Quincy School Board, teachers union gearing up for start of contract negotiations

Posted: Mar. 9, 2013 5:39 pm Updated: Mar. 23, 2013 7:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Initial steps are about to be taken to launch contract negotiations between the Quincy School Board and the Quincy Federation of Teachers.

The teachers union's current two-year contract, which expires Aug. 9, specifies that negotiations for a new agreement "shall begin no later than April 1, unless both parties agree to an alternate date."

"We are preparing to send a letter to the board prior to April 1 letting them know we are prepared to begin," said Valarie Bordenkircher.

Quincy School Board President Bill Daniels said once one party makes initial contact with the other, negotiators for both sides usually get together informally to set a date for the first official meeting.

"Traditionally, what has occurred is that the teachers union prefers to not start bargaining meetings until school is out," Daniels said.

Bordenkircher agrees union representatives would rather wait until school ends May 29.

Daniels said the board will probably want to hold off starting talks until three new School Board members are seated after the April 9 elections, in which eight candidates are competing for three available seats. The terms of Daniels, Tom Dickerson and Steve Krause are expiring. All three opted not to seek re-election, meaning the board's overall membership -- as well as the makeup of its negotiating team -- will be changing.

Daniels, who is stepping aside after 12 years on the School Board, has played a big role in teacher contract negotiations in recent years. So has Dickerson.

Daniels said he has been trying to pass along some negotiating tips to the four holdover board members who aren't up for election this year -- Jeff Mays, Scott Stone, Stephanie Erwin and Melvin "Bud" Niekamp.

"There's going to be a point undoubtedly in the future when somebody else has got to be in charge," Daniels said. "Part of my responsibility here is to do what I can to try to make for a transition of knowledge or experience."

Daniels is currently involved in negotiating the first contract for 11 employees in the Quincy School District's maintenance shop. Local 34 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers earlier this year was declared the exclusive bargaining agent for those employees, and initial contract talks with the School Board started in early February.

Daniels said Mays and Stone have joined him at the bargaining table during some of the negotiations. Richard Jones, business representative for the IBEW, is one of the negotiators for the union. Jones also is running for a seat on the School Board in the April 9 elections.

Daniels couldn't say for sure when the three new board members will be seated. Even though the School Board's regular monthly meeting is scheduled for April 17 -- eight days after the election -- no seatings can occur until the Adams County clerk canvasses and certifies the results of the April 9 election. Daniels believes that process will likely take more than eight days.

Consequently, the School Board will probably have to call a special meeting in late April or early May to seat the new members. By law, the seating must be carried out by May 7, Daniels said.

Bordenkircher said waiting a little longer to get started on contract talks has the added advantage of giving both sides more time to see what actions the Illinois Legislature might want to take on next year's state budget, which could impact school finances.

"I would hope that we have a contract in place before Aug. 9, which is when this contract expires," Bordenkircher said.

Past teacher contracts were timed to expire later during the month of August, which in some cases meant classes would have already started before the contract expired. Bordenkircher said the union purposely sought an earlier expiration date during the last contract negotiations in 2011.

"We just wanted to move it up earlier in the month," she said. "Knowing that this contract expires Aug. 9, I think we will all be a little more fine-tuned and be ready to get this accomplished over the summer and have it done before school starts."

On multiple occasions in the past, teacher contracts didn't get settled until well after the contract had expired. In 2011, for example, the QFT's previous one-year contract expired Aug. 23 and a new two-year contract wasn't ratified until December of that year.

The QFT's contract isn't the only Quincy School District contract that must be negotiated this year. A contract with the Quincy Federation of Support Personnel, which includes bus drivers, is slated to expire June 15, while the contract with the Quincy Federation of Food Service Workers expires June 30.

Talks with both of those groups will also have to start fairly soon, Daniels said.