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Union Holds Packed Community Forum, Talks to Resume Wednesday

As the Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 strike continues, union leaders held a forum to answer questions about the work stoppage. No deal was reached Monday night.

It was a full house as a portion of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers negotiating team set out to answer questions from the community about the current state of contract talks and the reasons behind their walkout. 

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The forum was organized by the union with an impartial moderator and members of the school board were invited to attend. No district officials were in attendance, however negotiations between the rest of the union's team and board members continued throughout Monday evening and into the late hours of the night. 

The board and union ended negotiations at 12:30 a.m. without an agreement. According to a statement from the union, the board offered no economic proposals and "nothing but minor language changes on retirement" was discussed during the nine-hour session. 

Board officials said they will not be available to meet until Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. 

"This strike is the result of problems that have existed for over a decade," said Mariellen Newquist, co-president of union at Monday's forum. She recalled the "toxic" tenure of previous superintendent Diane Cody and said the current board is keeping that attitude alive. 

Newquist, a special education teacher and longtime resident of Evergreen Park, repeatedly stressed the union's desire to return to their classrooms. 

"We are fighting for what we feel we deserve and what our students deserve as well, in terms of a quality education in our classrooms," Newquist said. 

Tony Demma, a speech pathologist and member of the negotiating committee, said that the last six contracts have resulted in teachers starting the school year without a new contract signed. 

Talks first began last April and union members present said a strike was the absolute last option and was put off for as long as possible. 

Dave Comerford, a spokesperson for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said the union is willing to lock themselves in a room with the board until an agreement can be reached. 

At the forum residents, parents and even retired staff members asked questions about everything from the necessity of a strike to the reasons why a large surplus might be warranted. 

The hour long session was attended by several hundred Evergreen Park residents and kept a largely civil tone as union members fielded inquiries. 

It was announced that if the strike was still in effect come Thursday, the union has organized a free student enrichment program for all district students at Jacob's Well Church Community. Morning and afternoon sessions of the kids club will be held and the program will be staffed by district educators. 

The two sides are still at odds over salary, benefits, retirement and the length of the contract although they have moved closer together on the first three. 

Read Patch's ongoing strike coverage:

  • EP Teachers Strike Moves Into Second Week
  • No Deal Reached During Sunday Bargaining Session
  • No Deal After Marathon Session to End EP Teachers Strike
  • EP Teachers Union Organizes Community Forum - UPDATE
  • National Union President Walks D124 Picket Line Before Another Round of Talks
  • What To Do With Your Kids During the Evergreen Park Teachers Strike
  • EP Students Join Teachers on Picket Line
  • D124 Plays Hardball With EP Teachers Union
  • Strike On: EP Teachers Walk Picket Line
  • Last Chance for EP Teachers and D124 to Avoid Strike
  • Scenes of a Protest: EP Teachers Stage Noisy Rally on 95th Street
  • Threat of EP Teachers Strike Looms
  • EP Teachers Set Oct. 2 Strike Date
  • No Agreement In D124 Contract Talks
Ken Fryer October 09, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Bob, the district pays 90 percent for a single person and 75 percent for family. In fairness to the mayor he has weighed in the past but is recovering from a bad case of west mile. As I've said before the board is doing the right thing in trying to keep fiscal responsibility but going about it the wrong way. While the crowd was pro teacher there were several people who took an opposingng view, including an elegant lady holding a baby. She wasn't booed. Mr Rohan was upset (understandably) but there was no thugs or scumbags. Bob it's the taxpayers money and they have a right to voice their opinion. I'm sure when W was saying we need tax cuts because there's a surplus you were behind that, even with trillions of unfunded entitlements. If you get in office is your platform to work solve problems or tear people and the system down because of some sort of tea cup ideology? Your acting like Mike Madigan, only without any power. There's much to this debate that you don't know . You should take Luch up on his offer. Someone from the board should have shown, only 5 of 7 are in the negotiations.
Concerned October 10, 2012 at 02:47 AM
@LValdez... 1) thank you for your service to our country, and 2) do you read your posts before you hit submit? What you usually do is answer a concern or an opinion or a statement of fact with a personal comment about the poster... Either with a bit of advice, or questioning if they live in the district, or "with all due respect." I take from your posts tht you are a public sector union worker, and you cant allow yourself to really see the other side. I'm sure you're a good guy, but you (and Southside... And others!) really need to try to understand the other side. We aren't anti-teacher, and want kids back in school ASAP. We can agree on those two things, so that's a beginning, right?
Bob October 10, 2012 at 03:45 AM
ummm...Ken there weren't any surpluses after W took office, and the reason for the tax cuts was to stimulate the economy following 9/11. If you look at the GDP growth over that period despite the worst possible financial disaster in the nations history after the NY stock exchange and many of the brokeragte professionals were murdered, the plan worked extraordinarily well. Contrast that with the impotency of teh current stimulus boondoggles of the current administration, and its clear which approach worked, and which one didn't. I have no idea what you mean by your "tea cup" remark. I have very pro-active and postive policies for change on my website, www.bobshelstrom.com. I'd be happy to discuss them with you if you want to learn more. Over the years I've found there are people who embrace conflict, and those who embrace solutions. I beleive I'm the latter, and if you read my posts you'll see I provide facts which no one on the union side has disputed. Their argument is all about divisiveness and emotion, not facts and fairness. If you bothered reading my posts, you'd see I'm very open to thoghtful debate. The problem with the union side is that all they can do is spout off unsubstantiated claims that they can't justify when challenged.That's very telling. I'd LOVE to debate the issue of whetehr the teachers in 124 are undercompensated and justified in abandoning the kids. Can you make their case?
Bob October 10, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Ken, the last teachers contract demand was to increase family coverage paid by the distirct to 80%. That's part of the reason there's a strike. They didn't think the taxpayers picking up 75% of the bill was enough.
Bob October 10, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Brighid, many of us work for a living and can only take a minute or two to post when we take a short break. There's no "spell check" here, and we often don't have time to check for typos. That you choose to criticize for spelling instead of adding cogent thought, facts and logical conclusions gives more to criticize about you than someone's grammar. If you have some valuable opinion to offer on the subject, offer it. Otherwise, if you can't get past grammar to reach thoughtful content, BECOME A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER!LOL
Bob October 10, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Southside, once again you lie about what I said. Impresent fact filled posts with a logical conclusion you can't dispute, so you try to lie about what I write adn attck based upon your lies. Are you by chance related to our soon to be former POTUS?LOL
Bob October 10, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Worker bee, that Mandate" isn't that simple. The situation has to be judged to be pretty much hopeless before they get involved and take over. They really don't want to do it, and neither should the district. It gives the Quinn appointed oversight Board the right to raise taxes to any level necessary to pay the bills. One of the things I'm proposing in my campaign is to require all school boards to send a finacial plan that confirms the district can afford to pay for any labor contract it wishes to approve throughout its term without raising taxes or fees, cutting programs, or increasing class sizes. Any labor contract that couldn't honestly meet those criteria would be considered unconscionable and be null and void. If this law were in effect today, there would be no strike in EP because the union knows its excessive demands couldn't pass the legal criteria. The reason we have this unacceptable situation is that Springfield has failed miserabley to enact common sense legislation to prevent school financial crisis and hurting the children in our schools. With good people like you voting for me, perhaps we can work together to protect the children so this travesty won't be repeated!!
Southside October 10, 2012 at 04:36 AM
You are running for state rep? You are going to beat Kelly Burke? I shouldn't have wasted my time with your nonsense. There's 5 minutes I won't get back. Hey you should stop commenting online and get out and knock on some doors. Maybe hand out some tea. Good luck, Bobbo. You are gonna need it. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
Southside October 10, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Hey Bob, run for the D124 board. You'd have a better chance of winning something there. Oh you live in Palos. Too bad for the citizens of EP.
Ken Fryer October 10, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Bob, the way you speak on some of these post whether you think it or not is not productive for yourself. Just a little political advice. Scumbags, thugs? Come on... The board pretty much wanted to gut their insurance. As I've said before I'm more than willing to have the tough conversation on pay bumps near retirement, stipends for retirement and other things. I have kids at northwest I'm there. They're not over staffed. I Can't speak as to if the administration is, but the school is not. I don't care what the state website says. Walk in the schools if you get a chance. I'm sure we could agree that the administrators should pay the same as the teachers for insurance? Currently they get 100. We just saved probable almost 100k. Let's high five on that. bottom line is in our situation we had a chance to have a long term talk about the future. Instead we're stuck in the mud. And we don't hear from the board. And what we do hear is they don't want to make up the days missed. I understand your point would be why reward them walking away. But who hurts in that stance. And even if you did agree with not making up the days shouldn't that be the last thing that's talked about? And PR wise isn't that dumb? I think the board is doing a disservice to your cause Bob. They need to make their case so it. Becomes a long term solution. Instead even if they get everything the want, in April they'll probably be 4 new members who could dismantle anything that's agreed to. Then what?
Ken Fryer October 10, 2012 at 06:11 AM
This just isn't about whoever wins and loses now, but in the long run. The people of this community are very reasonable Bob. I think only one or two families on my block have kids in 124. As I talk to neighbors they seem to have the same view as I do, and they don't have kids in the district . To answer your question though. Of coarse my wife and I are upset. But I have faith in the teachers because in a short period of time they've done great things for my kids. I don't think they should get everything, but those early offers were a joke. And although I would really love to hear from them I still have some faith that the board will be fair with a long term fiscal plan. You probably think those things don't go together, but in our situation right now they do.
Another Taxpayer October 10, 2012 at 08:22 AM
Thanks for being the voice of reason Ken. I can't figure out where Bob gets some of those figures he has commented on. As much as the BOE has a responsibility to the taxpayers, the union has a responsibility to it's members. Sure, there are some teachers that have worked 30 years and make a liveable salary and could maybe survive the deep benefits cuts presented by the board. But the union has to worry about the teacher that has worked 10 years, earned a Masters degree, and according to the actual salary schedule earns a total compensation of $ 52,560. After taxes, medicare, TRS, this teacher brings home about $ 36,000 cash to live on. They have all the financial needs of anyone else out there...and that is a shoestring budget in the Chicagoland area. I'm sure the teachers never expected to become millionaires, but I'm sure they at least expected to be able to pay for their housing needs, auto, student loan, food, medical, clothing, etc., for their hard work. And the aides and secretary pay is poverty level at best, I can't even figure out why they take those jobs. I don't call this strike greed, I call it survival. My advice to you lower paid teachers and staff is to get out of this school district! You may even want to think about just getting out of teaching or you'll be looking at a lifetime career of this kind of contract nightmare.
_ October 10, 2012 at 09:49 AM
No rush? You obviously don't care about children missing school.
_ October 10, 2012 at 09:52 AM
Hey thorn1 AMEN! What will they do when the money runs dry, they get let go and their pensions are all gone? Welcome to the private sector!
_ October 10, 2012 at 09:55 AM
Thanks WorkerBee. Exactly, and they would quickly find out what the REAL world is like. Welcome to the private sector! :)
_ October 10, 2012 at 09:57 AM
Working conditions? What are your issues with the working conditions in SD 124? I did not know this was part of contract negotiations.
Bob October 10, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Southside, I'm glad you have a sense of humor. I've knocked on over a thousand doors in the district and handed out several thousand pieces of literature myself. out of literally hundreds of contacts, I've got about a dozen other volunteers helping out, too. I only had one non-supportive response, and that was someone who owed their job to keeping the Dem crooks in power. One of the most supportive people were those who had a "Proud Union Home" signs. A lot of Teamsters and tradesman are really ticked off at the gravy train public union employees are riding while they're taking private sector pay cuts and pension reductions. The election is there to be won. The only question is whether I'll be able to make enough contacts to let voters know they have a good alternative to the Democratic machine candidates who've brought our state to disaster! I wish I could match the $174,000 that Ms Burke has received from special interests over the last two years, but those of us who aren't wiling to sell out the state have to work harder to win instead of sitting back and paying $6,000 per day for those big mailers and paid phone bank people. The corrupt interests who are destroying Illinois are spending big time this year. The only question is whether voters have wised up enough so they "Won't be Fooled Again" by the corrupt Dems. We'll see on Nov 6!
Bob October 10, 2012 at 01:08 PM
The overstaffing and compensation issues, as well as the issues regarding school finance. reserve funds, revenues and expenditures can be found at the www.isbe.net site. The facts on comparisons of salries area from the Bureau of Labor statistics. I made these references when Iposted them, and in some cases gave links. It's a shame you didn't bother to read them. To date, I haven't had a SINGLE fact I've made refuted. I've had a lot name-calling and unsubstantiated claims made, but when hard data are introduced people like Luciano and Southside tend to disappear, or just make wild, unverified claims and insult anyone attempting to inject fact based reasoning into the discussion. Ken, look at the school report cards for comparison of students per admin, teacher and certified staff. That's the basis for my assertion that 124 is overstaffed.
Bob October 10, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Everyone, let's see if we can get this to a reasonable, fact based debate rather than bickering. How about using a debate format? Here's where we can start: Resolved: "124 teachers are underpaid compared to their local peers." Resolved: "124 teacher are superior to those in other similar districts based upon objective student results" Resolved: "It's FAIR that taxpayers should pay 4.5% of the 9.4% teacher pension contributions, should receive severance pay equal to $250 per year of service at retirement, and should only pay 5% of the early retirement costs allocated by statute to the employee, with the taxpayers picking 95% of their obligation. Resolved: "The taxpayers should pay 75-90% of employee health insurance costs" Anyone up for this debate challenge, especially those in the union? This is what SHOULD be discussed in negotiations. Let's see if through honest debate we can justify the teachers being on strike...or NOT!
Kells October 10, 2012 at 01:23 PM
It is all about greed. Just because we are not for the strike does not mean we are anti teachers. I would be happy to sign any petition against the strike. These teachers, unlike Chicago, have an easy job. They are paid nicely (100,000 not bad) and have 3 months off. EP residents cannot afford a tax increase which is what will happen if the teachers get everything they want. It's gotten to be GREED and POWER. The teachers will not negotiate anything - it's all or nothing. This is not Lake Forest or Wilmette. In EP 39% of the children are considered low income.
SC October 10, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I am asking because a lot of people on here are arguing that this is not all about money and benefits. I was asking if this article was accurate in stating that it is exactly that, about salary and benefits. I just want people to be honest and call the strike what it is and stop saying it is about working conditions and the children.
Concerned October 10, 2012 at 02:55 PM
DCH, you ask good questions. When the teachers last negotiated a contract, I had recently purchased my home in EP. In the few years since, I've seen my home lose 50% of its value, as well as my property taxes increase by the same percentage. Also in the last three years, the plaza has gone into receivership and numerous retail vacancies have appeared. I've heard high hopes for the new development on Western to bring in new revenue, but I'm sure many of the community who are for the unions proposals have also protested against that development. And now were told by the union that our taxes won't go up because of the contract they want?! How on Earth could anyone know that? Their contract commits the village to a fixed financial obligation, when their revenue over the next few years is anything but guaranteed. Keep asking the hard questions!
Plectrum October 10, 2012 at 04:07 PM
There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding compensation levels for comparably educated people. A college degree is not a guarantee of a 6 or 7 figure salary in the private sector. No resident of EP, as far as I know, is an investment banker. A BA or an MA is not a guarantee of a highly compensated job at Goldman. Teacher salaries are generally in line with median incomes at a state or national level. Employee contributions to healthcare costs are standard things, see the Kaiser survey linked below. Per the US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/acsbr11-02.pdf 2011 Median Household Income in the United States: $50,502 2011 Median Household Income in Illinois: $53,234 Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm $54,756 annual for FT employee with Bachelors degree $65,676 annual for FT employee with Masters degree Based on 2010 Census data: http://www.zip-codes.com/zip-code/60805/zip-code-60805.asp 2010 Median Household income in EP $53,514 2010 Median Home Value in EP: $134,900 Kaiser Family Foundation does an Annual Health Benefits Survey. The average annual employee contribution to their health insurance is ~$4500. http://ehbs.kff.org/pdf/2012/8346.pdf
Southside October 10, 2012 at 04:53 PM
MS, If you are a union house, you wouldn't be against the teachers. You aren't a union house if you against only public employee unions. Again, don't speak about what you don't know. You want to be against teachers, police officers, firefighters, and all other public employees have at it. Don't insult us be saying you are a union house. Go have a tea party with Bobby. And I don't berate everyone who comments. Just the ones who are wrong, narrow-minded, and/or stupid. And I live in a hole? Who is teaching the kids with that one, MS?
Southside October 10, 2012 at 05:41 PM
MS you got up too early today, posting garbage before 5am. I can see you by your potty mouth that you are getting crabby like my 2-year old. You need a nap at your anti-teacher, anti-police, anti-fire, anti-union house. Drink some tea before you go down.
JOSIEWALES October 10, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Recession, people losing jobs and homes....I have not had a raise in four years..my taxes just went up $900.00, my home has lost it's value to the tune of almost $100K. The teachers deserve a cost of living raise, but to hold us up for RAISES EVERY YEAR IS LUDICROUS...We should not be held hostage to all these DEMANDS...Everyone involved needs to sit down AGAIN..and look at the bigger picture......I'd also like to see the Teacher Union Reps. phone numbers listed...What's good for the goose is good for the gander.....I don't like the dirty politics the Teacher's union used in putting out personal phone numbers.....or didn't you care about Ms. Rohan's "children" and how THEY were affected ..
Another Taxpayer October 10, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I'm not in the union Bob, but I'll give your debate issues a try: Are 124 teachers underpaid compared to local peers...I say YES. I base that on salary schedule comparison (on the district websites). Using my above example in my earlier post, Dist.124, 2011-12 salary schedule, 10 yr Masters, Total Comp. of $ 52,560. Evergreen Park High School, 2011-12 salary schedule, 10 yr Masters, Total Comp. of $ 65,456. Are 124 teachers superior to those in other similar districts based upon objective student results. I'm not a very statistic or analytical person. Student results will be based on a combination of factors, including teacher, curriculum, student and parents. It is a group effort in my opinion. Should taxpayers pay the 4.5% of the 9.4% teacher pension contribution: This is a controversial issue. I believe many years ago it was set up this way as a Tax Shelter. Is the IRS ok with this? The amount is written in the salary schedule as part of Total Compensation. Is it or not? Since it's controversial, I think it should just be paid into the regular earnings and the entire 9.4% deducted. The thank you for 35 yrs of service severance pay could probably be eliminated or reduced. You totally lost me on the early retirement costs. I've never seen that the way you stated it in any contract information. I think the health care costs are similar to what many employers pick up. The board should have negotiated an extra 5% employee pickup because of rising costs.
Another Taxpayer October 10, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Sorry, I ran out of characters. Is the strike justifiable? The board slashed away at the old contract. Six months of negotiations with NO results either way usually will warrant a strike, to come to terms for a new contract.
Southside October 10, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Bob lives in Palos. Who cares. MS you don't know where I live. Doesn't matter. This is America. I have every right to comment here and defend my friends you attack. Call me all the names you want. You really show how stupid and crabby you are. Ever get that nap? You've been up almost 12 hours.
Paula Gray October 10, 2012 at 09:32 PM
This is in response to Another Taxpayer and other interested readers - the BOE added answers to the Frequently Asked Questions link on the home page of the district website. One of the answers is about early retirement calculations which seems to be one of the sticking points in negotations.

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