Sunday, September 28, 2014

District 100 Union Negotiation Status

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    • Above is available on-line at:  http://boonecountyjournal.com/news/2014/Boone-County-News-09-26-14.pdf#page=1

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    • Posted Sep. 24, 2014 @ 10:41 am

      BELVIDERE — Mediated negotiations between the Belvidere School District and teachers’ union Tuesday night failed to produce a new agreement.
      Superintendent Michael Houselog said that the district offered teachers a 12 percent salary increase over a three-year contract around 4:20 p.m. and were informed through a mediator that the union was preparing a counter-proposal.
      By 6:45 p.m., Houselog said that the union still did not have a fully-formed proposal and the district decided to end negotiations for the night.
      “We felt they needed a lot more time, and we wanted to honor that,” Houselog said. “They did not give a proposal, they gave us a draft of ideas.”
      Houselog said that before district representatives left for the evening, they notified union members about the building’s alarm system so that it would not be accidentally set off.
      Around 8 p.m., the union posted this message on its Facebook page:
      “At 6:55 after three hours of bargaining the mediator informed the BEA that we had until 7:05 to vacate the building. The alarms would be set and police would be called. Our main issues remain: Special Ed teacher workload, safe lab class sizes, an appeals process for evaluations, Reduction in Force (RIF) language, and the ability to attract and retain quality teachers.”
      An attempt to reach union president Mark Luthin this morning was unsuccessful.
      Final offers from the District and the union will be presented during negotiations Thursday.
      — Ben Stanley

      Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/article/20140924/News/140929635#ixzz3EQTb8hKe

    • Friday, September 19, 2014

      Belvidere teachers make it official and file intent to strike

      BELVIDERE (WREX) - http://www.wrex.com/story/26572071/2014/09/18/belvidere-teachers-make-it-official-and-file-intent-to-strike#.VBtpYPEEJ4E.facebook

      By Rebecca Klopf

      The possibility of Belvidere teachers going on strike becomes even more real today. Thursday afternoon, union reps went to the school district office to file their letter of intent to strike.

      About a dozen teachers helped hand deliver the letter to the Belvidere School District headquarters. What that means: no one is walking off the job, yet. But 28 days from now teachers legally are allowed to.

      That first strike day would be October 16th.

      In the meantime, the teachers and the district must turn in their last, best offer. They have seven days to do that. That will be after their next bargaining session which is scheduled for Tuesday.

      Despite all this, the teachers union says the focus at school will remain on school and not this situation.

      "We encourage them not to discuss this with students in class. Were still doing a job and that's educating our students. Of course there's always questions of what's going on. We tell them we are not on strike and that we are working on avoiding that," said Mark Luthin, Belvidere Education Association president.

      The Belvidere Schools superintendent Michael Houselog says he doesn't think the board and the teachers are that far apart on the issues and they will continue to negotiate.

      Sunday, September 14, 2014

      2015: Belvidere High School becomes a Vocational Magnet School? And District 100 schools go year around?

      The following is PASS’s analysis of this coming Monday’s District 100 School Board meeting.  Note what maybe discussed and be voted on in October.

       

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      Special Note—Changing BHS to a magnet school for 2015-2016 school year.  Year around school for the district???

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      PASS is on Facebook;  see more recent comments there:  https://www.facebook.com/parentspass/photos/a.493758367392620.1073741828.489647251137065/538559259579197/?type=1&theater

      SIU: Offers BA in Actuarial Mathematics

      CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Some say being an actuary means having “the best job in the United States.” And now you can train for that career at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
      Actuaries are the folks who plow through mountains of data and numbers, spotting trends and estimating probabilities, costs and savings. They work in many industries as well as for various governments.
      The Illinois Board of Higher Education recently gave SIU’s Department of Mathematics the nod to create a new specialization in actuarial mathematics within its existing Bachelor of Arts degree starting in fall 2015. Greg Budzban, professor and chair of the department, said the move is “a big deal for both the Department of Mathematics and university.”
      “We will be one of only three state institutions that offer a bachelor's degree or specialization in this area,” Budzban said. “Students will have evidence of their actuarial specialization on their transcripts, making them even more marketable in their field.”
      Budzban said the department began pursuing the new program last year, around the time an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, citing a survey by CareerCast.com, which identified the job as the best job in the country.
      “Our interest in developing the program really emerged from several sources,” Budzban said. “One of our faculty members, Professor David Olive, came to me with the idea of starting the specialization at roughly the same time as the article from the Wall Street Journal came out. These things, in addition to the flux in the insurance industry, indicated to me that this would be a growth field and an opportunity for new math majors at SIU.”
      The Department of Mathematics, which is part of the College of Science, offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. It also offers Master of Arts, Master of Science and doctoral degrees in mathematics.
      The new specialization curriculum will include 50 semester hours, including 20 hours from four courses in actuarial areas. Five existing faculty members will be responsible for the specialization.
      Another factor in the IBHE approving the “reasonable and moderate extension” of the existing Bachelor of Arts program is SIU’s Morris Library, which it states “has more than enough library materials to support (the new specialization), as well as a designated science librarian to support students and faculty.”
      The IBHE approval letter also states jobs in the actuarial science and related fields will grow by about 20 percent in coming years. State and federal government labor statistics place the median salary for those with a bachelor’s degree in the field at more than $87,000 per year.
      With these trends, SIU officials expect an increase demand for such a program, Budzban said. And the university has a track record in the field already.
      “Probability and statistics have always been a strength of our department, and this provides us a way to market those strengths to new students,” Budzban said. “This new specialization fits SIU's mission of providing a quality education perfectly, since it will provide our students the high-quality computational and technical skills needed to thrive in one of the top careers in the country.”

      Friday, September 12, 2014

      U of I case on academic freedom and the right of faculty to speak controversially

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      By Josh Winters | Staff writer The Daily Illini | 0 comments

      The Board of Trustees voted 8-1 to reject Steven Salaita’s appointment to the American Indian Studies program on the Urbana campus at its meeting on Thursday.

      “I’ve come to the conclusion that Professor Salaita’s approach indicates that he indeed [is] incapable of fostering a classroom environment where conflicting opinions [are] given equal consideration regardless of the issue being discussed,” said University President Robert Easter.

      The vote marks the end of the administration’s role in the controversy surrounding Salaita’s appointment to serve as a professor. The decision to rescind Salaita’s position at the University was made by Chancellor Phyllis Wise after she learned of several controversial tweets Salaita had sent regarding conflict in Gaza. Wise also received an outpour of emails from donors, alumni and students regarding his appointment before she sent an email to Salaita, notifying him he would not become a professor on campus.

      “As chancellor, I recognize the possibility of making difficult and unpopular decisions,” Wise said before stating that she would not recommend an affirmative vote on Salaita’s appointment to AIS.

      The University could face a lawsuit in the coming months, as Salaita’s attorney, Anand Swaminathan, said he would pursue legal action if Salaita was not hired.

      “I don’t think it was a difficult decision,” said chairman Christopher Kennedy when asked about the board’s decision making process. “We simply backed the President and the Chancellor; a President and Chancellor that we have great faith in. The current board has really acted to restrain itself from overreaching into the day-to-day operations of the administration.”

      Before trustees voted on Salaita’s appointment, they heard public comments from attendees such as American Indian Studies director Robert Warrior, who said that if hired, Salaita would be “fair and open” to his students. Warrior dismissed the speculation that Salaita would be hostile towards students with political beliefs opposite of his own.

      A vast majority of the public who attended the meeting, held in the Illini Union, were supporters of Salaita. Supporters held up signs with slogans such as: “Reinstate Salaita,” “Civility=Silence, Silence=Death” and “#UIstudents4salaita.

      “Nothing is nearly so obvious as Salaita’s detractors would have us believe,” Warrior said. “In our review of Salaita’s teaching, American Indian Studies found no evidence of anything but strong teaching, motivated by what seems like a sincere interest in allowing every student the chance to broaden their skills in critical thinking.”

      Following the conclusion of Warrior’s statements, Josh Cooper, senior in LAS, voiced his support of Wise’s decision to advise the board not to approve Salaita’s appointment. In his address to the trustees, Cooper said he was speaking on behalf of more than 1,000 current students who, in the last 48 hours, had signed a petition supporting Wise.

      “Chancellor Wise, we admire your courage, your wisdom and your ongoing efforts to ensure civility on our campus,” said Cooper, quoting the petition. “Hate speech is never acceptable for those applying for a tenured position incitement of violence is never acceptable, [and] yes, there must be a relationship between free speech and civility.”

      Trustee James Montgomery, cast the sole affirmative vote. While he said he initially supported the withdrawal of Salaita’s position, he believed that he had been mistaken in doing so.

      “What makes this a great and unique country is that I can stand on a rooftop and call somebody an SOB,” said Montgomery. “Subsequent information that I did not have when this letter was signed, has really caused me some great concern, and that information has to do with evidence of people, in effect, boycotting this University in carrying out some of its most important functions as a university.”

      To date, 16 academic departments or professional organizations have either issued votes of no confidence in Wise or statements intending a boycott of lectures scheduled on campus. A petition on Change.org demanding Salaita’s reinstatement has collected more than 18,000 signatures.

      Student trustees Lucas Frye, Hannah Cave and Danielle Leibowitz were legally required to abstain from voting on Salaita’s appointment.

      Outraged at the result of the Board’s vote, supporters of Salaita marched out of the conference hall, chanting, “shame on you!”

      Josh can be reached at jjwinte2@dailyillini.com.

      Sunday, September 7, 2014

      Belvidere Education Association statements regarding current negotiations

      Belvidere Education Association State of Bargaining

      School Board Members,

        During the last school board elections, the BEA expressed interest in working collaboratively with school board members to improve the working conditions of our members and learning conditions of our students.  I remember speaking with some of you about the lack of communication between the board, administration, community, and the BEA leadership.  It seemed that for many of you a lack of communication seemed like a common concern after we watched the closing of Kishwaukee Elementary School, were terrified by the ideas presented about reconfiguring schools, and saw the cuts to staff and services.

      As a result, I was shocked to see that the board favored positional bargaining with the use of an expensive attorney over interest based bargaining with the BEA’s bargaining team made up of your children’s teachers, your neighbors, your acquaintances.  When our offers are rejected without much discussion other than: “I am loathe” to include numbers into a contract, it leaves little belief that the board cares about the human beings these numbers represent.

      Because of your attendance at board meetings and the disregard for following ISBE’s special ed. mandates, you know why we are asking for class size language.  Because you know that our special education teachers are being pulled away from the students on their caseloads to work with students in the yellow and red of the RTI triangle, you know why we are asking for special education case manager language. Why is it okay to pull struggling readers from science, social studies, language arts, and elective classes for reading interventions?  Nobody can tell us what is pedagogically sound about this practice. Where is the research?  Where are the experts writing books about how to improve reading by reducing or eliminating exposure to vocabulary, purposeful reading for application purposes, and necessary background information to logically reason through arguments and draw conclusions?   Because you know elementary teachers run clubs and participation in extracurricular activities makes kids want to come to school, you know why we are asking for elementary club stipends. Because we can show you 24 lab stations (not counter space), you know why we want to reduce lab class sizes for student safety and accessibility to necessary resources like gas burners and sinks. Because roughly 17% of our certified staff has resigned in the last two years, you know why we are asking for competitive salary and benefits using our existing salary schedule.  Because we’ve had to bargain six out of the last seven years and suffer through RIFS and unjustified scare tactics, you know our membership wants three years of dependable pay and insurance premiums and improved learning conditions for our students.

      Your team’s bargaining tactics can only be described as bizarre at best. Do you realize your bargaining team removed the PLC language which has students dismissed one hour early so that teachers may collaborate to analyze data?  When we asked if the school calendar was going to be changed, we were treated like idiots and told the language was removed because it was “antiquated”.  Really? How is our current practice of dismissing kids once a month for PLC antiquated?  In a newer proposal, your bargaining team lengthened the PLC time, almost doubling it at the elementary and middle school level.  Your attorney apparently thought that after PLC, we just all get up and leave for the day.  In reality, we work until contract time doing our normal duties like grading papers, calling parents, making copies. So, what do you want?  Do you want it gone or doubled?  Since we’re not allowed to talk to your school board member or administrators, we still have NO idea what is going on. Are you really using taxpayer dollars to pay for this “tactic”? Do you know that the only tentatively agreed language item after our six hour mediation session was language from your initial proposal regarding the mentoring program?  Do you know that whoever put your language together changed the language from the initial proposal and then used words like “coaching”, “induction”, and “mentoring” inconsistently throughout the paragraph?  It’s our contract; don’t we want it reflect exactly what our district does?

                      Let’s go back to elementary club stipends. The BEA lost a grievance regarding the lack of preparation time that the 6-8 teachers receive at Washington Academy compared to the teachers at BSMS and BCMS.  The teachers at WA don’t receive a common plan time; thus, they are shorted prep. time, but the decision was based on the fact that it’s a K-8 school –not a middle school. However, the middle school teachers who advise clubs like student council are paid stipends  (that you approved) like all the other middle school teachers.  Let’s say WA is just an anomaly and put this aside. The district’s response is that elementary teachers would run the clubs during part of their contract time. So, if a club started a few minutes after the last bell rang and the teacher was paid a stipend, he or she would be “double dipping” until their contract time was over.  EVERY CLUB and SPORT does this in the district in grades 6-12. Where do you think the kids go between school and football practice?  Where do you think the teachers who coach go after the students leave for the day?  They immediately convene (still during contract time) to begin their meetings or practices. Why are elementary teachers being arbitrarily discriminated against? 

                      In summation, we believe that if the community knew of the board’s decision to bargain solely through the use of an expensive attorney who doesn’t know our community, students, contract, or working and learning conditions, they would be very disappointed.  We believe this decision has been fiscally irresponsible as the cost for the attorney would’ve already covered the elementary stipends. We fear that the riff in communication will have a long term negative impact on the relationship of the BEA, the administration, and the board, and finally, we believe the inability to bargain a contract in a timely manner (free of bargaining “tactics”) has had a direct impact on the district’s ability to improve its services for our “at risk” students in need of the most help.  The bargaining team represents the hundreds of rank and file members who have made a pledge to improve our working conditions, retain excellent educators, and improve the learning conditions of our students.  We implore you to reconsider your stance, look at students –not numbers, and bargain a reasonable contract before it’s too late. 

      Respectfully submitted on behalf of the BEA bargaining team,

      Kendra Asbury

      BEA Vice-President

      View You Tube information from BEA by clicking on the following:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEK5s4fpaWo

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      Planned Rally outside negotiation session on Tuesday.

      Saturday, September 6, 2014

      House Democrats quietly meeting on school funding

      SPRINGFIELD — A number of top Democratic House lawmakers have been quietly meeting to discuss a proposed overhaul of Illinois’ dated school funding formula, which, if approved, would direct more state money to poorer rural districts at the expense of wealthier suburban districts. Members of the group told The Associated Press the meetings came at the behest of House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose chamber declined to take up the issue last spring despite its passage by the Senate and widespread calls for the first revamp of the formula in nearly two decades.
      “With the specter of additional dollars going away, and that’s a very, very real specter, there has to be a way to allocate money to the districts most in need,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, Madigan’s point person on budget issues. “We have to have something in place to make sure the districts with the highest poverty and least available wealth don’t fold.”
      Will Davis, chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee, said at least three of the meetings were held over the summer, and hearings on the issue are planned for after the November election.
      Among the roughly dozen lawmakers who have attended the meetings are Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, House Revenue Chairman John Bradley, the two Democratic chairs of House education committees and Mautino. The involvement of so many high-ranking Democrats suggests the proposal is getting more serious consideration at a time the state faces the loss of billions in revenue from the scheduled rollback next January of the temporary income tax increase.

      Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/article/20140906/News/140909648#ixzz3Caa5selT