On Aug. 20, the District 65 Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union) held a rally before the School Board’s meeting to demonstrate support for their position in the negotiating sessions. DEC also issued the following statement:
“The District 65 Educators’ Council (DEC) and the District 65 School Board have participated in contract negotiation sessions since March 2012. At this time there is still not a contract agreement. There are joint bargaining sessions scheduled for this week. A federal mediator has been working with the two sides since August 8th and will continue to supervise the upcoming sessions. DEC is hopeful and will continue to work for a settlement agreement that protects high quality education in District 65. DEC has several online sites to keep the parents and the community informed on the issues.”
On its online site, DEC says, “[T]he school board and superintendent are proposing a series of changes that we know will not be good for students or teachers – changes that will not lead to the high quality education and learning conditions that children deserve. These changes would affect: scheduling; fine arts; extra curricular activities; teachers’ professional planning time and the ability of the district to recruit and retain excellent teachers and educators.”
The changes identified by DEC on its website are: that fine arts will be cut for most fourth and fifth students by 40 minutes per week; that K-5 music and art teachers would be required to teach an extra class per day, and they be required to teach in two buildings several times a week; that fine arts periods may be scheduled on an “inconsistent” basis at the K-2 levels and for some third- through fifth-grade levels; that transition time in which PE teachers prepare for upcoming classes would be eliminated; that planning time for fourth and fifth grade teachers would be cut and planning time for K-3 teachers not increased; that music, art, drama, physical education and foreign language teachers would be required to teach a seventh class during the day; and 20 minutes a day of professional planning time would be cut from all other middle school teachers.
The changes were proposed by administrators as part of a set of deficit reduction strategies to reduce operating expenses by about $4.4 million per year and to balance the District’s budgets over the next three years.
At the School Board meeting on Aug. 20, School Board President made this statement:
“Out of respect for our parents, the Evanston/Skokie community and the negotiation process, we have chosen not to communicate publicly about proposals on the table. Given DEC’s public appeals, however, we believe it would be helpful if we made a few comments:
“As Board members we take very seriously the responsibility to our students, our teachers and other district employees, and our community. We also take seriously our fiscal responsibilities.
“As a Board, we are charged with using finite resources in a manner that maximizes the best education for our students.
“ We understand the importance of planning time. We have surveyed several other districts and found that the planning time we provide our teachers is more than competitive with what most other districts offer.
“ We would like to note that we have not made a single bargaining proposal that would reduce the planning time required under our current contract. We did announce some changes at the end of our last school year that were allowed under our current contract. We are willing to negotiate and have over the last five months. For our K-5 teachers, we have proposed that their work day be the same as it is for our middle school teacher work day. That would provide increased planning time for them without adding classroom contact time. We also have discussed a concept that would further increase K-5 teacher planning time as well as improve the delivery of K-5 fine arts programming.
“ During negotiations we have carefully listened to DEC’s proposals and ideas. In turn, we have made proposals and ideas that we are confident would benefit our students. Our district will continue to offer a strong program for students that includes art, music, drama and PE.
“ We want to make this point clear: The Board has worked hard to respond to DEC’s concerns and has made substantial efforts to compromise. Currently, we are waiting for union leadership to respond to proposals made during last week’s negotiation session.
“ Be assured, the Board will continue to do all we can to use District resources to promote strong educational programs that best serve our students, are within available resources, and are fiscally responsible. We remain fully committed to working with DEC and the federal mediator to find common ground and achieve a fair and fiscally responsible contract. We believe we have the same interests at heart: delivering what is best for all students in this district.”