homan Avenue, will return to Southwest School.

"It's aggravating. Everyone else goes on strike, they meet every day. In our district, we hear ‘it's their fault,' and ‘No, it's their fault,'" Murphy said as the boys raced around on scooters.

Meghan Doyle hopes daughter, Mia, 7, the eldest of four, is soon back at Southwest School. This was Mia's "special week" in the second grade, when she would read a book to the class and bring in items for show-and-tell.

The strike cost Mia her week, so Doyle let her get her ears pierced Tuesday as a treat.

"I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I'm sure the parents who pay for child care (are frustrated). I hope this doesn't go into next week. Everyone wants this to be resolved," Doyle said.

Teachers picketing at Northwest School "would like to be back in school," physical education teacher Kelly Normoyle said, but are willing to strike "as long as it takes." Normoyle brought along her 3-month-old daughter, Kasey, in a stroller.

Kindergarten teacher Debbie Gibbons is concerned about insurance rates, which the union said would rise dramatically under the school board's plan. Pajeau said the board has "no proof the insurance program needs to be changed."

Teachers now pay 25 percent of their medical insurance premium while the district picks up 75 percent. The deal is 10/90 for union members with individual coverage. The board has proposed that teachers instead fund a Health Savings Account, which would be used to cover their health care costs, Pajeau said.

"So you're self-managing your health care. Our teachers have enough to manage with their classrooms and education plans," she said. "You'd have to keep track of everything. That's why we have PPOs and HMOs."

The school board has offered a four-year contract; the union seeks a three-year pact.

The board is offering pay raises based on the Consumer Price Index, with bonuses based on student test scores. The teachers want raises of at least 3 percent each year and staunchly oppose basing bonuses on test scores.

Details of each side's proposals can be found at www.d124.org.

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