D-158, union bicker over non-meeting

HUNTLEY – A canceled bargaining session at District 158 has turned controversial, with the district’s teachers union openly questioning the board’s commitment to bargain in good faith.

The Huntley Education Association, representing 600-plus teachers, released a statement late Wednesday claiming the school board canceled a bargaining session scheduled for Tuesday.

“We hope this was a genuine oversight on the part of the board and that the cancellation of the scheduled mediation is not an intentional subversion of the statutorily prescribed bargaining process,” HEA said in the statement.

But board member Don Drzal, who is a lead negotiator for the district, said the two sides never formally scheduled the date with the mediator, who has presided over negotiations since October.

He called the cancellation a “miscommunication” between the board, HEA and the mediator.

“I think perhaps it was an oversight by the mediator. It was never a scheduled meeting,” Drzal said. “It was clearly no one’s fault. It was a date that was never agreed upon.”

The two sides have been negotiating since the summer and requested a mediator in September. Soon afterward, HEA’s membership rejected a tentative deal and authorized the union to call a strike. No strike has been set.

The district, which educates more than 9,000 students, is not the only one in the area in the midst of contentious contract negotiations with teachers.

In neighboring District 300 in Carpentersville, one of the largest school districts in the state, the teachers union declared an official impasse this week. Teachers there can go on strike after 28 days, if they choose to do so.

In Huntley, District 158 and its teachers now are scheduled to meet again Nov. 28.

Drzal said the board should have made more of an effort to confirm Tuesday’s meeting, when the union floated the date in a news release last month. But, he said, the board never formally received the release and did not have any direct communication from HEA.

Julie McLaughlin, HEA co-president, said she was “surprised” to hear that the board blamed the canceled meeting on a miscommunication because the mediator had the meeting booked.

Tensions increased last month when the school board released a statement suggesting that HEA should change leadership after teachers rejected a second tentative deal.

HEA shot back, saying union leaders and the board never reached the deal. The sides reportedly have been at odds over salary schedules, but neither has been willing to disclose details.

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