Lake Forest Football Coach Crosses Picket Line

Chuck Spagnoli conducts football practice while union considers the activity crossing teachers’ picket line.

Most athletic teams did not practice on the first day of a teachers' strike. Some teams worked out. But only one coach crossed the union’s picket line to conduct practice.

That teacher was Head Football Coach Chuck Spagnoli, who met his players at the West Campus for practice in hopes the teachers will settle with the Lake Forest High School District 115 Board of Education in time to play Friday’s scheduled game against Lake Zurich.

Two Scouts confirmed Spagnoli conducted the practice. He also teaches in the health and wellness department. The players asked their names be withheld because of the sensitivity of the situation. When asked about his decision to coach, Spagnoli declined to comment.

"Any member of the bargaining unit (union) who enters a school or coaches a team on or off the West Campus is considered to have crossed a picket line," union spokesperson Chuck Gress said.

Football Parent Understands Coach’s Situation

One parent of a Scout football player said Spagnoli's actions are understandable and defensible. 

"(I am) 100 percent behind coach's actions," Hugh Williams, father of Lake Forest junior linebacker Trent Williams, said. "We are proud of what he's doing."

Williams said the issue is front and center with him and other parents, saying there was a flurry of texts and emails Wednesday. He added the Catch-22 scenario Spagnoli is swept up in — coaching his players against his union's wishes or staying home as his union would prefer — is one he does not envy.

"I know he's in a bad spot,” Williams said. “I'm sure he's getting a lot of grief. It has to be killing him. But for him not to show up and leave those kids stranded, he’s putting those kids in a bad place. It's a good lesson for the boys. He’s there for the kids, teaching them to be responsible and you don’t have to be a follower, be a leader."

Lake Forest Field Hockey coach Melanie Walsh, a testing coordinator at the school, conducted the team's practice session Wednesday as did girls’ tennis coach, Denise Murphy. Walsh and Murphy are not members of the bargaining unit and their actions are not considered crossing the picket line. 

Mixed Bag for Other Teams

The boys’ golf team was scheduled to play a match against Stevenson Wednesday which was cancelled. Their head coach, Jim Matheson, is a business teacher at the school and a member of the union. But team members worked out in the morning at Knollwood Club in Lake Bluff and played a practice round in the afternoon at Lake Bluff Golf Club. 

"It's unfortunate we are not going to school and that teachers go on strike but we will take advantage to work on our game," said senior Ian Mankoff. "We're upset we can’t play scheduled matches but we have to make the best of it."

This echoes the belief of football team members. As their chances of playing Lake Zurich Friday dwindle by the hour, they are focused on what they can control, not on what they cannot.

"It's a weird day but we went out and prepared like a normal day," senior quarterback Andrew Clifford said. "We have one hundred percent focus. We're getting ready. We’d love to play."

Senior defensive lineman Tom Kutschke said: "I don't think any side is right. They just need to come to an agreement. I really want them to just settle so we can play."

Cross country (boys and girls) and volleyball cancelled practice sessions Wednesday, while for girls tennis and field hockey, it was business as usual. Boys’ soccer was scheduled to hold a film session at West Campus. Girls swimming, coached by non-faculty member Carolyn Grevers, practiced at East Campus. 

According to IHSA bylaws, if school is not in session, athletic contests (games, matches) cannot be held. But a strike does not prevent practice sessions from taking place.

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Person99 September 13, 2012 at 10:14 PM
'interested' None of that is true. Most teachers are in the building by 7 am (if not later, but not sooner) and almost ALL have left by 4pm. There are a few exceptions who leave around 5 or 5:30(that do not coach any sports).
Interested September 13, 2012 at 11:27 PM
@me. Sorry if I attributed incorrectly. But to be clear, social security income in Illinois is also non-taxable. Teachers don't collect it(because they don't pay into it), but if they paid it for former careers, they will also not collect it because they are not allowed to collect even if they paid since they are teachers. Federal income tax is still taken, and property taxes for retired teachers don't stop either. It's not like they landed in the caymans upon retirement.
AGF September 13, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Louis, I totally agree. Having had four kids coached by him, this was for his glory!! So he crossed to coach not to teach? We stand with the teachers
AGF September 14, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Wow, the rumor mill is strong, LF parent for your information the "Election Chair" is a teacher voted by their peers, it is a closed vote private ballot that are counted by that chair person, in private!! I'm certain the ones that don't agree will say anything. But that is how teacher elections are run. Standing with your "TEAM" is what the Coach should be teaching his kids, Spagnoli's "TEAM" is the union. Maybe when everything is settled Spagnoli shouldn't reap the benefits of the union? Just saying!! LFHS Alumi '80
Mike September 14, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Way to go Chuck! Thanks for setting an example. That's what most good coaches with courage, integrity and the best interest of their kids in mind would do. Congratulations.
Mike September 14, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Furthermore, if Mr Gress and his LFEA sympathizers want to bankrupt our school system financially and academically, all while holding our children hostage, they should go somewhere else; it is a free country after all. If they feel under appreciated and uder compensated then leave and find anther land of entitlement. Try France on for size. Good riddance.
AGF September 14, 2012 at 03:15 AM
He's a terrible teacher!!
Lf parent September 14, 2012 at 03:17 AM
@IAF. Coach Spagnoli is standing with his Team - the Team of kids who are Juniors and Seniors only once in their lives - and may be competing as athletes for their school for the last time. Unfortunately, the teacher's Union targeted Our school because they know parents love their children more than life. What the teacher's Union did not factor is that parents love their children so much they will not allow them to be used as human shields - or sacrificed (e.g. losing opportunities to compete) - for sake of the teacher's Union's unbridled/insatiable greed. Make no mistake - Coach Spagnoli is definitely standing with - his - Team.
Lynette Paulson September 14, 2012 at 03:23 AM
@Louis you are a complete idiot and not worthy to live in the great town of Lake Forest. You had a great opportunity going to LFHS and clearly blew it.
Love2read September 14, 2012 at 03:42 AM
I'm glad to see a union member have the courage to cross the picket line. It takes a lot more courage to go against your peers, than to stand with them. By the way, I'm not a sports fan. I've never watched an entire football game in my life. My respect for this gentleman is based solely on his actions. Hats off to Mr. Spagnoli.
AGF September 15, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Doing his job for all of the athletes. Ask any kid that was in the arts how they were treated by the coach!
Tamara Jenkins September 15, 2012 at 08:04 PM
and he'll be showing them what it means to be a man who loses his house because he can no longer afford the payments after his salary is cut, his insurance rates are jacked up another 30%. He can also show them what it means to be a senior citizen on welfare because he's spent most of the entire span of his life working and he'll be losing the pension he's worked for up to and including the old age he now enjoys. Way to go old man, you go right ahead and side with the political hacks. When you're sitting in the bread lines at 60+ years old, remember who it was that put you in that situation. See how well fed, clothed and sheltered you're "it's for the chilluns" mentality keeps you.
Tamara Jenkins September 15, 2012 at 08:10 PM
actually it show's he's willing to step all over his own employment contract AND the contract of his fellow teachers in order to appear praiseworthy. As previously stated, let's see how much he cries when he's cast to the curb by the management he adores and panders to because he makes too much money. Let's see who's whining how "unfair" the ogligarch's have treated him when he can't afford to sue his former employer because the union that has represented him and GOTTEN HIM THE WAGE HE NOW ENJOYS turns their back on HIM and let's him twist in the wind as he has done to his fellow teachers. This guy wants to work at the will of political hacks looking to kill public education in this country? He doesn't need representation any longer and his union needs to remove him from their rolls and representation.
Tamara Jenkins September 15, 2012 at 08:13 PM
and he must be too old and feeble to know that his "great deal" is about to get diminished... maybe to the point of where he can no longer afford to pay his bills. We'll see. As for his reputation, amongst his peers he's now and forever banished from their thoughts. He's shown who he plays for, and it ain't the teachers he sided with when he knowing took a job he knew to be represented by a union.
Tamara Jenkins September 15, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Bruce, I certainly hope you feel the same way when "coach" comes knocking on your door looking for a place to live. Wonder how many of you will turn your backs on him then because you couldn't be bothered if it didn't mean you got to keep a few cents in your own pockets?
Tamara Jenkins September 15, 2012 at 08:33 PM
John Utah 9:13 am on Thursday, September 13, 2012 Louis, you are a complete dunce. There are no pay cuts being offered, the Board is offering 3% raise, the Union wants 6% Ahhhh..... and what is the board's offer of insurance payments? What is the boards offer on pension payments? Maybe take a look at their actual offer first eh? Also, learn what a "step" increase is as well, because it does NOT apply to every teacher every year but merely those who have achieved THAT step in their time of service, which AIN'T the majority of teachers. So that off you claim from the board? It's fraudulent. The board is currently offering 0.75% for the next two years, that's all they're offering. Those "step" raises? Those were already in the contract and they're not "giving" anyone anything that wasn't already there. Those "steps" are longevity pay and only those who hit an anniversary date during that year are going to get a "step" increase. So as far as your "generous" offer being claimed by the board, it's a sham. Their offer is LESS THAN ONE PERCENT RAISE FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. The board is ALSO attempting to diminish ALL teachers not yet hired by the system if you didn't bother to read that one either. The board fully intends to CUT the incoming salaries of every new teacher brought in, and over the same lifetime of employment those new hires will make LESS money than current teachers make. Wake up, it's the destruction of the teaching profession.
Jim Anderson September 15, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Just wondering. Three days ago many people were putting down all PE, health, and driver's education teachers, saying they weren't worthy of receiving an annual salary of over $100,000. But the second that Coach Spagnoli crossed the line, all of that was forgotten and now he is a hero and worthy of $137,000 a year. If another PE, health, or driver's education teacher (not a coach) had crossed the line, would he or she have received the same high praise as the football coach? I doubt it.
Tamara Jenkins September 15, 2012 at 08:41 PM
"putting the students first".... the new mantra of the right who thinks that phrase ends every argument made by any teacher who's trying to preserve their profession from the likes of those who believe SELLING education is the "way to go". They also try and sell the con that putting a political crony in between teacher and all OTHER taxpayers so that crony can profit off the tax difference is "all for the chilluns". Kids will no longer choose teaching as a profession, and this country will get the public education system it deserves....you can't PAY, you end up a janitor because the only people willing to teach are the bottom rung who could care less since they have to work two jobs to stay alive in this economy.
RationalTht September 16, 2012 at 04:39 AM
@Tamara - That is what the taxpayers are saying. They are offering the teachers a 3% raise over the next few years, but the teachers want 6%. WE have already sacrificed and now the teachers want to squeeze more blood out. They are good, but they are not that good. The board DID show respect for the teachers by offering them a DECENT raise over the next few years. They also asked them to MINORLY participate in the cost of their healthcare - all of the teachers in other districts that I have talked to pay at least something, 10% would be a bare minimum.
RationalTht September 16, 2012 at 04:41 AM
@Tamara - quit with the class warfare whining. The AVERAGE teacher here is in the top 10% of all earners in the US - they are not poor. Your trying to compare them with what is happening in Chicago and elsewhere is ludicrous. That is why the teachers have no support on this issue from most of the taxpayers, INCLUDING THE PARENTS; it is because they, or at least their leaders, seem to have lost complete touch with the current fiscal reality..
RationalTht September 16, 2012 at 04:43 AM
@Tamara - quit with the class warfare whining. The AVERAGE teacher here is in the top 10% of all earners in the US - they are not poor. Your trying to compare them with what is happening in Chicago and elsewhere is ludicrous. That is why the teachers have no support on this issue from most of the taxpayers, INCLUDING THE PARENTS; it is because they, or at least their leaders, seem to have lost complete touch with the current fiscal reality.
RationalTht September 16, 2012 at 04:46 AM
@Tamara - you are the FIRST person posting such information, so sorry if it seems suspicious. I would hope a teacher would provide that to the patch for review, then we could all see.
RationalTht September 16, 2012 at 04:47 AM
@Tamara - we as a state have been paying our teachers well for the past few decades, especially for the actual number of hours worked, and IL educations are going down the crapper anyway. You chant of having to throw good money after bad just rings hollow.
Love2read September 16, 2012 at 03:12 PM
@Jim Anderson - I don't think the position of coach or head coach (this has nothing to do with the person, it's the position) is worth the compensation currently paid. The difference in this case is at least this guy is willing to work. He gets it. He understands that he's well compensated, has a terrific job with amazing benefits and there's just no reason to strike. So far, he's the only one with courage. He's willing to face whatever comes his way from the other teachers. Remember the old adage, "Do a job that you love and you'll never work a day in your life? He's not working, he loves what he does for a living. If everyone was like this guy, we wouldn't have a problem now, would we?
fedup September 17, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Tamara, I hope you enjoy your teaching job at LFHS. Your comments are uneducated and shallow. On top of mean and close minded!!!! I am sure as a teacher there you have meant this man that you so brutally talk about, with this in mind I would ASSUME!!!!!!!!!!!!! that you have completely lost your mind. As greedy as you all are acting I would expect you to be humiliated that this so called PE teacher has protected his reputation, students, players and program more then any of you have!!!!! You should be ashamed of yourself!!!!! most of what you have said are lies and only in the interest of shaming a man we all respect!!!!!I believe you are either high or have some other kind of problem!!! For you to imply that this man, that has proven himself over and over, regardless of what has been said through the past years, crossed the line for selfish reasons YOU RE OUT OF YOUR MIND !!!! to further this you have sated untruths about all of the things the teachers are asking for, being a teach I would think you know what is going on UNLESS your union leader has lied to you ( which wouldn't be the first time he has lied about things, this we know) If you feel so underpaid LEAVE find a better job ( WHICH YOU WON'T AND CAN'T THAT IS WHY YOU STILL HAVE YOUR JOB) And if this ever in a place were he need anything ( including a kidney) I hope he does knock on my door. .
fedup September 17, 2012 at 03:04 AM
PLEASE EXCUSE ERRORS!!! To continue my thoughts , If you new his program AT ALL!! you would know that he has help BY FAR more kids then you will every have the pleasure to meet !! for example is a young man that had a lot of issues including learning, and behaviorally , this MAN made sure that his dreams came true, not only was he a part of something no one ever thought he would be but PLAYED!!!!! and because of this MAN that you are ripping apart , this NOW MAN is playing college football. THIS MAN that you are bashing keeps in contact with player from 5 years ago to make sure they are O.K. Do you have any idea what that mean , most likely not. Again if you are going to get on a site that asks people to be informative and know liable please do so. Your rants about insurance/ salaries/pensions , are all miss-guided , so in the future, please be honest and upfront. WE ALL KNOW YOU ARE GREEDY AND WANT TO HAVE IT ALL, but we , as tax-payers and parents are not willing to do that. FIND ANOTHER JOB YOU ARE DONE HERE!!!!!!!
fedup September 17, 2012 at 03:13 AM
With kid not only in sports, but also the ARTS ( which some said that this man was mean to , yea right) I know first hand that his intent is larger then the football ball program , look at the trainers and kid he has WORKING for him, in which he made that choice, from tech department to film HELLO. Lastly , please stop lying ( teaches union) we all know what is going on, either go back to work, or leave this town and all it's big salaries and move on WE DO NOT NEED YOU ! BUT OTHER TEACHERS NEED A JOB! GOOD BYE AND GOOD LUCK!
Me September 17, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I respect a man who has sense enough to know that he has a great deal. He has the backbone to walk past the Union bullies and to do his job. The truth be told, I do think that he is grossly overpaid. However, I am not proposing that he should be stripped of any of his wages. Perhaps his successor will nor earn such a princely salary but he too will do well. Hopefully there are more teachers who will come to their senses soon. The BOE has made a very generous offer (in this or any economy) it is the teachers who hold the keys to solving this situation. Please act intelligently.
fedup September 17, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Tamara's comments are not needed or wanted stop posting lies!!
martin rios September 17, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Tamara jenkins just wants attention. Shut up! Tamara! Mind your business!


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