Striking District 209 teachers stand in Miller Meadow, a forest preserve across the street from Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park. Michael Romain

Monday, March 14, marked the seventh business day of the teachers strike in District 209, as the Proviso Teachers Union (PTU) and District 209 administration remain at odds over salary increases, class sizes and other working conditions. 

The strike will likely last most of the week, with the next bargaining session scheduled for Thursday, March 17. At this rate, the current teachers strike could last longer than the teachers strike of 2000, which lasted for 10 days. 

Teachers were planning to rally in Hillside before the D209 school board meeting Tuesday, after this publication’s print deadline.

As the strike continues, the teachers seem to be winning the messaging wars, with local and national union leaders, elected officials, police officers, businesspeople and other community leaders extending their support for the PTU. 

READ: Statement on negotiations from District 209

Striking District 209 teachers stand in Miller Meadow, a forest preserve across the street from Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park last week. Michael Romain

For instance, walk inside of the Dunkin Donuts at 7660 Madison St. in Forest Park and you’ll see a sign in support of the striking teachers posted to the door. 

Last week, PTU members took their picketing to area businesses, with car caravans of teachers honking past the Target in Broadview Square. Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson joined the picket lines last week, speaking to teachers at Miller Meadows in Forest Park, which has been the union’s staging grounds since March 4

Also last week, Acting Westchester Village President Nick Steker released a letter addressed to D209 Superintendent James Henderson to express his “strong support of the students and teachers” in District 209. 

Steker said the strike “is a direct result of the continued lack of comitteemen, transparency and urgency by [Supt. Henderson] and the [school board] in safeguarding a fair contract with the Proviso Teachers Union.” 

After last week’s bargaining session, PTU President Maggie Riley said Henderson and the school board “refuse to meet the needs of the community and provide the resources necessary to recruit and retain high-quality educational employees.” 

Riley said the district “received $94 million in revenue this year and banked a budget surplus of $14 million last year. They are on track to bank an additional $8 – $12 million this year according to their budget documents. The Union has reduced its demands and now the parties are even closer with the teachers compromising their wage demand even at a time when inflation is nearly 8%.”

In a statement released last week, D209 school board President Rodney Alexander said both sides met with a federal mediator for more than six hours without reaching an agreement. 

“Informal communications between the District and the union, both directly and through the federal mediator, will continue … as we continue to work toward resolution,” Alexander said.