Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2011
Source: Pekin Daily Times, The (IL)
Copyright: 2011 Pekin Daily Times
Author: Ken Harris, Pekin Daily Times


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.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.