Classes start Monday: East St. Louis teachers, school board OK pact

East St. Louis teachers approve tentative pact

Dave Comerford with the Illinois Federation of Teachers talks about the teachers vote on Friday afternoon.
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Dave Comerford with the Illinois Federation of Teachers talks about the teachers vote on Friday afternoon.

After the joint emergency meeting called by the local school board and the financial oversight panel, members from both boards clapped loudly.

Retired St. Clair County Judge Milton Wahrton participated in the meeting via a conference call. Wharton didn't vote on the acceptance.

He said there was a question whether or not you could vote by phone. Wharton later said he was fully supportive of the board's position. After the vote, a smiling Culver emerged from behind the bench and said it was the first time he has smiled in a long time.

When negotiations started, the district was offering a 27 step salary schedule. From that, it went to 21, saying it was two steps better than what was being paid in surrounding districts.

For weeks, the two sides went back and forth over the salary schedule.

"We are forever grateful for the sacrifices made by students, families and the community, as well as members of Local 1220 during the negotiation process,” Culver said. "Today marks an important milestone for the financial stability of our district.”

“Everyone is eager to return so that we can continue our journey toward academic excellence," he added.

Before recording his vote in favor of accepting the tentative agreement ratified by the union, Kinmnis Williams, a member of the local board, said he wanted the public to know of his support.

Then, unanimously the boards, each in a separate vote, voted in favor of accepting the unions ratified the agreement, successfully marking an end to the strike and a new start in school for the teachers and students.

"I am happy,” board president Lonzo Greenwood said after the meeting. “I am looking forward to Monday and the return to school of the teachers and students in District 189".

Williams said he is excited about the start up of school again in District 189 on Monday. "I hope we can pick up from where we were. We were off to a great start. When we left, everyone was doing an excellent job. Let's move forward," he said pumping his fist.

Mamie Cosey came to the meeting following a burial for her granddaughter. She said she had to be present for the meeting though her heart was heavy. the 74-year-old Cosey is a volunteer in District 189 and she frequents many different schools and has three special need students n the district. She said it didn't matter that the union's vote was split "as long as it was approved," she said.

"Sometimes teachers seem to go unappreciated. People don't know what they go through.

Cosey said was thankful to parents, students teachers and was especially thankful to Culver for doing the right thing. "There are no winners or losers. It's about doing the right thing for the children. I am ecstatic that the students are going back to school," Cosey said.

The district, which has been under state control since 2011 because of its poor performance, has said it needs to save $10 million over the next 10 years. Under the deal teachers rejected before they went on strike, teachers would have received a one-time payment of $2,000 and modest raises, but the amount of time it would take to reach top salary scale would have nearly doubled, to 21 years.

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