Lake Forest High School Teacher Contract Negotiations Require Mediator Intervention
Salaries, benefits and professional development are sticking points in ongoing negotiations.
As a sign of solidarity last week, Lake Forest High School teachers came to class reportedly wearing matching T-shirts amid an expired, five-year contract and negotiations for a new one on the table.
“It’s union stuff,” said District 115 Board of Education President Sharon Golan. “School went on, teaching went on. There was no disruption.”
In a recent email sent from the board of education to parents of Lake Forest High School students and posted on its website, the board acknowledged a mediator has been brought into the negotiations, which have been going on since April with a reprieve over the summer, Golan said.
The mediator was brought in at the request of the teacher’s union after talks broke down over three main areas: salary, benefits, and professional development. The board and teachers union did reach tentative agreement on more than 20 different concerns from teachers, according to the email.
“It’s a good thing,” Golan said of including a mediator. “These are some really great, intelligent people, and we’ll just continue to work together.”
The teachers’ contract expired June 30. In a May article by the Chicago Sun-Times, Lake Forest High School ranked second in Lake County for a teacher with a doctorate degree and just over 13 years of experience to earn a maximum of $101,648.28 annually. District 113, which includes Deerfield and Highland Park high schools, was ranked first with a contract that paid teachers with about the same years of experience $104,737.21 annually.
- Read more: Teacher Pay Ranks 2nd Behind District 113
Conversely, an elementary teacher at Lake Forest School District 67 earns $63,949.62 with 11 years’ of experience. In Lake Bluff School District 65, it’s $66,339.93 for 12 years’ experience. District 65 also is in contract negotiations.
Golan agreed the economic backdrop for the negotiations is different from when the last contract was negotiated in 2006.
“It was, really, a very different world prior to 2008,” she stressed. “We negotiated (then) a contract that was competitive with the other high-ranking school districts.”
“During the last contract negotiations, we looked at what everybody around us was getting paid,” Golan continued. “We wanted to make sure we were competitive — that we could hire new talent and retain it.”
The caliber of education, Golan stressed, is what sets the district apart from others. Moreover, it’s what helped Lake Forest High School post a composite ACT score of 26.8, nearly six points higher than the state average, for the 2010-11 school year.
- Read more: ACT Scores Reach All-Time High
“I think the current administration, the teachers, the really good parents” have strengthened education in the district, she said. “I would definitely put it to teamwork.”
Representatives from the district’s teachers union could not be reached for comment.
It is too early to tell whether there are grounds for speculation that teachers will picket along the front lawn of the 75-year-old high school, Golan said.
“I think anytime people hear the words ‘union’ and ‘negotiations,’ they jump to that word (strike), but it’s not expected at this point,” Golan said.
The goal is to draft a new contract sooner rather than later.
“From my vantage point, things are going along in a positive direction,” she added. “As I said, we’re continuing to work. We’ve got two more meetings on the calendar.”