Harlem Teachers to Work Without Contract

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Just before 10:00 Tuesday night, Harlem teachers voted down a tentative contract agreement reached Monday evening. However, there will be school Wednesday in Harlem. Teachers have agreed to work without a new contract until next Tuesday, September 4th.
In the meantime negotiations will continue. However, if teachers and the school board do not reach an agreement by next Wednesday, the strike is back on and school is off that Wednesday. Teachers say they hope it won't come to that because they want to be back in the classroom, that's why they agreed to work without the new contract. The vote was split. One teacher said it was about 260 to 240 against the tentative agreement.
Teachers received a major show of support from the community Tuesday night. More than 100 parents and kids, out of about 7,500 students in the district, turned out to tell teachers to vote against the new contract because they don't think it's fair.
Teachers say their salaries are lower than surrounding districts and that teachers hired after 2004 receive smaller yearly raises, than older ones who are paid based on a different scale.
Adding more to the tension, teachers voted unanimously Tuesday night, with more than 500 teachers present, to ask the school board to call for Superintendent Pat Deluca's resignation. Teachers say Deluca's "negative management style" has caused teachers to strike for the second time since 2004. There were no teacher strikes in the fifteen years before he was hired. They also say Deluca has lowered morale among employees and damaged community relations.
"The Harlem Federation of teachers expresses a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Deluca, and urges the board of education to call for his immediate resignation," Dave Comerford, the teachers' union representative from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, told a crowd of cheering parents and students outside Harlem High School Tuesday Night.
Teachers added part of their no confidence vote in Deluca stemmed from feeling pressure from the superintendent to sign a deal. They think he rushed announcing a tentative deal had been reached Monday night before negotiators had finished signing. Deluca said earlier Tuesday, he simply wanted to inform the public school was back on as soon as he had the accurate information and he meant no disrespect.
Comerford adds the parent support for teachers is unprecedented in his eleven years as a teachers' union negotiator. Harlem parent Connie Papini explains their motivation: "We just want to support the teachers, let them know, make the decision thats best for you, we don't want the 3 by 5. Not only just because they deserve competitive wages, but its best for our community, we do not need to have another strike in three years again."
School will be on a regular, full-day schedule for students grades one through 12. Preschoolers and kindergarteners at the Parker Center have a partial schedule and student orientation. A.M. students should come in from 9:05 A.M. to 10:05 A.M. While P.M. students should report from 12:45 P.M. to 1:45 P.M. No transportation will be provided. Parker kids' first full day schedule, with transportation provided, is Thursday.


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