Cairo teachers promise timely school year start

Saturday, July 13, 2002

CAIRO, Ill. -- Cairo teachers promise they will start the upcoming school year on time, but they are giving no guarantees about how long they'll stay in their classrooms.

Ron Newell, president of the Cairo Association of Teachers, says it all depends on next month's negotiations with the school board.

Last April, the teachers walked out for 17 days after negotiations between union leaders and administrators failed to yield pay raises and a new contract.

"If there is a walkout, it will be early in the year," Newell said. "Teachers will continue in the classroom as long as the board makes a genuine effort to negotiate and resolve the differences."

Teachers have submitted a contract proposal calling for a new four-year deal with more increases in salary but are waiting for the board to respond, Newell said.

"The money and benefits package are the main snags," he said. "We will go into direct negotiations in the future with open options and open minds."

Cairo school superintendent Robert Isom said the board is prepared to offer a proposal similar to one previously made to teachers.

The multiple-year deal would give teachers an average salary increase of nearly $4,000 per teacher over a three-year period. The board also agreed to pay full health insurance premiums of $443 a month per teacher.

When the Cairo teachers went on strike this spring, teachers were demanding pay and benefits increases totaling an annual raise of $4,446 for each teacher. The district said financial problems restricted the board from offering teachers more pay and benefits.

Teachers agreed to return to classrooms in late May but ended the year without an agreement, and the school board decided not to make up the strike days.

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