Thursday, October 2, 2014

Letter to the Community from the D86 Teachers

As parents of D181 and D86 students, we have been following the shenanigans of the D86 Board negotiators (and that's a nice way of characterizing their despicable conduct) during the teacher contract negotiations.  Yesterday, they sent out a second email flyer, and most likely spent thousands of dollars mailing it, just as they did with their first Newsletter in late summer.  We have been asked by a reader to publish below a letter the HHSTA (teachers' association) has issued. Please take the time to read it and support the D86 teachers. Also, the next D86 Board meeting is on October 6 at the Hinsdale Central Auditorium beginning at 7 pm. (This is a change from what was originally scheduled and if there are further changes, we will update our readers.)

Letter from the D86 Teachers:

"October 1, 2014

Dear community members,

We would first like to express our gratitude for the outward support many of you have shown. From the 1,165 who have signed the petition to the hundreds of people who have attended board meetings and emailed board members to the many, many expressions of appreciation within and around Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South since August, we thank you for it all.

Our purpose with this email is to counter the deceptions that President Richard Skoda has continued to deliver to your personal email accounts, including the latest on September 24, and that we assume will be reinforced in the mailer he said he plans to send to your homes—again with the use of District 86 funds and resources.

Despite what members of the new District 86 Board majority would have you believe, the teachers do have your children’s best interests in mind. We are keenly aware of the anxiety this situation causes students regarding upcoming athletic and other extracurricular events, and that is why we have made concessions and tried to compromise to reach an agreement that is sustainable while allowing District 86 to remain competitive. However, the board has prevented negotiations from moving forward. Never in the history of District 86 have teacher negotiations been filled with this much strife and contentiousness.

In the midst of this, we continue to deliver to your students the award-winning curriculum that we have created; we have participated in Homecoming Week celebrations at South and will do the same at Central; we continue to coach and sponsor all of the athletics and activities that have often resulted in championships and significant achievements; and we continue to work well beyond the school day to write letters of recommendation and to help students complete college applications.

We continue to act in a professional manner despite being publicly attacked by members of the school board. In his September 24 email, President Skoda said that neither he nor any other board member has “denigrated individual teachers.” Yet, later in that same email, he claimed teachers were motivated by “avarice,” or extreme greed for wealth. At the August 4 Board meeting, President Skoda and Board member Claudia Manley made erroneous accusations that teachers threatened them via Facebook, despite the newspaper who made the technical mishap taking responsibility. They continued to pursue the claim, even after the police department dismissed it. And, perhaps the most egregious example, at the September 22 Board meeting, President Skoda compared us—your students’ teachers, whom so many of you have come to know personally and professionally—to the extreme terrorist group ISIS when making an analogy to explain his decisions.

We could cite example after example of occasions when President Skoda and some of his colleagues have aimed insults, directly or indirectly, at us. If you’d like to see more
examples or to see what District 86 Board meetings under his direction have regressed into, we encourage you to visit the District 86 Board website and archives that include videos of the August 4, August 18, September 8, and September 22 Committee of the Whole or Regular Action meetings: Furthermore, to see firsthand what has become the norm of your community’s school board meetings, we encourage you to attend the upcoming October 6 meeting at Hinsdale South at 7:00 p.m.

Our offer is not motivated by greed. Actually, by any measure, the teachers’ offer is financially conservative. Using the board’s projections from November 2013—at the time of the 0% tax levy decision—the teachers’ proposal is more than $1.3 million below projected revenue total for the four years of the contract, and it reduces health care costs for the district. The teachers have also decreased by half their legal retirement incentive, which is not illegal “pension spiking,” as President Skoda calls it.

Using the very same system the teachers are proposing now, the District also has increased its reserves in recent years. For fiscal year 2015, the district has $56.2 million dollars in reserve. That number is projected to grow to $74.3 million by 2019. By maintaining this system, District 86 will be able to continue the financial and academic excellence it has been recognized for.

However, this reputation is in jeopardy due to the contentious public negotiation strategy of President Skoda and Mr. Corcoran. Instead of working with the teachers, President Skoda and Mr. Corcoran have written you deceptive emails, sent a mailer using district funds and resources, held a press conference without allowing the public or other board members to attend, and filed a police report against the teachers. All of these publicity stunts have brought negative attention to our schools while creating avenues to easily and inappropriately include students.

We would like to re-emphasize that our goal has been to make a sustainable offer that maintains the competitive edge that District 86 has always had in attracting and retaining top-quality teachers for your children. The reason we were forced to initiate the public posting process on September 9 is because, for over one year, President Skoda and Mr. Corcoran refused to follow the standard procedures of collective bargaining by making a complete offer, outlining all of their costs. More specifically, until we initiated the public-posting process, President Skoda and Mr. Corcoran provided us with offers that were a mere two to four pages in length, noting only parts of the contract. Our negotiators did not see the complete 125-page offer until it was made available to the public, a requirement of the public-posting process. However, President Skoda would have you believe that “[t]he Board devoted its summer to a successful culmination of these talks prior to the start of school.”

We encourage you to go to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board to see the financial details of our ongoing negotiations. You can see our offer—which objectively outlines a comparison and notes the many compromises and concessions we have made—and the offer that President Skoda and Mr. Corcoran are largely responsible for as the District 86 negotiation team:

In closing, we would like to thank you again for your support as we work through this. We value the relationships we have built with you and your children; they are a primary reason why we would most like to continue our careers in District 86.

Thank you, Your Teachers"


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting! This is such a crucial issue. The BOE majority proposal is designed to look good to the community - but this is highly deceptive. Many of our current teachers are at the top of the pay scale and therefore unaffected by the drastic proposal of changing the salary schedule from 19 steps to 35. They are NOT greedy. They are fighting to keep our school competitive in the future. The best and brightest teachers will not choose a district that will pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars less over the course of their career. Who would choose that if you have better options down the street? Don't be fooled by the BOE majority. We have an amazing high school district because of the amazing community here - this community includes and is lead by the teachers.

We all know how amazing a great teacher can be. And, I think we all know how much damage a poor or even a mediocre teacher can do. Don't force to great ones to look elsewhere because we don't want to pay them a competitive salary. Don't allow the BOE majority to dismantle one of the best high school districts in the country.

Anonymous said...

There is no way D181 teachers should be paid more than D86 teachers. Savings should come from D181.

jay_wick said...

I agree that the D181 BOE has engaged in absolutely deplorable behavior and the divisiveness they've sowed are quite literally forcing me and my family to give serious consideration to seeking alternatives to Hinsdale Central for the sake of our children. If we decide to leave our home it will be before we suffer too great a financial reversal in the value of our home, we have alternatives and will exercise them.

Folks really need to get a better understanding of how Illinois school funding is organized and demand that not just selfish, mindless tax slashing fools deceptively win election but fair minded people that understand how the Property Tax Cap works Illinois Department of Revenue and perhaps how things like the Senior Citizens Assement Freeze may need to be expanded to meet the needs of those on fixed incomes.

I do not understand how anyone that reads this blog would confuse the relatively non-contentious adoption of the current elementary schools' contract that happened this past spring with the ugly and unproductive process that the extremist ideologues that illegitimately seized control of D181 are using to force a needless disruption to the education of our high-schoolers.

I thank the blog owners for helping to counter misinformation being spread by the duplicitous and hypocritical folks misguidedly pushing D181 to ruin.

Anonymous said...

Wick, I think you mean D86 when you typed D181 in the above post. Just clarifying.

jay_wick said...

Absolutely correct.

The illegitimate D86 BOE majority has been deplorable in their conduct. Anyone associated with Skoda-Corcoran-Casini-Manley bears full responsibility for the non-productive direction the high school district is head in.

While some D181 BOE members have been less than fully responsible in serving out their roles and some have shown ethical lapses, the lack of contention in the contract negotiations was exemplary.

That said, it would have been nice to see the full cost break out for the contract in a timely manner, something that did not happen largely due to the unfortunate timing of transition of previous administrative hierarchy and the lack of seriousness that is too often exhibited by the D181 elementary school BOE 'president' that I will remind people spearheaded his own campaign outside the Caucus process and has been far from a model board member...

I would encourage anyone contemplating running for D181 or serving on a committee to vet potential candidates to ask the district to deliver that cost break down.
I won't now call for any public release of such data as it would only serve to confuse the more pressing contract dispute facing the high school and alienate the few voters that would care...