D86 Teachers 'Set Record Straight' on Board President’s 'Divisive Rhetoric'

Hinsdale High School Teachers Association responds to school board president's remarks about teachers' contract mediation.

In the escalating war of press releases, the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association responded to prepared statements made by Dist. 86 school board president Richard Skoda when the teachers’ strike authorization vote became public knowledge.

Teachers staged a “community awareness rally” outside of Hinsdale South before Monday’s board meeting, handing out flyers detailing a list of new board majority actions, including “unorthodox staffing decisions, late hiring practices, and questionable fiscal policy.”

Mike Palmquist, an English teacher at Hinsdale Central and the teachers’ association’s spokesman, told Patch that out of its membership of 377, a total of 372 teachers cast ballots on May 29.

Of those, 368 voted for a work stoppage during the 2014-15 if a new contract cannot be hammered out over the summer. Four of the ballots were spoiled.

“It is also worth noting that our own local leadership called for the vote, teachers in our buildings, not the NEA, or Naomi Shepherd, our IEA representative,” Palmquist said via email on Thursday night.  “The board’s representatives seem to believe that an outsider called for the vote. This is untrue and mischaracterization of the process.”

The union has since accused Skoda of making misleading statements about both sides’ salary proposals, stating that the school board did not make a complete salary offer until contract negotiations went into mediation.

Skoda indicated that teachers’ proposed a 5.45 percent salary increase in the first year for D86 teachers earning an average annual salary of $110,000. The district countered with an offer commensurate with the Consumer Price Index.

The teachers’ association said its proposal was financially sustainable for the district and maintained a competitive advantage for attracting and retaining quality teachers.

“The board’s proposal, on the other hand, is out of the norm. The compensation offer b the board will put District 86 base salary further behind other districts. Their offer reduces the take home pay of almost every teacher, eliminating the district’s competitive advantage.”

The union also said that board members dragged their feet in beginning contract negotiations, and of cancelling several meetings, including a last minute cancellation “without explanation.”

Skoda called the teacher’s association’s accusations “baloney.”

“The teachers weren’t expecting [the strike authorization vote] to become public knowledge,” Skoda said. “They wanted the first mediation session to be June 10. We wanted to meet before then.”

Jeff Waterman, a Hinsdale South English teacher and chief negotiator for the teachers' association called Skoda's remarks made Monday "divisive," after learning of the teachers' strike vote. 

The school board president compared the teachers' action to Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers' Union in order to give the teachers' unfair leverage in the bargaining sessions. 

“We hope that President Skoda and the new board majority will refrain
from such divisive rhetoric in the future and instead work with us through mediation this summer to achieve a contract that builds upon our tradition of excellence,” Waterman said.

Skoda says he played an "integral role" in crafting his response along with other members of the board’s negotiating team. He said the response underwent a legal review by the school district’s attorney because of the ongoing mediation before it was released Monday.

“There was nothing we said in the press release that [the teachers’ union] could object to the community knowing about,” Skoda said. “None of the negotiation team had an objection to the Karen Lewis reference. The parallel is undeniable.”

Denise Stout June 07, 2014 at 08:39 PM
Check out this website if you agree that our High School teachers are well paid...most have gotten 100% increases in the last 10 years.... http://www.openthebooks.com/search/?PensionCode=26&F_districtnm=Hinsdale%20Twp%20Hsd%2086&F_lastnm=
Linda Burke June 08, 2014 at 07:45 AM
Hi Denise. First, we all agree to love Pam Bylsma and to be happy she is back. On the topic of your email, wow. From the fury directed at our teachers in these postings, you would think it was the teachers who crashed the economy in 2008. First, I never said our teachers weren't well paid. They don't get rich, and they achieve their peak earnings only after years of employment, but yes, they can hope to have a family, buy a house, and lead a middle class life. This is as it should be. Teacher compensation in District 86 is competitive as it needs to be, but also in line with other top Chicago-area high school districts. Do we really want our children's teachers to work under Walmart conditions, with rapid turnover, coming to work sick, and commuting from distant low-income neighborhoods? Not that anyone should be forced to live that way, but the growth of inequality in America is another topic. Also, we need to be very skeptical of any "facts" and figures put out there or recommended by the present board majority. They cherry-pick data to mislead, when they are not fabricating outright, to make teachers look outrageously overpaid, when in fact they are not. As for a 100% increase since 2004, there has to be some selection of data going on here. Per pupil expenditures haven't increased that much. In fact, they decreased between 2011-12 and 2012-13. You can see it on the state report card, easily searched online. If teachers are getting good raises while keeping per pupil expenditures down, that is a credit to the good priorities and fiscal conservatism of the board, before 2013. The purpose of a school is TEACHING. Under the current board, we replaced a less expensive Business Manager with a CFO at $175,000 a year, who promptly brought in his associate from Kraft Foods at $86,000 a year. They spent $50,000 for the headhunter to find the CFO, who has no school experience at all. More administrators, overpaid administrators, hiring of cronies, and overpaid outside consultants--that is the "fiscal conservatism" of the present board. (Their plum job for close political crony Roger Kempa is a story in and of itself.) The D86 business office is now costing $240,000 a year more than it did under the previous board, even as we cut teaching positions and academic program. There is much more, but I don't want this posting to get too long. Mr. Corcoran and his group have their true believers who will follow them no matter what they say or do, but many others are coming to board meetings to see for themselves, and are appalled at what they see.
Denise Stout June 08, 2014 at 12:42 PM
Dear Linda, Your comments are worth noting...I would like to hear from those you have accused of "cronyism"? I trust there is more to be revealed. Just a short comment from me as Sunday is my day to reflect....with the huge budget to manage for Hinsdale Central High School I am in favor of bringing in business experienced managers. If we spent money for a qualified Recruiter to hire experienced job seekers that sounds fair. Recruiters make hiring more professional and someone from Kraft Foods gets hired what was their job at Kraft? Most likely it was business management. Kraft is a well run and respected Illinois company that hires many of our local graduates....that is a plus for me. Maybe outsiders can examine our cost structure to see how they can streamline costs for the school and benefit the teachers. By they way ...Kraft pays huge corporate taxes to support pensions and benefits of teachers. On another note, The amount of money teachers spend from their union dues to elect favorable politicians....could make up a huge deficit in Springfield in their paychecks and pensions...too bad the majority never have a say in how their money is spent...they trust their elected leadership to make those financial decisions...and we know they have overspent the teachers money without their approval. I guess there is fingers to point in all directions....as for me...I will wait to see how the negotiations continue on these contracts. You as a resident understand that the taxpayers of Hinsdale are also footing the bill for the Hinsdale Middle School repairs in the millions for a problem with deadly mold. Just out of curiosity ...why did the Superintendent Renee Schuster and Kevin Russell, who was assistant superintendent for District 181 resign and abandon the kids at a time when their was a serious crisis effecting their students....that kind of disloyalty is disturbing to me when you are taking home salaries over $200,000.00 a year. Maybe having business experience in handling crisis management is a good idea for future hires. Poor examples of leadership may be part of the reason the current Hinsdale High School Board finds it necessary to bring in people outside the institutions of established power. The residents of Hinsdale have born the burden of patronage from the Teachers Union which has been part of the landscape in our schools leading to increasing tax burdens to make up for governmental inefficiencies. I wish I could run my household that way...spending my way out of debt. As for me...let the negotiations be transparent....the parents will be watching carefully how both sides handle them. I trust the people of Hinsdale...they are smart, informed and thoughtful! If our fine teachers do not want to work with the so called "dreadful" elected Hinsdale Central School Board, I say goodbye and goodluck! Thank you Denise Stout
Linda Burke June 08, 2014 at 01:38 PM
Hi Denise. First, I don't know anything about District 181, beyond what anyone can see in the papers. So I have no comment on 181. I'm only active in 86. You reference the "smart, informed, and thoughtful" citizens of Hinsdale. Smart and thoughtful they are, but to be informed on what happens in the schools, it's important to go to board meetings. Fortunately more people are doing just that. The papers don't report everything. WHere has any teacher said they don't want to work under the "dreadful" elected school board? There is no such statement. Why not read what the teachers really did have to say, also published in Patch? Evidently, some people trust the present board majority to the point of approving hundreds of thousands in extra spending on administration and outside consultants, even as we are cutting faculty and downgrading our academic program. Yes, Mr. Corcoran has argued that hiring a more expensive CFO with no school experience would somehow release more funds for education. But that's not what the CFO himself has to say. At the most recent Finance Committee meeting, which I attended, it was interesting to hear that CFO explain how each "building," what some of us call schools, would receive exactly the revenue it had last year. The CPI is up, enrollment is up, spending on administration is way up, time and money were wasted on the outrageous Barrett settlement, but each "building" will have exactly what they did last year--for education, clearly a low priority. This plan also equals program cuts, given a rising CPI, rising enrollment, and so much funding diverted away from education. Some people are too busy to keep up with all this, some people evidently approve--but fortunately, many others are beginning to question.
Ken Wilson June 14, 2014 at 05:48 PM
There is a distinct difference in opinion. One opinion suggests the state of Illinois public employees are performing at a high level of administrative fiscal oversight and "school experience" is a sought after criteria when seeking someone highly skilled to perform valued oversight and active management of a $100,000M public school budget everyone is trying to get their sticky little, fat fingered hands on. The other opinion suggests someone who has survived in the most demanding, high performing areas of corporate finance may have something to bring to D86 in terms of best practices regarding $100M in spend and another $60M in reserves. Do you want to recycle the same old stale ideas and policies typical that provide $20M of D86 cash reserves were earning less than .25 interest or bring someone in proven to be successful and a winner in the most competitive of corporate environments with the expectation they bring that same energy, can do attitude, and financial best practices to D86? Are the best, brightest and highest performing financial CFOs limited to currently working for the schools or is it possible exceptional talent that will excel in the role can be found in the private sector. You know you are important when your toady has their own toady. Now if may take Baum and Gilbane a while to get some good no-bid contracts or influence this new head of the money purse. In the mean time others can still seek influence and try to donate thousands of dollars to a couple board members like the Perkins architect firm's donation and the teachers' union donations to board members that in turn vote on their contracts. Let's hope this new CFO is active in establishing ethics policies that seek to diminish this apparent conflict of interest between board members getting cash from vendors and employees and then voting on those same contracts. When they say it is not about the money, guess what it is about the money.


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