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Rockford teachers set to begin strike March 29
Posted By Brandon Reid On March 27, 2012 @ 9:11 am In Happening Now, Local News | 11 Comments
Teachers in Rockford Public School District 205 are set to go on strike for the first time since 1984 beginning Thursday, March 29.
The Rockford teachers’ union — the Rockford Education Association (REA) — voted 1,500-74 in favor of the strike March 26 after a little more than an hour of discussion at Rockford’s Coronado Performing Arts Center.
The vote comes after members of the REA and the district’s bargaining team failed to reach an agreement in 50 meetings over the past 11 months. Teachers have been without a contract since July 1.
Following four hours of failed negotiations March 25, REA President Karen Bieschke said: “This is outrageous. We have been bargaining for 11 months with over 60 negotiations sessions. With the education of over 28,000 students hanging in the balance — the REA was prepared to get this done today. We did our homework and came prepared. Why didn’t Superintendent Willis and his team do the same‘?”
Teachers at the March 26 meeting were given written instructions about picket lines and other information about the walkout.
Strike instructions call for teachers to picket their respective buildings, with picket lines expected at every District 205 school.
The teachers’ union has also purchased 30-second advertising spots on local television, which are to air during the strike.
Students will be out of school Wednesday, March 28, because of a School Improvement Planning day, planned under former Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield, with the strike to begin March 29.
Bieschke said a tentative agreement could stop the strike, although she said no bargaining sessions have been scheduled.
Dr. Robert Willis, interim superintendent of Rockford Public School District 205, sent teachers a letter March 26 regarding a possible strike. Click here  to read the letter.
In response to the REA’s vote to strike, Rockford Public School District 205 issued the following press release March 26:
ROCKFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS DISTRICT 205 CALLS REA STRIKE “DETRIMENTAL TO STUDENTS, PARENTS, OUR COMMUNITY AND THE DISTRICT”
District calls for REA to start negotiating realistically and put the kids first
Rockford School District 205 called today’s REA’s decision to conduct a strike and walk out on more than 27,000 Rockford students, “detrimental to students, parents, our community and the district.”
“Let me be clear — no one wins in a strike,” said Robert Willis, interim superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools.
Willis said the District has a comprehensive contingency plan in place, just as any prudent employer. The district shared information about its planning and responded to questions from parents at special information sessions the district held Wednesday, March 21, and Thursday, March 22.
Additional information will be made available on the district’s website: webs.rps205.com. Willis said the union walkout does not diminish the district’s confidence that it can reach a fair new contract.
“We have tremendous respect for our teachers, but we must balance their concerns with our primary mission, which is to address both the current and future instructional needs of our students. Our students must come first,” Willis said.
The district’s final offer seeks to make changes now for the district to be sustainable and make long-term investments for the future, he added.
Neither the REA nor the district can guarantee any days lost due to a strike will be made up by adding days at the end of the scheduled school year, Willis said.
The district will not be locking out teachers who want to work. Those teachers who work their regularly scheduled work hours will receive full pay and benefits. Those who choose to strike will not be paid and will be issued COBRA notices at the appropriate time and will be responsible for paying the full cost of health care.
Rockford Public Schools District 205 has not had a strike in nearly 30 years — since 1984.
The two parties have met 50 times over the past 11 months.
“The district has been reasonable in negotiations and has made significant change and compromises,” said Willis. “The district’s approach and position on the primary issues has remained constant.”
The district’s goal continues to be to reach a fair new agreement that secures a brighter future for Rockford Public Schools District 205 and benefits the students, teachers and the community.
For more about the status of negotiations, visit www.205teachernegotiations.com .
Posted March 27, 2012
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
URL to article: http://rockrivertimes.com/2012/03/27/rockford-teachers-set-to-begin-strike-march-29/
URLs in this post:
 Click here: http://rockrivertimes.com/2012/03/26/rockford-public-schools-superintendent-sends-letter-to-teachers-regarding-possible-strike/
 www.205teachernegotiations.com: http://www.205teachernegotiations.com
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