Ongoing saga of CFT contract negotiations

salaries_vs_cpi

I like graphs. I like information, facts and data. Unfortunately for me, it is hard to find hard data when I read through what the Board of Education (BOE) and the Champaign Federation of Teachers (CFT) are putting out in the public sphere in regards to the ongoing teacher contract negotiations.

According to a table generated by the CFT, teacher salaries have not kept up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since the 2nd half of 2005 (ie, the 2005-2006 school year). I do not yet have any figures that go back further – this is all I got.

You can download an excel spreadsheet I used to generate the graph by clicking on the graph above.

As noted by the recent press releases from both the BOE and the CFT (and also on the CFT Facebook page), there is significant confusion about what exactly a “raise” is. First there is the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA); the BOE initially offered 0%, .5% and .5% for the next three years, but revised that to 1.3% each of the next three years, according to an informational session with the CFT (as shown in the graph). The BOE also offered 1.7% “step” raises (only for teachers with less than 22 years of experience) in their final offer which they perceive as further increasing the teacher’s salary for a total of 3% each year for three years (this information is NOT reflected in the graph above). The CFT is asking for a 3.65% base salary raise for one year, and a “step increase” (meaning that each teacher moves up one step).

Raise your hand if you are confused. Read the rest of this entry »

Board President Laurie Bonnett on WDWS Morning Show

Obviously, Dave Gentry and Elizabeth Hess are keeping their eyes on the board meetings. Kudos to them. Elizabeth is a Unit 4 parent and expresses some of her concerns.

http://www.wdws.com/audio/2013-06-19/unit-4-school-board-president-laurie-bonnett-6192013.html

They also cover future facilities and mention the possibility of scaling a high school vertically instead of horizontally, and the possibility of using Country Fair as a site. Also talk about balanced calendars, K-8, etc.

 

Michael Kiser with the News-Gazette picked up on how Bonnett recognizes that middle schools are “important, but not a priority right now”:

http://www.news-gazette.com/michael-kiser/2013-06-19/bonnett-middle-schools-important-not-priority-right-now.html

 

For me personally, I am glad that the Board is discussing (and making public) thoughts about Country Fair, alternatives to large lots of land (60-70 acres?!?) and K-8. I am beside myself that we have not had those discussions earlier. And yet, there are still other discussions I would like to see; in particular, I want to see charettes with lots of community involvement. 🙂

"Democracy in action"

Last week, Meg Dickinson got the public wondering about a mysterious person who urged some board members to support one of their own as president. I don’t know how many hits the NG article got, but my own post had over 300 hits, which is on the high end for me. I also had a number of folks contact me privately asking questions and opining thoughts.

This morning, Jim Dey has an editorial (not online as of this writing). I do not always agree with Mr. Dey, but he does make a very convincing point; why all the secrecy? I have quoted one of his statements as the topic for this blog because I think, in general, most of us do not even know what democracy looks like. We have too few role models to follow that can show us what being participatory is all about. Having said that, pointing fingers is not helpful at all, either. All the people mentioned in the editorial have stories to tell. Perhaps they don’t want to tell the NG – and for that I do not fault them. It is frustrating when you want to tell a story, only to have it rehashed at the whim of someone else. Also, I have heard that the “requests for comment” was a bit of s stretch, says those who are “reticent.”

So here is my Monday morning challenge; show me more democracy in action. What does it look like when taxpayers and voters are involved, informed, educated and given a space to deliberate? What does it look like when elected officials are not cagey with knowledge? What does it look like when the newspaper editor talks to all the people involved? What does it look like when a thousand people are letting board members know what they think?

Show me what democracy is.

 

UPDATE: Editorial now online (no comments, yet?!?)

http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2013-06-03/era-openness-ends-hurry.html

News-Gazette article about the Board

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-05-31/board-officers-vote-may-have-had-outside-influence.html

Also, the results of the FOIA: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/05/30/FOIA_request.pdf

Text searchable version (has errors due to conversion): https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/may-31st-ng-foia-request-pdf-converted-to-text/

This is one of the rumors I hinted at earlier. I have a number of issues with this, but I fear I have not fully gelled my thoughts coherently, yet. So, in a sense, right now I am merely hopping on the news bandwagon since a number of readers already alerted me to the article – figure I might as well at least say something about it.

From my own personal conversations with those involved, I know there is more going on than what is being said publicly. What I struggle with is “what is really important here?” I mean, I can see folks getting all worked up about “he said she said” kinda thing. But what do we want to fall out from this? Of course, everyone is going to always be wondering who this mystery 3rd party is, what their motives are, etc etc. Does it really matter? Does it really have to be a big bad secret? What about all this talk of transparency? Or is transparency only to be applied when conveinent?

I don’t know all the answers. I am still chewing on this myself.

Read the emails. Form your own opinion.

PS – I am going to convert the FOIA pdf to searchable text. (now done)

Whirlwinds, bees and cornucopias

There is a lot going on in Unit 4 and I can only scratch the surface. For starters, Meg Dickinson at the News-Gazette has been doing an awesome job covering most of the highlights – the following is the NG aggregation of Meg’s articles:

http://www.news-gazette.com/author/meg-dickinson

You will see that we not only have 3 brand new board members, but a fascinating change in board officers as well; Bonnett is president, Brown is the VP, Saveley is the Secretary and Stuckey is the Parliamentarian. Next Monday’s regular board meeting (May 13th) will be interesting to say the least. 🙂

Among other interesting things to read, Meg also has a nice Sunday article about the “Newcomer Academy” (not to be confused with the Novak Academy). This is a basically an intermediate transitioning service to help those who are struggling with English. Apparently, we have a lot of foreign nationals (especially from DR Congo and Mexico) and this is the solution Unit 4 has arrived at to meet those needs head on.

Stephanie Stuart of Unit 4 has also been hard at work populating their facebook page with lots of little goodies:

https://www.facebook.com/unit4schools?fref=ts?sk=h_chr

In addition to highlighting several awesome events and achievements, she also canvasses several opportunities like the annual Garden Hill’s “Resource Day” and the PTA Council’s push for the Summer Reading program, both excellent outlets that reach out to help those in need.

There is also the Unit 4 newsletter which is surprisingly not now on the Unit 4 website. Dr. Wiegand covers the NAACP ACT-SO Awards, a special recognition for achievements of African-Americans excelling in our schools. Several students are heading to Florida with hopes to squash the competition in mid July.

In other news, taxes are going up while at the same time many employees are having to fork over more money for benefits and pensions. Don’t get me wrong, it is not my goal to throw a pity party for myself. Rather, we as a whole community need to be aware that there are those who are already hurting, and it looks like more people will be slipping below the various poverty lines. We have a ton of kids who are homeless and/or living in less-than-ideal situations. Hence stories about various initiatives to provide assistance to these groups are not only “nice” and “feel good”, but in my opinion they are essential, fundamental and critical for the health of us all. In fact, we need to do more. Get involved.

Why the weird thread subject? I just have lots of thoughts swirling around my head and hard to bring them into focus; not updating the blog that much means I have been missing a lot. 🙂

Heads up – Nov 5 Regular Board Meeting

Just looking through the Nov 5 Regular Board Meeting agenda posted on BoardDocs and spotted a few things; it is my intention to chew on these and respond later, but I at least wanted to mention these so others could be thinking and commenting as well. The “Controlled Choice” is what prompted me to make this post.

 

  • What is School Board Member Day (Nov 15)? 🙂
  • Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment – lots of modifications to the written Policy, including the global replacement of the word ‘Lottery’ with ‘assignment’
  • Eliminate Proximity A and B.  With the addition of a new school in Savoy, there is no longer a need to have both a Proximity A and B. All households have a Proximity school.
  • Magnet Registration will be concurrent with March Kindergarten registration.
  • Wait list for both elementary and middle school will expire at the end of the first semester.
  • School report card – 30 pages of data, wow. I still don’t get why they print it out, and then scan in the printout to be displayed on the webpage. Why not just post the original?
  • Abating property taxes (x3) – I wish they would provide a “common language” translation of this financial mumbo jumbo. How about something that a 5th grader can read? My understanding is that abatement is a good thing for us because we tax-payers no longer pay property tax on outstanding bond debt from 1997, 2006 and 2010. I think. But I am pretty sure we still pay the same amount of property tax, it just goes towards something else.
  • Having said that, the next items is a Tax Levy. I appreciate that Dr. Joe Davis is explaining this one a little more, but it is still confusing. Remember the big bally-hoo about Working Cash Bonds this summer? Part of the new Tax Levy will cover the first two payments. I think the bulk of the Tax Levy is being used to offset the expected decrease in revenues due to a lower “valuation”. AKA, Black Magic. 🙂
  • A number of other HR changes followed (new staff needed for Early Childhood Center, ESL, a summary report of how many resignations, terminations, etc).
  •  

    On top of all that, current Board President Sue Grey has been promoted to CEO of the local United Way (NG article) and according to the News-Gazette will step down as BOE President; the NG reports a finding in the School Board Policy that the VP usually takes over, that being Stig Lanesskog. Congrats to Sue Grey!!