A new contract has to be worked out between the support staff and teachers unions. If there's no deal then there's no school.
Now, the district was in a similar situation this time last year. 300 support staff members walked the picket line for three days delaying the start of school. Last August, it was support staff letting the signs do the talking when the board and their union could not reach an agreement. 76-thousand students did not start school on time. It's a situation that may happen again except Harlem parents might not be so understanding about the wage increase and benefits that support staff and teachers are fighting for.
Concerned parent Kathy Stoddard tells 23 News, "I don't think they will have support. We have 3 failed referendums and the board doesn't have the money. We are going to have to make cuts."
Kathy was one of the parents to receive a letter. The Illinois Federation of Teachers who represents the Harlem teachers sent out a mass mailing but only to certain people in the district. The first page addresses staff cuts and proposed program changes that the board has made. A plea for help fills the second page.
The teachers want the board to roll over their contract. But board members want concessions saying it's would cost the district too much money and put them further into debt.
The district would be seven million dollars in the hole if the contract is rolled over. The board wants the teachers to take a pay freeze. But the teachers say there's no movement on salary reductions. In fact, the teachers were told by the union before school ended to get ready for the long haul.
Kathy says, "Teachers were told to save at least three of their paychecks. That's not a positive attitude to have."
It's a big year for Kathy as her twin son's are finally seniors. So she intends to team up with parents to make sure those involved know that they want school to start on time.
A federal mediator will come in next Friday to meet with district administration the support staff union and the teachers’ union.