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D-86 board, teachers make progress but have yet to make deal

HINSDALE – The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association and the District 86 Board of Education "made progress" during a four-and-a-half hour mediation session June 26, according to teachers' spokesman Mike Palmquist.

But Palmquist added that the two sides have yet to reach an agreement and that there are several issues to hash out in upcoming mediation sessions scheduled for Thursday, July 15 and July 24.

"We did make some progress in mediation but there is still a lot of work to be done," Palmquist said via email. "The issues we are still working on are numerous and complex."

The teachers' four-year contract expired Monday, and the members of the teachers association overwhelmingly authorized a strike vote if both sides cannot come to an agreement. A strike cannot take place until certain statutory procedures – such as filing a notice of intent to strike – are fulfilled.

District 86 School Board President Richard Skoda said the earliest a strike would occur would be the first day of school, which falls the week of Aug. 18. But Skoda believes a deal will be reached before then.

"In my opinion, teachers don't want to strike anymore than the board does," he said.

Currently, the teachers and the school board are at odds over the teachers' contributions to health benefits and instructors' salary increases based on the consumer price index (CPI).

On June 24, the board sent out an email outlining a recent offer in while all teachers will receive automatic salary increases based on a percentage of CPI and additional increases for merit. The percentage of the increase depends on current salary, according to the email.

The board proposed salary increases ranging from 1.7 percent for its highest paid teachers to 3.6 percent for its lowest paid teachers, a raise approaching CPI (1.7 percent) in salary increases, the email stated.

But the teachers retorted, exclaiming that the board's offer not only reduced take home pay for a majority of the teachers, but also raised health insurance premiums for family coverage, according to Palmquist.

"The teachers have been forced to take a strike authorization vote - something we haven’t done since the early 1970’s," Palmquist said. "What the board is offering will put District 86 behind every other competitive district within 3 years. Its effects will be immediate and devastating to the traditions that District 86 has come to value."

The District 86 Board of Education and the teachers association commenced formal collective bargaining in March, one of the earliest starts to negotiations in the last two decades.

This year, the school board elected to get the contract in place by the start of school and, in turn, the association requested federal mediation. The board agreed, hoping it would expedite the process, according to Skoda.

The first mediation session was held May 27, and the teachers' association initiated a strike vote two days later, a move the board has repeatedly said is "premature and unnecessary," as stated in the June 24 email.

Mediation sessions are scheduled for Thursday. If necessary, additional meetings will be held July 15 and July 24.

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