suntimes
GRACIOUS
Weather Updates

Teacher strike in Evergreen Park SD 124 could last a while

Updated: November 4, 2012 6:13AM



Three Evergreen Park boys took advantage of a beautiful day off school Tuesday by playing what they call “tennis ball baseball” on a tennis court at Duffy Park.

Using aluminum baseball bats and green tennis balls, they tried to hit homers over a tall fence into a fierce wind. One pitched. One hit. One played the field.

Eyan O’Connor, 10, was joined by brothers Ryan Romero, 11, and Cezar Romero, 11. All were happy to not be in school.

“Well, I do miss it a little. I like math. It’s fun,” confessed Eyan, a fifth-grader at Northwest School.

It looks like the boys might have plenty of time to play this week.

A teachers strike in Evergreen Park School District 124 that started Tuesday might not be settled until at least next week, a union spokesman said.

Dave Comerford, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, noted there are no negotiation sessions scheduled between the District 124 board and the striking members of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers.

The two sides did meet Monday night in a last-ditch effort to keep teachers from walking off the job Tuesday morning as promised. But Monday’s session ended when the board’s representatives threatened to not allow students to make up school days lost to the strike, or pay teachers for those lost days, union officials said.

John Portala, a social studies teacher at Central Junior High School, called the development “unfortunate” and said it left teachers no choice but to strike.

Portala said Tuesday the board’s ultimatum “hurts the students who deserve every day of education.”

“We’ve been negotiating since April. We want to be in school, but we have to stand up for ourselves,” Portala said.

An assistant to District 124 Supt. Robert Machak said Tuesday he would not be commenting on the strike, and that all updates on the situation would be posted on the district’s website.

Machak did send out a copy of an e-mail from an Evergreen Park resident who supports the board and wrote, “Please hold firm on your final offer. It is way more generous than what a lot of people in the workforce receive in today’s economy.”

Many others, however, support the union. Around Evergreen Park, front porch railings, signs and trees are being adorned with blue ribbons in a show of solidarity with the teachers, who have been wearing blue clothing to their rallies and on the picket lines.

Denise Schneider is pulling for a compromise. She was at the Evergreen Park Library Tuesday morning, saying it was important to bring in her second-grade son Luke, 7, and kindergarten daughter Amanda, 5, to find some books.

“I want them to keep up with school,” she said.

The Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, touted on the district’s website as a day care option during the strike, was peaceful Tuesday.

Nobody took advantage of a day long art camp that the center set up to help parents of students affected by the strike, front desk clerk Mary Ann Corrigan said.

“Nobody showed up. We sent the instructors home. Maybe it’s because this is the first day and people had their kids staying with family or neighbors,” she said.

The center is willing to give it another try Wednesday, she said, and urged people to call by 8 a.m. at (773) 445-3838.

Outside Southeast Elementary, 9800 S. Francisco Ave., teacher Lisa Schleyer, of Tinley Park, dabbed tears from her eyes after a visit from Jack Schaller, 5, from her kindergarten class at Southeast Elementary School.

“Sorry, I’m getting emotional,” Schleyer said. “We want to be in class, but we have to do this.”

Jack just wanted to visit his teacher, said his mother, Laurie Schaller. He brought along Pete the Cat, a stuffed animal that each child in Schleyer’s class gets a turn to take home.

“We’re with the teachers 100 percent,” Laurie Schaller said. “They deserve whatever they want. He’s getting a good education, and loves school.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.