School board walks out on negotiations with teachers’ union, cancels future meetings
Online Staff Report
The Rockford Board of Education terminated the negotiation session with the Rockford Education Association (REA) Feb. 9 after five hours of discussion. The board also canceled all future mediation and negotiation sessions with the teachers’ union.
REA President Karen Bieschke said in a press release: “The board’s action in walking out on Thursday was unwarranted, arbitrary, harmful to the entire Rockford community, and may be unlawful. Their unilateral withdrawal from discussions exacerbates problems and drives a wedge between us. It’s a deliberate abandonment of board duties. That’s not the way to solve problems and build better schools.”
Bieschke said in a press release that the board’s withdrawal came after parties had been meeting for about five hours Feb. 9. At approximately 10 a.m., she said, the REA presented the board with a complete package of negotiation proposals, including new proposals and significant revisions designed to move the parties closer to an agreement.
Union officials said the board’s termination of the process came without warning. The only explanation given came through a federal mediator who told teachers the board saw no reason to negotiate unless teachers accepted the last board offer in total.
“That’s the same offer that teachers rejected on Jan. 28,” Bieschke said.
REA officials said the board has given no indication of its next actions. REA has contracted legal counsel and is considering its options, according to Bieschke.
The Board of Education has its regular meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14, in room 207 of the Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St., Rockford.
“The board’s deliberate abandonment of the negotiations process and unwarranted escalation of tension today has potential to harm the entire Rockford school district and all its stakeholders, including students, parents, taxpayers, the school district as a whole and the REA,” Bieschke said.
The REA will hold an all-teacher meeting after school Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Coronado Performing Arts Center. REA members will decide their next course at that time, she said.
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