Teachers’ union prepares for strike

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FARMER CITY, Ill. (WICA) — Teachers in the Blue Ridge school district are inching closer toward a potential strike. 

A union meeting Sunday night led a “majority” of members to vote “overwhelmingly” in favor of forming a Strike Exploratory Committee, according to a press release from union president and 25-year Blue Ridge teacher Don Anton.

Teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, after the previous agreement between them and the district expired. 

Anton said the major sticking point between the union and the district is that of compensation, which has led to the extended negotiations.

Typically, new teachers with a bachelor’s degree and limited experience can expect a starting salary in the low $30,000’s if they work at Blue Ridge. Anton said this prompts some teachers to move to other districts, creating a high turnover rate for the district. 

“Relationships are the cornerstone of a successful school experience for our kids,” Anton said in a statement. “When students see new staff year in and year out, it is a step back for them. Our schools work much better when kids can form lasting relationships with drivers, cooks, secretaries, teachers and other staff.” 

Blue Ridge superintendent Susan Wilson said in a statement that the school board “respects and values the work of our employees.”

“We remain committed and hopeful that we will come to an agreement that is fair to our employees and maintains the financial health of the school district,” the statement read.

After talks between the two groups went late into the night nearly a month ago, the school district called in a federal mediator to help with subsequent negotiations. 

The district and union have had one negotiating session with the federal mediator present since that decision.

According to the union’s press release, the latest proposal from the Blue Ridge school board left members “surprised and disappointed.” 

“…the board still seems unwilling to take steps to address the issues that will help stop the revolving door for staff at Blue Ridge,” the release read. 

Another session between the two is slated for Sept. 24.

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