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Ridgeland School District 122 Referendum

I am ready to pull my hair out. From what information I can gather so far, it is too close to call. Right now, with all but one precinct yet to be turned in, we are down by 47 votes. I am still keeping my fingers crossed. However, if this does not pass, Bill and I will be looking at moving. This will barebone our schools. We have classrooms with 40 students in them already. I am not sure what people are expecting. Oh yeah, their kids already went through school, so they don't care anymore. Nice.

39 thoughts on “Ridgeland School District 122 Referendum

  1. Well it's a sad day – the unofficial results show it failed by 53 votes. That's absolutely ludicrous! There was approximately an additional 950 people that voted altogether 500 some of which voted 'yes' and an additional 400 something that voted 'no'. What a sad day for all this is.

    It's almost frightening to think of how 'quick' we could come up with people 'we' know directly that 'didn't' vote summing up that '53' votes that it failed by.

    Indeed a sad day.

  2. Its odd but so often those who dont vote end up making the decisions by default, here in the UK no government has been voted in by a majority of those eligible to vote since the 1940s. I wish voting was a legal requirement as it is a moral obligation

  3. Lisa:

    There's really no reason to move, Things are the same in most school districts, epecially ones that are relatively high spending (over $9K per student for K-8)

    The problem is that the Board really isn't focused yet on really making it "all about the children".

    How much do you really know about school finance?

    There are a few things of which you should be aware.

    First, schools have the opportunity to add about 20% to your tax bill by selling what are known as "working cash bonds". These bonds, which may be sold annually, are added directly to your real estate tax bill wihtout referendum.

    Last year 122 did this and actually had a surplus of $650K. They could have used this money to restore the programs that they unnecessarily cut, but if they did that, it would kill mach support for the tax increase referendum.

    So the programs were sacrificed on the altar of ploitical greed.

    The Board and unions have still refused to commit to a fair limitation to cost of living increases in benefit contributiions and compensation. If they cared enough about the children to do this, you could restore the programs and balance the budget from growing tax, state, and Federal funding, which has grown faster than inflation.

    I'm curious about your "40 students per class" comment. The data provided in the most recent school report cards shows that is far above district average. If it were my children in that class, I'd be in the Superintendent's office demanding to know why some students are so put upon when there is more than adequate space to maintain class sizes in the 25 student range following the massive construction project.

    Have you actually read the school budget, checked out the school staff raises on http://www.thechampion.org, and tracked spending increases in the school report cards?

    If you do, I think you'll find your efforts might be better spent holdiong the Board and Adminstration accountable rather than castigating those who refuse to enable the Board to avoid real solutions by giving them money BEFORE they have committed to addressing the root causes of the problems.

  4. Bob you are so so right about everything. Thank you so much for your comments. We need more people like you on the board. The teachers and the staff need to put the children first, not themselves period.

  5. Bob, Do you have kids in the District? Honestly, I could care less what the teachers are getting paid at this point. I want my daughter to have the same education as the kids in the other Oak Lawn districts. That would include music, art, etc.

  6. What do you want the teachers to do? Work for free? It isn't like the teachers in our district are paid higher than others in the area. I honestly don't care what the teachers are getting paid. I want my daughter to have the same education as other Oak Lawn students in other districts.

  7. Lisa, you really need to get your facts striaght about relative salaries in 122. The following is from the school report cards at http://www.isbe.net :

    District Average teacher salary Difference from 122 Savings for the children

    122 $54,479 0

    Burbank 111 $48,785 $5,694 $683,280

    North Palos 117 $50,612 $3,867 $464,040

    Crestwood 130 $43,169 $11,310 $1,357,200

    Chi Ridge 127.5 $46,652 $7,827 $939,240

    The savings for the children is based upon 120 teachers.

    In short, if you paid the same average salary as Burbank 111, your budget is balanced and you could afford the music and art that was cut. If you paid the same as Chi Ridge 127.5, you could not only balance your budget but provide a longer school day and school year so that the children could do their home work in school under the supervsion of a professional instead of forcing you to do the teachers job after school.

    THAT'S why you should care about teacher salaries, Lisa. It 'sall about the children.

    By the way that $54K salary projects the same as a $73K salary for a 12 month year. Not bad for a 35 year old Kindergarten teacher.

    By the way there are a lot of other things you're paying that aren't include in "salary" like the district paying the employees portion of their 8% retirement contribution. I understand that there's a lot of that in 122.

    Funny thing. I didn't see any of this on the schoool "referendum" web site.

    Bob Shelstrom

  8. I can see your comment behind the scene, but it is not showing up here on my site. I'll see if I can get that fixed.

    Honestly, what I would love to see is the two sides get together and iron out the difference and get the kids in District 122 the same education as the rest of the kids in Oak Lawn. How do we get that done?

    Also, Bob (and I am relatively new in the area so I am seriously asking this because I don't know) have you ever run for the board to help get this mess changed?

  9. I moved to this school district less than two years ago because it was supposed to be great. Now I am stuck here with the big problems in the school. Nobody will want to buy houses here. What to do? Move? Send the kids to Catholic schools?? Maybe home-schooling is not such a bad option anymore….

  10. First of all, the CURRENT school Board and CURRENT administration has committed itself to balancing the budget and doing the best it can with the revenue it receives (which by state law must be balanced).

    In the past year and a half, it has cut 1.5 million and still has a significant deficit of over $500K.

    9 Staff were cut last year, extracurriculars, including art,music, and band are gone. Skyrocketing costs related to mandated state programs to support special ed., ESL, and low income students continue to demand more revenue which in turn raises per pupil expenditures.

    The District is not planning to increase salaries and benefits at large rates. Special Education costs currently make up over 33% of the budget and these costs have been increasing at a rate of 15-20% per year. Special Education tuition paid to out of district providers has increased 143% since 2000. Special Education Programs that are unfunded mandates by the State and Federal Government are disproportionately impacting this district.

    The practice of giving employees 20% end of career salary increases has been eliminated in the new union contract and by the state.

    The new union contract is for three years and provides salary increases of 4%, 3.5%, and 3.75% including cost of living and step increases. District 122 has one of the lowest starting teacher salaries in the area. District 122’s teachers and administrators make less than the state average. Administrative salaries were frozen for the 2007-2008 school year and their pay rank is 13/14 (14 is lowest) in area.

    In terms of the "surplus" mentioned by above post, the district’s surplus was due to proceeds from the working cash bond sale ($1.25 Million) and the receipt of five quarters of state reimbursement for special education and transportation ($315,000). Without these non-recurring revenue streams, the district had an operating deficit of about $250,000. There was no surplus. If there was, then it would have went to providing students with staff and programs.

    As far as Bob running for school board, that would be difficult since he does not live in District 122. Instead, it is easy for Bob to attempt to influence and disrupt the community in Oak Lawn 122 since he does not live here, pay taxes here, or send his children to school here. Has Bob run for the Board in his own community? What was the result of that effort if he did?

    Based on his comments, it is almost like he believes that we should withhold services and opportunity for children until we punish the teachers and unions for what he believes is unfair pay and benefits.

    Fact is, the CURRENT Board and Administration have and are working hard to do the best with what they have. Bob continues to use outdated information on The Champion (info is not up to date) and a school report card whose data is based on pre-failed referendum data. The report card is based on the districts status before the significant cuts were implemented which then resulted in higher class sizes. Bob should visit Harnew's first grade classes of 34 and greater or SImmons classes that average in core classes like Science of over 40 and PE classes with over 100 per period with two teachers.

    If the referendum fails (which it has not yet as the district will hopefully contest some of the precinct counts due to the wrong ballot being handed out), the district will continue to do the best with what it has. Unfortunately, that will not include band, music, art, small class sizes, extra-curriculars, new technology, or librarians. More staff will be cut.

    Look at the current actions of the Board and administration. Bob is right about this issue existing in many places. As residents, we have the power to not be like those others.

    He is also right about holding those leaders accountable. The current leadership in the district is demonstrating their commitment to be responsible.

  11. Lisa:

    From what I've been able to put together talking to people involved in this situation, there are three factions competing in this issue.

    First, there's the union and the Board. Their goal is pretty clear. They want additional dollars so that they can grow compensation and benefits at a significantly higher rate than inflation. They've shown that when there is a choice between increasing salaries to CEO levels to fatten early retirement benefits, they'll gladly devastate the children's services to give staff more than "fair" increases that the rest of us have to live with. I've seen that this group is unyielding in their desire to continue this unsustainable practice, and are completely unwilling to commit to limiting increases in compensation to the growth in revenues in the District, which is about 50% above the rate of inflation due to new construction coming on the tax rolls and increased state and Federal funding.

    The PTOs are also in this group. The parent TEACHER organizations usually are little more than the political wing of the unions and Board in most districts. If you doubt this, just try going to a PTO meeting and ask how the organization can support giving 15% raises when there isn't enough money for art, music and other valuable extracurriculars.

    Next, there's the groups that oppose ANY tax increase, regardless of merit. This group is small and usually not very well organized. Logical arguments on behalf of the children will not sway this group, just as the best interest of the children is not the primary interest of the unions and Board.

    Finally , there are parents and concerned citizens who want to do right by the children, the staff and the community, but have such biased and limited information given to them that they really can't make well informed decisions about whether they should support or oppose a tax increase.

    All it ususally takes is for the Board to claim that "It's all about the children" and their brains go into neutral and they lose all consumer skepticism.

    It is this group that I try to help.

    They have been brainwashed by the Big ed bureaucracy so heavily that they never call the Board and unions to task when they shortchange the children.

    The Board and unions have the propaganda organization, usually supported by the local political party oganizations, to mislead into gaining more tax dollars and consequently more political patronage power in spending the taxpayers money.

    If you want to bring people together, I think you have to start with the Board, becuase they're the only ones over which you have some control.

    I suggest you float the "fairness contract" idea before them.

    This contract concept is very simple, and guarantees a balanced budget.

    It starts with a fixed salary schedule, and creates a raise or "bonus" system whereby a certain percentage of available new revenue is divied up among the staff.

    If revenues increase by $1,000,000, for example, $750,000 of the increased revenue would go into a fund for staff benefits and "bonuses" above the fixed salary schedule.

    This guarantees that the children's programs are protected, and raises are fair and affordable.

    This means that raises are based upon available funds, as most of us in the private sector have come to accept.

    Of course, the unions and Board are against this sort of "fairness contract" because it would be impossible to give raises and increased benefits beyond the ability of the District to pay. They prefer a policy of giving more than the District can afford, then "cryinig poor" and demanding a tax increase or they'll hurt the children.

    The Board and unions have been intransigent on this point, so until they become reasonable and fair, there really is little hope they can common ground.

    You can help by demanding that the Board adopt this sort of contract before receiving your support. IF they get can your vote without having to give up their selling out the children, they have no motivation to be fair or reasonable.

    By the way, when is the next Board meeting?

  12. Teachers are paid below the state average. Administration is second from the bottom in pay with comparable school districts.


    Focus on current Board and administrative actions, with the current school board. Not actions from past Boards or administration.

    Attend a Board meeting. Call your Board members. Make the time to visit district administration to discuss the issues with the people who work, know, and are invested in this school district.

  13. Sweet Mama, I'm in the same boat as you. In a crappy housing market, who is going to buy a house in a school district headed to crap.

  14. Thanks for your comments, Ed! What you are stating here is what I have heard from others in the District 122 District. When will we know if/when they are contesting the vote?

  15. Ed, pretty clever manipulation of the facts.

    You compare the adminstrators salaries to "local districts" but teacher salaries to state averages.

    Why didn't you tell the truth that at $54,479 average teacher salary, the district is paying 7.6% more than North Palos 117, 10.5% more than Burbank 111, 20.76% higher than Crestwood 130, and 16.5% over Chi Ridge 127.5?

    THATs why the adminstration cut the kids art, music and extracurriculars, Ed, not "insufficient taxes".

    Ed, why don't you tell the real story about that "state avearge salary" for teachers you say that 122 averaage is below?

    The fact is that about 2/3s of the schools in the state are below that "average" because it includes high school salaries that are about 40% higher than those in elementary schools. I won't defend this practice, but you have to compare "apples to apples" to be credible.

    What is the average elementary school teacher salary in Illinois?

    We really don't know because the ISBE stopped publishing salaries by "similar type" several years ago at the request of the IASA and the teacher unions.

    Why was this done?

    It was so that apologists such as yourself can claim "below avearge salaries" while they are receiving well above average salaries for their type of district.

    By the way, Ed, do you support restoring cut programs, funded by last year's $650K surplus after borrowing, and the Board and unions limiting staff raises to the cost of living until the budget is balanced?

    Show us "It's all about the children" Ed!

  16. Sorry Ed.

    I didn't see your first post because it was inserted out of order.

    To answer your questions, and I assume that you're Ed Hood who had a point counterpoint with me in the Southtown/Star on this issue, I don't live in 122 and have run for the school Boards in my area.

    As you know, the people who win elections are usually the ones who have the political organizattions, and patronage organizations, on their side, and have most citizens who just want to do right by the kids and taxpayers pretty intimidated. I'd love to work with others to improve our schools, but unfortunately most people who get "approved" for Boards have to make commitments to the political interests and unions to "play ball" and take care of their needs first.

    Apparently this is what happened in 122 when they were giving double digit raises they can't afford.

    Ed, why don't you explain why the Board gave these ridiculous raise that they ciouldn't fund, and why those on teh Board at that time haven't apologized to the parents and taxpayers.

    How about a little more info on those salry increases, Ed?

    What is the MAXIMUM raise anyone can receive under this contract?

    Are the 4%, to 3.75% increase any more of a mirage than the claims about the contract in 2004-5? The Board and adminstration is still claiming that those raises were only "6%" when the detailed raises for staff receiving raises was over 15%.

    HOw was this done?

    Avearge salaries go down when people at the top of the salary schedule retire and far lower quality new teachers are hired. That way "avearge" salaries seem low while most returning staff receive raises that are far beyond the stated amounts.

    Of course, you know this Ed. Why aren't you telling this to the voters out there?

    As far as me, and the voters who apparently have rejected the tax increase, "punishing" the children, we had nothing to do with giving unaffordable raises that resulted in the cuts. Have the Board members who voted for the previous contract apologized for this and promised not to do it again?

    The fact that the Board claims that this increase will only "balance the budget for 7 years" is a pretty clear indication that the same decisions that led to this problem, giving raises beyond the ability of the district to pay, will continue if this refendumk approves.

    That just means a tax increase will enable them to avoid reform and restraint, not do what's right for then children.

    As happened

  17. Just a couple of comments on what I have been reading in the blog. First of all, Bob, where are you? My office is always open and you are not here. Two, our Board meetings are every third Thursday at 7:00 p.m……….. I never see you there. Three, I have had six (6) Town Hall meetings and one meeting with the seniors at the Oak Lawn Senior Center on the finances of the district…………you are not there. Our budget and finances are always open to the public…………….you haven't requested to see anything. I have been to all of the PTA/PTO meetings at least once this year to support the PARENT's and TEACHER's of Ridgeland………….No one has heard of you. As far as http://www.thechampion.org being solely a tax watch groups website, that’s great, but educators use it more then anyone. If you would have came to any of our "Town Hall" meetings, you would know this. We have no secrets.

    As far as the Ridgeland School District. It has great teachers and new buildings which bring young couples with children to our community. The only problem we have at this point is that we live in a tax capped county where expenses will always increase faster then revenue. Please do not take my word for it. Contact other school districts in tax capped counties or talk to the average person on the street. If you would like, please stop by and I will explain it to you.

    Bob, as long as Illinois communities have public schools, they will continue to be supported by "property taxes". The only way to change this structure is for the Illinois Legislature to shift from property taxes to sales tax or income tax (I am still waiting to see any revenue from the casinos………have you seen it?). Bob, personnally, I think you are advising, and attacking, the wrong people. YOU should be talking with your legislature about "Property Tax Relief" . After all, we ALL pay property taxes, not just you.

    Supt. Tom Smyth

    Ridgeland School District #122

  18. Here is Tom's comment since it did not show up:

    Just a couple of comments on what I have been reading in the blog. First of all, Bob, where are you? My office is always open and you are not here. Two, our Board meetings are every third Thursday at 7:00 p.m……….. I never see you there. Three, I have had six (6) Town Hall meetings and one meeting with the seniors at the Oak Lawn Senior Center on the finances of the district…………you are not there. Our budget and finances are always open to the public…………….you haven’t requested to see anything. I have been to all of the PTA/PTO meetings at least once this year to support the PARENT’s and TEACHER’s of Ridgeland………….No one has heard of you. As far as http://www.thechampion.org being solely a tax watch groups website, that’s great, but educators use it more then anyone. If you would have came to any of our “Town Hall” meetings, you would know this. We have no secrets.

  19. Part Two of Tom's Comment:

    As far as the Ridgeland School District. It has great teachers and new buildings which bring young couples with children to our community. The only problem we have at this point is that we live in a tax capped county where expenses will always increase faster then revenue. Please do not take my word for it. Contact other school districts in tax capped counties or talk to the average person on the street. If you would like, please stop by and I will explain it to you.

    Bob, as long as Illinois communities have public schools, they will continue to be supported by “property taxes”. The only way to change this structure is for the Illinois Legislature to shift from property taxes to sales tax or income tax (I am still waiting to see any revenue from the casinos………have you seen it?). Bob, personally, I think you are advising, and attacking, the wrong people. YOU should be talking with your legislature about “Property Tax Relief” . After all, we ALL pay property taxes, not just you.

    Supt. Tom Smyth

    Ridgeland School District #122

  20. Mr. Smyth:

    I'm amazed that you are so unaware of what's going on in your district.

    Prior to the referendum, I sent an e-mail to Mr Trimberger requesting specific information and asking pointed, specific questions.

    I both spoke to him on the phone and through e-mail correspondence.

    He provided most of the info I requested without delay or deception.

    As far as why I didn't attend any of the "Townhall" meetings, it's been my expereince that those running the meetings usually say "I'll get back to you, send us an e-mail with specific questions" rather than giving a detailed response to a technical question.

    Those meetings are usually more about emotion than intellect.

    I simply cut straight to the chase and sent the e-mail.

    I also left a phone message at your office, but you chose not to return my phone call.

    I don't know where your "have no secrets" comment comes from. Most of what I requested I received from Mr Trimberger.

    As far as your comment that "taxes always increase more than revenues" I recommend that you take a sabatical from public education and get into the "real world" sometime.

    Those of us in private enterprise MUST limit our expenses to revenues, otherwise we are forced into what is called "BANKRUPCY".

    Sometimes it means ot being able to give raises or having employees share increased benefit costs, but we can't sell "Working Cash" bonds to fund raises and bill it to our clients like you do in public education.

    The simple fact is that it is your and the Board's responsibility to live within your means and control costs, most of which are salaries and benefits, while maintaining the level of service the children deserve. The Board and Administration clearly failed in that regard, as evidenced by your giving out double digit raises while killing valuable programs.

    The question is, what will you do now?

    Will you renegotiate with the unions to limit the cost of raises and benefits to the growth in revenues?

    You didn't even list that as an option in your website.

    Are you commited to limiting raises and benefit increases to available, non-borrowing revenues in the next contract?

    Your claim that this tax increase will only balance the budget for about 7 years shows that you clearly have not.

    I agree that much of this problem originates in Springfield, and I have been very active in proposing change.

    For example, don't you agree with me that the "formula" for State aid distribution should be changed?

    Even the Elementary School district Roundout 72, which spends over $24,000 per pupil, is receiving a flat grant of over $600 per student from the State. This is unconscionable when so many schools can't even afford decent textbooks and materials. Wouldn't you agree?

    I've also lobbied for legislation that would prohibit districts from commiting to contracts for which they do not have guaranteed funding. Since this is the root cause of the 122 problem, wouldn't you also support such legislation?

    Finally, I think you would agree that we should repeal the Education Labor Relations Act, which forces all teachers to be represented by a "sole bargaining agent" (read union) even if they would prefer to negotiate on their own. It also gave control of school spending to unions, giving Boards no alternatives other than to agree to contracts they can't afford, as did 122, or have their schools shut down by strike.

    Surely you would support the repeal of this heinous, anti-child, anti-taxpayer, anti-professional act, wouldn't you?

    The simple fact is that I see no interest on the part of you or the Board to responsibly limit your salary and benefit largesse to protect the children's education.

    When I do, you just may have gained a supporter for your referendum.

    I'm not holding my breath.

  21. Bob-

    My intent was not to manipulate any facts or numbers when it came to salaries.

    The district salary is still below the state average and like you said, the elementary salary averages are not available. The state (at least from what I can find) does not disaggregate that information. But, I did look at area districts, and tried to find comparable districts like you did in your reply. Looking at twelve other districts, I found that of the 12 districts I looked at (for example Lansing 158, Matteson 159, Tinley Park 146, OL-Hometown 123, EPark 124, Flossmoor 161, North Palos, Homewood, and others) 7 of the 12 are clustered in the mid 50K’s for average pay, one is over 60K, and four are in the mid to high 40Ks.

    122 finds itself right in the middle of these groups. I did find that 67% of 122 teachers had advanced degrees, which is second most of comparable area districts. Looking at the districts you mentioned (Burbank, North Palos, etc), their average teacher experience is under 12 years, which usually translates into lower pay as teacher salaries are usually based on years experience, time in the district, and level of education. Younger teachers with less experience tend to not have a masters degree, doctorates, etc. So therefore, their average pay would be less. 122 has a higher number of veteran staff with advanced degrees, which in turn creates a higher average pay. Isn’t that what we want in our staff? Teachers who dedicate themselves to continuing education, teachers that are loyal to the school district, and who have experience and developed skills to best help kids?

    Communities ask teachers to continually educate themselves and not stop learning, to be professional educators. District 122s average teacher salary reflects a professional group of educators, with advanced degrees, that enhance their professional practice and ability to work with students.

    Are there districts in the area that have implemented the “fairness contract” you mentioned in a previous entry? How has that worked for them?

    I liked your term “consumer skepticism.” Remember that not just consumers at a store can apply this concept. Those who are searching for a position in a school district also employ consumer skepticism. With that in mind, it would make sense that you would want your school district to be competitive in pay and benefits with other competing interests in the job market. The best would be not too high and not too low, and still be able to attract and retain high quality candidates that will enhance the educational experience of the children and bring value to the district. Since the single most important factor in any classroom is the teacher, we need to be sure to have the ability to attract and retain high quality teachers.

    So, looking at it that way, District 122 has a competitive salary that is not out of line with other area districts, is still below the state average (regardless of the inclusion of high school salaries-which by the way, that average also includes Unit School Districts where salary schedules between elementary and high school districts are not different), and is reflective of a professional, highly educated staff. District 122 is not currently providing anything out of the ordinary financially for its staff in relation to other area districts. In addition, even with 9 cut full time staff last year, the district is still running a deficit. District 122 needs to be competitive with other districts. Since many parents do not have the financial ability to choose other schooling options, yet still pay taxes, I would hope that the local school district is able to attract and retain those teachers. It is, all about the kids.

    The revenue needed is more reflective of the ever increasing costs of special education, transportation costs, and other programs that continue to be mandated by the state without additional funding. For example, I have found that District 122 spends 6.5 million in special education costs, yet they receive 1.5 million from the state and federal government. Those are exactly the types of un/or under funded mandates that have affected the district.

    Transportation costs, special education costs, low income needs, and naturally increasing costs related to student needs are all issues that have exploded within District 122 over the past 8 years and it is those additional costs that may not have been foreseen 8-10 years ago, that are sapping the district of funds.

    Bob, who do you think the Board members are “playing ball with?” I am not aware of any back room obligations that any of our current Board members have. I am also unaware of any complicity between Union and Board. In fact, the nature of the Union and the nature of the Board of Education are naturally opposed. If you have information on a Board member that is “in cahoots” with the Union,etc., I sure would like to know. Otherwise, it seems to be a generalization that is designed to bring out emotion, rather than logical discussion.

    As far as why the raises were given six to eight years ago, I’m not sure. Don’t know and to be honest, at this point, I don’t know that we would ever get a thorough answer that would satisfy you as to the actions of a Board of Education 6-8 years ago. Districts across the state were doing that at the time. Businesses and corporations were doing that at the time as well. That doesn’t make it right, but I would hope people understand that policy was not isolated to 122. Inflated retirement raises are no longer allowed by statute and the current contract and Board policy does not allow for them either.

    Bob, you ask for an apology from Board members. This is a different Board. The current Board of Education has held fast on its positions in the past few years. As you said in one of your previous replies, you have recently been provided information from the district in a timely and accurate manner. We need to move forward and hold the current board accountable. The current Board and Administration has done its best with what it has.

    I do not see the current Board of Education avoiding restraint. The current administration and Board have presented information in a public manner, offered for people to come in and talk, discuss, and analyze the current data I (even away from Town Hall Meetings), and they have done the best they could with the funding they have, while still working hard to maintain a quality and competitive education. I see the Board and administration making the 7 year balance statement as not a way to provide “outrageous raises” and “avoid restraint” but rather that if the costs of running this school district continue at the pace they are, they will again out pace incoming revenue. Combine with the tax cap, and at some point, you’ll need additional revenue. This has been proved time and again in neighboring districts.

    Bob, I appreciate and respect your viewpoints. But, understand that what is happening in 122 is no different, as you said, to any other district in the state similar to composition and size. While I will continue to fight and advocate for change in the funding structure in Illinois for education, I view that as a long term issue that needs the support of the entire state. It will not happen overnight as is evidenced by the duration of the argument in state politics.

    I refuse to allow my child’s district to be the guinea pig for “fairness contracts” or other ideas that will create a school district that is non-competitive and unattractive to the best potential educators. If current salaries and benefit packages were totally out of line with other districts in the area, then I would be more inclined to look at that with greater interest. But, the fact is District 122 is not out of line with any other district in the area in terms of salary and benefits. Move forward. You continue to lobby and advocate for your interests at the state level, and I’ll continue to advocate for my community and its children and changing the funding structure in Illinois.

  22. Ed:

    Thanks for the sincere and well thought out post.

    As far as your district being a "guinea pig" for a fairness contract, however, I think you should really consider the "risk" in doing nothing and letting things continue as they have been.

    Please consider where the current Board's practices have gotten your children's education:

    1) Because the district agreed to unaffordable contracts, your children HAVE lost music art, and extracurriculars, and have apparently increased class sizes.

    2) Because many teachers received "2×20" increase in recent years, as many as 39 a few years ago, the district decided to sell working cash bonds over $1,000,000 that was tacked onto a single year's real estate tax.

    What could've been worse than that?

    As a former teacher, I think you really have to think about the impact of a fairness contract.

    You have to ask yourself, "Where else would teachers go?"

    The teachers you are most at risk of losing are the young, non-tenured teachers, and your current practice of keeping starting salaries low to pay overly generous "end of career" raises has likely already had a strong negative impact on staffing.

    Senior, tenured faculty, quite honestly, have no where else to go.

    Few would walk away from tenure protection for a few extra dollars, even if someone were to offer them an increase over 122.

    I don't know how aware you are of the teacher job market, but virtually no growing districts are paying higher than 122, and when they do hire they rarely hire anyone much above the bottom of their salary scale.

    A teacher making over $60,000 per year will find it EXTREMELY difficult to get a better paying job without some very strong political connections in the district.

    When you look at the deficit issue, what you're really talking about is the problem that 122 in paying an average salary of about $55K, when it can only afford to pay an average salary of about $49K. Most of this problem is the teachers at the top end of the scale, where some make as much as $116,000, while keeping the starting salary abysmally low in the bottom 30s.

    There's also the problem of managing non -instructional costs to better serve the children. There are districts,such as Summit Hill 161, which provide a range of music,art and extracurricular programs superior to 122, yet only spend about $2K per student outside of instruction. 122 spends well over $4K per student, including interest on borrowing.

    If 122 could "split the difference" in non-instructional spending with Summit Hill 161, it would make an additional $2,000,000 available without touching academic programs.

    That would eliminate the deficit and allow for enhancements to current programs.

    Ed, I know you've studied 122 more than I, so I would apprecaite your quantifying and explaining why non-instructional spending is so much higher in 122.

    Finally, someome really needs to look at how 122 is managing its special education program, since it's about 33% of the education cost in 122.

    Are there a large number of students with "profound" challenges in the district, or are too many students with discipline problems being classified as "Special Needs" in order to send them over to AERO to be dealt with?

    I tried to get a more detailed breakdown of the special ed costs, but none was available from the business office. It certainly bears some scrutiny.

    One final question, Ed.

    Do you, or any members of your family, have jobs in public educaiton or specifically 122?

    It certainly doesn't bear on your arguments, but I'd really like to know where you're coming from..

  23. I was an Oak Lawn resident for over 22 years, and attended Harnew School for my primary education. District 122 provided me with an excellent education that gave me the buidling blocks that helped me find success in highschool, college, and now graduate school. I even chose to become an elementary school teacher because I wanted to give back to the world the same great experience I had as a student in District 122. It saddens me to hear that this much needed and debated referendum may not have passed. As an educator in a different school district, I can attest that budgeting problems are prevolent in other districts also. Superintendent Smyth was correct in commenting that the TRUE problem can be blamed on the way that Illinois schools are funded. Districts expenditures do increase yearly. As do teacher's salaries. They increase just like the cost of gasoline, electricity, food, heat, etc. I've observed that people in career fields outside of teaching also receive raises. Teaching is not a volunteer service. It is a career that requires its professionals to be monitarily compinsated fairly. It is insulting to blame the teachers and their salaries on budget problems. The budget problem is simple. The price of EVERYTHING increases yearly, yet the revenue does not. The district's special education budget may be large because the federal government requires a "free public education for all students." This means that special education resource teachers must be hired to aide ALL children who require their service….even children who do not attend a District 122 school but reside inside the district. The No Child Left Behind legislation requires support for at-risk children, special education children, English-language learners, in addition to the average student. Unfortunately, the federal and state government provides little monitary assistance for these programs. I understand as a fellow tax payer that another increase in property taxes is less than desirable. It is very short-sighted, in my opinion, to dismiss the fact that the failure of this referendum will make Oak Lawn a less desirable community to live within. I think that most would agree that they would not want their child in a first-grade classroom with 33 other children. A community is only as strong as its schools. As class sizes increase, excellent teachers flee, and students begin to receive an inadequate education, District 122's property values will decrease greatly.

  24. Bob:

    I do not see the reason for the current troubles in this district being related to overly compensating staff. As I said in prior posts, the issues are a combination of rising under and unfunded mandates, transportation costs, and typical expenses that continue to rise like everything else in our economy. Teacher pay is not out of line and still remains competitive with area districts. Revenue is not keeping pace with costs, costs which are not a result of over compensation for staff. Teacher pay (in 122) is keeping pace with CPI, but not at a rate that is well beyond it.

    There are no longer any “overly generous end of career” raises.

    I am concerned about younger staff that will come in to take the place of those that retire. I am concerned whether or not we will be able to attract the best and the brightest of new and young teachers to come to District 122. We already have one of the lowest starting pay levels in the area. If our district was not competitive with other districts as the teachers experience and educational level increases, they will not bother to start here in the first place or they will leave after a few years and find a district that compensates them better. Teachers begin to find their groove after four to five years, and that is when teacher candidates are most attractive and marketable. Teachers are the most important factor in any classroom. I want the best for our kids and our community. To do that we must be competitive in the area. A recent article in Time (2-28-08) cited the main reasons teachers quit:

    • Lack of Time to Prepare…… 60%

    -A financially strapped district can not afford common plan for teams of teachers or additional plan time.

    • Too heavy a teaching load…….51%

    -A financially strapped district like 122 will more and more add additional teaching load to teachers.

    • Class Sizes too Large…….50%

    -In 122 class size continues to grow! We have 1st grade classes at 35, 3rd at 35-37, and middle school core classes like Science over 40, and middle school PE classes over 100 for 2 teachers.

    • Poor Salary or Benefits……48%

    -How will we attract the best candidates and retain them?

    • Student Behavioral Problems…..44%

    -High class sizes, lack of professional development money to help train and support teachers in the area of improving instruction and behavior management will and has taken its toll in 122.

    In addition, other factors that influence the success of a teacher and hence the success of students is support from the community and administration, a support program, and professional development. Currently, there is no funding available this year and into the future for professional development.

    Where has a fairness contract been implemented in this area? How has that worked?

    As far as merit pay goes, that would need to be researched and carefully thought through to avoid the issues that commonly plague merit pay districts. Remember, even with a merit pay system, the district would still need to provide a competitive starting salary, benefits, and salary growth potential. If you read the article in Time, voters in Denver actually agreed to pay $25 million a year in taxes for nine years to support their merit pay system. This of course was in addition to an already competitive salary and benefit package. How wonderful to see a community come together and validate the importance of education to a community and the importance of attracting and retaining top teachers. Again, research shows the single most important factor in a classroom is the teacher.

    As far as comparing us to Summit Hill, I do not think that is a reasonable comparison.

    Summit Hill School District 161 has significantly different demographics than District 122. District 161 is 5% low income and 0.1% Bi-Lingual. District 122 is 45% low income and 8% Bi-Lingual. These differences result in District 122 having to provide services that the students in District 161 do not require. Summit Hill also has larger school buildings than District 122. Bigger districts have economies of scale that are not available to smaller districts. I do not dispute that neighborhood schools are not as efficient or as practical as a grade center model or large buildings with bigger populations. However, our community has expressed a desire and commitment to maintaining the neighborhood school model. Communities with neighborhood schools are the most attractive to potential residents.

    One thing I might think of in relation to your question (related to Summit Hill) is a hypothetical, but maybe it will help frame the issue. Some districts hire and are responsible for their own social workers. Other districts acquire social workers from a cooperative. While I am not sure of the configuration in 161, maybe they bring in their SW from the coop. That cost for social workers does not show up in 161 operating expenses. I understand that 122 employs and retains their own Social Workers and so that cost is reflected in operating expenses.

    I do believe, from what I have seen and discussed with a variety of people, that the districts (122) population and needs have become more profound over the past 5 years. As far as identifying kids as special needs to simply find a way to deal with them is at most, a reach. District 122 is part of the ASPIRE Grant and is an area leader in Response to Intervention. RtI, as you know, is designed to provide interventions for students in the general ed. curriculum and not simply follow the old special ed. Discrepancy Model of identification. General education teachers are the ones who are responsible for the implementation of these interventions (Yes, something else we are asking our teachers to do to for our kids – Another level of expertise we expect from staff). Under this model, students are not referred for special education until all possible interventions in the general education classroom have been exhausted and data has been collected to either show the growth or lack thereof. It is an outcome of NCLB which of course demands greater accountability of staff and the growth of children. NCLB also demands more from teachers in terms of certification and expertise. We continue to ask more and more from our teachers and want them to do it for less??

    I would recommend that if you have more concerns or questions, contact district.

    As far as “where I am coming from” I am coming from the perspective of a father and community member. I can not change the past, but only work on helping plan for the future. And yes, as you saw in my STown editorial, I am a middle school principal. I have dedicated my professional life to helping remove the barriers that inhibit good instruction and supporting teachers in helping their students grow to their fullest potential. Realize that in this case, I am working as a citizen, not an employee of the district or as a Principal.

    I know you have stated you are a former teacher. What did you teach and for how long? It seems a shame that someone who is so passionate about the issue of education and obviously a logical and intelligent person is not sharing that with kids on a daily basis.

  25. 122 alumni:

    I respect your concern for 122, but there are a few statements you made that indicate you are new to issues about school funding that need to be corrected.

    First, your statement that it is "insullting" to "blame" budget problems on teacher salaries and benefits.

    If you check the 122 web site, you'll see that salaries and benefits constitutes bewteen 75 and 80% of all district expenses, so staff salaries essentially ARE the budget.

    The mathematics are simple. A district can't afford to pay salaries and benefits in excess of 75 to 80% of their revenues and not place the children's education at risk.

    The 122 Board chose to exceed this limitiation, and now the children and families are suffering because of it.

    That never should have happened, yet the Board steadfastly refuses to commit to responsibly limiting increases in salaries to their growth in revenues, even if the refendum passes. This is the main reason why I oppose the referendum.

    You also made the statement regarding schools that "Prices of everything increases yearly, but revenues do not."

    This shows virtually no understanding of the school funding mechanism in Illinois.

    Every year, local real estate tax revenues increase by a MINIMUM of the rate of inflation, plus the taxes from new construciton on the tax rolls.

    For districts like 122, this results in an increase of about 5% in recent years, coupled with increased state and Federal aid.

    In additon to this, school districts can raise taxes by approximately 20% per year by selling working cash bonds or life safety bonds for repairs on schools.

    This may be done without referendum.

    Finally, there is no doubt that special education is an entitlement in our laws. The problem is in the district properly classifying students' needs, and providing appropriate servies to meet those needs.

    Some districts use this special education entitlement as an excuse to overstaff and hire uncertified political "friends" as aides.

    As an example, last year my high school daughter was in an English class that had some "learning disabled" classified students in the class. A second teacher was added for the class of 24. There was very little need for that extra teacher, because the "learning disabled" students still had group lecture for most of the class, and really received very little "extra help" individudally in the class. My daughter said she couldn't even figure out who were the "learning disabled" students.

    Was the extra teacher adding value and necessary? It didn't seem so. The only thing that was sure is that the cost of that class was doubled.

    The district also received more aid fro having these students classified as "special ed".

    When 33% of your education budget is spent on "special ed" as it is in 122, I think that the district has the burden of proof to show that the students for whom this money is being spent actually need the service, are being provided the services in the most cost effective manner, and are receiving value for this expense through academic outcomes.

    The Board does not agree, and has not been willing to justify their expenditures in this area.

    Regarding class sizes, I recommend that you look at the 122 report card. Average class sizes range from 18.8 (3rd grade) to 28 (8th grade). If there are more than 33 students in many class rooms, it is likely more of a adminstrative planning problem than a budget problem.

    Thanks for your interest in this issue. I hope you've learned something here, and become an advocate for better education and student centered budgetary policy.

  26. Bob, you obviously don't understand how special education works. If a student IEP mandates that they have extra help in class, the school district MUST per law provide that help. If it was in that students IEP that they get one and one help, guess what. Another teacher had to be hired or the school district would have been breaking the law.

    The schools already shows burden of proof. Any child who receives services has an IEP. In there is the goals that the students are trying to meet each year and what is being done to help that student meet those goals. It does not matter "if they receiving value for this expense through academic outcomes" By law, they have to provide this service regardless! It is my understanding that every year the IEP is reviewed to determine if the child still need services.

    The school district is doing something right if your daughter didn't know who the student who need extra help. The kids who do need the help really don't want other kids knowing. I'm guessing it's been a while since you have been in school, but I clearly remember special education kids getting picked on. Plus, your story really has nothing to do with this since your kids don't attend 122.

  27. Ed:

    Thanks for responding.

    I think I've pretty well gone over my opinion on the salary issue, so I won't repeat here.

    I strongly agree on your opinion about starting salaries in the district being too low.

    the Board should have addressed this by increasing the stratring levels in the teachers contract, and shifting the funds to do this from some of the double digit raises they were giving to senior staff.

    Perhaps we disagree here.

    Regarding special ed, I've seen such a wide range of costs among districts for providing similar services fro similar needs that I think that a great deal of scrutiny is required here by the Board and Adminstration.

    I haven't been able to find such cost/service benchmarking from the district.

    Whta I'd really like to see is a study of Chicago and suburban districts finding the cost range, average costs, outcomes, and correlations between program and other factors.

    Such a study would allow districts to "benchmark" their programs and determine if they are administering their programs effectively and efficiently.

    Of course, this might put some staff on the spot for costing too much and achieving too little, so it likely has about as much chance of being done as a comprehensive study of "value" of teacher seniority and advanced education on student outcomes.

    If , as an adminstrator, you've seen such studies, I'd appreciate a link.

    Regarding my background in education, it's clear we come from two very different cultures.

    In the late 1990's I took a three year "sabatical" from engineering management to teach, and took a $70K per year pay cut to do it.

    This wasn't altogether altruistic, however.

    My wife had just had twins, in additon to our toddler, and with my 80 hour office work week I wasn't giving her the support she needed.

    Since I'd been passionate about all our children receiving a world class education, I decided to see first hand how the educational systems worked, which I'm sure you'd agree is practically impossible withiout having taught in the classroom every day for years.

    Since I had an advanced degree in engineering, I learned to teach by teaching technical mathematics, quantitative analysis, helath care mathematics, and phyicat sciences at MVCC. I taught a 12 semesterr hour schedule there for as year as adjunct faculty, and received exceptional training through a mentoring system for which I'll always be grateful.

    During this time, I also taught as a sub at over 14 Soutland high schools, and really got a wake up call about how many six figure per year administrators didn't have the remotest ability to plan and manage a sevice operation.

    Following my "training" at MVCC, I was hired as a full time conceptual and honors physics teacher at Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park, near your district in La Grange.

    I taught there for two years, and was inivited back for a third, but my children were entering pre-school and my wife was getting an itchy credit card finger, so I went back to engineering management, this time swtiching from the energy industry to school design and renovation.

    I did that for about five years, but the stench of politics, patronge, and cronyism became so strong there that I went back to energy industry consulting.

    Since public school suburban hiogh school teachers are paid far higher than engineering managers in the Chicago area, I looked into entering public school teaching, and found out why there is such a shortage of highly qualified teacehrs who understand math and science in public schools.

    I quickly found out that knowledge of your subject and ability to teach has little to do with being allowed to teach in Illinois public schools.

    I found out that you couldn't teach math and physics in Illinois public schools unless you'd taken US History, American Literature, a bevy of "History and Philosophy" of Ed courses, and went through a semester of "student teaching" even though my evaluations and recommendations were excellent from those who'd supervised me.

    While I was there, I had to learn to "work smart" and allocate resources in the best interst of the children. We had ADD and OC students, and I learned how best to educate them and meet their needs.

    When I got involved with my local school district, I was amazed by the amount of waste and inefficiency there.

    I checked out your district, Ed, and it seems like La Grange 105 costs more, and accomplishes less, than most similar districts.

    Rather than accomplishing more with less, it seems the culture in your district accomplishes "less with more".

    I tried to volunteer and create a "school improvement" committee, but I found out in both my elementary and HS districts that asking tough questions will exclude you from being able to participate in any such group.

    I wanted to serve low income kids, so I applied to fill in for a semester at a local low income school who was short o math and science teachers as a 90 day sub.

    They chose a certified English teacher, without any endorsement in math and science, instead.

    I'd love to be an educator again, and may do so after I retire (65, not 55 like public ed).

    One question, Ed.

    I get very frustrated with taax increase advocates who claim they want high salaries to "attract and maintain expereinced, quality staff", but then have no problem taking precious resources from the children to actually subsidize having the most experienced, and argubly most qualified, staff leave the district in what should be their most valuable professional years in their early fifties.

    How do you justify this paradox, or are you against early retirement and the crisis it's causing at both the state and local level?

  28. Lisa:

    I'm very familiar with the law and IEP requirements as well as review.

    The problem is in classification and having a plan for students to get out of this system.

    Some districts do a good job of this, and some allow the students to languish as "IEP" students far too long, IMO.

    Since you said the district has given a full accounting of the appropriateness and effectiveness of its special ed spending, can you give me a link to find it?

    I'd be very interested in seeing the breakdown of classification, needs, and costs.

    If children are "mainstreamed" and are receiving minimal additional service from doubling expense, wouldn't you agree that the law should be changed?

    I strongly believe that every child should have an opportunity to meet their potential, but it seems like expanding bureacracy rather improving academic outcomes seems to be the object of the current laws.

    There's got to be a better, fairer, way for the children but this is what happens when the FEds and state try to "micromanage" an activity.

    That's why I tend to favor keeping local funding and control of schools, with the state taking care of those low spending districts that clearly cannot provide for themselves.

    Wouldn't you agree?

  29. After reading the lively discussion I need to weigh in. Bob our next Board Meeting is Feb. 21, at Lieb School in Bridgeview. I would love for you to attend and get the answers you say you cannot get from the Business Office. I do also think that you need to review your facts when it concerns the actions of the Board of Education. Very few people will argue with the fact that some pretty bad fiscal mistakes were made in the past,now trying to find someone to admit they made them is another story.

    However the current Board and current Administration has doen everything in their power to correct those issues, their are still some items that need to be corrected but there time is coming too.

    I look forward to seeing you at the meeting on the 21st. Maybe your ideas and committment to seeking fair taxes and schooling can be of use to the Board and Administration, all constructive ideas are appreciated.

    By the way, I serve on the Board because I'm in the pocket of my children who attend school here along with my neighbors children. You are more than welcome to move into the community and run for the board, If you really think you can help I'd be happy to put a yard sign up for ya.

  30. Dave, thanks for joining the conversation. I wish I personally could attend this meeting myself, but I'll be on my way to Arizona for vacation.

  31. Dave:

    This issue takes a lot more than a five minute discussion during "Public Comment" at a Board meeting.

    Is there a working committee being formed to evaluate the spending alternatives in the best interest of the children without additional revenues?

    As a former teacher and someone very familiar with school facility management ,and better than average understanding of school finance, I would be happy to give such a group any support I can.

    You can reach me a southlandedwatch@yahoo.com if I may be of service.

    If you don't have such a working committee, I would be happy to help you form one.

    There are a lot of people visting this site, as well as representatives from the Oak Lawn Tax Watch, who should be brought into the process to reach a consensus on how to solve the long term funding problems in the district.

    If you want to sit down and discuss ways of making children the priority for available resources, I'd be happy to meet with you and discuss the issue.

    By the way, if I gave the impression that Mr. Trimberger (Business Manager for 122) wasn't helpful in providing district iinformation, I apologize.

    He went above and beyond what I'd seen in other districts having referenda, and I sensed no "stonewalling" on his part.

    The biggest lack of info I have is in the special education program resource allocation.

    That info was not available to Mr Trimberger.

    If you have that info, I would appreciate being able to go over it with you.

  32. BLOG TROLL:A commenter whose sole purpose is to attack the views expressed on a blog and incite a flamewar, for example, a liberal going to a conservative blog, or vice versa. The word trolling means literally 'to fish', ie. when the troll fishes for a clashback from the blog writer and/or pro commenters. Many trolls will leave their remarks on multiple posts and continue to visit the blog, sparking spirited debate amongst the blog's regular readers. Trolls' verbosity can range from eloquent to crass, although most trolls probably fall into the latter category. Originally, trolling only meant the custom where someone was commenting just to get a flamewar going, by using exaggerated points of view not held by themselves.

    The only place I could find a polite description of what I have just read from Bob Shelstrom on this site.

    Dear ED,

    It seems that you have found yourself a Blog Troll! Bob Shelstrom appears to be informed on many points of interest regarding our referendum and school district, but he lacks authority on many points. For one , he isn't consistent with his facts, two, he doesn't have children in our district and three,his spelling errors are evidence of his IQ or highly charged emotions when typing. I question why he is the only blogger on this site attacking SD122 and what he gets out of this dialogue psychologically? He really hasn't offered any reasonable/workable ideas to help 122, instead, he attempts to place blame,finger point and incite emotions with his inflammatory opinions.

    I also question why Bob would think an engineering degree would qualify him to teach anywhere?

    His quote, copied from the February 17 blog entry "Since public school suburban hiogh school teachers are paid far higher than engineering managers in the Chicago area"

    Kudos to the bloggers who replied politely and informatively. I found it very challenging to do that, but I tried my best.

  33. Bob,

    I think that is a good way to proceed, none of us wants to see taxes raised in a reckless manner. I will bring up on the 21st the idea of having a meeting with the Administration, members of the BEA, and taxwatch maybe a positive solution can be obtained. Also I will pass along your email info to Julie Shelburg who can, I'm sure answer you questions about Special Ed. in the District.

  34. I understand that the recount validated the failure of the referendum.

    Is a serious and impartial working committee being formed, as was indicated by Dave, to investigate long term solutiions to limiting spending increases (primarily salaries and benefits) until a fair contract can be negotiated with the unions next year?

    I believe that negotiating a contract with growth limited to 75% of increased revenues might go a long way towards convincing voters that the Board really is "All about the children"!

    By the way, the CPI may go up to as much as 4.5% this year, so there should be more money available to restore programs in the immediate future.

    Couple this with increased fees and the ability to have a temporary tax increase through working cash bond sales for a year, and it seems that there is no reason that a responsible Board and Administration shouldn't be able to provide music, art, and extracurriculars for the children at affordable fees.

    Anyone know if this is being pursued by the Board?

  35. As a student, that was on the basketball team, I think we need sports and things to do after school to help keep us out of trouble! Some parents can't afford to pay the over priced park district fees for sports that last two weeks for one to two days in those weeks! We NEED SOMETHING TO DO!! Oh and we are not learning anything because we have WAY to many kids in our class and no one to help our teachers!!!! Why wouldn't they STOP LETTING people who can afford to pay for school come in for FREE or eat lunch for FREE!!! I am only 13 and know that I could help cut the budget!!! And help keep us off the streets and into sports!! I could care less about art (even though I love it) or music (hate it) but the sports are needed to help us stay fit. How much exercise are we getting in a gym class with 135 kids, and yeah some of them really really need the exercise!!! And another thing our teachers are STRESSED with all the kids in one class, its not easy to control all those kids and teach! BOARD HELP US!!!! Don't hurt us!

  36. Hi Lisa,

    I enjoyed your discussion with Ed and Bob on your blog. All three of you are very knowledgeable and level-minded.

    I'm responding to your comment on http://learnthinkdo.blogivists.com/2008/11/26/a-n

    Please consider the possibility that we have been conditioned by the school system into a powerless way of thinking about the school priorities.

    Let's stop assuming that the district can simply discard a program to cut the

    budget. Let's create a vision that art and music classes have the

    same priority as sports and regular classes. Let's also create a vision that the district cannot simply fire teachers to save money.

    The district might cut across the board.

    Teacher salary schedules have a rigid "step-down" system that rewards seniority and a masters degree.

    Teacher health plans are always exceptionally generous to the teachers, with a token premium and a token deductible.

    Our plan has 92% utilization by the teachers. 92% of insurance company's income goes right back to the teachers.

    The company is stuck with 8% gross margin. No wonder it bumps the premium by 12% for next year.

    Add up the salaries, health payouts, pension payouts of a 15-year high school teacher.

    15 years of experience (seniority) is average for teachers. The district could easily pay out $120-$130K a year.

    Imagine you're a VP of iPod product line in Apple.

    Recession is here and Apple's income is down.

    Steve Jobs throws out an idea to cancel iPod and focus only on iPhone and Mac. But you know that iPod is just as important to Apple as the iPhone and the Mac.

    Are you going to appeal to his sympathy for your about-to-go-hungry family or are you going to stand for what you know is right?

    If you stand up for yourself you will prove to Steve why iPod belongs in company's portfolio.

    It might be uncomfortable, but you must get the district to bring those expenses down from $120K to $110K a year.

    The teachers certainly are wonderful and they wouldn't like it , but it's also tough to manage a lot of other jobs for far less money.

    The union wants you to think only about this year's art and music.

    Don't let them set these parameters for you.

    You gotta stand up, not only as one mother of one student, as also as an owner of the district.

    You're not the only one.

    Once you stand up, others will too.

    Please stand up!


  37. Did the committee Dave discussed above, including giving opportunities to parents to propose spending reallocation to benefit the children, ever occur?

    I haven't seen anything about it in the paper or on the web site.

    People have been contacting me about their running for the Board for 122, and if the Board and adminstration haven't given parents the opportunity to identify and propose cutting expenses where it hurts the children and families least, it certainly seems that a Board more connected and respectful of the community should be elected.

    By the way, I've heard rumors that the teacher's union is threatening a strike if the Board doesn't give them a contract that increases salaries and benefits at a rate higher than the cost of living.

    If that's true, it would become very clear who the "villains" are who caused the childrens' programs to be cut, and it sure wasn't the taxpayers or those who voted against the referendum.

  38. Not that I know of. Right now, I can't even get anyone from the district to answer some very simple questions like class size. I've tried calling the school my daughter is to go to next year, and they won't talk to me at all. I can only call the district who won't answer my questions either. All they wil tell me is that they won't let the class size go above 30 kids. Unless something drastically changes between now and August, my daughter will be attending kindergarden at a private school.

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