District 112 has begun to negotiate a new contract with its teachers. I have a feeling that it is going to be a very tough process.
When I'm not being a participant citizen in Highland Park, I'm Director of Technology at North shore Country Day Schol in Winnetka, so I'm not so much protecher as I am a teacher. I understand just how much of your being goes into your job. I, like nearly every teacher I know, became a teacher not to get rich, but because of the satisification I get from working with students. Of course, I also don't know anyone who went into education who also wanted to take a vow of poverty. This shouldn't be a problem as there is a middle between rich and poverty and that's the middle that our board of education and the teacher's union will be negotiating over.
The problem, as shown by the cuts in personnel that 112 has been experiencing for the last few years, is that there just isn't a lot of money out there to be had. Times are tough and the cost of living in Highland Park is high. Every property owner in Highland Park knows that. The question is do our (award winning) teachers really understand that?
I don't know, but if they don't, I lay the blame at the feet of our elected school board. I can say this because we have a model in our community of a different way. There is no union in District 113 and I can't remember the last time I heard a story of 113 teachers even thinking of forming a union. There also hasn't been the kind of massive cuts to programs in the last couple of years that 112 has experienced. And the presence of Deerfield in District 113 can't be the answer, as their incredibly contentious negotiations in 109, their K-8 district, last year showed. While I have written critically about 113 before, clearly when it comes to labor practices they have to be doing something right.
So what is it that they're doing right? I think part of the answer is that they are in partnership with their teachers. Teachers literally have a seat at the board table along with district administrators. There is a shared sense of commitment by the board, by administrators, and by the teachers to doing what is best. I'm not saying that it's utopia, but it does seem to work.
Hopefully, these negotiations will end well and teachers will be rewarded for the quality of education that they provide, and the board will perform their duty of representing the interests of the citizenry of the residents of District 112. I also know that the time that the Board should start working on the next contract isn't at the end of a contract. It's at the beginning. When there is a shared goal, and I'd hope that the teachers, administration, and board all share the goal of providing a world class education to our students, there can be partnership.
But a partnership needs trust and I think it's fair to expect our board to be the ones to create that sense of trust. I hope they take concrete steps to create that sense of trust. We must have both quality education and be a community that people can afford to live here to take advantage of that quality education.