In the escalating war of press releases, the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association responded to prepared statements made by Dist. 86 school board president Richard Skoda when the teachers’ strike authorization vote became public knowledge.
Teachers staged a “community awareness rally” outside of Hinsdale South before Monday’s board meeting, handing out flyers detailing a list of new board majority actions, including “unorthodox staffing decisions, late hiring practices, and questionable fiscal policy.”
Of those, 368 voted for a work stoppage during the 2014-15 if a new contract cannot be hammered out over the summer. Four of the ballots were spoiled.
“It is also worth noting that our own local leadership called for the vote, teachers in our buildings, not the NEA, or Naomi Shepherd, our IEA representative,” Palmquist said via email on Thursday night. “The board’s representatives seem to believe that an outsider called for the vote. This is untrue and mischaracterization of the process.”
The union has since accused Skoda of making misleading statements about both sides’ salary proposals, stating that the school board did not make a complete salary offer until contract negotiations went into mediation.
Skoda indicated that teachers’ proposed a 5.45 percent salary increase in the first year for D86 teachers earning an average annual salary of $110,000. The district countered with an offer commensurate with the Consumer Price Index.
The teachers’ association said its proposal was financially sustainable for the district and maintained a competitive advantage for attracting and retaining quality teachers.
“The board’s proposal, on the other hand, is out of the norm. The compensation offer b the board will put District 86 base salary further behind other districts. Their offer reduces the take home pay of almost every teacher, eliminating the district’s competitive advantage.”
The union also said that board members dragged their feet in beginning contract negotiations, and of cancelling several meetings, including a last minute cancellation “without explanation.”
Skoda called the teacher’s association’s accusations “baloney.”
“The teachers weren’t expecting [the strike authorization vote] to become public knowledge,” Skoda said. “They wanted the first mediation session to be June 10. We wanted to meet before then.”
Jeff Waterman, a Hinsdale South English teacher and chief negotiator for the teachers' association called Skoda's remarks made Monday "divisive," after learning of the teachers' strike vote.
The school board president compared the teachers' action to Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers' Union in order to give the teachers' unfair leverage in the bargaining sessions.
“We hope that President Skoda and the new board majority will refrain
from such divisive rhetoric in the future and instead work with us through mediation this summer to achieve a contract that builds upon our tradition of excellence,” Waterman said.
Skoda says he played an "integral role" in crafting his response along with other members of the board’s negotiating team. He said the response underwent a legal review by the school district’s attorney because of the ongoing mediation before it was released Monday.
“There was nothing we said in the press release that [the teachers’ union] could object to the community knowing about,” Skoda said. “None of the negotiation team had an objection to the Karen Lewis reference. The parallel is undeniable.”