CALUMET TWP. | A Hosford Park Elementary School teacher told the Lake Ridge Community Schools board she continues to live at home with her parents because she doesn't earn enough money to support herself.
Fifth-grade teacher Emily Etheridge said she is beginning to reconsider whether she should continue in the teaching profession.
Etheridge was one of dozens of Lake Ridge teachers who participated in an informational picket just prior to the School Board meeting. This is the third picket that teachers have held. Lake Ridge teachers, joined by other local unions and a huge, inflatable rat, stood along Ridge Road in front of the school administration building at 6111 W. Ridge Road.
Etheridge, who said after the meeting she earns $39,264 a year as a teacher, has been at Hosford Park three years and has been teaching six years.
Parent Tracy Kienzle said she had two children who graduated from Calumet New Tech High School and has a junior there now.
"I'm here to support the teachers. I don't pretend to know all of the particulars. I want our kids to get the best education possible. I know the scores are improving. The teachers play a role in that, give them a fair contract," she said.
Longfellow Elementary School teacher Susan Bochnowski said she was surprised no School Board members attend the negotiation sessions. "I'm surprised at the things that you want to take away, like my severance benefits that I've worked hard for. I love Lake Ridge and I love the children. We are all working very hard. We need a solution to this problem and I hope it comes very soon," she said.
Dan Brugioni, Lake Ridge Federation of Teachers president, reiterated that teachers are not being treated fairly. He said the offer presented to them by the district's negotiating team is insulting.
"Do whatever it takes to respect teachers. We've asked repeatedly for board members to attend the negotiation sessions. The offer you have put on the table is unacceptable. Find a way to keep teachers here and start right now," he said.
School Board members made no comments about negotiations during the meeting, but all said they appreciated the public turnout. Board President Glenn Johnson said after the meeting the board would not negotiate in public.
Board member Annette Wells said board members have not attended a negotiation session in two or three years.
"It was simply not productive," she said.
While Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley did not address the picketers during the meeting, last week she said a mediator has been requested to assist with discussions.