Last night was both the Board of Supervisors meeting and the special meeting of the school district. I attended the BOS meeting and Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and kindly provided his personal notes of the meeting. Although we should not be surprised that the school board rejected the fact finders report a second time, in speaking with Ray I am troubled by something that happened. Now again — I was not there so if my interpretation is incorrect, someone please correct me.
It appears that there was a heated exchange between Sultanik (the negotiating attorney hired by TESD) and Laura Whittaker, the teacher union president. Apparently it is OK for Sultanik to make public claims against the union but Ms. Whittaker is not allowed to defend her position. Why? Because although Ms. Whittaker is a TESD teacher, she is not a T/E resident. Regardless of which side you support (TESD or TEEA) this does not seem fair.
I understand the economics of the school district, but that does not give Sultanik the right to disrespect the teachers and then offer no option for them to defend. These people teach our children, are they not entitled to respect? The school board has a policy that non-T/E residents are not permitted to comment at school board meetings and I appreciate that if there is long line of people waiting to comment, that it is fair that residents be permitted to speak first. Regardless of the union, TENIG, TEEA, etc. I am of the opinion that the union president representing his/her members should be permitted to speak at school board meetings, without a ‘residency’ requirement. I am not saying all the non-resident teachers, custodians, etc. just the presidents, should they be non-residents.
Again, I did not attend the meeting and would certainly appreciate the opinions of other who did attend. Bottom line for me … I want both sides fairly represented but I don’t like the idea of public ‘dressing-down’ from either. Here are Ray’s notes:
The School Board took advantage of the forum offered by tonight’s Board meeting to present their side of the contract negotiations and to outline the details of their three year offer suggested at the last Board meeting. Unfortunately, perhaps, they felt the need to rebut the TEEA week-end comment that “School board members have not met with us….” with Mr Sultanik recounting a minute by minute list of the emails between him and the union’s Ms Waldie, during which an offer to meet was repeatedly made, and which did in fact lead to a meeting of the parties on August 15th. At that meeting the Board presented their proposal, to which – according to Sultanik – the TEEA has not officially responded. There were shouts of “You lie!” or similar from the audience, but Ms Whittaker, not a district resident, was not permitted to speak.
Here’s the essence of the District proposal:
– Freeze matrix, step and column positions for 2 years. One step and column movement halfway through Year 3
– One time $2,500 bonus for all teachers in Year 2 and one time $1,000 bonus for all teachers on the top step in Year 3
— Sizable incentives that do not build in recurring expense (use of the fund balance!)
– 189 day calendar in Years 2 and 3, down from the current 191 days
— Locking in the 2 furlough days (1% salary reduction) in the Fact Finder report
– Two health plans with family coverage with premium share rising from 9-10% to 11-12% in Year 3. The individual dollar cost for the most expensive plan is projected at $1,743 to $2,531, compared to $1,020 under the current plan. A $50,000-$60,000 copay pool in Years 2 and 3 if the higher cost healthcare plan can be dropped due to less than half the employees selecting that plan.
— The national average for premium share is 29%
— There’s a tax provision that allows employees to deduct their premium share, reducing the net cost by their marginal tax rate
– A cap on tuition reimbursement of $150,000 in Years 2 and 3 (compared to $290,000 under the current MOU and $650,000 last year)
–– Radnor and Lower Merion have introduced caps on tuition reimbursement
– Prescription copays as in the Fact Finder report
– Demotions allowed for economic reasons in Years 2 and 3
– Settlement of outstanding grievances, particularly re the CHS 6 period day
— If ruled in favor of the union would require the hiring of 12 additional FTE at a cost of $1.2 million a year
Sultanik stated that the deadline for a TEEA response is August 27th at 12 noon. It’s not clear if that is a mandatory deadline per the law, but it could be, since the process is still under the aegis of the state arbitrator and law does require continuation of the negotiating process.
Art McDonnell presented two slides that provided the current status quo budget/3 year projection and the Fact Finder report. As presented, the Fact Finder report reduced the Year 1 and 2 deficits by about $300,000, but the year 3 (and 4) deficits increased by the same amount. He did not show how the latest Board proposal would stack up under the same model, but in response to my question there were general comments from the Board that the deficits would still not be eliminated under likely tax scenarios. (I think that there may be enough data to model the impact ourselves, and with some time over the next couple of days I’ll take a shot at that, but it will be difficult to account for all the inter-relations of salary, PSERS, etc.)
Ann Crowley and Kris Graham explained their August 9th votes to accept the Fact Finder report largely on the basis of expediency and on the intangible impact of an unsettled contract on home values, teacher stress, need for students to continue to out-perform, and so on. Mrs Graham thought there was now benefit to the teachers to get the 3 year deal and so changed her vote tonight, in order to get the parties back to the negotiating table. Mrs Crowley abstained from voting in protest of the email litany recounted by Mr Sultanik. Dr Motel reminded the audience that salaries for all other employees have been flat for three years, and at some point increases may need to be found. President Cruickshank also noted this and the give backs from TENIG employees and separately custodians. She noted that the Board has to balance the budget and recounted the last three years total of $10 million expense cuts, maximum tax increases and falling real estate assessments. Remaining options are to cut kindergarten, transportation and extra-curriculars. She made a plea for “two austere years to right the financial ship”.
The Board voted 8 to 0 with one abstention to reject the Fact Finder report.
The audience seemed to be largely teachers, with little public comment. Andrea advocated rationalizing the healthcare benefit craziness by providing a defined contribution rather than a Blue Cross-specific defined benefit; another resident supported the Fact Finder report on the basis of retaining qualified teachers and supporting property prices. ABC News was there, also.