First days of school make lifelong impressions. This is true for not only students but also teachers, and here in Sycamore a teacher’s first day of school each year is spent not with our students, but with fellow teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, kitchen staff, maintenance workers and school board members. I have enjoyed 27 years of these opening day meetings with my District 427 family.
The messages delivered in the high school auditorium on each of these first days largely echo each other over the years. Aside from encouragement to commit to another successful year, a wish undoubtedly shared with employees in districts nationwide, we in District 427 also hear something else. From school board presidents, to superintendents, to Sycamore Education Association presidents, we are reminded to appreciate the unique relationship we enjoy in our Sycamore schools.
We are told on these opening days how remarkable it is for a school board member and the union president and a superintendent to share the same stage on the same day to start the year delivering the same message. And that message that has echoed over the years is this: What a rare and fortunate culture we have created, a culture built on a family relationship nurtured and cultivated over decades that has led to all of us pulling together for the good of this community and its children.
During these opening meetings, we are also introduced to new members joining our district family. It’s the highlight of my morning, as I’m always proud to hear the names of so many former students who have joined us as employees of our Sycamore schools family – a testament, I believe, to the quality of our schools that so many former students choose to come home and teach here. What a blessing it is to have them return to a culture they obviously respect and appreciate and now hope to continue.
I fear, however, that all this is changing.
In an era more divisive than any other we have lived through, even “Life offers more” Sycamore is not immune. These have been rough years indeed, rough on all of us. But the current negotiations stalemate could make all of it much, much worse. The inability to reach a timely bargaining agreement threatens the good will, the family atmosphere, and most importantly, the high quality of education built over decades here in Sycamore.
I fully support our SEA in its efforts to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract as well as the proposal it has presented on behalf of our current teachers and the teachers yet to come. In recent contracts, the SEA has made significant concessions, specifically pay and advancement freezes in order to help the district weather difficult financial times. I voted to ratify those contracts because of my commitment to the family that so many administrators, school board members and union presidents spoke of on all those first days. I truly believed we were in this together for the good of our community and its children.
Perhaps I was naive; I hope not.
I urge the board and the current administrative negotiating team to show that they continue to value our dedicated staff and are willing to make appropriate investments to retain such professionals. I hope they will bring this stalemate to a quick resolution by looking not only to the past for a sense of the caring culture we have built together but also to the future to create a fair and reasonable contract which will attract innovative, committed, and talented teachers to join our family here in District 427.
Finally, I hope those same first-day impressions of a family culture that powers and protects our district are able to be honestly presented on future first days to come.
English Department, Sycamore High School