School board president: district, teachers union 'very, very close' to agreement

Union spokeswoman says still far apart on key issues

September 7, 2012

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Becky Vevea/WBEZ
Teachers rally in Daley Plaza on Labor Day.

Updated Friday, Sept. 7th at 7:28 p.m.

Chicago Teachers Union officials say contract negotiations did a 180 Friday, despite optimism on both sides going into the day.

"We are very disappointed," said union president Karen Lewis, as she emerged from the room where the two sides were meeting. "We thought it would be infinitely better than it was.

Earlier in the day, it looked like negotations between CTU and the Chicago Public Schools were slightly less toxic than they had been in the past.

That’s partly because a new face was at the bargaining table on Thursday – Board of Education president David Vitale.

He told WBEZ around 2 p.m. that the two sides were “very, very close” to an agreement.

Vitale said on Thursday the two had "the kind of conversation that was really tryin ... to understand where our two differences are and (make) a commitment to see if we can’t resolve what’s remaining,” Vitale said.

A midday statement on Friday from the union’s spokeswoman indicated otherwise.

“While it was encouraging to see Board President David Vitale at the table yesterday, both sides remain far apart on core issues such as job security, compensation and how to give our students a better day,” said union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin.  

She said union delegates are attending a series of strike-training sessions in preparation for Monday, when teachers are scheduled to walk off the job.

But Vitale said he thought“kids will be in school Monday morning.”

Negotiations are expected to go on all the weekend.

There are two key players that still have not been part of talks – schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

If a tentative contract is reached over the weekend, the union would have to call a special session with the House of Delegates to cancel the strike. Gadlin said “there is no plan to do that” at this point.