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District 112 Teachers Declare a Strike

After hours of negotiations on Monday proved unsuccessful, Highland Park's middle and elementary school teachers' union declared a strike. All District 112 schools will be closed Tuesday.

Update 10/16/12 at 9:47 a.m.: District 112 School Board President Bruce Hyman has issued the following statement:

While the board is disappointed that our teachers are on strike, today is a new day and a new opportunity to make progress. Another negotiating session is scheduled for noon, and the board negotiating team is looking forward to focusing its energies at the bargaining table and receiving a counteroffer from the union.

More than 400 of our students will be attending activity centers at three of our schools while the strike is in effect. There has been an outpouring of support from other government agencies and nonprofit organizations who are offering an array of free or low-programming for our children. This includes the Park District of Highland Park, the City of Highland Park, the Highland Park Library, Family Service, Family Network, Nova, the Bernard Weinger JCC, the Chicago Botanic Gardens and other agencies.  On our website, we have posted a comprehensive list of online educational resources broken down by grade level.

We thank our community for coming together to provide support for our children, and we thank our families for their patience as we work to arrive at a settlement that is fair to teachers and allows us to remain financially stable so we may continue to provide an outstanding education to all our children.

Update 10/16/12 at 7:42 a.m.: In addition to declaring a strike, the North Shore Education Association (NSEA) has filed unfair labor practice charges with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Monday, according to UniServ Director Mark Stein.

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“The Board of Education of North Shore School District 112 has bargained in bad faith by refusing to provide information that the NSEA has requested,” reads a statement sent out by Stein, “and by continually making false statements concerning the proposals that the NSEA has made in bargaining with the School District.”

The statement adds that the school district will cut off insurance to teachers during the strike.

NSEA President Pamela Kramer explained in a statement that the teachers’ union began Monday’s bargaining session “in an optimistic frame of mind.” However, the current contract offered by the school board “would cause the NSSD112 teachers’ highest salary to fall behind 18 other Lake County districts,” according to Kramer.

“The Board will claim that the NSEA did not make significant movement,” Kramer said in her statement. “The NSEA, however, told the Board that they would remain in the building until midnight in case the Board wanted to make an offer that might be ratified by the NSEA membership.”

District 112 Superintendent David Behlow explained in an email sent early Tuesday that “the Board negotiating team entered the mediation session this evening fully dedicated to the negotiations process.”

The board delivered a proposal that remains “faithful to the board’s pledge to deliver a balanced budget,” according to the statement. The union rejected the offer, and then asked the board to counter its own proposal before midnight “or face a strike.” School Board President Bruce Hyman made an in-person request to the NSEA to postpone the strike during a bargaining session that was otherwise conducted via a federally appointed mediator.

The board remains optimistic about continuing negotiations, according to Behlow.

“Board members still believe that it is possible to arrive at a fair settlement that will allow the District to live within its means, while at the same time providing its employees with competitive compensation, meaningful professional growth opportunities, and an excellent teaching and learning environment.”

The next mediation session is scheduled for Tuesday at noon.

Update 10/16/12 at 12:43 a.m.:

The District 112 teachers union has declared a strike.

District 112 schools will be closed Tuesday. Click here to read about the contigency programs the district and other community organizations and governing bodies will offer, according to a letter from District 112 Superintendent David Behlow.

See the full letter from Superintendent below.

The Board negotiating team entered the mediation session this evening fully dedicated to the negotiations process. The Board presented the Union with an improved proposal that showed substantial movement. The Board offered to pay professional growth for teachers who complete graduate coursework at an annual recurring cost of $225,000 and to pay insurance for part-time teachers on a pro-rated basis. These proposals remain faithful to the Board’s pledge to deliver a balanced budget. The Board also offered to address the Union’s concern about the duration of the contract by eliminating the third year.

The Union responded to the Board’s proposals without offering any meaningful movement, and then demanded that the Board counter its own proposal before midnight or face a strike. Please refer to the updated chart that covers each of the key economic issues, including the proposals from the most recent session on October 15.

Although the Board President made an in-person request to the Union to postpone the strike and continue negotiations, the Union’s midnight ultimatum was conveyed to the Board not face-to-face but through the federal mediator.

The Board remains committed to continuing negotiations. Board members still believe that it is possible to arrive at a fair settlement that will allow the District to live within its means, while at the same time providing its employees with competitive compensation, meaningful professional growth opportunities, and an excellent teaching and learning environment.

In the early hours of October 16, the Union declared a strike. All school buildings will be closed on Tuesday with the exception of the Green Bay Early Childhood Center, Oak Terrace Elementary School, and Northwood Junior High School. These three buildings will serve as activity centers for children whose families pre-registered last week. Please refer to the District’s strike contingency plans on the Strike Planning Page on the District website for more information.

The next mediation session is schedule for Tuesday, October 16 at 12:00pm.

Earlier: Park's elementary and middle school teachers rallied on Monday afternoon before the District 112 School Board and teachers' union met for another bargaining session.

District 112 Contract Negotiations: The Story So Far

If the bargaining session does not end in a settlement, a teachers' strike could begin Tuesday.

"I was hoping we didn't get to this point," said Nydia Burgo, a bilingual pre-kindergarten teacher from Green Bay School.

The union represents District 112's roughly 450 teachers, all of whom have been working without a contract since August.

In a letter to community members, District 112 School Board President Bruce Hyman asked the union to withdraw its strike threat. The district has collaborated with the city's park district and other community organizations to offer contingency plan services to the district's 4,600 students in case a strike occurs.

"We hope the board can come and have some reasonable offers and we can settle tonight," said Sherwood School fifth grade teacher Jill Hancock. "We all want to go back to school tomorrow."

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David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Actually, some of us DO have a clue about 113's salary schedule, and that topic has been broached many times.
Mary T. October 17, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Joe Highly doubt that the police force or the fire service would get to the point of striking. They are undoubtedly very valuable for our valuables we wouldn't allow them to be undervalued. Doesn't solve this problem though
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 02:44 AM
According to a recent ISBE report on teacher employment, there's 60,000 candidates in the pipeline. Certainly out of that set we can find qualified replacements who will be happy to accept our offer. What's the Board waiting for? The employees already quit - it's time to start hiring.
Walter White October 17, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Wow, maybe the board really is a level headed bunch and doesn't buy in to your insanity. How is it possible they are not listening to such rational ideas?
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Anyone from the Union or Teachers themselves could certainly set up a blogging account on The Patch, and post their own information. They can also freely post links within the comments... The Board spins, the Union spins. We all know that. But the problem with all this spinning is it's making us nauseous. This strike needs to end - either side can end it now. The Union members can go back to work, or the Board can fire the lot of them and hire replacements. Let's get the kids back to school.
MS October 17, 2012 at 02:54 AM
No bias. Just layed the facts out. Not sure it makes me a great parent or not, but it certainly makes them better citizens.
MS October 17, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Was done in a child friendly manner. No worries nor need to be dismayed.
Walter White October 17, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Actually it creates kids that aren't allowed to think for themselves. It's no different than telling your kids to dislike another race or religion.
Rachel October 17, 2012 at 02:58 AM
David-- Go ahead, have the Board call in substitutes for a day of "school" and see what happens. Have you heard about the disaster in Lake Forest when this occurred? Their "school" days with these substitutes did not even come close to counting for actual days of attendance. No learning took place.
Walter White October 17, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Oh that was all a joke? Hahahaha....I get it! Now go away.
Highlands HP'er October 17, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Joe is going on strike :-)
Rachel October 17, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Thank you for FINALLY bringing this to everyone's attention. A one-sided story is NOT the full story. Especially when that side is spinning numbers and viewpoints.
David R. October 17, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Rachel-- You're simply incorrect. Lake Forest relied primarily on community volunteers and aides. That was glorified babysitting, which we don't need because some of our great community organizations are fulfilling that role. We need to have subsitute teachers come in and fill the positions. Otherwise, the teachers union can wait this out indefinitely, as its members aren't losing a dime since, without subsitute teachers, all of the days missed now will have to be made up at the end of the year.
Rachel October 17, 2012 at 03:12 AM
The average salary is $100,000?! That is a joke! Pay starts at $41,192-- only a handful of the teachers make $100,000 and over. Get your facts straight.
Rachel October 17, 2012 at 03:14 AM
If you look closely at the document the Board has posted, you will understand it more. Teachers who have had a large percentage increase (mostly 15%--not 30-40%) completed a Master's degree, or added on credits to their Master's degree. Mind you, it costs the teacher at least $20,000 out of their OWN pocket to obtain this.
RT311 October 17, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Teacher -- 3288 dollars = cost for required certification to teach a new subject area. All course were pre-alproved by multiple district administrators for lane change. Now the board wants to nullify that agreement. There obviously is going to be an issue. It's bad practice. We are talking about 95 other teachers in the same position. Great teachers will leave when a few thousand dollars is "taken." This was a place where great teachers wanted to be lifelong teachers. There's a benefit to that -- for the whole community.
richard markowitz October 17, 2012 at 03:20 AM
David I don't understand if you are so happy to bring the teachers pay down but you are happy to pay Dada 2 pensions and Behlows high salary? If you we're a fair man you would be screaming about it. Let me hear you.
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Welcome to the new economic reality - benefits that you already have, have begun costing the District (and companies) more and more - so the employees need to share more of the costs. The taxpayers want a fair contract too - one which doesn't take money out of reserves to give away to fiscally unsustainable salary increases.
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Benefits are an attractant to EMPLOYEES - once someone walks off the job, they're not an employee any longer, so why should we give them any benefits? The Board's done the right thing.
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Yep, continuing education is expensive. If someone wants to take a class, they need to do the ROI and fund it on their own, If they choose to take courses and obtain an advanced degree - that's great. We should certainly give them additional weighting on consideration of a raise. We should also have achievable and fair metrics for measuring teacher performance so high performing teachers can be considered for raises vs. the status quo of handing out raises to everyone regardless of their performance (all that does is encourage a race to the bottom).
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Richard, I don't find Behlow or Dada's salaries/benefits to be fair at all. I have personally appeared before the Board, sat a few feet from Dr. Behlow and said that we needed to find someone at half the salary because we couldn't afford him any more. To retain balance, I also discussed the outlandish benefits detailed in the Teacher's Contract. I've posted the comments I made to another Thread on this site. Shortly thereafter, I served on the D112 Citizens Finance Advisory Committee - we recommended many cost savings items (some which have been enacted), and discussed other issues such as infrastructure, redistricting, etc. So please don't get the impression that I believe the Admin salaries shouldn't be addressed - they absolutely should. However, the topic at hand is Teacher Salaries/Benefits so that's what I'm focusing my attention on. Once we're past this issue, we ought to certainly move on to Admin Salaries, Infrastructure, etc...
Highlands HP'er October 17, 2012 at 03:49 AM
You have interesting ideas David. The one argument against differential pay is the environment that it creates. I am not sure that it is the silver bullet you are looking for. This could create a situation that pits teachers against each other and encourage teachers to not collaborate with their competition (fellow teachers). Taken to extreme you could start seeing teachers playing politics to influence which students they get assigned (so they get the best students the following year). You could see teachers sabotaging fellow teachers in an effort to move up the rankings. You would start seeing teachers shy away from taking on the more challenging students with the most problems in fear of it negatively affecting their compensation. I don't think its quite as simple as you would hope.
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Scott: All of your scenarios are certainly plausible, and whenever setting any type of policy it behooves us to consider how people will try to skirt it or abuse it. One possible method of mitigating the politics of getting certain students would be assign students to teachers randomly (obviously we're not going to assign special ed students to a non-special ed teacher). Part of the performance metrics could certainly be levels of collaboration. Collaboration brings value to education and ultimately to the taxpayers (cf. the many peer-reviewed articles that are written by teams). If we could enumerate "challenging students" with some fair metric, that could be used as additional weighting in performance ratings. So if someone's randomly assigned such a student, they're not going to get zinged for it. Again, we need to delve into the metric design to prevent gaming the system. I really do want to see our District continue to shine academically, and I really do want to see high-performers given high consideration for raises. That will drive quality. If we have a year where we have more high-performers considered for raises than we have money available for raises, then we can certainly have the conversation to increase the available pool of money for raises because we're demonstrating that the value add is there.
Highlands HP'er October 17, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Certainly there might be methods of mitigating this. However, the law of unintended circumstances reigns supreme. I thought about this when I read an article about Best Buy where a shopper complained that a cashier harassed them terribly to get a warranty. Apparently the cashier was so rude that the customer put their purchase aside and walked away. I thought to myself... How would this employee look according to their metrics. Well, he upsets customers so much that the ones who wont purchase a warranty cancel the sales. This would mean that as a percentage of sales he would achieve a greater level of warranties per completed transactions. In essence.. this employee would look like a rock star. The current system of assigning children to classroom involves the social dynamics as well as the strengths of the teacher. Some students might respond better to a stricter teacher, some might respond better to a "fun" teacher. Some students are easily distracted by their "friend" and need to be separated. Maybe one teacher is stronger at teaching math and a student needs more help in math. When you randomize the student placement, you lose much of this. Laws of unintended consequences.
Tony S October 17, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Ya'll need to chillax. "Every serious student of the subject knows that the stability of a civilisation depends finally on the wisdom with which it distributes its wealth and allots its burdens of labour, and on the veracity of the instruction it provides for its children. We do not distribute the wealth at all: we throw it into the streets to be scrambled for by the strongest and the greediest who will stoop to such scrambling, after handing the lion’s share to the professional robbers politely called owners. We cram our children with lies, and punish anyone who tries to enlighten them. Our remedies for the consequences of our folly are tariffs, inflation, wars, vivisections and inoculations – vengeance, violences, black magic." George Bernard Shaw This puke storm of a page needs to stop. Just....BREATHE....smell the amazing North Shore air! It's all going to be all right! I worked my way through college to become a success and live in this district at a very young age. As a Cook County resident all my life, I did not realize what sort of deal y'all had going on here. I owe everything to teachers. I know so many of the teachers in this district and I can firmly tell you that the value they add to your childrens' education is PRICELESS. You have no idea....absolutely none. Breathe, relax, and put your money where your mouth is.
Teacher October 17, 2012 at 06:04 AM
You bring up interesting points. Many of these ideas, including performance evaluation and merit pay, are not currently being negotiated by either side. I agree that these are areas to explore as we continue to strive for excellence in education. My argument was that the new contract provides a substantial disincentive to continue higher education. It would take me 8 years to pay off the $12,000 degree program in which I am enrolled to earn my reading specialist certificate.. (This is an extremely affordable program; equivalent programs at top-tier universities like DePaul cost closer to $29,000.) I cannot afford the upfront investment to continue my courses. Like the district, I have to make difficult decisions to keep my family’s budget balanced. Given my district experience and that I hold a Master’s Degree, I have an advantage in recouping educational investments compared to a starting teacher. Our newer teachers starting at a lower base salary will need to invest significantly more years of service to repay their tuitions. They will have the least incentive and most limited ability to continue their education. I worry that this will affect the quality of incoming teachers, as those motivated to continue in higher education will be encouraged to look to neighboring districts.
Lou October 17, 2012 at 10:05 AM
STRIKE IS OVER, YOU READ IT FIRST ON THE PATCH
Lou October 17, 2012 at 10:06 AM
SCHOOL IN SESSION WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, TODAY
Walter White October 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Gee, I guess strikes do work. Guess the ultra conservatives will have to wait a while to implement their union busting ideas.
Jerry Hopkins October 17, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I'll admit that I never was too much in favor of unions. This little experience has shown me the importance of the union (at least for schools). I see the cons as well, however, the pros (protecting the teachers from the 112BOE and the Greenies of the world) certainly outweigh them at this point. Hope the deal makes everyone happy (or at least not terribly unhappy).

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