DeKalb 428 teachers' union stages sit-in at school board meeting as contract deadline looms

Union rep says no comment, McDavid says district attempting new approach to bargaining

DeKALB – Dozens of DeKalb District 428 teachers crammed into the board of education room Tuesday during the school board meeting to show their strength in numbers as the Aug. 15 union contract deadline looms.

Members of the DeKalb Classroom Teachers' Association, the union which represents hundreds of district teachers and professionals, picketed outside the Education Center, 900 S. Fourth St., Tuesday shortly before the board meeting, and then moved into the board room when the meeting began, but made no comment during the meeting. In Aug. 2016, the union signed a three-year contract with District 428 after a tumultuous negotiation period which almost culminated in a teachers' strike shortly before the first day of school in 2016.

T.J. Fontana, the spokesperson for the DeKalb Classroom Teachers' Association, said the union would not be issuing a public comment at this time. Fontana, who works as a math teacher at DeKalb High School and is entering his 20th year with the district, confirmed Tuesday's turnout was because of contract negotiations relating to the Aug. 15 deadline, after which the current three-year contract will expire.

"That's certainly an issue we're concerned about," Fontana said. "But we obviously didn't make public comment tonight."

DeKalb 428 Board of Education President Samantha McDavid said the district had hoped to complete negotiations by July 31, but without success.

"We have attempted to bring a new approach to our discussions with the DCTA which communicates a change in not only how we engage in bargaining but to confirm the long-held value we place on our teachers," McDavid read from a prepared statement after the meeting.

"Our goal has been to eliminate uncertainty and resolve this contract by July 31, but unfortunately that did not happen," McDavid said. "We will continue to meet with the DCTA and get all issues resolved and this contract signed."

District 428 is scheduled to begin the fall semester with the first day of classes Aug. 15.

As part of the 2016 three-year union contract, teachers received pay increases of 1% the first year of the contract and 2% in each remaining year of the three-year deal. The district also continued to cover 95% of single employees' health insurance costs and 50% of costs for a plan with dependents. Teachers also continued to receive pension-boosting 6% raises in each of the final four years of working before retirement in the three-year contract.

The length of teachers' workday in 2016 was also extended by 10 minutes, with teachers required to arrive five minutes before the school day began and stay five minutes after it ended. The 2016 contract did not call for a cap on the number of students per class that teachers wanted, according to terms of the contract.