Volunteer teacher sponsors suspend clubs amid contract issues


Photo by Mayeli Vivaldo

Senior Johnny Nguyen explains the club issue regarding the suspension of all volunteer teachers from running their clubs to the Anime Club members on Aug. 22. Anime Club is one of the clubs that is suspending its meetings.

By Mayeli Vivaldo, Editor in Chief

After a year of negotiating with the Board of Education, the West Chicago Teachers’ Association voted on Aug. 20 to suspend teachers, who sponsor clubs or extracurricular activities with no pay, from volunteering their time to run clubs.

The Teachers’ Association met on Aug. 20 to discuss their lack of a contract and what to do about it.

“Our contract expired in August of 2016, but we agreed to a one year extension for 2016-2017 and that extension has now expired. We’ve been in negotiations to establish a new contract since May of 2016 and at this point, those negotiations have not led to an agreement,” president of the Teachers’ Association Brad Larson said.

Teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 13.

“Working without a contract means that our working conditions and our salary have not changed since last year. That’s a problem. What that means is that we’re making the exact same amount of money as last year, we’re receiving the same benefits as last year and we’re doing our jobs as required by the contract of last year,” Larson said. “You can’t work without a contract forever. There needs to be a resolution to the bargaining that’s taking place.”

At the meeting, according to Larson, the Teachers’ Association decided to begin to address the issue of working without contracts by suspending teachers from volunteering their time to student activities.

“The previous contract had a mechanism for deciding how extracurricular positions are paid and many of those positions are paid, however, over the years, there have been cuts to those positions and since those cuts have been made, there have been new student organizations that have been started,” Larson said.  

“Every one of those organizations has to have a teacher or staff sponsor. For the last several years, the Board (of Education) has declined to compensate those new positions. As a result, you have some sponsors who for many years now have been volunteering their time to support student activities,” he said. “So you have this situation in which there are some teachers who are compensated for what they do for student activities and some teachers who are not and the Board (of Education) has decided to leave it that way. This is not acceptable to the teachers.”

This decision ultimately means that clubs managed by a sponsor who is not being compensated will no longer meet or run until a new contract is settled.

The decision will go into effect on Sept. 5.

After being contacted by a concerned parent about the Teachers’ Association’s decision on Aug. 22,  president of the Board of Education Gary Saake said the Board of Education is “disappointed by their unilateral actions. They did not really discuss this with us. They announced it to the students and didn’t talk to us and explain why they were doing this and what they hope to gain from it. We’re pretty disappointed.”

The Board of Education is hoping to fix the suspension of teacher volunteers and volunteer clubs.

“We have reached out to each of the volunteer sponsors, inquiring of their intentions and for any of those that have decided to step away from their volunteer duties, we are going to try to find some replacement sponsors,” Saake said. “We are going to open it up to other staff members, to the community, to those who would like to step into those positions. Our intent is to try to keep these organizations going.”

Saake believes the decision will not help the contract issue and will only affect students negatively.

“The matter is not a subject of their current collective bargaining. It’s not something that has been brought to us as a concern. It seems to be apart from anything we’re trying to gain. It seems like it’s just trying to create an issue,” Saake said. “This will not speed it up (the solution). I look at their actions as being highly unprofessional.  To put the students in the middle of this, it’s just not right.”

Larson said regarding the decision, “No one in the Teachers’ Association wanted to take this step. But, this was a step that we took because we believe that we need to start taking steps to communicate to the Board (of Education) the necessity for them to come to the table with an agreement that is acceptable and will meet the long term needs of the students in the district.”

Clubs affected by this are Video Game Club, Anime Club, GSA, Club Green, Compass, Equestrian Club, French Club, WeGo Buddies, WeGo Global, ROAR, Bowling, Tabletop Club, Team Danzon, Snowball, Life Smarts, Film Club, and Book Club.  

Many of the clubs have announced the decision to their members.

Several club members and club representatives plan to attend the board meeting on Sept. 19 to express their concerns.