TEUTOPOLIS — Updated with additional quotes
Teutopolis Unit 50 teachers may be one step closer to striking.
The Teutopolis Teachers Association said in a news release that its membership "overwhelmingly" authorized the union's bargaining team to call a strike.
While no strike date has been set, the vote means that the barganing team does not have to seek additional approval from the union membership before calling a strike.
Teachers union officials said the vote came on the heels of what they termed an "unproductive" bargaining session Tuesday evening. Members of the negotiating team expressed their frustration with the process in a news release.
"I have to admit, I'm frustrated and disappointed with the lack of progress in negotiations," said TEA co--president Karen Smith. "We've offered several proposals to the board, but they haven't given us anything other than their initial offer.
"We can't seem to get the board to understand that we won't accept a contract that makes it difficult for the district to attract and retain quality teachers," Smith added.
Teachers have said the primary roadblock in negotiations is the board's proposal of a two-tier salary scale. TEA officials have said they believe the proposed salary structure is unfair to incoming teachers.
Teacher Kevin Niemerg, a member of the TEA bargaining team, said the community should be aware that Teutopolis students continue to excel in the classroom at a relatively low cost.
"Our students have consistently outperformed the state averages on standardized testing for far less than the state average cost per pupil," Niemerg said.
Board vice president Gene Niemerg said the board plans to negotiate until a settlement fair to all sides is reached.
"The ultimate goal is to get a contract that is fair to the teachers, fair to the taxpayers and fair to the students," Niemerg said. "We have a pretty good staff, and we're going to keep our pay competitive.