Two newly appointed members of the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education will serve on the board’s negotiating team for the upcoming contract talks with the teachers’ union.

At last week’s school board meeting, President Mary Rose Mangia announced that the board’s negotiating team would consist of new members Juliet Boyd and Rich Regan along with school board vice-president Rachel Marrello. 

Also serving on the district’s negotiating team will be Director of Academic Excellence Brian Ganan and the school board’s attorney, Shelli Anderson.

The contract with the teachers expires on June 30, 2015. 

Mangia is not on the school’s board’s negotiating team, even though she admitted that she had wanted to be part of that team. 

“Yeah, let’s put it this way, I wasn’t shying away from it, but we had two new people who decided to step up,” Mangia said. “We had three that wanted to do it, and compromises had to be made.” 

Boyd and Regan will be up for election next April. If they choose not to run or are defeated the board could be forced to name new members to its negotiating team, assuming that a new contract has not been agreed to by then.

“That’s why Rachel is on there, so we have one that’s not up for reelection,” Mangia said. “Hopefully, we just won’t run into that problem. … We discussed it and we decided we weren’t worried about it.”

Regan’s experience working with unions in his job as facilities manager for the Lyric Opera and Boyd’s experience as a lawyer won the day.

“Rich has a lot of negotiating experiences with unions, I mean a whole lot, and we didn’t feel that we could not take him. And Juliet had been involved with the instruction time committee and had already been very thoroughly through the [collective bargaining agreement],” Mangia said. “We had enough people who were willing to do it that I thought my time could be used somewhere else. I mean somebody had to step aside, so that’s the way it worked.”

Marrello is viewed by some teachers with caution since they believe she has made anti-teacher comments in the past. Both Marrello and Boyd opposed the district’s early-release policy for professional development, which went into effect this year. Boyd and Marrello argued that professional development could not come at the expense of classroom time with students.

Bill Howes, the president of the Riverside Education Council, the union that represents teachers and other staff was diplomatic when asked about the board’s negotiating team.

“We will work with anyone’s who there,” Howes said.

Howes, an elementary school music teacher, told the board that the union’s negotiating team will consist of himself; REC Vice President Helen Hart-Bryan, a third-grade teacher at Blythe Park School; Rachel King, a fourth-grade teacher at Blythe Park School; Jen Ohlman, a second-grade teacher at Ames School; Katie Kayastha, a math teacher at Hauser Junior High School; and Pat Rohm, a para professional at Central School. The REC will also be helped by Tom Smith, a field officer for the Illinois Federation of Teachers. 

Negotiations are expected to begin in November and could be contentious, especially given teachers’ mistrust of the school board.

“We look forward to an exciting negotiation,” Howes told the school board last week. “It can be difficult at times, but I’ve personally done it a number of times in the past and I’ve found that it also can be a very edifying experience where the REC gets to talk the board, gets to talk to the administration and we all can sit down and hear each other. 

“Sometimes it takes a while to hear what the other side is saying, but we’ve always come to an agreement and we are looking forward to the same experience.”

The board is expected to push for an expansion of the work day, which would allow professional development to take place after the regular school day.

Mangia said that she would like to get more flexibility in the contract so that the schools can be run for the benefit of the students.

Getting rid of automatic step increases in pay, as some other districts, including Brookfield- LaGrange District 95, have done, may not be a major goal.

“I don’t know that we’ve specifically targeted that,” Mangia said.

Mangia said that she hopes the new contract will be able to slow the rate of the increase in educational expenses a little bit.

“Maybe flatten the curve a little bit,” Mangia said.