Sherrard School Board, Teachers' Union Looking to Avert Strike - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Sherrard School Board, Teachers' Union Looking to Avert Strike

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The clock is ticking for the Sherrard School Board and the teachers' union to come to a contract agreement.

The union voted Sunday night to declare its intent to strike, setting a ten day deadline to reach a deal before the union votes on a start date for the strike. That vote is scheduled for Sunday, February 23rd, unless an agreement is reached.

After two closed door meetings Monday night, the only thing both sides have agreed on is when to meet again.

After Monday's meetings,the Sherrard Education Association and the School Board have agreed to sit down with a federal mediator this coming Sunday, February 16, for formal contract negotiations. That puts them about a week closer to the deadline for an agreement to be reached before the union moves to strike.

After the union voted to declare its intent to strike Sunday night, the School Board held a special closed door session Monday evening to look at where the district is in contract negotiations with the union and where it can afford to be flexible to bring about a contact agreement, before the window of ten business days is up.

The School Board and the SEA have gone back and forth in contract negotiations for nearly a year at this point, but remain apart on issues like contract length, meetings and professional development days, and contract language for staff discipline and 'just cause', among other things.

Even so, both sides say they would like to avoid a strike, and the School Board president, Leslie Anderson, tells us she is hopeful things won't come to that.

"It's a matter of both the sides coming to the middle and seeing which strategic options fit the district long term and which operational options fit the district long term. So we're pretty optimistic," Anderson said.

"I think we're on a good path right now, I think we've had some really good dialogue with them," she added.

That said, the big message from the union on Monday night was one of frustration and disappointment with the process.

The second closed door meeting of the night, held at Sherrard High School, was a continuation of a transportation meeting from last week, and only a few school board members were there.

The School Board president says they couldn't have the full board there for negotiations because the district didn't post enough notice for the meeting to avoid running a foul of open meeting laws.

Union reps say they were under the impression this meeting would be for formal contract talks:

"We made it clear that we wanted to get this done and we wanted to meet tonight and we would stay here until it was. And obviously they have other plans in this," said Todd Volkert, a member of the SEA negotiations team.

The last time Sherrard teachers went on strike was in 1991. That lasted two days before an agreement was reached.

In 2000, the union voted to declare an intent to strike, as it did this past weekend. But, in that case the strike was averted when an agreement was reached in time.

The Sherrard Education Association's previous contract expired at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

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