Looking at Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, is the ‘Handwriting on the Wall’ for T/E?

A Community Matters reader suggested it would be interesting to compare the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (UCF) with Tredyffrin-Easttown School District (TESD).

TESD has approximately 6300 students and the UCF school district approximately 4100 students. The 2011-12 TESD budget is $112M with approximately $17.7K per student spending. The proposed tax increase is 4.2% with expenditures exceeding revenues by approximately $8.9M. The budget gap is narrowed with the Act 1 tax increase and the Act 1 exception to $5.3M. Using suggested Level 1 budget strategies, the deficit is further reduced by $1M and the imbalance drops to $4.3M.

The proposed 2011-12 UCF budget is $71.4M with approximately $17K per student spending. The UCF school district intends to hold their tax increase at or below the Act 1 limit of 1.4%. Of the $71.4M, almost 72% of the budget goes to personnel costs (salaries and benefits).

Students from the UCF and TESD school districts enjoy similar academic performance; both top performing school districts. On Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) performance, both school districts score in the top 1% statewide. Tredyffrin-Easttown School District ranks #2 for SAT scores and Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is ranked at #5 on the SAT.

The PSSA is an assessment-testing tool given to every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 in reading and math. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 5, 8 and 11 is assessed in writing and all students in grades 4, 8 and 11 are assessed in science. Checking the 11th grade statewide assessment, finds that TESD is #2 and UCF #3.

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District teacher’s contract expired June 30, 2010; talks between the school board and the teachers union, Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association have continued. In late December, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board appointed attorney Mariann E. Schick to help resolve the bargaining impasse through a Fact-Finder report. (This is a formal process where a neutral arbitrator is appointed to review the respective bargaining positions of both parties and recommend provisions for a possible settlement. The process is non-binding and either side can accept or reject the final report.)

The results of the fact-finding report on the UCF district were released last week. The UCF School Board voted unanimously to accept the findings of the report whereas the teachers union rejected the report. There were two major suggestions contained in the report. There is a provision for each member of the union to receive a one-time, nonrecurring payment in lieu of a raise in year one and an increase in the final two years of the contract and secondly, the suggestion that all union members move to a new, cost-saving healthcare plan, Keystone Direct, in the second year of the contract.

The UCF school board argues that its proposals look to maintain quality health care at a reduced rate and compensation for its teachers. They suggest that the economic times are hard and that the teacher union has benefited greatly when times were good but they must now share in the sacrifice as the others. However, the teacher union rejected the independent report and recommendations.

What’s that saying about the ‘handwriting on the wall’? In the UCF school district, the school board and the union have been working for more than a year to reach a new contract without success. The parents and students are frustrated because the gap between the two sides has not changed dramatically since the talks began.

The T/E school district has one year remaining in the teacher contract . . . can we expect similar conflict with the teacher union? Should residents accept bigger tax increases to ward off teacher union conflict? Is there a relationship between teachers working without a contract and the academic performance of the school district?

Looking ahead to next year, as the TESD school board begins to discuss the teacher contract, will demand negotiating skills and expertise from our elected officials. The terms of five of the nine TESD school board members are up this year . . . Karen Cruickshank, Pete Motel, Debbie Bookstaber, Jim Bruce and Kevin Mahoney. It is my understanding that Cruickshank will see re-election. Unfortunately, for the taxpayers, Bookstaber and Mahoney will not seek to be re-elected. I do not have information on the plans of Motel and Bruce. We hope that all school board candidates do their homework and come prepared to meet the enormous challenges ahead.

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  1. The UCF teachers showed up at a board meeting (info session on the contract) in the fall in matching polo shirts and handed out statements and made statements from the handout….

    The essence : “Those issues included a 4 percent increase to the “total teacher payroll” over four years and divided among 331 teachers.

    It also said the union proposed a change to the health care insurance plan that would have had the district paying less while increasing the salary contribution, and that the district rejected that proposal.

    For more information on the negotiations, visit the district’s site at http://www.ucfsd.org and the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association’s site at http://www.ucfea.org.”

    UCF had also had a public referendum to do improvements to the high school (construction) and it failed….they had a referendum to enact an EIT and it failed…..lots of options.

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  2. The “4%” on the total teacher contract typically does NOT include the increases to the health care costs, and the 4% is on the average salary….which if it is at the higher end (in many districts, it is), that means higher raises at the lower end….in some cases much higher.

    But this is PA — and you cannot reduce their compensation under the state constitution. And another reminder that if a teacher strikes, they do not lose any pay. They have been declared “annually compensated” so if they teach the school year, they get paid a year’s salary. Additionally, PSERS provides interest free loans to all members who are on strike.

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  3. It might be a good idea to keep an eye on what is happening in Wisconsin. It’s time for union employees to stop demanding “cream of the crop” benefits & to join the real world where most of us who are or were in the private sector never had access to these benefits.

    It’s also time for TESD to take a good look at an EIT in order to cover these deficits, so we keep $$$ in the district & township

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    an eit is a pot of gold leading up to the contract negotiations. Not a good time. Break the unions? no. just some moderation. They are squealling like pigs to slaughter.

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    mainlinetaxpayer Reply:

    Wisconsin teachers have agreed to paying more for their pension and benefits. What the governor is doing is trying to bust the union.

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    give it a rest Reply:

    Not true. Either part.
    The unions have agreed to pay more for their pensions and benefits, but the secret is that they still want to avoid any cost controls on either….the pension is a state rate so paying more into it is something to discuss, but the offer to pay more for their health care is meaningless. It is the state and school districts that need to set the amount they will pay — let the unions find programs or plans that the amount will cover. There is a mentality here that has to change — and if anyone thinks that union leadership gives a hoot about individual members, wrong. Union leadership at the state or federal level is about maintaining their power and control. I think there was a link here — I know I read it somewhere — that the union dues were being increased 11% to fight off vouchers. So union dues DO get used for political reasons, and fair share is pretty much status quo — a non-negotiable issue in PA and most places. Unless you want to see a teacher’s strike for fair share issues. That’s best done legislatively….and if a union believed that they serve a special purpose, they would not have to force membership — there would be clear benefits to it.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Yes, PSEA union increased dues — from my post of February 11:

    “Anticipating a major battle ahead over the proposed school voucher legislation, the PSEA union, which represents 190,000+ teachers in Pennsylvania, has announced an 11% increase in dues for its members.”

    mainlinetaxpayer Reply:

    You are wrong….on both parts.

    “The unions have agreed to pay more for their pensions and benefits”the governor wants to balance the budget for this year; the unions are helping him to do this for this year. They should not have to agree to cost increases in perpetuity.

    From the PSEA website:

    PSEA’s Political Action Committee for Education (PSEA-PACE) supports pro-public education candidates in state and local elections. No PSEA member dues dollars support PACE.
    PACE is a nonpartisan organization, funded by voluntary member contributions. PACE-recommended candidates are chosen by PSEA/PACE members, based on their positions and records on education, labor, and health care issues. Countless decisions made by elected officials affect your career. Contributions to PACE will make sure your voice is heard and help you to deliver the power of a great education in Pennsylvania.
    Just because dues dollars went up does not mean that they are used for political purposes.

  4. I see both local newspapers have editorials against the union stance.

    In this economy, a 1.4% wage hike is fair
    http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com/articles/2011/02/22/opinion/doc4d63c6cd15876316724475.txt

    More evocative :
    UCF Teachers Provide a Lesson on Greed
    http://www.chestercounty.com/magazines/CCP%202-16-11/index.html

    [Reply]

    kate Reply:

    As usual, CitizenOne, there is a well-articulated “other side”.

    Here are several recent editorials/articles expressing strong support for Wisconsin’s public worker unions.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20110222_Inquirer_Editorial_A_bridge_too_far.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/opinion/23wed1.html?_r=18ref=opinion

    http:”www.thenation.com/article/158647/betrayal-public-workers

    In Wisconsin, union leaders agreed to Walker’s demands: that workers pay 5.8% of their wages for pension costs and twice what they’ve been paying toward their healthcare. This represents a substantial cut in pay for workers earning average salaries.

    But those concessions aren’t enough because Governor Walker”s real agenda is union-busting.

    All the talk on this blog demonizing unions and our district’s teachers because they are union members is fueled by fear whipped up by Faux News “entertainers”, and corporate interests supporting the end to unions, as awhipped up daily by Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ, and other media propaganda machines.

    CM commenters are already foaming at the mouth, predicting a pitched contract battle next year with outside union officials who supposedly care nothing about their members, our local teachers.

    And Lysander thinks we should take comfort that residents can attend public meetings packing heat, just in case things go awry..

    Disgusted Parent wonders, “When will this madness end”? Which madness? The madness of wearing red shirts in solidarity, of carrying concealed weapons to public meetings, or the fear and greed- driven anger toward middle-class teachers, policemen, municipal and state workers who have been fortunate enough to weather this economic downturn with a modicum of job security?

    There’s an epidemic of “I’ve got mine and to hell with you” breaking out all over this country.

    Public employees are not the enemy and they shouldn’t bear the bulk of the burden now. We should all be spitting mad at the big bankers and hedge fund managers, the oil and gas behemoths who receive federal subsidies and pay little or nothing in taxes..

    Not our teachers – red shirt wearers though they may be.

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  5. I could not find the info about Unionville’s failed referenda – the first one was about the EIT at 1% in 2007 I think. The one on their high school renovations was devastating and caused all sorts of community chaos — but the demographics in UCF do not mirror TESD but are quite skewed, with some very wealthy families and some rural populations…in much bigger percentages.
    So I think John and MG are right here — but the key issue is absolutely that PSEA is holding on. In the 90s when Carole Achell and Andrea Falcons did the contract, the PSEA was not at the table. I recall both women complimenting the local union for standing for what was good for TE, not what was good for PA. The last negoation was almost completely done for the local union by the PSEA representatives.
    MG is right that the Wisconsin stuff is important because the teachers at Unionville just parrot what they are told — and that is to continue to do more of the same. A new health care plan paid for by the district does not get health care costs in control – it just lowers the payment for the short term for the district. Their pension and their salaries are already guaranteed. Health care is all that is left. The private sector comprises the taxpayers, and we are all paying lots for our benefits — not happily or willingly — just mandated. The teachers just don’t understand that.

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  6. My son came home from school today and told me that many of his teachers (at Conestoga) were wearing red shirts to show their support for the unions in Wisconsin. I hope this was just Conestoga and not the Elementary Schools and Middle Schools because I find it unacceptable for teachers to use their position of authority to force their political viewpoint on the students. It would be even worse if they subjected young kids to this message, and I find it a form of parent intimidation. E.g. We’re going to hold your child’s educational future hostage unless you give in to all of our union demands.

    If this is how our teachers react to union protests in a state hundreds of miles away, how will they treat our kids when they are negotiating their own contract next year?

    I think my kids are getting a great education at Conestoga, but I do not support paying an EIT or raising my property taxes so that the teachers can get yet another raise and continue getting a pension, guaranteed job security and great health benefits they barely pay for. This is completely out of line with what’s happening in the private sector where we have inferior benefits, no job security, no pension, longer hours and lower pay.

    Teachers in TE are very well-paid, yet they continue to want more and more. And they will use their dues to fight anything (like vouchers) or anyone (like Republican candidates that don’t support teacher strikes) that could threaten their power and to advocate for higher taxes at the state and local level.

    When will this madness end?

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    mainlinetaxpayer Reply:

    It is my understanding that they wore items of red clothing. I don’t see how that should offend anyone.

    Union dues are not used for political purposes. Teachers must contribute to a separate PAC, just like people who work for big corporations do.

    No one knows what the teachers are going to ask for. If you remember, they were the only union in the area who offered to give back money last year.

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    Moderate Girl Reply:

    You must work in the township if you’re not paying an EIT. You ‘re lucky. If you work outside the township, you most likely pay an EIT. There are very few townships that do not have an EIT.

    The EIT would decrease our real estate tax burrden, and we would stop subisizing other townships.

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    give it a rest Reply:

    The EIT referendum that failed in Unionville ChaddsFord offered a $950+ savings on school property taxes to each taxpayer if enacted. It failed.

    I think the comments here are very confusing. I thought that less than half the working residents living in the township paid an EIT…so enacting one would bring revenues home, but for more than half, it would be a new tax. Gio posted earlier on this blog — there is a strong chance that those not paying it would not vote to enact one as they don’t believe in the savings….but they know the tax won’t go away.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know I said I was done — but I cannot resist responding here. For those who know I post too much, skip this….it will no doubt be long.

    When my children were in elementary school, I was the primary winner and would be running for election in the fall. When the school year started, there were stalled negotiations (before the rules nowadays) and teachers were wearing “Go for the Contract” buttons to indicate their support. When kids asked classroom teachers what they meant, both my elementary sons were identified by suggestions that students “tell them to ask their Mother”. I was infuriated but unable to do anything about it. Friends inside the teaching staff shared the fact that staff talked about my kids and me in the lounge – and I recognized that there were warning shots being fired over my bow. So while many teachers are not any kind of rebels, some are. Kids are always in the middle.
    I hesitate to post because John P libels me with being responsible for giving away things in my time on the board (3 terms – but I left in 2002) . I was part of the negotiating team that outsourced bussing. There are lots of pieces to that, but it was quite an educaiton in watching PSEA reps sell out members (they would not carve out bus drivers so we were unable to retain the drivers competitively) I did 3 teacher contracts — I was part of two teams that worked with the TEEA without any input from the PSEA uniserve reps. After the sudden death of our solicitor, we did the final 6-year contract without lawyers present (used our contract as part of the interview process for a new solicitor, which was reviewed after sessions). We completed and the TEEA ratified a 6-year contract with only 3 years of the salary schedule specififed– the balance was based on parameters and the membership did not see them until 3 years into the 6-year contract when we reviewed the horizontal movement, the health care costs, the retirements etc. During those talks, I can be quoted as saying that I would pay teachers $100K (seemed a long way away!) but wouldn’t do it at the start of their career. My stated goal was a 30 step schedule that would rarely need adjusting except for market or economic conditions. You’d start and then have 30 defined raises. Teachers after 30 years would automatically continue to accrue an additional 2.5% towards their pension, so no raises should be offered. In my final effort, we added steps and took the starting salary off the schedule. After Carol Aichele and I left the board, we were not consulted by the subsequent board negotiators. I believe that absent understanding what we had done to achieve things, much was compromised. I do not believe that they have added any steps since I left, and they gave up and put the starting salary back on the schedule, which is in fact giving up a step. The PSEA stated goal is a 10 step schedule. Other districts have many more horizontal educational raises. Expanding the schedule goes against PSEA recommendations to locals.

    The process of compensating public employees is complex – especially in PA where so much of it is tied to a constitutional provision that prohibits reduction. The post above that points out that our union locally was the only one that offered to give something up last year is sadly part of the PSEA collective mind-set. Perhaps the local people and teachers even believe that – but the PSEA writes the script and the offer was nothing more than a grand gesture that had no possibility of being undertaken. It created a sympathetic picture, but it was never real.

    The last contract done with our local TEEA (the one in place through 2012) was very managed by the PSEA Uni-serve reps. Note that the UCF effort to add to the work day is a non-starter. Why? I certainly tried and learned (repeatedly) that “TESD has the longest workday in Chester County.” The length of the workday is meaningless unless there are wage issues – at which time absent a settlement, many unions “work to the contract.” This means that despite the fact that teachers are “professionals” vs. hourly workers, they do not work one minute beyond the contract. (without the threat of retribution from peers – hollow or otherwise). This is frightening to parents – because it might mean no college recommendations, no conferences, no feedback on their kids. Now – would TESD teachers ever do that? We’d all like to think no == but how many did you say wore red today?

    If you buy into the notion that some labor groups in WIS offered to contribute more to their pensions, and to their health care, it sounds reasonable. But the reality is that pensions are state-funded 401Ks….so contributing more to them is nothing that anyone outside of a pension plan doesn’t do on their own. Yes — it’s a concession, but means their “401K”match is 400% (they put in 20%, the state 80%) The other side is the health care. Locally, the UCF teachers have offered a less expensive plan option – but that’s not going to control costs for the district. That’s just changing the timing (and for a short time, the magnitude) of the problem. When I was on the board, we stopped providing a defined benefit for the administration (with – at that time – a goal of doing the same for teachers). When you are given money to spend on health care, vs. talking about how much you contribute to health care, you realize you are buying insurance – not free health care. When you make the choice how much to spend (and possibly keep), you are incentivized to look for the most efficient plan. You also define your costs as a district – since you budget $X per employee…otherwise, you allow the employee to budget $X and you pay the difference. You’d not be surprised by how enterprising the process becomes when the benefit money is YOURS and you decide how to spend it. It takes education to explain it – and the PSEA is simply not interested in putting that in play.
    Long enough. If you have any questions, the Understanding School Spending blog is there…feel free to ask me. I hardly ever have all the answers, but I do have a lot of information. I worked with Unions in Texas construction before I moved back to this area — a true right to work state. My father was a union contractor who sold his business when he was witness to union votes that basically shut down local projects. Keep up the talk….just don’t limit what you read to headlines. Read the articles. And the editorials – -both sides . :) Good luck to us all.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    I like John. His motto should be, “many times wrong, but never uncertain”.

    As for the importance of letters of recommendation, read the following articles.

    Letters of Recommendation
    http://www.cornellcollege.edu/politics/gb-resources-students/policies/letorec.shtml

    Here is what Colleges and Universities are Looking for in Students.
    http://www.applyingtoschool.com/forms/what-colleges-and-universities-are-looking-for-in-students.aspx

    There is no doubt that grades and test scores are the major factors, but here’s a quote from the first article. “I will explain why the importance of recommendations is often discounted and why — despite this discounting — recommendations are likely to be extremely important to you.”

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    Andrea Reply:

    Because I have read reports of where it happened. In this economy, it is hard to fathom, but collective thinking goes along with collective bargaining. And regardless of what an IEP says, if it’s outside the letter of the contract, unions have refused to work beyond them. It’s one of the reasons that TESD does not have activity and coaching in the contract. It’s a separate, non-negotiated agreement (at least it was when we used a court decision to make it that way in the 90s)

    I interviewed for my college for 25 years. Recommendations are waited differently by different schools — but a bad recommendation can knock you out of the box on many schools. I cannot imagine being unable to get a recommendation hurting (the info would probably be on the Stoga profile), but it sure would feel threatening, don’t ya think?

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    Andrea Reply:

    “weighted”……whoosh.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    John,

    The ad hominem attacks are getting old. You make some good points, but I fear your message will get lost.

    Yes, the link I sent directly applied to graduate admissions process, but most readers can make the small leap and see how it, most likely, applies to undergraduate admissions. Having spoken directly to HS guidance counselors I know it does apply.

    And, yes, the second link is from a commercial service, but the results from the survey, including the importance of recommendations in relationship to other factors was informative.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    John,

    Can we agree that we both use ad hominem attacks, that they ad nothing to the discussion, they tend to close off discussion and, in fact, detract from the points we’re trying to make?

    I’m going to try hard to be good. I hope you’ll do the same. I’d like to see Andera back on this message board posting her long winded, but excellent messages.

    [Reply]

    Just a thought Reply:

    To Disgusted Parent –

    Why shouldn’t teachers wear red to show support for others in their profession, if they chose – if a student feels “forced” to accept their point of view because of a symbol, then I kind of worry about a student who is so easily swayed.

    I always wonder why those who believe they have “inferior benefits, no job security, no pension, longer hours and lower pay” didn’t (or don’t) choose a different profession and/or a different employer?

    [Reply]

    Jane Reply:

    It’s not that they don’t “choose” one. It’s probably that they can’t find one. Good jobs with good employers are scarce right now–haven’t you heard?

    [Reply]

    Lysander Reply:

    Just a thought: You worry about students easily swayed by the opinions of the authority figures that hold them and their future hostage for half of the days out of the year? I seriously worry about voters who don’t realize how much power these union members have over our children and their parents.

    BTW, I would love to get a teaching job in either of these school districts under the current contracts. In recent years that has been nearly impossible for even top candidates because there are so few openings and so many applicants.

    [Reply]

    School Observer Reply:

    That’s an interesting conundrum — why indeed? A rising tide raises all boats, but now that the tide is going out, we all want to drag everyone down with us (credit to Stephen Colbert).

    Here’s why imho (or maybe just imo): Before they unionized in the late 60s/early 70s (not sure), the pa teacher did not make much. The trade off was that they received excellent benefits and a pension. Most companies offered similar compensation packages, and in exchange for no job security, there was more upward mobility in the private sector. Fair deal. Rising tide an all that.

    Now — teachers receive excellent benefits and a pension, but they also have excellent salaries and tenure. The private sector offers few employer paid benefits, and certainly so few offer pensions as to find them difficult to identify outside the public sector.

    There is a fine balance where the teachers make MORE than the average private sector, and the barriers to entry for teachers are pretty significant. You don”t have to be smarter or more ambitious — but you have to be certified. And despite the fact that there are lines of people waiting for each job, the collective bargaining process ignores the economic realities and holds students and communities hostage for MORE. How many kids are getting out of college with good grades and solid degrees and are working as waiters? Or have decent jobs in insurance or engineering and are making in the 30s and 40s? Plenty I can assure you — because those jobs have dropped their starting compensation except for the very top recruits because the market is a all about offering the job — with the access to buying benefits at a group rate.

    So it’s jealousy, but it’s well founded because these same public employees are asking for raises and continuing the status quo because of the power of a strike, and the power to disrupt life — but the people paying their compensation are not able to just pay more.

    Nothing we don’t all know, but Lysander makes a great point at 2:25 pm — few jobs, many applicants, and union influence on our kids is not without ramifications. There are taxpayers in the street in Wisconsin too.

    [Reply]

  7. Indeed, thanks to Pattye for posting this and to ‘rest” for the links to the competing positions. The salary matrix in the fact finder report will be a useful benchmark.

    To me, the real reason why the union rejected the funding is the proposal to split the matrix up into half steps: 32 steps rather than the current 16. Effectively this reduces by half the guaranteed annual longevity raise. No doubt the PSEA will fight that to the end.

    It’s also interesting that the findings supported the union in rejecting the administration attempt to have the right to assign duties up to an 8 hour day, and to raise to a B the lowest grade for which credit would be given in moving across the matrix. Sad.

    Note the cost to the district to be represented in these negotiations: $87,800 and counting in November 2010.

    This augurs very badly for TESD. And remember here that by 2011/12 the average teacher will have seen a salary increase of 30% over the previous three years, right through the recession. Plus a similar value in healthcare benefits, and of course the value of the higher salary translates to higher pensions. And the expectation will be for more salary increases, even if there’s a lower value healthcare plan.

    (Note that the proposed healthcare plan in UCF seems to have lower premiums not because of any great reduction in quality of care, but because of control of out-of-network costs, and requiring referrals for known cost “black holes” like physical therapy and spinal manipulations.)

    Hopefully indeed the taxpayers will be as well-prepared as their employees for next year’s neggotiations.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    Don’t read too much into the half-step recommendation from the Fact Finder. Step movement is negotiable each year. There could be years where the is no step, a half-step, a full step or two steps.

    A step usually equates to a 2% raise. The fact finder wanted to give a 1% raise so she had to use a half-step. When times get better a full step might again become the norm.

    [Reply]

    School Observer Reply:

    Citizen One — you speak like someone who has been on a board, but if you have not, then I suggest you review the steps on a myriad of schedules around here. A step hasn’t been 2% forever, and the state union pushes for a 10 step schedule, from starting salary to “career earnings” with each step taking one year. Since you can never reduce a step, sometimes you negotiate to stay on one, but I haven’t seen that happen (in contract language anyway) in the last 10 years or more. Some districts try to minimize the steps but then they negotiate “more days” — an old trick to fool taxpayers, but not teachers. They give a raise of “3%” and then say they got extra days. Typically on 180 day school year, an extra day yields 1/2% increase…so they hide the raise in the headline, but then put it on the schedule. True that steps are negotiable, but given that you cannot reduce compensation, a step of 2% without continually adding steps (or taking off the first step and adding a final step each year) is no longer accurate.

    [Reply]

  8. Main Line Taxpayer
    If you truly believe that increasing dues in response to needing to fight vouchers means they do not use dues for political purposes — then I guess we have to agree to disagree. Depends on what your definition of “political purpose” is….

    Wisconsin is $3B out of balance. Less than 20% of the unions have offered to contribute (as of when the governor was accused of union busting). Obviously he wants to break the unions — the same way any owner/manager wants to control costs. Unions have control right now. If trying to switch the balance of power is busting, that’s what he wants to do. I don’t believe it’s necessary, but I’m not sitting at any tables with the union leadership….
    In perpetuity — ? like death and TAXES. Those are certainly guarantees.

    [Reply]

  9. For clarification –

    UCF voters rejected two referendums. Both were for the same HS construction project. A $62.5M referendum was defeated in Nov 2007. A $30M referendum was defeated in April 2008.

    http://www.dailylocal.com/articles/2008/04/23/past%20stories/19954201.txt

    [Reply]

    School Observer Reply:

    http://www.ucfsd.org/boff/022607_resolution.pdf

    This is the resolution on the ballot in 2007 — to implement an EIT with the proposed savings of about $1000 on property taxes. It must have been tied to wanting to do the high school.

    [Reply]

    School Observer Reply:

    http://www.pennsbury.pa.us/media/file/2007_vol21_no1.pdf

    A tax study in UCF in 2007, presumably leading up to the referendum above. Pretty prophetic.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Grewell Reply:

    The tax study commission (“TSC”) and EIT referendum referenced above in UCF in 2007 was mandated by Act 1 of 2006, “The Local Tax Relief Act”. It was mandatory to appoint a TSC whose only power was to recommend to the school board what kind of property tax should be placed on the ballot for the mandatory voter referndum under Act 1. The choices were either an EIT (Earned Income Tax) or a PIT (Personal Income Tax). ALL INCOME TAX REVENUE UNDER ACT 1 WOULD HAVE TO BE USED TO REDUCE PROPERTY TAXES. IN COULD NOT BE USED FOR REVENUE TO FUND THE GENERAL BUDGET OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT.

    Therefore, any EIT money under the 2007 referendum cited above would be revenue neutral to the district. It would not add a single penny to the budget.

    The EIT under discussion today in T/E and elsewhere is an Act 511 tax. Act 511 is the state law that enables local governemnts to fund themselves. One tax available under Act 511 is a 1% EIT. It used to be true that a school district could just vote to enact this EIT. But Act 1 modified Act 511 and it is now required that the school district must place an Act 511 EIT on the ballot referendum for approval by the voters. (curiously, this requirement is not imposed on the Township, which also has the power to enact an EIT. Also, it should be noted that the Township could vote to enact an EIT and take 1/2 of the revenue from any EIT the school district enacted).

    People often confuse the two issues – a revenue (general budget) producing EIT under Act 511 and the Act 1 tax study commission process leading to an Act 1 EIT which would not add any additional revenue to the school district. The fact that any particular TSC recommended for or against any EIT is irrelevant to the discussion today. An Act 1 TSC’s mandate was limited and strictly controlled by the terms of Act 1 and would not consititute a full study necessary for enactment of an Act 511 EIT today.

    Don’t read anything into the current discussion based upon the results of an Act 1 TSC. Today’s discussion is a different tax, for a different purpose. Do not assume that an Act 511 EIT passed today would be used to offset or reduce property taxes. It will not. It will be used to help fund budget deficits. Most likely, your property taxes will still go up each year – by the Act 1 inflation cap.

    citizenone Reply:

    The 2007 referendum (Taxpayer Relief Act) was required of every district, including TE, in the state and was unrelated to the Unionville HS project. It gave voters a chance to substitute, dollar for dollar, an income tax for a portion of real estate taxes. It was overwhelmingly voted down.

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  10. It burns me up that the teachers keep asking for more money, while the District is forced to cut programs for the kids. Take for example the Saturday morning Open Gym (Winter Rec) at TE Middle School which was beloved by kids ages 11-17. It was somewhere for them to go on a Saturday morning, to meet friends and engage in physical activity. They cut that program this year. Kids ages 11 to 17 who used to be able to use a gym at the middle school from 9 to 1 on Saturdays now have nowhere to go. How much could that have possibly cost? There was one teacher on duty there as a chaperone.

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    CHV Reply:

    Winter Rec was a” partnership “(TT & TESD)
    There is a program held at VFES..just for elementary kids… but.you have to register & pay a fee to Tredyffrin Township.

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    School Observer Reply:

    I’m pretty sure all winter rec programs are funded by the township — the school provides the building — so any cut to the program is most likely a townshp cut.

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    Jane Reply:

    The Township and the District should have notified parents that it might be cut. They could have given us the chance to come up with some ideas to help save it. This age group–12 to 17–is a vulnerable one, and giving the kids to go and be active on a Saturday morning goes hand in hand with the District’s anti-drug programs, etc.

    I think it was very cruel to cut this program and to remove any opportunity for dialogue about how to save it. How can parents try to save it if we’re not told it is in jepoardy? It was a wonderful thing for the kids, and a ruthless and cruel thing to do to them.

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    Libby Brinton Reply:

    Jane – might the SB have kept the program if one or more parents volunteered to chaperone? Or was that an option the SB wouldn’t allow?

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    School Observer Reply:

    Welcome to the new millenium! Parents don’t have the proper clearances to be in charge. Certifications and criminal background checks are pretty routine (though I hope that hasn’t reached the coaching ranks yet, when you read the papers, maybe it should)

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    Winter Rec Facts Reply:

    The Township was unable to fund the Middle School Winter Rec program. The School District used to share 1/2 of the cost of the program and provide the facilities for free. The Township covered 1/2 the cost of the program and was responsible for running the program.

    Last year, the School District cut the funding for the program and requested the facilities fee. By providing the facilities for free to Winter Rec, the School District was losing valuable opportunities to generate revenue from other groups and also incurring real costs to operate the building. (It would cost 4+ hours of time to pay for custodial services required by the school code and the TENIG contract, so this was real money for the district.)

    With educational programs on the chopping block, the School District had to cut support for outside programs run by the Township like Winter Rec in order to preserve the other programs.

    The School Board was not in a position to allow parents to run the program as it was a Township program. However, the Township has worked with volunteers in the past. (But the Township also has a legal responsibility to check the backgrounds of the volunteers if they are working with children, and that costs time and money too.)

    To the Township’s credit, they found a way to keep the elementary school program open and running. The Parks Foundation did assist in this as well. (Something to keep in mind when you are asked to donate to the Parks Foundation!)

    There are real tradeoffs involved in budget discussions, and sometimes good programs get cut– especially when the School District has to struggle to pay rising salary, benefits and pension costs. The next union contract will be very important, and parents need to realize there are real tradeoffs to be made. An increase in salaries will result in cuts elsewhere. There’s just not additional money to be found. Yes, an EIT would bring in more revenue, but that revenue should be carefully managed and not treated as “found” money available for salary increases. An EIT, if passed, will not result in long-term property tax decreases. The School Board could choose not to hike property taxes the year that the EIT passed, but there is nothing that would legally bind them from raising property taxes again and again and again in the future. And if you think the unions wouldn’t immediately target the new money brought in from an EIT as a funding source for benefits/salaries, you are naive. Public unions will naturally consume all available revenue. Unless you can show the union that the well is dry, they will ask for raises (even if nobody in the private sector is getting them) in line with the revenue increases.

    In fact, other school districts around the state are finding the union demands now equal exactly what the Act 1 index is every year. Many union members view the Act 1 index as their guaranteed raise amounts, and they don’t care that the actual costs to districts are higher (due to benefits, pensions and across the matrix moves).

    What will we do once the EIT revenue has been used up for new raises? There will be no magic bullets left to the School District when it comes time to balance a budget. And then we have program cuts as well as higher taxes. It’s lose-lose for the parents and taxpayers alike. Only the union wins in this scenario.

    [Reply]

    School Observer Reply:

    Well said.

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    A few thoughts late into this discussion.

    Any deferral of property tax increases through an EIT diversifies the tax base, reclaims money going outside T/E, introduces an automatic inflation adjustment into the revenue base and lowers the base level of property taxes, even if future increases to support more programs or higher prices and wages are required.

    If the next union contracts are written in a way that ties compensation to ability to pay (eg to total district personal and business income), then the fact that there may be a different revenue source should not affect compensation.

    Once the union total compensation is adjusted down (however that’s managed, maybe through benefits if wage adjustments are unconstitutional (!)) to some extent for the rampant growth over the last few contracts, then the Act 1 index, which reflects inflation, might not be a bad benchmark for compensation. Of course, if we keep the matrix, then compensation includes movement down and across it. If movement across the matrix is an argument for higher compensation, then the linkage to improved results would have to be demonstrated.

    Our negotiators should adhere firmly to positions like these.

    Jane Reply:

    They cut the program without telling anyone–not the kids, not the parents. Several parents I know would have gladly volunteered to chaperone. But no one knew the program was cut until this December, when kids showed up to a locked door on the first Saturday morning of Winter Rec season. It was sad.

    No letter was sent home to parents, no notice was given to the kids–to whom that open gym was a gift every Saturday morning.

    There needs to be more transparency where these cuts are concerned. Also, I am sure the parents of the kids who attended faithfully would have contributed say $10 a week to keep the program open for the kids.

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    *** There needs to be more transparency ***

    There is transparency — it is the school board and budget meetings. Notifications (i.e. flyers sent home) only add costs and added costs are the problem, not the solution.

    There is nothing from stopping those concerned parents from going to the school board now to offer a community or user-paid option for re-opening rec.

    It is complaining like this, without action, that makes people never want to serve.

    Jane Reply:

    A flyer sent home would add costs? What, $20? No, this was clearly swept under the rug. Transparency, my foot.

    If there any possibility at all of re-opening the program, the School Board should let us know. That way, working parents don’t put the time into rallying the troops just to be shut down at the meeting. My guess is the middle schools are making so much $$ off renting the gyms to other parties, that they wouldn’t even consider a user-paid option. Why let TESD students use their own gym on a Saturday when you can get $$ from some private basketball league? I mean, why do something good for the students who actually go to these schools in our District, right?

    Winter Rec Facts Reply:

    Jane-

    Mailing a flyer to all parents costs thousands of dollars.
    This type of situation is a key reason why the Electronic Bulletin Board was introduced. Winter rec information was placed on the Electronic Bulletin Board, in the Tredyffrin Township newsletters mailed to every resident, at the libraries, at the Township building and discussed at multiple school board meetings. (If you are an Easttown Resident, you wouldn’t have received the Tredyffrin Township newsletter about this. But that’s also because Easttown Residents benefit from Tredyffrin’s recreation programs even though they do not pay for them in their taxes.)

    It’s a shame that you didn’t see the news, but you seem to think that the only solution is for the school district to mail you a letter telling you about winter rec. Given the small number of students using middle school winter rec, do you think it would be a wise decision to use resources to send something in the mail? It’s definitely not environmentally friendly.

    The proper place to address this would be at a Board of Supervisors meeting or through the Recreation Department as Winter Rec is a Township program– not a School District program.

    Regarding your comments about the School District preferring money from a private basketball league, that’s just not accurate. If you read the policy on building use, you’ll find that a program in Winter Rec’s classification would receive preference over another program– even if the other program paid more. The School District does not make any money off of rentals in this category. It does, however, need to cover its costs.

    Some additional facts: the Parks Foundation stepped in to save Winter Rec for the elementary schools. Winter Rec for middle schools could not continue because the necessary fee would have been far more than $10 a student per session– even with Parks Foundation support. This is because fewer middle school students attended winter rec in 2010 than elementary school students. Would you have been willing to pay $20 or more per session for your middle school children to use the gym on Saturday?

    If you care so much about Winter Rec, perhaps it would make sense for you to contact someone on the Parks Foundation, Board of Supervisors or Park Board to discuss it and to volunteer your services. Perhaps you could help bring it back for next year? Wouldn’t that be more constructive?

  11. The teachers union needs a reality check…TE can’t operate the way it has in the past without a significantly different teachers contract. It is absurd to think that the kind of raises they have received and practically free healthcare benefits can continue in this economy. People in the private sector aren’t getting raises – and we pay about 40% or more of our healthcare insurance expenses. And if there aren’t some changes in this next teachers contract, then it probably won’t just be the winter recreation program that disappears. It is time to stop asking the taxpayers to fund 4% raises + additional raises due to steps on the matrix. Ray stated that some teachers received a 30% raise over three years – I am disgusted that the school board approved such a deal. It just isn’t fair to the taxpayers who are dealing with job losses and salary cuts. I’m one TE parent who is ready to deal with a strike if that is what it takes to get some balance.

    [Reply]

  12. it is impossible to predict a candidate’s chances of admission by looking at the academic record and test scores alone. Instead, the decision to admit a student hinges on the interplay of six main factors:

    1. The rigor of a candidate’s academic program
    2. Academic performance
    3. Letters of recommendation from teachers and a counselor
    4. Extracurricular activities and personal qualities
    5. The quality of thought and clarity of expression evident in a candidate’s personal statement/essay
    6. Standardized testing

    Students we accept haven’t just gone through the motions—they’ve put heart and soul into the areas that interest them. To be honest, students we do not admit usually have these qualities as well.

    I don’t think this applies to those big state schools, but for kids who have put their heart and soul into high school, the recommendation might just matter.

    By the way — here’s what harvard says:

    Secondary School Report and Mid-Year School Report
    Please give these forms to your school counselor or other school advisor and ask that the School Report form be completed and returned to our office as soon as possible. The Mid-Year Report should be returned in February with your latest grades.

    If you have attended more than one high school in the past two years, give a second copy of the School Report to your former counselor(s) or school official to complete.

    @@@@Two Teacher Evaluations @@@
    These evaluations must be completed by teachers in different academic subjects who know you well.

    [Reply]

  13. Here is a link about Neshaminy teachers

    http://www.phillyburbs.com/opinions/opinion_details/article/364/2010/november/05/work-to-contract-teachers-only-interest-self.html

    Ending Work to the Contract: (Please read what the union is asking for….vs. what the board is offering…)

    http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/courier_times/courier_times_news_details/article/28/2010/november/14/teachers-resuming-workload.html

    Another blogger post?
    http://www.woldow.com/articles/2010/11jan31.htm

    This is not about the details right now. But in response to the comment about “daring” teachers to work to the contract, it’s a fact that it is a key feature in many union stalemates….
    I have always railed against it too, because you cannot call yourself a “professional” and then suggest that unless you have a duty that is identified as contractual, you don’t do it. Collectively bargaining salary and benefits, along with working conditions, should not deteriorate into articulating each expectation. That’s the nature of being a professional. Note that Neshaminy has ended their work to the contract — which is traditionally aimed at getting parents to put pressure on boards.

    I presume the post above is to give us an example of why recommendations are important — they are — but it’s a tool of personal exchange with the kids. I’m not even willing to contemplate any of this happening here, but it’s important that the community be on board with what we are willing to pay. With the retirement of Kevin Mahoney and Debbie Bookstaber (Pattye posted that I believe), the reality is that our next election will be critical in electing people who can do this job — and for the community to have an understanding of what we want from the board. You cannot show up at the 11th house and expect to influence policy, nor can we just rant to each other here.
    Thoughts?

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Could not agree more. This year’s school board election is extremely important. Not that all school board elections are unimportant, but with the loss of Kevin Mahaney and Debbie Bookstaber, it is very important that we elect qualifid school board members who are prepared and willing to put in the time necessary to do the job. With teacher contract negotiations looming, the job of the school board members will be daunting. . . a position I do not envy. And yes our votes all count!

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    School Observer Reply:

    I cannot imagine us being underwhelmed….you clearly have high standards and are willing to smack even outgoing people for their ineffectiveness. Exactly what would make someone acceptable — someone that could get elected that is?

    [Reply]

  14. Kevin Grewell,

    Thank you for your explanation this morning (2/24 @ 9:25am) concerning the EIT under Act 511. See above.

    I hope everyone reads it.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Grewell Reply:

    John,

    You and I have disagreed on this one many times. I don’t mean to get into a long detailed argument again (that would be the fourth or fifth time we did that), BUT –

    Here are a couple things to point out. (as briefly as possible)

    1) The TSC discharged its strictly controlled limited mandate under the terms of Act 1 admirably. It did provide rationale for a PIT being more fair. Anyone interested can read the TSC report. The fact that you say it was flawed does not make it so and people can read it and decide for themselves.

    2) The PIT is broader and gets investment interest income. In T/E (particularly Easttown) there is a lot of “Unearned” income which an EIT would have missed. A higher tax rate would therefore be needed under the narrower EIT in order to fund the minimum mandated tax relief under Act 1 (or for that matter the maximum). A PIT could do it at a much lower rate.

    3) It is unfair for working families to pay the EIT while wealthy people with no “earned” income (as defined by PA law) escape paying anything at all. There were many people with lots of unearned income, and that is why the TSC thought the PIT was more fair. The board agreed. As for the “hijacking” of the process by the Republicans, you would think that they would have gone for an EIT to spare their rich, fat-cat Republican cronies.

    4) The opposition to ANY type of income tax was broad and overwhelming. People from all income, demographic and political persuasions opposed it. Very few favored it. BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES – TTRC and TT DEMS officially took positions AGAINST the Act 1 income tax. So much for the process being hijacked. By the way, the school board appointed the members of the TSC and accepted their recommendation WITH NO INPUT FROM THE TTRC. I was there, John, you were not. In fact, I don’t recall seeing you at any of the several public hearings on this. If you had been, you would have seen hundreds of your fellow citizens overwhelmingly opposed the income tax and would know that it was not a partisan political process.

    5) The tax relief possible was minimal and obviously the electorate did not think the benefits outweighed the risks of enacting an Act 1 income tax.

    6) The opposition was to ANY form of income tax, and the measure would have been defeated just as overwehlmingly if an EIT had been placed on the ballot.

    [Reply]

    School Observer Reply:

    Thanks to Kevin for articulating the background so well. Also thanks for pointing out the elephant in the room — that this community would NEVER vote for it in any way, shape or form. So JP thinks it;s flawed is moot. It’s a dead horse.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Grewell Reply:

    Thanks Libby.

    [Reply]

  15. John-

    You seems so willing to attack just about everyone in the township: the BOS, the current School Board, retired school board members like Pat and Andrea, the Tax Study Commission, the BAWG, etc. Is there anyone you don’t criticize? Does anyone live up to your standards?

    Your criticism of the Tax Study Commission is hollow and sometimes inaccurate. A PIT is not applied to pensions or social security. However, it is applied to investment income. Do you think it is fairer to recommend an EIT which hits everyone working (including renters and low income people) instead of a PIT (which would also be paid by people living off of their trust funds with $100k+ investment income)? The PIT seemed like a fairer choice to those studying the issue, and the Tax Study was a bipartisan commission. You might disagree, but perhaps you should stop questioning people’s motives. Kevin Grewell has explained the situation quite well in the comments here.

    But you don’t stop at the Tax Study, you also criticize the BAWG study. Here’s what I’m wondering John: why don’t you ever volunteer to be on one of these unpaid commissions? It seems like you love judging the reports and claiming assumptions “were not based on a shred of empirical evidence.” If only you’d been on the boards, I’m sure the reports would have been flawless.

    Regarding your comments about the school board members retiring, you just sound petty. You think the current board hasn’t accomplished anything? People from both the TTRC and TTDEMS would disagree with you. The current board isn’t responsible for the recession, but it has dealt with difficult budgets by increasing transparency, communicating with the public and involving the public in discussions about budget strategies.

    Yes…the current contract is bad, but you ignore factors such as the economic conditions at the time of the contract negotiations and state laws that limit school board negotiating power. Why not focus on making constructive comments about the next contract? Is it because you’re only interested in complaining about– but not improving– a situation?

    Both of the political parties have a difficult time recruiting candidates for the school board– an unpaid position requiring 10+ hours of work a week. With people like you in the community who are willing to complain but not to volunteer, it’s not surprising that so many candidates are not interested in serving. Seriously…talk to someone at the TTDEMs and TTRC about how difficult it is to get someone to agree to run. Ask them how many qualified financial experts or people with negotiating experience turn them down because of the time commitment and the negative tone of township politics. You contribute to that negative tone. What sane person would want to be subjected to the level of criticism you apply to people like Warren and EJ? So if you’re unhappy with the quality of people on our boards, you should know that you have contributed to it by discouraging people from volunteering.

    [Reply]

  16. Fourteen months ago, I made a choice to allow (and I encourage) people to comment on Community Matters. I permit those that comment to do so annonymously. However, I have requested and will do so again — please pick one avatar only, not multiple ones! It is confusing enough to the reader when there are those that choose to comment annonymously without the further complication of commentators having multiple personas on Community Matters.

    I apologize to the readers who follow this request and ask those of you using multiple avatars to immediately stop doing so. I know the people that are doing this and ask again that you please ‘play by the rules’.

    Thank you.

    [Reply]

  17. To Really John

    Thank you so much for your candid remarks, and for recognizing that people that might make a true contribution to local boards are simply no longer willing to take it on. When I was on the board, one of the finest board members would not run for another term because of some public concern that he had a conflict of interest — which was beyond ludicrous, but I certainly understood why he wouldn’t run again.

    Now we have two qualified board members who are not running again for reasons beyond criticism — two terms is plenty to serve as a board member — but I assure you that we have others that are running again because they are simply committed to the process and don’t want to see the seat abandoned.

    I gave serious consideration into whether or not I should offer to both the TTDems and the TTRC that I would run again – – but in the end I simply do not have the stamina to endure the process or the job. The reference to 10 hours a week is fine if you want to show up at meetings, but it’s more like 20, and could be beyond that given the next contract. I easily put in 20 hours a week during every negotiation we did. The “face to face” time is backed by twice that amount of time meeting with fellow board members to iron out the process and to identify objectives.

    Happily there is no seat running without an incumbent in my district so I don’t feel the need to “step up” — but Kevin and Debbie come from the same region — and both are very business savvy people. Another benefit to those two is that they care about the community, but I don’t believe they have a dog in the fight (no kids in the schools) during the next contract. You have to care about kids and the schools, NOT just your pocketbook, but if you have children in school, it is very, very difficult to detach your wish for a good educational experience for your child from the possible acrimony you encounter at the bargaining table.

    So please neighbors — we need to stop suggesting that “future board members” will do whatever….we need to find people who 1) have the time 2) are not conflicted by the mission and 3) care about the kids and the community. What else? Are willing to endure whatever it takes to run. My first campaign, I didn’t even have signs printed. Nowadays, they spend money on all kinds of materials. And for who, for what?

    [Reply]

  18. Andrea, and “Really John?” – thanks for the comments.

    You are both absolutely right that it is becoming ever more difficult to get good people to serve on the school board. Why would anyone want to put up with the time committment and aggrevation?

    The problem is not that people disagree with you and say so. We’re all big boys and girls and can take that. The problem is when some people (far too many these days) attack you personally – question your character, motivations, intelligence, etc., rather than presenting facts and logical arguments for a particular point of view. For too many, politics is the equivalent of war – and in war,the ends justify the means and the first casualty is the truth.

    In fact, the school board should not be “politics” at all. Even so, if people would keep it about facts and arguments based upon facts, it would be less difficult to get people to serve.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Well said. I would like to add that as difficult as serving on the school board (or the board of supervisors for that matter) may be — that assumes that you can make it through the torturous campaign process to actually serve! Extremely unpleasant experience.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    WHile it has absolutely nothing to do with the process of finding people to run, I would also like to add that serving on the school board, with a budget of over $100,000,000 is gratis. Not a dime for time or travel.

    Serving on the BOS, with an operating budget of about $22,000,000, compensates the supervisors at $3,000 a year.

    Maybe someone can explain to me how that tradition evolved? Is it state law? I know the supervisors scoff at the amount — at how little it is compared to their effort — but really, what’s the history? Demographics would suggest that school board members might be able to offset child care costs….

    [Reply]

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