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District 46, teachers union reach an agreement

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PRAIRIE GROVE – Negotiating teams for District 46 and the Prairie Grove Teachers' Association have reached an agreement that will end a one-day strike.

Classes will resume on Monday.

A press conference is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Following seven hours of negotiating Thursday, the Prairie Grove Teachers' Association officially called a strike at 12:30 a.m., canceling classes Friday

The settlement was announced late Friday afternoon.

Check back to NWHerald.com for updates.

- Northwest Herald

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PRAIRIE GROVE – Holding up signs that read "On strike for a fair contract," teachers and supporters gathered in front of School District 46 buildings Friday morning as contract negotiations resumed.

"We've been patient enough," said Bradley Piech, a teacher at Prairie Grove Junior High. "We hope, ultimately, that this will be the day (when a settlement is reached)."

Following seven hours of negotiating Thursday, the Prairie Grove Teachers' Association officially called a strike at 12:30 a.m., canceling classes Friday.

The school board and union officials met with a federal mediator and were unable to reach an agreement, Superintendent Lynette Zimmer said in a statement on the district's website.

"At the beginning of the session, the only issue separating the parties last night was the union demand that the board make additional payment to some individuals for deductibles in addition to paying for premium benefits," the statement reads. "Late in the session, the PGTA added several other proposals."

A statement was also posted on the union's website.

"The teachers' negotiating team asked the board of education team and their attorney to continue negotiating throughout the night, but they would not agree to negotiate," the statement reads.

Both parties resumed negotiations at 9 a.m. today. And in an unusual move, both negotiating teams agreed to allow the public to sit in – but not speak or cause disruption – on today's ongoing session after some parents made the request late Thursday.

The strike leaves about 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade out of class.

That includes Kenny Waterson, a sixth-grader at Prairie Grove Junior High School.

His mother, Mary Kaye Waterson, received a robocall about 5 a.m. stating that school had been canceled because of the strike.

Her 11-year-old son is autistic, and requires a set schedule each day.

"He was devasted for about an hour and then he realized he could play on the computer for most of the day," the stay-at-home mom said. "But if you throw him off his schedule, it throws him off."

Waterson also said negotiations have gone on too long between the two parties without coming to an agreement.

"Every time this thing gets close and you think there is a contract, the [school] board suddenly says no and throws the thing out," she said. "I hope they can come to an agreement that benefits the teachers and the school district."

The Sage YMCA of Metro Chicago in Crystal Lake is offering daycare alternatives during the strike, according to the district.

Check back to www.NWHerald.com for updates.

— Lawerence Synett

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A crowd of teachers and parents showed up at District 46 contract talks Thursday night, about an hour after the teachers association co-president said it appeared talks had “broken down.”

Negotiations between the district and the Prairie Grove Teachers Association, which began behind closed doors about 5:30 p.m. at Prairie Grove Junior High School, later resumed and were under way late into the night – past press time.

After the statement about 8 p.m. by Paulina Levy, junior high teacher and co-president of the teachers association, supporters arrived holding signs that read, “We want a fair settlement” and “Good teachers deserve good benefits.”

“We’re here to let them know that we support them,” Monica Feltes, a mother of two children in District 46. “They’re good teachers and the [board] should give them what they deserve. They work hard for their students. All the accolades the schools receive are because of these teachers.”

The district made no statement.

Even with the “revolving door of the administration,” the teachers have been a stabilizingng force, said Michelle Raemont, who has a seventh-grader in the district. Her older daughter, now in high school, attended both elementary and junior high school in the district, she said.

“From my perspective as a taxpayer and homeowner, this school district is all we’ve got,” Raemont said. “We don’t have a park district, we don’t have a library, But we have an excellent set of teachers that have longevity in the schools.

“I want this to end.”

The teachers association has been bargaining for a contract since Jan. 31, 2011. Teachers worked under the contract that expired in August 2011 until July 27, when the district imposed its “last best and final offer.”

The union and district reportedly are divided over issues of salary, extra-duty stipends, health insurance and the district ’s decision to eliminate post-retirement payments, including insurance reimbursements.

As of last month, proposals of the two sides reflected a financial difference of “less than $20,000,” union leaders said. They said they are not seeking raises and benefits that go beyond what the district can afford in its $11.6 million budget and will allow the district to set aside a reserve to maintain a solid financial rating.

Earlier in the summer, the union filed a required 10-day “intent-to-strike” notice with the district, which serves about 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. No strike date has yet been set.

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