The Proviso Teachers Union (PTU) has postponed a strike that they had scheduled for Friday, union representatives announced in a statement on Thursday. The development comes after the union received an updated offer from District 209 Supt. James Henderson on Wednesday, they said.
“We are glad to see that Superintendent Henderson and the board have finally moved on some critical issues after nearly a year of unproductive negotiations,” said PTU President Maggie Riley. “It is truly disappointing that they waited this long to take bargaining seriously.”
In a statement released Wednesday, D209 school board President Rodney Alexander said that the district has changed the offer it made during a negotiation session on Saturday of 6% salary raises over three years, with 2% in each of the three contract years, to 7% over three years. The district would offer a 2% salary raise in the first year and 2.5% in the next two years.
Alexander said that while the two sides haven’t reached an agreement on scheduling additional negotiation sessions, they have been continuing informal communications and communicating through the federal mediator.
Alexander said the district has offered to schedule another mediation session on Friday morning. The next two sessions are currently scheduled for Feb. 23 and March 9.
In the union’s statement, Riley said that the district’s new offer “helps bring us closer to one, but there’s still work to be done so we’re willing to temporarily postpone our strike.”
Riley then referenced the friction between some board members and community members that was apparent during a school board meeting on Feb. 15.
“For months [the superintendent and the board] have ignored parent and teacher concerns, but they went too far on Tuesday night at the board meeting by blatantly disrespecting our students who spoke out in support of their teachers,” Riley added.
“One board member even made an obscene gesture to a teacher,” she said. “In order to move forward, we demand an end to the contempt being shown to our students, parents, and educators.”
In his statement, Alexander said that the district updated its offer in order to “reach a fair contract agreement and avoid a strike, which would only further burden our families and students following almost two years of learning loss due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
There is no school scheduled on Feb. 21. On Thursday, D209 students attended schools remotely, with teachers administering virtual instruction from their classrooms.
Alexander said that the soonest a strike could happen is Feb. 22.