LFHS teachers, board hope to avert strike
Updated: September 17, 2012 12:27PM
LAKE FOREST — The Lake Forest Education Association’s teachers union and District 115 School District negotiators are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator Aug. 23 in hopes of coming to an agreement and averting a strike, both parties agreed Monday.
The agreement to meet again comes just three days after the LFEA declared an impasse in negotiations on the teachers’ contract that ended June 30.
“We have been negotiating with the board since April with very little substantive progress on financial and benefit issues. Therefore, The Lake Forest Education Association declared impasse in order to allow community members to view its offer, within the restraints of collective bargaining, and help facilitate a fair and equitable contract for its members,” said Chuck Gress, LFEA spokesman and math department teacher.
Statutorily, the union had the right to declare an impasse as the two parties had been in mediation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for at least 15 days, according to District 115 attorney Michael Hernandez of Franczek Radelet. The first mediation session was June 28.
Should the sides not reach an agreement at the Aug. 23 session, the final offers, including cost summaries of each, will be published on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website, www2.illinois.gov.
“If the dispute is not settled through mediation, the union provides the employer with a formal notice of intent to strike at least 10 days in advance of engaging in a strike,” said District 115 spokeswoman Anne Whipple.
Sept. 10 is the earliest a strike could occur, Hernandez said.
Gress would not comment on the likelihood of the teachers going on strike, but by Sept. 10 the school year would be in full swing. There are an estimated 1,700 students at the school, with freshmen orientation scheduled for Aug. 24 and the first day for all students Aug. 27.
There are 152 certified staff covered by the LFEA, Whipple said.
What would happen if the teachers do go on strike and what contingency plans are in place is not something the board or administration would discuss.
LFHS Board Vice President Jim Carey said the board “welcomes the opportunity to present its final and best offer” and that the board “will continue to work hard to achieve a settlement that balances its educational and financial commitments to the community with a salary schedule that is competitive with similar school districts.”
According to statements posted by the LFHS Board on the school’s website, www.lfhs.org, the board last offered a three-year contract with a 2.1 percent salary increase in fiscal year 2013, 3.3 percent increase in fiscal year 2014 and 3.5 percent in 2015.
The board statement on the website also indicates that its goals are to keep its teachers “highly competitive,” to “attract and retain the highest quality of teachers” and to remain “fiscally responsible to the community.”
Union representatives will not comment on their most recent offer, except to say they received no pay increase in the last one-year contract and were required to pay more for health insurance coverage.
“The key issues for the teachers now are salary and insurance,” said Mark Stein of the Illinois Education Association. Stein is working with the LFEA on the negotiations.
Beyond that, Stein would not comment further on the negotiations thus far.
“We think it wouldn’t be beneficial to either party, at this point, to talk about what the offers have been,” Stein said.
Gress, a Golden Apple Award winner, said the LFEA “stands by the position that our offer allows the school to compete with nearby districts to attract and retain the very best educators, contribute to the future fiscal soundness of the institution, and does not increase the district tax formula for the community,” he said, but would not disclose details of the union’s offer.
Last fall the LFEA held an informational picket at the high school before the one-year retroactive contract was resolved in January 2012.
The length of the new contract is under negotiation, officials said.