Teachers, Board Posture as Strike Looms
Union invites public comment at Tuesday’s Board meeting while District negotiating team says it will show up to talk Monday whether the union arrives or not.
A desire for public participation is part of the reason for the stalemate between the Lake Forest Community High School District 115 Board of Education and the Lake Forest Education Association teachers’ union (LFEA) in the ongoing talks over a new contract.
With a strike scheduled to start at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the LFEA wants citizens to voice their opinion during the public comment portion of the Board’s meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the West Campus. The teachers will be present and ready to talk to District negotiators after the meeting.
“The Board of Education negotiators need to meet with the parents of the Lake Forest High School students before we can continue to negotiate over issues that are as important as those facing the high school,” union spokesperson Chuck Gress said in a statement.
The two sides met for two hours Thursday and did not reach an agreement. Before the union representatives left, they offered to meet Tuesday. The Board suggested a Monday meeting and had not heard from the teachers by Sunday afternoon.
Board President Sharon Golan explained the District negotiating team could not meet Tuesday because of the scheduled meeting and remains hopeful for a Monday session. “We wanted to complete it (the negotiations) on Thursday,” she said. Tuesday does not work because of the scheduled meeting.
“We have a legal obligation to vote on our budget,” Golan said. The budget has been published and a public hearing and final action is required Tuesday. “We will show up at 5 p.m. tomorrow (Monday) ready to negotiate,” she added expressing her wish the LFEA will come to the table then.
A key issue for the teachers is a proposed two-tier compensation system differentiating between educators currently at the school and new ones hired in the future. Gress believes the system will reduce the overall quality of teaching.
“Lake Forest High School should remain a school where knowledgeable, seasoned teachers spend their careers, not where rookies come to learn their craft and move on to neighboring districts due to the two-tier wage system,” Gress said.
Golan did not have a specific comment about the two-tier proposal but urged the LFEA representatives to continue to discuss it with the Board. “It sounds like they have some talking points and they should bring them to the negotiating table.”
Gress also stressed the Board can meet the LFEA’s final demands without increasing taxes or letting the District’s fund balance fall below required levels.