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LFHS Teacher Talks: Perception of Resources Divides Sides

Teachers maintain the money is available to meet their request while the Board claims there is not enough. No one disputes educators’ value to community.

Varying interpretations of the resources available to the  has put the school on the brink of a strike by the Lake Forest Education Association teachers’ union.

As a result of the , both sides were required to disclose their final offers to each other for public viewing. Those documents are available for viewing on the Illinois Labor Relations Board website.

The parties continued to negotiate but after the most recent session failed to produce an agreement Thursday, the teachers issued a Notice of Intent to Strike setting the stage for a walk out at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 12.

The District indicated Friday it had a strike plan but Board President Sharon Golan was not ready to disclose details when questioned by Patch Sunday. Whether or not the students would be in school during a strike is an issue being considered.

“We do have a strike plan,” Golan said. “As part of our discussions we have discussed what is the safest place for the students to be.” More will be revealed in the days to come. Both sides have indicated a willingness to continue talking.

At this point, the teachers believe their demands can be met without a tax increase while the District maintains an average positive fund balance in excess of 40 percent through the life of the contract, according to union spokesperson Chuck Gress.

Part of the reason for Gress’s optimism is the fact approximately 25 per cent of the current teaching staff will retire within five years. Those educators are at the top end of the pay scale.

“The School Board will hire new teachers at the entry level,” Gress said. “They are much less expensive teachers.” The base salary for a starting teacher is approximately half the pay for an educator at the top of the scale, according to numbers provided by Gress.

Board Disagrees With Union Economic Analysis

Golan disagrees with the teachers’ economic analysis. She indicated the Board has set a goal of a 10 percent positive fund balance as it digs itself out of a hole created when it attempted to maintain the school’s quality in difficult times.

“We made a conscious decision to spend down our reserves in hopes of things getting better until we could get back on an even keel,” Golan said. “It did not have a negative impact on the children.”

A rebuilding of cash reserves is one of the reasons Golan believes the Board must be more frugal today. “We were coming off a rich contract that was well deserved,” she said. She thinks the teachers are just as deserving but the economic reality has changed.

Like Golan, Gress places the students’ education ahead of all else and wants to see Lake Forest High School maintain the standards that have made it one of the North Shore’s premier high schools. He believes salaries competitive with schools like New Trier, Highland Park, Deerfield, the Glenbrooks and Stevenson are essential.

“We need to attract and keep quality teachers at our school to educate our school to educate our students in the manner our parents want them educated,” Gress said. “The Board’s offer would make (Lake Forest) a tier two school.”

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Me August 27, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Just because the money is there does not mean it should be spent!!!! It is foolish to think that you should increase the salary of the remaining staff so that you can absorb the headroom created by retiring teachers. That money belongs to the taxpayers and not to the teachers union or to the School Board. If the School Board gives an inch on this one there will be a blood letting via the ballot box. No current member of the Board will be re-elected and you will be a disgrace in your community. In addition, by not getting replacement teachers in place and by even mentioning that the students may not start as scheduled, the Board is showing weakness. The teachers union is a hardball playing organization being coached by the toughest union advisors in the country.
Bob August 27, 2012 at 12:07 PM
It should not be a matter of resources! The school can not afford to pay more and the teachers do not deserve more. It is that simple. This is the wrong time.
Joe August 27, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Bob's correct. The district does not have to pay more than they currently are offering to attract and retain staff. Turnover is extremely low. When there are openings hundreds of qualified applications are received. The union will say otherwise but the facts are the facts. The board should lock the union out. Maybe a few days without pay and benefits will bring them to their senses.
Nancy H August 27, 2012 at 12:41 PM
The union claims we can afford this because 25% of the teachers, those at the top of the pay scale, will retire within 5 years. That is an irresponsible assumption. Pension reform could very likely raise the retirement age significantly (there is a proposal now to raise the age from 55 to 67). Who knows what will happen over 5 years? The more the union talks, the more they demonstrate that this whole fight is about boosting final pay and hence, pensions. It isn't about attracting and retaining quality teachers, or even about helping newer teachers who should be paid more if they are talented and energetic. We should throw out the union and revamp that pay scale that simply rewards longevity without regard to performance.
LouLou August 27, 2012 at 01:47 PM
There is one item which no one has discussed, which is somewhat concerning to me. If House Speaker Mike Madigan gets his way with the "pension shift," Lake Forest and LAke Bluff taxpayers will realize an increased tax burden, whereby we will need to pick up the cost of additional pension dollars which Madigan wants to "shift" from the state budget back to the local school board tax paying bodies. I have seen noone, neither the board nor local blogs, papers, etc., address this very expensive possibility or how it might effect the bottom line for taxpayers in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. How would this/has it figured into the calculations for the proposed "deals" from both the school board and teacher's union? It seems to me that the board's current proposal is quite generous.
Albert Boese August 27, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Sadly, the teachers appear to live in a universe that is not connected with the world of reality. Compensation is not a function of how much money is available, pay level is a market, competency, contribution and accountability driven process. It is a silly and naïve notion that pay levels are arrived at by resource availability. If that were the case, some districts would be paying 50% of current compensation. It is also a fact that the resources come not from the customers as in a commercial enterprise, but from all the taxpayers in a taxing district. In the world of reality, the taxpayers are suffering from over taxation fatigue and are maxed out, literally and figuratively. Teachers, your case has been heard and rejected. Now it is time to stop the game of chicken with our children and take the generous offer and get on with your job of educating the students. Otherwise, step aside and allow the replacement teachers to gladly take your position. Al Boese Lake Bluff, IL
Me August 27, 2012 at 04:28 PM
If the cost of these bloated pensions are actually passed along to the school districts, it will reel in the out of control pay packages in a hurry. In fact, it will probably bankrupt a large number of communities. In the ones that don't go bankrupt, you will see a renegotiation of the pensions. Welcome to the real world. In the real world, we have a 401k and not a pension. In the real world, your employer contributes a fraction of what the employee does. In the real world, employers can unilaterally reduce or discontinue their contributions. In the real world, there is no such thing as an automatic pay increase, there are only merit increases. In the real world, if the employee doesn't like it, they are free to seek other employment.
LouLou August 27, 2012 at 04:36 PM
This is precisely why I brought it up.
Joe August 27, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Our children can learn from this "teachable moment." 1. Select people with a solid grasp of reality to be your representatives-they won't embarrass you 2. If you are underappreciated/underpaid at work go elsewhere 3. No one should be granted a lifetime job after 4 years of experience. 4. Everyone is replaceable.
Gary August 27, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Ah... but what will they be taught?
Bill Colaianni August 28, 2012 at 12:56 AM
In addition to Joe's points: that resources are finite; that neither the taxpayer nor the universe owes them a living; and that being a teacher, fireman, policeman, or school administrator does not exempt one from marketplace realities. Unless, of course, the"responsible government authority" uses other peoples' money to buy themselves a bit of peace. A different lesson, to be sure, and one not yet learned by a majority of the voting population of Illinois.
David Greenberg August 28, 2012 at 02:59 AM
According to the ISBE there's about 60,000 certified teachers in the 'pipeline'. So the chances are good that if the teachers want to go on strike, that there will be quite a few qualified candidates available to replace them. Teachers should not be given raises en masse ("step" or "lane changes"), but rather considered for a raise IF they've met and exceeded their measuring metrics. Those metrics should be targeted to the class level and fair to all involved, but just like in the private sector, no raises should be guaranteed. There should be a pool of money made available, and all raises should come out of that pool until it's exhausted. Some might get raises, some might not even if they 'qualified' to be considered. Some might get more than others. And as salaries go up, the contribution by the District/Taxpayers for pensions/health care/benefits should go down. The contribution should approach and reach zero as the salary goes up - the reason for this is to recognize the fact that there's a social contract between the Public and the Teachers - teachers give up some earning power in exchange for pensions/benefits. So it follows that as their earnings go up, the pensions/benefits must naturally go down.
Me August 28, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Just ot be clear, the teachers union in Lake Forest is headed by Charles Gress. He knocks down a salary of just under $150k per year. When he retires, he will be receiving a six figure pension. Most would consider this to be a very generous compensation package for a high school teacher.
johnclark2 August 28, 2012 at 07:58 PM
He really should shut up about it, before we question wtf are we paying him that much
Lynette Paulson August 28, 2012 at 08:05 PM
These teachers all ride Barack Hussein Obamas tail. They (public employees and obama) are why our country is so messed up. Our country and town is headed down the wrong road if we dont hold firm on the contracts and vote obama out of office.
johnclark2 August 28, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I agree with you Lynette Paulson, and I think Mitt is the right man for the job
Lynette Paulson August 28, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Who wouldnt agree unless you have a brain the size of a pea but thats a different story. As a parent with a child at Lake Forest High School word is getting around that Matt Ferrari a great English teacher and spokesperson for the teachers union left Lf and went to Highland Park because he was outraged in the teachers greedyness. This man should be praised as a hero in this town. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers as he embarks on a new journey from standing up in what he believes in. Matt Ferrari is a true American Patriot who wants to preserve the great country of America unlike the other greedy slimy teachers.
Me August 28, 2012 at 09:05 PM
"Lynette" - You really aren't a very good troll. Way too obvious.
BigSpin August 28, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Nice spin Lynette. The truth is he left because he was tired of this. LOL. You obviously do not know Matt. Because if you did you would recall that last year he was attacked by somebody on here.
Lynette Paulsen August 29, 2012 at 02:25 PM
AGAIN! Please don't confuse me with this Lynette PaulsOn. I am Lynette PaulsEN and would never post such inflammatory political and social commentary. If you're not sure who's who, check your directories. I'm a District 65 mom.
Lynette Paulsen August 29, 2012 at 02:28 PM
This is not my post! I am Lynette PaulsEn - I've never posted comments on Patch until today where my sole objective is to alert any other viewers that these inflammatory comments are not mine. One letter difference in our names makes ALL the difference!
Nanbrank August 29, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Dear LFHS English Department, Obviously, LP was not educated at LFHS. Seriously, one of you should edit her rant in red pen!
Local resident August 30, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Coming from a family of educators, I almost always side with teachers; HOWEVER, the greediness exhibited reeks of the highest level of entitlement. I support the board in holding to their offer and not one penny more! Something not often showcased is that the LFHS teachers actually teach 20% less time than their counterparts in other surrounding communities. If they taught 5 periods (instead of 4) - we could reduce the ever-growing class sizes or perhaps not have to backfill one of the retiring teachers. In addition to the 20% less teaching expectations, many pull in an additional $75-100 per hour (tax-free) in tutoring "side jobs". Anyone that has been at LFHS knows that by 3:15 - it is a ghost town- and many of the staff are tutoring off-site. Do the math - if they tutor just six additional hours a week, they still have shorter work day than the average American worker and will pocket anywhere from $450-600 (cash) additional earnings per week. ITheir employment at LFHS allows them access to students that need tutoring - and families that are willing to pay for it. Add in the very generous salary adjustments for clubs, coaching, etc and I have faith the teachers will realize their "grass" is already pretty darn green. And that doesn't include the generous vacation time off for Spring Break, Winter Break and Summer. I'm actually surprised that more teachers haven't rebelled against the Union Leadership - they are certainly not acting in their best interests.
Not buying it September 07, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Truly the teachers at Lake Forest are not as good as they think they are. My child has moved to another state to train for a sport and now attends a new high school. I have been swamped with emails from their staff. Emails from the school nurse, progress reports from teachers, daily happenings, information about parent nights. She is respected as an elite athlete, and does not have to take physical education. They might not have smart boards but the school has even adjusted her course schedule to suit her needs without any prompting, placing her in a different level class. I have had more positive conversations with the new school than all the years she attended LFHS. Surprisingly, her honors English class does not have a weekly "bring a book to read" friday, while the teacher leaves for most of the period. I have had some positive experiences at LFHS with my kids, but now that I have something to compare, they are not as good as they think they are. I also might mention her total book buy amount....zero...that's right. You don't buy books. What a concept at a public school.
s cee September 08, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Illinois is the teacher export state. If you check the state board of education there are many times more teachers than there are openings. Some times as much as 50 or more for every opening. Why not use some of these teachers, many who have advanced degrees who are willing to take less just to get into a job. Ronald Reagen did it with the airline strike and it changed history forever. There was never again an airline strike. It is time to break with tradition and mob run unions and run the school with principles of competition and free enterprise. This will insure the taxpayer gets the best teacher for their buck and their child the best education.
s cee September 08, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Guess where some of these go after work? They are teaching online classes and at the local; Jr. College and small college. That way they can get 2 pensions at taxpayer rexpense! Thats right they can retire and take a different job at a different district and be employed while earning a pension. Many have done this and it is on the taxpayer to spit up the money. Lets push to make it a law, public servants serve the public not the other way around.

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