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District 112 Board Asks Union to Withdraw Strike Threat

Highland Park's elementary and middle school board and teachers' union "remain significantly apart" in contract negotiations. Another meeting has been set for Oct. 15, the day before the teachers' strike is set to begin.

Update 10/11/12: Though the District 112 school board and teachers' union made some movement during Wednesday evening's most recent bargaining session, the two sides "remain significantly apart," according to an email sent at about 1 a.m. Thursda morning by school board president Bruce Hyman.

The teachers' union proposed meeting again on Oct. 15. Meanwhile, the school board has requested the union withdraw its strike threat. The district's contingency plans remain in effect.

Earlier: Highland Park's elementary and middle school district has been collaborating with the city's other governing bodies to figure out programming for the district's 4,500 students should the teachers' union begin its planned Oct. 16 strike.

District 112 Contract Negotiations: The Story So Far

Registration began this week for free programming that will be offered by the district and the Park District of Highland Park if the teachers strike and school is not in session. The park district will have five camps that will take place at Heller Nature Reserve, West Ridge Center, Deer Creek Courts and the Recreation Center. They will be available to about 150 children. An additional number of children will be accommodated by the Centennial Ice Arena for open skate and open gymnastics. The Recreation Center will offer open swim and open gym.

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"As soon as we got word there might be a strike, we knew there needed to be a contingency plan," Park District Executive Director Liza McElroy said. "We're ready to go."

The park district camps will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be similar to those offered during the summer, according to Park District Communications Coordinator Emily Biang. They will include singing, cooking and indoor sports. Participating children just need to bring their own lunch.

McElroy hopes that parents who work full-time will take advantage of these available services, since space will be limited.

"We really want to make sure that kids who have parents who both work… will get those kids in a safe environment," McElroy said.

The park district's programming will cost the park district $2,000 a day, assuming "we max everything," according to McElroy, who said the main cost is the staff.

"I think we will be able to provide this service for the duration of the strike," she said. "We will evaluate on a day by day basis."

Other organizations offer more programming

Eight other local organizations will offer programming to District 112 students during the teachers' strike, including the Highland Park Public Library, the Family Network and the City of Highland Park.

Editors' Note: Click here to see all the programming that will be offered to DIstrict 112 children during the teachers' strike.

The Highland Park Nursery School will offer day care for 22 kindergarten students for $42 per day, while the Naval Station Great Lakes Youth Center will offer all-day childcare at a cost dependent on total family income. The Chicago Botanic Gardens announced on Wednesday it would offer a Nature Days program to 20 kindergarteners through fifth graders.

"There's a lot of community support," District 112 Communications Specialist Andi Rosen said. 

District 112 will have programming available at Oak Terrace, Northwood and Green Bay schools that will be available to 500 students total.

The District will be prioritizing children who are eligible for free and reduced lunch, according to District 112 Community Relations Specialist Andi Rosen. 

"We don't have the staffing to accommodate more," she said.

Union, board still hopeful strike can be avoided

Though the district has begun preparing for a teachers' strike, its members remain hopeful one can still be avoided.

"They're not the ones walking away from the negotiating table," Rosen said about the District 112 School Board. "They want to do everything possible to avoid a strike."

According to North Shore Education Association president Pamela Kramer, the teachers are not looking forward to striking, but feel they have no other option.

"I'm still hoping that we'll go and work it out Wednesday night," Kramer said, referring to a bargaining meeting scheduled for Oct. 10. "[A strike] is not a pleasant thing to go through… but we're not going to roll over and play dead."

District 112 recently posted a chart comparing the board's most recent contract proposal with the teacher union's. Kramer says the teachers' proposed contract leaves the teachers worse off than teachers in neighboring districts in salary, lane changes, retirement and health care.

"We feel we are so reasonable with where we are right now that this is just a horrible situation," Kramer said.

Rosen disagrees with Kramer's characterization that Highland Park teachers have it worse than those in surrounding districts.

"Right now if you look at the chart of all the districts in Lake County, we're the third highest beginning salary," Rosen said.

The teachers feel the board's perspective on its finances is unnecessarily bleak, blaming the reluctance to spend more on teachers on a tea party mentality.

"They have the money," Kramer said. 

According to Rosen, however, the board's proposal stems from a desire to end three years of painful budget cuts, ending a trend where the district spends more than it takes in.

"The way the board is looking at it is prudent and fiscally responsible," Rosen said. "This isn't politics, it's math."

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Jack Straw October 13, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I have heard from several people that the Board promised to pay for continuing education. Now if this is a fact then your union is truly not doing their job, this would be considered a breach of contract and the union’s legal representative would have made the proper civil litigations by this time. So it seems someone is feeding you a load of B.S. or Mark Stein and his teams have failed to do their job. Most everyone knows that we have too many schools in this district and the administration cost are way out of line, but right now the 500 pound gorilla at the door is the teachers union.
Mark Stein October 13, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Nothing that Joe posted above is true.
Jack Straw October 13, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Ok Mark, then why are people saying this?
forest barbieri October 13, 2012 at 06:01 PM
llwvrt "Truth - the union would prefer not to strike." No doubt they would prefer the BOE to just give them whatever they demand. However, as in any labor dispute there are two sides and believe me, the Union is adding their share of spin.....teachers will leave....... I think it is VERY clear that they now want a strike as the children out of school is their trump card. I believe it was you that said they did not want to wait until cold weather as it is not so comfortable to walk picket lines :) If the Union was truly against a strike don't you think they would negotiate prior to the day before the strike? If the Union stated that they would negotiate round the clock to avert a strike, I would be much more sympathetic to your statement.
Mark Stein October 13, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Please let me know when the Board said that it wished to negotiate around the clock to avert a strike? Since the Board never made this suggestion, and didn't suggest meeting before Monday, this discussion is nonsensical.
forest barbieri October 13, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Mark: Nice try! The board has not declared it's intent to strike and as I recall they suggested another meeting but was told by the Union that they would not meet before 10/15, the day before the stirke. I am not anti teacher at all but let's not twist the facts here. Easy to spin but harder to back-up.
Mark Stein October 13, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Your information is incorrect. The NSEA said no such thing. Furthermore, if the Board wants to meet before 5:00 pm on Monday, it knows where to find us.
AGF October 13, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Forest, I have no idea where you get your information. It appears you have PLENTY of time on your hands, go to the NSEA website and sign up for email information. This way you can receive BOTH sides, it's no secret who has your ear. Wish I had more time to respond, but my husband and I are going out to spend time with our kids. Have a great day.
Shari Wolfe October 13, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Mark, thank you for clarifying, as I was also questioning the Monday date.
M Wexler October 13, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Why not meet now instead of all these stupid posts? The weather is crap this weekend. Either put up or shut up. My gut feeling though is the Union WANTS a strike so they can get more blood from us turnips. Just wait till all of us don't or can't afford these taxes anymore. Then cuts will happen regardless whether liked or not. So I say to the Union, take the deal while its still there, the next one might make this one look golden.
forest barbieri October 13, 2012 at 11:17 PM
I was referring to the 10/11 email sent out updating the negotiations. "At the end of the evening, the Union proposed scheduling another mediation session on Monday, October 15 at 5:00pm. The Board is committed to continuing negotiations and working diligently to reach an agreement and avoid a strike." I would think that if the union were serious in negotiating, they would have declared their willingness to stay at the table until the issue was resolved. I do note that the board also failed in this email to indicate same, although they indicated a willingness to negotiate further and one can ascertain that had the union moved for round the clock negotiations there would have been dialog between 10/10 and now. If nothing else that type of approach by the union on the 10th meeting would have been a much better public relations move and an indication of their seriousness in resolving the matter.
forest barbieri October 13, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Mark: So the board needs to find you? Did they declare intent to strike? They indicated a willingness to negotiate, have YOU contacted them since the Oct 10th meeting to find a compromise and avoid a strike?
Mark Stein October 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM
The NSEA is not interested in engaging in what you refer to as a "public relations move." The NSEA is interested in reaching a settlement. The NSEA has also made far more concessions than the Board has. The Board has hardly changed its position during this entire negotiation. The Board is the party that is attempting to drive a hard bargain. I expect that some people on this Board will believe that the Board is doing the right thing. I also expect that a good number of people will conclude that this is not what they elected this Board to do. I don't believe that many people in the Highland Park Highwood community have a tea party mentality.
carol October 13, 2012 at 11:55 PM
You could not be more wrong..it is the board that wants a strike and is egging the union on...that way they can look like the "good guys" even though they have no desire to meet any sooner then Monday to negotiate. If the board was really wanted to end this, then they could have easily called for meetings over the weekend...but they have chosen not to, must not be too important to them at the moment.
carol October 14, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Do you realize that in two years two administrators cost the district one million dollars in salaries and benefits? It takes a teacher making 50 thousand a year 20 years to make a million dollars..in that same amount of time the district has paid over 10 million dollars to just two administrators..wow!
David R. October 14, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Carol, of course, you don't include the cost of the teacher's benefits (health care, pension contribution, vacation pay) into your calculation, and you wrongly assume that the teacher's salary would remain constant at essentially a starting salary over 20 years. I'll sleep better tonight if you confirm that you're not presently teaching math at Edgewood.
carol October 14, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Too bad David that you did not understand the subtlely of what I was saying..further more, I refuse to attack people and assume that I am superior. Have a good-night's sleep my friend.
forest barbieri October 14, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Mark: Not sure what you mean by Tea Party Mentality? Were you refering to me? I do not even know what the Tea Party stands for. I assume ultra conservatives associated with Palin? I have never voted for her or anyone associated with her. She may be able to see Russia from her front door but I am actually there every two months so I guess our perspectives differ:) I support teachers and education and have spent a good portion of my business career creating and providing them with many educational tools they use to support the curriculum. My objections to a strike have also been clearly stated.
Jack Straw October 14, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Dam Forest, he done busted us out, yep Forest is the president of are local chapter 847 united tea Party. Mark, we were hoping you might join us for are annual squirrel hunt and barbeque. It’s fun for the whole family we just drink beer wave flags and talk about how much we love Sarah Palin.
Jack Straw October 14, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Hey Mark, you boys have one of those big blow up rats, if not you should get one the kids would get a big kick out of that.
R.G. October 14, 2012 at 03:35 AM
David R: Teachers do not receive vacation pay as a benefit. If you take the time to look on the district website at the Compensation Summary, you will see vacation pay only listed next to administrators. And yes, teachers receive health care benefits, as do administrators. Is this not something that a professional worker should receive as part of one's employee benefits? However, as noted in the report on the NSEA website, most administrators also receive family insurance or the cash option as a benefit. Pension contribution is only listed as a benefit for administrators as well. Teachers pay over 9% of their paychecks into TRS, which is in lieu of Social Security. You should check your facts.
Lou October 14, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Teachers are not going to get rich on their salaries or their benefits from District 112. They don't drive Porsches and most do not live on the North Shore but must commute long distances to our town and pay for expensive fuel. But, many of us live in Highland Park so that our kids can receive a private-school quality education at a public school price. Three kids in District 112 costs me the same as one in school, exactly 39% of my tax bill, $ 6001.12 per year, or about $ 2000 a year each child. How could anyone complain about this bargain, private school would cost me more than $ 66,000 a year? Google North Shore Country Day School and check out their fees, 1st -5th grades cost $ 22,000 a year for EACH child. Who DELIVERS this educational value to me, to us? How did Highland Park achieve its reputation for high quality education, built on years' of dedicated service. The hard working teachers of District 112 did this for our community. We need to pay these skilled educators well and maintain their benefits because I like this educational bargain I am receiving. Remember the old proverb, the highest paid employee is the least costly one. The School Board can perform a great service to our community by acquiescing to our teachers' requests for good pay and benefits. They deserve nothing less. And for those HP tax complainers, trillions of dollars of your taxes were burnt up in Iraq by Republican war mongers, no WMD were ever found nor will be ever found.
Teacher who cares October 14, 2012 at 01:23 PM
It's disheartening to read all the negativity. The teachers don't want a strike but feel as though there is no other option. To hear that the Union refused to meet before Monday is untrue. Yes, the union proposed meeting on Monday, but would have been willing to meet 24/7 should the board have expressed their interest to do so before they sent out their email to the community. We want to settle and are hopeful that both sides can come to an agreement before Tuesday morning. We want to be in the classroom and do care about providing quality education for yor kids. Still, we have families ourselves and need to have a fair contract for our work.
David R. October 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Lou, Your comment suggests that those supporting the BOE are doing so for property tax reasons. It has nothing to with that. Because of the tax caps, the amount of revenue the BOE has to work with is essentially fixed. Therefore, this boils down to whether we focus our fixed resources on smaller class sizes (more teachers, aides, etc.), more accelerated programs and facilities (have u visited Lincoln lately?) or whether we focus them on providing even richer pay for teachers that are already amongst the highest paid in the Midwest even under the BOE's proposal.
Jack Straw October 14, 2012 at 07:26 PM
It has been dawning on me how little knowledge the average person has of these large public unions. One they don’t seem to understand that NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, are trade unions, yes just like carpenters plumbers and truckers. They sign the same style collective bargaining agreements that have bankrupted 1000’s of private sector companies. Collective bargaining is not what its name indicates. In fact, it means exactly the opposite of what you'd guess. Collective bargaining refers to the obligation of an employer to recognize the elected representatives of a group of workers and his further obligation to negotiate with those representatives. This last part is what makes 'collective bargaining' extortion. These Unions rob people of their right to choice. Unions then go on to threaten others to do the same. Eventually they extort, bribe and coerce their way to salaries and wages that the private sector does not get. The solution is to end collective bargaining of public unions, repeal Davis Bacon and all prevailing wages laws, and make every state in the union a right-to-work state.
forest barbieri October 14, 2012 at 09:16 PM
As a taxpayer who cares, I want to clarify that I have no quarrel with the teachers. My concerns are the union spin about teachers leaving, how wonderful our neighbor districts, how high they pay and regard their teachers. Continuing on about how our poor district will become nothing but a stepping stone and so on. None of that is true regardless of the outcome in this labor dispute. No doubt you as a teacher seek a fair compromise and wish to be in the classroom doing what you enjoy. Having taught negotiation classes to high level Russian Managers, I recognize the dance taking place. No doubt they are buoyed by the CPS and LFHS strikes. I disagree with the unions seeming unwillingness to compromise with a best effort to avoid a strike bringing our children in as both hostage and pawn in the negotiations. If anyone thinks the union, not necessarily teachers, as they in some ways also become pawns to the union, intent is anything other than to strike then only the tooth fairy can save us:) It may be that the union on their quest to bring the BOE to their knees may win the battle but it may be an expensive win if later they lose the war. Redistricting of some type as well as budget cuts could ultimately cost jobs. As I stated to Mark before, he can then say to the few, "sorry, it sucks to be you but remember you gave for the whole and we will light candles every Feb 29th on odd years at 3am, see ya." Naturally, the Union will still be there as their jobs are safe.
Maya October 15, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Lou, Both my kids have been through District 112 schools and in grade school 11 out of 12 of their teachers lived on the North Shore (HP. Deerfield or Glencoe). In Middle School, I don't know that most also resided in one of these suburbs. I don't know where you get your information from, but at least in our experience it was not true at all.
Jerry Hopkins October 16, 2012 at 03:32 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 :)
Tony S October 16, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Two words: Moshin Dada. He's fricken Nolan Ryan. This guy gave himself ILLEGAL raises at his last job. This is who is guiding the board and attempting to fry teachers in the pan. When will you all learn the difference between private and social costs? This man costs a lot, but he's good. The social costs of this man could prove to be in the lack of inspiration a student in the district gets from the inevitable lower quality teachers this district might soon attract. This could potentially be the same kid who might cure cancer or bring about world peace. Let us not forget: our children are priceless, and teachers are their biggest influence besides ourselves. And we are so busy being rich ballers, attempting to outdo each other with a faster later version BMWs that will roll through stop signs with just that much more precision that the teachers probably are a bigger influence, but I digress. Fact: teachers made serious concessions for the last contract and the district surprised 2mil. I know that's chump change, but a surplus none the less.
Tony S October 16, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Surplussed* (is that even a word?)

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