District 304 warns teachers about picketing rules
GENEVA – If Geneva School District 304 teachers strike, they stand forewarned that if they picket on school property, they could face criminal charges, and if they obstruct anyone from entering a school building, they could be disciplined.
The Geneva school board voted unanimously at a special meeting Monday first to suspend its procedure for approving new board policies so it could immediately enact a policy to balance teachers’ First Amendment rights to protest with the district’s responsibility to students and staff.
The teachers union and school board are in a contract dispute. The Geneva Education Association filed an intent to strike notice over salaries and compensation. The earliest teachers could legally walk out is Friday.
With more than 300 people in a standing-room-only crowd, district resident John McCormick called for the board to suspend talks and replace teachers who strike.
“When they go on strike, that is their cause,” McCormick said. “Love them for it, but let’s get them replaced.”
Resident Kent Bickford said the district gave increases to teachers when the economy was good, but is no longer in a position to do that.
But Steve Young, husband of teachers union President Carol Young, said Geneva’s per-pupil cost was $400 below the state average.
“How is that done?” Young asked. “Because everybody does their best ... We’ve got a fantastic school district and that’s because everybody works together.”
School board President Mark Grosso said the board was holding fast to its offer of a hard salary freeze for the first year of the contract, and smaller raises after that. He said the board was asking teachers to take the sacrifice other workers took.
“At our last negotiation session on Oct. 26, we probably agreed on about 85 percent to 90 percent of the issues,” Grosso said. “When we have agreed on that many, I’m not sure why the GEA is continuing to threaten a strike.”