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November 9, 2012 / jeffnward

They’re striking – probably Monday

While in the process of ensuring my two lovely miscreants were actually going to sleep at 9:30 yesterday evening (no hidden iPod touches), I looked out my second story window and noticed some unusual classroom lights at Heartland Elementary School. 

The district will leave lighted hallways, but the classrooms are always dark at night.

Being the inquisitive type, I drove over to the school and discovered a 14 foot U-Haul and white minivan parked in the bus circle. Upon further inspection, it was clear the truck was loaded to the gills with classroom items and materials.

I managed to take one rather blurry picture of the U-Haul, but my night camera skills failed me as I attempted to take a picture of its contents.

At that point, a man and a woman exited the school pushing a dolly loaded with more material. Though I know most Heartland teachers, I did not recognize the pair. When they saw me heading back to my vehicle, the male put the stuff in the truck while the woman called someone on her cell phone.

About 30 seconds later, they got into the minivan and U-Haul and left – classroom lights still blazing.

After alerting the 911 folks, I followed both vehicles southbound on Randall Road until three Batavia Police cruisers caught up with them at Main Street. The officers would not let me anywhere near the scene.

At 10:56 p.m. I spoke with Geneva Police Sergeant Dan Kott who told me it was a teacher removing personal items from their classroom, though, at a cursory glance, it looked like more that just one classroom. And why wouldn’t both individuals simply have driven over to the school in the truck?

According to a source, on Wednesday, the school board emailed all D304 teachers asking them to remove any and all personal items from their classroom in the event of strike.

In addition, I also called a board member at 10 p.m. yesterday evening who explained the negotiations were continuing as we spoke and they were surprised to learn of my observations.

What I can tell you is, as of 6 a.m. this morning, there is no deal and no further negotiations are scheduled. That doesn’t necessarily mean the teachers will strike today and it would appear as if they haven’t.

Though it could be just one teacher jumping the gun, in this reporter’s opinion, based on my source, what I saw last night, and the time of the incident, they’re going on strike. And the fact that a teacher is emptying a classroom(s) while negotiations are in process certainly gives the appearance of a union failing to negotiate in good faith.

A non-board, non-administrator source told me the union’s preferred tactic at this point is to simply wear the board down.

C’mon! Why would someone be following the board’s instructions to remove personal items unless they knew they were walking out?

15 Comments

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  1. Jimmy / Nov 9 2012 9:34 am

    The teachers were told they would not be allowed in the classroom once a strike is called. The union has told the teachers if they do strike they may only be given a few hours notice. Many of the teachers are removing their personal items since they were told by the school that the district would not be responsible for anything they leave in the classroom. Since the teachers do not know if or when they are striking they are scrambling to remove their property in the event of a strike.

    Yes, teachers have that much stuff. Most of the material they use for instruction is purchased by the teacher not the school district so 2 vehicles or a uhaul is needed.

    My understanding is the board wants to completely change the compensation system currently in place. The teachers have agreed to take pay freezes but do not want a complete change in the compensation structure (removing step and then lane change) which is the compensation structure at the other districts in the state.

    The board did not negotiate in good faith because their goal was to fundamentally change the compensation structure. Their tactic was to not negotiate until the last minute and then start negotiating with their new compensation structure. This is a tactic that has forced the teachers into a corner to either accept a new structure which was not discussed until 2 weeks ago or go on strike and try to preserve the only system they and all other districts have ever known. Jeff as you have said before this is a negotiation and there are tactics in play here. Personally I think the board’s tactic has brought about the possibility of a strike.

    I am not pro union and I think there should be reform in how teachers are paid. The problem here is there is no clear plan for a new compensation plan. This topic was discussed in another string on the patch last night with many good ideas expressed. But it is unrealistic that you can change a contract structure that has been and still is in place for decades in just a few weeks.

    The teachers do not want to strike, but they are going to try to keep their compensation structure since they do not have a clear understanding of what a new structure would be or it’s impact on their future.
    Bottom line, there needs to be reform in the system we have have with our public unions but change is difficult and will take time. Trying to force this change in such a short time frame is resulting in a possible strike and damage to the teacher, school and community relationship.

  2. jeffnward / Nov 9 2012 9:52 am

    Jimmy,

    I’d buy what you say if not for a couple of problems:

    1. Only the union and the teachers know when exactly when they will strike so there’s no chance of being barred from their classroom before they remove the stuff.

    2. They obviously aren’t striking today so they have all weekend to remove the items. Why do it during negotiations at 9:30 at night?

    Jeff

    • Jimmy / Nov 9 2012 10:12 am

      Again my understanding is the union may only give the teachers a few hours notice. So if they are notified Sunday night they may not be able to get their stuff out. I think the teachers feel like if their is no settlement a strike could happen Monday. The teachers aren’t negotiating their union reps are so they don’t get information until the session is over. The teachers could have received a call last night that they were striking. The teachers don’t know when the next negotiation session is nor do they know if a strike will be called.

    • Dave / Nov 9 2012 10:18 am

      Jeff,
      What if said teacher was going to be gone for the entire weekend? What choice would they have but to move their “stuff” during negotiations.

      Jimmy-very well said. The teachers DON”T want to strike, but what choice do they have if the board keeps moving the goal posts?

      • Tracy / Nov 9 2012 10:22 am

        What choice do they have? Keep doing the job they’re employed to do and start looking for something new when they’re not working. That’s what the rest of the world has to do.

    • Kelly / Nov 10 2012 9:41 pm

      Jeff,
      This post is uninformed. The union gave an intent to strike notice October 27th. The union may have known when EXACTLY the strike would occur; the teachers found out Friday. The union negotation team picks the day. Because the teachers already authorized it October 27 the teachers received minimal notice. My guess would be that the union decided to strike after the marathon “negotiation” session. If I had to negotiate with people for 10 hours I might eat pizza too (as reported in another post) . In fact, I think there are two meals in that time frame.

      The teachers had to turn in keys and computers Friday before leaving. No weekend access for packing boxes. Lots of people had to hurry up and get helpers and vans to run multiple trips home.

      We may not like it, but it is their right to strike. They don’t have a contract. They started the year in the hopes that they would get one. It is now almost Thanksgiving! By dragging this out the board gets what they want: a freeze with no step or lane movement.

      It is time for parents to start seeing the board for the bullies they are. Their reports always are missing a little bit of the story. Sometimes they are just wrong. There have been rumors of nasty emails to teachers from the board. I am going to find my child’s teachers out on the line Monday and give them a thank you. And no, my child will not be going to “school” on Monday.

      I read in the paper (so it must be true!) that GEA filed suit against them for intimidation practices.

  3. Tracy / Nov 9 2012 10:00 am

    If they have agreed to a pay freeze, then why can’t they either agree to work this year without a new contract or draw up a one-year contract. Then, as proposed on the Patch website, the next year can be used to hammer out the details in a new scheme.

    Though you note that the current structure is in use in other districts, it must also be noted that it is no longer in use in all other districts and is being changed elsewhere as per the Tribune article “School districts starting to move away from step increases” from September 13, 2012. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-13/news/ct-met-teacher-step-increases-20120913_1_teacher-salaries-salary-increases-step-increases)

    This day was going to come as we all agree that reform is needed. Surely the teachers can agree to sit tight for the current school year under their current compensation while they wait for a revised scheme to be developed. At this time of year, there are not a wealth of other opportunities and striking is not going to do a whole lot of good if the two parties are at an impasse. It can only hurt the children and the good community spirit that we have in Geneva.

    • Kathleen / Nov 9 2012 11:07 am

      Tracy
      I’m just trying to understand what is going on. I realize there is always two sides to a story. Thanks for the info you posted. That article you suggested gave me a better perspective on what is happening in other communities. I completely agree with you. A strike is only going to hurt the children and the community spirit we have in Geneva. Well said!

  4. mary / Nov 9 2012 10:06 am

    They didn’t strike today because of the Veteran’s Day events going on at the middle school. I don’t think walking out on a Veteran’s Day event would help increase the support for the teachers when so many residents are already so angry. This must be the most archaic system for dealing with labor disputes.

  5. Jimmy / Nov 9 2012 10:25 am

    Tracy,
    I agree some sort of one year deal makes sense. However I don’t think the board has put that on the table. If they did I’m not sure the union would accept it. Things are going to change I just hope there is an agreement put in place for now and then start planning/working toward a new structure. I would like to see the teachers (not the union involved in the discussions) I know many of the teachers would accept a new plan as long as they were given some input and time to fully understand how a new system would reward good work. Just like in the private sector.

  6. Kim / Nov 9 2012 11:21 am

    You called it Jeff…Carol Young has announced the teachers will strike on Monday! Gotta love the Union slant in her announcement … http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20121109/news/711099847/

    • Kelly / Nov 9 2012 7:35 pm

      The teacher probably had a big item to take home like a piece of furniture or an awkward mailbox or something which would necessitate a U-Haul because it would not fit in the car. The school board told teachers to take their personal stuff home on Wednesday. The letters from Grosso to teachers have been nasty. I am sure others took stuff home, too. Maybe a few boxes a night, but they took stuff home.

      For those teachers who didn’t… Teachers found out at 11:00 am today that they were going on strike and that key fobs were being deactivated today. Bet they wished they would have come with a U-Haul last night.

      Jeff, have you not been in a classroom? Teachers have more in them than the average office worker does.

      I do have to say, though, that the irony of you living across from Heartland and giving chase to the “U-Haulers” at the school in the middle of the night is ridiculously funny.
      That is called chasing down a story.

      • jeffnward / Nov 9 2012 8:12 pm

        Kelly,

        There certainly was way too much to fit into a car, but the vast majority of it was small stuff like files in those plastic holders. And we’re talking a 14 foot truck here. Eliminate the furniture and I could move the entire first floor of my house in one of those things.

        Had I recognized the people, I would’ve just let it go. But the fact that I didn’t and they basically bolted when I showed up – didn’t even turn off the lights – made me very curious.

        Jeff

      • Kelly / Nov 9 2012 9:17 pm

        Well, if there was a lot of stuff then you admit the teacher(s) had quite an investment to protect. Have you seen how much those plastic drawer things cost?

        Anyway, it occurred to me that they may have bolted either because they did not know YOU or if they did because the teachers feel uncomfortable talking to the press in the middle of the night. I assume you were not in your Jammies, but you do not have the authority to detain people at their place of employment.

        Also consider there may have been others there as well so maybe it wasn’t nearly as covert a mission as you propose. Some of the buildings have custodians there working second shift til 10 or 11 at night.

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