Harlem Strike Continues

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

The Harlem school board approves a contract for all support staff -- about 450 employees. But contract negotiations continue for the district's 540 teachers. That means no school Wednesday and maybe even Thursday.
Harlem's nearly 8,000 students will have another day off Wednesday and possibly Thursday. But many are not enjoying the added vacation.
"Honestly in the summer I'm usually just sitting at home watching T.V. and I gotta get out there. I gotta do something," says Harlem High Senior Mike Miller.
Teachers and administrators say they're working as fast as they can. Contract negotiations cut short Tuesday after about three and a half hours, because teachers wanted more information about their health insurance package and some financial details. Negotiations will start again Wednesday at 3:00 P.M., with a federal mediator present.
"Once we get this information, you know we're committed to staying the whole day tomorrow and into the night with the mediator and trying to get an agreement done," says Lenny Nieves, chief negotiator for Harlem teachers.
Harlem Schools Superintendent Pat Deluca agrees: "I'll negotiate through the night and I'll sign that contract at any time."
Harlem teachers are paid based on two different pay schedules, depending when teachers were hired. Teachers say the pay scales are inequitable and that teachers in Harlem are paid less than any surrounding school districts. But Deluca says several factors like Harlem's size make it incomparable to other nearby districts.
Nieves rejects that argument: "If they're saying it's an unfair comparison, then you know what, that doesn't change the fact we're losing quality teachers. They're going to other school districts."
The school board did unanimously approve a new contract for support staff Tuesday night. They'll all receive an hourly increase of four percent each year for three years, plus varying hourly cent increases each year.
"That's a substantial increase," Deluca says.
The total cost for salaries and insurance raises is estimated at 3.4 million dollars. Support staff cannot go back to work until teachers do. But Deluca says they plan to reimburse staff for missed days.
The earliest possible restart day is Thursday, if both sides reach an agreement tomorrow and teachers waive their right to 24 hours notice to look over a contract before signing it.
Superintendent Deluca suggests parents read with their kids, practice math, do anything to keep their minds sharp until school starts again. Students will have to make up all missed days. Check out WIFR Sports News for an update on the impact on Harlem sports teams.

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  • by Lynn Location: Machesney park on Aug 22, 2007 at 09:09 PM
    The food service staff still does'nt have their contract settled, but their not union so their last on the list. Hope they save enough money for them & the kids!
  • by Melissa Location: Machesney Park on Aug 22, 2007 at 05:12 PM
    I just want to know who is thinking about our kids? I think the board and the teachers need to get a grip! They need to remember that our kids are our future.
  • by Andy Location: Loves Park on Aug 22, 2007 at 11:47 AM
    If the community wants more information about the strike. They can check out www.harlemft.org.
  • by Deb C Location: Machesney Park on Aug 22, 2007 at 10:24 AM
    Our school district needs to give our teachers what they deserve. Our district has bought out many of the older teachers in the past few years. It has also replaced our Special Ed director saving tons of $. Yet we still have to pay $72.00 to register our grade school and $130 for or middle and high school kids. WHY??????????????? Where is all this extra money going if not to the teachers that deserve it most? I don't want to hear about ANY raises in our school board until our teachers are treated fairly! I have volunteered in 4 schools and worked side by side with these wonderful educators. They have spent their own money to make sure every child has what they need, sometimes this includes mittens! Our teachers have our kids more hours a day than we do and we need to work as a team if we want our kids to succeed. PAY OUR TEACHERS-THEY DESERVE IT!!! Deb C.
  • by Joel Location: Machesney Park on Aug 22, 2007 at 10:08 AM
    The teachers bent over backwards for the good of the district in the past. Now, administration is financially fit and do not see a need to help quality teachers with fair salary and benefits. Yes, the teachers are working for the good of the children! What about the superintendent and his colleagues?????
  • by Karen on Aug 22, 2007 at 08:44 AM
    It is very frustrating that the Harlem School Board has once again let the contract negotiations get to the point of a strike. When the teachers union clearly made them aware of their willingness to start negotiations last April, it is sad that the school board could not get things to the table early. It seems that Dr. DeLuca has not made it a top priority to meet with them and seriously consider their concerns and requests. It is unfair that he has accepted pay increases well above what others have gotten the last 2 years and still refuses to compensate the teachers for their hard work in the classrooms everyday and in raising state testing averages. Unhappy teachers equals poor morale in the schools which then carries over in their teaching. So once again, the children lose in the end. They all need to show the children of the district how professional adults can work together to get this resolved!!!!!
  • by Tabitha Location: 7423 Saturn St. Loves Pk on Aug 22, 2007 at 05:21 AM
    Just thought you should know the kids in our neighborhood (near Maple Elementary Saturn and Mars)are planning to "strike" today at 3:00...they are making signs and their theme is "Honk for School!" They want to go to school!!! I wonder if Dr. DeLuca will approve of their methods of staying busy...writing, public speaking, creative arts, organization...hmmm.
  • by mike Location: rockford on Aug 22, 2007 at 04:03 AM
    The teachers asked to begin negotiations in April. The administration did not respond for many months. The teachers were and still are thinking of the children.
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