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Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A Letter from the Teachers of Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South High Schools
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 Change.org 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: http://www.hinsdale86.org/sb/Pages/default.aspx.
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: http://www2.illinois.gov/elrb/Pages/FinalOffers.aspx.
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.