Collaboration of the D128 Union and administration: A delicate balance of power

In the educational system, power is shared by two separate yet equally important groups: The teacher’s union and the district administration. The relationship is sometimes tense and sometimes harmonious, but at the heart of their work is the welfare of the students.

Teachers Ms. Naslund and Mr. Duffy, along with others, wear their d128 Union shirts on Thursdays in support of the organization. The hashtag on the shirt, “#REDforED”, encourages teachers to wear red in solidarity. “We wear red, because it reflects our unity and purpose,” said Mr. Duffy.






Role of the D128 Union

The D128 Union consists of 291 members and is a collective association of the D128 staff. A unique way they express their unity is by wearing red on Thursdays.“We wear red, because it reflects our unity and purpose,” said Mr. Dennis Duffy, D128 Union president and social studies teacher. “Together, we’re strong, but that’s what a union is all about.
Ms. Dyan Naslund, English teacher and LHS building representative for the D128 Union, expresses why wearing red is important.
“I wear this shirt to communicate to students that we care so much about you, that we are willing to fight these good fights in order to make sure that you have the best education that we can give you,” said Ms. Naslund. “That’s why I like wearing [red].”
Day to day, the union works routinely to better the education received by the students in D128. They work with the administration on matters regarding communication, class sizes, wage contracts, pay and sick leave, and the maintaining of a work-life balance.
According to Mr. Duffy, the teacher’s union was founded in 1986 and has since worked tirelessly to maintain an unbiased curriculum, protect labor rights of teachers and advance the quality of education, all while collaborating with the administration and superintendent to create a sound educational setting for students to learn, grow, change and become independent thinkers in the 21st century.
“We’re proud of who we are,” stated Mr. Duffy. “We’re proud that we are nurses, counselors, librarians and social workers, psychologists, classroom and non-classroom teachers. We all have this commonality of belonging to a union that gives us a voice, that we work towards improving the professionalization of our day to day work, and the quality of public education.”
Mr. Duffy’s role specifically as union president includes leading the union through negotiating contracts with the administration while representing the other teachers in the union.
“I’m on an equal footing with the school board president and the superintendent.” said Mr. Duffy. “I understand that I carry a lot of influence.” The role is “overwhelming sometimes, but it’s fun, in the sense that I think it’s important.”
Ironically before becoming a teacher, Mr. Duffy served as a lawyer in Chicago representing employers against their employees and their unions.

When he became a teacher, he applied his expertise to union leadership. During 12 out of his 18 years of teaching he has served as union president.
Although union leadership can be a little hectic sometimes, Ms. Naslund feels its importance outweighs the stress.
“[Union leadership] is empowering because I’m allowing teachers to ask their questions and express their concerns,” said Ms. Naslund. “They know that they’re going to be heard either by me and I answer the question or I go to someone who has the answer for them so they feel like their situation has been addressed.” But the union can’t function and get things done without collaboration with the administration, specifically the superintendent.

Superintendent Dr. Herrmann, the first woman in D128 to hold the position, works closely with the teachers union for the common goal of making the educational experience rewarding for both teachers and students. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Mary Todoric)

Role of the administration and superintendent

Dr. Denise Herrmann has held the position of Superintendent since January 2021. She is the first woman to be superintendent of D128. Dr. Herrmann was hired in the midst of the pandemic to work alongside the administration and has made it her goal to carry out the policies and values of the school district.
She has worked as a teacher, department chair, coach and building principal before her position as Superintendent.
“I think with each role I’ve had, my responsibility, scope and perspective gets wider and wider,” explained Dr. Herrmann.
Her role in the school system includes being a communicator between the public who elects the school board and the school board itself on any variety of issues pertaining to the community’s needs.
“A superintendent listens to all voices,” Dr. Herrmann said. “It’s not just the board or the parents, or the teachers, but a good superintendent values and seeks input from students as well,” she continued.
It’s also important for the superintendent and administration to be receptive to feedback. As a teacher, Dr. Herrmann encouraged her students to give feedback on her teaching, and she carries these same principles with her now as a superintendent.
“As a professional, that’s how I approach leading an educational system – is making sure all the pieces and parts are fitting together well, and are receiving the energy and the support they need,” explained Dr. Herrmann.


Both the teacher’s union and the administration play an important role in the success of our school district and community, but for a functional, collaborative setting between the teachers union and the administration to thrive, a healthy balance of power is required.
“We’ve been able to work together mutually beneficially on both sides to get a lot of things done,” Mr. Duffy explained. “Communication isn’t always easy, but the job always gets done.”
“Libertyville has always had a really strong union and we’ve also had an administration who appreciates the strength of our union,” echoed Ms. Naslund.
Finding a middle ground is part of the job, and disagreements are part of healthy communication.
“When we disagree, we disagree, but when we agree, we can get a lot of positive things done,” said Mr. Duffy. “Not just for teachers, the administration and the school board, but also for parents and kids.”
Although the relationship between the administrators and the union could easily be perceived as contentious, both sides continue to work through their differences to find a common ground.
“I think sometimes people think that administrators don’t understand or appreciate the value that teachers unions and teacher voice have,” explained Dr. Herrmann. “I look at union leadership as a way to enhance and elevate teacher voice, and that they are an integral part of how effective school systems operate in the state of Illinois.”
Although the administrators and teachers sometimes have different perspectives, both parties continually work together towards the common goal that is the betterment of education for students in D128.