D-158, union reach tentative deal

HUNTLEY – The attention on monthslong negotiations between District 158 and its teacher union now shifts to Monday, as 600-plus teachers prepare to vote on a tentative contract agreement.

The agreement was reached between union leaders and the board just after midnight Wednesday. The two sides negotiated for almost five hours during an impromptu bargaining session, hours after the union declared a formal impasse in contract talks that began in the summer.

The agreement, both sides said, more effectively addresses teacher compensation issues, even though neither side disclosed any details – something they have refrained from doing since a third-party mediator was requested in August.

“We are very pleased that the board and HEA came together to put together a contract,” Huntley Education Association co-President Julie McLaughlin said.

“Both parties are proud to have achieved their mutual goals.”

The 600 or more teachers belonging to the Huntley Education Association already have rejected a tentative deal in early September.

The board claimed in October that a second deal was reached, but union leaders vehemently denied it after their members authorized the ability to strike.

But McLaughlin said she is “hopeful” the deal agreed on Wednesday will be ratified by members, since it already has the support of various union leaders. HEA members meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Huntley High School to vote on the tentative agreement.

The impasse, she said, was declared as the board was trying to arrange the bargaining session with the union.

The coordination between both sides was not seen last week, when HEA criticized the board for canceling a meeting.

The board said a miscommunication was to blame.

The impasse was the last procedural move HEA needed to make before striking.

If they don’t endorse the agreement, teachers still can picket after 28 days from the impasse being declared. No strike date has been set.

The Tuesday meeting was so hastily put together that board Vice President Don Drzal, who has been the board’s lead negotiator, had to attend it by phone in a teleconference.

Drzal said the HEA bargaining team came into the meeting focused and armed with a “good, solid proposal” that stands the best chance of being ratified by HEA members.

He and the board previously called for new union leadership at the bargaining table after the tentative agreement controversy in October.

“The union yesterday came in with a firm grasp on what they needed to get it ratified,” Drzal said. “As a result, we knew what we needed to do to get an agreement.”

Details of the agreement will not be disclosed until HEA and the board separately ratify it, both sides said.

In the meantime, teachers continue to be compensated off their old contract that expired in June.

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