Striking Lake Forest High School teachers Jen Van Skyock and Kate Heroux picket in front of the school Monday afternoon. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2013 1:37PM
LAKE FOREST — The teachers will be back in the classroom at Lake Forest High School on Wednesday after reaching a tentative agreement on a four-year contract with the school board early this morning.
All classes, even early bird classes, will resume to end the first teachers strike in history at LFHS.
Specifics of the agreement will be presented to the Lake Forest Education Association membership for ratification and then to the Board of Education for approval. Once that process is complete, contract specifics will be shared with the public, according to a statement issued by the school board early this morning.
“We would like to announce that we were able to reach a tentative agreement with the Union,” Board President Sharon Golan said in the statement. “We are pleased that our teachers and students will be back in the classroom in the morning.”
The agreement came following a bargaining session that started at 3 p.m. Tuesday, the fifth day of the strike, and ended sometime before 3 a.m. today.
Whether the two days of classes held Monday and Tuesday will count by the Illinois State Board of Education is unclear.
“We have not heard anything from the state,” District 115 spokesman Anne Whipple said Wednesday morning. “We’ll wait to hear from them.”
The district held classes with alternative programming on Monday and Tuesday that drew some 1,400 of the 1,718 students enrolled. The two days had been called mandatory attendance days by the high school.
Lake County Regional Superintendent of Schools Roycealee Wood was in school Monday to evaluate the programming and to prepare a report for State Superintendent of Schools Chris Koch who would make the decision, she said.
The early morning tentative agreement between school board and union negotiators came after nearly 30 LFHS students attended a candlelight vigil Tuesday night on the spot where their teachers picketed since last week. The strain of the second week of the strike was mounting.
Abigayle Doherty, a freshman, rode her bike 3.5 miles to get there with one goal in mind.
“I want my teachers back,” she said.
“We can’t be good students without good teachers,” agreed Caroline May, a junior.
“That’s why it’s not working these past couple of days,” said Mia Morettini, a junior.
Organizer Kevin Doherty, a junior and no relation to Abigayle, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“Not only do others want the teachers back, but they were willing to come out and show it,” he said.
The nearly 12-hour negotiation session that began at 3 p.m. Tuesday followed a 14-hour negotiation session Monday.
The LFEA was requesting raises between 5.6 percent and 6.5 percent over a three-year contract. The school board was offering 2.6 percent and 3.4 percent salary increases. Details of the tentative agreement have not been made public.
School resumed Monday with instruction provided by 70 certified teachers and 20 non-certified teaching assistants. Another 50 community volunteers — a full roster — provided support help but were not teaching. Monday’s programming included a talk on criminal justice and Fourth Amendment rights and emotional wellness. Tuesday’s programming included choosing a college major, instruction in Google Docs, college visits and motivational speakers.
A two-tier salary schedule — one for current employees and another for future employees — the school board proposed and teachers opposed was withdrawn earlier in the negotiations.
The last contract expired June 30. It was a one-year contract in which teacher pay was frozen.
The starting salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree is $50,116 and $56,007 for teachers with a master’s degree. At the top of the scale, a teacher with a doctorate and 25 years of experience receives an annual salary of $127,649.
The current average salary for a teacher at LFHS is more than $100,000.