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District 112 Board Asks Union to Withdraw Strike Threat

Highland Park's elementary and middle school board and teachers' union "remain significantly apart" in contract negotiations. Another meeting has been set for Oct. 15, the day before the teachers' strike is set to begin.

Update 10/11/12: Though the District 112 school board and teachers' union made some movement during Wednesday evening's most recent bargaining session, the two sides "remain significantly apart," according to an email sent at about 1 a.m. Thursda morning by school board president Bruce Hyman.

The teachers' union proposed meeting again on Oct. 15. Meanwhile, the school board has requested the union withdraw its strike threat. The district's contingency plans remain in effect.

Earlier: Highland Park's elementary and middle school district has been collaborating with the city's other governing bodies to figure out programming for the district's 4,500 students should the teachers' union begin its planned Oct. 16 strike.

District 112 Contract Negotiations: The Story So Far

Registration began this week for free programming that will be offered by the district and the Park District of Highland Park if the teachers strike and school is not in session. The park district will have five camps that will take place at Heller Nature Reserve, West Ridge Center, Deer Creek Courts and the Recreation Center. They will be available to about 150 children. An additional number of children will be accommodated by the Centennial Ice Arena for open skate and open gymnastics. The Recreation Center will offer open swim and open gym.

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"As soon as we got word there might be a strike, we knew there needed to be a contingency plan," Park District Executive Director Liza McElroy said. "We're ready to go."

The park district camps will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be similar to those offered during the summer, according to Park District Communications Coordinator Emily Biang. They will include singing, cooking and indoor sports. Participating children just need to bring their own lunch.

McElroy hopes that parents who work full-time will take advantage of these available services, since space will be limited.

"We really want to make sure that kids who have parents who both work… will get those kids in a safe environment," McElroy said.

The park district's programming will cost the park district $2,000 a day, assuming "we max everything," according to McElroy, who said the main cost is the staff.

"I think we will be able to provide this service for the duration of the strike," she said. "We will evaluate on a day by day basis."

Other organizations offer more programming

Eight other local organizations will offer programming to District 112 students during the teachers' strike, including the Highland Park Public Library, the Family Network and the City of Highland Park.

Editors' Note: Click here to see all the programming that will be offered to DIstrict 112 children during the teachers' strike.

The Highland Park Nursery School will offer day care for 22 kindergarten students for $42 per day, while the Naval Station Great Lakes Youth Center will offer all-day childcare at a cost dependent on total family income. The Chicago Botanic Gardens announced on Wednesday it would offer a Nature Days program to 20 kindergarteners through fifth graders.

"There's a lot of community support," District 112 Communications Specialist Andi Rosen said. 

District 112 will have programming available at Oak Terrace, Northwood and Green Bay schools that will be available to 500 students total.

The District will be prioritizing children who are eligible for free and reduced lunch, according to District 112 Community Relations Specialist Andi Rosen. 

"We don't have the staffing to accommodate more," she said.

Union, board still hopeful strike can be avoided

Though the district has begun preparing for a teachers' strike, its members remain hopeful one can still be avoided.

"They're not the ones walking away from the negotiating table," Rosen said about the District 112 School Board. "They want to do everything possible to avoid a strike."

According to North Shore Education Association president Pamela Kramer, the teachers are not looking forward to striking, but feel they have no other option.

"I'm still hoping that we'll go and work it out Wednesday night," Kramer said, referring to a bargaining meeting scheduled for Oct. 10. "[A strike] is not a pleasant thing to go through… but we're not going to roll over and play dead."

District 112 recently posted a chart comparing the board's most recent contract proposal with the teacher union's. Kramer says the teachers' proposed contract leaves the teachers worse off than teachers in neighboring districts in salary, lane changes, retirement and health care.

"We feel we are so reasonable with where we are right now that this is just a horrible situation," Kramer said.

Rosen disagrees with Kramer's characterization that Highland Park teachers have it worse than those in surrounding districts.

"Right now if you look at the chart of all the districts in Lake County, we're the third highest beginning salary," Rosen said.

The teachers feel the board's perspective on its finances is unnecessarily bleak, blaming the reluctance to spend more on teachers on a tea party mentality.

"They have the money," Kramer said. 

According to Rosen, however, the board's proposal stems from a desire to end three years of painful budget cuts, ending a trend where the district spends more than it takes in.

"The way the board is looking at it is prudent and fiscally responsible," Rosen said. "This isn't politics, it's math."

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forest barbieri October 14, 2012 at 09:16 PM
As a taxpayer who cares, I want to clarify that I have no quarrel with the teachers. My concerns are the union spin about teachers leaving, how wonderful our neighbor districts, how high they pay and regard their teachers. Continuing on about how our poor district will become nothing but a stepping stone and so on. None of that is true regardless of the outcome in this labor dispute. No doubt you as a teacher seek a fair compromise and wish to be in the classroom doing what you enjoy. Having taught negotiation classes to high level Russian Managers, I recognize the dance taking place. No doubt they are buoyed by the CPS and LFHS strikes. I disagree with the unions seeming unwillingness to compromise with a best effort to avoid a strike bringing our children in as both hostage and pawn in the negotiations. If anyone thinks the union, not necessarily teachers, as they in some ways also become pawns to the union, intent is anything other than to strike then only the tooth fairy can save us:) It may be that the union on their quest to bring the BOE to their knees may win the battle but it may be an expensive win if later they lose the war. Redistricting of some type as well as budget cuts could ultimately cost jobs. As I stated to Mark before, he can then say to the few, "sorry, it sucks to be you but remember you gave for the whole and we will light candles every Feb 29th on odd years at 3am, see ya." Naturally, the Union will still be there as their jobs are safe.
Maya October 15, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Lou, Both my kids have been through District 112 schools and in grade school 11 out of 12 of their teachers lived on the North Shore (HP. Deerfield or Glencoe). In Middle School, I don't know that most also resided in one of these suburbs. I don't know where you get your information from, but at least in our experience it was not true at all.
Jerry Hopkins October 16, 2012 at 03:32 AM
NSSD112 Teachers! The community loves you. Your site says it all. http://district112teachers.org/ Since the board can't seem to juggle all their "facts" and "myths", I did some investigations of my own. There are a lot of bitter people out here this evening on the Patch. They are NOT representative of this community. We are better then that. The people who care about education and the future of HP (and not just themselves) are pulling for you!! PS My children aren't not afraid of your t-shirts or your black clothing :)
Tony S October 16, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Two words: Moshin Dada. He's fricken Nolan Ryan. This guy gave himself ILLEGAL raises at his last job. This is who is guiding the board and attempting to fry teachers in the pan. When will you all learn the difference between private and social costs? This man costs a lot, but he's good. The social costs of this man could prove to be in the lack of inspiration a student in the district gets from the inevitable lower quality teachers this district might soon attract. This could potentially be the same kid who might cure cancer or bring about world peace. Let us not forget: our children are priceless, and teachers are their biggest influence besides ourselves. And we are so busy being rich ballers, attempting to outdo each other with a faster later version BMWs that will roll through stop signs with just that much more precision that the teachers probably are a bigger influence, but I digress. Fact: teachers made serious concessions for the last contract and the district surprised 2mil. I know that's chump change, but a surplus none the less.
Tony S October 16, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Surplussed* (is that even a word?)

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