Galesburg contract negotiations hang on teacher recall rights

Contract negotiations between the Galesburg Education Association (GEA) and the Galesburg Board of Education remain at a standstill.

According to both parties, all contract issues have been smoothed out except for teacher recall rights.

Under new state law, teachers are grouped into four categories: Distinguished, Proficient, Needs Improvement, and Unsatisfactory.

In the event of a layoff, teachers labeled “Distinguished” would keep their jobs first while the others would be let go.

“Probably about one percent should be distinguished [with] no room to improve,” said Tami Qualls, GEA spokesperson. “We’re concerned that if money becomes tight that might be a way of carving out the 25,000 dollars that a longer tenure teacher has been in the district.”

The GEA is worried the school board will start labeling newer teachers as “Distinguished” so in the event of a layoff, they can let go of the teachers with the higher salaries.

Qualls said the GEA wants the school board to re-word the law so that “Distinguished” and “Proficient” teachers would be grouped together. If the board complies, teachers with the most seniority would keep their jobs first while the newer teachers would be let go.

“We’re looking for what’s best for our students and this community and that means that you have to have a protection built-in for those educators that are top quality,” Qualls said. “We want to keep the best educators as possible and attract [more] good teachers to our district.”

However the school board said re-writing the law is not only illegal, it would go against its “legislative intent;” giving the teachers with the most seniority more job security and possibly putting some younger, better teachers on the chopping block.

The Galesburg Board of Education District #205 released the following statement:

It is against the letter and the spirit of the new law to attempt to re-write the evaluation plan through the collective bargaining agreement, on short notice, and under the stressful conditions of the strike. The clear legislative intent of this law, which was passed by both houses of the Illinois legislature and signed into law by Governor Quinn, was to provide a system which allowed recall rights to be given to teachers with good evaluations and not just to teachers with the most seniority.”

A federal mediator is scheduled to return for contract negotiations on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

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