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Round Lake School Board member, union activist dies

Kim Kearby 66 was longtime president Round Lake Teacher’s Association. He died Sept. 19 Advocate Condell Medical Center Libertyville. |

Kim Kearby, 66, was a longtime president of the Round Lake Teacher’s Association. He died on Sept. 19 at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 25, 2013 6:22AM

The man who led his union to a settlement of the longest-ever teacher strike in Lake County has died.

Kim Kearby, 66, was a longtime president of the Round Lake Teacher’s Association. He died on Sept. 19 at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

The eight-week strike, which started in October 1994 and ended with a truce in December, was the second-longest teacher strike in the state.

When Kearby retired in 2011 after 40 years of teaching, he immediately headed north to take part in a protest in the Wisconsin state capitol, where public sector union employees were fighting to retain their collective bargaining rights. He took up a brief residence in the tent city dubbed “Walkerville.”

Kearby was a charter member of teacher’s union in District 116, which formed with 250 teachers in 1985 just after the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act gave school employees the right to organize and bargain collectively,

“I believed that our people in Round Lake needed to be recognized and have a voice in the decision making,” Kearby told the Lake County News-Sun in 2011.

Kearby taught fourth grade at Village Elementary. He took a seat on the new bargaining team before he was granted tenure and recalled that, as part of the non-union Round Lake Education Association, teachers were expected to give the superintendent a prebargaining present. He once handed over a plant.

After the district was put under a state finance authority in 2002, the union agreed to pay freezes and cuts in benefits and eventually negotiated a new contract. The district emerged from state control in 2012.

Kearby, who said the union “advocated for the rights of all workers,” also took part in the Staley Strike in Decatur in the mid-1990s and in labor protests at Navy Pier and recently in Indiana.

The father of four children, Kearby, who grew up in Hammond, Indiana, and Chicago, was married in 1981 to Jeanne Bell in Waukegan. He earned a master’s degree from National Louis University in Evanston.

At the time of his death, he was a member of the District 116 School Board and was an officer for the Northern Lake Retired Illinois Education Association.

Friends may visit with his family from 4:30 until 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at Justen’s Funeral Home, 222 N. Rosedale Court, Round Lake. Words of remembrance will be offered at 7 p.m.

Memorials may be made to the Education Association of Round Lake (EARL) Kim Kearby Scholarship Fund, 1421 N. Ardmore Road, Round Lake Beach, IL. 60073.

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