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The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board will meet Tuesday night, but don’t bother to come. They will be meeting in closed session to discuss contract negotiations with the teachers union in hopes of coming to agreement on a new contract before teachers return to work next month.

But the president of the District 65 Educators’ Council (DEC), Jean Luft, told Evanston Now Monday that “we have not reached a tentative agreement yet.“

Evanston’s high school district, 202, has already reached an agreement with its teachers that calls for a modest pay raise and changes to its health benefit.

Over the four-year contract, the high school agreement entails an average 2.67 percent increase in pay per year, which the union and administration contend approximates the assumption of increases in the cost of living.

The District 65 teachers, according to Luft, are interested in clarifying certain working conditions of teachers, particularly the amount of planning time allotted to teachers.

The administration had proposed cutting back on arts and physical education teachers next year by working the remaining teachers harder by reducing their planning time. These changes did not go over well with DEC members, according to Luft.

This spring, the District 65 teachers authorized its leaders to call a strike, if necessary, but Luft told Evanston Now she hopes that will not be necessary.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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11 Comments

  1. If we want our schools to be

    If we want our schools to be desirable, we have to attract the best educators. Finding great teachers is increasingly difficult, as more gifted professionals are driven out of the field for better paying positions every day.  I hope that D65 understands this.

    1. I agree

      Good teachers should be paid more and bad teachers should be eliminated. In order to achieve the goal of getting the best several things need to be done.

      – Set up salary structure were merit pay is the rule. Good educators would receive more money,average teachers would recieve lower salaries, and bad teachers would be fired.

      – Eliminate tenure. Tenure, many cases, makes good educators into average teachers.

      – Create wage pools caps with good instructures getting their salary increases first. The remaining amount of money, if any, would be used to determine salary increases for the lower rated teachers. This would allow the district to keep more reasonable salary budgets and encourage lower ranked teachers to work harder to be good educators.

      – Provide in-house education to teachers when there is a need to meet new state standards or when new instruction methods are needed.

       

      The 50 years of unions running education has not worked. The one size fits all for salary standards has not worked. Better pay for better work should be the standard. It will lead to lower school budgets, better schools, and attract the creme of the crop as far as educators.

      1. We need to pay more to attract better teachers

        After 20 years teaching and administrating I can say that merit pay won't solve anything.  We have always had the ability to remove poorly performing teachers in the burbs (only CPS has a contractual protection for lousy teachers) and we have used it.  

        The problem is the quality of student now attracted to teaching.  Fifty years ago, women, denied other options professionally, were the backbone of teaching.  We had a captive highly intelligent professional pool to pull from.  However, times have changed, and now we do not have these talented underpaid women as the core of our teaching workforce.  

        Which means we will have to pay more to attract the best into this workforce, and we will need to improve identification of potential teachers at the college level and improve teacher prep programs.  Business incentive programs will do nothing without the talent to develop.

  2. Working them “harder”?

    "The administration had proposed cutting back on arts and physical education teachers next year by working the remaining teachers harder by reducing their planning time. These changes did not go over well with DEC members, according to Luft."

    Back up – a little context goes a long way. 

    Working arts and PE teachers "harder" boils down to scheduling them for the same amount of student instructional minutes as their peers in classroom teacher roles.  Currently they are scheduled for fewer minutes of student contact – much fewer – for the same amount of pay.  So really this is a correction designed for fairness among union members, not some sinister plot to squeeze the electives teachers.  So yes, they'll be worked "harder" – i.e. as hard as their peers have been working for years. 

    By the way, "working the remaining teachers harder"?  What are they, draft horses?

     

     

    1. Just say “ney”

      Minutes aren't everything.  What about number of students?  Many of those middle school, arts, and PE teachers have 150+ students daily.  Will loading another 25-50 students make things "fair?"  It doesn't seem like a teacher problem but another administration/board created problem.

      They are just cutting corners and going after the arts.  Look at what's happened to foreign language.

    2. It’s not just about the “contact minutes”…

      Elementary classroom teachers are very diferent from "specials" teachers (Art, Music, PE) and the same can be said for middle-school teachers.

      K-5 classroom teachers are expected to offer differentiated instruction to a classroom of 20-25 students with an ability range of (generally) +/- 1 grade level.  Specials teachers create curricula for SIX grade levels, while still accommodating that same +/- ability range.  They also do this for EVERY student in the school (nearly 500 at Washington School alone!)

      So, just because <on paper> these teachers have less direct "student contact minutes", this in no way reflects the amount of work these teachers take on.  Then you add on the other "value-added" contributions: art shows, holiday concerts, coaching, before & after school clubs…  Does the school board really think stretching these folks even thinner will result in any sort of QUALITY educational time from those meager extra "student contact minutes" eked out by forcing them to travel to multiple schools? 

      The specials teachers offer an invaluable service as the unifying thread tying all our students into one school community, as well as providing an outlet for physical, creative learning using their hands and bodies (which has been proven to have educational benefits that overflow into the regular classroom.)

  3. Success of Evanston students starts with good teachers

    As a parent in this district, I am extremely concerned by the administration's recent negotiations with teachers.  If we want attract the level of professional that is found in our neighboring district, New Trier, then we need to compensate our teachers accordingly.  Compensation means more than salary and benefits, but working conditions as well.  Our schools need basic structural upkeep, as do our classrooms and curriculum–reduce class sizes, bring back the arts and foreign language, provide our teachers with time to plan lessons, and let's start to question these recent, contrary decisions made by the administration and the board.  If our students are going to be competitive in a global market, then we need to provide them with the education necessary to succeed.  Why did we spend so much time and money discussing the construction of an outrageously expensive new school when clearly these far more important issues were looming?  Was the board unaware that the administration was planning to reduce teacher planning time, reduce arts education opportunities, reduce the educational and experience level of the faculty via attrition, and all of the other recent "necessary" changes that have recently been enacted?  As parents and as tax payers  what is  necessary right now is public outcry.  We need to demand a better education for our children, and this starts with demanding seemingly insignificant things like the restoration of planning time to teachers.  The old adage, 'happy mothers make happy children' applies to our teachers as well: a successful teacher, one who has the time, tools, level of education and years of experience creates successful students.  

    1. School Board Elections are coming soon

      There have been many questionable decisions in District 65 over the last decade. Remember, the superintendent reports to the School Board, and the School Board is responsible for setting policy. When you have weak school board members who don't do their homework, don't conduct thorough cost/benefit analysis, respond to a few vocal community members, and try to treat the "symptoms" but ignore the fundamental underlying "causes" you get the outcomes realized by District 65.

      Hopefully more members in the entire Evanston community pay attention to the upcoming school board elections in both D65 and D202. You just can't ASSUME that everything will be "just fine."

      Education takes a lot of effort and hard work, and sensible and thoughtful policies.

       

       

  4. Professionals or hourly labor?

    I have not seen valid data showing strong correlations of teacher pay to student achievement, when you hold constant the family demographics of students.  I think this has been an assumption for the most part.

    I suspect we'd all be in favor of paying teachers like doctors and lawyers (they're actually close in Evanston if you look at real earnings for lawyers and family doctors) but ONLY IF we get to expect the same level of education, accountability, and time on task from teachers.  Doctors and lawyers get more education overall.  We can sue doctors and lawyers for malpractice, and move to others if we're not happy.  Their incomes go up AND down.  They don't get tenure.  They don't get taxpayer guaranteed pensions.  Most don't get paid based on annual step increases.  Most work 12 months a year and long hours each week.  Most I know take continuing education on their own time, so they can maintain their licenses.

    On the one hand teachers want to be considered Professionals, but on the other hand they want jobs structured like factory workers (those few that still get pensions and benefits).  But factory workers take their direction from management, and they're paid less on average.  It's time to say you can't have it both ways.

    This time it will be interesting to see if Jan Schakowsky marches in with the teachers again.  You wonder who she represents, her union contributors or her constituents?

    1. Hourly labor of professionals

      I just paid my "professional" attorney an hourly rate of $400/ hour for a service .  I met with him once for thirty minutes and communicated thereafter with his paralegal, who produced all documents, responded to my emails and phone calls, etc.  My total bill was over $4,000.   My professional attorney was on vacation for two out of the three weeks that his paralegal was working on my case.  I have anecdotal stories about doctors as well.   Leave the teachers alone.  My daughter's teacher was the best Professional I encountered this year, I looked up her salary, and she earns nowhere near $400/ hour.  Does anyone know where to get one of those "we support district 65 teachers" signs to place on my lawn?

  5. EvanstonTeachers

    As an Evanston taxpayer. parent and former teacher (in another state,) I would like to express my  opinion about Dist. 65 teachers.  For the most part, they have been WONDERFUL and seem to have the best interests of the kids.   But the Board and Administration could use some improvement.  For example, why did they go to a referendum back in the spring if they thought they couldn't support the high level of education at the existing schools?  I've taught in a district where "arts" were tough to find, physical education was shrunk, and enrichment programs eliminated.  That's not what kids need.

     

     

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