Education

‘Glad the strike is over’: Kids back at work in East St. Louis schools

East St. Louis students back in class after 21-day strike

The teachers strike that started Oct. 1 and cancelled 21 days of classes ended Friday, so Monday was the first day East St. Louis School District 189 students were back in class.
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The teachers strike that started Oct. 1 and cancelled 21 days of classes ended Friday, so Monday was the first day East St. Louis School District 189 students were back in class.

Students were back at their desks Monday in East St. Louis School District 189 after a teachers’ strike kept the 6,116 students out of school for 21 days.

Senior D’onnaca Wilson said she was glad school was back in session.

“It’s great. I’m looking forward to today and to finishing my senior year. I am glad the strike is over,” she said.

The district and the teachers’ union — East St. Louis Federation of Teachers Local 1220 — reached an agreement approved by the union, school board and district’s financial oversight panel on Friday.

Kelli Hawkins, spokesperson for District 189, said she was “excited and relieved” the strike was over while greeting students, parents and teachers at East St. Louis Senior High School.

As for the 21 days the students missed, Hawkins said plans are underway to make them up over the holiday breaks and by extending the school year, which means students could be in school through the middle of June.

I am looking forward to getting back in class, studying and getting my life back on track. I am a senior. I am eager to finish this year and to continue on with my life.

Brandon Storey, a senior at East St. Louis Senior High School

Superintendent Arthur Culver said he spent Monday morning visiting schools throughout the district.

“I was pleased with the high energy and excitement,” he said. “I observed instruction taking place in the instructional process inside of every class room on each campus I visited. All central office administrators were encouraged to visit campuses throughout the district. And I have received similar feed back from everyone. I was also pleased to observe several parents who transferred their children out of the district during the strike re-enrolling students into our schools.”

Senior Brandon Storey said he was happy to be back in school.

“I am looking forward to getting back in class, studying and getting my life back on track. I am a senior. I am eager to finish this year and to continue on with my life,” he said.

George Baker, who made a passionate plea before the Financial Oversight Panel at a recent meeting, said he and his classmates have grown through the recent experience.

“The senior class of 2016 experienced a minor bump before our last steps in high school were finished and before we go out into the world,” he said. “I am excited to see where this challenge will take us. This affected all of us on a large scale.”

Assistant Principal Ansom Mitchell said Principal Marcus Wright met with all of the teachers at the school and told them to be patient with the students as they settle back into normalcy. He said some of them may have forgotten their locker combinations and new ones may have to be issued.

Wright arrived at the school at 6:55 a.m. Monday to greet the students. He said he “missed them a lot.”

He told the staff: “It is time to move forward and not look back.”

He told them this week will be spent getting the students readjusted to their normal routines at school.

“I told them that the teacher team and the administrator team will be coming in and out of the classrooms looking at things we see in class and improving on things where we need to to maximize student growth,” Wright said.

There were two weeks left in the first quarter when the strike started, and the high school students were worried about whether that quarter was finished or extended.

“I told them they would each get a calendar and all of their concerns would be addressed on it,” Mitchell said.

Vinecia Cookwood and her mother Amika Allen met Wright in the hallway and bombarded him with questions. Allen said her daughter wanted to know what changes were made to her schedule.

“I am happy to get my daughter back in school and back to studying and back to the activities she loves,” Allen said.

Vinecia was eager to get back to class. “I want to get my senior year over and go on to college,” she said.

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503

Contract details

  • One-time stipend of $3,000 for certified teachers employed as of June 30 for the 2014-15 school year and another stipend of $3,000 for the current school year
  • Each teacher will receive a step increase for the next two school years
  • Runs from 2014-18 and has a 19-step schedule for teachers
  • Average salary increase is $12,834 over the life of the contract, according to the district
  • Increased longevity payments from $650 to $850 per year for teachers
  • Includes fully-paid employee medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits with no deductibles
  • Non-certified staff in the union will receive a $1,500 stipend for the 2014-15 school year and another stipend of $1,500 for the current school year
  • Boosts pay for teaching an extra class from $17.50 to $25 per hour and increases pay for covering a class period when no substitute is available from $85 to $100
  • According to the new salary schedule, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree will earn $45,786 this year. After 19 years of service to the district that same teacher will earn at least $75,672 a year.
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