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District 304, teachers trade accusations

GENEVA – Geneva School District 304 officials have accused the teachers union of going through the motions of bargaining while planning to have teachers walk out – a charge the union denies.

School officials Tuesday accused the union of withholding information that it filed notice-to-strike filings during negotiations, according to a statement signed by board President Mark Grosso.

The statement complained that the union filed its 10-day strike notice with county and state officials at 4:30 p.m. Friday, then continued contract talks for five hours before delivering the notice to the board at 9:45 p.m. – more than five hours later.

“It is apparent that, while the board has been diligently working since February to achieve an agreement that is good for students, fair to teachers and fiscally responsible, the union is intent in having the district’s teachers walk off the job in an effort to shut down our schools,” says the district’s statement.

Geneva Education Association President Carol Young denied the district’s characterization, saying the union filed the notices while striving for a settlement, hoping the notices would not be used.

“Our feeling was we needed to get [the intent-to-strike notice] in before the end of the day,” Young said. “We were hoping it would be a moot point, that we would settle and it would not go any further. We would call them and say, ‘Nope, don’t need it.’ We were … interested in a settlement Friday night.”

Upon receiving the board’s offer, the union team met privately until about 5:30 p.m., according to district’s statement, to evaluate the board’s offer and craft a response.

“Instead, the union was drafting and filing its notice of intent to strike with county and state authorities,” says the district’s statement. “What is particularly troubling is that, while the union was supposedly evaluating the board’s latest proposal, it was instead drafting and filing its notice of intent to strike with county and state officials.”

Grosso did not return a call seeking comment.

The union issued a response to the district’s statement.

“We were fully engaged at that time with formulating an offer to the board, which included a freeze in the first year and which we hoped would be agreed upon by the board, thus making the intent to strike null and void,” says the union’s statement. “It is a good-faith effort to settle this contract, which we were fully prepared to do on Friday evening.”

Instead, according to the union’s statement, the board’s negotiating team said it had to confer with four other board members and could do so only by calling a special meeting that could not be convened until Monday.

If a special meeting were to be called – one was not posted on the district’s website as of Tuesday evening – the two sides would not be able to negotiate again for a full 10 days until Nov. 6, says the union’s statement. If school officials truly were interested in good-faith bargaining, they could have moved up that timetable, asserts the union’s statement.

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