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District 112 Teachers Declare a Strike

After hours of negotiations on Monday proved unsuccessful, Highland Park's middle and elementary school teachers' union declared a strike. All District 112 schools will be closed Tuesday.

Update 10/16/12 at 9:47 a.m.: District 112 School Board President Bruce Hyman has issued the following statement:

While the board is disappointed that our teachers are on strike, today is a new day and a new opportunity to make progress. Another negotiating session is scheduled for noon, and the board negotiating team is looking forward to focusing its energies at the bargaining table and receiving a counteroffer from the union.

More than 400 of our students will be attending activity centers at three of our schools while the strike is in effect. There has been an outpouring of support from other government agencies and nonprofit organizations who are offering an array of free or low-programming for our children. This includes the Park District of Highland Park, the City of Highland Park, the Highland Park Library, Family Service, Family Network, Nova, the Bernard Weinger JCC, the Chicago Botanic Gardens and other agencies.  On our website, we have posted a comprehensive list of online educational resources broken down by grade level.

We thank our community for coming together to provide support for our children, and we thank our families for their patience as we work to arrive at a settlement that is fair to teachers and allows us to remain financially stable so we may continue to provide an outstanding education to all our children.

Update 10/16/12 at 7:42 a.m.: In addition to declaring a strike, the North Shore Education Association (NSEA) has filed unfair labor practice charges with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Monday, according to UniServ Director Mark Stein.

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“The Board of Education of North Shore School District 112 has bargained in bad faith by refusing to provide information that the NSEA has requested,” reads a statement sent out by Stein, “and by continually making false statements concerning the proposals that the NSEA has made in bargaining with the School District.”

The statement adds that the school district will cut off insurance to teachers during the strike.

NSEA President Pamela Kramer explained in a statement that the teachers’ union began Monday’s bargaining session “in an optimistic frame of mind.” However, the current contract offered by the school board “would cause the NSSD112 teachers’ highest salary to fall behind 18 other Lake County districts,” according to Kramer.

“The Board will claim that the NSEA did not make significant movement,” Kramer said in her statement. “The NSEA, however, told the Board that they would remain in the building until midnight in case the Board wanted to make an offer that might be ratified by the NSEA membership.”

District 112 Superintendent David Behlow explained in an email sent early Tuesday that “the Board negotiating team entered the mediation session this evening fully dedicated to the negotiations process.”

The board delivered a proposal that remains “faithful to the board’s pledge to deliver a balanced budget,” according to the statement. The union rejected the offer, and then asked the board to counter its own proposal before midnight “or face a strike.” School Board President Bruce Hyman made an in-person request to the NSEA to postpone the strike during a bargaining session that was otherwise conducted via a federally appointed mediator.

The board remains optimistic about continuing negotiations, according to Behlow.

“Board members still believe that it is possible to arrive at a fair settlement that will allow the District to live within its means, while at the same time providing its employees with competitive compensation, meaningful professional growth opportunities, and an excellent teaching and learning environment.”

The next mediation session is scheduled for Tuesday at noon.

Update 10/16/12 at 12:43 a.m.:

The District 112 teachers union has declared a strike.

District 112 schools will be closed Tuesday. Click here to read about the contigency programs the district and other community organizations and governing bodies will offer, according to a letter from District 112 Superintendent David Behlow.

See the full letter from Superintendent below.

The Board negotiating team entered the mediation session this evening fully dedicated to the negotiations process. The Board presented the Union with an improved proposal that showed substantial movement. The Board offered to pay professional growth for teachers who complete graduate coursework at an annual recurring cost of $225,000 and to pay insurance for part-time teachers on a pro-rated basis. These proposals remain faithful to the Board’s pledge to deliver a balanced budget. The Board also offered to address the Union’s concern about the duration of the contract by eliminating the third year.

The Union responded to the Board’s proposals without offering any meaningful movement, and then demanded that the Board counter its own proposal before midnight or face a strike. Please refer to the updated chart that covers each of the key economic issues, including the proposals from the most recent session on October 15.

Although the Board President made an in-person request to the Union to postpone the strike and continue negotiations, the Union’s midnight ultimatum was conveyed to the Board not face-to-face but through the federal mediator.

The Board remains committed to continuing negotiations. Board members still believe that it is possible to arrive at a fair settlement that will allow the District to live within its means, while at the same time providing its employees with competitive compensation, meaningful professional growth opportunities, and an excellent teaching and learning environment.

In the early hours of October 16, the Union declared a strike. All school buildings will be closed on Tuesday with the exception of the Green Bay Early Childhood Center, Oak Terrace Elementary School, and Northwood Junior High School. These three buildings will serve as activity centers for children whose families pre-registered last week. Please refer to the District’s strike contingency plans on the Strike Planning Page on the District website for more information.

The next mediation session is schedule for Tuesday, October 16 at 12:00pm.

Earlier: Park's elementary and middle school teachers rallied on Monday afternoon before the District 112 School Board and teachers' union met for another bargaining session.

District 112 Contract Negotiations: The Story So Far

If the bargaining session does not end in a settlement, a teachers' strike could begin Tuesday.

"I was hoping we didn't get to this point," said Nydia Burgo, a bilingual pre-kindergarten teacher from Green Bay School.

The union represents District 112's roughly 450 teachers, all of whom have been working without a contract since August.

In a letter to community members, District 112 School Board President Bruce Hyman asked the union to withdraw its strike threat. The district has collaborated with the city's park district and other community organizations to offer contingency plan services to the district's 4,600 students in case a strike occurs.

"We hope the board can come and have some reasonable offers and we can settle tonight," said Sherwood School fifth grade teacher Jill Hancock. "We all want to go back to school tomorrow."

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Teacher October 17, 2012 at 06:04 AM
You bring up interesting points. Many of these ideas, including performance evaluation and merit pay, are not currently being negotiated by either side. I agree that these are areas to explore as we continue to strive for excellence in education. My argument was that the new contract provides a substantial disincentive to continue higher education. It would take me 8 years to pay off the $12,000 degree program in which I am enrolled to earn my reading specialist certificate.. (This is an extremely affordable program; equivalent programs at top-tier universities like DePaul cost closer to $29,000.) I cannot afford the upfront investment to continue my courses. Like the district, I have to make difficult decisions to keep my family’s budget balanced. Given my district experience and that I hold a Master’s Degree, I have an advantage in recouping educational investments compared to a starting teacher. Our newer teachers starting at a lower base salary will need to invest significantly more years of service to repay their tuitions. They will have the least incentive and most limited ability to continue their education. I worry that this will affect the quality of incoming teachers, as those motivated to continue in higher education will be encouraged to look to neighboring districts.
Lou October 17, 2012 at 10:05 AM
STRIKE IS OVER, YOU READ IT FIRST ON THE PATCH
Lou October 17, 2012 at 10:06 AM
SCHOOL IN SESSION WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, TODAY
Walter White October 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Gee, I guess strikes do work. Guess the ultra conservatives will have to wait a while to implement their union busting ideas.
Jerry Hopkins October 17, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I'll admit that I never was too much in favor of unions. This little experience has shown me the importance of the union (at least for schools). I see the cons as well, however, the pros (protecting the teachers from the 112BOE and the Greenies of the world) certainly outweigh them at this point. Hope the deal makes everyone happy (or at least not terribly unhappy).

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