Corina Curry Staff writer @corinacurry
ROCKFORD — So many teachers showed up Tuesday night to show their support for their union bargaining team that some were turned away. The Rockford Public Schools board room was at its 225-person capacity.
The Rockford Education Association and its roughly 2,000 members have been at odds with the district's negotiating team for more than a year as the two sides work toward a new teachers' contract. The old one expired last summer. Two tentative agreements were voted down by the union's membership last fall.
They came — said history teacher Scott Suma, the sole public speaker at the meeting — to dispel a rumor that the 18 members of the union's negotiating team no longer have the group's trust and support. Educators wore their blue union T-shirts and gave their team a hearty round of applause when Suma asked them to stand and be recognized.
"So let us be clear," Suma said. "We support our bargaining team. Let us be transparent. We want a better contract than what we have rejected. Let us be honest. No one wants a strike. It is an option we would rather not choose."
The last time Rockford teachers went on strike was 2012.
"One of their negotiators had commented that our team had no support. So what we wanted to do was show that we had support, that's all," Suma said as he left the meeting.
After a year of negotiating and two failed attempts at a contract, Paul Goddard, the union's vice president and a member of the negotiating team, said the show of support will reenergize the team.
"It means a tremendous amount," Goddard said. "You hear the whispers and you wonder, and then everybody shows up like they did tonight. ... It will put wind in our sails."
Neither side would indicate when a third tentative agreement would be presented, but Rockford Superintendent Ehren Jarrett said Tuesday's display of union solidarity left him optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon.
"While we're all disappointed that we don't have an agreement yet, it was nice to see such commitment to the process from the membership tonight," Jarrett said. He said he felt the gap between what was in the last tentative agreement and what the membership will accept is closing.
The last tentative agreement was a three-year deal with 1, 1.5 and 2.5 percent annual salary increases for each year of the contract. It failed by a vote of 261-to-513.
Corina Curry: 815-987-1371; firstname.lastname@example.org; @corinacurry
Source : http://www.rrstar.com/news/20180213/rockford-teachers-to-rps-we-stand-by-our-bargaining-team