Lake Forest High School Teachers Say District 115 Asking for "Pay Cut"

Pay freeze, larger contribution into health insurance, decrease retirement benefits add up to overall decrease.


Lake Forest High School teachers believe they have been asked to take what adds up to a "pay cut" after the Lake Forest Education Association, representing the teacher's union, and the District 115 Board of Education entered into negotiations when the contract expired June 30.

Lead negotiator Chuck Gress, a mathematics teacher for more than 20 years at the high school, claims the school board has 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.”

Gress spoke Thursday morning while more than 50 unionized teachers walked up and down in front of the school carrying signs that read 'Don't Cut Our Pay,' 'Fair Pay' and 'We've Earned a Fair and Equitable Contract,' against a backdrop of parents dropping off their kids before the first bell rang.

Fair Treatment

Gress led the picket line on a cold and blustery morning, and promised its return “tonight, tomorrow morning (Friday) and tomorrow after school, as well.”

“All we want is to be treated fairly,” Gress said of his fellow teachers, who he included in a “squeezed” middle class. “We understand the future is somewhat unclear, but let's negotiate a fair deal for the next couple of years, and let's see what happens.”

  • Earlier:

In a recent email sent from the board of education to parents of students and posted on its website, the board acknowledged a mediator has been brought in at the request of the teacher’s union after talks broke down over three main areas: salary, benefits, and professional development.

Economy Argument Has Two Sides

In a recent phone interview with Patch, District 115 Board of Education President Sharon Golan said the economic backdrop for the negotiations is different from when the last contract was negotiated in 2006.

“It was, really, a very different world prior to 2008,” she stressed. “We negotiated (then) a contract that was competitive with the other high-ranking school districts.”

Gress argued that wasn't the case when Deerfield High School, Highland Park High School and other neighboring high schools recently passed their teacher's contracts.

“Not one of these schools has had any reduction in their benefits, in terms of insurance and retirement,” he said. “We're not asking for the moon. We're looking for a fair settlement, and we just don't want to go backwards.”

In a May article by the Chicago Sun-Times, ranked second in Lake County for a teacher with a doctorate degree and just over 13 years of experience to earn a maximum of $101,648.28 annually. District 113, which includes Deerfield and Highland Park high schools, was ranked first with a contract that paid teachers with about the same years of experience $104,737.21 annually.

Pay for Performance

Pointing to the palm of his hand, which had written in ink the high school's cumulative ACT score of '26.8,' nearly six points higher than the state's average, Gress said taxpayers get what they pay for.

“In the past four years, our ACT scores have gone up,” he said. “And, we believe, that if you want performance, you have to pay for performance.”

“I think the people in our community, the people who live in these big homes behind [the high school], they understand that,” he added.

As for a strike in the near future, Golan doesn't expect one.

“I think anytime people hear the words ‘union’ and ‘negotiations,’ they jump to that word (strike), but it’s not expected at this point,” she said.

However, if a suitable teacher's contract isn't reached by Monday, when both parties meet next, Gress said it's a “possibility that we'll take a strike vote.”

“Quite frankly — here's a quote for you — I'm going to retire in two years,” he said. “This is one part of this job I will not miss.”

"To go through this emotional step, to get respect, to get fairness," he added, "this [has been] very hard on all of us."

  • Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch will continue to update this story.
Roseanne November 05, 2011 at 05:22 PM
I'm going to reiterate what I said on the other thread: we need to ask more questions of the board. I feel like I have a very vague idea of where and how money is spent and I do not think it is wise to hypothesize about whether or how money has been mismanaged. Once we have solid documentation of the finances, we will have a clearer idea of the situation we are in.
LF resident November 05, 2011 at 06:26 PM
There is a wealth of information on the high school website: www.lfhs.org and in the Q&A with the board president on this site.
LB November 05, 2011 at 06:40 PM
I too want the school board to clarify where OUR money has gone. It is my understanding that $2.7 million was lent to dist 67. Why, as a taxpayer in LB, should my money go to bail out LF? Why do the members cry poor-mouth and speak of financial responsibility when they all have brand new Mac laptops? Why was part of the construction paid for from the education fund? Why did they pay for new sprinklers from the education fund? Why did they pay for the turf at varsity field from the education fund instead of having boosters raise the money? Paying teachers is what our tax dollars are supposed to fund! I want my children to attend a school with top rate teachers! We can't attract top- notch teachers if we don't pay them. If surrounding districts pay their teachers better, THEY will get the best teachers and our property values will continue to go down!!! Why else would anyone live here, but to have the best schools, and therefore the best future for our children? If someone disagrees, there are plenty of places to move where education costs less. Joliet pays their teachers half what we do. North Chicago pays less. We have great teachers. I want them focused on education, not defending themselves!
BJ Tyler November 05, 2011 at 07:39 PM
I encourage everyone here to go to the following website and look up the salaries of their children's teachers. I did this, and found that over half of my child's teachers at LFHS earn salaries in excess $90,000 per year. Additionally, every single one of them enjoyed year over year increases. (This shouldn't be surprising since the average salary of a LF-CHSD 115 teacher is $101,648 - the 2nd highest in Illinois!) http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/5679128-418/illinois-teacher-and-administrator-salaries.html
LB November 05, 2011 at 09:06 PM
How much should they make? How much do you make? How much does it take to live here and feed your family? Or do you think they should't live here? Are they good enough to teach your kids but not good enough to be your neighbors?
BJ Tyler November 05, 2011 at 09:50 PM
LB: They should earn as much as the market offers. Unfortunately, the teacher's unions have seen to it that we no longer have any market or market forces for public teachers; the simplest being the ability to remove poor teachers and introduce merit based pay. When I reach into your pocket twice a year and force you to pay my salary and then have the nerve to picket in front of your kids, then I'll be more than happy to discuss how much I make. Until then, if any teacher feels underpaid, do what we in the private sector do, quit and find better employment! But then again, how would you do that? The last time i looked not a lot of companies were offering tenure and a 9 month work-year. Everyone is free to live anywhere they want. If a teacher, insurance agent, or waiter wants to live in Lake Forest, more power to them. But, don't expect me to leave a 50% tip or buy extra insurance just so you can live here.
LF taxpayer November 05, 2011 at 11:52 PM
If you look at your tax bill, D 67, elementary schools in LF levy higher than LFHS, D115. In 2010. D67 's levy and tax bite went up, while D115 went down. Secondary schools pay a higher wage to faculty than elementary districts for the most part. If you want to get rid of TENURE, go to Springfield and lobby, its a state law, not a local decision. Market forces for the faculty at LFHS include the surrounding communities on the North Shore. This is who they and the schools are compared too, not state averages. Most people move to LF/LB for the great schools and lovely community, and are willing to pay for both. Otherwise people would move to other NS communities, and our property values would / will go down even more than they have.
BJ Tyler November 06, 2011 at 02:59 AM
Average salary for CSD 67 is $63,949 ... this is significantly lower than the $101,648 paid to CHSD 115 teachers. Yes, tenure is law...but it is only law because the teacher's union has effectively extorted it from our government. An example of this was when California introduced prop 74 to increase the time until tenure from 2 to 5 years; the California Teachers Association promptly increased union dues by $60 and raised over $50 million to successfully fight it. So, I'll pass on your suggestion to go to Springfield. I moved to LF for many reasons, and good schools was one of them. And you are correct that I don't mind paying to ensure consistently high levels of community service. However, when I have to pay for my child's text books, sports programs, and bus service, while paying over 30k per year in property taxes, and at the same time I have to hear about $100k teachers kicking and screaming about a pay freeze and health care contributions in the midst of a global recession that has left over 14 million Americans "officially" unemployed and 45 million on food stamps, I think I have a right to object.
Roseanne November 06, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Those same teachers you are hearing about also have families, bills, sports' expenses, and property taxes. They are in the same recession. They are not asking you to pay anything more out of your pocket. They are asking the Board not to CUT their pay, because, just like you, they have many, many payments and have budgeted their money based on their salaries. Suddenly, their salaries are being decreased. That is what they are "kicking and screaming" about. Your taxes will NOT GO UP. The Board is being asked to fund its teachers in good conscience. The money the teachers are asking for is there. We ought to give them our support in asking the Board to distribute it fairly.
BJ Tyler November 06, 2011 at 05:36 PM
"Your taxes will NOT GO UP" ... famous last words Roseanne, if I only had a dollar everytime I heard that one. Fiscal responsibility NEEDS TO APPLY TO EVERYONE!! NOBODY IS EXEMPT! NOT EVEN OUR PRECIOUS TEACHERS.
LF taxpayer November 06, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Well said Roseanne, we agree with you. Let's at base line keep the teachers where they are now. Taxes for school districts will not go up, as that can only happen with a vote of the community. Year to year levy can only go up to the tax cap or CPI whichever is lower. We think the Bd of Education should re-examine the superintendent's golden parachute" retirement package beginning next year, and reduce it to help the teachers remain at parity, or at least no lower than they are now. And does he need 2 golden retirement pensions, Illinois and Texas? Does the district need to buy him a car and pay for his gas?? Administrators who are retiring within 3 years are most likely getting bonuses, bump ups, etc so they retire at a higher pensions. Its whats done in Illinois. A new salary policy needs to be good throughout the system and thus for administration and support staff too.
Roseanne November 06, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Is that what a Board member told you when you called---that taxes will go up?? That's not what I was told. Furthermore, I looked into the health insurance question and LFHS teachers are currently paying about $4,000 more for PPO Blue Cross Blue Shield than they did last year. And that's a done deal. There's no turning back on that one. In other words, they are already taking cuts, just like everyone else. This, however, is about a bail out. How well did the last bail out work for you, BJ Tyler? Exactly. This is not us vs. the teachers, but us vs. corruption.
BJ Tyler November 06, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Roseanne, the reality is the following: 1) my property taxes have increased 30% over the past 5 years. 2) CHSD 115 teacher salaries have gone up by about the same amount over the exact same time period, however 3) My total compensation is down well over 50% over that same time period. When you consider the fact that almost everybody I know in LF who works in the Real Estate or Financial Services sector is in a similar boat, can you see why it's difficult not to view this as an us vs. them (teachers) debate? Yes, I want to end corruption in every form. And if corruption is what's truly behind our current budget situation, responsible parties need to be held accountable. However, by and large, teacher compensation comes from property taxes, and in the end mathematics dictates that any difference between what's being offered and what's being requested will come from those taxes. That either implies those taxes will go up or we will have to cut somewhere else. And if the answer is to cut somewhere else, great! Just show me the cuts first.
Roseanne November 06, 2011 at 07:47 PM
See LF taxpayer's last post: ON TAXES: "Taxes for school districts will not go up, as that can only happen with a vote of the community. Year to year levy can only go up to the tax cap or CPI whichever is lower." ON CUTTING COSTS: 1) "The Bd of Education should re-examine the superintendent's golden parachute" retirement package." 2) "Does he need 2 golden retirement pensions, Illinois and Texas?" 3) "Does the district need to buy him a car and pay for his gas??" 4) "A new salary policy needs to be good throughout the system . . . for administration and support staff too"
EK November 06, 2011 at 08:09 PM
This just illustrates the point that the teachers should be grateful they have such a high paying steady job. Indeed if it were not for tenure there would be more than a few that would be looking for work in today's market. Ask your children how many collages they make, how many naps they take in health to learn to "relax", how many inane projects they do for busy work. It shocks me! Moreover, if the teachers are to be accountable for the increase in the ACT scores, should they not also be accountable for the decrease and "not passing" the Prairie State exams? While I adore many of the teachers and truly feel for them, they have also become used to entitlements. They do not live in the real world. Tenure does not exist in the real world where firings and downsizings are common. While I applaud their degrees, how many others with MBS's , JD's, MD's and others with letters after their names, that took years more to accrue then a masters, are without work. The reality of today is even Lake Forest is hurting financially. It is a time to be thankful for what you have- a job. It is not a time to complain to your students and tell them how little you make when it is a matter of public record what you make.
EK November 06, 2011 at 08:25 PM
The board is asking teacher to share in the pain, the same way everyone else is. The teachers have to understand that the community is in a different place now that it was last contract. People here also have mortgages, foreclosures, outrageous insurance costs etc. We budget, plan and do without just like you, but there is a breaking point. To watch the picketing and hear from my children what is said at school is it. There is a point where as parents we say enough. Enough of the sense of entitlement which teacher seen to have. THe feeling that it is their right to have raises each year, not contribute more to their care, etc. Many in this district pay for their own insurance in FULL. Many have done without raises even though being asked to work more. I know MD's who make less than LFHS teachers and have more training and student loans. While we feel for teachers it is not the time or the economic environment to play the pity card seeing what is made by teachers of this district.
BJ Tyler November 07, 2011 at 03:54 AM
EK...couldn't agree with you more.
Me 2 November 07, 2011 at 07:01 PM
To EK; This isn't the real world, this is Lake Forest.
catgotyourtongue November 09, 2011 at 03:08 PM
UGH! Another deleted comment. When a teacher's priority has become obtaining a higher degree and therefore neglects the students at LFHS, there is a problem. During business hours, a teacher's business is to focus on the LFHS classroom, not their personal business. When students are not given equal opportunity (as compared to the same class taught by a different teacher) to learn the course material, there is a problem. When few assignments are actually given, and the teacher doesn't have the time to grade the assignment until the day before the semester ends, there is a problem. How are the students to grow from this type of experience? Is this the sign of a committed teacher? Obtaining a higher education is great, but should NOT be done at the expense of our students and taxpayers. Parents can't help but wonder how this continues to go on. Could anyone get away with this in the private sector? Parents have been asking about this for YEARS, and nothing seems to change... PLEASE, per the League of Women Voters article, ask the teacher (and administration) how they continue to get away with this...
mary ritter November 09, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Guess the on- target advice from the LWV of LFLB this morning re: how to blog respectfully and with civility has fallen on deaf ears. Having been a member of the Board of Education at LFHS for 10 years, the process if one has a personnel issue, is to make an appointment with the Principal to discuss it privately. And though I digress, in my experience, people get away with all sorts of things in the private sector.
ConcernedParent November 09, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I feel catgotyourtongue's comment IS respectful and civil. The reader made a comment, which is why blog spots exist. They are probably frustrated by the process of raising concerns at the HS. One voice doesn't do much alone, hence the "March on Wall street" by so many, and the rise of "social media". It has become an innovative way to advance an opinion without repercussion. I'm sure reporting problems to/about a teacher (face-to-face) wouldn't help the student's grade in the long run. Not many students or parents have the courage to speak up if they believe their student's opportunity in the classroom might be affected negatively because of it. I have personally urged my student to talk to their teachers if they have a problem or concern. Sometimes the outcome has been positive, and other times, not so positive. I taught my child to be respectful, but some teachers do not like to be questioned, and some find the "questioning" disrespectful. Blogging to get and give information helps to create change if/when needed. Thank God we no longer have to travel via horseback to get our message out. It is unfortunate that comments are deleted SELECTIVELY.
mary ritter November 09, 2011 at 08:07 PM
I was referring to the anonymous posts. I used to get anonymous letters when on the Board of Education, I would tear them up.
John Utah November 09, 2011 at 09:14 PM
With all due respect Ms. Ritter, if those letters were written professionally then I would assume most LF/LB parents do not mind that you are no longer on the BOE.
mary ritter November 09, 2011 at 09:29 PM
dear Mr Utah, Written professionally? You mean did they have punctuation and good grammar or were they on letterhead? They were anonymous diatribes, like some posts seen on this conversation.
Anonymous November 09, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Ms. Ritter, I respectively think that tearing up letters from the community doesn't seem very appropriate. When serving on a panel or board that controls policies pertaining to a community, I feel that it is necessary for the board members to have an open mind and consider what the community has to say. Letters sent to the Board of Education were most likely due to serious concerns, so perhaps these concerns should not have just been thrown away. I also think that parents in our community know the ramifications of voicing their opinion in a public forum or to other community members, especially teachers. As apparent through other posts on the Patch, many teachers are reading the comments and responding, so the last thing that a parent would want to do would be to post a comment that expresses disagreement toward a teacher if the teacher can clearly see the name of who is posting. It's hard to believe that a teacher wouldn't think any differently of a student if the student's parent debates with the teacher over a blog. Therefore, concealing your name is effective for voicing an opinion without having your student suffer any consequences. Furthermore, blogs such as the Patch are looking to get input from the community, and I'm sure many parents wouldn't post any comments if they had to disclose their name.
John Utah November 10, 2011 at 05:11 AM
I would hope "diatribes" and "differing opinions" would not mean the same to you, but given your recent posts I highly doubt that. Read Anonymous above, I think we speak for the majority.
mary ritter November 10, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Anonymous is anonymous.
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 10, 2011 at 01:53 PM
I agree with Roseanne. It is amazing what these superintendents talk the board of education into giving them. It is a competition among this fraternity of Superintendents to see who can talk the board into the most and then they discuss it at education conferences in Springfield. Someone needs to ask Harry why he needs so much money. Illinois is out of control with what it pays its superintendents. Why do you think so many retired superintendents move here--for the cold weather? It happens in every north shore district. They bump the Superintendents salary up the last few years of their career and find little tricky ways to increase their retirement. Are you going to take a serious pay cut Harry?
John Utah November 10, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Thanks for continuing to make our point....
Roger Billings November 10, 2011 at 04:54 PM
You go, Al. Don't let the facts get in your way.


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