Lake Forest Teachers Strike as Negotiations Fail
Union, Board trade accusations after 11th hour bid to reach settlement
A last ditch effort to avoid a work stoppage by Lake Forest High School teachers failed shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday as they officially went on strike at 12:01 a.m. today with each side blaming the other for the lack of success.
Representatives of the Lake Forest Community High School District Board of Education and Lake Forest Education Association teachers’ union (LFEA) went into a negotiation session with a federal mediator Tuesday immediately after the regularly scheduled Board meeting.
Both sides accuse the other of refusing to budge, enter a lengthy negotiation session to reach an agreement or bargain in good faith.
“The Lake Forest Education Association is disappointed that the Board did not respond to the LFEA’s last salary submission,” union spokesperson Chuck Gress said. “Although it was only 10:00 p.m., and the LFEA was prepared to negotiate to settlement, the (Board) chose not to counter.”
No new mediation had been set as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to Gress.
While the teachers accuse the District of unwillingness to alter their position, the Board said in a statement late Tuesday it had an obligation to be fiscally responsible in light of a position by the LFEA it considers too high for the times.
“The Union’s final proposal continued to request compensation increases of more than double the Consumer Price Index,” the Board said in its statement.” The Board remains committed to offering highly competitive salary and benefit packages to attract and retain employees, while remaining fiscally responsible to the community it serves.”
Crowd Packs Board Meeting
More than 100 people packed into the Board room Monday to hear the District’s latest offer to the union and express their opinion. A large number were students fresh off the athletic field wondering if they would be competing this week.
Board attorney Mike Hernandez explained the administration’s proposal—which offers a pay increase approximately half of what the union seeks—was competitive with other schools in the area like New Trier, Highland Park, Deerfield, Maine Township and Zion Benton.
Lake Bluff resident Gail Gamrath, a 1987 Lake Forest High School graduate and current New Trier High School Junior Girls Adviser Chair, offered support for the union’s position and took issue with Hernandez.
“Your numbers for New Trier are inaccurate. It makes me doubt your entire presentation,” Gamrath said. “When we tried to send (people we could not hire) to Lake Forest, they said ‘we have to do it on the cheap.’ They used that word.”
A majority of the people speaking shared the opinion of Peter Acker of Lake Bluff who wanted the Board to remain firm in its position and not give higher raises than are currently being offered in the business world.
“Things are much different than they were five years ago,” Acker said. “People are losing their homes. Private sector increases averaged three percent last year. The school board’s offer will keep the teachers very well compensated.”
Students Offer Their Opinions
The people most directly affected by the work stoppage, the students, remained the most hopeful of anyone. As three were leaving the parking lot, one said, “See you in class tomorrow, Mr. Gress.”
Hope and optimism was expressed late last night by National Honor Society President Peter Gruenes. Though he says he and his class mares are “simply students,” he has some advice for his elders.
“The wonderful thing about our school is that we are resilient, and will work through this as a whole,” Gruenes said. “No matter what sides seem to have emerged, we are all Scouts, and all belong to the same community.”
Editor's Correction: The first version of this article mistakenly identified Gail Gamrath as an administrator at New Trier High School. She is actually the Junior Girl's Adviser Chair.