Press Release

ROCKFORD – Tonight, the Rockford Education Association (REA) will call for the Rockford Public School District No. 205 Board of Education (BOE) to allow educators to choose whether they want to teach from their classrooms or from their homes.

“The district finally did the reasonable thing and granted an adaptive pause to in-person learning due to the skyrocketing metrics in our area,” REA President Mel Gilfillan said. “It’s what is safest for our students. Some teachers may decide it’s what is safest for them, and for their families, as well. Others may choose to report to their classrooms because they will have better internet connection or access to needed supplies. They should have that choice.”

Last week, Mike Padron, a 38-year-old teacher at the regional office of education’s Summit Academy, died from COVID-19. His wife, Nikki, is a teacher at Rockford’s Spring Creek Elementary School, where at least 12 staff members have tested positive for the disease, including Padron’s wife.

As of Friday, the positivity rate in Winnebago County was 694 per 100,000 residents and the positivity percentage was 19.7 percent. Safe metrics are considered a rate below 70 cases per 100,000 and a percentage below 8 percent.

“We have members who are frightened. We have members who are single parents and while they could bring their kids to school with them, they don’t consider doing so in a pandemic the ideal solution,” Gilfillan said. “Governor Pritzker put new mitigations into place on Friday telling us that if we can work from home, we should. We think our school board should allow those who want to work from home to do so.”

Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association (IEA), of which REA is a member, said the statewide organization has REA’s back.

“The IEA stands firmly behind the REA and their request of the Rockford Board of Education,” Griffin said. “We have said all along that we support safe learning. The metrics in Winnebago County right now are very high, meaning community spread is a real threat. With the confirmed outbreak of at least 12 of approximately 30 staff at Spring Creek Elementary School, teaching and learning conditions are not safe. Our members are professionals and deserve to be treated as such.”

The REA represents about 1,900 teachers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, speech language professionals and nurses in District 205, providing an education to about 29,000 students.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. in the third-floor board room at 501 7th St., Rockford. Gilfillan will address the board during its meeting on behalf of REA. It can also be viewed at this link.

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.