Special Education Teachers Move Closer to Striking

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Byline: Karen Kutz Daily Herald Staff Writer

DuPage County special education teachers will file a notice of intent to strike today with the Illinois education labor relations board.

Still unclear is what a walkout would mean to the 320 or more students they teach.

With today's filing, the earliest date the teachers could walk off the job is Oct. 18.

"We can select a date any time after that to execute a strike," said Tom Scarpelli, a spokesman for the teachers union. "That week is probably a pretty good bet."

Negotiations with the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County, the consortium of 15 area school districts that pays the teachers, stalled last week.

Tuesday, the 48-member teachers union officially rejected SASED's latest contract and voted in favor of a strike.

SASED officials were not available Wednesday for comment, although last week they said it wasn't clear what would happen to students in the event of a strike.

"We will have to develop a plan in cooperation with member school districts," said Michael McCollum, SASED executive director.

According to Jan Gillen, a teacher at the bargaining table, the 63 special education teachers SASED employs work with the most challenging students in DuPage County.

"Our students are with us because they require such intense levels of care or display such disruptive behaviors that their home school districts can't meet their needs," she said.

Nine out of the 12 students she and another teacher serve at Cass Junior High School in Darien are in diapers. The students require six full-time aides as well.

"I don't have one single child who can go to the bathroom by themselves," she said. "Most need assistance walking from one place to another - if they can walk."

Students in her classroom come from districts as far away as Villa Park and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 in Naperville and Aurora. …