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District 112 Board 'Doing Everything We Can' To Avoid Teachers' Strike

Highland Park's elementary and middle school board president says the looming teachers' strike is "personally painful" in a letter to community members.

Dear North Shore School District 112 Community Members:
 
Many of you have reached out to me over the past two days to ask that the board do everything possible to avoid a teacher strike.

District 112 Contract Negotiations: The Story So Far

I want to assure you that board members are committed to doing everything we can to arrive at a settlement that will be fair to our teachers and responsible to our community.
 
I want to let you know that the situation we face is personally painful to me and to my fellow board members. Our community has a long, rich history of commitment to excellent schools.  People who grew up here often return as adults because they want their children to benefit from the same outstanding education that they received.  We became board members because we share that same commitment and passion for our schools.
 
I am so proud of our hard-working and dedicated teaching staff.  Last year, our district boasted four Golden Apple finalists---an unheard of number for a district our size.  Next week, several of our teaching staff will be honored with an Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Award, and several received the very highest category of that award.  We have teaching staff who present at national conferences, and teachers who go above and beyond every day to provide our children with enriching experiences both inside and outside the classroom.  
 
Our offer at the table has nothing to do with how much we respect, value and appreciate our teachers.  If it were possible to give our teachers the monetary raises that the union is asking for, we would do so.   But when we signed on as board members, we took on the obligation to ensure an outstanding education for all students who walk through our doors.  The simple truth is we won't be able to meet that obligation if we agree to the current union proposal, or any settlement which will keep us in the situation of spending more than we can by law collect.
 
Over the last three years, my fellow board members and I have been in the painful position of having to make millions of dollars in budget cuts, including laying off employees, in order to preserve the financial health of the district.  If we agree to a contract that is beyond our means, we will be forced to choose between making deeper and more painful cuts, or depleting our finances to the point where we imperil our future. 
 
School finances are complicated, and as board members we have devoted countless hours to understanding them and doing our best to do what we were elected to do:  provide sound financial stewardship. 
 
What has been particularly disheartening during this negotiation process is that the union leadership has contended that this is somehow a made-up problem.  They are telling their members that the district has adequate funds to cover what they are asking for.  They have said that the board's position is a tea party politics mentality and that we are using the weak economy as an excuse to take advantage of our teachers.  This is misguided and inaccurate.   This has nothing to do with politics and the economic environment is not an excuse but a reality.  For those who want more information on the specific issues, click here for a document that addresses the many myths that the union leadership has promulgated during these negotiations.
 
We want to continue to negotiate and we believe that given enough time and a concerted effort on the part of both sides, we can come to an agreement that will be acceptable to the union and responsible to the community. Unfortunately, the union leadership has said they will strike if no agreement is reached by October 16, and legally they are within their rights to do so.   Union leaders still have the right---and in my opinion the ethical obligation---to withdraw their threat to strike, and to continue to focus all their efforts on negotiating a settlement while allowing teachers to continue teaching and children to continue learning.  It is as disheartening to me as I'm sure it is to you that children and families will be those most hurt in this process.  

Bruce Hyman
District 112 School Board President

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Jesse L October 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
HS, Your story is certainly inspiring. No one here, or in this community is "against the teachers". It's the Union, and their tactics that are so upsetting. Scaring children...yes, kids of all ages are frightened by the black outfits...seeing the teachers marching, and the uncertainty. The hypocrisy of Mr. stein to show that when you don't get whatvyou want...be a quitter. I am sure you would never instill that in your students. The problem is that the citizens who will take a hit either finamcially or via cuts to programming are being kept hostage by a Large...very well funded union. It is very sad to see peope tae a single working mom to task for saying that she is in a difficult situation. Child care is expensive.
Joe Wallace October 16, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Let me get this straight--teachers want better pay, additional pay for higher learning, better health insurance benefits, and better pension benefits. They want the residents of Highland Park to pay for it all. They expect the taxpayers to pay higher taxes to finance their demands. This is quite simple.
Widget October 16, 2012 at 01:07 AM
HS: You are not an enemy, you are a valuable commodity I only wish our current and previous BOE would value, retain, and attract teachers like you when you retire. They have used schools like revolving doors only hiring young teachers w/out masters degrees. While their fire and enthusiasm is great, their lack of experience in a district once known for its curricular excellence is not an asset. Not when our BOE encourages early retirement of great teachers like you. Not when we have administrators telling young teachers to ONLY teach to standards and nothing more for fear they will be reprimanded. We used to be a district where teachers went above and beyond with regularity, but that was a district in which we didn't educate children of such need in such degrees of concentration nor did we fear not making AYP. For our most fragile children we need experienced teachers and experienced SUPPORT STAFF and a CLEAR vision of consistency in programming for those children and every child. That is not what we have now, nor do I foresee this in the future. I see untested programs. I see administrators operating in a box, I see too much waste, I see too much immaturity in our staff and I see parents being called difficult when they advocate. I see teachers being discouraged from working with parents. I see the BOE playing puppet master.
AP October 16, 2012 at 01:09 AM
SWM - Teachers living high on the hog? Really? In an earlier post, it's mentioned that the 60% of HP residents own homes worth $500,000+. I don't know anyone living on a teacher's salary being able to afford a home that cost $500,000. Why aren't you a teacher if you think it's such an easy profession? Please don't judge until you've actually done the job.
AP October 16, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Teachers fund their own pensions - not the district, not the taxpayers. District 112 teachers also do not qualify for other benefits, such as Social Security. The pension that they fund with each paycheck is their only form of retirement income.
Stu Pidasso October 16, 2012 at 01:20 AM
any official word yet?, as to whether school is on or off tomorrow?
Sue Richman October 16, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Although it will be regrettable if the Teachers decide to strike- the one positive will be that the School Board will be delivering a very powerful message- ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- NSSD 112 teachers are already very well compensated and are eligible for a fabulous benefit package- the Community which pays for all of this largesse is entitled to have someone watch out for its collective financial interest which is where our elected school Board comes in- Perhaps the teachers are unaware(or don't care) that the housing values in HP are off 40 percent over the last 6 years or that many members of the community are having their own career issues caused by the recession- The teachers want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore these fiscal realities- Well ok- go out on strike- fail to obtain community sympathy and then figure out how to resolve your job action at your leisure becasue once you strike- you will lose any sympathy or support you presently have- The School Board is doing the right thing trying to reign in excessive past pay and benefit practices incurred by previous administrations- The time has come to draw the proverbial line in the sand- The Teachers will be crossing it at their peril
David R. October 16, 2012 at 02:10 AM
AP, The teachers fund only a very small fraction of their pensions. The majority is funded by the taxpayers and investment returns. Think about it ... if a teacher like yourself gets a $50K pension, plus annual COLA, for 30 years, that's well over $1.5 million ... probably about 6X what you contributed during your teaching years. Plus, it's not subject to Illinois state tax, unlike our 401(k)s.
Rachel October 16, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Pensions are no longer 50K. Teachers are now recommended to save for their own retirement--out of their own paychecks. Pensions are no longer guaranteed to teachers once they retire. Teachers are suggested to set up a 403(b) plan, where it is similar to a 401(k). Teachers can contribute a selected amount, just like 401(k)s. The idea of pensions are disappearing, just like Social Security.
richard markowitz October 16, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Sue this has to be one of the most uninformed messages I have read in awhile. you have just said that the teachers and then our children must pay the price for our administrations past actions. I can't even believe it. The administration have given raises to all their own for the last 2 years. We are funding a double pension for Mohsin Dada. You as a tax payer should be sick. To say the teachers should pay for that and not say fire Dada, lower Behlows benefits and salary but make the teachers pay is appalling. I really wish you would get all the facts on everyone before you find one party guilty.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther October 16, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I can speak about my daughter, who is often in school from 7:30 in the morning until 8 or 9 in the evening. She was up last week until 3 AM doing lesson plans. She often is working weekends and vacations preparing IEPs for her students. She often meets with parents outside of school amd she has no lunch because she has too many minutes she is required to spend with her kids. I know of no one more dedicated to her profession and her students. In my opinion, she and her collegues are bargins.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther October 16, 2012 at 02:53 AM
The school system is the reason your property values are as high as they are. Compare our values to, say, Oswego, where the Superintendent was before here. Property values are down because of the market crash, not because of teacher salary. What I expect is compromise on both sides, not rhetoric.
HS October 16, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Joe I am not asking for better health benefits, just to keep what I have. I am not asking for a better retirement package, just to keep what I have. I am not asking to be reimbursed or awarded for higher learning I already have two masters which I acquired before coming to your district. I teach some of the neediest kids in your community. I serve on multiple curricular committees. I mentor students during my lunch hour. Everyone of my students meets or exceeds their growth targets every year. I have received excellent evaluations from my administrators. I am being recognized this weekend by the state with an award of excellence. What more do I need to do to prove to you that I am worth an additional $10 a day?
forest barbieri October 16, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I may have been too optimistic as my wife said she heard school was on but I have no official word. Come on guys, start hugging it out!
David R. October 16, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Richard-- Dada's compensation is a red herring and you know it. If you cut adm. by 50%, it wouldn't come close to meeting the teachers' demands. I suggest that you move off of Stein's talking points. That's the same guy who lost the few supporters he had by recently suggesting that our unpaid, voluntary BOE members are tea partiers. Mr. Stein, we don't tolerate that type of inflammatory rhetoric in HP, and you didn't do your local members any favors from a PR perspective. Save that type of talk for your work in the Chicago schools.
Jerry Hopkins October 16, 2012 at 03:20 AM
NSSD112 Teachers! The community loves you. Your site says it all. http://district112teachers.org/ Since the board can't seem to juggle all their "facts" and "myths", I did some investigations of my own. There are a lot of bitter people out here this evening on the Patch. They are NOT representative of this community. We are better then that. The people who care about education and the future of HP (and not just themselves) are pulling for you!! PS My children aren't not afraid of your t-shirts or your black clothing :)
David R. October 16, 2012 at 03:28 AM
HS, you sound like a great teacher and we're fortunate to have you teaching in 112. My question is if the district is incurring higher health insurance premiums, do you not think that your portion of the health insurance premiums should increase as well?
David R. October 16, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Jerry-- You're right. We are bitter. Rightfully so. Our kids are going to be out of school because the union has, ironically, miseducated its members. You're also right that this is about the future of HP education. We're either going to have (1) improved facilities, more accelerated classes, and smaller class sizes; or (2) resources disproportionately focused on salary and benefits. The second sounds like the Chicago Public Schools. Not exactly a model we want to follow.
HS October 16, 2012 at 04:03 AM
David R in answer to your question regarding the insurance premiums yes I agree that the financial responsibility needs to be shared. A year ago I was asked by the union president if I would be willing to pay an affordable increase in order to keep my benefit package and my answer was yes. Please correct me if I am mistaken but my belief is that the union presented changes in the benefit package that would save the board $500,000. I am very appreciative of the benefit package I currently receive. The family plan is not something I can afford so I have to cover my three children using another company, but because my individual insurance had always been affordable I make it work. I do not want to bankrupt the district, and I do not want the entire financial burden to fall to the tax payers. However, what the BOE is currently offering would be an insurance package that would give me less benefits and cost me more per paycheck. That scenario combined with a pay freeze would mean my paycheck would decrease. My take home pay is $1750 a psycheck, and my rent is $1850 a month. My hope is that I would be able to pay my rent with one paycheck so that I could have the other paycheck to pay my bills and feed my kids.
Jerry Hopkins October 16, 2012 at 04:22 AM
David R, did you at least check out their website? http://district112teachers.org/ Check out NSSD112's as well: http://www.nssd112.org/pages/Northshore112/School_Board/Negotiations_Update It's appears to be the BOE that is fact twisting. We should all do our homework. And we shouldn't be bitter. They are teachers. They deserve our respect and our support. You really should have a look at the information on both sides. Fact checking does take time, but it really does help to see both sides.
mom of two October 16, 2012 at 04:25 AM
jesse l, i am very appreciative of your entry. every working person who gets up everyday no matter what their profession deserves to be well compensated however that is not the world we live in any longer. i work hard and never expected the working world to be easy, as i stated before life isn't easy. however, we are all adults and go into our profession hopefully with both eyes open and need to accept the current working culture which includes contributing to your health insurance premium, higher copays, etc. teachers have been very blessed by the ones who have come before them however it's time to stop the spending and be more fiscally conservative.
mom of two October 16, 2012 at 04:36 AM
hs, i hope for the same working in the private industry however i don't have a union to negotiate on my behalf nor do i have anyone's sympathy when i total all of my monthly expenses. we all have to take personal individual responsibility for our own financial well being and do what we have to do to pay our bills. that's called being a grown up.
HS October 16, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Single working mom. I am financially responsible and I am not asking for sympathy. I believe that I have proven myself as a valuable employee and would like to be compensated. Now if you do not believe that I have earned a raise then please tell me what else I can do to prove to you that I am a quality hire. However if you are upset that my profession is connected to a union and yours is not, that is a situation that I have no control over. It would be similar to me being upset that in the private sector bonus checks are issued where as in my profession no such thing occurs.
Mom of 2 October 16, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Just got the email-teachers are striking.
Highlands HP'er October 16, 2012 at 05:13 AM
I am kind of curious. How much is it that all of you people think the median salary is in district 112? Are you sure you aren't getting confused with district 113? I keep hearing these stories about the rough and tumble private sector. I work in the private sector. I don't have to deal with nearly half the bs and I get more than twice the pay. I am simply confused why people think all these teachers with many years of experience getting paid less than 50k a year are greedy and unreasonable?
Colene October 16, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Joe - I didn't bring it up. He asked about it after finding out from his teachers. Concerned about HP - I can only presume that you don't have a child with special needs.
mom of two October 16, 2012 at 05:36 AM
you must not have to scurry and figure out what to do with your kids tomorrow as i do, i have to work tomorrow. enjoy sleeping in.
mom of two October 16, 2012 at 05:37 AM
you must not have to scurry and figure out what to do with your kids tomorrow as i do, i have to work tomorrow. enjoy sleeping in.
Rachel October 16, 2012 at 11:35 AM
SWM- Why didn't you plan ahead? This didn't come out of nowhere. Schools are open for children for childcare, so long you pre-registered. Looks like you're scrambling due to your own lack of organization.
forest barbieri October 16, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I will refrain from further comments as I am on a blogging strke. Peace out.

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