District 304 teachers continue lobbying efforts

GENEVA – Members of the Geneva teachers union picketed in the dark on Route 38 on Tuesday night, holding up signs calling for a fair contract.

Geneva Education Association members also walked a picket line in front of Coultrap Elementary School, where the school board met later.

Wearing bright green “united we teach” T-shirts, they packed the meeting room.

Several teachers and parents spoke in support of settling the dispute, but Geneva School District 304 board President Mark Grosso said the board would not discuss any contract issues in public, citing its confidentiality agreement with the GEA.

“We are not going to involve any parents, students or any community members in this process,” Grosso said. “I want to assure everyone that this board will not be influenced by any single group. And if you think we are, then you are woefully misinformed. And you’ve underestimated the integrity, the character and the resolve of these board members up here.”

Despite statements by union President Carol Young that contract talks are near an impasse, Grosso said he was “very optimistic” of a settlement.

“Each meeting we seem to get a little closer,” Grosso said. “I believe both sides are negotiating in good faith.”

Several teachers spoke to the board, explaining how a hard freeze on their salaries would hurt them and ultimately the students.

Maggie Villwock, a fourth-grade teacher at Heartland Elementary School, said she represented several teachers who were due for a salary advancement because of graduate degree work. A hard freeze of salaries would stop the pay increases promised in earlier contract years. Villwock said her course of study was signed by her principal and approved by the board.

“[Tuesday] is my 30th wedding anniversary and instead of being out at dinner with my husband, I’m here trying to convince you of my worth as a teacher,” Villwock said.

“Would you really want a teacher who did not learn past what she learned 15 years ago?”