North Shore School District 112 teachers have set an Oct. 16 strike date after little negotiations for a new contract have stalled.
Contract talks are set to resume Wednesday, Oct. 10. While both sides are willing to meet before then to reach a resolution, North Shore Education Association President Pamela Kramer said the two parties are "still quite far apart."
The School Board said in a statement it released Thursday night after negotiations broke off that its last offer included "increased compensation, professional growth payments (lane movement), and a pro-rated formula for board-paid insurance for part-time teachers."
The board statement described the union as making "no movement" on the two biggest economic issues, compensation and professional growth, while the union said its last offer contained "significant" concessions.
"Our current proposal is lower than anything teachers in surrounding districts got in their contracts," Kramer said. "There's nowhere to go."
If the NSEA were to accept the board's proposal, it would "seriously compromise the quality of the district," Kramer said.
More than 98 percent of the district's teachers vote to approve a strike.
The NSEA represents 332 faculty members. The current contract expired Aug. 21.
The district serves approximately 4,500 students in Highland Park, Highwood and Fort Sheridan, and includes eight elementary schools, three middle schools and an early childhood center.
More than 300 North Shore District 112 teachers rallied outside school district headquarters Thursday afternoon as contract negotiations between union representatives and school board members were under way inside.
Wearing white T-shirts saying "Proud District 112 Teacher!" and carrying handmade signs with messages including "We want a fair settlement" and "Working without a contract," the teachers spent an hour marching around the block. Many passing cars honked to show their support, eliciting cheers from rally participants.
Current teachers were not the only ones marching Thursday. Deerfield resident Roland Friedrich retired from District 112 last year, but came to help his former colleagues.
"I think if they see the support from people who have left the system, it will encourage them," he said.
Teacher Jessica Damon is on leave this year, but traveled to the rally from Wisconsin with her children Will, 2, and Annabelle, 4, to defend her contract.
And Highland Park resident Danielle Worth, a teacher with Glencoe District 35, attended the rally with her daughter, Menia, who attends Sherwood School.
"They deserve a fair contract," she said. "I hope that they'll get rid of the pay freezes and keep their benefits."
Members of the school board negotiating team have said the district is attempting to arrive at a contract that is financially feasible, and earlier in the week expressed some dismay over the tone negotiations had taken.
"We are disappointed ...," School Board President Bruce Hyman said. "They have called our offer ridiculous and meager, they have maintained that we are unwilling to compromise and they have questioned our integrity and our intentions."
The breakdown in negotiations has centered on everything from base salary to pay bumps tied to coursework, pre-retirement pay boosts and health insurance premiums.
Lindsay Yoelin, past union president and co-chair of the crisis team formed to deal with the negotiations, declared Thursday's rally "a huge success."
"The teachers realize it's really a bad situation," she said. "We're hopeful that the board will receive a very strong message from the teachers this afternoon that we are unified and determined to get a fair settlement."