Lengthy process ahead before D-300 deal is official

CARPENTERSVILLE – ­Taxpayers won’t know the details behind the District 300 tentative agreement that ended a one-day strike, and an often-bruising yearlong negotiation, until days before Christmas.

Leaders from both sides of the bargaining table said the lengthy ratification process will likely take weeks to complete. The bargaining team from LEAD 300 will kick-start the process Friday by meeting to review the language in the contract.

That starts a series of meetings and votes before the new three-year pact becomes official. Throughout it all, both sides have said they won’t reveal the terms of the contract, partly to allow teachers time to review the proposal.

But board member Joe Stevens said he and the other elected members also won’t allow taxpayers time to review the tentative deal before voting on it. The district board will be the last to ratify.

“Both sides of this issue have gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails so far,” Stevens said. “We know where taxpayers stand on this issue.”

It’s not uncommon for districts to wait to reveal contract terms until after ratification.

The District 158 board in Huntley last month withheld contract details until ratification. But the board approved it one day after teachers from the Huntley Education Association ratified it. The two sides also voted five days after reaching a tentative deal.

LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho said members will vote to ratify the deal before students leave for Christmas break on Dec. 21. So far, no official voting date has been set.

The ratification process also doesn’t guarantee a new contract. A simple majority of LEAD’s 1,300 members are needed to endorse the new deal, notwithstanding the district board’s vote.

The large membership is more than twice the size of the Huntley teachers union, which rejected a tentative deal in early September and prolonged negotiations into late November.

“I wouldn’t have made a tentative agreement if I didn’t think it was something the membership could support,” Hanetho said. “But only the vote will tell.”

Despite the lengthy process, District 300 teachers and students returned to class Wednesday, after being out Tuesday because of the one-day strike.

Parents such as Matt Miekle and Curtis Flint said they were frustrated by the strike and questioned why the work stoppage was needed.

The timing of the stoppage came after both sides in that failed Monday bargaining meeting seemed to be nearing a consensus on compensation and class sizes – the main divisive bargaining issues.

Both the union’s and district’s proposals showed that sides were only 1 percentage point off on salary increases and roughly two and three students apart on classroom caps in the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Stevens after the failed meeting said a strike was “totally avoidable.” On Wednesday, he wouldn’t comment on whether the strike was necessary.

“I’ll let the union answer that,” he said.

Hanetho said the strike restarted the dialogue on negotiations, arguing that board members indicated on Monday that they had reached the point where they couldn’t move any further in negotiations.

“The strike wasn’t something we wanted to do, but it was something we needed to do to get an actual tentative agreement,” Hanetho said. “I hope that I don’t ever have to do it again in my lifetime.”

Both admitted that the often-bitter negotiations will require some relationship mending between teachers and administrators. But, they said, the healing process already has started to take place.

• Northwest Herald reporter Jim Dallke contributed to this report.

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