Teachers, District 115 at an Impasse
Negotiations comes to a halt after each side refuses the other's proposed contract.
The two sides plan to meet again Nov. 15.
Superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith said at Tuesday night's District 115 board meeting that the board's proposal looks to restore its reserves to healthier levels, while increasing teachers' pay by 10 percent over a four-year period.
“If we had the reserve we have right now, two years ago,” Griffith said, “we would have been taking our class sizes to 30 (students per teacher). We would have been cutting many programs.”
Negotiations started in April, and teachers have been working without a contract since it expired June 30. A federal mediator was brought in two weeks ago, prompting the first email from District 115 to parents of Lake Forest High School students on the state of the negotiations.
The previous contract impasse occurred in 2006, and teachers conducted pickets that year as well and eventually received a contract that paid 5.5 percent annually, including a 6.1 percent average salary increase in 2010-11.
- See related story: Q&A with the Board President
At last week’s pickets, Chuck Gress, lead negotiator for the Lake Forest Education Association, indicated the school board had asked teachers to accept a pay freeze, a decrease in its retirement benefits and pay more toward health insurance in the next contract.
“When you add it all up,” he argued, “our compensation package would, literally, take a pay cut.”
- See related story: Teachers Say District 115 Asking for Pay Cut
On Tuesday night, Griffith said the teacher's union has proposed an 8 percent to 9 percent increase within two years of the new contract.
Despite repeated messages left for Gress on Wednesday at the high school, he did not return calls from Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch.
School Board President Sharon Golan previously had said the economic backdrop for this year’s negotiations is different from when the last contract was negotiated in 2006. Along with staff cuts of roughly 8 percent and pay freezes for about 150 nonunion employees, the board has kept classes near their historic high, 21 students per teacher, and has avoided programming cuts.
“It's a combination of all those factors (and more) that allow us to get ourselves back into sound financial footing in the near future,” Griffith stressed.
Along with roughly $450,000 owed by the state in 2010-11, the district took a hit when it no longer collect could property taxes from proposed construction, valued in excess of $100 million. The projects simply “evaporated,” said Assistant Superintendent Allen Albus, shortly after the onset of the recession.
It's important not to think “the sky is falling” nor make unrealistic budget assumptions, said Albus, who has yet to figure into the high school's 2011-12 budget additional funding from the state.
“It's not just one thing that happened. It's the downturn in the economy and the commitments we made in 2006, when the economy seemed less in danger,” he elaborated.
As for concerned parents, administrators said that during the week they received several phone calls, many from residents supporting the board. But no one spoke out during the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting.