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Teachers union switches leaders

September 28, 2018

KANKAKEE — Kankakee School District 111’s teachers union has changed its leadership twice in recent months, but its representatives are saying little about it.

In late August, members of the Kankakee Federation of Teachers rejected a proposed contract by a wide margin. When that happened, Betsy Benoit had been the union’s president for a short time.

Since then, Beth Anderson, Benoit’s predecessor, returned to the presidency.

The union’s negotiating team, including the president, has been in talks with Kankakee district officials to draft a new contract.

Benoit said the team has stayed the same through the entire negotiations. According to the union’s constitution, she said, the same team that starts the negotiations process should see it through to the end.

“When (the proposed contract) got voted down, it was decided the newly elected board would step aside for the previous board to finish negotiations,” Benoit said in a text message. “We stand united and believe an agreement can be reached.”

Anderson said the union decided to leave the previous board of officers in place until negotiations were completed.

“There is no real story here,” she said in a text. “The previous (union) board never left the negotiating table.”

While Benoit was president, Anderson said, she handled non-negotiating issues for the union. That arrangement was confusing for union members, she said.

Asked for details about the changes, Anderson said she would not comment further, only saying union members “will continue to respect our commitment to bargain in good faith.”

Kankakee schools Superintendent Genevra Walters didn’t return a message for comment. She said this past month the district was in the beginning stages of negotiations.

The average teacher salary in the district is $53,633, lower than the statewide average of $64,516, according to the Illinois School Board of Education’s website.

The district has 162 students for every administrator, compared with 190 statewide, the site says.

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