Metro-East News

Culver: Both sides in District 189 dispute to meet

Strikers continue to march and sit on the sidewalk Tuesday in front of East St. Louis Senior High School.
Strikers continue to march and sit on the sidewalk Tuesday in front of East St. Louis Senior High School. snagy@bnd.com

A negotiating session between Union Local 1220 and District 189 school officials and their negotiating committee is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver said Monday.

District teachers have been on strike since Oct. 1.

Both sides reached a tentative agreement in September, and Culver said Local 1220 union leaders had said they would would recommend their membership accept it. That didn’t happen. The union membership voted overwhelmingly to reject the tentative agreement.

“We felt all parties involved were on the same page,” he said.

Culver said he is looking forward to Wednesday’s negotiating meeting.

“I feel this matter will be resolved soon,” he said.

The strike has affected scheduled athletic games and canceled after-school activities, including tutoring.

“Our students really need to be in school,” Culver said. “We are working diligently to make this happen.”

Culver said he had hoped to have a meeting as soon as Monday, but there was a delay.

“We reached out to the federal mediator Saturday and the mediator contacted IFT representative Lee Wilson to let them know we wanted to meet. Then the IFT representative said he would contact Union Local 1220 President Sharon Crockett and would get back to the mediator,” Culver said. The mediator did not hear from Wilson until Monday.

Culver said district officials are compelled to clarify matters that were raised concerning its collective bargaining negotiations.

“It’s ridiculous for IFT to continue to make statements suggesting that our negotiating team has no authority,” Culver said. “We are in constant communication with the local Board of Education and the Financial Oversight Panel regarding negotiating matters. Both of them support us and they have given us parameters that we must operate within. Just because we don’t give the union what they want does not mean that we don’t have authority.

“Even after reaching the tentative agreement, the IIlinois Federation of Teachers (legislative director Dave Comerford) from Chicago, who has not been in any of the negotiating meetings, somehow suggests that the District Negotiating Committee has refused to bargain with authority.

“I’m aware of the unprofessional personal attacks, which I contend are simply diversionary tactics by the union to take the focus off of the fact that their expectations are unreasonable, and if we yield to them, the district would be in the same financial condition that it was in when I took over in the fall of 2011,” Culver said. “We have established financial stability. We are anxious for the students to be back in school. We must create a solution that will allow us to continue to have reasonable class size limits, a stable work force and the appropriate number of teachers and support staff to meet the needs of our students.

“I do not want to return to the dire financial conditions that we had four years ago. I believe we can resolve this matter because, in my heart, I know both parties want what is best for students and long term financial stability for the school district.,” Culver said.

Culver reiterated that the District Negotiating Committee and the Union Negotiating Committee reached a tentative agreement that included raises for each member, which would mean the district would spend in excess of $5 million over the next three school years.

“I encourage all of our stakeholders to review the documents pertaining to the negotiations on our website (www.estl189.com), “ he said

Culver said district officials thought it was a fair and equitable offer with the union negotiating team signing off on the tentative agreement along with the executive council.

Culver said it is uncommon for a tentative agreement to be endorsed by the union negotiating team and the executive council and not be ratified by the body. “It leaves us to wonder whether or not the union negotiating team has authority,” Culver said.

Union Local 1220 President Sharon Crocket said previously that Culver knows there is a process. She said there is no guarantee that the body will accept what is presented to them, and in this case, the body overwhelmingly rejected it.

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503

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