GENEVA – On the cusp of a possible strike, hundreds of Geneva District 304 teachers and community supporters packed the street in front of the district’s administration building Monday night, revving up the crowd in hopes of a settlement.
In a statement, Geneva Education Association president Kevin Gannon said if a tentative agreement is not reached after that night’s negotiating session, the district’s 459 teachers will strike on Tuesday morning.
A major issue in the negotiations is an offer from the school board that gives raises, but is not a traditional step-and-lane salary schedule. The union has rejected the change and is advocating to keep the salary schedule.
“I want you to think about this moment, you got a phone call and you were told that you won the interview sweepstakes and you were going to be offered a job at Geneva,” Gannon said to the crowd.
“Let me tell you this: It wasn’t because you were average,” Gannon said. “It was because you were excellent. ... So why are we fighting for average? This doesn’t seem right to me.”
The crowd cheered and hollered with some jangling bells in response.
“Tomorrow morning, you are going to get up,” Gannon said. “Tomorrow morning you are going to show up. And tomorrow morning, you will never give up. We want you to get up to a new contract. We want you to show up to a classroom full of students."
With temperatures dipping to 31 degrees outside, it was already dark as they rallied at 5:15 p.m., nearly an hour before the 6 p.m. bargaining session.
The street in front of the Coultrap Educational Services Center on Fourth Street was closed off and every possible parking spot was taken on neighboring streets as teachers, parents, children and others came to show their support.
Many carried signs declaring “Good teachers deserve good benefits” and “We want a fair settlement.”
“The tremendous support you have shown us the last couple of months is absolutely mind-boggling,” Gannon said, facing the crowd. “Every time I drive through the streets of Geneva and we see the signs outside of your homes, it’s like a little dopamine blast.”
The crowd laughed.
“I’m a science teacher,” Gannon said and the crowed laughed again.
“I just get that feeling of good support that the community stands behind us and it means so, so much. And the restaurants in town that put the signs up in the windows of shops in town – the same thing. It makes you feel so good and so worth what it is we are doing here. So thank you for your support, community members.”