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Teachers in Richland nix pact proposal

Union says two sides are close

CREST HILL – Richland School District 88 teachers on Thursday rejected a tentative contract agreement negotiated by their union and school administrators.

Union Vice President Steve Camp said teachers voted down the latest proposal by the district, but the two sides are close.

“The board and teachers agree with an awful lot of issues,” Camp said. “We are close on most of the issues. But there is still work to be done.”

Some of the language issues Camp said are still up in the air relate to creating a respectful work environment for teachers, only permitting teachers to be disciplined for just cause, a step-by-step progressive teacher discipline plan, and limiting internal substitution, which Camp said takes time away from teachers trying to prepare for their own classes.

“The fact that we even have to have that type of language proposal shows that teachers are not happy about the work environment,” Camp said, adding that Richland teachers are in agreement with the board on usual sticking points such as salary.

Teachers in June issued a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Michael Early and Principal Kelly Whyte. The teachers cited issues stemming from administrative decisions to a hostile work environment.

The board of education immediately countered the teachers with a vote of full confidence in the two administrators. The votes of no confidence led to an independent investigation led by Joliet attorney James Harvey.

Camp said the votes of no confidence haven’t affected the union’s goals with contract negotiations.

“The teachers have told us they want to continue dialogue with the board,” Camp said.

Early said administrators are also not letting the votes of no confidence affect their dialogue with teachers on the contract.

“Right now, the ball is in the union’s court,” Early said, referring to the negotiations.

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