Galesburg braces for teacher intent-to-strike vote

Some 675 Galesburg teachers and para-professionals are one step closer to a walkout.

That’s as the Galesburg Education Association prepares for an intent-to-strike vote Thursday evening.

Both sides called off negotiations set for Wednesday after remaining at an impasse.

At the surface, there’s music and sunshine at Galesburg’s Cafe in the Park.

But as youngsters savor the summer, there’s worry over a teacher strike in coming weeks.

“It would be nice to see them come to an agreement,” said Christen Plescia, Galesburg.

“It’s very stressful, just the uncertainty of it,” added Lora Ralston.

Ralston’s two boys, Nolan and Hayden, attend grade school in District 205.

She’s concerned about a strike’s impact on the entire community.

“We would like to believe that our kids have the best care when they get to school,” she said. “It’s unfortunate it has to go this far, this close to the beginning of the year.”

Quiet at the administration building on Wednesday.  Both sides remain locked in a stalemate. Teachers are accusing the school board of unfair and unethical tactics.

“We’re just as passionate,” said Galesburg Superintendent Bart Arthur. “But I certainly wouldn’t go to those levels of calling somebody out.  I just want to try to get it settled.”

Nearly 600 persons walked in Tuesday’s informational picket.  Among other things, teachers remain at odds over salary, schedules and security. But their district also faces a $2.7 million deficit.

“We don’t have a contract to ratify, so you can pretty much read what’s in the future,” said Tami Qualls, a Galesburg High teacher representing the Galesburg Education Association. “We’re all discouraged about that. That’s not where we want to go.”

Thursday evening’s intent-to-strike vote will take place during a closed door meeting at Galesburg High.

Both sides agree to meet with a mediator again on August 11.  But with teachers reporting to work on August 13, the clock is ticking.

At Cafe in the Park, a mellow lunch hour can’t mask the underlying tension.

“We want to prepare our children for the school year and getting in the classroom,” Ralston said.

“They need to get it settled,” added Gail Hopping, Galesburg. “Get the school year going.”

As decision time nears, lots of community concern in Galesburg.


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