LFHS Teacher Talks: Perception of Resources Divides Sides
Teachers maintain the money is available to meet their request while the Board claims there is not enough. No one disputes educators’ value to community.
Varying interpretations of the resources available to the Lake Forest High School District 115 Board of Education has put the school on the brink of a strike by the Lake Forest Education Association teachers’ union.
As a result of the impasse declared by the teachers August 10, both sides were required to disclose their final offers to each other for public viewing. Those documents are available for viewing on the Illinois Labor Relations Board website.
The parties continued to negotiate but after the most recent session failed to produce an agreement Thursday, the teachers issued a Notice of Intent to Strike setting the stage for a walk out at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 12.
The District indicated Friday it had a strike plan but Board President Sharon Golan was not ready to disclose details when questioned by Patch Sunday. Whether or not the students would be in school during a strike is an issue being considered.
“We do have a strike plan,” Golan said. “As part of our discussions we have discussed what is the safest place for the students to be.” More will be revealed in the days to come. Both sides have indicated a willingness to continue talking.
At this point, the teachers believe their demands can be met without a tax increase while the District maintains an average positive fund balance in excess of 40 percent through the life of the contract, according to union spokesperson Chuck Gress.
Part of the reason for Gress’s optimism is the fact approximately 25 per cent of the current teaching staff will retire within five years. Those educators are at the top end of the pay scale.
“The School Board will hire new teachers at the entry level,” Gress said. “They are much less expensive teachers.” The base salary for a starting teacher is approximately half the pay for an educator at the top of the scale, according to numbers provided by Gress.
Board Disagrees With Union Economic Analysis
Golan disagrees with the teachers’ economic analysis. She indicated the Board has set a goal of a 10 percent positive fund balance as it digs itself out of a hole created when it attempted to maintain the school’s quality in difficult times.
“We made a conscious decision to spend down our reserves in hopes of things getting better until we could get back on an even keel,” Golan said. “It did not have a negative impact on the children.”
A rebuilding of cash reserves is one of the reasons Golan believes the Board must be more frugal today. “We were coming off a rich contract that was well deserved,” she said. She thinks the teachers are just as deserving but the economic reality has changed.
Like Golan, Gress places the students’ education ahead of all else and wants to see Lake Forest High School maintain the standards that have made it one of the North Shore’s premier high schools. He believes salaries competitive with schools like New Trier, Highland Park, Deerfield, the Glenbrooks and Stevenson are essential.
“We need to attract and keep quality teachers at our school to educate our school to educate our students in the manner our parents want them educated,” Gress said. “The Board’s offer would make (Lake Forest) a tier two school.”