By Bob Skolnik
Teacher aides in Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 have been working without a contract for the entire school year. In November, the aides rejected a tentative agreement that their negotiating team presented to them. The terms of that proposal have not been revealed.
"I'm pissed off," said Tina Melendez, a teacher's aide at Lincoln School in Brookfield, who wore a button that said "7 Months, No Contract" to a District 103 school board meeting last month.
But negotiators for the district and SEIU Local 73, the union which represents the teacher aides, say that they are optimistic they can reach another tentative agreement soon, perhaps at their next negotiating session which will take place on Feb. 18.
"The district has been bargaining in good faith, and we have a meeting set for next week and I'm optimistic that we can get this resolved," said Joseph Richert, the secretary-treasurer of SEIU Local 73, who is leading the negotiating team of the aides.
Richert declined to disclose the margin by which the November tentative agreement was voted down.
"That's internal union business," Richert said.
The president of the aides' union local at District 103, Pam Stano, an aide at George Washington Middle School, did not respond to a request to call the Landmark.
District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera was also optimistic that a new agreement would be reached soon.
"We're pretty confident we're not far off," Rivera said.
Teacher aides in District 103 are the lowest paid aides in the school districts that the Landmark covers. Their current starting salary is $11.57 an hour.
Aides are paid $18.30 an hour to start in Riverside Elementary School District 96 and $13.92 an hour at Komarek School in North Riverside.
In Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95, aides are paid an annual salary that comes out to about $14 an hour, said District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski.
"We do believe that our aides need a raise," Rivera said.
In each of the last five years, aides in District 103 have received raises of about 2 percent. In the contract that expired last year, raises were tied to the Consumer Price Index with the provision that raises could be no less than 2 percent and no greater than 4 percent.
Aides work in the classroom with teachers and provide one-on-one help to some special education and disabled students.
Negotiations have centered on wages, job duties and job descriptions. Some aides have to help disabled students with toileting, which is a sensitive subject.
Rivera said the district this year has increased training for aides and is working on creating more specific job descriptions. District 103 currently has 68 full-time aides.
Negotiations got off to a slow start because of scheduling issues and a union election, Rivera said.