VIDEO UPDATE: New Voices Speak, Picketing Rules Set at School District 304 Special Meeting

The Geneva School Board sets a policy saying picketing will not be allowed on school property and violations could result in disciplinary proceedings. Talks will continue Tuesday.

For the first time since late August, no teacher or Geneva Education Association member spoke publicly at a Geneva School District 304 board meeting.

Six people stepped to the podium during the brief comments session of Monday night's special meeting at the Coultrap facility, where Geneva board members established a new policy on picketing, then adjourned to executive session.

On Oct. 26, the Geneva Education Association filed its intent to strike. A teachers strike could take place as soon as Friday, Nov. 9.

The two sides are scheduled to resume talks at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

School District 304 sent an e-blast Oct. 31, saying Geneva schools would remain open in the event of a teachers strike, although regular classroom work and most extracurricular activities would be cancelled.

The policy set Monday night will prohibit picketing on school property but acknowledges the First Amendment right to picket on sidewalks and streets so long as the picketing doesn't block access to students, parents or employees. The policy says trespassers could be subject to criminal charges and any violation "may be cause for disciplinary proceedings."

Prior to the public comment part of the agenda, School Board President Mark Grosso made a brief summary statement. He noted that his family has lived in Geneva for 25 years, during which time Geneva experienced rapid growth and passed referendums to build schools and school additions to accommodate that growth. 

"When the recession hit, those of us (who) live here found ourselves with a very large school construction bill and debt," he said.

The debt, including principal and interest, is more than $300 million. Grosso said the board has used reserve money to pay down capital expenses and started "abating and purchasing bonds to offset some of that debt increase."

"We’ve asked all of our employee groups to take a pay freeze, and after that pay freeze, we asked them to take an increase that’s not as large as in other years," he said. "We’ve not asked for anyone to be laid off. We’ve not reduced any positions. All we ask is that we limit the increase that (teachers) have traditionally received."

The six speakers Monday night each were allowed about two minutes at the podium.

Steve Young, husband of GEA President Carol Young, offered perspective in support of the union's requests for salary increases and benefits, noting Geneva's outstanding test scores, low cost-per-pupil rates and lower starting teacher salaries compared to other high-achieving school districts. Sandra Ellis, a member of the Geneva TaxFACTS citizens group, said the impact of a strike would fall primarily on parents and students and criticized a union request to have non-union teachers pick up a "fair share" of union dues.

Each of the other four speakers praised teachers but also expressed concerns about rising tax bills and asked union leaders and teachers to call off a strike.

John McCormick, a resident of the Eagle Brook subdivision, took the most extreme position.

"What we have to do is go out and hire replacement teachers," McCormick said. "Love them for (defending their cause), but let’s get them replaced."

Al Brown said he had two daughters who had "very good experiences" with Geneva schools. But he said a strike would help no one.

"What message are we sending to the kids?" he asked. "That’s my big point."

Kent Bickford said his property taxes have doubled during the years he's lived here. He said the education fund budget has grown by 52 percent since 2004, during which time enrollment has grown by just 7 percent.

"It’s not about the children, it is about the teachers’ compensation," he said. "To the teachers of this community, we say, we’ve given you a very fair deal. We’re not in a position to pay out the lavish benefits and expectations you’re used to."

Win Church said he's a retired Geneva resident, married to a teacher, "whose sons and grandchildren also flourished under this system." He said he's been a union member and even walked a picket line. But he spoke Monday night on behalf of senior citizens, and said it was wrong to ask for benefits and pay increases superior to what most people are seeing in the private sector "at a time when many retirees are having a tough time."

Grosso reiterated previous statements that the parties were close to resolution.

"We probably agreed on about 85 to 90 percent of the issues we were negotiating," he said. "When we’ve agreed on that many, I’m not sure why the GEA is still threatening to strike. We’ll sit at the table as long as it takes."


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    Editor's note: I added a Patch video of the Monday night special meeting a little before noon Tuesday, Nov. 6. The other video is a reader submission by Rich Hayhurst that was not solicited or paid for by Geneva Patch.


Sue J November 06, 2012 at 09:20 PM
What is wrong with retired people caring how their money is spent? When you get to that age you may not have a bottomless pit of money either. I don't think revamping funding system to rely less on property taxes is coming anytime soon so we have to work within our budget!
Rob T November 06, 2012 at 09:39 PM
The saddest part in all this is that they really feel they deserve all this, despite the fact that the rest of us are living (barely) in this recession.
Lisa P November 06, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Thanks for those union links above. I too recognize a few names; funny, my first thought was how those are exactly the teachers who would NOT prosper on a merit system. Jack, excellent idea. I hope a diverse group of people who have business/finance experience will run for school board office. The current board has done well, and a fiscally responsible direction certainly got established. Above all, it will take some really strong personalities (like Bob M), who are thick skinned, understand the numbers, and will have the courage to do the right thing for the community.
Julie November 06, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I believe you have it correct, G. Ryan! I didn't even realize that she only teaches one section of Kindergarten. Is this true??? She works about 3 hours of day actively teaching 5-6 year olds? Or does she do two sessions?
Jeff Ward November 06, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Dear Readers, BTW, I got the effective speaker's name wrong. It was Win Church who I thought did the best job.
btown95 November 06, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Why is it interesting that the GEA has 33 teachers on its payroll? Those teachers are building reps and settle any disputes with the contract within their buildings. Pretty common knowledge.
Lisa P November 06, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Because BTown, a lot of Geneva residents, myself included, were totally unaware of the wasteful spending in the form of graduate degree abuse, pension spiking, drivers ed teachers/ librarians making six figures, outrageous # of sick days, need I continue? What again is the purpose of the union? Maintaining the status quo for teachers? Sorry, can’t afford that anymore. Thanks to their probable strike, we all got a wake up call.
Bob McQuillan November 06, 2012 at 10:21 PM
From the 2009-12 Teacher agreement with the BOE. President of GEA can spend 70% of time on union business. BOE pays President's salary plus that if the substitute teacher. Don't know who point 2 applies to - sounds like a total of 15 days can be taken by all others involved in union business - but not 100% sure. E. Excused Absence for Association Business Representatives of the Association shall be permitted excused absences without loss of salary in accordance with the following conditions: 1. The President of the Association or designee will have aggregate release time of up to .7 FTE of his or her regular work load. A mutually acceptable annual plan for the President’s release time shall be developed between the President and the Superintendent in consultation with the building principal. 2. A maximum aggregate of fifteen (15) days may be taken during the school year for business of the local Association, provided that the teacher to be absent provides the usual plans and aids for use of the substitute. This time may be taken in 1/2 day or whole day units. 3. Written advance notice of the request for excused absence in accordance with this provision shall be provided the Superintendent at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the time when the absence will occur.
Bob McQuillan November 06, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Another interesting fact from the teachers agreement. In reality the taxpayers are paying for the mediator and fact finder (if there is one) because we also pay the teachers. ARTICLE IV – ATTENDANT COSTS Cost for consultants chosen by any party shall be paid by that party. The costs for the mediator or for the fact finder shall be shared equally by the Board and the Association. http://www.genevataxfacts.org/attachments/article/52/2009-2012%20Geneva%20Teacher%20Contract.pdf pages 6-8
Robert Jr. November 06, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Straight from IEA site: This Constitutional Amendment would also require that any local collectively bargained agreement be approved by a three-fifths majority if those agreements had incentives or additional compensation increases beyond salary. The IEA is urging members to Vote NO on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment. Here’s why: ■This Constitutional Amendment will make our ability to fight for fair contracts much harder. ■This Constitutional Amendment will limit the bargaining power of employers and employees. ■This Constitutional Amendment would make it nearly impossible to reduce the Tier 2 retirement age of 67 to a more reasonable age. ■This Constitutional Amendment will make it harder to attract the best people to the education profession.
Robert Jr. November 06, 2012 at 10:44 PM
From the Union Membership Benefits Page: What about strikes? While strikes are legal, they rarely happen. In the 1990′s, IEA has averaged about five strikes per year for its 1000 locals (less than 0.5%). Most contracts are settled amicably. http://www.ieanea.org/benefits/organize/
Robert Jr. November 06, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Perhaps it is time for tax payers to unionize
Robert Jr. November 06, 2012 at 11:48 PM
My friend provided me with the following math behind the salary spike confusion: At teacher making $90,000 three years prior to retirement gets a 6% spiked increase for the last three years based on GEA and IEA contract wants. When compared to a more normal 3% expected annual increase per year, the pension gets based on a salary of $107,000 vs. $98,000 ( plus any additional cost of living adjustments, raises, etc.), with the added cost of the spike being about $8-9,000 per teacher in the first year. A pension for life is then determined over this higher salary figure, and usually based on about 70% of the salary. Using those figures, the difference would be about $6,500 + extra per year. The average retirement is over 30 years. That makes the spiking portion alone cost an added $199,000 per teacher over the course of a 30 year pension. With 40+teachers retiring in near term, that amounts to nearly $8 million to add to the underfunded pension at the state. Is that what we want to do - continue to create unrealistic problems and then shrug them off onto the state? Isn't that why the state is underfunded? No insurance company right now is offering a 5% guarantee on fixed, indexed, or variable annuities with living benefits - the rate is considered in junk territory. Why would we agree to commit to spiking at a level considered so high it is considered junk status and no insurance carriers are offering it anywhere?
Geneva Vikings November 06, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Why wait the 3 years? Let's get it done now. And yes...I do have children that will be impacted by a strike, but it's time NOW to take a stand. It makes no sense to put off until tomorrow what we can accomplish today.
Geneva Vikings November 06, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I agree with you Lisa P! Those teacher names are some of the most disengaged.
Geneva Vikings November 07, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Dear GEA, Please go on strike. Dear BOA, Please hold strong! You have a great deal of support. Declare Job Abandonment and re-interview teachers that are committed to their profession. Replace those that have shown us that they no longer care or care only about what Geneva can provide them.
btown95 November 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Not a teacher Julie, not really sure how many times I have to say that on here. Please copy any post where I've indicated I'm a teacher...I'll save you the time, you won't find one.
Joe November 07, 2012 at 12:46 AM
btown is a fitness guy. A fitness guy with a keen interest in Geneva 304 teacher salaries.
Joe November 07, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Imagine if one of the highly respected GHS teachers, you know, the ones who are routinely called upon to give the commencement speeches - stepped up and said, ' I feel grateful to work in this community and I value the relationship we have with the families in this district. The GEA does not speak for me and I would like to continue my work uninterrupted." Man,we'd probably end up naming a school after him
Bruce Wallace Dienst November 07, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Second that! Use the strike as an opportunity to really fix the system!
Geneva Vikings November 07, 2012 at 02:58 AM
That would be ideal!
Max November 07, 2012 at 04:03 AM
"Him"? The male teachers don't seem to have the equipment for that play. It will take a woman to do it.
Parents for 304 November 07, 2012 at 03:33 PM
My favorite FAQ answer from the GEAforstudents.org website shows how out of touch the GEA is from the reality in their own community. I hardly believe the majority of Geneva taxpayers are "private industry executives" as is implied in the answer to this FAQ regarding paying a percentage of health insurance. I have to pay for my insurance, why shouldn’t teachers? This is a new trend, paying for insurance, in private industry. Because teachers’ salaries are relatively low compared to private industry executives, this benefit is well deserved. It is important that your children have healthy teachers who are consistently in the classroom every day to optimize their learning. Teachers do pay a percentage of their family coverage. Maybe they are under the belief that if they print it people will believe it? Wake up GEA.
Rich Hayhurst November 07, 2012 at 05:06 PM
The Geneva Taxpayers Union. Where do I sign up.
Show Me The $$ November 07, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Fact: I live in Geneva Fact: My children went 10 years to Private Grade Schools in Geneva Fact: One child went to Geneva High School Fact: Below is what I paid on a yearly average for the following on my tax bills since I lived here GE Sch Dist 30 yearly avg = 8.36% (WOW) Pension Funds yearly avg = 14.78% (YIKES) Fact: I would love that yearly average Fact: I have read the portion of the contract that has been available Fact: The Contract reads from the 1920's written with a Fountain dip Pen Fact: Geneva has had 3 years to develop a contingency plan, in the event of strike, and execute its risk mitigation plan.
Anthony November 07, 2012 at 08:13 PM
It is interesting to note that a $448 annual compensation for 1 hour of work per week equals $12.38 per hour (181 school days divided by 5 equals 36.2 weeks). The average paid by the BOE is about $51.10 per hour ($74,000 divided by 1448 hours). I am quite sure in both cases the number of hours worked is below what is actually put in. The poor GEA President only makes $3.77 per hour ($2,730 annually with 20 hours per week - 36.2 weeks a year). Perhaps the picketing and strike is against the wrong organization. After all minimum wage is above $8 per hour.
G.Ryan November 08, 2012 at 02:53 AM
This is a prime example of legal corruption but what do you expect from a government entity padding their own pocket at our expense?
Rick Nagel (Editor) November 08, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I deleted a comment by Julie because it falsely identifies a Patch user.
Julie November 08, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Hmmmm...or did I? Pat L/Arron identifies me as a loser and a creeper...as does Dave...yet their comments are still here. I believe those are false, too. Plus, I didn't use a last name while identifying Carl, so how does anyone know what Carl I'm talking about. Hey...isn't this opinion based??? I'm just trying to understand the rules...and keep things fair. If I was wrong about Carl being a teacher, then I most certainly apologize. I still have the right to believe I was 100% correct. Please remove the posts about me being a loser, a creeper...because I BELIEVE those are false.
Parents for 304 November 09, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Update-after I pointed out how ridiculous this answer was the GEA changed it. The verbiage may sound better but they are still out of touch with reality.


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