GENEVA – About two dozen teachers picketed in front of Geneva High School on Dec. 4, carrying signs calling for a fair contract.
Retired art teacher Louise Grissinger brought her labradoodle Benny as a comfort dog to provide moral support in what likely is Geneva District 304’s first-ever teacher strike.
“I think it’s time for the board of ed to step up and do the right thing and really be a little bit more aware of the needs of people and the quality of their teachers,” Grissinger said. “Because there are some amazing, amazing teachers here.”
At issue is a step-and-lane salary schedule, which the board has proposed to replace with a different pay increase system – one which the teachers union rejects.
After negotiating from 6 p.m. Dec. 3 to 1:30 a.m. Dec. 4, the Geneva Education Association walked out and called for a strike, according to a news release from the school board.
The district’s message states the board is seeking “a fair and fiscally responsible multiyear contract that compensates our teachers fairly and competitively for their work, while operating within the financial means of the district.”
In a statement from GEA President Kevin Gannon, the district’s salary model is untested and one that “no other school district in Kane County uses to compensate its educators.”
“Our members and the community have been very clear that a traditional step-and-lane salary schedule that determines salary based on experience and education is important to them,” Gannon said.
“The board’s latest offer does not meet that expectation,” Gannon said. “Our educators want nothing more than to be in their classrooms instead of out on a picket line. This is our last resort. We remain open to meeting with the board anytime to reach a tentative agreement and return to our students.”
As the picketers marched back and forth in front of the high school, passing motorists honked and cheered, giving them the thumb’s up.
Others brought them coffee, cocoa and doughnuts, while juniors Valdis Slokenbergs and Eric Palmquist brought them muffins they baked themselves that morning.
“They are superhero muffins from Shalane Flanagan – she’s a marathoner – from her cookbook,” Slokenbergs said. “They have zucchini and carrots and they are really good.”
With the district’s 459 teachers on strike, its 5,800 students cannot attend school.
The Geneva Park District will be offering pop-up programs at Peck Farm Park, 4038 Kaneville Road, Geneva, from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 6, spokeswoman Traci Wicks said.
The programs are for grades second through fifth and cost $20 a person. Register by calling 630-232-4542 or in person at Sunset or Persinger Center, Wicks said.
The programs will continue on what would have been normal school days as long as the strike continues, Wicks said.