Press release in response to social media post
May 5, 2022
Dear Parents, Staff, and Members of the Lake County Community,
We wanted to provide our staff, families, and community a response to a recent social media post that is organizing a rally in support of increased Teacher salaries.
As Board Members and Administrators, we are first and foremost parents ourselves with children attending Lake County Schools. Each day we send our children off to a Lake County School where we know that they are being shown endearment, kindness, heartfelt care, and are being challenged by our staff to thrive at their own personal passions. This wouldn’t be possible without the devoted teachers and staff members who daily give of themselves to make this a reality. We are grateful for the patience and kindness that each of them continue to provide day after day.
Yet, we realize that words of appreciation alone do not provide for the living wage that so many of our staff across the District are struggling to obtain, especially considering the exacerbated economic situation caused by raising prices in the past 18 months. It is a reality that many people across our community are struggling financially and many businesses have had trouble retaining staff. Our organization is no different, and we currently have numerous support staff positions open as well as teaching positions in our special education and mental health departments. This year we have had unfilled positions in social worker/counselor, maintenance and bus drivers. We also currently have two classrooms being taught by long-term instructors under the supervision of a teacher of record or certified mentor teacher. We are grateful that we have been able to fulfill these two recent teaching vacancies with a “grow-your-own” model while we support non-certified instructors to pursue alternative license processes.
We pay our teachers with funds that mostly come from taxes, with a significant portion being property taxes in our county. Unlike a business, we have little say in how much funding we receive, and must be very careful on how it is spent. All of our finances are publicly posted on the District “financial transparency” website page, which is available for anyone to review https://www.lakecountyschools.net/about-us/financial-transparency/. For next year, the state has estimated they will give us an additional $600,000. All of this money is committed to fund staff pay raises. In addition, the District has worked to secure an additional $300,000 for staff raises, by receiving grants and through potential efficiencies. This is a significant increase in funding to support staff salaries/raises, and as a District we want to ensure that is distributed fairly to all staff, both unionized and non-unionized.
Each spring the District enters into negotiations with the Teachers’ Union. This year, because of the boost in funding we received, the District and the Board of Education was excited to propose to the Union a 12.5% raise for teachers (a raise from the current $36,360 starting salary to $40,890 for a brand-new teacher). This also included a commitment to review and distribute any savings from our anticipated budget in the form of a bonus. This year, with this strategy, we gave all staff a $1500 bonus. Yet, after several weeks of discussion, we were unable to meet the Union’s request of a 21.5% raise, as we do not have the recurring funding to support this raise for certified teachers and extend a raise to non-unionized staff as well.
In negotiations, the Union requested that we use money from our reserves (a state-allowable emergency use savings account, of which some money is restricted and cannot be used for this purpose) to pay for salaries. However, this is not sustainable, as the money in this account can only support a short-term solution, and it will quickly run out. Once it is gone, we would no longer afford to pay our staff at the higher salaries, and would be forced to cut pay or even fire staff. Additionally with the reserves depleted, the district would be unable to pay for emergency repairs to facilities, including the aging LCIS building.
On Friday, May 6th, we will again go into a public meeting of negotiations and offer a revised proposal that has already been shared with the Teachers’ Union. This proposal considers the use of other funds to increase the average teacher pay even more than 12.5%. As a District , we would encourage all stakeholders to stay informed, and listen to the negotiations on Friday using the zoom link on the District website.
In the coming weeks, the District and Board of Education will be finalizing wage adjustments and raises for other employees who are not negotiated for by the Teacher’s Union. These will be discussed at upcoming Board meetings, including Monday, May 9th.
As we all rally behind and support our school staff, we appreciate hearing kind words of affirmation or endearing stories that are shared throughout our community that recognize the hard work and effort of many of our staff that often go unnoticed day by day.
The LCSD Negotiations Team – Bethany Massey, Cheryl Talbot, John Baker, Kathleen Fitzsimmons, Katie Pongrekun, and Paul Anderson