Q&A: District 115 Board of Education President Responds to Teacher Pay Issue, More
Golan says continuing to draw down District reserves is not an option.
Is the District 115 Board of Education at Lake Forest High School paying their teachers enough? Or are the teachers asking for too much, in light of the shaky economy?
Thursday morning, after the teacher's union protested in front of the high school, Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch conducted an e-mail interview with District 115 Board of Education President Sharon Golan.
Previously, Golan said the economic backdrop for the negotiations is different from when the last contract was negotiated in 2006. Here's what she had to say in the latest interview:
When Chuck Gress, lead negotiator for the teacher's union, said teachers will be taking a pay cut, was he accurate, based on what the board is offering?
Golan: We are unable to comment on the specifics of the proposed contract, as we are still in mediation with the teacher's union.
However, it is important to note that Lake Forest High School is committed to maintaining regionally competitive salary and benefits packages for our teachers.
Historically, a new teacher hired at the high school will earn nearly 25 percent more than the median salary for new teachers in Illinois. And as reported by the Chicago Tribune in 2010, the percentage of teachers making more than $100,000 per year in Lake Forest is the second highest in the state.
We are confident that the board’s present proposal provides a competitive salary and benefits package -- one that will continue to attract and retain the highest quality of teaching professionals to support our students.
- To look up a teacher's salary, visit the Chicago Sun-Times link.
Does not providing what the teacher's union wants boil down to a lack of funds for the school district?
The contract that recently expired acknowledged the value of our teachers with a compensation package that is one of the best in Illinois for secondary school teachers.
The teachers’ most recent five-year contract was agreed upon in 2006, prior to the economic downturn. The average teacher salary increase during that contract was 5.5 percent annually, including a 6.1 percent average salary increase in 2010-11.
During this same time period, we were faced with an unprecedented economic downturn that resulted in significant reductions in revenues:
- A sharp decline in revenues from new construction (Approximately $200,000 annually)
- A sharp decline in interest income ($70,000 annually compared to $1,000,000 several years ago)
- Delayed payments from the state of Illinois ($439,973 as of June 2011)
We have worked hard to protect our educational program and have the least impact on the classroom and students.
To maintain the continuity of the instructional offerings and honor commitments made in the 2006 contract, we have had to drawdown the budget reserves. Reserve funds are critical during challenging economic times as they minimize short-term impacts on classrooms, programs, and students.
It should be noted that while cash flow remains strong, current reserves are well below board targets, and continuing to draw down reserves is not an option.
What are the Board of Education’s goals?
- Maintain highly competitive teacher salaries and benefits.
- Protect educational offerings and extra-curricular programs.
- Protect class size.
- Restore budget reserves.
We are confident that the board’s present proposal maintains a competitive salary and benefits package that will attract and retain the highest quality teachers to meet the needs of our students.
The board is also mindful of its responsibilities to the community and the need to prudently manage our financial resources. The Board is committed to working hard to reach an agreement that is fair to our teachers and fiscally responsible to our community.
Should administrators, including the superintendent, and other staff expect cuts?
Golan: The high school has already implemented staff reductions and frozen all non-union salaries in light of the loss of revenue. In this uncertain economy, we will need to continue to prudently manage our financial resources.
How did the high school meet expenses in light of reductions in anticipated revenue?
Golan: Through a combination of expense reductions, increasing non-tax related revenues, and a drawdown of budget reserves. Expense reductions, beginning with staffing, include:
- A 26 percent decrease in administrative staff.
- A 15 percent decrease in support staff.
- An 8 percent decrease in teaching staff.
- Renegotiation of service contracts (transportation, cleaning, copiers).
- Freezing (for at least one-year) all non-union salaries.
- Increases in non-tax related revenues were generated from cell tower leases, leasing portions of West Campus, and Little Scout Pre-School operations.
Are many of the high school’s teachers spending their time in the summer studying, teaching or coaching, as Gress said they are?
Golan: We have a very dedicated professional staff of teachers; teaching for them is a 12-month commitment.
Teachers do receive additional compensation for their summer work and extra responsibilities based on an extra duty stipend schedule.
How big is a teacher's role for students who take the ACT?
Golan: We have outstanding teachers at Lake Forest High School.
Our middle schools are sending us more advanced students, and our Board of Education has made a significant investment in advanced technologies, improved research and support facilities, and other new programs that have contributed to improved student outcomes. It is truly a partnership.
We are fortunate to have dedicated and motivated students, supportive parents, challenging educational offerings, and outstanding teaching professionals and staff. Our students’ achievement is the combination of a variety of factors.