SHERRARD -- Members of the Sherrard Education Association overwhelmingly approved an intent to strike vote in a secret ballot today.
About 150 members of the 190-member SEA met at Preemption United Methodist Church for around 90 minutes, according to union spokesperson Todd Volkert. "We'd like to thank our community members for their support," he said.
Two more negotiating sessions have been scheduled with the Sherrard Board of Education negotiating team. The first will be following a special school board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday with the only agenda item to consider contract issues. The second will be Sunday, Feb. 16. The meetings were set up following a district transportation meeting held last Thursday. The SEA represents the district's teachers, education specialists and bus drivers.
"Ten days from now we can take a strike vote," said Mr. Volkert, a physical education teacher at Matherville Intermediate School. He said the union membership will probably not take the strike vote until Feb. 23. "That's a Sunday, when most of us can get together."
He entertained some hope that the strike will not need to happen, saying that negotiating a new contract is a process with certain steps that must be followed. "We all need to decide whether or not this is worth fighting over," he said.
Meanwhile a letter is being prepared to indicate an intent to strike which will be sent Monday to the regional superintendent of schools in Rock Island, the Sherrard school board and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The union has 10 days after the intent to strike letter is received, before its membership can take another vote to actually go on strike.
Sherrard last had contract troubles in 1991 when a two-day strike was held. In the 1980s, Sherrard District 200 had a 10-day strike.
Mr. Volkert said the union has made some suggestions to the school board to help solve busing issues related to putting all district schools on a universal start time. "We offered them some alternatives for their transportation plan," he said.
The school district has asked for bids from private companies to augment district busing and accommodate busing students to its four campus sites in Viola, Matherville, Sherrard and the rural junior-senior high school. An additional eight bus routes will be needed for a universal start time for all schools. Bus bids will be opened on Feb. 12.
But the main sticking point in these negotiations has been the length of the contract. The school board wants a one-year contract, with the union looking to seal a three-year deal. For more information from both sides, a web site has been set up by the SEA at http://iesearegion17.weebly.com.