ROXANA — The Roxana Board of Education met Thursday for a regularly scheduled meeting to find a room packed with eager teachers and administrators hoping for news that contract negotiations will continue.
Those in attendance were given an opportunity to speak to the board before general business was conducted. Just before 7 p.m., the room was emptied for a closed session as Roxana teachers and staff filled the hallways and nearby teacher lounges waiting and hoping for a positive answer.
After more than two hours of closed session discussion, the members of the Board of Education emerged to announce that they have agreed to continue negotiations with the Roxana Education Association (REA).
REA President Jennifer Trask released a statement following the announcement.
“The Roxana Education Association is pleased that the Board of Education has agreed to continue good-faith bargaining in hopes of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. We are optimistic that all stakeholders will benefit from the outcome.”
On March 9, the Roxana Community Unit School District Board of Education presented the REA with what was considered their final offer after a year of contract negotiations and five sessions with a federal mediator.
The district announced publicly that they felt that its final offer was fair and recognized the valuable contributions of its teachers, while at the same time being mindful of the district’s obligation to students, parents and taxpayers to be fiscally responsible.
“There has been a lot of uncertainty around the school with not a lot of answers,” senior student representative Claire Bollinger said. “We don’t know what is going to happen. As students and seniors, we’re concerned about losing spring sports and there are some seniors who are planning to start summer college courses just four days after graduation. Some kids have dates planned to leave for the military and don’t know how they’ll be affected if there is a strike. Just a lot of uncertainty.”
A letter sent to parents on March 17 from Superintendent Debra K. Kreutztrager stated that the Board of Education was “disappointed to learn that the REA voted not to accept the board’s offer and that a 10-day notice of intent to strike had been filed that indicated they could picket as soon as March 26, 2015.”
The letter went on to inform parents that while they hoped a strike could be averted, parents and students must be aware that if the teachers walk, scheduled classes will be cancelled, and district-sponsored athletic contests and extracurricular activities as well as all district field trips or school-sponsored events will be cancelled.
Language in the contract has been a big point for the REA.
“It’s not about the money as much as it is about the language,” Trask said. “It’s down to the matter of when there is a vacancy in the district we’re fighting for that opportunity to be offered and posted internally first. We are seeking a little bit of loyalty, a little bit of commitment to the existing staff before they post it externally.”
Trask went on to share statistics about the teaching staff at RHS.
“Sixty-five out of 133 teachers have committed to Roxana for more than 15 years,” Trask said. “Ninety-one teachers have earned a master’s degree or higher. Sixty-one of those 91 have earned additional hours beyond their master’s degree. Obviously those teachers are showing loyalty to bring their best to the Roxana students and have shown dedication and commitment; we just want that same commitment and loyalty in return.”
Because the School Board has decided to continue negotiations with the REA, the immediate concern for a strike has been averted. The remaining future of the 2014-2015 school year is still up in the air for Roxana students.
The district and union’s most recent offers are available at http://www.roxanaschools.org/pages/Roxana_CommunityUnit_SD/News/Teacher_Contract_Negotiations.