About 200 Evanston/Skokie School District 65 teachers and their supporters marched around parts of the city’s west side this evening to support their demands in contract talks with the school board.

The march started and ended at the school administration building at 1500 McDaniel Ave. where the school board is voting tonight on a new budget.

“What do we want: Fair contract.  When do we want it: Now” the teachers chanted, as they carried signs calling for an end to the administration’s demand that some teachers teach a seventh period each day and for more time for teachers to prepare for their classes.

The teachers voted months ago to authorize union leaders to call a strike if a settlement wasn’t reached, and the administration and union representatives have been meeting with a federal mediator to try to resolve the dispute.

The budget that the board is expected to give preliminary approval to tonight, provides for a 3.8 percent increase in pay for the average teacher — including base pay increase, step pay hikes based on years on the job, and pay boosts based on completion of additional academic coursework.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. It’s not about the money

    Money is not going to settle this. A fair contract will. They need to walk a mile in the shoes of all teachers to see how they will be affected by the proposed changes. They just don't get it. 

    1. get it

      I gather that you get it. Then tell us in detail what there is to get, other than a big raise.

      1. It’s my understanding that

        It's my understanding that the issues revolve around changes to the contractual day (e.g., when a teacher's day starts and ends). 

        1. Close, but not quite…

          As explained to me by a D65 teacher, at issue is an attempt by the district to strictly enforce current contract language that specifies the minimum "student contact minutes." While this, on it's face, seems like a reasonable expectation (i.e. follow the contact), the system falls short in view of the "specials" teachers.

          Music, Art, & PE teachers, unlike your typical K-5 classroom teacher, have contact with EVERY student in a given school, not just the 20+ students in an individual classroom. Their jobs are very different, and to try to hold them to a "contact minute" standard like "regular" teachers just does not make sense.  They also must create lesson plans and activities appropriate for children across all 6 grade levels, not merely the classroom teacher's single grade (plus/minus a grade level for exceptional/remedial students).

          The district has decided (as a cost-saving measure) to add student contact minutes to the specials teachers' workload as a way to eliminate teacher positions and leave vacancies unfilled. On paper, this seems reasonable. In practice, though, this means that these teachers will be expected to teach not only the entire student population of their home school (nearly 500 at Washington School), but they will also be expected to teach an entire additional corps of students at another school. 

          Within the confines of their contract?  Yes.  An effective way to provide arts and physical education?  No. 

          These teachers often provide additional services to their schools by way of running fitness activities, music/art clubs, putting on concerts or plays, etc.  All those "extras" will be lost as their energies are diluted to squeeze out "contact minutes" in lieu of quality education.

          Middle school teachers, K-5 teachers, and Music/Art/P.E. teachers are all professionals, but their jobs are all very different.  To try to hold them all to the same "student contact minute" standard is to ignore the very different roles these professional play in the school environment.  Apples & oranges, under a shared contract.

  2. If it’s not about the money …

    Would the teachers be willing to take no raise or a 1 percent raise to keep the laid off teachers in their jobs?  As I understand it, the staff reductions were made to reduce staff costs.

    Teachers have a difficult job and I value the work that they do.  But with the District 65 budget the way that it stands and many taxpayers facing their own difficult financial decisions, the teachers' union needs to make a choice.

    —  Want to keep all of the current teachers (except those who voluntarily took early retirement) so that no teacher needs to work one minute more than last year?  Then no raise or a 1 percent raise for all teachers. 

    — Want to get a 3.8 percent raise?  Then there will be reductions in staff and teachers will need to work more hours.

    Taxpayers cannot, once again, be told that you must just dig deeper so that teachers can have 3.8 percent raises with no layoffs.  As a taxpayer, I know that my salary has not kept up with inflation for the past three years while government fees, charges and taxes keep going up every year, while the value of my home has dropped significantly.

    I work in a small office that is run very frugally.  This year's raise: no more than 1 percent for anyone.  Plus the employees must do more work this coming year than they did last year as our responsibilities keep increasing without no additional staff.  And each employee is very happy to have a job.  We know that the boss could have chosen to give all of us 3 or 4 percent raises but it's likely that layoffs would have followed.  That's reality. 

    Money is not an unlimited commodity.

    1. Fair

      Based on the article, it appears that a fair contract is entirely based on more money for the teachers, who are paid substancially more than the average teacher in the Chicagoland area.

      Who do you think you are kidding.

  3. contract about lack of money, leadership could have averted it

    This could have been averted if the administration pushed for an operating budget referendum in the spring, like WIlmette did and won,  instead of a 5th ward school.

    Those of us who stood against the fifth ward school were doing it for this very reason.  The district did not, and continues to not have enough money.  If a fifth ward school was added, how would it be staffed? Where would the money come from?  Unfortunately, this town made that issue about social justice and skin color, when in fact it was only about the color green.

    By cutting fine arts/PE teachers, the district is saving money.  However, in doing so, all teachers are affected because while children attend fine art/PE, teaching staff has planning time.   Planning time is is an invaluable part of the educational process, as it allows teachers time to collaborate and plan with other staff members.  Much research supports the need of this time alloted during the school day in order to provide quality education.

    The board is also cutting staff for special education. Look back a few years, and remember that many students with severe needs were brought back from Park School and placed into all the schools, originally with extra help in an inclusion model.   The district has slowly, but surely, eroded supports for these students, and now many of these high-needs children are placed directly into regular education with little or no extra help(see special education staff aides, speech/language pathologists, and psychologist cuts).  This affects the quality of education for everyone. 

    When Hardy Murphy wrote to the parents that they "found" 4 million dollars to balance the budget last spring, he was not reporting the whole truth. The "found" money was actually just staff cuts and reduction in experienced staff.

    Decreasing property values and increasing costs of medical coverage, not to mention the upcoming increased pension obligation burden, will make it impossible to give these teachers all they demand.  Unless, the board allows money to be siphoned from other fund expenditures, i.e. transportation, building/maintanence fund/etc… and tries to push through a tax increase referendum in the fall to restore money in the funds/teacher salary fund.

    What a mess.

    I hope to see some new candidates for school board this spring, and an end to the rule of Hardy Murphy- for the sake of all kids in D65.

    and to Eileen Budde and Richard Rykus, the only two who foresaw these problems, and voiced opposition to the fifth ward school because they wanted to keep the district strong for all kids, thank you.



  4. How about supporting the children?

    Once again, the union has managed to have an entire debate without introducing any care for the children of Disrict 65.  People are losing their jobs – I think $100,000 per year and a guaranteed pension that the taxpayers get to ensure isn't affected by market changes is plenty.

    But don't worry, here comes the union with their comparables.  Teachers make so much more elsewhere, etc.  Then go, please, and give us some new teachers that actually want to teach and care.  My children had two highly paid senior teachers that were terrible, in a school that failed to make AYP and now we're supposed to give them a raise?  Completely ludicrous.

    All of these cuts are completely attributable to the perceived need to engage in the environment of salary competition that the union has used to scare the parents and school board.  But then again, the teachers care more about pushing their nine-month salaries comfortably into six figures, than making sure the children are adequately educated.

    The teachers and union should be ashamed, but likely won't be because based upon the teaching, many apparently can't read.

    1. Of course it’s about the kids

      Of course not every teacher is excellent, but having had two kids go through the Evanston school systems, we found that nearly every elementary school teacher our kids encountered was hardworking, cared about all the students, and spent a fair amount of her or his own money to supplement what District 65 did not provide. 

      People who worry "what about the kids?" are not listening.  Of COURSE it's about the kids.  The great majority of these teachers are not in this to become wealthy.  They work hard.  Perhaps you have never experienced being a teacher?  It requires hard and dedicated work.  Teachers who are supported by the district can do a much better job than those who do not receive this support.  If you are worried about money, try out District 65's superintendent — he has methodically weakened this school system, yet makes an incredibly good salary and has his contract extended by a rubber stamp school board.  Thanks to the teachers, though, this district is still a very good one.

      The way District 65 treats its teachers is a reflection of how it treats its students.  These are related concepts. The District 65 School Board members and superintendent cannot claim to care about the students if they don't listen to, and act on the suggestions of the teachers.  The vast majority of teachers are professionals who are well-trained, and care about our students on a daily basis.  If school board members find themselves thinking that they can disallow what the teachers' leadership has to offer, our students are not getting the respect they deserve.

      It's convenient to blame the union.  Unions are there because the overseers tend to get away with whatever they can.  Are you sure about the figures you site above ($100k incomes for teachers)?  I think you pulled that out of a hat — I doubt that is the average pay.  I personally know a lot of these teachers and am grateful for the wonderful work they shared with my children and other students.  Yes, I could name two or three who could have been better — but most of them were fabulous.  The number of great teachers who have already left this district thanks to Murphy's questionable leadership is notable.

      If you truly care about the students as I do, don't resort to rhetoric and insulting statements (e.g., that teachers don't know how to read).  It truly cheapens any point you try to make.

    2. No reason to condemn all teachers

      I am sorry that you had a bad experience with a teacher, but that is no reason to condemn all teachers in this, your community.  Every press release and every statement that the 65 teachers' union has made clearly outlines exactly how they are fighting to keep the classroom environment intact for kids.  They are doing so because they care for the children.

       Sometimes it is difficult for individuals in professions in the private sector to understand how public education works, why teachers need time to do their jobs, and why they should be compensated accordingly.  And it would appear that the biggest gripe that continually appears on this string is the fact that teachers earn a decent salary.

       Last year a federal mediator declared that teachers on the North Shore should be compared to other, highly educated professionals who earn–yes–$100,000 a year.  I want my son educated by the  highly educated so that he can one day be admitted into an excellent university himself.  

      The difference between me and some of the other parents posting on this string is that I am willing to put my money where my mouth is and pay for the service that these professionals are providing on a daily basis for my child.  

      One final observation: While I am not an elementary school teacher, I can't help but note that almost every teacher I've met is female.  As a woman, I find it interesting that men all over this country are scapegoating one of the only American professions and unions comprised primarily of women.  

      1. What is an excellent teacher

        Leaving aside the actual teaching ability—-which cannot be set aside and is crucial, reports on American teachers compared to other countries that produce higher math/science/reading scores [I know people don't like to hear about scores], show a big difference in education.

        In those countries, teachers are those from the top universities, who graduate in the top of their class and have education in their subject matter, e.g. a BS or MS in math [not math for educators] that is the same as someone in a PhD program or preparing for it.

        They get top salary, respect in their community at a level of a lawyer [or as a lawyer in America would].

        In the U.S. this is not the case since many teachers obtain degrees from lesser known scchools and major in educatin or ____ for teachers   Perhaps a hold-over from years ago but the 'story' is that they take teaching jobs because that is the limit of their skills [granted many/most care about the kids].  Granted a sterotype but one they must overcome.

  5. It is about money

    In the last 40 years, every time a teacher strike has been pushed by the union, it has been about money. Every time the board has given in to the salary and benefit demands the strike was averted and the other issues were dropped.

    It is time to stop the union crying and saying it is about the kids.

    The taxpayers don't have a lot of money left to give you the big raises. It is time for you to realize that you will need to live on the same or less money and benefits until we can get someone in office that will reverse the downward trend of the American economy.

    It is time to share in the misery everybody else must live in.

    Another big raise will mean layoffs of some of you. Are you ready to sacrifice your fellow teachers to get your pound of silver?

  6. Support Evanston school teachers

    As an Evanston taxpayer I support our Evanston school teachers.  Especially, in relation to the value these teachers add to our community and society.

    I know… That typical stereotype for teachers includes a rather easy workload.  My own father was a teacher and the reality is quite the opposite.  The long hours (despite the general public perception), pace, abuse from students, parents and politicians, constant accountability for things outside of a teachers control, lack of administrative support and incompetent administrators. These are the realities.  I suspect this is why 50% of teachers quit the profession within 5 years?  

    If you’re concerned about tax dollars… Demand the D65 school board be more prudent spending your taxpayer money on administrators. While you’re at it… Request they stop spending money on outside consulting and instead utilize their highly compensated administrators.  Examine the Administrative Salary Compensation Report’s of 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. (www.district65.net/community/Contracts/I0166D58E)

    Stop the Evanston teacher bashing.  This contract dispute is about teaching and learning conditions for our Evanston students and teachers.  Sadly, it appears our highly paid administrators and the majority of our elected school board are either oblivious or “turning a deaf ear” to the quality of education issues the teachers are defending. 

    As a community we entrust these teachers with our precious children…  Why not listen and trust their concerns?

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