Majority of emails back Hinsdale District 86 Board’s positions after new review

Kimberly Fornek
kfornek@pioneerlocal.com
Aug. 22 3:30 p.m.

Where they stand

The School Board originally proposed eliminating a salary schedule, but has included one in their latest offer. The board also increased from a raise of 1.7 percent in the first year of the contract to an average of 2.8 percent. But the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association claims the new schedule takes longer for teachers to reach higher pay, resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars over a career

The board offer also seeks to increase the teachers’ share of insurance costs and end a practice known as pension spiking, in which teachers are given a 6 percent raise each of their last four years of teaching, which results in higher annual pension payments.

Hinsdale High School District 86 Board President Richard Skoda has said several times the majority of the emails he receive supports the actions the board is taking in contract negotiations with teachers.

A review of emails sent this summer to the board’s officials email address support that claim.

The Doings reviewed emails sent to BOE@Hinsdale86.org, which go to all School Board members, and which were provided by the district under the Freedom of Information Act.

Between June 2 and Aug. 6, there were 127 emails expressing support for the board’s approach to teacher contract negotiations and 94 criticizing the board’s approach.

Because the email address of the senders was deleted, it cannot be determined how many of the emails were sent by the same person.

Many of the emails mentioned the flier the district sent, titled “District offer is more than fair.”

“I found the mailing very informative, and based on the information provided in it, I strongly support the Board of Education’s position to hold the line on costs,” an email sent July 21 read. “Teachers deserve to be paid a fair wage for their efforts, but the information in your mailing suggest the compensation program has been unreasonably generous for a considerable time frame. Whether employed in ‘corporate America,’ or self-employed, all people working in the business world have seen their real incomes erode and benefit costs skyrocket due to numerous factors. Teachers are not entitled to be protected from this.”

On July 23, a person wrote shared that their real estate bill has increased from $3,300 in 2005 to $5,970 in 2013.

“While it’s important to maintain good school quality, the cost of it is becoming ridiculous,” this resident wrote. “Teachers need to pay more for their insurance and retirement.”

Another email to the board read, “My tax bill tells a sickening story every year of increase after increase with no attempt at reduction. Even more sickening is that I have to contribute to their pensions. I don’t have a pension and yet you expect me to use the money that I earned and saved to give to them.”

While some residents thanked the board for the information in the flier and accepted it at face value, others questioned its accuracy or relevance.

A parent from Willowbrook took each issue and asked what teachers in other high-performing school districts receive.

“Why do you keep mentioning that teachers are ‘already’ at the top of the scale and have salaries ‘already’ at the top?” the writer said. “Didn’t we deliberately put them there so that we could attract the best teachers? Shouldn’t you at least acknowledge that our current success as a school ‘already’ highly ranked, has a direct correlation to those ‘already’ high salaries?”

On July 24, someone emailed, “There are worse things in life than paying taxes and it disgusts me that such a wealthy area would consider tampering with a great school district when the world demands more and better education in order to function, not alone succeed and improve our country.”

But the writer singled out points on which he or she agreed with the board.

“We do agree that pension spiking should not exist. We do agree that merit raises are appropriate. Your insurance plans seem reasonable,” the email stated.

A Hinsdale Central graduate with a senior at Central wrote, “If you think the current teaching staff of bright, caring professionals can be replaced by inexperienced beginning teachers or by substitutes then you don’t value the reputation for quality education and continuous improvement that Hinsdale Central and South are known for.”

The writer said as a member of a School Board he had negotiated three teacher contracts and understands the need to be fiscally responsible.

“I do not understand how negotiating in public, spinning data and treating each with disrespect can aid the process,” the writer emailed.

About 12 emails during that period asked for more information, but did not clearly indicate the writer’s position.

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Where they stand

The School Board originally proposed eliminating a salary schedule, but has included one in their latest offer. The board also increased from a raise of 1.7 percent in the first year of the contract to an average of 2.8 percent. But the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association claims the new schedule takes longer for teachers to reach higher pay, resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars over a career

The board offer also seeks to increase the teachers’ share of insurance costs and end a practice known as pension spiking, in which teachers are given a 6 percent raise each of their last four years of teaching, which results in higher annual pension payments.

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