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We at the FPTA would like to thank The Review for this opportunity to respond to the recently published editorial addressing our newly ratified contract and salary increase. It is our practice within the FPTA (Forest Park Teachers Association) to listen and appreciate the opinions of our members, and so it is that we accept and listen to the opinions of others when matters of our association are addressed. We would also like to assert that we do not take umbrage with the District 91 Board of Education or the Administration team. We do, however, take umbrage with the editorial [Still too rich? Feb. 15, 2012]

The editorial stands with the single NO vote from Mr. Tricocci and has every right to. However, the editorial claims to support teachers and other public employees. If this is indeed the case, more research surrounding the negotiations process and the reasoning behind the salary increase should have been executed in our opinion. Forest Park, typically, is one of the lower paying school districts in this area. We in the FPTA have accepted that fact for some time and we, in attempt to attract highly qualified educators, have tried with the help and understanding of our administration to raise the salaries in our district. To lump salary increases into a single figure (11.25%, 12%) is not an effective way to view the salary increases. These increases are seen on a per year basis – 3.75% per year. When broken down, for example, a person making $50,000 in our district will be privy to an increase of $80 per paycheck for the next three years of the newest contract. It should be mentioned, that to make $50,000 in Forest Park, one would find themselves in the middle of the salary schedule, not at the beginning.

The 3.75% increase provided our teachers with a 3% cost of living increase with a .75% additional pay increase. A cost of living increase is standard practice in most industries, and teachers should be privy to standard practices. It is true that raises are hard to come by these days, and we appreciate that. We also know that teaching is an underpaid and frankly, underappreciated profession at times. According to a recently published study by the New York Times; “Research has overwhelmingly shown that public school teachers are paid relatively less than comparable workers, that their wages have been declining for decades, that U.S. teachers are paid less than their counterparts in most other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and that low teacher pay hurts recruitment and retention. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for doubling the salaries of new teachers and says that professional pay is essential to recruit and retain quality educators”.

By increasing salaries, we attract quality educators. With quality educators in our classrooms, we improve our schools and our educational reputation. When we improve our educational reputation, we invite new families into our community. With new families come new homes and higher home values. And with higher home values, everybody wins.

The recent negotiations were indeed respectful and productive. We at the FPTA appreciate the support of our members, the administration, the Board of Education and the community of Forest Park. We are all entitled to our opinions and we thank The Review, once again, for allowing the Forest Park Teachers Association to express ours.

Katherine Valleau
Forest Park Teachers Association