- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) - Waukegan teachers on Thursday approved a new contract with the city’s school district, ending a 20-day strike that had kept about 17,000 students out of class.

About 86 percent of the more than 1,000 Waukegan Teachers’ Council members voted for the contract, according to the group.

Negotiators for Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 in suburban Chicago and the teachers met for nearly 14 hours Wednesday before reaching an agreement. Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico worked with the two sides to come up with a new contract, the terms of which were not immediately released.

However, District 60 chief negotiator Tony Ficarelli told WBBM-TV that the deal is fair to the teachers and won’t break the school district’s bank.

“We got what we were hoping for,” Mike McGue, president of the Lake County Federation of Teachers, told Waukegan News-Sun.

Teachers will be back on the job Friday to prepare for the return of students Monday.

“I’ve missed my students so much,” high school bilingual teacher Jeanne Sanchez told the newspaper, adding the first day back with her students will be “like going home again.”

The strike generated a lot of heat among Waukegan residents, culminating in one school board meeting that ended prematurely when members of the public became unruly.

Mayor Wayne Motley said he had faith city residents will be reconciled.

“The strike was having a devastating effect on the community, (and) I think there’s just going to have to be some reconciliation and soul-searching by everyone,” he told the News-Sun. “But I think the city’s going to come back together again.”

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