BESD teachers strike

Bourbonnais Elementary School District teachers Jean Whetsel and Joan Peterson, right, ring cow bells as passing drivers honk during the second day of the teachers strike.

BOURBONNAIS — The school board presented a written proposal to the Bourbonnais Education Association this afternoon and a bargaining session is now scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today, according to an email from the board.

Lead negotiators from the school board and teachers union met one-on-one for about two and a half hours Monday to discuss the situation.

On Friday, the federal mediator who has helped facilitate negotiations since November reached out to both parties but did not set a date for the next bargaining meeting.

The mediator would have set a meeting as early as over the weekend if both parties were ready to move toward an agreement.

The most recent bargaining meetings were Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. In total, those meetings lasted about 10 hours.

Teachers were back on the picket line Monday morning.

The BEA team told the mediator Friday that they were willing to make some movement in negotiations and available every day to bargain, according to a statement from the union.

The union was last to present a proposal Wednesday, so it is waiting for the board to make the next proposal in response, according to the statement.

“We want to get back to our classrooms as soon as possible,” BEA President Lauren Lundmark said in the statement.

Teachers do not get paid while on strike, the union confirmed.

Teachers also lost access to their work emails, a normal occurrence during a strike, the union said.

John Hall, head of the school board’s negotiating team, said the one-on-one meeting Monday, which was OK’d through the mediator, was not an official bargaining meeting but rather a sidebar discussion in an effort to understand each other’s positions.

He said the conversation was productive.

“[Both sides] said today we want to get our kids back in school by Wednesday,” Hall said. “We can’t guarantee anything, but that’s the goal is to get them back in school as soon as possible.”

The board sent a message to constituents informing them that there is still no school Tuesday, but both sides have talked and are eager to end the strike, he added.

“Hopefully, we got the ball moving a little bit here again,” Hall said. “I’m hoping that we can get something on the agenda shortly so that we can both put an end to this.”

Once the parties agree on a contract, the union would then have to vote on and ratify the contract, which would also have to be officially approved during a school board meeting.

However, teachers and students would return to school right away once a tentative agreement is reached, Hall said.

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.