GALESBURG — The Galesburg Education Association and District 205 School Board will resume mediation at 4 p.m. Sunday, ahead of the originally scheduled Tuesday session.
According to information on the GEA website, the board’s bargaining team turned down an offer from the teachers Friday but agreed to the Sunday meeting.
GEA spokeswoman Tami Qualls said a federal mediator will be involved in Sunday’s bargaining. The mediator had said she would not come to Galesburg on Sunday unless there was evidence of movement, Qualls said, describing the mediator’s willingness to meet Sunday as “a good sign.”
Representatives for the School Board could not be reached for comment.
During a Friday morning news conference, GEA representatives detailed some of the union’s sticking points in the ongoing conflict, specifically in regards to the legality behind certain proposed changes in recall rights. Spokesmen also offered a clarification of the “unfair labor practice” grievance filed against the board.
GEA spokesman Brad Bennewitz said the union strongly believes tenure reform is coming and that “just cause” language, as well as changes to “recall rights” language, will help protect teachers in the event of layoffs.
Qualls said Wednesday recall rights are a way of determining which teachers would be let go if layoffs were necessary, as well as the order they would be called back for openings.
Under state law, teachers are grouped into four categories, Distinguished, Proficient, Needs Improvement and Unsatisfactory.
“Most educators fall in the Proficient category,” Qualls said. “Very, very few teachers are in Distinguished.”
Qualls said the School Board wants to write the legal language so that in the event of layoffs, Proficient teachers would be let go before Distinguished ones.
But the GEA doesn’t trust the board to not place younger, lower paid teachers in the Distinguished category and older, higher paid teachers in the Proficient category as a way to cut costs during a layoff period. The district’s proposal is in line with what was outlined by state law.
The GEA wants to merge the Proficient category and the Distinguished category into one group, and rank based on seniority from there. Teachers in the other two groups would not have recall rights under this proposal.
During Friday’s news conference, Bennewitz handed out documents from the Illinois State Board of Education dated July 1 to explain the legality of the GEA’s stance.
“There have been concerns that if we get recall rights into the contract, that it is illegal,” Bennewitz said.
Prior to speaking about recall rights, Bennewitz and Qualls discussed Thursday’s reveal about a complaint filed against the board by the GEA.
The GEA has filed an unfair labor practice grievance, Qualls said, which “is not a lawsuit.”
Superintendent Bart Arthur confirmed Friday morning that an unfair labor practice grievance had been filed, but said the grievance is considered a lawsuit.
“We’re going to end up in court over it,” Arthur said following the GEA new conference. “I don’t know how you categorize it, but it is a kind of a lawsuit.”
As Qualls explained, the board presented a salary offer to the media before making the offer to the GEA bargaining team, which, according to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, is an unfair labor practice.
“This dispute goes through the Illinois Labor Board, it does not go through the courts,” Qualls said. “There will be no monetary compensation made by either side when a decision is rendered on this complaint.”
A hearing over the dispute is scheduled in December, Arthur said, and, although it is too soon to say, the board could face monetary damages if the hearing’s result favors the GEA.