North Shore School District 112 and its teachers union aren't seeing eye to eye on some parts of the report that has served as the backbone of recent talks about the district's future – but union officials aren't against a move that would result in schools' closure.
If District 112 decides to close schools, there will be between 45 and 64 jobs cut from district payroll, an annual savings in the range of about $3.5 million to $5 million, according to the report's consolidation options.
Despite that, the teachers union is not opposing consolidation, said Pamela Kramer, representative of the North Shore Education Association.
Kramer said the district can likely find those reductions through attrition – the usual churn of retirements and people taking jobs elsewhere – over a number of years.
"The district needs to do what it needs to do to get on solid financial ground," Kramer said in a recent interview.
But the union is disputing certain statements on teachers' compensation in the "Your Voice, Our Future" report released by the district, prepared by the superintendent's citizen finance and facilities advisory committee, commonly referred to as "SCFFAC."
More than 100 pages long, the report lays out the committee's findings in detail after more than a year of study. The report outlines options for restructuring that include consolidation and large-scale renovation.
While stopping short of recommending any one option, the report clearly makes the point that the district will benefit financially and educationally with fewer schools. After the district finishes gathering input, Superintendent David Behlow will make a recommendation to the school board by the end of the school year.
But a statement released by the teachers union says that some assertions in report are wrong or misleading.
"It seemed to single out teachers when some of the information wasn't even factually accurate," Kramer said, explaining why the union issued the statement.
No union representatives were part of the 60-member committee, which otherwise included teachers, parents, residents and administrators.
Both Kramer and district spokeswoman Andi Rosen said that was due to the fact that the SCFFAC was created shortly after District 112 teachers went on strike. Kramer said she was invited to be on the committee and declined.
The union pointed to a statement in the report that teachers' salary and benefits serve as a benchmark for administrative pay raises.
To disprove that, the union pointed to the raise recently given to the district's Chief Financial Officer Mohsin Dada.
When Dada's new three-year contract was signed last September, his salary increased to $220,000 – an increase of 37.5 percent over his previous contract.
Dada, who served as co-chair of the SCFFAC finance subcommittee, declined to comment.
Rosen said Dada's pay raise was a "special situation." In 2011, Dada was expected to be a short-term hire because he was "toward the end of his career," Rosen said. Because of that, his salary was set at a below-market rate given his skills and experience.
But announced retirements of Behlow and John Sprangers, executive director of personnel services, changed the situation, she said.
"It was really important to the (school board) to retain some level of continuity," Rosen said, "and they adjusted (Dada's) salary to market level."
Typically, administrative salary raises have been in the range of 2.5 to 3 percent, the district said in a response to the union statement. In incoming Superintendent Michael Bregy's five-year contract, his raises are tied to the rate of inflation.
The union also took umbrage with a statement in the report that district teachers receive an annual 3 percent "step" increase in salary and .5 percent increase for additional coursework.
The union statement said some teachers receive a step increase of 1 percent and not all teachers receive raises for pursuing advanced degrees.
In District 112's written response, officials acknowledged teacher pay raises varied – stating some receive raises as high as 6 percent – and said the committee's report intended to present an average.
While the union felt compelled to clarify such points, Kramer emphasized that the union is not opposing – or officially supporting – any of the options put forward in the report.
Speaking only for herself, Kramer said she favored the consolidation option that would leave six K-5 elementary schools and two middle schools in the district.
Rosen stressed there would be teacher job cuts even if the district doesn't close schools, recalling the layoffs of more than 60 employees in 2012 to manage the deficit.
About $65 million to $75 million of needed building improvements during the next 15 to 20 years can't be avoided, district officials have said. If nothing is done, those improvements will drain the district's reserve funds, they have said.
"Our teachers work hard and deserve to be compensated," Rosen said. "The proposed solution was to get rid of the structural deficit so that can be attained."