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Geneva teachers strike averted, schools are open today

Eleventh-hour negotiations were taking place Sunday GenevMiddle School North last-ditch attempt avoid teachers strike Community Unit District 304. November 11

Eleventh-hour negotiations were taking place Sunday at Geneva Middle School North in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a teachers strike at Community Unit District 304. November 11, 2012. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:23AM

GENEVA — The Geneva teachers and the School District 304 have reached a late night agreement on a new contract, thus avoiding a planned strike by the teachers that was set for Monday. Schools will be open for class today.

The Geneva Education Association and the school board reached a tentative agreement around 12:30 a.m. Monday on a three-year contract.

The deal will be presented to the teachers on Tuesday and they are expected to vote on it Wednesday. The School Board will vote on the contract at a later date.

GEA President Carol Young said on Sunday afternoon it would take a contract settkement in order to call off a planned work stoppage for Monday. Young said at the time she was “cautiously optimistic” that the union and the board can settle their remaining differences in time to report for work Monday morning.

Issues that were at the heart of the negotiations included base pay, the number of step and lane advancements, and extra pay raises for retiring teachers.

The federal mediator who had been working with both sides did attend Sunday’s session, Young said. The negotiations took place at Geneva Middle School North.

However, an unfair-labor-practices charge that the GEA filed Saturday against the district threatened to put a strain on Sunday’s negotiations. The charge states that district officials sent letters to teachers Wednesday advising them that they must pay their full health and dental insurance premiums during the strike, which union officials called a threat and an attempt to intimidate teachers.

“The school board’s letter also addressed items other than insurance that remain undecided because they are part of a continuing negotiations process. Further, the letter represented an attempt to coerce and intimidate teachers into not exercising their lawful rights,” a GEA press release states.

“We remain committed to getting this dispute settled fairly,” Young said in a statement Saturday. “But we won’t stand idly by as the school board behaves in an intimidating manner toward our members.”

Young said the GEA is also investigating the potential of filing additional charges of bargaining in bad faith against the school board.

Neither school board members nor the district’s attorney could be reached for comment Sunday about the allegations.

The School District had said it would notify parents by 5:30 a.m. Monday if there is a strike, by using e-mails and updates on the district website, Parents who don’t receive email notification of a strike can find out if teachers will be in class by visiting the website..

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