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D-46, teachers to meet for contract negotiations

PRAIRIE GROVE – District 46 officials and the Prairie Grove Teachers’ Association are scheduled to meet Thursday for contract negotiations – the first since teachers issued an “intent-to-strike” notice last week.

Meanwhile, the district board is scheduled to meet behind closed doors, in what’s known as an executive session, at 8 p.m. today at the district’s junior high school library, 3225 Route 176 in Crystal Lake. Superintendent Lynette Zimmer said last week district officials will discuss steps the district needs to take in case the teachers do go on strike.

The union was required to provide a 10-day notice before any strike. Union leaders have not set a strike date and said they are “still interested in doing everything we can to avoid a strike.”

“We continue to approach every negotiations session with the hope that a mutually agreeable resolution can be reached,” the teachers’ association said in an email.

District 46, which serves about 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, is about two weeks into the 2012-13 school year.

The school board in June voted to “impose” its “last, best, and final offer” on the union – a contract that goes back to the 2011-12 school year and runs through the 2014-15 year.

The board’s offer included a salary freeze for last year, and a 1.125 percent salary increase for the current school year.

Teachers have been working under an expired contract since Aug. 26, 2011. Earlier this year, in May, the teachers’ association declared an impasse.

“Throughout the past 21 months of negotiations, we have presented proposals that would be sustainable for the district without requiring an education fund referendum,” the union said in the email.

On Aug. 21, after five hours of negotiations, teachers voted to authorize a strike. Union leaders said 93 percent of its 73 members supported the move.

Outstanding issues between the district and teachers union are salary, extra-duty stipends, health insurance and the district’s decision to eliminate post-retirement payments, including insurance reimbursements.

Union officials said they are not seeking raises and benefits that go beyond what the district can afford and that will allow the district to set aside a reserve to maintain a solid financial rating.

“The financial issues are tied to the increase in revenue to the district,” the union said. “So goes the economy, so goes our raises.”

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