Jul 23 2014

Questions about Skoda and Corcoran’s Expensive, Error-filled Newsletter

Published by under Association News

Did Skoda and Corcoran violate the board’s bid requirements?

According to industry contacts, to print and mail the newsletter costs between $16,700-$20,200. Postage would have had to be paid for prior to mailing the pieces, and alone would have cost between $7500-$11,000. When was the public vote at a board meeting? Who authorized that check? Were they in violation of the code of ethics, budgetary regulations or bid requirements?

 

Where is the money coming from?

In the initial Chicago Tribune article, Skoda was quoted as saying the monies came from the Negotiations budget. According to the actual budget, there is no negotiations budget. When did they get an estimate for printing and mailing an expensive, unnecessary newsletter to include in the budget?

 

Was the mailing unethical?

It was mailed with the district’s non-profit indicia. See this link for the legal requirements of content for qualified mailings. The first paragraph states:

Authorization to mail at the Nonprofit Standard Mail (nonprofit) rates is a privilege granted by law only to authorized organizations. Civil and criminal penalties apply to false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements made in connection with a Nonprofit Standard Mail.

They may have violated the use of the indicia by including political rhetoric/graphics on the document. By including the picture of the Chicago Tribune editorial, it ceased being an informative document to educate the public, and became a politically motivated one.

 

Are they negotiating in bad faith?

A printer contact and graphic designer suggested the following timeline: 2-3 days for content collection/research and general design, 7-10 days for printing, 3-5 days to process/mail. The timeline is interesting because the last mediation meeting was July 3rd, 11 days before the release of the newsletter.

Instead of working on a proposal to get school started, they made an expensive, unnecessary newsletter. 

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Jul 22 2014

New Board Majority Have Their Facts Wrong

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

D86-Myths-vs-Facts-General

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Jul 18 2014

Mr. Skoda continues misinformation campaign

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

The District 86 School Board, in a recent attempt at a media blitz, has published a series of documents and graphs that contradict truth and verifiable public information. Launched in a press conference on Monday, at which Board minority members and community residents were denied access, President Richard Skoda and Mr. Edward Corcoran published a series of documents marred with misinformation and factual errors. Brochures of these misleading graphics are being mailed to District 86 residents, the cost of which Mr. Skoda refuses to share. Below are just a few of the figures that the School Board has incorrectly cited:

Misinformation by Board Facts Details
The average salary of District 86 teachers is $111,000. According to the district’s website it is $80,900. And this is for an average faculty member with decades of experience and advanced education. District 86 also has a lower maximum bachelors salary than Lyons Township, Riverside Brookfield and many other comparable districts. The salary schedule is public information. So are the schedules of nearby districts.
Teachers should pay for “reasonable increases in health insurance premiums”. Mr. Skoda’s proposal would increase premiums for most teachers by 300%, increasing annual premiums to almost $7000 in just one year. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the average maximum insurance cost in Illinois is $5,366 per year.
Mr. Skoda’s newsletter states median household income in the district decreased by 4.79%. According to Mr. Skoda’s source, median household income increased by 4.79% Check the source Mr. Skoda incorrectly cited: www.usa.com.
Mr. Skoda claims that teachers “distributed union buttons” to students in school. Students and parents created and distributed buttons to protest the Board majority’s policies.  Teachers had absolutely nothing to do with it. Parents, students, and community members have been overtly supportive of teachers throughout the negotiation process.

 

“Watching the Board publish misleading information, and spend their budget on elaborate media stunts has been frustrating, to say the least,” said John Bowman, president of the HHSTA. “Teachers are still hopeful that we can come to an agreement that is sustainable and reasonable. We want to both honor the mediation process and bargain in good faith, while also making sure the Board’s misinformation is checked for accuracy.”

The District 86 School Board and the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association (HHSTA) are currently in federal mediation, and according to the rules of mediation, are not to discuss details of negotiations in public. Disregarding these rules, the School Board has persistently and consistently continued its barrage of media stunts, sending out brochures, letters, and holding press conferences. The teachers will continue to abide by the federally mandated mediation rules and not discuss details of negotiations in public.

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Jul 16 2014

Board offers no proposal

Published by under Association News

The teachers have been waiting for weeks for the board to make a counter-proposal.

We hoped that yesterday they might offer a counter.  They did not make a proposal.

Mr. Skoda claimed earlier this summer that he would do anything to get this agreement in place before the start of school.  However, Mr. Skoda has been stalling for weeks and won’t move negotiations forward with a concrete counter-proposal.

Instead, Mr. Skoda was busy making misleading infographics to distribute to the community.

One of the graphics claims that District 86 has the second highest salary in the state.  However, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that is simply not the case.  District 86 isn’t even in the top 15.

He has also artificially inflated teacher salary, which the public is meant to believe is what teachers earn for teaching, but Mr. Skoda’s number also includes coaching, sponsoring clubs, and directing plays and musicals.  The pictures might be pretty, but they don’t tell the whole truth.

It is impossible to negotiate through infographics.  The teachers cannot continue to be the only party in these negotiations making complete proposals.  The board needs to make a viable, complete counter-proposal in order for negotiations to move forward.  Instead, they seem more interested in PR moves and manipulating data.

We have been trying to negotiate with them since September.  They have been delaying ever since. They did not meet with us until November. They delayed making an offer until March. Now they are delaying in mediation. The teachers are doing everything they can to move negotiations forward: the board is more interested in dragging their feet.

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Jul 15 2014

The Truth About Salary Schedules

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

Recently, Mr. Skoda claimed that eliminating salary schedules is a growing trend.  However, according to the 2013-14 Illinois Teacher Salary Study by the Illinois State Board of Education, all 91 public secondary school districts in Illinois use a salary schedule. Every highly rated high school district in the Chicagoland area uses a schedule to attract and retain excellent teachers and to ensure affordability to the district.

Salary schedules acknowledge the benefits of advanced coursework and classroom experience.  They promote teacher retention. They also provide budget clarity and predictability to the district. Within the past month, neighboring Oak Park River Forest District 200 and elementary feeder District 181 agreed on contracts that included a salary schedule.

Contrary to Mr. Skoda’s claims, salary schedules are affordable: the teachers’ proposal total increase is lower than CPI. This is why districts, including Hinsdale 86 in March of 2013, praise their agreements as balanced and responsible.

But beyond economics, the teachers are interested in preserving the district’s distinction as an educational leader. Using its competitive salary schedule, District 86 has become a coveted district where teachers come to stay, not a revolving door with teachers coming and going. Students and the community benefit from this standard of stability and excellence.

Families in the district with school-age children, and those who are concerned about the district’s impact on their property values, should encourage the District 86 Board to do what all competitive high school districts do: offer a salary schedule to ensure that excellence continues.

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Jul 14 2014

Skoda/Corcoran Press Conference

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

Mr. Skoda and Mr. Corcoran held a press conference this morning, denying access to a fellow board member and members of the community. In addition to denying access to the public, Skoda and Corcoran also disregarded the rules the federal mediator laid down for mediation.  The mediator asked the teachers and the board not to discuss negotiations in public.  By holding this conference, Skoda and Corcoran have violated, again, the rules of mediation.

Since they have offered such a radical proposal, Mr. Skoda and Mr. Corcoran have a lot of explaining to do.  Their current offer eliminates the salary schedule, which all 91 high school districts in the state use. Their radical offer will drastically reduce the earnings potential of teachers, making District 86 the lowest paid district in the area for new teachers. This means the best and the brightest will not work at District 86 and will negatively impact the quality of education. Their offer will reduce the take home pay of 70% of the teachers.

The teachers’ total salary and benefits offer is less than 1% higher than last year.  It is a fair and sustainable offer that maintains the competitive salary schedule and benefits package that the district currently offers while keeping salary and benefit costs well below CPI.

The teachers’ proposal ensures that District 86 quality of education will remain excellent.

 

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Jun 19 2014

Skoda goes public, again

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

Again this week President Skoda is stoking the media fire further with his misinformation campaign against the teachers of District 86. Skoda continues to offer misleading information as fact to the public instead of meeting with the teachers to negotiate. After less than three hours of mediation on June 10th, his new board majority cancelled the afternoon mediation session. Instead of focusing on meeting to reach an agreement, Skoda focused again on another statement to the media promoting the new board majority’s agenda and riddled with inaccuracies.

Mr. Skoda either doesn’t understand or has chosen to ignore the fact that the teachers in District 86 are the ones who have rejected his proposals, not some outside “union” influence.  He begins his statement with an attack of Naomi Shepherd, an advisor to the teachers’ association similar in role to the board’s lawyer. Shepherd was a special education teacher for more than 30 years and now advises local teachers on contract issues. While the teachers of District 86 appreciate Shepherd’s efforts, they don’t take orders from her or any other outside group.

Mr. Skoda’s accusation that Shepherd instigated a strike is an obvious attempt to beat the drum of the “union” boogeyman.  Shepherd didn’t call for anything, and has no ability to do so. The board’s offer was shared with all teachers exactly as it was presented to our teacher representatives. The teachers then held an authorization vote, resulting in a unanimous decision to reject the board’s proposal.

As detailed previously, the board has delayed negotiations and sent incomplete proposals for months. To continue calling the teachers’ strike authorization vote “premature” is simply disingenuous on the part of Mr. Skoda and reflects his pattern of divisive rhetoric and behavior.

Skoda also states that the teachers agree not to “instigate or participate in any strike…or any other intentional interruption of the operations of the District”. No teacher has gone on strike or interrupted operations of the District. In fact, the results of the authorization vote were embargoed until the end of school year to eliminate distraction. However Skoda released his own misleading version of the event – without the knowledge of three school board members – requiring a response to media requests.

It is perfectly reasonable for professionals who care about their students and their schools to raise alarm when they believe the leadership is on the wrong track. The list of concerns published has little to do with union politics and everything to do with raising awareness of what the Skoda board has been up to in the last year. For example, the loss of all top administrators has nothing to do with a collective bargaining agreement.

We know that community members are watching closely because they want our schools to build upon their tradition of excellence rather than be derailed by the extreme agenda of a few.

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