After the Galesburg Education Association’s membership ratified a four-year contract on Thursday, emotions were still running high into the evening.
The teachers’ union held a press availability to offer some final comments on the contract and provide insight on some of the challenges that lie ahead.
GEA Public Relations Team Member and WGIL Sports play-by-play announcer Brad Bennewitz says teachers were given the significant changes to review during their all-membership meeting on Thursday.
“We were shown even the slightest changes, showing how, you know, this word might have been capitalized now where it hadn’t been capitalized before, and they addressed those fairly quickly,” says Bennewitz. “When we got to the more substantive issues, yeah, they spent a considerable amount of time explaining how we got to that process and taking our questions.”
Two contracts were slated for approval Thursday, including the four-year agreement, but a return-to-work contract was also considered necessary to return teachers to the classroom in an amicable fashion. According to a press release, however, the union claims the return-to-work agreement is “vindictive” in nature.
The group says they believe there will be financial burdens on new teachers because of the language, which includes being docked days and lost wages despite never signing a contract with District 205.
Even so, the teachers’ union says they hope school days missed can be made up.
“That’s not going to be the case,” says Bennewitz. “Instead of a school year of 174, or 176 days total, with 174 of student attendance, [Administration has] elected to shorten that to 168. There’s no reason for that. Those days could easily be made up in a number of ways.”
What had been repeatedly cited as a problem area while mediation was ongoing Wednesday was the issue of teacher evaluations and Recall Rights.
It was explained by the GEA that categories 3 and 4 of the “Danielson Model” – which are considered Proficient and Distinguished, respectively – will be combined for the first two years of the contract period. The final two years, however, the full four-point teacher evaluation scale will be implemented.
GEA Spokesperson Tami Qualls says it’s still advantageous to the Administration.
“If they want to – quote, unquote – clean house with people that haven’t been falling in line like they should, or if they cost too much, it’s easy to do,” says Qualls.
The issue of combining categories 3 and 4 in the Danielson Model were described as potentially being in violation of state statute by District Administration.
The GEA claims that it couldn’t be in the contract unless it met the requirements. The specific language used, however, has not been made available.
The final version of the contract is expected to be available in the next several days.