What is causing the strain between the Geneva Board of Education and the Geneva Education Association?
The Board of Education (BOE) and the Geneva Education Association (GEA) have been in official contract negotiations since February, 2018. Since February, both teams have met together 20 times. However, the salary negotiations began in a salary committee 24 months ago. The two parties are currently undergoing federal mediation sessions. The GEA has negotiated in good faith and presented offers that were financially responsible to the teachers and community.
After months of dragging their feet and submitting incredibly low salary offers to the GEA, the board recently released a contract offer to the public 40 minutes after handing it to the GEA’s president, Kevin Gannon. He did not even have a chance to share this proposal with the rest of the GEA negotiation team before the district emailed their offer to the community.
July 14th: The GEA sent a salary contract model to the BOE. Rather than a traditional salary schedule, this was a hybrid salary model that included elements of what the board has requested and elements of what the GEA has asked for. This was a large compromise on the part of the GEA.
July 21st Negotiation Session: The GEA and BOE met to discuss the GEA’s proposal. The board agreed to discuss this model and return in three weeks with a model of their own. The GEA asked if they could see a copy of the model before August 14th, so they could process it before meeting with the Board. The BOE denied this request.
August 14th Negotiation Session: The BOE did not bring any form of a salary model. They did not work toward a new salary model in this meeting. Because of this, no progress was made toward ratifying a new contract, so the GEA requested a federal mediator to help speed up the process. The GEA’s contract expired the next day, so they could not continue meeting indefinitely without help to move the negotiations forward.
September 2nd Negotiation Session: For the first time, the board presented a salary model. This model was not a hybrid and contained none of the elements the GEA has requested. This new salary model would have been a significant pay decrease from the current salary schedule. It would have also made Geneva’s newer and future teachers some of the lowest compensated teachers in the state.
September 4th Negotiation Session: In just two days, the GEA created and shared a new salary proposal that contained the elements that the GEA has communicated repeatedly are needed to make a competitive compensation package: a traditional step and lane salary schedule, timely pay increases for educational attainment, and salary increases that would make Geneva schools more competitive with like districts. For the total package to be competitive, the GEA also proposed changes in insurance, stipends, and summer school pay that would move Geneva closer to surrounding districts. The total cost of the proposal was well within the ability of the district to finance without changes to existing programs or increasing pupil to teacher ratios. The Board did not accept this proposal.
September 24th Negotiation Session: The BOE presented its second offer. This offer once again did not include any of the elements the GEA has requested. Although not as low as the first offer, this would still have made Geneva’s newer and future teachers some of the lowest compensated in the state of Illinois, much lower than any Chicagoland district. It also did not address the issue of retaining our teachers who have dedicated years to Geneva’s tradition of excellence.
October 2nd Negotiation Session: The GEA proposed a new salary model that was a once again a hybrid between what the board has asked for and what the GEA has requested. The Board did not accept this new proposal. The next mediated session was not scheduled until October 23rd, three weeks later. The GEA requested that the BOE meet with them at least once more that week because its teachers were still working without a contract. The mediator and GEA gave three different meeting dates and times that week. The board refused to meet again until October 23rd, so the GEA called for public posting of the most recent offers presented to the negotiation teams.
October 9th: The GEA delivered 350 letters from its members to the BOE during the school board meeting. These letters detailed each teacher’s request for a fair contract that will allow them to support their families and live a middle class life. Some of these letters explained that Geneva’s teachers are working second jobs or donating plasma to make ends meet.
October 10th: BOE president, Mark Grosso, pulled GEA president, Kevin Gannon, out of a district meeting to hand him a new salary proposal. Forty minutes later, the Board of Education released their proposal to the public through 304 Connects. The GEA negotiation team did not have a chance to see this offer before it was sent to the public. The Geneva Education Association members, including the negotiation team, all found out about this new proposal through the district email. The President of the GEA did not have the opportunity to review the proposal, as he needed to return to the district meeting.
Typically, proposals are to be submitted to the Illinois Education Labor Relation Board (IELRB) and the other negotiation team. The two teams then meet and work towards an agreement while their proposals remain unpublished at the IELRB office. After one week of continued negotiating, the IELRB releases the offers to the public. The BOE declined several opportunities that both the Mediator and the GEA team offered to meet. Instead, the BOE chose to release their proposal to the public. Although the school board did not follow the typical process laid out by the IELRB, the GEA has chosen to comply with the proper steps of negotiating, which is why the GEA will wait for the IELRB to release GEA’s most recent salary proposal, on October 17th, and continue to encourage the BOE to meet and negotiate.
October 12th: The Federal Mediator reached out to the BOE and GEA negotiation team to offer another mediated session on October 18th. The GEA and BOE both agreed to meet for another mediated negotiation session on this date. The GEA hopes that the BOE will accept their newest offer so they can ratify a new contract.