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Former Superintendent Reacts to Current Teachers Strike

WGIL Newsroom . Local News 1543

(Galesburg School District Superintendent Gene Denisar, right, and Assistant Superintendent Guy Cahill, speak with WGIL News Director Will Stevenson in March, 2010.  File Photo.)

(Galesburg School District Superintendent Gene Denisar, right, and Assistant Superintendent Guy Cahill, speak with WGIL News Director Will Stevenson in March, 2010. File Photo.)

A retired Galesburg School District Superintendent says he remembers a time when negotiating a new contract with the teachers union was, perhaps, much more harmonious then it is now.

Gene Denisar retired as Superintendent a year and a half ago, then relocated to Florida, but says he’s been following the Galesburg teachers strike very closely.

Denisar tells WGIL he was involved in three contract negotiations in his time here, and there was one constant.

“There was a chief negotiator for the [Galesburg Education Association] named Margaret Tolley,” Denisar said.  “She was an incredible lady.  The team was composed of rank-and-file teachers, without the environment really being poisoned by the [Illinois Education Association].”

Currently, IEA  “UniServ” representative Deb Tuttle is listed as being on the GEA’s Negotiating Team, and the chief negotiator is Luann Statham.  The IEA has maintained they’re simply a resource for teachers in contract negotiations, providing help, research, and other means.

Denisar says in his words, local issues have been poisoned by the IEA’s interests, with local interests not being heard.

He says nowhere is that more evident than in the main sticking point left: the teacher evaluation model and recall rights when teachers are laid off.

Denisar tells WGIL nowhere is that more evident than in the issue of recall rights, and how that’s become the main issue separating a contract from no deal.

“I think the IEA is looking for a test case.  I think Galesburg or Peoria will likely be that case, from the sounds of things,” said Denisar.

Denisar says he has no doubt that — like the GEA claimed today — the district wants to retain the best teachers, regardless of seniority.

He says regardless of where you stand in terms of this strike, there’s one thing that’s true: the public, the schools, teachers, and students alike all lose.

“I feel for [Superintendent] Bart [Arthur], I feel for the Board of Education, I feel for the community, and I feel for the parents and students, and I feel for the good employees — rank and file teachers that are all involved in this,” Denisar said.