Highland Park, Highwood teachers walk picket lines

October 16, 2012 (HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.)

Teachers in School District 112 are on strike right now after a late night negotiating session failed to reach a deal. That means classes are cancelled in elementary and middle schools in Highland Park and Highwood.

Teachers were still picketing late Tuesday afternoon outside the district's administrative offices in Highland Park. Around 4:30, union leaders updated the press on how negotiations are going, and at this point the news is not good.

"I don't know if it will be resolved soon, I hope we can come closer to an agreement," said teacher Bree Twill.

The frustration could be heard in teachers voices as they walked the picket lines in front of Highland Park's school district administration building Tuesday afternoon.

"I don't think we're asking for anything to egregious. I think it's reasonable," said teacher Shery Henkel. "I live in Highland Park. I pay taxes in Highland Park, and I would like to continue living here, and we're not keeping up with the cost of living."

Forty-four-hundred elementary and middle school students in both Highland Park and Highwood are affected by the strike, which was announced by the union Monday night after both sides failed to reach an agreement.

North Shore School Board President Bruce Hyman issued a statement blaming the union for the impasse:

"The board presented the union with an improved proposal that showed substantial movement. The union responded...without offering any meaningful movement. Board members still believe that it is possible to arrive at a fair settlement that will allow the district to live within its means."

Teachers and school board members have butted heads over salary, insurance benefits and reimbursement for continuing education.

"I was promised by the district to be compensated for courses last year," said teacher Caitlin Lucci. "I have the approval form that said I would be moved over on the salary schedule, and now they are not wanting to honor those promises."

Tuesday, most district buildings remained closed, with a few exceptions such as Northwood Junior High, which stayed open as an activity center for students.

"I grew up needing a little extra help, and if would have had the teachers they have when I was going to school, it would have been amazing," said parent Liz Grabscheid. The district insists it is making a fair offer, which is fiscally responsible, but at this point there is still a lot of disagreement, particularly with respect to health insurance issues.

All signs indicated talks would go late into Tuesday evening.

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