On the quest for facts (context: CFT contract negotiations)

I am sharing out some of the documents I have received from both Unit 4 and CFT.

From CFT

  • The Members’ Perspective: This document forms the basis of the now-infamous chart from a previous blog post, “Ongoing saga“. True to the title, it also provides some perspectives and concessions on behalf of the members of the CFT
  • Champaign parents want you to know: A new document making the rounds as of Saturday; a flyer presenting a couple more (not new) viewpoints from the CFT and encouraging readers to “help us prevent a strike” and contact board members
  • CFT Responses: a word doc of an email from CFT President Cathy Mannen that responds to several of my questions

From Unit 4

  • Salary Schedule Explanation for Unit 4 Salary Schedules for 2013 and 2014 Proposed: an excel spreadsheet that shows last year’s salary schedule and the proposed salary schedule, with two examples of hypothetical teachers to help explain what the changes mean on Sheet 1. I added some rough analysis on Sheets 2 and 3 to show how Steps and Lanes change by percentage (again, that is stuff I added, not original to the document I received).
  • In regards to the 2012 teacher salaries, I asked that the report be augmented with Step and Lane information. Unit 4 responded by saying that they have supplied all the information they intend to. Which I took to be cryptic lawyer-speak for “no”.

Some other facts that bear repeating. Unit 4 holds that the $24 million in question is actually divided evenly between two funds; one is the Working Cash Bond fund and the other is a “rainy day/safety net” cash fund.

The Working Cash Fund is specifically for Operations, Maintenance and Capital Projects. The Education fund is for paying out money to teachers (among other things, but the teacher portion is by far the largest). While 105 ILCS 5/10-22.33 does provide for the option to transfer funds from the Operational Fund to the Education Fund, those loans must be paid back. In effect, the district cannot transfer money from the working cash bond fund to the education fund for the purposes of paying any kind of raise (since the money would effectively not be paid back to the working cash bond).

From talking with various board members, I have come to understand that the $12 million “rainy day” cash fund has slowly been built up over the years. During a Saturday afternoon phone call with Scott MacAdam, I further learned that this reserve cash also makes it possible to secure loans at lower interest rates, and if that reserve were to be diminished we would suffer from higher interest rate loans. I did not ask what the thresholds are (probably should have).

Also to come out of talks with board members is that the BOE offer of a 1.7% Step/Lane increase + 1.3 COLA will cost a little over $1 million over a three-year period (if I remember what I was told correctly). Apparently, the BOE is prepared to dip into the rainy day fund and shave off about 10% to help meet the requests of the CFT, in exchange for that three-year contract.  On the other hand, the CFT is saying that their request (3.65% COLA and 1.57% Step/Lane) would require less than 5% of $24 million, or by extension, less than 10% of the $12 million, over a one-year period.

It is probably important to mention that the contract negotiations are not solely about money and raises. I have been reminded many times by many folks (thanks, readers! *grin*) that among both the contested and the concession sections of the contract are topics like language nuances, expectations for related duties, etc, all of which are important and have quite a significance to the teachers.

To round off the “facts” I have so far, I have also requested (of both Unit 4 and the CFT) a historical snapshot of salaries that aggregates by total salary, COLA, Step and Lane raises. I am a little concerned by the “partial truths” I hear from each side. However, I made that request on Saturday, so I do not expect any kind of quick turn-around, given all the other activity going on. I have also requested, via Scott MacAdam, an analysis of how salary adjustments can effect the cash reserve for the next few years (holding still certain variables like property taxes, pension law, etc etc).

For some further opinions on this matter…..

There is a lot of drama and passionate feelings on both sides. I do not want to dive into that; dealing with the emotions, perceptions, agendas and politicking is not my cup of tea. I will say that they are very real for a lot of people. Yes, of course I have my own emotional response (essentially, RUN AWAY!! *grin*), but from where I sit, it seems like the emotions are adding an additional weight that is preventing, or at the very least obscuring, meaningful progress.

Obviously, nobody wants a teacher strike. Equally obvious (I hope), the individual board members do not hate on the teachers (I mean, think about it, that would be rather self-defeating, wouldn’t it?).

Here is what I hope to see happen at the big negotiator-less negotiation bash on Monday night; that both the BOE and the CFT work on cementing a positive relationship which basically says “Hey, we realize we do not see eye to eye on everything, but let’s do the best we can now and start planning, now, for how to do this better next time.” It bothers me that CFT negotiations are starting to become a procrastinated annual brouhaha that eats up many resources and time, like a mad dash at the end of a long race. And divides the community (which is poisonous). Hiring a negotiator is like having mom or dad referee who gets to go on the swing first. And, let us not forget that the other union (CESP) apparently has no major, earth-shattering issues during their negotiations. I realize that is a totally different ballgame, but there are similarities and I wonder where the differences lie. No matter how Monday ends, no matter if we do or do not have a strike in the next few weeks, I challenge Unit 4 and the CFT to work it out so we are not doing this whole thing all over again next year.

One last thing; I realize the budget is tight and more significantly, not well understood by most people. What would it take for the school district owners (you and I, the voters and tax-payers) to better understand how money comes in and goes out of their school district budget? Why is it that the one and only place to provide a raise for teachers is from the reserve cash balance?

Cliff notes from the May 13 board meeting

As with my previous cliff notes, I apologize for the raw nature, and again, all times listed are elapsed video times.

boe May 13, 2013

Art Recognitions: 00:00 – 15:36
Service Awards: 15:37 – 27:53

public comment – 28:30
Chuck Jackson
Spoke about the DeJong-Richter Recommendations report. “What do we need and why do we need it?” There is a lot of information we do not have. Need more feedback on exactly what the weakness of each site are and why they are weaknesses. Be creative.
Recognitions: 32:19 – 38:29

38:28: Cheryl Camacho, Asia Fuller-Hamilton and Janelle Weinzierl going to Harvard for the summer:
Communcations 38:45
CFT (Cathy Mannen): welcome to new board members. Common goal to teach students.

Board members:
Stig: 40:20: important things going on. Facilities – very critical. Gotta move, waiting detracts from educational opportunities. Focus on best interests of school district, teachers and especially students.
Scott MacAdam: 42:07: mandatory board training. Enjoyed it
Kristine: 43:02: first year all the middle schools doing track and field, all three schools sending kids to state. Big kudos.
Ileana: 44:46: recognition from one of her schools, PBIS assembly, top scorers in Mathematics. Shout out to Robeson.
Jamar: 46:28: Marc Changnon taking all (45) students through a career program; graduation ceremony at the CPL, 30 grads. Shout out to Central. Shout out to 1-to-1 mentoring programs. Summarized involvement at Kenwood, including his adopted 5th grade class.
Laurie: 51:19: lots of diversity, learning the ropes.

52:47 Orlando – speaking about the Student Code of conduct.

54:06 Laura Taylor – High school graduation dates; can’t use Assembly Hall next year.

57:30 Future Facilities
Dr. Wiegand invokes a quote from “Great Schools Together”. Read the rest of this entry »

Quick review of the Feb 25th board meeting

Here is the video; I had to splice it in two because TiVo gave me a larger than 4gb file to work with. 😦



I have not made my way through all of them, yet. Board Member Phil Van Ness had some very direct words to share about how the board needs to work hard to earn the trust of the community, and how he is worried about that particular pursuit. I find it very interesting that no other board members echo this concern. I happen to very much agree with this line of thought; but what good does it do to agree?


Several questions and comments were directed towards the “research” done by Fallon Research and DeJong-Richter; even though I know some of the answers, I still want to find out how the board responded. Paul Fallon had a long segment and Stig was pretty adamant (at first) about Mr. Fallon’s presentation not being a “death by powerpoint”. Ironically, I thought that is exactly what we got, but Stig seemed pretty happy with it. I guess my powerpoint tolerance is rather low. I also have the correlations between questions 19A and 19B, and 20A and 20B – I tried to put this into a picture, but Excel is giving me fits and I just don’t have time to make a pretty picture right now (I’ll add it later). Here is the cross-tabulated data:

Q. 19A. Supposing for a moment that a 20-year bond issue for $206 million dollars was on the ballot to pay for construction to replace Central High School, build new schools for lower grades to accommodate growing enrollment, and make repairs…

Table Total








Q. 19B. Does knowing that it will cost homeowners $251 per year for each one hundred thousand dollars of property, make you more or less likely to vote for it, or does it make no difference in your decision? More likely





Less likely





No difference










Table Total





Q. 20A. Supposing for a moment that a 20-year bond issue for $80 million dollars was on the ballot to pay for construction to replace Central High School and make some basic repairs or renovations to other schools that are in poor condition…

Table Total








Q. 20B. Does knowing that it will cost homeowners $96 per year for each one hundred thousand dollars of property, make you more or less likely to vote for it, or does it make no difference in your decision? More likely





Less likely





No difference










Table Total





So in general, out of 400 phone surveys, most people want to dump more money into taxes for the schools. We have a lot of education (of the public) to be doing.


There were some other gems buried in the board meeting. Marc Changnon had a large number of folks up to talk about eToys and other cool things (lots of demos). Cathy Mannen got up a second time to talk about teacher evaluations, which I am very interested in hearing more about.


More later, as time allows.

Answering questions about the Feb 25th Special Board Meeting

Over the weekend, I posted a series of questions about the Feb 25th BOE meeting (tonight). Dr. Wiegand was kind enough to respond (and with comprehensive answers at that) and has given me permission to post her reply. The following has only been formatted so it looks better on this blog (a la “the following movie has been formatted to fit your screen”).

q For Paul Fallon: how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B? Similar question for question 20A and 20B.
a (from Paul Fallon) Judy, I will have to get that data file from my office, so I will try to send it to you tomorrow or Wednesday. Thanks, Paul
q How long as the Teacher Evaluation Committee been in place?
a The Committee was established at the end of last school year to address the need for a teacher evaluation system that would meet the requirements of PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act).  The committee began working this school year during first semester to collaboratively develop an evaluation document and process.  In previous years this was not done in a collaborative manner.  The Administration would develop a document and then present to the CFT for feedback. This is the first time a process was used that had both Administration and Teachers at the same starting point.
q Where are the meeting minutes?
a The work done during each session was documented by Pam Rosa from CEC.  Committee members were then charged with sharing this with the groups they represent to obtain feedback.  Since this work was ongoing and part of an internal committee, minutes were not posted publicly.
q Does the board agree with premises put forth by the Consortium for Educational Change? Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 25th Board Meeting

First, an announcement. Unit 4 is urging parents to take a survey from the ISBE that basically asks parents how welcome they feel at the school. I am curious if paper copies are being circulated. It’s a relatively painless and short survey:


And then the Board Meeting this coming Monday. It’s a Special Board meeting, which means there are more opportunities for comments. I am unable to go, but I encourage you to attend and ask some questions. Because questions need to be asked.

“Opinion Research”

First up is Paul Fallon (Fallon Research) in association with DeJong-Richter. In the BoardDocs agenda, the blurb only states that Mr. Fallon will be talking about the two 90-minute focus groups. However, I cannot see how he can completely skip the 400-person phone survey they did as well, which was the whole point of the focus group. I still very much dislike how the raw data is being held until it can be provided in all the glory of the “historical context”. I didn’t like how that went down the High School Siting options presented at the Community Discussions. The really major bad part of it is that folks will not have time to digest the data and formulate questions while the expert is standing right there. Yes, we can look at the summary reports we have now, and we can ask questions based on that, but the questions most pressing on my mind are answered by the raw data that I cannot see. For example:

how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B?

We cannot correlate 19A to 19B at all. We have to wait for the “big reveal”, and by that time I fear it will be too late to ask further questions. Hopefully Mr. Fallon will answer this question (and the related one for question 20) and any others the community has been asking. Lastly, I am still very concerned that the “research” really only touched some 430 people – that is less than 1% of the voting population. Not a good sample size, imo.

“Community Collaborations”

Marc Changnon has the pleasant task Read the rest of this entry »

The evolving story of the CFT/Board negotiations

Keep checking back on this: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-09-27/updated-champaign-teachers-union-take-strike-vote.html

I asked (in the comment section):

What role does the public play in all this? The CFT held an “informational picket” before the regular board meeting at the beginning of the month, but it was not clear to me then (and nor is it now) what the public is actually supposed to do. I get that the event supposedly applies pressure on the Board, but to do what exactly? All we know are very general things. And maybe that is the way it is supposed to be – I just don’t get what part we play in this little saga. It is our tax money afterall, right?

I have also asked the PTA Council if they have any plans to hold a panel/discussion with CFT and Unit 4 reps – I know I would appreciate knowing more about what’s going on. But moreover, I really want to figure out what my own role is. Am I supposed to be just a bystander? I don’t think so.

UPDATE: Meg updated her article at 4:07 pm – I think some of the new text (in addition to an important change in the title) is as follows:

The school district issued a statement saying the school board was “surprised and disappointed” to hear of the vote while the district and union are still negotiating.

A strike authorization vote is when the union’s negotiating team goes back to its membership to report on how negotiations are going, said Illinois Federation of Teachers Spokesman David Comerford.

The union members then give the team feedback and takes a vote to give the bargaining team authorization to call a strike if necessary, Comerford said. The vote has to do with the union’s constitution and is different than the intent-to-strike vote the union would have to file with the state Educational Labor Relations Board at least 10 days before striking.

Comerford said a new state law has changed the timeline on which downstate teachers strike.


Additionally, I spotted Cathy Mannen, Sue Grey and Tom Lockman at the Mellon Center after 5:pm – I did not see them meeting or talking, so I cannot relay any facts other than that I saw them.

houlihans is a go for tomorrow

There is a ton we can talk about, but I am really interested in identifying action steps, specifically for things we can do this month. Bill and I have continued the budget conversation and he has been trying to arm wrestle ArcGIS into submission. There is a Parent Advisory Group (aka, Advocacy) that will hold their first meeting on Sept 24th (same night as the Budget Public Hearing, different building). Dr. Taylor’s Social Committee kicks off on the 17th 27th (link to U4 schedule).

I am thinking it would be really helpful to come up with one or two things we want to consistently say at board meetings and in letters to the NG editor. I am having a hard time boiling it down to one or two, though. It already seems like Unit 4 is putting a lot of eggs in the DeJong-Richter basket, so my balloon of conversational meetings and public engagement is a bit deflated. I very much like that Tom Lockman is repeating the message that “they” (again, I assume the board) need to go out and get the feedback from the people (he used the word “incumbent”).

In talking to Cathy Mannen and Deb Foertsch about the CFT “informational picket”, I am now reflecting that it was a successful and well-done publicity stunt; it got their concerns in the public’s eye and got people talking. Although, reading the somewhat anonymous mud-slingers who post in the online NG is a bit disappointing, it is obvious that there is still a lot of confusion about where our taxpayer dollars go, who gets them and most importantly, who makes all those decisions. In fact, two commenters in particular are making it rather personal, as if teachers have any choice about how the district spends their money. Which brings me back to the picket in the first place; the public has no place at the negotiating table currently, so it is rather useless to get the public riled up. I think. Now is it good and proper that the public is not at the negotiating table? I have no idea whatsoever. The publicity stunt just puts more pressure on the board. Maybe it is good pressure. Again, I don’t know for sure. An interesting turn of events though is that maybe the PTA Council will be able to host both the CFT and the School District at an upcoming event. I am rather hoping so.