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Few attend meeting on teachers strike in Grayslake

Lennie Jarratt speaks  Community room State Bank Lakes 50 Commerce Drive Grayslake IL Saturday afterno1-19-13 about school strike. About

Lennie Jarratt speaks in the Community room at the State Bank of the Lakes at 50 Commerce Drive, Grayslake, IL on Saturday afternoon 1-19-13 about the school strike. About 4,000 elementary and middle-school studentsare affected by the strike in Consolidated Community School District 46.|Judy Fidkowski~For Sun-Times Media

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Strike negotiations update

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday on Monday affords more time for the negotiation of a strike settlement in Grayslake District 46, where nearly 4,000 elementary students have been out of school since Jan. 16 after teachers, who have worked without a contract since July 2012, took to the picket line.

The School Board and teachers’ union scheduled a mediation session for Sunday that began at 5 p.m. at Park School in Round Lake — the fourth such session since Jan. 15.

No agreement had been reached by 8 p.m. Sunday, according to Jim Pergander, a representative for the Lake County Federation of Teachers, which represents 325 certified District 46 personnel.

The two sides have been unable to agree on salary increases, with the School Board offering a $1,000 stipend, amounting to a 1.75 percent raise, while the union is asking for 4.68 percent.

There was no school Monday because of the MLK holiday.

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:24AM

As Lake County waited over the weekend for the arrival of an arctic weather blast, parents and residents in Grayslake Consolidated School District 46 were waiting for a thaw in negotiations between administrators and striking teachers.

Grayslake resident Kevin Streckert, who endured a school strike in Zion last January before recently moving to Grayslake, finds himself in the midst of yet another contract dispute. He was among a handful of residents attending an open house Saturday organized by Lennie Jarratt, a local Tea Party leader who founded the school reform group “For Our Children’s Future.”

“We moved from Zion to here,” said an obviously frustrated Streckert. He said he wants to know, among other things, why pensions for the teachers can’t be privatized rather than publicly funded.

Clearly, the less than 20 residents who attended the open house at State Bank of the Lakes in Grayslake were in favor of more concessions from the teachers in the stalemate, with negotiations scheduled to resume late Sunday afternoon.

Jarratt said he blames both sides for the factors that led up to the strike, including School Board members who ignored warnings in previous years that spending patterns would lead to serious financial problems. But teachers, Jarrett said, must realize that the district does not have the money to cover the union’s contract demands.

Representatives from the School Board and the teacher’s union were invited to the open house Saturday but no one from either side attended.

“I don’t want to see classes cut, I don’t want to see teachers (laid off),” Jarratt said. “We need to have a dialogue.”

Jarratt said that rather than the proposed two-year contract, he would like to advance the idea of a five-year contract in which many teachers would not see an actual increase in salary until the third year, although starting teachers at or near the bottom of scale would receive modest raises in the first three years. He justified his proposal by stipulating that the district should see an improvement in its overall fiscal situation by the third year under proper management.

Jarratt openly stated that he doesn’t expect his proposal to be seriously considered by the School Board, but added that he hopes those involved will examine the concepts, and noted that salary and benefit structures have been changed in other districts.

Jason Ellis, a Zion resident who was an activist during the contract dispute in his area, urged more residents to get involved in the situation. He said he attended the meeting Saturday because he is a friend of Jarratt and has other friends who live in the Grayslake district area as well.

“Obviously, there are not a lot of people here,” he told those attending the open house. “There are thousands and thousands of registered voters who should have a say in this. Talk to your neighbors. Become involved.”

Jarratt said he believes the union is organizing a turnout prior to Sunday’s negotiations and said concerned taxpayers and parents should show up as well, although he added that both sides need to be civil and avoid confrontational situations and seek dialogue instead.

“There has been a lot of vitriol,” he said. “It needs to stop from both sides.”

Friday was Dayh 3 of the strike, while Monday is a school holiday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

At the crux of the strike is money, with teachers wanting a raise and the School Board maintaining it can’t afford to give one. A mediator is now moderating the negotiations, and union representatives said the union agreed to a compromise proposal advanced by the mediator, but it was rejected by the school board.

The average teacher salary is $57,000 a year in the K-8 district, which includes Grayslake, Third Lake, Hainesville and portions of the Round Lake and Lake Villa areas.

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