D-158 teachers take deal

HUNTLEY – District 158 teachers approved a three-year agreement Monday evening, culminating a hectic seven days that included the declaration of an impasse in contract negotiations and a successful late-night bargaining session.

The agreement now goes to the school district board.

The District 158 board will meet in closed session at 7 p.m. today at the administration building, 650 Academic Drive, Algonquin, to discuss the three-year deal. Members then will reconvene to vote on the agreement.

After reaching a tentative deal last week, board members Don Drzal and Kevin Gentry predicted the agreement would be approved by both sides.

Roughly 98 percent of union members who attended a ratification meeting Monday at Huntley High School approved the tentative deal. Huntley Education Association co-President Julie McLaughlin said she was unsure how many of the union’s 600-plus members were at the meeting.

The district has about 9,000 students, from elementary through high school.

“This is definitely a fair contract for both the district, community and teachers,” McLaughlin said. “We never wanted to strike. We were hopeful we could reach an agreement together.”

HEA declined to release details of the agreement until the board ratifies it.

The hope for a deal was shaky, at best, a week ago. Union leaders declared an impasse in negotiations Nov. 13, a move that inched teachers closer to a strike.

After announcement of the impasse, the district board quietly arranged a meeting with HEA leaders for later that evening. The two sides met for nearly five hours and reached a tentative deal shortly after midnight Wednesday.

Both sides have been tight-lipped about issues that prolonged talks that began in early summer. The two sides reportedly were divided over compensation when HEA members rejected a tentative deal in early September.

The two sides were plagued by communication issues in the two months after the membership voted down that deal. In October, the board called for new HEA leadership at the bargaining table and said HEA had rejected a second tentative deal.

HEA shot back, claiming a second deal was never made. Teachers in the meantime overwhelmingly authorized the ability to strike.

A few weeks later, the union claimed the school board deliberately canceled a bargaining session for mid-November. Board members blamed the cancellation on miscommunication between the two sides and the mediator.