Demotion of Professional Staff in T/E School District Remains Budget Option

Monday night was the Board of Supervisors Meeting and TESD Budget meeting.  I attended the BOS meeting and will offer a few thoughts in a later post.  Ray Clarke attended the school district meeting and offered his opinion on the evening which I provide below.

In reviewing Ray’s notes, I was pleased that it appears the elementary and middle school music programs are safe (at least at this time) from the budget ax.  Although certainly not a perfect solution, increasing class size of students by one or two students may be something that the parents (and teachers?) can live with versus some of the alternatives presented such as elimination of music programs.

However, the ‘demotion of professional staff for economic reasons’ could have potential to go in many different directions. Apparently there was discussion at the budget meeting which suggested the idea of ‘demoting’ higher paid full-time staff to part-time. Ray wonders if they are referring to PhD employees.

It may be legally possible but is it realistic to think that the school board would demote teachers with the longest service (and presumably highest salary)?   If we assume that the teachers with the longest service are the highest paid, surely the TEEA would step in and fight to protect those full-time positions. At the last finance committee meeting, there was discussion that perhaps there were individuals (for personal reasons) who would like to work part-time rather than full-time and might take advantage of this opportunity.  It was my understanding that the teachers union had mentioned this option to its members.

Ray’s notes reference the statement from the teachers union in regards to using the school district’s fund balance towards budget shortfall.  For the full statement from TEEA, click here.  An excerpt reads as follows:

The Tredyffrin Easttown School District maintains a $32 million fund balance, which equates to 26% of revenue. Most other school districts maintain a fund balance of 8% to 10%. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommends a fund balance no greater than 5%. We ask the question and we believe the taxpayers and parents should ask the question, ‘Why is this fund balance not being used to save programs and preserve the great, award-winning T/E School District?’ Why are District officials insisting they do not have the resources to protect these programs?

Ray Clarke’s remarks from last night’s budget meeting:

Some notes on the TESD budget meeting from my perspective …..

The TESD meeting was notable for airing out some new projections for 2012/13 (previously discussed in committees), but we are still some way from numbers that can be trusted, and even when we have them, it seems that they’ll still show a deficit.
Some highlights I noted:
– The current enrollment figures show a 3% decrease over the current year, but the expectation seems to be that the final figures will be higher, but smaller than projected back in October 2011. The net result being 3 fewer FTEs now needed in 2012/13, reducing the expense increase by $225,000. Some more detail of the assumptions on this would have helped.

- To recap on professional staff: Average years of service continues upward – now 11.7 years – and so does average salary – by year-end approx. $86,000. TTRC member Barbara Morosse tried to get the Board to own up to the fact that the approx 30% increase in average salary (my number) over the last four years is in fact a major contributor to the current budget problem, but of course we continued to get the litany (best articulated last night by Kris Graham) that lists all the issues outside the Board’s control. There was no update on contract negotiations, but Art O’Donnell read a list of corrections to a recent TEEA commentary.

- A few expense analysis comments:
a) Next year has a $1.65 million increase in teacher salaries deferred from this year, and this makes up most of the salary line increase; presumably the cost of increased FTEs are offset by a mix change due to 17 retirements.
b) It looks like the current prescription plan can be funded with no increase, rather than the 10% previously budgeted (saving $500,000).
c) It was announced that the transportation company waived their contracted 2% increase this year, but it looks like the budget assumes next year’s increase will make that up.
d) There is a $725,000 increase in interest expense next year, and apparently no opportunity to use the Fund Balance to pay down debt and save interest expense until 2015.
e) The administration has benchmarked legal and architectural rates and found them to be competitive.

- There’s an good-sounding budget strategy to replace special education services purchased from the CCIU with our own staff and save $200,000.
– Of course, strategies to address the remaining budget gap (after a projected 3.4% tax increase, let’s not forget) are now getting contentious.
Betsy Fadem came out strongly for tabling any consideration of:
a) reducing EDRs (although new hires are already paid less) (saving forgone $220,000)
b) eliminating ES and MS music lessons (savings forgone $375,000)

She [Fadem] carried the day on those. On the other hand, the Board did vote to further consider:
a) demoting higher paid staff (PhDs??) from FT to PT (saving $640,000)
b) increasing the class size by one (or maybe two??) (saving maybe $500,000, but the numbers not at all clear on this).

The first of these seems completely insane to me, but maybe they are trying to make points to the TEEA and to the community about their willingness to undertake the limited options allowed by state law. There was a very confusing discussion about the overlap of the retirements and the demotion strategy, so maybe I’m missing something. So it looks like they are still at least $1 million short of a balanced budget, and facing a TEEA that wants to get further compensation increases paid out of the Fund Balance, while it lasts. Dr Motel called for a thorough review of all non-mandated programs: art, music, kindergarten, transportation, etc.

Not a pretty picture.

96 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. Thanks for finding the TEEA statement, Pattye. Part of Art McDonnell’s (sorry for the late night “O” for “Mc” typo above!) rebuttal was to state that the Board has committed the Fund balance for post-retirement benefits, healthcare contingency and most notoriously PSERS. Which last they are taxing for through Exceptions.

    The problem with this incoherent Fund Balance policy is that it leaves the door wide open for anyone looking to fund (for a few years) their special interest, be it compensation increases, educational programs or whatever. The Board’s defensiveness about it does not help.

    [Reply]

  2. Pattye stated, “demoting higher paid staff (PhD’s) …. seems completely insane to me…”
    .
    This seems illogical only if one adheres to the belief that teachers with more degrees and with longer tenure are better educators. The data tells us that the best teachers are not necessarily the ones that have the most degrees, the most experience and the highest salaries. Therefore, if the district is trying to close the budget gap while affecting the fewest number of teachers and the fewest number of students, they would logically target the highest paid staff first.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Keith, to clarify, the quote is from Ray Clarke who attended the budget meeting.

    From my vantage point, I do not believe that longer tenure and the most degrees necessarily equates to the ‘best educators’. I think experience is a factor in a ‘good teacher’ but sometimes young, innovative teachers can engage students in a way that the more seasoned teachers may find challenging … such as creative uses of technology and social media. However, if the school district was to look at demotion of the highest paid, it stands to reason that those with the longer tenure would be higher on the list (based on salaries) than the new, young teacher. But before someone suggests that I am suggesting that the older, more experienced teacher cannot be a great teacher, that would not be true. Some of our daughter’s best teachers (especially in the younger grades) were those teachers that were older. Frankly, I learned much myself from those older, wiser teachers! I get that the district would have to demote less staff if they target the highest paid, it just would be much better if there was a way to handle the process based on the ‘quality’ of the teacher rather than salary.

    Keith, has UCF school district been forced to use ‘demotion’ to handle their budget?

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Hi Pattye,

    Thanks for the clarification.
    .
    Last year there was a demotion at UCF where several guidance counselors agreed to work 4 rather than 5 days. I believe it was a “friendly” demotion.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    “Targetting senior staff” is also a way to get the union’s attention. Those at the top of the pile being subject to demotion is much more likely to result in the PSEA being forced to look at alternatives, which right now they will not. After all — those with the most seniority are also likely to be those with the most influence (or at least the broadest influence).
    The essence of her comments in the Main LIne LIfe column from Cruikshank is that teachers may as well not try to improve their education because that might make them too expensive….clearly that is not a strategy the district believes, but certainly is a wake up call to those who think they’ve heard this song before.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I know full well that there is no proof that higher salaries and more degrees make better teachers. However, when you get down to the level of specific people in specific schools that you know had a big influence on your own children then the statistics don’t help.

    Last night’s discussion did go on from the PhDs to recognize that other levels also have high salaries. However, there was no information on how on earth the individuals would be targeted, beyond a hope that some might volunteer. Really? With a 2.5x multiplier on their pension?

    We want to keep the 21 (twenty one!) high school and middle school football coaches paid at their full grandfathered EDRs, but gut the high school science department? Really? (again).

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    I refer you to this past week’s Suburban where the meeting report from the Education Committee goes into the demotion strategy in some detail. It’s a sound strategy, but I have no doubt that it is a shot fired over the TEEA bow.

    The music option in the paper is pretty appealing considering the numbers it offers (there was some mention of much greater savings if the offering of strings in elementary school was curtailed.)

    http://mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2012/04/11/main_line_suburban_life/news/doc4f8563e25b6e2426400393.txt

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Thanks for the link. That’s a nice detailed write up from Alan, and does flesh out the demotion idea and highlight all the reasons why I thought it insane.

    Clearly replacing retiring full-time employees with part-timers is part of the equation, so there must be significant over-capacity if that could provide a meaningful part of the $640,000 savings.

    I think we agree on some of the underlying messages being sent with this discussion.

  3. Ray….I am part of the union and this statement “a TEEA that wants to get further compensation increases paid out of the Fund Balance” is not factual, but an opinion of yours.

    What I assume you are referring to is the statement on TEEA’s website about the proposed cuts in which it asks the question…”Why is the fund balanced not being considered to help save these programs?” (Referring to the music program)

    Here is the link: http://teeducationassociation.org/?cat=5
    …and the quote: “The Tredyffrin Easttown School District maintains a $32 million fund balance, which equates to 26% of revenue. Most other school districts maintain a fund balance of 8% to 10%. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommends a fund balance no greater than 5%. We ask the question and we believe the taxpayers and parents should ask the question, ‘Why is this fund balance not being used to save programs and preserve the great, award-winning T/E School District?’ Why are District officials insisting they do not have the resources to protect these programs?”

    The statement is not about our contract negotiations, but about saving the programs. Every teacher realizes there are budget problems and that it is not going to get better anytime soon. We know that we have to do our part to help, and we are going to. We know that our PSERS, salary increases, and medical insurance affect all of this, and we know that certain things need to and will change.

    Until you really know what is going on at the negotiations table and what the TEEA’s actual proposals are, you cannot make the statement that we are seeking further compensation increases from the fund balance. I know its stinks that the public does not have access to all of the proposals and meeting notes due to the nature of contract negotiations, but there is nothing that can be done about that right now….but in the meantime, speculating and presenting opinions as fact is not going to make anything better. I appreciate your reports from the meetings, but only those who are involved in the process know the full details (it stinks they can’t be shared now, but it will all come out eventually).

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Here’s the problem with using the fund balance to “save programs”: it is a finite amount of money, and when it’s gone the program has to be cut anyway.

    One way in which the fund balance could be used would be to pay down debt and reduce ongoing interest costs. By response to my question last night, we learned that there is no opportunity to do this until 2015.

    Another practical use would be to pay near term operating expenses that you know are going away long term. For example, if new union contracts phased in a significantly lower cost health plan over a couple of years, there could be a legitimate argument to fund the first year cost excess from the fund balance.

    The PSERS bulge is of course at some point going to recede and maybe a fraction of the fund balance could be released every year for the 20 years or so that is going to take. (Note, though, that the cumulative value of the bulge is nearer $100 million than $10 million). However, the Board also has the inconsistent approach of claiming the PSERS increase exception to raise taxes every year. If they can figure out a way to do both then maybe they can afford to replace the retiring elementary school music teacher.

    Another way to save programs is to lower their cost, and your commentary reflects an encouraging recognition of the dominant impact of total compensation rates on that equation.

    I’m not quite sure why discussions between two constituencies with the same interest in providing a quality education have to be secret. That encourages the speculation that you find to be a problem.

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    “I’m not quite sure why discussions between two constituencies with the same interest in providing a quality education have to be secret. That encourages the speculation that you find to be a problem.”

    –I agree with you. Right now, we just get general statements from both sides that do not provide enough detail to let the public truly know what is going on– which is why people have to try to read between the lines and speculate. It would be better if the public could see a straight forward non-biased report from each meeting with details on what was discussed and what was proposed by both sides. I often read articles or posts and think to myself, if these people were able to sit in on the meetings they might have a completely different opinion on the matter. I wish negotiations weren’t always so secretive–in my opinion, a more informed public leads to a more knowledgeable public which leads to a more understanding public.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    TE Teacher,
    .
    You make some excellent points on transparency. Taxpayers would like to know what’s going on and so would the teachers. (the rank and file teachers are in the dark, too) From the Sunshine Review:
    .
    Publishing contracts
    .
    Either the board or the union may legally publish its own or the other party’s proposed settlement terms at any time during the negotiating process, but neither party is required to do so. Advocates of greater transparency say that boards should publish their formal offers and unions should publish their formal demands at the outset of negotiations. It has been noted that this argument applies only to proposals of record. To encourage open discussion and exploration of possible compromise offers, face-to-face negotiations would continue to be conducted in private, without observers from the public or news media.
    .
    Opponents of this position characterize it as “negotiating in public.” They contend that early disclosure of bargaining positions will encourage political posturing and make compromises more difficult. They also suggest that the public already has ample opportunity to comment on school budgets as a whole and that it is unfair to focus attention solely on teacher salary and benefits.
    .
    Arguments for greater transparency
    .
    – Contracts with teacher unions account for about half of a district’s budget and strongly influence compensation levels for other classes of employees.
    – The negotiating period is the only time when informed public opinion can have any possible effect on the decisions of elected officials. A mandatory public comment period on a budget is an empty exercise if its size has already been largely determined by prior contract agreements.
    – These are multi-year contracts whose impacts cannot be understood by examination of any single year’s budget.
    – These contracts have long-term cost implications several times as large as those for building programs for which the law requires public hearings.
    – Early disclosure of each side’s proposed settlement terms would reduce the incentive to open with extreme proposals made merely for bargaining purposes. Rather than prolonging negotiations and making compromise more difficult, transparency would lead to more realistic proposals and narrow the range of disagreement early in the process.

    http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Pennsylvania_school_system#Transparency_issues_in_union_negotiations

    Township Reader Reply:

    Teacher:
    Any statement that suggests that the fund balance has anything to do with programs or the budget crisis simply is union speak. The fund balance is a savings account. Using it to pay anything but one-time expenses or as Ray suggested above is not an option.
    The PSERS has victimized us all, but there is one very obvious way that the TEEA can fix this problem and that is with health insurance. Health Insurance is meant to protect you against unmanageable health care costs. It is not meant to provide you with such low cost health care as to make the decision to go to a doctor a “no brainer”.

    The current TE contract calls for Personal Choice plan C1-F1-02. The cost to the employee FOR THE YEAR for this plan is a maximum of $1,020 for a family.

    The cost to the district for a family FOR A MONTH is $1,732.54 and includes the plan plus a 10/25/35 copay prescription plan and vision. And throw in $83 for dental. . Now, here’s the part you all do NOT understand: YOUR FAMILY DEDUCTIBLE in the network in this plan is ZERO. Your out of pocket maximum is ZERO. It has an unlimited lifetime maximum. Primary care visits are $10 and specialists are $20. Your emergency room co-pay is $25 IF you are not admitted. There is 100% coverage for in-hospital stays (after deductible, WHICH IS ZERO).
    SO I could list more, but here’s the reality:
    NO ONE gets this kind of benefit. This is FREE health care. Your exposure for a family is $1,020 a year and copayments for medications…100% skilled nursing facility, 100% private duty nursing, 100% mammogram.

    If I have a detail wrong here, please let me know. But THIS is the issue. The annual cost of this coverage (including prescription and vision) for an employee to the district for a family is $20,814.48 plus $988 for dental. For single, the cost is $8,332.80 and $359 for dental.

    This is not real. This is TE. This is insane. And until the PSEA and the teachers IN THIS UNION understand that free health care is NOT part of a tenured, pensioned career, we cannot go forward.

    So demotions will happen. If I were negotiating, every employee would get $7500 to buy benefits. That would not cover the cadillac plan for singles….but I assure you it would cover plenty of plans for people who see this as INSURANCE.

    Music or free immunizations?

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    If you read my statement before, I was not arguing about the impacts of any part of the current contract or suggesting that nothing needs to be changed… I was merely stating that the statement about “seeking further salary compensation” was an opinion, not a fact. I just was requesting that we separate the facts from the opinions, and that speculating is not going to help anything or make anyone feel better about these issues. Statements like “music or free immunizations” which I know are for impact, are extreme, and are comments that would be offered up on talk radio to be controversial and attention grabbing. That’s what I am saying there is no place for…I am saying that I wish everything was made available to the public so that every TE taxpayer can be included in the process.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    TE Teacher,

    I take every issue on it’s on merit and am not automatically against the teachers on every issue. However, township’s #’s present a dramatic case for major changes in the teacher’s heatlh ins plans. The community simply cannot afford this type of plan anymore. It IS costing the community a boatload of $ and, in part, does make it an either/or proposition. We cannot get around that. Sorry.

    township reader Reply:

    “Music or free immunizations” is not for impact. This is real Teacher. Your union has never been willing to discuss health care except to tweak a contribution here and there. The cost of the plan in place is not only unsustainable, it’s just not necessary. A ZERO deductible on a plan, and 100% coverage for hospitalizations has no place in health care. The problem is — teachers know nothing else, and the PSEA educates you about your being defenseless without them and that they “protect” you and “fight” for your rights. That’s the phrase of impact….protect/fight. I’ll be happy to produce a “white paper” on the benefits plans of a dozen regional companies and the teachers. Again, tenured, pensioned careers with free health care is too much of an anomaly to even find a comp outside the industry.

    MD Reply:

    The bigger issue here is that the cost of HC is completely and totally out of control. There a lot of reasons for that which include the endless ambulance chasing, lack of competition in the states and a HC beaurocracy that is not looking out for the bottom line. In the end, the consumer pays for all of this. That has nothing to do with the teachers. They should bear more of the cost. However, at the rate we are going with the increases, they won’t be able to afford it either. Some things MUST change that are above the teachers. However, the type of plan they have today needs to be altered and some risk sharing must happen. That stinks but it is reality.

    For the record, I am against the admin’s HC plan because it does almost 0 to control costs and doesn’t do a darn thing to address tort reform. I actually know someone who has 3 lawsuits outstanding against Dr’s and expects at least 2 to setle out of court. Trust me, this person looks to sue. Sadly, there are endless people like her. I do like the idea of Heath Ins, exchanges though. If they are run properly and are truly open, then that could help. Of course, when the gov gets involved things tend to be much different than billed.

    The teacher’s options are limited. Welcome to the 21st century. The parents (of which I am one – 2 girls in TE) will not be held hostage by the PSEA standard tactics. Those days are over.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    I am heartened that you understand things need to change. The math simply doesn’t work. If you really dig into it, the situation is downright frightening for most school districts. The pension is the real issue and the board can’t directly control that. The additional reserves are needed. The bomb is coming and it will be here very soon.

    Teachers are not the only ones who need to take the hit. All property owners are getting hit and the administration will have to sacrifice as well. It took a long time to get to this point and it will take a while to get out of it. The lesson for everyone (at every level of gov) is that you simply cannot get away without paying for things forever. The math has to work eventually.

    [Reply]

  4. Its no longer some other school district – it’s T/E.

    The music program may have been saved in the latest budget rounds, but for how long? Teacher layoffs now become the chicken-and-egg debate – is it the programs or the need for money to balance the budget. So here we are, wondering about class size – maybe its only 1 or 2 extra kids in a class in the 2012-13 budget but what about next year’s budget; will it be another 1 or 2 kids. Then we have this demotion of teachers — less teachers in charge of those extra 1 or 2 kids.

    I know that every other school district in Pennsylvania is facing similar budget dilemmas but as a T/E parent, it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to digest! Aren’t there any other options????

    [Reply]

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    I was elected to the board in 1999 on a platform of reducing class size, and had some success with that. But if I had it to do over again today, I would not even run – it would be impossible under today’s economic climate. I expect upwards pressure on class size, because over time there are significant dollars there. You are right that at some point it will impact the kids’ education.

    [Reply]

  5. I am amazed that the folks on the Board, (who claim to be intelligent and educated folks) can make a statement that they are considering “demotions of teachers for economic reasons” when they sit with a Fund Balance of 35 million and the township has not exhausted all of their revenue opportunities (EIT). This argument makes as much sense as does reducing the tax rate and then claiming “economic reasons” for the demotion of teachers.
    All the Board is doing is “politicking” and throwing up dust to excite some of the residents and hopefully protect their seats on the Board. I have seen nary a sole on the Board taking the stand that until all revenue avenues have been implemented then there can be no cuts in services to the community.
    Another question that needs to be asked is “What is the current MV of vacant land owned by the District?” Is the sale of some or all of this vacant real estate yet another revenue opportunity? We are THE T/E School District and we love our vacant land holdings.
    Please Board stop with the politics and address the issues like any other business would do.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    When I first read your post, I thought it was a joke. Honestly. Taxes ARE going up on the residents. That part of the equation is covered thank you very much. The fund balance needs to be maintained to deal with the nuclear bomb of pension funding that is right down the road. Unless you want to use it now to keep an insane healthcare plan in place. So later, draconian cuts will have to be made.

    The tax rate is NOT being reduced. Frankly, if the board could address the issues like any other business there would be HUGE changes and YOU would not like any of them.

    [Reply]

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    If the district could act like a business, we would not be in this mess now because the teachers would not have the benefits they now have – they would have been taken away a long time ago, or more likely would never have been granted to begin with. Which is why no one in the private sector has these kind of benefits . . . .

    [Reply]

    papadick Reply:

    Kevin — It takes TWO to Tango as well as to agree to a contract. Did you not approve a contract??

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    To Papadick – you are once again inconsistent. You are pro-teacher, right? (rather obvious from your comments). You should be happy about the contracts. But for the record (again) the only contract passed during my time on the board was 2004. I was not on the negotiating team, but I voted for it, as we all did. A very, very different time economically, and a reasonable contract at that time under the circumstances.

    For those on this blog who complain now (with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) about contract terms, I would point out that what is now contemplated – i.e., significant concessions on benefits – was not even remotely possible in 2004. Not in the cards at all. For one thing, the fund blalance was considerably larger then, and the collapse of the housing market and economic recession was not forseen or forseeable at that time. It may be possible to address benefits now, but that remains to be seen. It will take a lot more than a few people blogging on this site.

    We did what we could at the time, which was comprehensive review of all operations, and we made many efficiency cuts which would not affect the program. That effort resulted in many millions in savingsover the years – ongoing to this day.

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    A school district is not a “business” but a government entity, heavily regulated in what it can, and cannot do – in most cases it cannot act like a business. A couple of points:

    1) Sale of land – the district has an undeveloped parcel in Chesterbrook, and the former ESC site. Of course all options should be considered, BUT – enrollment growth or changes in state mandates (all day K, for example) could mean that the district will need those parcels for future school facilities construction. The closing of three elementaries and sale of two of them in the 1980’s turned out to be a costly error. Land parcels suitable for school sites in the distict have been extensively evlauated – and there are very, very few left. Acquiring land in the future (if we sell what we have now) would likely be very difficult and much, much more expensive.

    2) Use of fund balance. This only “kicks the can” down the road. It is not much when one looks at the projected liabilities such as PSERS. Using it as you suggest now would exhaust it in a few short years and then drastic cuts would need to be made anyway.

    3) EIT – a politically impossible issue. The Republican party in the last election threw a hissy fit at the mere appointment of an EIT tax study group. The campaign was extremely dishonest and misleading – (it was characterized as an initiative of Democratic board memebers and candidates only, when it was a full board vote and passed 7 to 2, and there were 6 Republicans on the board and the TTRC’s Region 1 candidate VOTED FOR the tax study, and it came out of Finance Committee run by a Republican). Unfortunately it was EFFECTIVE in intimidating the board into abandoning any idea of serious consideration of an EIT. In any event, under Act 1 of 2006, the board no longer has the authority to implement an EIT on its own, it must be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters – which is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY to pass – especially since we can expect more of the same behaviour from the Republicans.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Kevin – I agree on point 3. That was misleading. My wife was asked to be on the study group and declined.

    It is impossible to pass it. I would be for it if the EIT was to be expressely used for student programs and NOT for keeping an outdated cadillac health care plan in place. That, I know, is impossible as well.

    I would not want to be on the board these days. The math is just unreal. All sides are going to have to accept that. The PSEA is going to have to understand that as well. The days of holding parents hostage to get what you want are over.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Totally agree

    township reader Reply:

    Here’s the problem MD. Being on the board isn’t as hard as they have made it. This board leadership (minus Kevin M) have been around for a decade. They have ushered in many/most of these problems by kicking the can down the road and making too many decisions in executive session where they didn’t have to explain their decisions — simply had to get 5 votes to get there. CHV’s point about properties is spot on — they spent $5M on a football stadium renovation because they could — not because it was right. They bought homes and then lost their focus so they accomplished nothing and now own real estate. They knocked down the ESC and lost storage and have no solution for that. They hold onto parcels for future school use that they know are too small to build on, but they didn’t pursue some parcels they knew were ideal for school development because it would have taken political courage to lead that effort.
    They had a defined contribution program for administrators for health care, and instead of moving to that for the teachers, they backtracked and the administrators now have either a contribution (if they don’t need the plan) or the right to the teacher’s plan.
    Need I go on?
    This is not about blaming them….but I am kind of tired of hearing them complain about state mandates. The problems we face right now have been coming for a decade. The PSERS spikes have been forecast for so long it would be silly to see when they started ignoring them. Any year that expenditure increases exceeded the Act 1 limit was a step towards this problem.

    township reader Reply:

    Kevin
    “same behavior by republicans” means politics….we can always expect politics. Political courage means ideas lead the way — not signs. I know you remember the Act 34 hearing for the Conestoga renovation. I know you remember the Kids Count efforts to build a second high school. Where was the mandate to spend so much money on Teamer? Where was the mandate to buy the TEAO? People make decisions…some more scrutinized than others. The last election presented an opportunity to educate the community about revenue streams and assessment appeals. To blame peripheral Republican noise for the back tracking this board did about an EIT is to suggest that someone is intimidated by the thought of not being re-elected rather than the dedication to fixing the problems and getting the public on board.

    Pointing to the initial vote as validation that it was a bi-partisan effort is useless when none of the candidates — on either party — had the courage of convictions nor was willing to make a serious effort to explain the predicament. These are the same people who consider themselves clever right now letting administrators do the face to face negotiations. And using a well known negotiator who now gets paid to have the same discussions with the same opponent that have not been resolved in any district in the state that I know of.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    I agree the democratic response was disappointing, as was the response by republican board members and candidates alike. I think you know me well enough to know that I would not have tolerated a party boss putting something out under my name that I had not agreed to – especially something untrue or dishonest. I would have publically corrected the record and possibly have resigned as a candidate. As you know, I spoke at the act 34 hearing in favor of a single high school even though that angered some of my former supporters (class size people). And you are right that we will always have politics – but it never used to be this bad. I think this extremist partisan cool aid drinking is very bad for our kids and schools.

    township reader Reply:

    PPD:
    ” Demotion of teachers for economic reasons” is a reminder that while there are few things under current law that the district can do to cut costs, this is one. You cannot be serious that the fund balance has anything to do with keeping programs. IF revenues do not cover expenditures, you are in a hole. You cannot grab money to fill that hole, because you make the hole the next year even deeper. The politics is about the PSEA ignoring the reality of health care. Plain and simple. Look at your wife’s benefit plan and tell me you might consider changing to your company’s plan. (unless you are a teacher, we all know the answer)

    [Reply]

  6. Pay EIT like every other Pennsylvanian.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Write to the school board and cc the committies of both political parties. Now go get 500 like minded neighbors to do the same. Not sure 500 would do it – 1000 maybe. Be prepared to speak up at public meetings run candidates, donate money to candidates. Two or three years of that kind of effort might – just might – have a chance.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Even then, I think it would be a long shot. Plus, I don’t have confidence that it would be used correctly. I wonder when the state is going to get serious about pension reform?

    [Reply]

    Carla Williams Reply:

    If the School Board had voted to put the EIT on the ballot, it would be before the voters in next Tuesday’s primary. If passed at this time, in the midst of contract negotiations, the Board would have NO leverage. The millions of dollars of additional tax paid by local residents would go right into the pockets of the teachers, in the form of increased salaries and a continuation of their gold-plated benefits.

    Don’t you think the TEEA would “empty the coffers” to win passage? The signmakers and mailing houses sure would be happy.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    You are right that passing an eit just prior to contract negotiating would only make the negotiations more difficult for the school district. Also, I agree that the teachers’ union would do what it could to get the eit to pass. However, even with union backing the eit would face an uphill battle and would almost certainly be defeated. The local republican party did not create the opposition to an eit – only took advantage of anti-eit sentiment which already exists in our community. Opponents of an eit have nothing to worry about.

    township reader Reply:

    Easy indeed….and EIT takes approval. Just like the current national debate, you have to curtail spending before you look for more revenue — otherwise you’d simply see the same approach to the expanded (and unpredictable) revenue base. Adding an EIT is simply a way to TAX MORE. And yes — it’s not the board’s decision — but when given an opportunity to consider it, the D’s on the board and running ran and hid. The election last time was an opportunity to make revenue an issue — and they let the R’s co-opt the debate and ended up agreeing with them.

    [Reply]

  7. Kevin
    You have to add the Old Lanc RD property ( formerly 4 homes) & a lot next to Teamer Field on Conestoga RD.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    True – I was thinking of big dollars and school sized property. Market value on the ones you mention would not make much impact in the budget overall, but hey, everything should be looked at.

    [Reply]

  8. When I saw how many comments had been added since I included the health care information, I was excited to think that we are really talking about it.
    But alas — not true.
    Do you all understand that the teacher’s health plan has no deductible? That there is no 80/20 sharing of substanial costs? That there is NO cost except a copay for a visit or a prescription, except the contractual petty numbers at the start of the year.

    The $20K cost per family is far more than the PSERS percentage represents. It is 25% of the average salary.

    MD — you talked about costs and about litigation, but this is about a plan that is beyond affordable and is nothing like anyone I know has. I have several government friends and their plan (considered a gold standard) has 80/20 on everything after the deductibles are met. The teacher plan (shared by the administrators after a change in their defined contribution agreement a few years ago) is not even cost effective. It places NO burden on the user to consider whether or not to use the medical system.

    The suggestion that they should pay more is just silly — and belies the lack of understanding. The plan has to change….dramatically….and since the only negotiators at the table for TESD are all beneficiaries OF this plan, where does the leadership come from?

    [Reply]

  9. Township – I totally agree with your points on health care. I just didn’t want to repeat them. The larger issue though is even if they switch to a more realistic, reasonable health ins plan, the rising costs (3 to 4x the amount of inflation) will put us right back in the same situation in a few years. We need to reform at all levels. That was my point. Yours are valid and I though covered the issue thoroughly.

    [Reply]

  10. Risk sharing must be a key element of the new plan. My plan was changed from a PPO to a type of plan where the plan covers the first $700 in claims for my family, we pay the next $1200 (at contracted rates – NOT the rates the Docs try to submit) and then it reverts to 80/20 up to a certain limit (can’t recall) at which point 100% is covered.

    The deductibles are gone but you really have to think before going to a Doctor. My daughter was sick for 2 months and we are close to the $700 max now. I keep up to date now on-line. I am an engaged consumer. My premiums are around $1500 a year for family coverage. Preventive Medicine is covered without regard to the above. So Mammograms and physicals are covered in full and encouraged. I have a drug prescription plan where generics are highly encouraged. If you want a brand name you pay more.

    A well structured plan can still be of very high quality and effective. My guess is that the teacher’s are going to be in one of these plans.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Your plan is really not good.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    John
    If you think that is not a good plan, I question the broadness of your exposure to health care plans. And the plan is what the employer offers. Unlike PSEA, I imagine MD doesn’t have the right to negotiate a plan (though he can negotiate his compensation) and if MD didn’t like the terms, I don’t think striking (without any los off compensation) would be an option. The only solution to health care is an engaged consumer. Our plan with TESD has no incentive to rethink going to the Doctor.

    The details of a plan are whatever you negotiate — which is why negotiating a plan does not accomplish anything. Prices go up and are experiential. Like the pension reform idea, with a defined contribution, I would only negotiate how much the district will put towards health care either for each employee or for all employees — not differentiating by family etc. If the PSEA was willing to engage in heatlh care pricing by working with providers on behalf of an obviously much larger base, then each and every district could approach it the same way. The incentive to keep costs down would fall on the employee. Right now, I would bet that few employees have the first clue what their plan costs (since they don’t pay it) nor how their plan compares to other industries. Of course they reject an increase in a doctor co-pay from $10 to $15….but it would take 100 of those visits to cover the typical deductible in many plans.

    I repeat: This is a tenured, pensioned career. Free health care is simply not logical. The only way to control the costs of benefits is to have employees who care about the cost of treatments. With a plan with ZERO deductibles (no out of pocket maximum — but it’s hard to imagine how little a teacher could spend with the minor copays outlined), there is no incentive to do anything with the employee plan except to stay in network — and with the network being Blue Cross, it’s pretty hard NOT to stay in network in this community.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Kind of tough to read all of that into one short sentence. I didn’t blame MD for the plan they have. And I have seen a decent number of plans. I just don’t think that is a good plan. From a patient/member perspective when you are discouraged from using a primary doctor – in this case through economic means – it is not a good plan. Have I seen worse – yes but doesn’t make that plan any better in my opinion. If you view it strictly from a cost to employer perspective (and we don’t know what that is) it seems to be better – discourage use of Doctor and you discourage cost. You also “kick the can down the road” in terms of good sound healthcare.

    I’m curious where you have your knowledge of the negotiations that have been held. How do you know anyone rejected an increase in co-pay? How do you know that the co-pay a short time ago wasn’t higher? How do you know there hasn’t been some cost sharing already? Or that the teachers aren’t already prepared to have increase in cost in that aspect? Teachers know that this plan is good for them. Anyone would think that. And anyone would try to keep as much of this plan as possible if they were in the same place. Unless you think no one put up a fuss when their plans have changed in the past. Unfortunately for many of us we don’t have much we can do when our health plans change (depending on your position in a company). Although people haven’t always taken drastic cuts in plans quietly I think many of us are resigned to poor healthcare plans.

    flyersfan Reply:

    1500 dollars a year is cheap. for a family?

    [Reply]

  11. Actually, it is a decent plan. The days of the type plan the teacher’s have are going to go the way of the dinosaur and very, very soon.

    The community has had enough. No more holding the parents hostage. We are already making contingency plans.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    For a young single person who is relatively healthy it isn’t bad. But I don’t think any plan that discourage use of a primary doctor is good.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    John – the plan covers wellness visits (physicals, mammograms, colonoscopies, etc..) at a 100% rate that is not subject to the numbers I mentioned. It also reimburses gym memberships at a 50% clip. There is a heavy focus on wellness. Also, free smoking cessation therapy etc…

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Oh – so routine care is covered w/o cost? I misread that then. I thought that routine care was covered but applied to limits as described. I think when you wrote about having to be careful about Drs visits that was what you meant.

    I don’t like plans that are set to discourage primary care use. although there seems to be a lot of belief that if you allow open access to primary care people will overuse it I’ve not seen much in the way of study on that. There was a Canadian study that showed higher use for people with poor health – something like 70% of the people accounted for 10 or 20% of use but that there was a high correlation to the person’s overall health – meaning that people didn’t use healthcare system because it was there and easy to access but because they needed it.

  12. Again, I am saying that I understand that change will need to happen, but how are teachers “holding the parents” hostage. Four years ago when the contract was signed, the administration obviously agreed that the contract was fair when they signed it. If they felt it was unfair, they wouldn’t have negotiated it. The contract ran its course, and now that it is over, it is time to renegotiate. Obviously this time, the administration will not think that the same package is what’s best and negotiate a different plan.

    Also… don’t forget that many of your teachers are TE taxpayers and parents as well.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Teacher: It’s unfortunate that only one word is used to apply to the other side. A teacher is NOT the same as a member of the negotiating team. The PSEA holds parents hostage — and I assure you if they do not reach an agreement (if it’s true they won’t discuss benefits, they will not reach one), your bargaining unit will be asked to vote for a strike, and if you go on strike, you will be instructed to “work to the contract” when you come back. For students, that means no college recommendations, no office hours, and whatever else the PSEA tells you falls outside of what they believe you are legally obligated to do.

    IF the teachers at TESD were doing the negotiating (as they did in the 90s), the contract would be about what is best for the district. The PSEA has completely co-opted your independent thinking. The last two leaders of the TEEA have stepped down — I don’t think it’s because of the stress of their teaching jobs.

    Four years ago when the contract was signed, it was ratified by the board as a downpayment on labor peace. I’m not sure the board understood the true complexity based on some of the give-backs they have done over the past two contracts, but it was as fair as they believed they could get it without disrupting this community. And that’s what a strike does. Forever. There is no balance of power in negotiating with the teacher’s union. You really need to understand that and believe it. “Fight” and “Protect” are the verbs in play. And when I say teachers’ union, I don’t mean TE teachers. I mean the mouthpieces you all allow the PSEA to dictate the terms through. The transparency you want is not available to you. Look at the teachers who are in negotiations and it will be their priorities that survive — along with the PSEA mandates.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Teacher – I was referring to the union. The “we will see what the parents think at contract time” approach to the negotiations is a strategy that won’t work any longer. In the past, the parents would apply immense pressure to the board to get something done.

    Now, many are willing to see it through. Township is right. Things have to dramatically change.

    As for my plan not being good, that is not true. $1500 is extremely reasonable for a family plan. I suspect Flyers fan may be single. It is much, much less for single people. I think there premium is around $400 per year. That is OK. I have 5 people in the plan now and I should pay more.

    [Reply]

  13. I know that I currently have very good health care, Township Reader, although you did not get all of your facts correct. (i.e., my co-pay is $100 for an ER visit) . I know that the reality is that it will need to change. I’m ok with that. But ask the School Board what they offered me and my family ( or did not offer). If we could just negotiate a responsible health insurance plan to save costs, maybe the staff demotions could be taken off the table. Since I am not at liberty to further explain, please, just ask the school board about THEIR offer for my family’s health coverage (or not).

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    Two comments:
    John asked how I know. The same way “another TEEA member knows.” Been there, done that.

    Another TEEA member: I’m not saying this board is doing it any better than the teachers. It’s the problem with negotiating plans. They should negotiate a contribution — and let your mighty PSEA negotiate terms with Blue Cross on behalf of a larger base.

    Elsewhere someone asked how I know about copays etc. — every detail of the contract health plan is IN the contract every time it’s negotiated. Contracts are public information.

    I apologize for the $100 ER reference/error. The PC 215 alternative plan has the $25 ER fee. That’s an alternative plan you all can also have (with different upfront cost)

    And MD — don’t defend your plan. I have access to health care information for several companies, and $1500 a year is almost free to you. Your employer clearly subsidizes a lot — but expects you to make medical decisions. My issue with the TEEA plan is that it leaves few decisions to the consumer — treating preventative care the same way all medical care is treated….at the taxpayer’s cost. PSEA has one perspective, and the board has one perspective. Taxpayers have exposure to many, many other plans and we know this one is not smart or cost effective or the purpose of INSURANCE. It is NOT health care.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TEEA: — Why don’t you tell us what the union offered…or what the board offered? No one is bound to secrecy.

    [Reply]

  14. Maybe some insight into the demotion idea: One of the negotiators on the TEEA group is a PhD on the last step at the high school. $110,900 salary. Has only been in the district since 2000.

    The combined salaries of the 7 negotiators is at least $612,060 . At the start of the 2008-2012 contract, their salaries (presuming they are on the same educational level) was at most $493,140 (that was the first salary on this contract.) The increase is obvious. The union president had the largest dollar increase (educational level presumed to stay the same) during this contract. I point this out because I think they have done well, but based on the representation on the committee, I believe they expect to continue to do so.

    [Reply]

    TE Professional Reply:

    May I ask what insight your comment offers? By stating the combined salaries of the negotiating team, and how they have increased over the course of the last contract, you seem to be suggesting that the teachers on the negotiating team are motivated by their own monetary interests and are thus acting accordingly.

    If this is your intent (and I apologize if it is not), then I have to take issue with your comment.

    First, the logic doesn’t follow. Since the teachers on the negotiating team are the ones with more experience, then of course their salaries would be higher. That just makes sense. In other words, they are not on the negotiating team in order to negotiate higher salaries for themselves; they are on the team because they have more experienced (and thus have the corresponding salary).

    Second, if this is your assertion, then I cannot help be offended by it. The identities of the teachers on the negotiating team are clearly indicated on the association’s website. By suggesting that these teachers are motivated in any way by greed is to tarnish their reputations and attack their character. I know these teachers. And they are among the most professional, hard-working, and unselfish people I know. Ask anyone who knows them. What you’ve suggested is simply not how they think; in fact, it’s not how any teacher that I know of thinks. They, along with the officers, work for the association because they are passionate teachers and care deeply about this profession.

    Finally, regarding your observation that the PhD on the team “has only been in the district since 2000.” I’m not sure what you intended to imply by that. Twelve years of dedicated service to the school district is no small matter. Twelve years is no small matter in any district, especially when you consider that 50% of teachers leave the profession or switch schools within the first five years. In fact, if you look at private industry, you’d be hard-pressed to find employees that stay with the same company for that extended period of time. Now, you may argue that teachers have little incentive to leave because of alleged union protections. Again, the teacher attrition rate despite such protections negates that argument. Teachers who continue in the profession do so because they are both talented and committed.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Professional:
    I think you read it right though certainly deeper than I expected. The reference to the “in the district since 2000″ is neither denegrating nor important, just information. He is at the final step — but started his career elsewhere obviously. So he moved to TE. And his step and level clearly put him in the “target” of the demotion strategy if there really is one.
    There is another member of the committee on the final step whose raises over the past 3 years are less than any single raise of the PhD on step 16. the others.
    In context, the point I make is that only younger teachers will be motivated to get off status-quo (their big jumps are in their future) , and that the bulk of the negotiating comittee has comparatively little to gain. Retaining the health care plan is likely to be far more important to those further into their careers.
    Let me also say that I have done negotiations and my observations are anecdotal, but consistent. The composition of the bargaining group always is reflected in the give and take of the union offers.
    Your reference to statistics about attrition are outdated. Tenure comes after the 3rd year which is why people wait until after that to switch districts (if they do) because tenure applies in the state.

    I admire teachers more than you can imagine. I abhor the fact that a group of professionals allow secret information to be offered on their behalf without any chance of repudiation. “Card Check” is legislation that is meant to indimidate people out of voting no to a union — as are voice votes of ratification and other options.

    I will be the first to congratulate the TEEA if they genuinely understand that they are the only group that can solve the revenue and budget problems in TESD. Residents out of work, or living in homes that won’t sell, or in major debt for student loans — we cannot do anything to change the facts. The TEEA offering savings is a meaningless gesture — they have to offer solutions. Savings just aren’t going to cut it.
    I haven’t done the matrix math, but here’s what I would suggest: $8,000 to every employee for benefits, and a joint committee to work with Blue Cross to develop options that would cover. Larger deductibles and co-pays would go a long way for premium reduction.

    Retain the current salary schedule — NO CHANGES — and add 3 steps (I know PSEA wants 10 steps). Freeze at the current step for the first year of the contract, and then use the existing schedule to advance. If I had done the matrix math, I would know if that would cost too much. If it does, then I would suggest spending longer periods of time on each step. But I wouldn’t renegotiate the numbers. You never sold anything with that. I would add steps at the end so that the last step people would not have a wage freeze forever, but they would be small raises as I believe 2.5% onto your pension is adequate compensation for another year of work.
    That’s my offer. What’s yours?

    [Reply]

  15. When our teachers, custodians, parents and children are making sacrifices isn’t it time that the top administrators made sacrifices too! Starting with our top PhD – Dr. Dan Waters!

    Dr. Water’s (with a salary well above $200,000) had his children’s college tuition paid for via his salary/contract. Every year $35,000 was placed in a fund to be used to defray the cost of post-secondary education for Waters’ family members. Correct me if I am wrong regarding any of this. He still gets the $35,000 perk in his salary even though his children have finished their post secondary education. I believe the perk has morphed into #3 under Compensation in his contract. The perk was reworded since his children have all completed their post-secondary education and it can’t be taken out of his contract. (link to Dr. Water’s contract) http://www.tesd.net/cms/lib/PA01001259/Centricity/Domain/42/superintendent_contract.pdf. I have read that once it is in the contract it can’t be taken out and it was a mistake made by a previous TE school board that can not be undone. Funny how other contracted employees are willing to take a pay freeze, pay cut and deferred pay raises even though they have a contract. Why can’t Dr. Water’s join in?

    Dr. Waters has a retention bonus of $5000 for every year of service payable upon his retirement (#4 under Compensation). This bonus is calculated in the final year of service so it can be added into his pension calculation. How nice is that?!

    Our maintenance staff has taken a pay cut so that they would not lose their jobs. Principals took a pay freeze. Our teachers deferred salary raises (i.e. did not take their contracted raise money for the 1st half of the year and will never get that money) to help the cause. Parents donate their time and money to our schools. Children sacrifice class size and instruction that has been cut already. Maybe it’s time for Dr. Waters to step up to the plate! OR since he is a DR. maybe it is time for him to be demoted!

    Below in and except for Mainline Media News article March 4, 2009. The link for the full article is at the very bottom.
    Tredyffrin/Easttown School District

    On April 19, 1999, a majority of the members of the Tredyffrin/Easttown Board of School Directors voted to appoint Dr. Daniel E. Waters as superintendent of schools of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.
    On March 28, 2005, a majority of the members of the board voted to reappoint him for a term ending Dec. 28, 2010.
    Waters in 2005 got a base salary of $185,000. The school district provided documents showing that the school board approved amendments to his contract every year to 2008 that incrementally increased his salary.
    In January 2008 his base salary was up to $224,515.
    In addition to the salary amount set forth above for each contract year, the district expends an amount of money equal to 15 percent of his salary from which his benefits are purchased. The amount expended for the plans chosen by Waters is deducted from the aforementioned 15 percent of his base salary, according to the contract.
    Also, every year $35,000 is placed in a fund to be used to defray the cost of post-secondary education for Waters’ family members.
    Lastly the school district provides “a late-model, four-wheel-drive utility vehicle” for the “exclusive business and family use” of Waters. The district will provide for or reimburse him for all expenses “relating to the operation of this automobile including gasoline, lubricants, repairs, maintenance and liability and property-damage insurance,” the employment agreement states.
    http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2009/03/04/main_line_suburban_life/news/doc49aec39a63b07163665349.txt?viewmode=fullstory

    [Reply]

    Squeeze Reply:

    WOW

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Linda,

    Wow! I don’t begrudge the man the money he makes (as long as the results justify it) but the “extras” are beyond obscene. That needs to end. It is completely unacceptable. Thanks for pointing that out.

    There really is savings everywhere that can be had without sacrificing the education of our children. Not to be crass but it will take a few people with ba++s to accomplish it.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Yea, Im ticked off at this.. College fund? Gimme a freakin break. My opinion.. hes not that valuable. NEXT!

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    Linda: I appreciate your bringing information to the debate. So much better to deal with that than opinions.

    But I have a fly for your ointment. Dr. Waters operates in the free market. He is not tenured. He serves at the pleasure of the board. His compensation is market driven. The decision to give him a retention bonus is clearly an effort to retain him. I know I have posted here in the past about local superintendents and their lack of texperience and their escalating salaries simply based on the fact that the market is so tight. You can only be a Superintendent with specific credentials. So unlike teachers, he has no “job security” and he can be removed. Also unlike teachers, he can only use his own performance to generate a positive job review.

    As to the $35K tuition piece. Dr. Waters has one child who has long finished college. Perhaps it’s fair to ask the then “financial guy” former board member Kevin Mahoney where the idea came to fund that tuition, as it strongly correlates the benefit of doctors at the Univ. Of Penn Health system (where he practices his numbers management). The plan to do that, I believe, was poorly conceived, as the board either didn’t know or didn’t care that the PA constitution would not allow the benefit to be taken away once the tuition was over.

    When Dr. Foot was superintendent, the board went to extensive legal efforts to find a way to implement defined contributions for administrators rather than offer defined benefits. Instead of insurance, they were given a fixed percentage of salary up to a maximum to make consumer-purchase decisions about what benefits they needed. They were able to put unused monies into something similar to a 401K. Since many in education are married to others in the same field, it was a savings vs. a health care plan for the district, and a way to accumulate retirement for administrators. Administrators do not negotiate — they do a “meet and discuss” with the board, and always have the option to return to the classroom (Dr. Waters does not have that option). Additionally, all professional staff are entitled to sabbatticls every few years (I no longer know that number, but 7 may be it). The retention bonuses are designed to reward the administrator for not taking that benefit. (full year off at half salary with full benefits). The disruption to the district were an administrator to take eligible sab. leaves is obvious — as they would be entitled to return to their position.

    As to Dr. Waters: he’s a free agent. And I believe he has accepted (at his suggestion) a wage freeze for at least the past 3 years if not longer. While the “extras” may sound “obscene” — I refer you to the contracts of superintendents all over PA. I have many of them and I can assure you his contract is not unusual. And I can also assure you one thing about Dr. Waters: he has been the beneficiary of board largesse, not someone who negotiated for more. He bleeds TE PRoud. If he didn’t care so much about this district, he would have headed out years ago, especially after his son finished college. His pension and his teacher-wife’s pensions will be more than comfortable. He works because he cares.

    So — let’s refocus on the problems we have, not the problems of the past. MD — the hope for a few people with the will to accomplish this is a dream. We don’t require that of our candidates, and we certainly don’t offer help. The education committee meeting last week to discuss the demotion idea was basically to an empty room. No one pays any attention to these issues until they are in crisis mode. And for the board at this point, it is what it is: a mess much of their making, but largely driven by state mandates and state limits on changes going forward.

    [Reply]

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    Township Reader, you are righ on point here. The compensation package for Dr. Waters needs to be evaluated in full context. One concern while I was on the board was the risk of losing Dr. Waters to another district – he was attractive because of the success of T/E, consistently among the top few districts in the state in every way. We knew he was very T/E proud, and would probably not leave unless the inducement was great, but still we were concerned and wanted to keep his compensation competitive. A search for a new superintendent is very costly and disruptive to the program. If you look at the “going rate” for other districts in Pennsylvania and especially comparable districts, his package is not very far out of line. Believe it or not, there is a shortage of administrators in Pennsylvania.

    I know Dan Waters to be extremely hard working and effective – I can attest that during the yeard I was on the board, he was typically on site before 7 AM and two or more (often more) nights a week he was at board committee meetings until 9 or 10 PM or even later. How do I know? I was at those meetings! Also, consider the size of the operation – 6000 kids, 8 buildings, over 450 teachers and 340 or so non-instructional staff, 28 administrators and an annual budget of well over $100,000,000.

    [Reply]

    Squeeze Reply:

    This is an honest question…what does the superintendent truly do? what direct impact do they have on the students and their success?

  16. All this talk about the health care stuff is great, but it’s arguing about what is essentially pennies. Everyone knows the health care plan will change and that the TEEA will have to pay more than they do now, but at the end of the day, the problem of funding will not have changed.

    It’s almost laughable that we’re talking about being able to use economic distress to move ahead with demotions. Who really believes that we’re going to be able to show TESD is in economic distress? We have one of the highest reserve funds in the state, we are one of the least taxed districts in the state (TESD even shows on their own website that we’re 468 out of 500 school districts in terms of tax rates), so how is that going to hold up? Let’s face it, we lived off the property transfer tax for too long – we didn’t raise taxes back when times were flush and now that the transfer tax gravy train has left the building we’re basically out of revenue options – we need to pay more and obviously we can. There’s no gross receipts tax in this district and there’s no EIT – the number of districts with neither of those are few and far between. The economic distress option for demotions won’t apply here – sure, it’s great to rattle the saber, but the law isn’t on our side here .

    With that said, we need to realize it’s going to be a slow slog going forward – demotions for existing staff isn’t going to fly, so we’ll need to just wait for retirees and backfill those positions with part time people. It won’t be a great selling point for this district that we’re basically going with a part time staff, but since we eschew any revenue increases (again, look at the website, we’re basically assuming no revenue increases from local sources and actually anticipating lower revenue) that will be the district that we get. I can’t imagine the TEEA will strike this time – they have to realize they probably won’t have a new contract for years, just like some other districts have done, so going out to strike for 3 weeks isn’t going to do anything but anger people. And they’ll have that selling point at the bargaining table that every year they didn’t get a raise. I see deadlock for a long time here.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    They may NOT want a new contract. They might just be very happy under this one for the next few years.

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    So let me get this straight. You are against reform of the hc package because it is only accounts for pennies, against demotions and for tax increases. Township is correct – it is about more than the teacher’s (and admin) just paying more. It is about structurally changing the way the benefit is delievered.

    As for tax increases, my school taxes increase every single year and will do so again this year. We do NOT have a taxation problem. We have a massive spending problem that has gone unaddressed for a long time. That time is now. The citizens won’t stand for being bled for more. We are giving more than enough.

    The waste in the district is obvious. Many things can be done to right the ship, or at least get it headed in the right direction, without sacrificing the education of our kids. Honestly, your way of thinking is the old way. That won’t work anymore.

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    TE Observer: I agree with your final paragraph, but disagree with your assertion that health care is pennies. The employees in our district are paid on a salary schedule with raises for longevity and education. They are not paid differently if they are married or single or with or without children. And yet — their health care plan is. So a single teacher gets an $8K health care plan, and a married with family teacher gets a $20K plan. We are talking about $12K savings for every family payer to have to either pay the difference or find a more affordable plan. Comparable savings exist for H/W and Employee/Children plans.
    So — status quo — not settling this contract, will barely hurt the teachers compared to the taxpayers.

    So we have to stop saying health care (by the way — it’s insurance, not health care) is pennies. It’s only pennies if we follow the same lame path.

    I hope you are right about TEEA not striking — because it would be stupid. But I am pretty sure PSEA will insist they work to the contract …. and that’s where the fight will begin. Teachers call themselves professionals, but “working to the contract” shatters that myth. I hope we don’t get to see that.

    [Reply]

    TE Observer Reply:

    You and MD are missing the point (and really, where did MD assume I don’t want to change the plan?). Yes, we save money by adjusting the health care plan, and sure, it’s more than pennies. And yes, it does need to change and I’m sure it will.

    The problem is, after we change it, we still end up in a situation where we are now where we can’t afford everything we have (well, we can afford it, we just don’t want to afford it). So let’s not pretend the only thing out there causing this budget shortfall is a generous benefit package.

    But let’s also be honest, any approach that doesn’t solve the issues we have on the revenue side is an approach that is ultimately doomed to fail. We can blame the teachers and the past boards for all the past contracts, but we still have people on these boards claiming we’re tapped out taxwise when all the data shows that our tax rate is among the smallest in the state despite the amount of wealth in this district. And that’s where the demotion idea, based on economic hardship – is patently absurd and untenable. We grandfather in EDR’s for sports coaches and yet we’re going to take long time teachers or highly qualified ones and in essence run them out of their job?

    Like I said, I strongly doubt that this district will win a fight to claim the economic hardship loophole in the law – not while we have one of the biggest reserve funds in the state, not while our taxes are among the lowest in the state (lack of an EIT again), and not while there are tons of other, non-mandated spending throughout the district. It’s not encouraging that the board is basically trying to fire a shot across the bow with talk of demotions when they know full well they don’t have the legal leg to stand on in that fight. And we’re not any better when we nod our heads in tacit agreement with them.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Observer:
    “Yes it does need to change and I’m sure it will.”

    What do you base that on? If we do not have a settled contract, we continue under status-quo. So nothing changes.

    Your reference to our low tax rate ignores the reality that the state sets the tax rate. The board needs approval to exceed it. Taxpayer approval. We can talk all we want about the fund balance, but a $15M bond was issued in the past 5 years and we didn’t build anything. So our reserves are propped up by debt, and are completely “escrowed” for future spikes in PSERS and retirement costs of administrators.

    You want us to restructure the revenue, but that is not going to happen in this current climate. You say we’ll have to wait until retirements create openings for less expensive alternatives, but that’s what demotions do. Winning that debate will be unlikely I understand, but it’s wrong to say we are not in economic freefall, and demotions may be one way to stem the tide. After all, we aren’t allowed to just reduce our staff. We cannot dictate schedules or provide alternatives to in-class instruction. Any suggestions how this will end?

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    TE Observer,
    .
    I think you have misinterpreted the law with respect to demotions. There is no need to prove “economic hardship” to justify a demotion. The school board has broad latitude to justify demotions. Examples of valid reasons for demotions from court cases:
    .
    1. The District faced a budgetary shortfall in the spring of 1996. The demotions of the Petitioners were motivated by the economic need to balance the District’s budget which was achieved, in part, through a reduction in costs.
    http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/document/914856/berman,_mark%3B_et_al__v__sd_of_philadelphia_(tta_03-97)_pdf
    .
    2. During the 1991-1992 school year, Meck was scheduled to teach four separate classes. However, due to declining student enrollment in Meck’s courses, these classes were consolidated into two classes of two periods each for a total of four periods per day. At its regular meeting of July 18, 1991, the School Board adopted a resolution “demoting” 1 Meck from a full-time to a 70% schedule for the 1991-1992 school year pursuant to Section 1147 of the Code
    http://www.bucknell.edu/x9798.xml
    .
    3. In April of 1989, Middle Bucks established guidelines providing for a minimum enrollment of 22 students in order to maintain a course full-time, with less enrollment, the course would be offered only half-time. Because of declining enrollment for the 1990-91 school year, Middle Bucks reclassified several full-time courses as half-time, including masonry, and dropped two half- time courses completely…….. …
    http://www.bucknell.edu/x9795.xml

    Demotions are presumptively valid and an employee seeking to overturn a demotion has the heavy burden of proving the action was arbitrary, discriminatory or founded on improper considerations.

    Township Reader Reply:

    “It’s almost laughable that we’re talking about being able to use economic distress to move ahead with demotions. Who really believes that we’re going to be able to show TESD is in economic distress?”

    It’s actually sad that you believe the numbers do not indicate that, again turning to the “law” and the countless limitations to damage the ability of our district to provide an education. If it’s only saber rattling, we are all losers.
    The teachers grieved distance learning — they grieved teaching extra periods — and they can refuse any changes in health care. Not renegotiate — REFUSE. The reserve is pennies and the equilvalent of sticking a thumb in the dike. And the right to increase taxes to cover contractual expenditures is not given to local control.
    So I appreciate the saber rattling. I read what you write and recognize what the PSEA knows well — they have all the cards and all the power and districts can just eventually give it up — and then convince themselves (like the settlements in this region over the past few years) that they have done more than delay the explosion.

    [Reply]

  17. Too furious a fusillade here for me to keep track.

    But there’s an important post from Keith that relates to what I think was one of Pattye’s motivations for CM in the first place: transparency.

    We’d do much less wheel spinning and tax rate worrying if we knew what was going on, in general terms, in the negotiations for 70% of the district’s expenditures.

    I like Keith’s quote enough to reproduce it here and send it to the School Board. It would be great if others could do the same.

    “Arguments for greater transparency:
    .
    – Contracts with teacher unions account for about half of a district’s budget and strongly influence compensation levels for other classes of employees.
    – The negotiating period is the only time when informed public opinion can have any possible effect on the decisions of elected officials. A mandatory public comment period on a budget is an empty exercise if its size has already been largely determined by prior contract agreements.
    – These are multi-year contracts whose impacts cannot be understood by examination of any single year’s budget.
    – These contracts have long-term cost implications several times as large as those for building programs for which the law requires public hearings.
    – Early disclosure of each side’s proposed settlement terms would reduce the incentive to open with extreme proposals made merely for bargaining purposes. Rather than prolonging negotiations and making compromise more difficult, transparency would lead to more realistic proposals and narrow the range of disagreement early in the process.”

    [Reply]

  18. Riddle me this. Why is TE the only Main Line school district considering demotions? In fact, even school districts like Coatesville and Chester Upland are not considering demotions. Why is TE pretending to be poor? No one is saying that there are not financial difficulties. But for TE to be claiming to be destitute is absolutely ridiculous.

    Also, I think every TE taxpayer should be worried when the headline in the Main Line Times says that TE is getting rid of Phds. Who will want to move to a district where the school board president and the superintendent are saying that education doesn’t matter for teachers. Absolutely astounding!!!

    People are going to start moving to Great Valley where the parents have banded together to raise $250k to save programs. TE property values are going to crash because short sighted decisions are being made now.

    Wake up TE taxpayers! Because you don’t want to pay an extra $50 per year you are going to lose your school district, your community, and your property values. But you can celebrate your governor’s allegiance to Grover Nordquist, no taxes and the free market.

    [Reply]

  19. Unless they open up the negotiations, we have no idea whether this is a real strategy or a threat. The board has ZERO recourse in this problem. They cannot furlough for economic reasons, they cannot change the health care plan, they cannot outsource some course work…..

    And this is not about what people want to pay. In some odd way, that’s how it feels — but the reality is that the system forces expenditure changes because you cannot influence revenue directly.

    But I agree. The noise you are hearing is because TE is negotiating, and I don’t think the PSEA is willing to move on much because we are such a visible district. This isn’t about holding the line on taxes. This is about how much you can tax. What would be your suggestion? What decisions do you advise? I’m always interested when someone complains about what is happening but has no suggestions?

    [Reply]

  20. I am pleased to read that there are some readers that understand the revenue and expense as well as Assets on the books when looking at “Financial Distress”. It s not only the Fund balance that should be at issue but also the vacant Real Estate that could be sold. I see that Grewell has again changed his argument on the Chesterbrook and ESC properties — but awhile ago he was saying the Chesterbrrok property was inadequate for the Administration facility let alone a educational facility. And why did we buy the properties next to the middle school??? Get rid of these and make them income producing with property tax revenues.

    I agree that the negotiations are controlled by the state union offices and the health care discussion would be resolvable if left to the local teachers and a rational Board.

    As to the compensation package for the Superintendent — it goes way beyond the 35.000 for educational expenses. With a base salary of 225,000 the Board felt that he could not afford to make his share of the PSERS contribution (7.5%) so we as taxpayers also pay his share. And we provide an automobile and pay all expenses including insurance gas repairs, inspections etc. A compensation package that nears 350,000. All granted by the Board, presumably without his even asking.

    So let us all raise our voices and demand demotions, increased class sizes, part time teachers rather that loyal FTE’s and watch the District fall further down the list of testing results.

    [Reply]

    kevin Grewell Reply:

    Papadick – long time readers of this blog will know the history between us. Here we go again – I never said the Chesterbrook site was inadequate for an administrative facility or a school site. That is totally false. I have said all along that parcels of land (including the LAND on the former ESC site) should be kept OPEN FOR POSSIBLE USE AS FUTURE SCHOOL FACILITIES in the event of mandate changes such as all day kindergarten or need for additional schools for enrollment growth. Hence, the justification for not using the former ESC as an administrative building. And while I have pointed out political difficulties in developing the Chesterbrook site (opposition from Chesterbrook residents and possibly not the best location) I have NEVER stated that it is inadequate for a school under any circumstances. Do not put such words in my mouth. In fact, I have said many times it may have to be used despite difficulties, that it should NOT be sold.

    Funny you seem to favor keeping class sizes small – you seem to forget that I was the leading proponent of class size on the board. I ran an independent campaign in 1999 and was elected on the issue of reducing class size, and the smaller class sizes enjoyed in our district ever since had a lot to do with me.

    [Reply]

    papadick58 Reply:

    Kevin – as to class size — I am not an advocate of smaller class sizes when we have classes composed of kids that want to be in school and have no special needs. Given that the state’s best school is Masterman in Philadelphia with class sizes average 30 students. However that is not possible in T/E as all students are not equal and IEP’s and special needs require unique talents in front of the class and if anything is to get accomplished 30 students would be indeed a stretch… even 25 is to much.
    As to the real estate issue I would suggest again that no one paying school tax in the district can afford to hold onto property — and buy new property – just in case. I see no reason what so ever to be holding real estate and be afraid of using it because of — because of what???? If the zoning allows it then do it…… if the zoning does not allow it then why own it??????? And the houses next to the middle school???? Demolish the ESC and now no where to store equipement?

    [Reply]

    township reader Reply:

    PPD — it would be helpful to stop whining about Dr. Waters compensation. If you would like to suggest that all our teachers give up tenure and union protections, I imagine many of them would see raises to retain them (and many more would see cuts or demotions or terminations). Your rant about the district paying PSERS applies to every district I am aware of….that is a standard clause in Superintendent contracts….and is cheaper than a raise because paying the contribution does not become embedded in pensionable income (which unfortunately the decision to contribute to tuition does).
    We could save a lot of money if Dr. Waters walked away….once we found someone we trusted to step in and handle a district with $100,000,000 budget. Then again, the market drives salaries, and I would expect a newcomer or even an inhouse candidate would expect to be well compensated to take on the noise of working in TE. Ask Radnor. Ask Great Valley. Ask Lower Merion. Ask West Chester. All of their superintendents have been in place less than 5 years. Go on any of their websites and read their contracts. Cherry pick benefits….the perks exist to avoid PSERS contributions and pensionable benefits.

    [Reply]

    papadick58 Reply:

    It was not my intention to whine about the Compensation package paid to this or any other individual Superintendent. I was merely adding commentary to comments above that spoke to the 35k in addition to a base salary of 225K. I have said before that it is my personal feeling that the package is out of line… and if we compare the District to a professional sports team – it is not the Coach that makes the highest salary but rather it is the individuals that perform on the field

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Again — if our teachers were not represented by a union, I assure you the highest performers on the field would indeed be paid more. But they don’t accept that idea, so they are all paid “enough” to make it worth coming to work? I have said many times in the past, I would pay a great teacher whatever it took, if I could ditch the ones I wouldn’t hire. There aren’t many of them, but they do influence the overall quality. And I think the notion of paying on seniority is anachronistic. It causes people to hang around and as was said elsewhere “wait for the pendulum to swing back” which is not going to happen. That’s what Charter schools are for — niche education.

  21. You tell him Kevin.
    I hope as a leading proponent of class size reduction that you will participate in the debate on the need to increase them slightly. You know I supported the reduction as long as there was no hard cap, but I also stand by the notion that the schools were not filled with overstuffed classrooms. I went to a private school and my class had 26 in it…that the same size my Hillside class was. Small classes are nice to have, but not need to have, and I think parents who have gone through the system have a duty to the current generation to assure them that the sky is not falling if the class sizes go up 10%. The student teacher ratio has always been lower than the class size because we have so many resources in our schools. Increasing the class size model takes pressure off removing those resources — and good teachers can teach a larger class more easily than a class where kids needing additional or special services are 100% mainstreamed. (Not referring to special ed here — just enrichment and support services).

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Class size vs. Other cuts is a tough call – it all depends on what is on the chopping block. If it comes down to a couple more kids or cuts to music, learning support, guidance or mental health counsellors – I honestly don’t know what I would do – I am glad I don’t have to make that decision.

    [Reply]

  22. TR

    I’m always amazed when people, not it the classroom, discuss class size, teacher ability to manage etc. Even parents look at education through the only lens they have -their school days, where disruptive students went bye, bye, special needs children went to their own classrooms, and teachers had in front of them students ready and willing to learn. Times have changed. The special ed population in the regular ed classroom has wreaked havoc in many a classroom. There are behavior plans to manage and the behavior that goes with them, abilities from A to Z, a sense of entitlement, etc.

    You can’t really be serious when you compare a class of 26 at your private school with the populations in today’s public schools. Can you????

    [Reply]

  23. Yes — because while I know what you are talking about (my children went through our schools), the incremental change to class size is — in my opinion — less crucial than retaining the support services for kids who need support. I sadly agree that children have changed, and I do not believe the special ed population has much to do with it.

    The lens of our schools days was 5 subjects. The high school schedule allows for 6-8 subjects. The lens of our school days was a few AP courses if any. Today “highly competitive kids” have to take every AP we offer.

    IF we were serious about this being just about kids, we would lighten their load. But parents are afraid of that….think their kids will fall behind. Nonsense. One of my kids had a room-mate from West Virginia at a highly selective college. That room-mate had never taken an AP course, and had attended public school with huge classes. He was bright and worked hard. He took the best his high school had to offer, which included a limitation on the number of courses he could schedule. He and my son used to compare high school experiences. My son was close to burned out, and he was raring to go.

    SO — the lens I view is that we coddle kids so much because their parents expect everything to be done by the school. Smaller class sizes are helpful, but support personnel (we cannot afford both) are what reduces the burden on the classroom teacher to teach over the noise.

    [Reply]

  24. Thankfully times have changed when I went to school the ‘special ed” kids were warehoused in the basement . …Over a decade ago some TE parents wanted a “gifted only” elementary school.(.TR remembers that )… Mine never “wreaked havoc” or had a sense of entitlement. ..despite the odds made it to college and is currently on the Dean’s List…IEP’s & behavior plans don’t make it in college.but ADA rules do apply.

    [Reply]

  25. CHV
    Please don’t think I’m talking about all special ed kids. Most are just how you described your children. No problem; they can be the most rewarding to teach. However, much has changed since your children and TR’s children passed through the doors of our public schools.

    TR
    Adding one or two does make a difference. With the Gaskins lawsuit settlement, the move has been to “push in” everybody. While support teachers are critical, the reality is that many regular ed classrooms today are not unlike the special education rooms of the past. So, to have 28 or 29 children requiring ‘coddling’, differentiated instruction, specialized plans (gifted, I.E.P’s, emotional, behavioral etc.) and expect the quality education of the past for everyone is no longer a reality; even in public schools with the highest reputations and the most educated teachers on these topics. Add to that the additional class period teachers are teaching and well……you’re bright……you can figure it out.

    May I offer a suggestion? Since people can substitute today with any college degree, I urge those who think teaching today is like it always was to get into the classroom and see the changes I describe in real time. It would be especially good for our school board members who are charged with the task of making choices that directly impact the classroom. My hunch is that former teachers will be glad they are out and that those who have never taught will be glad they chose the profession they did.

    I still love to teach (I consider it my calling) but unless the pendulum starts to swing back, I’m not sure how much longer I can stay. I’m not the only one either. Beginning, mid-level and those closer to retirement talk about these issues all the time.

    [Reply]

  26. To respond to several cooments above (and township reader) : I do think class size matters and I don’t want to see it go up. One or two more may not make a huge difference (although not everyone agrees with that) but with our budget woes the process will not be a one-time change. Every year there will be pressure to let it creep a little higher. However, now the board will have to look at everything and make the cuts that appear – to the best of their knowledge and judgment – to have the least negative impact on the overall quality of the kids’ education.

    [Reply]

  27. Wow — major assumptions about when my kids went to school. They all graduated since 2000 if that helps.

    Times are changing and so are priorities and skill sets and expectations. I find your comment about teaching to be sad but possibly true — and I think it feeds the continued conflict in negotiations. In almost any other field, if people don’t like what they do, they change jobs. But because teaching is a “calling” the people in it don’t leave but complain. There are thousands waiting for your job. Thousands upon thousands.

    But that’s not to say all teachers who don’t like it should leave. I think districts like ours with alternative assessment options, and sabbatical leaves, and differentiated instruciton models are there to inspire you. I always said one of the problems of so many school distircts in this state is that you only work for one — so you think tough times are what you see — not what really would count as tough times. In larger districts that include urban areas, spend a bit of time in a “tough” school and you would think you died and went to heaven to be teaching at Conestoga or anywhere out here. Parent expectations may be a pain, but your safety and your parking space are assured.

    And Kevin — I hear you about class size and hating it to change, and no — it won’t be a one-time thing, because our economy stinks and absolutely everything in the US that involves “routine labor” (read: union) is pricing itself out of affordability by pointing fingers and saying their job is hard…. But as you said earlier about class size Kevin, there are choices that NEED to be made: “If it comes down to a couple more kids or cuts to music, learning support, guidance or mental health counsellors – I honestly don’t know what I would do – I am glad I don’t have to make that decision.”
    That’s a cop out and you know it. Because the people who have to make the decision have no more information than you or any of us do. And given the limited taxing authority and the inability to restructure contracts, they don’t have any more power either. So the decision HAS to be made. And if you don’t have an informed opinion that weighs in favor of one or the other, where will the decision come from?

    The online representation here from teachers to me reflects exactly why the negotiations are so ridiculous. Every here says “sure things will change” and then they make references to unfair offers….Let’s be real and admit that no one except those at the table have the first clue — and the suppositions about what has been offered are worthless. My experience with Uniserve Reps is that they rep the PSEA — and only when they are out of the picture (be it a mediator or just the TEEA reps themselves) do decisions really get made. Otherwise it’s just water torture — one drippy thought at a time. And given the “Times Have Changed” philosophy that he/she still loves to teach but won’t keep doing it if the “pendulum doesn’t swing back” (and I remind us — It CANNOT because the past is just that….passed), why are we trying to pretend that anything about a contract will change the job? Ask people in other industries….what is “fair” is meaningless. And the pendulum is not a pendulum, but a bulldozer. Sweep away the trash in front and move forward.

    Cynical? Nope. Realistic. I had these kinds of debates 20 years ago when I had kids in kindergarten and it was parents that were in the way. Teachers wore “Go for the Contract” buttons to class. Parents showed up in support of that. And each and every settlement involved some false report of limited raises and “additional instructional time” which translates to bigger raises on the base but not on the “per hour” cost. And health care benefits have pretty much stayed free health care despite the major changes in health care coverage globally.

    You finish Kevin with the phrase “overall quality of the kids’ education” — and if someone can define what that is, maybe it’s a start. Safe, convenient, consumer friendly, easy, competitive, structured, small, leveled (or unleveled), graded or ungraded, successful …… “The board will have to look at everything….” They can only see what we can see.

    Sigh.

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Cop out? I don’t see that. I am glad I am not on the board because they are going to have to make agonizing decisions and there are going to be winners and losers in every one. Sure that was always true, but now this has escalated to unprecedented levels. I think someplace you said it is not harder to be on the board now, or they are making it harder than it has to be, but I don’t agree with that. It is different now, a brave new world, a trip through the looking glass, with both political parties thinking they can fix it if they could only get control – when in fact they don’t have any answers either. What do they have to offer? Lies and crass political manipulation! And the board will read research, listen to parents and taxpayers, and the recommendations of the administrators, and make the best judgment calls they can (there will be no clear answers in any of the forgoing) and having made the best possible decisions they will be forever judged and blamed here and elsewhere. Yes, I am glad I am not on the board. That’s not a cop out, I did plenty, my share and more, and I don’t have any regrets about that. If I was there, I would stand up and do my best, but I am not going to say what I would do now when I am not on the board and do not have all the information and options.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    I’ll accept that because you did do your best when you were there, but I recall a lot of bullets that came the board’s and it wasn’t easy and there were always people who thought they could do it better. Expanding Conestoga was a war, and not a little bit popular. My point is that you do have all the information — and second guessing is not the same as thoughtful consideration. We can see what they see. We should see everything they see if they really wanted community support. These negotiations should be totally transparent and they should be at the table. LIke the fund balance, their absence just looks cowardly, though I know full well their presence is simply token. I don’t know how you ask 3 administrators who have Mercedes health care plans to negotiate with a group with Cadillac plans to give it up. When you ran your independent campaign, you ran on ideas. It is failure to put forth ideas that allows the parties to step in and dominate the debate.
    Forever be judged and blamed…not really. The public has a short memory and will blame them whichever way it goes if they don’t agree. That we know. Indecision creates the problem, and partial plans (like acquiring houses near Teamer) trigger uncertainty. Conestoga only has a 2 pipe cooling system — an example of a poor compromise but one that accomplished the purpose….Because it came to a vote. Continuous dialogue and harranging goes no where and just riles up the constituencies.

    [Reply]

  28. Why not demote the professionals who have the least impact on the children? Demoting all administrators would allow the district to hire more who can focus on specific issues facing the district. They can also lead by example by getting rid of their Mercedes benefits plan.

    Please don’t tell me how hard it is to find good ones. Let human resources do their job. They could use fund balance for signing bonuses since they will be one time expenditures!

    [Reply]

  29. Demotion:
    Do you have the first clue what “administrators” do?
    Clearly not. “Least impact on children” — kind of like parents ?

    “Human resources” is one person. An administrator that is doing the negotiating. This is $100,000,000 enterprise — and I’ll be happy to tell you how hard it is to find “good ones.” Let’s get rid of guidance counselors and ask parents to deal with their kids issues and scheduling….

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Community Matters © 2015 Frontier Theme