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Well, At Least The Teachers Have A Contract Now

The contract has been settled, but that may be all that is settled.

The Fourth of July is still a long way off, yet the fireworks are are in full gear in Orland School District 135. It's good to know that, at least, they have settled the teachers' contract and avoided a strike.

I know what these negotiations are like, having been through two of them during my term on the school board. I don't necessarily fault anyone for the length of time it took to come to an agreement. If the union just folded and accepted the first offer from the board, this would have been over several months ago. The same could be said if the board gave the teachers everything they asked for. It would have been quick, but it would not have been responsible.

The teachers union is paid to represent the interests of the teachers. They have an obligation to get the best deal for their members. If they don't they should be voted out. The board has an obligation to get the best deal for the taxpayers. The trick is to come to an agreement that is acceptable to both sides.

There is no doubt that the teachers in District 135 work hard and deserve to be paid well. But, you can say that about almost anyone. Electricians work hard, so do nurses and insurance agents; do they get what they "deserve?" Don't secretaries and mechanics deserve raises and excellent benefits, too? It's difficult to ask those people to pay higher taxes to pay for the teachers' raises when many of them are making less money and have reduced benefits.

I know that the district is sitting on a large surplus right now. Typically, a district passes a referendum (like in 2005) and builds up a surplus. The growth of expenses usually outpaces the growths of revenue and eventually, you run a deficit. Having a large cash surplus makes it possible to run a deficit for a long time before another referendum is needed. It's also nice to have money available for an unforeseen problem. Roofs can leak and a near-bankrupt state can cut funding at any time.

Like I said, I've been through this twice. I was president when the last contract was done. That was difficult too, but there was a big difference. There was a mutual respect between the board and the union. Unlike now, where some people on the board have antagonized the union, we respected each others positions. Issues were often handled with a phone call instead of lawyers. The whole Melanie Walsh fiasco proves this out.

Like Mr. Carmody, I was president of a 4-3 board. The split was political and personal, but it never interfered with us doing the right thing for the district. We fought some hard battles, but I never doubted the "other side's" commitment to District 135. Ironically, Tom Cunningham was one of the three back then and he always demanded that the minority point of view be respected. I guess that changes when you're in the majority. I don't think Mr. Cunningham would have allowed the majority to play political games with a secretary's career like with Mrs. Walsh. He would have been furious with the money being spent on lawyers to perpetuate this mistake; and he would have been right.

I know that many of us have been beating the board majority up over the Melanie Walsh error. What I don't understand is how can the board preach about being fiscally responsible, yet be willing to waste tax money on a secretarial position?

In a time when many people have become critical of public employee unions, why would a board do something that proves why public employees still need unions and why do something that get people, like me, to side with a union?

Fortunately, this is a strong district. Years of tight financial management have made it that way. The people of this district are good too. We have good people working in the district and we have good citizens supporting it. The district is bigger than the school board and whoever happens to be on it at any given time. It's also bigger than any personal agenda or vendetta that any particular board member may be persuing. A school board election is never more than two years away. The next one is in April of 2013, just over a year away.

It'll be here before you know it.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Paul January 02, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Truth, the reason Rita was not on the negotiating team for the last contract was because she didn't work for the district anymore. The board concensus was to use a lawyer for negotiating that contract anyway. When did I ever break a gavel? Realy? I already addressed the AG thing and the SA made an inquiry into a change in the superintendent's contract; a change that was approved on a 7-0 vote. All I know abour that was that someone, who to this day remains anonymous, called the SA about something on the contract. This was right after Dr. Ryan was busted stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Dist 168 in Sauk Village, so they were interested in seeing what was going on. Oh, by the way, "Truth", there was never anything done by the SA on that. More likely, this was a feeble attemt by someone who would never identify themselves to discredit the superintendent.
frank January 02, 2012 at 06:30 PM
JP's blog has brought up the past and present, let's get on with what can be done with our present board. COMMON SENSE, it's contagious, catch it!
angel12 January 02, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I say fire everyone and start from scratch.... All board members and administrators. Have teachers reapply for their jobs just like it happens in the REAL world. Too many egos and too many who think the are Entitled. The union is the worst of all.... Please teachers need protection. They have awesome benefits and work 10 months out of the year. And the pension...oh the pension what a joke...Take it away and make them pay into social securty like the rest of us...... I would take their pension anyday....
frank January 02, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Angel12, I'm sure a lot of others would like a teacher's pension like you would. Unfortunately, a lot of money, time, and commitment goes into becoming a teacher and achieving a pension. Our current society seems to be lacking these vital attributes. They fire managers before the TEAM. And what we have here, is a need to really get after this current board. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Yikes January 03, 2012 at 01:03 AM
@The truth -- never heard he broke a gavel, but I could see it happening. JP did try to silence the minority (Cachey, Svabek, & Cunningham) but he couldn't. If JP was such a good president, he would have run for a second term. Angel yes teachers get great pensions. Unfortunately the non certified staff don't get any credit. The schools could not run without them. Teachers think they are so much better but they aren't. A wise lunch lady at one of the primary schools once told me, "sometimes the more degrees they have, the dumber they are".
John Paul January 03, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Yikes, two out of the three minority members didn't run for a second term either.
John Paul January 03, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Over the past couple of years, more and more people began thinking the same thing about public employee unions. That's why I was so hard on this board over the Melanie Walsh fiasco. Capricious decisions like that one reinforce exactly why public employees still feel they need unions. It also makes the public more sympathetic to public employees and why would you want to do that during a tough negotiation?
frank January 03, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Yikes, "A wise lunch lady" ls a poor choice of words for you to advance your opinion. What do you think of the other lunch personnel as being? Less wise or dumber? As to other non certified staff not receiving credit, what situations are you talking about? <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
The Truth January 03, 2012 at 04:58 PM
John Paul I just find it amazing that you were one of the weakest board presidents and now you feel you are an authority on how to run a board. @ yikes he did break his gavel it was at Jerling in the media center, when he took board member comments off the agenda. I heard everyone in the meeting was laughing at him. He is a follower not a leader. He and LaMargo are in bed with the Union and the Village. Neither can think for themselves. JP what you did to Rita is no different then what is going on with Melanie.
John Paul January 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
"Truth", Obviously, this represents YOUR opinion, which you are certainly entitled to. Like I said before about superintendents, if you don't upset some people, its because you never tried to do anything. I don't know who you are, "Truth", so I don't know why you don't like me very much. Maybe you were an incompetent employee that we tried to get rid of or maybe you were a vendor that dropped because we got a better deal from a competitor. It realy doesn't matter, as I said, you're entitled to your opinion. By the way, I am curious, what did I do to Rita; last time I checked, she was doing quite well as a superintendent in Worth.
The Truth January 03, 2012 at 09:51 PM
John it is OK for you to criticize people by name, but when done to you it is because I don’t like you. You of anyone should know it is bad form to call out individual board members. Stick to the issues and not the individuals. But then again, you won’t because it about politics (Just like LaMargo) for you and not doing the right thing. Rita is doing well, which shows you were wrong in forcing her out. Remember.... to give Rains her (Rita’s) job. But that was OK. BTW I have never met you, but heard you are a nice guy, just don’t like the politics you bring.
John Paul January 03, 2012 at 10:26 PM
The reason that I called out individual board members on the Melanie Walsh situation is because they were the four that caused this problem and refused the opportunity to rectify it. Bragg, LaMargo and Donnegan wanted to do the right thing and shouldn't be lumped in with the others. Fair enough about the politics, like I said before, you can't agree with everyone. The whole Rita,Barb, Linda thing boils down to this: I believe it is the role of the superintendent to chose his or her staff. The board does not hire them, they vote up or down on the superintendent's recommendation. If you back your superintendent, you should give them the lattitude to chose who they want. I have always had the utmost respect for Rita and Barb and it seems as if things worked out for both of them.
Yikes January 04, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Frank -- the union is only interested in collecting union dues from the non certified staff. If it weren't for the teachers contract, they would have never fought for Melanie Walsh. When they bargain, the IFTA is only interested in getting money for the teachers. If they get too much for the non certified staff, there isn't any money left for the teachers. Daneen only cares about the teachers as her husband is a teacher. And when I referred to the "wise" lunch lady, I said that with the upmost respect.
Ben Feldheim (Editor) January 04, 2012 at 04:54 AM
I find it disappointing that there are only four people who have weighed in here willing to say their real names.
Yikes January 04, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Unfortunately not all of us can ... Teachers will retaliate against our students and employees could loose their jobs.
Me January 04, 2012 at 05:42 AM
How can you feel disappointed in people, when you see what happened to Melanie Walsh. There can always be repercussions, and not necessarily on ourselves! It is a sad world when people feel voicing an opinion, may affect others in our lives. And NOTHING will be done, to to right that wrong!!!
Ben Feldheim (Editor) January 04, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Me and Yikes, I understand that. Though the criticism sent toward John along with his blog has been largely anonymous and yet he isn't a board member now. How would he retaliate?
John Paul January 04, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I knew when I started doing this blog that my own record would be called into question anytime I was critical of anyone else. I have no problem with that. Of course, I've made my share of mistakes, who hasn't? Troy Aikman threw some interceptions in his football career, but that doesn't mean he can't comment on Jay Cutler. Part of why I wanted to do this blog was to share the point of view of someone who"s "been there". Guys like Phil Kadner can say what they want about anyone they want and know that you can't go back and criticize his record, because he never had one. Personally, I'm not upset nor offended by Yikes and Truth or anyone else who comments here. I like to spark a debate; it's a healthy thing for all of us.
Andrea Williams January 05, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Was wondering...why aren't the details of the contract being released until after it is ratified by the teachers? Is that law (state b.s.)? more negotiated union b.s.? more Carmody b.s? The taxpayers are stakeholders in the district and should have acess to that information. Furthermore, the Board should be presenting not only the details but the implications of those details to the taxpaying public. For example, is a referendum to increase taxes going to be required in order for the district to meet its obligations under the contract? Are programs going to need to be cut? Are the student/teacher ratios going to need to be increased? Are teacher layoffs necessitated? Lots of questions that aren't going to be answered until this thing is a done deal.
Andrea Williams January 05, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Teachers retaliate against my seven year old? Please...get a grip! I'm sure my son's first grade teacher and principal would take exception to that comment. I'm offended for them. That's a convenient excuse for not having the courage of your convictions. Where would this country be if everyone hid their beliefs in the shadow of their fears? I understand that not everyone has the stomach for exposing oneself to public criticism and ridicule, but let's call it what it is rather than suggesting the grade school teachers in D135 are so petty, cruel and shallow as to mistreat 7 year olds because they don't like what their parents say about the D135 board and/or union on The Patch.
frank January 06, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Common sense doesn't need a NAME I'M SURPRISED THAT YOU EVEN POSTED YOUR COMMENT! <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Kathy Quilty January 06, 2012 at 03:44 AM
@Andrea -- unfortunately my oldest was the subject of retaliation from the teachers/administration when he was at Orland Junior High School back in about 2001-2003. I advocatead for him and they punished him. I can't prove it, but I think the former principal is no longer there because of me. Would I have changed anything I did back then?? Absolutely not ... my son is a stronger adult now because of what he had to endure from his years at OJH.
Andrea Williams January 06, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Evidently I'm a little naive on this matter. I find it rather shocking that people who have chosen to build a career around serving children would behave that way, but not so shocking that it cost people their jobs if they did. I'm glad you did that for your son though I'm sure it wasn't easy....you modeled well for him and countless others that were watching.
Sarah January 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Teachers pay more into their pensions than workers pay into Social Security.
Kathy Quilty January 07, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Yes Andrea it was not easy at all, but I am proud to have stuck up for him. If I didn't no one else would have. There were a few teachers there that also believed in him. I am very thankful for Tony Hogan, Lynn Zeder, Carol Sturer (or something like that) and Don Kronenberg. They saw what he could be .... we need more teachers like those few at the junior high level that have a compassion for teaching ... especially at that age.
Andrea Williams January 07, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Who ultimately pays the "teachers" portion of their contribution into their pension system? Is it not common for the unions to negotiate into the contracts that the Districts pay the "teachers" contributions?
Andrea Williams January 07, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Thanks for sharing Kathy. That insight might explain why I find the "retaliation" claim so hard to believe...Lynn Zeder is the principal at my son's school. Like I said in an earlier comment, I'm sure she would take exception to the claim that she or members of her staff would behave like that. I've met her and have even brought to her some concerns that I had. She is very open to dialogue, is committed to the well-being of the students and I'm certain she would not stand for any of this "retaliation" nonsense under her watch.
Kathy Quilty January 07, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Lynn Zeder is the best!! She left D135 for a while and went to be assistant principal in D140 and in D118 for a while. I was so happy to see her come back to D135. She is one of the best!! She advocates for all kids and won't do something if she feels it is not right. I'd love to clone her!
Sarah January 07, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Andrea, sorry, like most people, I have limited knowledge and understanding of how the pension system works. I do know that teachers get their pension instead of social security, and that the teachers' portion of their pension is taken out of each paycheck. I'm more outraged over the pensions being paid to government workers and big-wigs who receive a big pay-off after only working for a few months. My understanding is that the state is supposed to also pay into pension funds, and that is how the State of Illinois got into so much financial trouble. It's easier to claim that the teachers don't deserve their pensions than to admit borrowing the pension fund and not being able to pay it back.
Kathy Quilty January 10, 2012 at 01:52 PM
I forgot to add that another awesome teacher at OJH is John Mason, one of the gym teachers. He made the kids feel that even though they weren't "athletic" they were still great.

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