Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 Source: Pekin Daily Times, The (IL) Copyright: 2011 Pekin Daily Times Contact: http://www.pekintimes.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2290 Author: Ken Harris, Pekin Daily Times ILLINI BLUFFS TEACHERS APPROVE CONTRACT GLASFORD, Ill. - Illini Bluffs District 327 teachers approved a new contract Monday, leaving only one hurdle to be conquered before the labor dispute that delayed the start of school by almost three weeks officially ends. The Illini Bluffs Federation of Teachers and a spokesman for the school district said Monday that representatives for the two sides had to work out the language of the contract before the teachers could vote on it Tuesday. However, things moved faster than expected. "The contract language was drafted faster than expected and the teachers did decide to meet last night and they voted to ratify the contract," Illinois Federation of Teachers Media Director Dave Comerford said in an email Tuesday. "We are now waiting on the board of education to schedule a meeting to vote and won't comment until the board has ratified the contract." A woman at the district administration office confirmed the Board of Education will meet Thursday at 5 p.m. to vote on the deal. Both sides refuse to disclose the deal's details until the contract is approved by the school board and becomes public information. Before reaching the tentative agreement Sunday, both sides battled publicly for popular opinion. The district issued multiple press releases claiming the teachers' stance against random drug testing had a weak base, and the teachers pointed out no other teachers' contract in Illinois allowed random drug testing. The teachers called the demand from the district a power play intended to weaken or break the union and held a well-attended community rally as well, at which State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, spoke in support of the teachers. Representatives of both sides said they had to make concessions, but it is unclear what kind of testing program teachers ultimately agreed to. They went on strike rather than accept random drug testing, but the district planned to open school on some basis this week with replacement teachers if the strike continued. "When we left (Sunday) night both sides were mad, so it must have been a pretty good agreement," Meurlot said Monday with a laugh. "When one side is happy then it's usually an unfair deal." Students attended their first day of school Tuesday after teachers agreed to return to work as part of the tentative agreement. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.