BOURBONNAIS — The Bourbonnais Education Association is set to vote today on whether or not to authorize union leadership to initiate a teacher strike after 10 months of contract negotiations.
BEA President Lauren Lundmark said Tuesday that the vote will gauge the opinions of the union’s 170 members on what measures they would support if mediation is unsuccessful going forward.
Depending on their responses, it could mean a strike is an option; the vote does not necessarily mean a strike will happen.
“We hope it doesn’t come to [a strike],” she said. “It’s just kind of being prepared for all scenarios here.”
With a mediator now present, contract negotiations resumed Monday for the first time since mid-December, and another meeting is scheduled for Thursday.
Lundmark said the three key points teachers are asking for are fair salary increases, maintaining current insurance benefits, and ensuring common plan time in teachers’ schedules.
Seven months into negotiations, the Bourbonnais Education Association and Bourbonnais Elementary District 53 School Board are starting the mediation process to attempt to reach an agreement.
“We are still actively meeting; however, we are still pretty far apart when it comes to [agreeing on] salary and benefits,” she said.
Lundmark said there have been “some good conversations” in negotiations around the issue of common plan time, but the parties have yet to come to an agreement.
She said the next steps will be to get direction from the union members Wednesday, share the results with the school board and mediator during Thursday’s meeting, and then decide where to go from there.
John Hall, head of the school board’s negotiating team, said he couldn’t discuss specifics of the negotiation process; however, he said the board is looking forward to moving ahead with the process.
“We’re looking forward to getting this done,” he said. “We’re trying to negotiate in good faith.”
Hall added that he also hopes to avoid a teacher strike.
“Personally, I would hope that it wouldn’t come to that, especially considering, with the pandemic, we’re having a hard enough time getting kids in school for enough hours as it is,” he said.
Superintendent Adam Ehrman declined to comment on the situation, as he said he has not been at the table for the negotiating process.
When Ehrman started with the district in July, he did not take the seat of interim superintendent Margaret Longo in the negotiating meetings, Lundmark said.
The school board ultimately votes on approval of the teachers contract.
The current contract was supposed to start for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. The contracts typically are for three years.