Outsourcing ‘Chopping Block’: A real possibility for custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, kitchen staff, security personnel, aids and paraeducators in T/E

In my last blog post, I indicated there would be a follow-up post on TENIG and discussion of outsourcing.  TENIG President Dave Fillippo delivered an emotional statement at Monday night’s TESD Budget Workshop on the eve of his TESD retirement this Friday.  His statement, in its entirety, follows this post.

Much troubles me about the idea of outsourcing of the non-instructional employees of the District, especially at this time.  Excluding the District’s administrators and teachers,  TENIG members are the secretaries, custodians, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and security personnel.  Although aides and paraeducators are not members of TENIG, their jobs are also on the outsourcing ‘chopping block’ as budget impact items under consideration.

The Budget Workshop presentation only included two budget impact items for the Board to consider – (1) the outsourcing of TENIG staff and (2) the outsourcing of aides and paraeducators.  The Board has given the required 120-day written notice of their intention to issue an RFP to seek outsourcing bids for TENIG and the aides and paraeducators.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, we know that the Board has increased the District budget for safety.  They approved $250K for ‘district security enhancements’ and hired former Tredyffrin Township police chief Andy Chambers as a security expert, in an effort to make the school buildings more secure and to protect the students and staff.  From a security standpoint, how then can it possibly make sense to dismiss long-serving members of the T/E school district community in lieu of strangers that do not know our schools or our children?

Those employees whose jobs are under consideration for outsourcing,  are highly trained, dedicated and caring professionals with roots in our community; the majority  live in the T/E School District.  These are the people who the community knows and trusts.  How could it make sense to replace them with high turnover, sub-standard inexperienced workers?  There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of workers (and probably the productivity) will diminish with the largest percentage of new workers coming from outside the District.   Should outsourcing occur, the District will not only lose local, dedicated employees, but we also lose the community pride and spirit that comes with people working in the schools that ‘they’ attended, and that their children attended.

In these tight budget times, the custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and aides all become a target for outsourcing.  By privatizing the jobs, the District hands over important public service jobs to huge, private corporations who pay their employees lower wages. When private companies take over, they do away with as many full-time positions as they can and hire part-time workers at the lowest wages possible, so that do not have to offer basic health care benefits.

Outsourcing is not non-profit.  Outsourcing companies only exist for one reason – to make money.  The profit margin is key to the success of outsourcing companies and they will always act in their own self-interest.  As a result, our students, their parents and our community will come ‘second’ to the financial driver of outsourcing companies … profit.  Saving the District money may be the endgame of outsourcing, but with that decision should be the acceptance that our children are nothing more than a “commodity for profit” to an outsourcing company.

The budget of Tredyffrin Easttown School District should not be balanced on the backs of the lowest paid public service employees.  It is remarkable to me that the Board could bury administrator raises in a consent agenda and then just a few weeks later notify TENIG members of the impending outsourcing RFP.  As I said in an earlier post, “Where’s the fairness?”

Beyond this discussion of outsourcing, something else occurred on Monday night that troubled me.  At the end of the meeting, there was opportunity for resident comment.  It was at this point that Dave Fillippo delivered his emotional statement (see below).  As President of TENIG, Dave was speaking out on behalf of the union against outsourcing of the members’ jobs.  However, his statement was also his “swansong’, his good-bye to the Board and to the staff.    Having served the District for 32 years, Dave retires this Friday – as a result, his words delivered with emotion and pride for a community and a career that he loves.  Upon finishing his statement, I found it incredulous that Board President Kevin Buraks offered no words of appreciation or thank you for a “job well done’ to Mr. Fillippo.  Sure, for those 32 years, Dave was ‘doing his job’ for the District, but does that make him any less deserving of gratitude for doing it.  Acknowledging years of service is important, not only to the one retiring but also to show that the Board and administration cares about its staff.

I know I am on my soapbox on this one, but saying thank you to people and letting them know that they are appreciated is important.  If we do not acknowledge our thanks, I think we lose a human moment, a human connection. So, in what I hope was an oversight on Mr. Buraks and the School Board’s part, I want to wish Dave Fillippo all the best as he begins a new chapter in his life.  And to thank Dave for his 32 years of dedicated service to the Tredyffrin Easttown School District and for the contributions he made to the community.  Thank You!

Dave Fillippo’s statement read at the TESD Budget Workshop, March 4, 2013

Community and friends, Dr. Waters, Sue Tiede, members of the Board, principals, teachers and colleagues that have made my career here at TE so special.  My association with this school district started at kindergarten at Paoli Elementary School through graduation at Conestoga, and eventually employment in the maintenance department in 1980.  I have never lived a day of my 60-plus years outside of residence in Tredyffrin Township.  TE is my home and always will be.

I have loved working here in the community, no regrets, even though I was mocked at times, by friends and contractors who made millions while I, in comparison worked for a meager hourly wage. Today, I have a deep concern that in the future, others like myself, that are gifted with a servants heart will not be able to earn a sustainable wage here, in our community.

For the last two years, I have listened to the “Success and Sustainability” speeches here from the Board.  A campaign destined in part on devaluing the employees of TENIG.  Knowing that indeed the members of TENIG in fact are much of the reason for this District’s success and sustainability.

TENIG harbors a wonderful culture that provides security and safety to our children, maintenance of our schools and communities infrastructure, far beyond that of any contract service.  TENIG offers the District workers who are members of the community, who have a stake in the community.  ‘True Community’ one may say.

My vision of TENIG is one of servant leadership, employees who have a stake in the growth of our community, who are approachable, willing to make sacrifices as we have done, time and time again.  Question is why then would you [the Board] want to turn the services overs to profiteers?  Knowing that TENIG has always been responsible and yielding to the financial circumstances of the times.  Are we to be the scapegoats to remedy the mistakes of previous Board decisions?  TENIG is not at fault here.  We have been here doing our job and wish to continue to do so.

Our custodians have conceded more than anyone, with the wavering of wage increases for 2 years, and taking a 10 percent wage cut. Secretaries work an unpaid lunch while sitting at their desks, often coming in early, clocking in at their scheduled tie, clocking out at quitting time, only to return back to work to finish their day; unpaid for the extra hours.  Yielding to the workload that has evolved with the condensing of assigned duties.  Yet, I seldom hear them complain, they are here for the kids, our teachers and community.

Our food service cooks, preparers, servers and cashiers provide quality lunches to our students and staff at affordable prices and in fact pay for their own operation and show a profit.  Maintenance has answered every emergency in a timely fashion, once again to provide safety to our students and residents, even with the disruption of moving from our original facility, then to ESC, to scattered closets and storage spaces, and now to the old transportation garage.  We did not allow the constant changes to break our commitment and spirit of service.

TENIG is here to serve its community; we offer outstanding in-house service, with responsibility to the children, parents, and taxpayers of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships.  You will not find this dedication in a for-profit contract service.

In retirement, as of this coming Friday, I will not be going anywhere.  I intend to be a vital part of the negotiations with the Board and community along with new TENIG President Mary Minicozzi, Vice President John Brooks, Treasurer Gwen Durante and Secretary Jen Doyle.  TENIG has an excellent leadership staff here that is sensitive to the needs and concerns of our District and is eager to share our ideas with those members of the School Board assigned to the negotiations.

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  1. This is a terrible idea. Outsourcing like this fails to consider the true financial and social costs. I work for a large multi-national that has gutted itself to cut costs only to find the outsourcing companies never meet their promise. Time after time, an outsourcing project starts with a company promising deliverables, then failing to meet those deliverables, then the eventual dismantling of the outsourcing project with nothing but time and money wasted. This doesn’t even consider the social impact which should be included in a cost benefit analysis – where treating people like replaceable cogs creates workers who care only about a pay check at the end of the week – not the social framework that they are part of and help maintain.

    [Reply]

    Cowardly Anonymous Reply:

    Rob
    We all agree that cost cutting by outsourcing can be penny-wise but pound foolish, but this is a microcosm of the nation’s economy. They tried to do online learning but the teacher’s union is too strong and protected those jobs. TENIG may be essential in a psycho-social context, but until the economy turns around, they are fungible assets.

    Here’s the problem — this tea party mentality of keeping costs down below reason. This board has already voted not to exceed Act 1….but it’s highly debatable if this population is an “Act 1” kind of place….expectations will never go down, but revenue is still lagging, so expenses are what have to be reduced….and unlike your multi-national company, there is no bottom line in schools — just a legal limit on tax rates.

    I will be bold enough to presume that the administration would hate to outsource. It might reduce costs, but adds a layer of complexity and lack of accountability. But we measure things in dollars….and if you cannot boost revenue (and no board member seems to have the courage to test that concept), then you have to reduce expenses, but outsourcing or threatening to outsource. Does anyone remember the “demotion” strategy in the teacher contract?

    The social impact was part of the outsourcing discussion with the custodians the last time around. I think we sell the board short when we make these assumptions that they are only about dollars….but they cannot raise revenues, so especially in light of Pattye’s explanation of assessment appeals and falling revenue streams, “business as usual” is no longer possible.

    Keep a good job, or lose a great one. It’s really in the hands of TENIG. The secret here is whether you can trust what the board says. If they are not being honest, they are ruining it for all of us.

    [Reply]

  2. I have trouble with this article on many levels. Foremost is the attack on for profit companies, capitalism and the free enterprise system.
    .
    Pattye is correct. Private companies will always act primarily “in their own self-interest”. Yet America thrives on the free enterprise system driven by Adam Smith’s invisible hand where society benefits from everyone acting freely in a competitive marketplace trying to maximize their own self interest. The alternative is a socialist society (Venezuela, Cuba) where nationalized industries are run by “wise” government bureaucrats.
    .
    On the State level we better all write our representatives opposing privatization of alcohol sales. I really hate the lower prices, more convenient store hours, the better selection and the ability to buy wine and beer together found in those greedy, for-profit Delaware liquor stores.
    .
    On the local level, TE better get busy bringing the transportation system back in-house. These drivers must be “high turnover, sub-standard, inexperienced workers” and TE’s students must be subjected to “strangers that do not know our schools or our children”.
    .
    And finally, let’s not balance the budget on the backs of these support staff employees. Let’s balance the budget on the backs of (choose one or more) the fixed income seniors, the teachers, the middle class families, the wealthy, the administrators, the recent college graduates, or the unemployed.
    .
    Seriously and less sarcastically, it would help if we could compare the compensation of TE’s support staff with the support staff in other districts and to comparable positions in the private sector. All the TENIG has to do is to bring their costs in-line with the outsourcing company. That means the TENIG employees can command compensation equal to what is paid in the private sector bolstered by whatever profit is earned by the private company.

    [Reply]

    TENIG supporter Reply:

    Scare tactics against essential employees. Now is the time to acknowledge that people are more important than money. Now is the time to learn to balance the budget without hurting people.

    There was a formula used by Ben & Jerry’s when they began their very successful business, which was something like the highest paid employee (those two guys, the CEOs) had to make no more than 5 times the lowest paid employee. Something like that. I doubt I am quoting it correctly, but it was a rule of thumb that kept management salaries higher, but not sky high, and enabled all workers to really feel like they were contributing something valuable to the operation because the pay scale held everyone in a tighter ratio of pay.

    [Reply]

    We the People Reply:

    The TE transpotation system has experienced turnover and there have been some pretty scary experiences since outsourcing that segment. But you wouldn’t know that Keith because you don’t live here or have kids in this district or pay taxes in this district.

    If we’re going to compare the compensation of TE’s support staff with comparable positions in the private sector, let’s do that for employees in all segments. The tax payer in the private sector has lost 39% of their wealth over the last 5 years. Teacher and administrator pay has risen that much if not more.

    When you can’t justify spending too much money, Keith and Cowardly, explain that everyone is doing it. That even doesn’t hold water anymore.

    [Reply]

    concerned resident Reply:

    Tell me about pretty scary experiences regarding bus drivers. Nothing like getting a text message last week that my child felt his bus driver was drunk. Driving crazy, cursing and swerving. What can you do?

    Outsourcing may look good on our paper. Let’s really think about what is best for our district in the terms of higher standards. Staff from our very own community. Who knows our children, and our town.

    [Reply]

    We the People Reply:

    Concerned,

    Many parents have had the same experience. Once a bus driver was swerving so violently, citizens called police, the bus was pulled over with a clearly impaired driver at the wheel.

    Administrators down play these incidences giving little to no information. It is truly scary.

    I’m so glad Keith unwittingly shed light on this issue.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    We the People said, “ I state my arguments and back them up with supporting data and facts and yes, some of it is my personal opinion”.
    .
    That’s hilarious. Personal opinion? Lots. Supporting data and facts? Nonexistent.

    [Reply]

    We the People Reply:

    Keith,

    Now who is using ad homien attacks to make points?

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    We the People said, “ The tax payer in the private sector has lost 39% of their wealth over the last 5 years. Teacher and administrator pay has risen that much if not more. ”
    .
    First, this is a nonsensical comparison. Wealth and pay are apples and oranges. Second, we have no idea of the identity of “taxpayers” and no idea what “5 year period” since there was no link provided. Third, we have a great example of We the People’s supposed facts. OK, We. Please tells us how you know teacher and administrator pay has risen 39% over the last 5 years.
    .
    Since the average teacher and administrator probably has most of their wealth tied up in their home and investments, it’s most likely that they have also experienced a 39% decrease in wealth over the same 5 year period.
    .
    Why do I waste my energy replying to this character?

    [Reply]

    We the People Reply:

    I don’t know why you do Keith. That is a question you should ask yourself.

    Neal has run the numbers many times and reported on this blog and in the local paper (you don’t get our local paper do you? because you don’t live here) that teacher pay has risen 39 % in the last 5 years.

    Your arguments have no merit so you resort to name calling.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    First, you’ll have to read a definition of ad hominem. There was no attack on you, just a deserved criticism of your posts.
    .
    OK. you’ve said Neal has run the numbers “many times”. This should be easy for you. Please provide a link or links to where anyone has said teacher and administrator pay has risen 39% over the last 5 years. A quote form a local paper with the date and title of the article would also suffice.

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    Keith,

    You’re upset. Please calm down. No need for bold type. Most board members and administrators stay stone faced and tight lipped no matter what.

    The name of the article is NEAL COLLIGAN: T/E schools budget and taxes: Let’s get back in balance. It was published Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

    I will look for other articles where this topic is discussed as well and let you know.

    “Why do I waste my time replying to this character?” that is an attack. Name calling is a personal attack.

    I am changing my moniker to shining light. I hope Cowardly doesn’t mind. I am in no way mocking her. She is clearly a very gifted person with creative ideas. I have no illusion that I am a shining light, I simply like the term. Thank-you Cowardly. I will link the two names for a while and then drop We the people. I, as always, only post under one name.

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    The name of the publication is Main Line Suburban Life……….Sorry, most people around here know that.

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    Keith,

    Please reference T/E School District Surplus $3.9M Nov. 20, 2012 5:11p.m.

    Neal says:

    The key cost driver here is the previous Teacher’s contract that gives 30.8% average salary increases over a four year period.

    I will research teacher salaries over the last 5 years and post the exact results.

    I concede Neal is talking in terms of 4 years and not 5 years. Do you really believe private sector workers have enjoyed salary increases of 30.8% in the last 4 years?

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    Merriam – Webster:

    Ad hominem: 1.) appealing to feelings or prejudice rather than intellect. 2.) marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

    How is:

    “Why do I waste my time replying to this character,” not an ad hominem attack?

    You can twist it and turn it and mold it and scrunge it any way you want: to try and further your own personal agenda, no matter, it was an ad hominem attack by a sitting school board member on a tax paying citizen. Is this how you talk to your tax paying citizens? Do citizens from Unionville Chadsford read this blog?

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Here is Shining Light aka We the People’s supposed statement of fact lest we forget:
    .
    “The tax payer in the private sector has lost 39% of their wealth over the last 5 years. Teacher and administrator pay has risen that much if not more. ”
    .
    First, as mentioned before this is a nonsensical, apples to oranges comparison. Further let’s examine the supporting data to say teachers and administrators have pay increases of 39% or more. Shining Light has found 4 year data for the teachers via Mr. Colligan; not 5 year data. And I’m not arguing that the teachers might be near 39% over a 5 year period. But Shining Light has criticized the board routinely for the recent administrator pay raise yet he can produce no data for administrator pay over any time period.
    .
    Could we say that Shining Light exaggerates some data and invents other data to support his position?

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    “and I’m not arguing that the teachers might be near 39% over a 5 year period.” Thank-you Keith. My claim was accurate and I don’t invent other data to support my positions. As you say, Neal talks in terms of 4 year pay data and I concede that I was mistaken when I stated 5 year pay data. It had been a while since I read that informative, factual and accurate article Neal wrote and You’re right, I should have read it over again before relying on my memory of almost one year ago. Sorry Neal.

    It’s very easy for anyone to check administrator pay increases. All administrator names pay and bonuses are listed in the current recap of the school board meeting. I think you can access that from the TESD website.

    I will post the website of the PA Salary checker site if you request it. You can then compare administrator salary increases for yourself over the last 5 years.

    Neal Colligan Reply:

    Sorry…late to the conversation. Average TEEA salary in 07-08 was $65,080 at the beginning of the last contract period..this is my “0” period for analysis. Average salary for the end of the contract period (this would have been in 2012 as the TEEA deferred a salary increase for 6 months) was $85,784. I estimated the last half-year increase (based on the prior year’s increase which was exactly 50% of the contract period after deferral) as I did not have data from the District. Actually…more comfortable with an estimate of $85,500. This is a 31.4% Average increase over the contract life. I was trying to make a point in that article of defining the District’s cost drivers. This is the District’s largest employment group and therefor; its biggest cost driver. Over the period analyzed, average FTE’s for this group were 469 so the total impact o expenses is approximately $9.5 MM. This is a VERY simplified estimate.

    SupportStaff Reply:

    They tried to compare teacher salaries to other schools in Chester County last year-our teachers make MUCH more and have more in benefits. That didn’t go anywhere. They didn’t bring their pay “in-line” with any of the others. As Pattye said last week, ” Where’s the fairness?” If they are going to try to align our pay with other schools, then as someone stated earlier, it should be for ALL district employees not just the hard working support staff.

    [Reply]

    Cowardly Anonymous Reply:

    TE Teachers pay aligns with Radnor and LM. Same applicant pool.
    Support staff is by zip code. Your contract goes another year. Relax and pull together the numbers.

    [Reply]

  3. Thanks Keith. Let’s not ignore the fact that every TENIG employee qualifies for a state pension. Each year they work, they earn 2.5% of their highest 3 years of pay for the rest of their lives, backed by the state of PA (the taxpayers). So unlike private sector, there is no fear of losing their pension.
    So when you earn a living, you have to save for retirement. The goal of retirement planning is to have savings (or pension) to replace 75% of your income. You need to work 30 years to do that. And in Pennsylvania, you still are eligible for social security (many states do not permit municipal workers to qualify for both).

    For the 2013-14 school year, the PSERS rate for the employer contribution is 16.93%. That rate is still not covering the unfunded liability because it was artificially limited by legislation as to the rate of increase. You might read this article to get a true sense of the cost of employment.
    http://www.psers.state.pa.us/content/pfr/resources/fact.pdf

    10-YEAR PROJECTED EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION RATES * (Presumes an 7.5% rate of return)
    Fiscal Year Ending June /
    Total Employer
    Contribution Rate % /
    Projected Total
    Employer Contribution (thousands) $
    13/14 16.93 2,322,796
    14/15 21.31 3,000,753
    15/16 25.80 3,728,584
    16/17 28.30 4,204,274
    17/18 29.15 4,453,356
    18/19 30.14 4,740,395
    19/20 30.87 5,000,899
    20/21 30.78 5,136,766
    21/22 30.76 5,290,608
    22/23 30.93 5.482,478

    PSERS’ rate of return for fiscal year ended June 30, 2012 was 3.43% and the Fund had plan net assets
    of $48.8 billion at June 30, 2012.

    So jealousy and pointing at other employee groups will accomplish little. Absolutely the TENIG people are major contributors to the success of TESD. Problem is — they cannot justify bigger raises than this economy warrants, and unlike the teachers, there IS an alternative to using our own employees. So instead of looking for more money, they need to consider what the value of their pension is in current salary calculations. The PSERS contribution 10 years from now is projected to be 30.93%. So each employee will cost 30.93% for PSERS and 7.65% for SS and Medicare. The state splits that….(i.e. it gets spread across more taxpayers….but it’s still your tax dollars).

    Private sector employers barely have 401Ks much less pensions. Private sector contributes to benefit plans which provide much fewer perks than our plans. This is a no-win situation. Either taxpayers pay more, or employees earn less. And job security for TENIG is only based on cost. There is no state mandate for any TENIG position that I can think of. When your own family income goes down, you pay your mortgage, you pay your utilities, and you drop your cleaning help or your gardener or your personal assistant….or you find cheaper ones.

    Not fair. Just real.

    [Reply]

  4. There is no jealosy Cowardly, only economic reality. There is an alternative to administrator bloat.

    I quote from Keith’s article on The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools.

    From 1992 to 2009, students’ numbers increased 17% whereas asministrator and non-teaching staff rose 46%. Academic gains have not experienced similar growth. Such irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars is indefensible. The article claims that such growth cannot be attributed to the federal No Child Left Behind law.

    We should be working on trimming bureaucracy and long-term reform. There is no justification for this school board refusing to explain its own indefensible administrator pay raise spending decisions. To add insult to tax injury, they take action to outsource the segment of employees who add tremendous value to the lives of our children and who make the least amount in wages.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    We,
    .
    I think you are unaware that you have unwittingly affirmed the board’s decision to investigate outsourcing TENIG jobs. The article you quoted from decries the indefensible growth of “administrator and non-teaching staff”. What you are probably unaware of is that “non-teaching staff” refers directly to TENIG employees. I can’t get into the motives of the board, but it’s apparent they are trying to trim the size and compensation of the non-teaching staff. The board has already trimmed the administrative staff to 27, down from 32 in 2008-09.

    [Reply]

    Cowardly Anonymous Reply:

    Ironically, no one blinks at Dave announcing he is retiring “after 32 years.”. That is a pension of 80% of his annual pay for life. Plus social security.

    That is the problem….why would you work any longer? But inside the system, it’s routine to plan when to stop working. THAT fact needs to be incorporated in salary demands. WTP–how many years will your bills require you/your family to work?

    [Reply]

  5. Keith,

    I am aware and know exactly what the article says. I have revealed more than once that I have a bias in favor of the custodians and now I will reveal that I have a bias in favor of TENIG.

    “I can’t get into the motives of the board” Are you implying you know what they are? How would you know what the motives of our board are?

    [Reply]

  6. WTP
    Whichever admin ticked you off, I’m sorry. And outsourcing transportation happened in the 90s. The board is publicly disclosing a strategy of outsourcing and you complain. They did not publicly disclose administrative compensation studies, and you complain. PA law does not easily bend to compensation strategies.
    Go back 6+ months to the lamenting over demotion for “our finest teachers.”. It did not happen. But this is not an exchange of info anymore. You are clearly bent on bashing administration, which feels personal. I cannot debate or exchange facts with someone who is not interested in them. Good luck!

    [Reply]

  7. This is about economics. As stated in my post months ago, I suppose if I am calling for across the board cuts for teachers and administrators, cuts should be made in TENIG too. (except custodians, they have suffered enough) If each segment offered cuts, we could avoid out sourcing.

    I’m sorry that you feel personally offended when someone disagrees with your opinion.

    I am simply expressing my opinion as a tax paying member of this community.

    [Reply]

  8. I am not offended — I am wasting my time. It doesn’t feel personal to me WTP — you are grinding an ax and we don’t know why. I was on the board for 3 terms…even President for awhile. I can tell an angry parent when I hear one. And call yourself a taxpaying member of the community all you want….I get it. I’m tired of it, but I get it. I was an open book during my time — and have never said anything on this blog that wasn’t 100% based on experience and facts…I’ll tell you that obfuscation is not a bad strategy in a community with many sleeping dogs. I quit the board at a district retirement celebration — headed out the door because I was tired of angry parents. Not angry taxpayers — I can talk numbers and deal with those issues all day long. But angry parents — they never disclose the issue — they just come angry and diffuse any response. There was a gentleman (?) who pushed me up against a wall after a meeting saying I didn’t care about kids….turns out his gifted child wasn’t getting as much attention as a special ed neighbor’s child. At one point, he advocated for an entirely “challenge” elementary — keep the lesser abled kids from slowing his down. I was ONLY about kids….politics wastes time.

    So WTP — I think you ought to admit you are not WTP, but WMM — We, Mostly Me.

    And no – -I did not “at least” stay in the area.

    And as a friend who reads this blog said to me awhile back — if there is one thing he can count on, it’s me saying I’m done. And then coming back. But for now, despite my promising Pattye I would not go away, I will for at least awhile….

    Here’s a topic: what is it about being on the school board that turns reasonable people into secretive OR bitter ones? Discuss.

    [Reply]

  9. Cowardly,

    You now say that “It doesn’t feel personal to me WTP” yet this morning you said, “You are clearly bent on bashing administration, which feels personal.” I think this is very personal to you and it has nothing to do with me.

    I have never met a school board member, ex school board member or administrator who can hear information that runs counter to their own notions about anything concerning the conduct of “their” school system. If a tax payer or parent dares to question a decision, offer an opinion or seek clarity, our character is brought into question, our motives are challenged and we are name called.

    Reasonable people turn secretive or bitter by choice. It has nothing to do with school board participation. You’re not a victim. Take personal responsibility.

    I hope to read more from you in the future. Until then, I hope you can calm down and come back refreshed.

    [Reply]

  10. “You are clearly bent on bashing administration, which feels personal.” I said that and you still are choosing to think I am taking it personally.

    I’ll explain it again. Your bashing is personal. It is not fact based. You have a personal grudge. Your comments are not informed ones — but instead of an attempt to belittle those who may in fact have more information or made decisions you do not agree with. Perhaps you have never met someone in the groups you mention that you respect because you come to them with complaints. I don’t know you, but I can assure you I have met many like you. Someone has done something to upset you or your child. As a result, little can satisfy you, and you use any opportunity to say “See, See.” WHen I hear information that runs counter to my notion (what could that be?) I seek the information to clarify it. I communicated with the board and with the union during the teacher negotiations. They don’t like me much because I do challenge them….but I also am willing to recognize when something is not what it seems.

    As to my being bitter — I’m not really. I just get run down by people who grab onto the headline of the moment and make it their torch. You think you are shining light, but in fact are just bringing heat. People who have an opinion that cannot be diverted by facts. In your case, you continue to bash administrative decisions and compensation. You — as I said before — are an angry parent. I’ve been an angry parent. I had to get an attorney to help me once when I was negotiating because of some treatment of my child. But I didn’t turn to a public forum to bash a group of people because I was in a bind.

    IF a taxpayer or parent questions a decision, it is RARELY a question. It is, in fact, an accusation or a conclusion you reach by discerning things…not by learning things. Ask for clarity? Where was that question?

    I put my kids through the system….my conestoga grads got great educations. Neither were athletes so they were not stars. And both when receiving “student of the month” awards at any level were accused of getting it because their mother was on the school board. I have been threatened, shoved, and demoralized by angry parents. But I also shook many, many hands when they won awards or graduated. I worked hard through strategic planning in the 90s to ensure that the “vision” we had was affordable. As I said — taxpayers I have no problem with. They have numbers and the facts can usually answer their questions — like administrative compensation and why it is about retention and reward, not riches. I am not defending this board. I think the shortcomings are abundantly clear. But the economy and the constant belittling without putting names to accusations is just tiresome. The taxpayers, after all, are the voters.

    Your motives are not being challenged — because you are not disclosing your motives. But you have one — and I said above — I can recognize an angry parent when I see one. If people come onto the school board with an agenda, they learn quickly that wanting something and needing something are not the same thing. Kevin ran against me at one point, and though he defeated the other incumbent in our region, we worked very well together.

    So no calling your character into question. Mothers are protective of their ducks. Just recognize that is what is in play here. You can diffuse and obfuscate all you want, but someone done you wrong….and saying you have a pro-TENIG bias means it was likely an admin or a board member. NO name calling. Just an observation.

    Wow — provocative postings. It’s hard to step away….

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Everyone who questions the Board is not an angry parent. Our daughter did not go through TESD, but as a taxpayer in this District for 30 years, I have the right to question the decisions. I don’t have to know if the administrators in T/E are paid above or below the surrounding school districts, to know that burying their raise in a consent agenda (without any public discussion) was wrong. You say, ask questions, — I do, and I get stonewalled with a response from the Board president that it’s the way it’s always been done. So how does one change things if this is the kind of response a resident receives. On one level, there is an invitation to the public to attend the District meetings and committee meetings but if you do, you have the feeling that that questions are discounted and the messengers disregarded. This is not me speaking on hearsay, it’s a first person account. I’m at the meetings and I see how residents are treated. It is very frustrating — what would you suggest? Again — not all of us are angry parents, but taxpayers just trying to find some answers.

    [Reply]

    We the People Reply:

    I am not an angry parent. You, however, are a very bitter and very frustrated ex resident.

    I am not bashing. I state my arguments and back them up with supporting data and facts and yes, some of it is my personal opinion. Do Pattye and others on this blog administrator bash? Because clearly many share my views.

    I don’t think I’m a shining light. It’s O.K for you to hire an attourney but it’s not O.K for me to voice my opinion on a public forum and I can assure you, I am in no bind.

    I don’t want to upset you further, but facts prove that administrator compensation is not about retention and reward. In this economy, it should not be about reward at all. Hard working taxpayers across the country are not receiving bonuses and raises in these tough economic times. Why do you suppose the board granted raises and bonuses to administrators without saying a word in public. Because we wouldn’t “understand”? I would say that is true.

    I am disclosing my motives. I live in this community. I pay taxes in this community. I have a right to know how tax dollars are being spent. I have a right to voice my opinion. You, on the other hand are making wild accustions that aren’t true. Does every one else on this blog, who disagrees with you, “have an ax to grind?”

    I have a pro TENIG bias because I am so tired of people who have so much getting more and more and more and now they are doing it on the backs of workers who make the least in wages. They are doing it on the backs of tax payers who are experiencing very tough economic times. No matter how you try and justify this, in my opinion, it cannot be justified. When will it stop? Will it stop? Will administrators some day soon command $300,000 per year? I have never mentioned this because I understand it is a very personal opinion and therefore cannot be backed up with fact. But it is a motive that I have which I have not shared.

    You go on and on about your “horrible experiences” with angry parents when you were on the school board. No one asked you to run for the school board. That was a personal choice you made and now you say it made you secretive and bitter. That is also your choice.

    You end with “Wow, provocative postings”, No one has more provocative postings than you.

    I hope you can find some peace and happiness in your new residence. Get involved in your new community but please continue to post in this one.

    [Reply]

    Cowardly Anonymous Reply:

    “I state my arguments and back them up with supporting data and facts and yes, some of it is my personal opinion.”

    Just to be clear, where are the data and facts? “At least 25 highly qualified applicants” is somewhat subjective…

    I don’t go “on and on” about horrible experiences. But I do have many anecdotal stories about angry parents. But on the board, at least I knew who they were and why they were angry. I often agreed. Life isn’t fair. And when you run for the board, if you win, I hope you will remember how little respect you gave board members. It will help you get through it.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    You hired an attorney. I post on a public forum. You were on the board for 3 terms serving as president as part of your time in service. Is that what you have to do to get anything accomplished as a tax payer?

    I think that speaks volumes. A 3 term sitting president has to hire an attorney to get satifaction. You couldn’t work with your own board members? Or did you hire an attorney before you were on the board? Was that respectful? How much in billable hours did that cost the tax payer?

    I have never hired an attourney.

  11. Why hasn’t the community heard about the drunk bus drivers!!

    Outsourcing may cut dollars but I am yet to understand how the oversight works. Some on this forum would prefer that taxpayers not question the decisions of the elected officials, whether it is the supervisors or the school board. It should not require a right to know request to find out information. If the school board was more forthcoming and not ‘so secretive’ in their decision-making, maybe there would be more trust and less skepticism from the public.

    [Reply]

  12. I just can’t go away…
    Pattye — I agree completely with your frustration. My annoyance (I’ll admit it — that’s what it is) is with WTP who is hell bent on disproving anything positive.

    What would I suggest? Well — maybe it is time to require people to stand behind their comments. Board members have to sit up there on TV and take it, and sometimes the noise just gets too loud. I stood up for you against JDB, but the anonymous noise on this blog is getting tough to take.

    In my 3 terms on the board, I left meetings countless times with my spirit shattered. I did a whole lot of administrative searches, so I am a bit more protective of the people we ended up with, because I know what else was out there. TESD started an administrative training program specifically to develop people, because the CULTURE of TESD is one tough place. No one comes to meetings without a reason. The audience would be full for the student awards, and then the place would empty out and only a few would remain, many of whom were on the payroll. Those that stayed were pretty much regulars — PTO reps and a few others. That was then. At budget time, maybe a few senior citizens who thought buying computers was a waste of money. Seriously.

    NOW — people watch on TV and read blogs. Yes — you go to the meetings, but it is still exhausting to be on that board with countless meetings, decisions that really are beyond what a volunteer can make easily, and constant scrutiny and criticism. And yet, when it comes time for elections, people take very little time or energy to learn about their candidates. And even worse — the parties have to beat the bushes to convince someone to BE a candidate. So, people step up and go through what has become a normally UGLY process (parties facing off, not people). So people give their time, go to meetings, try to do a good job, and the immediate assumption is that they are not to be trusted.
    I cannot explain why Kevin B. was hostile…except that it didn’t used to be that the board was so quick to elect someone to president in their first term. You had to get some experience and perhaps some wisdom to deal with the public. I don’t know what it says about the overall talent pool. Mr. B. has 3 children in the schools, and when he first knocked on my door before he ran for election, I told him he was misguided — that he could not expect to be “fair and balanced” with 3 kids in the classroom in this economic environment. His answer as board president that “that’s the way it’s always been done” is because this is the FIRST Admin comp plan he has been associated with…but his fellow board members let him say that. Past does not define the present.
    Lots of things used to be different. The school board was primarily men, mainly lawyers billing pro bono time, and rubber stamping the Superintendent. Radnor’s John DeF quit as Superintendent 10 or so years ago when the sunshine law got real — and they were no longer allowed to have closed committee meetings.

    The decisions on what to share verbally are made by them. In fact, they do not have the right to keep anything from the public, but these are volunteers. I used to say the Supervisors made $3,000 a year and was told “yes, that’s nothing” — but it was $3,000 more than a school board member makes and I assure you I attended 100% more meetings than they did. How rare is it that anyone shows any appreciation for the time and effort?

    What can I ultimately say? Step up and be counted. Run for the office. Don’t allow comments on this blog from we “cowardly anonymous” people. The board has no place to hide. No one is that thick-skinned to take constant scrutiny and criticism and not get tired of it. And again, when things are easy. no one comes. I used to say we needed to move a bus stop to get a crowd at the meeting….because THAT was personal.

    And I know not all are angry parents. But boy — a lot are. And there is a fine line between “questioning” the decisions and criticizing/challenging the decision makers. When you want to know about salaries and benefits and contracts, the answers are not likely to be easily shared…because there are negotiations involved. And while it all may be public information, who among us wants our salaries published in the paper? And don’t tell me that’s what they get for having public service jobs. 20+ years ago, there was a notebook in Personnel with everyone’s contract information in it. It was open to the public to read. I promise you it was read maybe 10 times a year….max. Who wanted to take the time? Because there was a level of respect for the process, and a level of trust that the people making decisions were not drunken sailors giving away tax dollars. But “click click” and we all expect everything to be there for us. Change isn’t always good.

    When I went to college, it was $4,000. My son went to the same school and it was $40,000. Now, just 10 years later, it is closer to $60,000. Times change. Stakes are higher in education, on the athletic field, and at home. The stress of the job, the pressure on performance, is global.
    Persistence, not anger, is okay. Don’t accept bad treatment from them. But give them some level of respect for their effort. And please dont’ vote for someone you don’t know well enough to support. Get to know them, and you can have a conversation. If they weren’t so afraid of being misquoted or bashed online, they might not script everything so closely.

    [Reply]

  13. SL
    unlike Keith, I presume you are an angry mother, but while I wasn’t gone long, I am gone as far as communicating with you. You have no feeling for nuance at all. Where did you ever get the idea that my having an attorney cost taxpayers a dime? I’m not even going to bother. Let’s settle for your concern that as a taxpayer, you don’t want to pay too much,but as a parent, you don’t think parents should pay for,programs that taxpayers cannot afford. SO…chopping block it is. Parents can forego football and the band and yearbooks. All the fluff of high school. Or you can look at larger class sizes. Three of the higher paid admins have left. You have a new teacher contract. The analysis of that previous contract, done in 2009 by me warning of,what Neal wrote in 2012…. Is moot. The big retirement will happen if Corbett’s PSERS reform (maximum pension) happens… Will look forward to reading your ideas for answers…since you clearly have a handle on the magnitude (if not the real causes) of the problems.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light aka We the People Reply:

    Now that we know you hired an attorney to negotiatiate something for your child, we know you were (are) the angry mother. Everyone who has children in the school system knows what “hiring an attorney” means. I’m asking how much it cost the tax payer because, the attorney you hired had to negotiate with someone and I’m assuming it was the school district solicitor whose salary is paid for by the tax payer. Were you angry at a teacher? a counselor? support staff? It’s unfortunate that tax paying parents have to resort to hiring attorneys to get their children what they need to be successful.

    What was your relationship like with other school board members in light of this action? How did this effect your ability to accomplish your goals as a school board member?

    [Reply]

  14. Where are you going with this? These are beyond wild accusations. You are a lunatic. None of this is true nor relevant and I never said the attorney had to deal with the school district. This is none of your business. Enough. Get a life. I did not negotiate anything for my child. It was in my role as a board member. I was not angry at anyone Someone was angry at me. It was the fact that I was a volunteer and someone personally threatened me. People like you.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Cowardly,

    You say you have not name called me before tonight April 2, 2013.

    On March 10, 2013 (see above,) you say “you are a lunatic.” And on March 7th (also above) you say “I have been an angry parent” (meaning yourself)

    You name call, insult, mock and ridicule me because your arguments have no merit. You get frustrated and are unable to control yourself. That is a fact.

    As always I wish you well and hope you can find peace and happiness.

    [Reply]

    Cowardly anon Reply:

    SL
    When you have something to contribute, then you are worth my time. To date, my annoyance with you is borne of the fact that you have said nothing of value except to denigrate the efforts of those elected to a role.
    You lose the train of thought or reason in almost every discussion, and then you make some nonsense comment and draw conclusions without substance. I have yet to argue anything …I share history and information.
    When you are willing to talk about anything you have done and any experience you have in the first person, perhaps you will make sense.
    In the meantime, your obsession against all those with power or credentials is tiresome. Your type is why good people won’t serve. Sit back in your anonymous web and fire shots without information, and stay safe so that you don’t fear retaliation. And talk about merit where you have yet to even provide anecdotal support for your own value.

    My anger. You betcha. It’s like mischief night and you keep pointing toilet paper on the trees…and I believe your style is making ties like this little more than a place to vent, not contribute.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    And you continue with your anger. And you admit it again. I have “no obsession against all those with power or credentials.” I have a right as a taxpayer ( which you do not because you are not a taxpayer) to question local officials especially on matters that are of the financial magnitude Pattye uncovered today.

    You continue to defend the indefensible. You went on and on for months about how we “had to give the administrators raises or “they would leave.” They have the best deal around and we didn’t even know it. I always said not one of them would leave if they didn’t get raises. As a matter of fact, I said even if they were asked to give concessions they would not leave and I stand by that. Please reference Radnors supt, Search Page. They have a new update regarding the over 25 qualified candidates they have for their supt. search.

    “When you have somehthing to contribute, then you are worth my time.”

    You have given me more time than you have given anyone. I ask everyone to read this entire thread (I am also WE the People on this Thread) I have contributed plenty. I have supported my statements. Why do you keep responding to me if my points do not have merit?

    Thanks for keeping the conversations going. It is important that all members of this community know what is happening and your comments, your anger and your hostility contribute to the continued discussion of very important information.

    As always I wish you well in your new community.

  15. Cowardly,

    I’m sorry you’re so upset.

    I’m simply going by your own words and maybe I misinterpreted them when on:

    March 7
    10:04 P.M.
    You said:

    “I’ve been an angry parent. I had to get an attorney to help me once when I was negotiating because of some treatment of my child.”

    Now you say, it was in your role as a board member, and it was the fact that you were a volunteer. I don’t know what that means.

    Then you say, someone personally threatened you. People like me.

    If you read over all of our exchanges, I have never threatened you. You on the other hand, have challenged my motives, disparaged my character and name called me many times.

    I hope you can find some peace and happiness in your new home. I wish you well.

    [Reply]

  16. funny but aides make 13 dollars an hour Some work one on one with special needs kids in a streamlined setting, ie classroom. How much lower can their hourly wage go? And no health benes available. yes, a small pension. Looks like maybe other school districts in the area may be benefiting from an exodus.. maybe its all BS and a negotiating tool.

    [Reply]

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