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Teachers, District 115 at an Impasse

Negotiations comes to a halt after each side refuses the other's proposed contract.

The Lake Forest Education Association representing teachers and the are at an impasse after  Monday's negotiation session.

The two sides plan to meet again Nov. 15.

Superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith said at Tuesday night's board meeting that the board's proposal looks to restore its reserves to healthier levels, while increasing teachers' pay by 10 percent over a four-year period.

“If we had the reserve we have right now, two years ago,” Griffith said, “we would have been taking our class sizes to 30 (students per teacher). We would have been cutting many programs.”

Negotiations started in April, and teachers have been working without a contract since it expired June 30. A federal mediator was brought in two weeks ago, prompting the first email from to parents of Lake Forest High School students on the state of the negotiations.

The previous contract impasse occurred in 2006, and teachers conducted pickets that year as well and eventually received a contract that paid 5.5 percent annually, including a 6.1 percent average salary increase in 2010-11.

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At last week’s pickets, Chuck Gress, lead negotiator for the Lake Forest Education Association, indicated the school board had asked teachers to accept a pay freeze, a decrease in its retirement benefits and pay more toward health insurance in the next contract.

“When you add it all up,” he argued, “our compensation package would, literally, take a pay cut.”

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On Tuesday night, Griffith said the teacher's union has proposed an 8 percent to 9 percent increase within two years of the new contract.

Despite repeated messages left for Gress on Wednesday at the high school, he did not return calls from Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch.

School Board President Sharon Golan previously had said the economic backdrop for this year’s negotiations is different from when the last contract was negotiated in 2006. Along with staff cuts of roughly 8 percent and pay freezes for about 150 nonunion employees, the board has kept classes near their historic high, 21 students per teacher, and has avoided programming cuts.

“It's a combination of all those factors (and more) that allow us to get ourselves back into sound financial footing in the near future,” Griffith stressed.

Along with roughly $450,000 owed by the state in 2010-11, the district took a hit when it no longer collect could property taxes from proposed construction, valued in excess of $100 million. The projects simply “evaporated,” said Assistant Superintendent Allen Albus, shortly after the onset of the recession.

It's important not to think “the sky is falling” nor make unrealistic budget assumptions, said Albus, who has yet to figure into the high school's 2011-12 budget additional funding from the state.

“It's not just one thing that happened. It's the downturn in the economy and the commitments we made in 2006, when the economy seemed less in danger,” he elaborated.

As for concerned parents, administrators said that during the week they received several phone calls, many from residents supporting the board. But no one spoke out during the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting.

LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 10, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Welcome to the rest of the world dear teachers. Also, someone should take a look at Harry Griffith's income package, don't forget to look at his payments toward retirement and other non-salary funds. Are you taking a pay cut Harry?
Roger Billings November 10, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Are you not aware that Griffith is retiring and he, like the current teachers have a contract that was negotiated in a different economic time? On the subject of the union proposal, 8-9% increases in two years is a joke. Let them strike, and then replace them with good people who want to work. I'm sure there would be a very long line of applicants.
John Utah November 10, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Public employees are so removed from reality it is quite unbelievable. Asking for 8-9% increases by 2013-14? Do they really think that stance will give them support in the community? I hope the LFEA keeps coming up with requests and keeps sending letters to all our houses. The more their greed is made public, the faster we can change the structure. And don't think Mr. Griffith and the BOE are not part of this. His compensation and retirement package is ludicrous, please look it up. School administrators make more money than private sector company presidents in this state.
ScoutGuardian November 10, 2011 at 08:57 PM
I vote for a mass cleansing of ingrate district employees upset over their incredibly lucrative compesation packages relative to the norm experienced by most working in the education industry. To add to Roger's comment, I'd like to quantify the line of applicants at a bare minimum 50,000. If we assume there are currently 150,000 unemployed teachers searching, BEGGING, for a position at ANY school in the country just so they could scrap by in this world, I'd like to think that bare minimum, 1 in 3 would hop on a plane tomorrow for the chance to interview at Lake Forest. Not only does the school district offer some of the most egregious compensation packages in the country, but it's also located in a safe, beautiful suburb of one of the best cities in the world- Chicago. Can you really think of a better place to teach?
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 11, 2011 at 01:41 PM
I am aware Harry is retiring, and I do know when he received his package...I have reviewed it. The media should review it too as it is outrageous what these superintendents get, even in good times.
Roseanne November 11, 2011 at 06:14 PM
It was enlightening to read Mark Stein's response to District 115 President Sharon Golan in GazeboNews on Nov. 10. There, Stein explains that the BOARD'S PROPOSALS will have an ADVERSE EFFECT on BOTH the DISTRICT'S FINANCES AND the EDUCATIONAL SERVICES it provides. This shoots down 3 of the 4 commitments Pres. Golan outlines, leaving only ONE COMMITMENT--THAT OF RESTORING THE BOARD'S BUDGET RESERVES. Why, in this economic climate, is the restoration of budget reserves a priority? Why were these reserves not built up when the economy was booming? After all, reserves are for emergency funds. What, beyond "business as usual" has been going on? Many continue to be outraged at the way the board has managed the taxpayers’ money.
Roger Billings November 11, 2011 at 07:34 PM
You are obviously a union shill, and probably don't pay taxes in the District. But, I will address a few things. The reserves were drained because they continued to give teachers huge raises (and keep them on the payroll) during a time when revenue fell off the cliff. To mitigate the impact on the classroom, they cut admin staff 26%, support staff 15%, and teaching staff only 8%. They also froze the pay of all non-union staff. If you read what the Board has done, you will see that it is not "business as usual" at all, and the teachers can no longer pretend it is. The reserves need to be restored because we are in a terrible economic climate and will be for years. We cannot continue to drain them to pay huge and ever-growing teacher salaries.
Roseanne November 11, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Your suggestion that anyone who pays taxes in the district is automatically opposed to the fair compensation of its teachers is erroneous.Your assumption that I am a “union shill,” and, by implication, that only a “union shill” is able to see the teachers’ perspective, suggests that you are incapable of even imagining how one might see beyond oneself. How do you know that our terrible economic climate will last for years? No one knows that. It is not clear why the Board is refusing the one year contract Stein refers to, unless they see a four-year contract as a way to easily restore reserves. A one-year contract would allow both parties to re-examine the financial situation in the future. A four-year contract, on the other hand, may build the reserves at the expense of the current and future teachers. Certainly, you can’t argue that this is a fair way of replenishing reserves that were depleted in the past. This is not only about the current teachers, but also about the future teachers who will accept contracts in our district. What kind of teacher might a current pre-schooler expect to see once she gets to high school? Not everyone in the district has the money to send their children to a private school, nor can many save up for that potential necessity. Many already have enough financial woes as it is.
Roseanne November 11, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Furthermore, the reserves could not have all gone to teacher salaries. If they did, then you are simply saying that we can not and never could afford to pay our teachers a competitive salary. District 115 teachers only had competitive salaries for 5 years. During those five years many with young children moved to the district because of its great educational programs and high-performing students, expecting to have the same one day. It’s not fair to deprive future generations of the opportunities a few in this district enjoyed at the expense of all taxpayers. Finally, it seems that the teachers’ union is being quite conservative regarding the projections of the CPI and taking that into account in their proposal. If you look at the impasse logically, and if you put it into a larger perspective, I think the teachers’ proposal makes perfect sense. It is a way to resolve the impasse rationally, responsibly, fairly, and conservatively for ALL PARTIES.
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 16, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Yes Roger, i am aware he is retiring, praise the Lord. He is WAY overpaid!
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 16, 2011 at 03:29 AM
Shame, Shame, Shame on the board for giving him such outrageous contracts.
LFFamilyof5 November 19, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Compare LF teachers pay with the average airline pilot.. "An airline pilot just starting out can expect to earn between approximately $25,000 and $75,000 during his/her first year on the job. Commercial airline pilots with more than five years on the job may earn up to approximately $86,000 per year. Those with more than 20 years' experience can command salaries between approximately $108,000 and $180,000 per year, as of October 2010". Read more: Average Commercial Airline Pilot Salary | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_7446509_average-commercial-airline-pilot-salary.html#ixzz1eALqIFJ1 And administrator compensation is equally out of step with reality. It's hard to feel the injustice our teachers (and administrators) feel regarding fair pay. School Board: Enough is enough.
Me September 04, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Please, oh please go on strike. Only then with the depth of the union's greed be exposed for all to see.

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