BOURBONNAIS — Another bargaining meeting has been set for 5:30 p.m. today in the hopes of coming to an agreement on a contract for Bourbonnais elementary teachers before Thursday, the date the union has said teachers would strike if there is still no deal.

The Bourbonnais Education Association and Bourbonnais School Board met for about six hours Tuesday evening.

The school board’s head negotiator John Hall said after the meeting that both parties presented written proposals on Tuesday. During last week’s meeting, verbal offers were presented and discussed back and forth.

“We’re hopeful we can get this done and avoid a strike, but with it being almost midnight, we decided that resting heads would prevail, and we should take a break and come back tomorrow,” Hall said.

Hall also confirmed the board would concede on one of the key points the union has been asking for: percentage-based increases rather than fixed-dollar amounts for yearly raises.

Tuesday’s meeting took place immediately following the union’s third outdoor demonstration.

About 150 teachers and supporters marched along both sides of North Convent Street between John Casey Road and William Latham Senior Drive for about an hour leading up to the 5:30 p.m. bargaining meeting.

Some marchers with megaphones chanted phrases like “fair contract, fair pay” or “say yes to less” — a reference to one of the union’s recent contract offers which would cost less money than a recent school board offer over the same two-year period.

Many drivers passing by honked their horns in support of the marchers.

The union has also utilized social media and texting campaigns as well as radio ads to build community support. Previous outdoor demonstrations were held Jan. 26 and Feb. 17.

Bridget Shanahan, media relations director for the Illinois Education Association, said during the picket Tuesday that the amount of community support for teachers has been “wonderful.”

“[Supporters in the community] are well educated on the issues and understand what’s at stake,” she said.

The IEA represents teachers, education employees and support staff statewide outside the city of Chicago.

Shanahan also noted during the picket that union leaders and membership were hopeful an agreement could be reached that night.

“Everybody wants to put this behind us tonight,” she said.

Rob Rodewald, school board president, expressed a similar sentiment earlier in the day on Tuesday.

“We have hoped for a long time that there would be an agreement,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s no reason for us to stop hoping now.”

Negotiations have now been ongoing for about a year; the district and BEA began contract negotiations in March 2020. Teachers have worked without a contract since the beginning of the school year.

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.