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Lake Forest High in session despite strike

Striking Lake Forest High School teachers Jen Van Skyock Kate Heroux picket front school Monday afternoon. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times

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

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Updated: September 18, 2012 3:10AM

Despite a teachers strike, Lake Forest High School opened Monday with certified teachers, non-certified teacher assistants and community volunteers.

It is unclear whether the school session will be recognized as an official attendance day by the state. Lake County Regional Superintendent of Schools Roycealee Wood will find out from the state if the day was official.

Wood called the effort by District 115 as “precedent setting.”

“It’s a very impressive school and very impressive programming,” she said.

“Is it a good idea? Yes. But does it meet the requirements put forward in state code? That is yet to be determined.”

Among the criteria, the state requires that more than half of students enrolled be present for the day to be considered an official day of instruction and on Monday school attendance was at 82 percent, officials said. The school has 1,718 students.

The 70 certified teachers heading up separate classes by grade level included the school’s regular roster of certified substitutes, district administrators and at least two teachers who crossed the picket line last week, a district official said.

School administrators worked with student leaders to create instruction for the day, which included a session on criminal justice lead by Lake Forest police and another on emotional wellness.

Meanwhile, officials tried to come to an agreement Monday in the fourth day of the teachers strike.

It was the first session since a federal mediator ended negotiations about 4 p.m. Friday. A major issue the two sides are negotiating is over pay.

The union is asking for a 5.6 percent salary increase in the first year, 6.5 percent in the second year and 5.6 percent in the third year of a new contract. The school board proposed a 2.6 percent increase in the first year and 3.4 percent in the second and third years.

The two-tier salary schedule — one for current employees and another for future employees — the school board proposed and teachers opposed has been withdrawn.

“We’ve taken that off the table and we’re putting it to committee — a collaborative effort — made up of faculty, administrators and board members so they can come up with answers over the next three years,” said School Board President Sharon Golan.

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.

But an official contends that number is skewed since 25 percent of the teachers, who

are at the top of the scale, will retire in the next four years.

In another school district, the teachers’ union in North Shore School District 112 has declared an impasse in its contract talks with the school board, setting into motion a series of deadlines that potentially could result in a teacher’s strike in mid-October.

A union spokesman has said the school board is proposing to freeze teachers’ pay for two years and link a third-year raise to the Consumer Price Index.

Other outstanding issues include the pay raises teachers receive for completing coursework and pre-retirement pay incentives.

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