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Parents, teachers in Evergreen Park SD 124 ‘overjoyed’ by strike’s end

Evergreen Park School District 124 paraprofessional Melanie Senerchi(right) teacher LindMalone hug outside Jacob's Well Church. At left is first-year teacher

Evergreen Park School District 124 paraprofessional Melanie Senerchia (right) and teacher Linda Malone hug outside of Jacob's Well Church. At left is first-year teacher Charlie Brown. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 15, 2012 6:30AM

Nine-year-old Sarah Anderson enjoyed her impromptu two-week vacation from school.

The Evergreen Park girl played games with sister Lucy, 5, read her favorite books and spent quality time with her grandmother, Jane Devine.

But Sarah’s idle times will end Monday when schools reopen for some 1,800 students in Evergreen Park School District 124.

A tentative agreement hammered out early Friday between the school board and the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers has ended the two-week teachers strike that cost students eight days in school.

Although Sarah is trading home life for a fourth-grade classrooom at Southwest School, she has no complaints.

“I want to go to school because of math. We’ll do work and we won’t have to sit around and do nothing,” said Sarah, who enjoys reading and science.

Sarah apparently “got a little bored reading all her books” and doing chores, Devine said.

Grandma runs a tight ship.

Sarah and Lucy “have the cleanest rooms in the block now. They read a lot of books, but they’re ready to go back,” Devine said.

Devine was dropping off the girls Friday afternoon at the Jacob’s Well Church Community Kids’ Club, 3450 W. Maple St., where teachers were hosting the second day of free activity sessions for students who played games, worked on computers and even staged plays.

Devine said the teachers “deserve whatever they get.”

Details of the tentative agreement won’t be revealed by the union or school board until both sides ratify the new contract.

Deneen Pajeau, field service director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said the union and board met Friday night to hammer out contract language. A ratification vote may be held for the union Monday or Tuesday, she said.

Jane Garner, who teaches English as a second language at Northeast School, said returning to work Monday is something she’s been looking forward to since the strike began Oct. 2.

“I am overjoyed because I miss my students. I really do. The past couple days at Jacob’s Well were nice because I got to see some of my students. Monday will be like another work day, but I think we’ll have to re-establish some routines with the little guys. I’m really excited about the kids being back so I’ll probably be in my classrooom at 7 o’clock in the morning,” Garner said.

Becky McQuillan, whose daughter Lizzy, 7, is in second grade at Northwest Elementary, said the past two weeks at home have been challenging.

She recently started a work-at-home job, but had to find time to keep Lizzy and her 2-year-old brother, Matt, busy.

“They were both up because he wouldn’t take his naps. I had to find activities they could both do when I was working,” she said. “They get along, but they’re like oil and water sometimes.”

They made several trips to the Evergreen Park Public Library and spent one free admission day at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry.

“She’s been reading and doing math games on the computer. I’ve been trying to keep her thinking about school,” McQuillan said.

McQuillan hopes teachers return the favor granted them by parents.

“I supported them. I just hope I will see a lot of the teachers supporting the PTA. There are some who aren’t members and some who don’t come to activities. They wanted our support. I hope they reciprocate,” she said.

Northeast School teacher Cheryl Floramo appreciates support from parents and the union’s bargaining team.

“I feel gratitude for the amount of work put in to make sure everyone was fairly represented, and the support (from parents) was amazing,” she said.

“This support is amazing and reassuring and positive. I live in Lockport, but drove in to see how everyone is doing today,” Floramo said.

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