Poll: Should LFHS Teachers’ Pay Rival Neighbors

Lake Forest High School teachers currently earn an annual average salary comparable to Deerfield and Highland Park and slightly more than New Trier, Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South and Stevenson.

Within hours of a declaration of impasse by the Lake Forest Education Association teachers union of Friday, Patch readers were quick to offer their opinion about the state of the .

Though a number of the comments claimed the teachers are well paid and asking for too great an increase, Caryllon Huggins, asked a question which this story will answer. Patch’s latest poll also asks whether Lake Forest teachers should remain at the top of the North Shore pay scale.

“Could someone write about what the rest of the comparable high schools on North Shore have as contracts so this is put in perspective,” Huggins asks.

According to a review of average teacher salaries based on the school report cards in 2011—the most recent data available—issued by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and published on the organization’s website, Lake Forest has the highest paid teachers on the North Shore edging out Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools by $421 a year.

The average annual teacher salary at Lake Forest High School is $106,457 while educators at Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools earn an average of $106,036 per year, according to the information on the website.

Behind Lake Forest, Highland Park and Deerfield are New Trier Township High School ($103,670), Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South High Schools ($100,401) and Stevenson High School ($97,531), according to the ISBE website.

Among those schools, Highland Park and Deerfield teachers are not represented by a union while the others are members of the Illinois Education Association, according to IEA official Mark Stein.

One reason Lake Forest has a high average teacher salary is because of teacher seniority and the number of educators nearing retirement, according to Head LFEA negotiator Thomas Gigiano. More than 25 percent of the teachers will retire in the next five years lowering the average.

“Lake Forest High School Ranks 20th (in the state) in pay for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and 18th for teachers with a master’s degree,” Gigiano said. “A comparison between area high schools does not accurately portray the districts competitiveness for future hiring.”

Gigiano bases his calculations on information from the ISBE reported in the Chicago Sun Times last week.

Another reader, writing under the name “against unions” used the comment section of Patch to list the salaries of many of the Lake Forest High School teachers, which is public information available to all.

“Hey teachers, spend less time worrying about how much money the other school districts are getting and more about keeping your town above water. You’re lucky to have jobs and you want to strike for more money in this close to a depression economic crash,” the person writes. “Shame on you.”

A different reader writing under the name “propaganda,” takes a different view. “The salaries posted are not accurate,” propaganda writes. “The teachers pay nine percent of the posted salaries for pension so they don't get the amounts you posted. And with pension reform that will be increasing to closer to 13 percent.”

Please take the time to respond to the poll beneath this story. Voting remains open until 5 p.m. Thursday. The results will be published Friday.

For more news and updates from Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch, subscribe to our daily e-newsletter, ”Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

LB August 14, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Last year the teachers took a pay freeze. That doesn't seem greedy to me. I look forward to getting the real story when the 2 offers are made public. Maybe I am cynical but I don't believe any politicians these days, especially school board members. However, I do believe in the strength of the education my kids have received here. That isn't possible without the teachers. Steve Sadin, I would also like to see a comparison of pay scales. Average pay tells little except that we have older teachers.
Me August 14, 2012 at 03:45 PM
@LB - I also had a pay freeze last year and the year before that. My neighbor across the street has been struggling to keep his business afloat, my neighbor just down the street has been out of work for over a year, another neighbor down the street just landed a job after two years and depleting his life savings. None of these people sound too greedy either.
Roger Billings August 14, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Our School Board members are not politicians. They are unpaid volunteer members of our community.
LB August 14, 2012 at 05:28 PM
They are unpaid but they most certainly are politicians.
Me August 14, 2012 at 05:38 PM
And not very good politicians. Just look at the contracts that they gave to Harry Griffith and his successor. They have no control over a very small school district.
Nancy H August 14, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I'd be happy to support paying excellent teachers top dollar even in this bad economy and in spite of the perks of working in the public sector vs. what most of us experience in the private sector. But the one perk I can't swallow is the tenure system that protects and even rewards incompetent, lazy and sometimes outright mean teachers. It is frustrating to discover that everyone knows who they are and there isn't a thing anyone can do about it. To add insult to injury, too often these bad apples are raking in the six-figure salaries while many of the truly amazing teachers earn far less. How about a contract that generously rewards individual excellence but lets us weed out the poor performers?
Jeff August 14, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Our property values are also inversely related to the tax bills caused by over funding schools. Property values are high in LF because it's a good, safe community and has nice homes. My family recently moved to Lake Forest and one of the deciding factors was that it offers very good schools at a reasonable cost. Have you seen the taxation disaster over in the Stevenson school district? For comparison, my entire LF property tax bill wouldn't even cover the school district portion of the taxes on a comparably priced home in Stevenson. We NEVER considered moving there for just this reason. High taxes are as much a burden on property values as debatable "best school" rankings are a benefit.
Joe August 14, 2012 at 08:58 PM
LF Teachers compensation (salary and benefits such as health insurance) should be competitive with other high achieving districts. This does not equate to being the top paying district. If the district is losing teachers to other districts due to compensation that would be of concern. But nothing I have heard would indicate that is the case or that the district has any trouble recruiting new teachers.
Me August 14, 2012 at 09:11 PM
There is something known as the "Lake Wobegon Effect". This is where everyone strives to be highest (or at least above average). The result is a mutually destructive arms race. Always striving to be the highest paying district is doing nothing more than continually raising the pay bar to unsustainable levels. Fair pay rates are just that, fair. If the pay that is offered s not fair then the teachers are encouraged to find a district where the pay is more fair. We don't want to keep them here if they are not happy. However, if the choose to leave, I am certain that there are any number of highly qualified candidates who would seek their jobs.
Roger Billings August 14, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Feeling a wee bit petulant those naughty Board members wouldn't let you union members take another huge bite of flesh out of the taxpayers? You would probably call them statesmen if they gave in to your obscene demands.
reallysad August 15, 2012 at 03:03 PM
@Joe, two veteran teachers who where both percevied as excellent by students and parents have left the school this year. One took a job at Highland Park after teaching at LF for a good twenty years. Its only the beginning. And most of you need not worry as there will be a mass exit of teachers in 2014 due to retirements. Then a large number of veteran teachers will be replaced with low salaried new teachers. So the next time you publish average stats in terms of pay Lake Forest will look under paid. I wonder what the montra will be then? Hopefully I won't be hear to listen to it. Why continue to work night and day supporting students and parents and trying to be the best you can while the community spends time degrading you by talking about how worthless, greedy, and lazy you are.
Nancy H August 15, 2012 at 07:08 PM
@reallysad, This really is sad. I hope you don't mean what you seem to say. Our community is extraordinarily supportive of our schools and teachers. Parents have contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time and many have contributed generously to the APT and Foundations, which in turn support teachers by doing everything from satisfying teachers' grant wish lists to helping out in the library to providing dinners on conference nights, and on and on. And we do that happily because we care. But why can't the union understand how much we are hurting out here? Our home values and savings are plummeting. Those with kids heading to college can't sleep at night because of skyrocketing tuition-stuck in the middle we have zero hope of financial aid. On top of that, few of us have the type of job security that tenure provides. Did you see how 700 local Motorola jobs just evaporated in a blink of an eye? In this environment, many would be thrilled to have tenure plus a 3% pay increase! Yet, when we support the push back on the union's demand for more, we learn that we are degrading you! That is completely unfair. Sorry, but looking at it from this end, the union IS greedy. And, feeling angry about this, it does cause me as a parent to focus on the handful of teachers that my kids have had recently who really were lazy and truly awful (and sorry to say, all but one was a "veteran" teacher). Unfair to the majority who are really good, perhaps, but what do you expect?
Me August 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM
@sad - You seem to be putting words in our mouths. No one called you worthless and lazy. We have gone to great pains to express how much many of us appreciate many of you. However, just as there are a few mouthy taxpayers who choose to unfairly denigrate you, there are some bad egg teachers who need to be drummed out. I am with Nancy on the greedy part. Or perhaps, out of touch with reality is another way of putting it. When you are already among the highest paid in the state if not the country, a demand for automatic raises that are well above the inflation rate is going to fall on deaf ears. In the private sector, once you are near the top of your pay range, raises are almost always linked to performance and nothing is automatic. We do love our schools that is one of the reasons we live here. However we also are appalled by the greed of the system from administration down through the teaching ranks. We are not saying that you should be the lowest paid teachers and that you should be thankful that we allow you the honor of teaching our kids. We are saying that your salary increases and pension plans are rapidly outstripping our ability to fund the system. We do want our teachers to be happy and that is why we give and we do. If you don't want to be hear (sic.) to listen to it I do suggest that you seek employment elsewhere. Perhaps a foray into the private sector would be an eye opener for you.
Ted August 17, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I am very tired of our teachers demanding much more than they are worth. If you are unhappy, please find work elsewhere. I am also tired of the teachers pretending they are the Lake Forest Education Association. This sounds cute. They are really part of a very self serving union. Lake Forest teachers are represented by their union, the SEIU, one of the most hard-ball bully unions, but try to hide that fact by calling themselves the LFEA!
Interested August 18, 2012 at 01:30 AM
concerned citizen August 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM
research pay here: http://www.isbe.net/research/htmls/salary_report.htm
Local resident August 19, 2012 at 10:38 PM
We have three kids - two of which have gone through the Lake Forest school systems and one that is in a local private high school. We have both volunteered hundreds of hours and have been low-maintenance parents. While it is true that we have had good teachers over the years - we have also had the ones that were worthless. The tenure PLUS union protection programs are not of benefit to those good teachers. Frankly, if I were a strong teacher, the last thing I would want to be a part of is a system that protects lousy colleagues. Until we have a system that is a pay for performance one that is routine in the private sector - I really can't support these high wages. I realize that the top performers are worth their weight in gold - but the bad teachers (and there are many!) are a problem for everyone.
Another Point August 20, 2012 at 04:24 AM
I am a resident of Lake Forest, a parent, and a former teacher. Perhaps you are asking the wrong question. Instead let us consider: Do LFHS students receive a higher quality of education than neighboring schools, due to the abilities of our teachers? Unfortunately, no they do not. It's time to put our students foremost in this conversation. Unions bargain for their members equally; this alone is a conflict of interest if the best quality education for our children is in question. Try to fire a tenured teacher who verbally abuses, bullies, or does not perform her/his duties. It just won't happen. Who is paying the price then? I am against the idea of automatic pay increases based on continuing education and tenure. It's a ridiculous premise for a raise. Don't be fooled into believing that our current teachers are the only qualified individuals with the ability to teach bright eager teenagers, the majority of whom care about their educations; not to mention that their well educated parents would do anything to help them achieve. Intelligent, enthusiastic, and collaborative educators who care about classroom effectiveness will not be difficult to hire if merit pay linked to performance replaced the current model. Perhaps District 115 should welcome a strike while working on recruiting and retaining top teachers who choose not to compromise the profession and the education of our children by paying dues for protection.
Nancy J. Thorner August 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM
I think the teachers are asking too much. 5 teachers are retiring next year and they cite to relatively low starting pay, but the fact remains that 80% of them are getting paid over $90,000 per year with a benefits package that is worth at least $40,000. and they work part time. The fact that teacher's pay will only comprise 25% of the expenses is a good start; however, that just shows the taxpayers that we need to trim administration positions and expenses. Bottom line: take a strike.
Nancy H August 20, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I can't agree more with what Another Point said. Each of my kids has been bullied by a teacher in recent years and it turns out that the contract is written in such a way that there is zero that can be done to remove a bad apple from the classroom or to even discipline them. They pretty much have to commit a felony to be ousted! Verbal abuse and blatant failure to teach isn't enough. And to make matters worse, since there is nothing that can be done, most parents soon learn to stay silent because if you file a complaint your kid is likely to suffer retaliation from not only the teacher but the teacher's department head and in some cases sympathetic colleagues. How sad is it to have to advise your kid to keep their head down and take it? Truly, I would be happy to pay teachers more if at the same time we get a contract that allows us to clean house and that rewards excellence vs. time served.
Me August 20, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Lets call their bluff. I think that the taxpayers would welcome a strike. Lets hope that the School Board will develop some backbone when none has existed in the past.
Joe August 20, 2012 at 02:38 PM
What is the District doing to prepare for a strike? Are they recruiting replacements? There is a lot of talent that would love to teach in LF and would find the compensation and FREE HMO health insurance very attractive..
Gary August 20, 2012 at 09:18 PM
I'll help out for free. I'll work two hours each morning, teaching economics and "social studies". Don't worry about class size. Give me the gymnasium and put the whole school in there. I'll sign up to meet any reasonable performance criteria the community can come up with. Call my bluff.
ScoutAlum August 21, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Not ALL teachers work ALL summer. I would guess it's the minority, not the majority. And those who do work, if they are working on curriculum or teacher development for the district, I'm pretty sure they are getting additional pay for it. The union won't allow a teacher to do something without compensation.
laughingoutloud August 21, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Im sorry I really don't mean to be rude but I can not help but laugh after reading Gary's comment. This is obviously a man who knows nothing about dealing with teenagers or teaching. I say call his bluff! But make sure you video record it for real time tv. Yea, and he is going to keep a gym full of teenagers actively engaged and attentive to his lessons on econmics and social studies. I am sure that everyone will be sitting attentively in their seats and cooperating with him just because he knows everything. Don't forget to write the hundreds of letters of rec while you are at it and grade the hundreds of papers that you will assign. Not to mention deal with the parents when they complain what a terrible teacher you are because you can't handle the hundreds of students you are working with who find you to be boring and mean since you can't control the large group. Please, you only show how clueless you are when you make comments like that. I'm amused by the ignorance. Doesn't mean I am in favor or not in favor of pay increases and what is being discussed. I just think if people want their opinion to be respected they need to stay focused on reality! Otherwise those reading this will write off what is being said as nuts.
Ted August 27, 2012 at 10:36 PM
3prop..., You are so right! A large number of teachers are going to retire soon at age 55 or younger and receive an awesome defined benefit pension. It is amazing you can retire at such a young age and receive such a large pension for so many years--in many cases a large pension for more years than you worked. The taxpayers have to pay this benefit and our state is broke. Springfield is now trying to figure out how to shift this burden back to the community or declare bankruptcy and void it altogether. What a mess!
Ted August 27, 2012 at 10:44 PM
You forgot to mention that he retired, locked in a great pension, and is now collecting a second salary with many more working years ahead to build a second pension on the state taxpayer backs.
Ted August 27, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Hey Laughingoutloud, A study from the Dept of Education just came out that found class size is not the holy grail that it has been pushed as. It's main purpose has been to create more teacher positions. Further you write hundreds of letters of rec? On average, LFHS graduates about 425 seniors per year--you are implying that you write letters of rec for over half the student body--too funny! I suggest you create a template and reuse as is fitting. Also, I have found that LFHS students are highly motivated and would do well in an auditorium type setting as they will face in many classes during their first two years of college if they attend a large university such as U of I. Finally, try not to belittle other posters--it only shows your weakness!
strapped taxpayer September 16, 2012 at 09:59 PM
There also is no such thing in the real world as free health care, dental care, sick sick days and personal days plus free paid vacations. If you get any of these you have to earn them. it is usually at the rate of one every so many months. No on is handed 13 free sick days plus 10 free personaldays plus paid vacation as in the education field. Plus the teachers do not contribute a penny to social security as they are exempt! Not to mention they contribute very little to their giant retirement funds. In the real world no one but the employee contributes to it, with a very small exception. Also in the real world we pay for our own education whereas teachers get free college courses. It is shameful considering mnay of us cannot send our children, the students to college in this economy. Yet here are adults grabbing the college money from children and going for free. They ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. They are asking for things the private sector has not seen in decades if ever. Their greed has no boundaries.
strapped taxpayer September 16, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Funny, many I know have 2nd jobs teaching at CLC and online so they get 2 retirement packages! Guess they are really busy, yeah right!


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