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Millburn teachers decide to unionize

Impasse has been declared so far this year during federally mediated union contract talks in four Lake County school districts: Grayslake, Deerfield, North Shore (Highland Park) and Lake Forest High School, the latter which saw a seven-day strike in September. Teachers in North Shore, where last-ditch negotiations were under way Monday, set a strike date for today.

Updated: December 15, 2012 2:09AM

LINDENHURST — Teachers in Millburn Elementary District 24 have agreed to unionize and will affiliate with the Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504.

The decision was announced in a statement released Monday by the LCFT, which has filed a petition for recognition of the district’s estimated 100 teachers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Located in north central Lake County, Millburn teachers have been in negotiations for a new contract for nearly a year.

“They’ve always had a great relationship with administration and they still do,” LCFT President Mike McGue said Monday. “This is something we had encouraged Millburn to do — they had a card (card-check) drive about a year ago and it never materialized. But they’ve gone through negotiations and it’s not what they hoped for. They decided they need some professional help.”

The two-school district, which has an approximate enrollment of 1,500, underwent a reconfiguration at the beginning of the 2012 school year. Millburn Elementary in Wadsworth, formerly Millburn Central, now houses kindergarten through grade five. Millburn Middle School in Lindenhurst, formerly Millburn West, is home to grades six through eight.

Unionization comes as the district continues to grapple with a deficit and in the wake of a 17 percent cut in staff.

McGue called Millburn “a unique educational community.”

“Families, staff, teachers and administrators all get along and we don’t want to upset that apple cart,” he said. “But we will offer professional help on matters like evaluations, the construction of model evaluation tools and professional training. We see this as a win-win situation.”

The move by Millburn teachers to align with LCFT leaves just one non-unionized group of public school teachers in Lake County — at Township High School District 113 in Deerfield and Highland Park, according to McGue. Teachers in most districts organized in the early 1990s under either the Illinois Federation of Teachers or the Illinois Education Association.

LCFT, an affiliate of the IFT, American Federation of Teachers, and the AFL-CIO, is also helping to negotiate contracts in two other Lake County elementary districts — Grayslake 46 and Woodland 50.

About 300 teachers in Grayslake scheduled a rally at 4 p.m. Monday at Park School after the district declared an impasse during federal mediation last week.

LCFT Representative Jim Pergander said members could opt to take a strike authorization vote, but said votes would not be counted until 3 p.m. today, Oct. 16. About 190 support staff, who are members of a separate LCFT union, are also engaged in contract negotiations. District 46 has an enrollment of about 4,000,

At Woodland, which has an estimated enrollment of 6,500, contract negotiations continue for 800 LCFT member teachers and staff.

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