Waukegan teachers Kyle Lindblom, left, and Elaine Shifflett right, strike outside Carman-Buckner Elementary School during the month-long strike in October 2014. The school district and the union have reached a tentative agreement designed to prevent another strike from happening, the school board president said Tuesday. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
A tentative agreement between the 16,800-student Waukegan School District 60 and its teachers union — which experienced a month-long strike that led to the governor’s intervention before it reached a deal the last time it negotiated — has been reached, district and union officials said Tuesday evening.
Union membership is set to meet after school Wednesday to hear the terms of the agreement and voting will run until 3 p.m. Friday, union President Kathy Schwarz said.
The school board is set to vote on the proposed pact Tuesdayat its next regularly scheduled meeting, district spokesman Nick Alajakis said, adding that it is his understanding that the details of the agreement will be released after the union gets to vote, but before that meeting.
School board President Michael Rodriguez announced at a special board meeting Tuesday that the tentative agreement had been reached after just two weeks of negotiations in an effort to ensure that a deal was in place before the school board elections on April 4 and, at the very least, before the beginning of a new school year.
The deal was only a "few hours fresh" when Rodriquez made the announcement around 7 p.m., Alajakis said.
The uncertainty that comes with no contract isn’t good for teachers or students, he said, adding that it was also important to the board to have an agreement "before any new board came in that maybe had different sentiments."
"As most of you know, we had a strike a few years ago, and there were a lot of hard feelings and ill will," Rodriguez said. "It put some damage to our school district that’s very hard to recover from, and we as a board were determined that we did not want a repetition of anything like that."
The three-year contract reached in 2014 came after a marathon bargaining session led by then-State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico, sent by then-Gov. Pat Quinn to end the month-long strike, according to Chicago Tribune reports.
Talks had stalled then after a contentious school board meeting in which one board member yelled at attendees to be quiet, according to the reports.
Both Rodriguez and Schwarz said they were happy with how quickly and smoothly they were able to reach a deal.
"When you have negotiations, it’s not a case where two sides fight it out and one side wins and the other side loses," Rodriguez said. "That’s not what it’s all about. Both sides won in this case, and the teachers union did not get everything that they wanted. We had to make some concessions. That’s the nature of negotiations."
The tentative agreement addresses the concerns of both teachers and the community, Schwarz said.
The deal includes some increases in salaries, but not more than the district can afford, Rodriguez said.