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No deal in Evergreen Park SD 124 teachers strike; more talks Monday

The negotiating team for striking teachers makes their way toward entrance Central Junior High School Sunday Oct. 7 2012 Evergreen

The negotiating team for striking teachers makes their way toward the entrance at Central Junior High School Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Evergreen Park. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Teachers and school board members in Evergreen Park School District 124 walked away from the bargaining table Sunday afternoon without an agreement after butting heads for about six hours.

Members of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers have been on strike since Tuesday. The strike affects 1,800 students at four elementary schools and one middle school.

Kathy Rohan, president of the School District 124 board, said the teachers union increased its demands Sunday but also said the groups are making progress toward a middle ground.

But Deneen Pajeau, field service director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers and a member of the union’s negotiating team, denied the teachers increased their demands.

“We made concessions in one area and made a change in another,” she said.

Rohan said the district would post both offers made on the school district’s website, Sunday’s session followed a 9½ hour meeting Friday that adjourned at 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

The negotiators were back at the table Sunday morning, talking behind closed doors inside Central Junior High School while a crowd of teachers and supporters stood outside on the sidewalk all day.

“I always have hope,” Rohan said. “We continue to meet and continue to talk. We are progressing with each offer that we provide.”

Parent Ray Richter, who has six children attending school in the district, said he is hopeful an agreement will be reached and his kids will be back in school on Tuesday.

“From what it sounds like ... things are getting close. I think they’re finally going to think about the children here, put their differences aside.”

The strike has divided the entire community, he said.

“Neighbors are fighting. You can just feel the tension everywhere,” Richter said.

Sixth-grade teacher and 20-year Evergreen Park resident Joann Reilly spoke about the conflict with tears in her eyes.

“It’s hard to be a teacher during this and live in the community,” she said.

“We miss our students and we want to be back in the building with them,” Reilly said. “But we have to stand up for ourselves, and for the first time we are.”

The union has scheduled a community forum on the strike for 6 p.m. Monday at American Legion Post 854, 9701 Kedzie Ave. Union officials said it will serve as a platform for the union and the school board to provide information and answer questions about the negotiations, but Rohan has said board members and district officials would not attend.

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