175 Aides and Paraeducators are on the verge of outsourcing in T/E School District — Help save their jobs!

It is almost impossible to believe that we live in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb with award winning, nationally ranked schools and our School Board is voting whether to outsource 175 aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers at Monday’s School Board meeting.

Since attending the Finance Committee meeting and writing about it this week, I have heard from parents, residents, aides, TENIG members and teachers.  Not a single person contacted me to say that they support outsourcing, touted as a cost-savings measure by the District.  I understand that there is pressure to cut costs in the District budget but cutting costs should not be at the expense of our most vulnerable students.

Although the District business manager Art McDonnell presented a couple of slides at the Finance Committee meeting about outsourcing, many in the audience left short on answers and confused.  Here’s a review of what I think we know at this point about the outsourcing.  According to McDonnell, the staff researched outsourcing opportunities and met with five different vendors. We were not given the names of the other vendors, only the recommended vendor – Substitute Teachers Service, Inc. (STS). During the evening, it was repeatedly stated that STS is one of the nation’s largest outsourcing vendors and has been in the business for 25 years.

The “Analysis of Outsourcing of Aides and Paraeducators” slide indicated that the 2013-14 anticipated wage and benefits costs for aides and paraeducators is $3,359,784. The cost to the District to outsource with STS is 22.5% of actual wages paid to the aides and paraeducators.  STS will pay all benefits form the 22.5%.  It was unclear what those ‘benefits’ were beyond the required Social Security, etc.  The agreement with STS will be for 3 years.  The increased costs to the District for outsourcing in Year One is $126,307 and Year Two is $59,678.  In Year Three, the District will see a projected savings of $529,544. How does the District go from losing money ($190K) the first two years to saving $500K?  I have no idea.

The anticipated wages and benefit costs for substitutes for 2013-14 is $842,250.  Like the aides and paraeducators, if outsourced to STS, the cost to the District is 22.5% of actual wages and vendor pays all ‘benefits’ out of the 22.5% and is a three-year agreement.  The increased cost to the District is Year One of $76,500, Year Two of $60,112 and Year Three of $44,275.  It is my understanding that the District will not see a savings until Year Six if the substitute teachers are outsourced!  By outsourcing, the District loses money for 5 years before recognizing savings … and this is viewed as a solution?

To be very clear, should outsourcing occur, there is no guarantee that the aides and paraeducators will still have jobs in our school district.  How do I know this absolutely … I asked that specific question at the Finance Meeting and was told by Sue Tiede that the District would ‘encourage’ STS to keep our employees.  I asked if the District’s agreement with STS could mandate that the outsourcing company hire our employees and the answer was NO.  I don’t view encouraging a vendor to hire our employees as any guarantee to the 175 aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers.

When I asked the Board if STS would compensate the TE employees at their current pay level, the answer from Art McDonnell was no, he indicated that their pay would be lower if outsourcing occurs. However, by the end of the outsourcing discussion, that response shifted with Dan Waters stating that the outsourced employees would actually be paid more if they were outsourced.  The rationale behind this claim – when outsourced, the paraprofessionals will not be making the 7.5% PSERS contribution so therefore the employee makes more money. What? This is not more money as the contribution was the employee’s money in the first place.

I’m asking the question again, ‘Where’s the fairness”? Three months ago, the School Board approved raises for the highest paid employees — the administrators.  Now the Board is contemplating outsourcing the employees with the least amount of power, making the least amount of money.  If you recall, the administrator raises were buried in a consent agenda; and we came very close to see a repeat performance with the outsourcing.  The game plan at the Finance Committee meeting was to add outsourcing on the School Board meeting consent agenda. However, thanks to Board member Anne Crowley speaking out, outsourcing will be a priority discussion, which allows for public comment prior to the Board vote. How does the District balance raises to administrators against the outsourcing of aides … interesting interpretation of ‘shared sacrifice.’

In closing, I am including excerpts from some of the emails in the last few days in regards to the District’s proposed outsourcing:

From a District aide …

“These individuals have direct contact with our children on a daily basis. They are our greeters in the lobby, the aides who work one on one with special kids in the classrooms, they monitor lunch periods and recess, they work in the library and in the office , they assist teachers in the classroom, accompany our children on field trips and the do so much more. Many live in our community, have children in the school system. They are our neighbors and friends. 

Personally, I worry that non-local strangers will be brought into our schools and not give the same quality of care and attention to our kids that my colleagues or I would. Our current aides have a college degrees and many master’s, they go through rigorous security screening by the district and by the school staff. Many have been working here for several years. “

From a resident …

 “I challenge the School Board to spend some time really thinking about the outsourcing decision before you vote. Spend some time; really know what these people do, because those paraprofessionals have among the hardest jobs in the building. I’ve done that job; I respect the heck out of those people.”

From a TE teacher …

“This outsourcing will affect all students in various ways none of which are good.  Paraprofessionals are partners to the teachers in the education process.  They pick up where the teachers leave off.  They are there to lend a hand when one or a few students need it, so teachers can continue teaching the other students in the classroom.  I think the important message here is the fact that the role of paraprofessional in TESD is a very important one and I urge the Board to weigh the financial savings against the impact on our students.  I’d like the Board to think about the students first.  I think we’ve lost our way a little bit with regards to our students.”

From a parent of a special needs child … 

“I completely support the paras of TE.  They do this job because they love it and they love being with the children.  The paras make very little money and many have teaching degrees.  To me, as a parent, it makes me feel very comfortable sending my child who has special needs to school each day.  I know what it would do to my child having a different face in class each day who doesn’t know what to do or how to help.  Cutting costs should not come at the expense of our students. Both special needs and typically developing children benefit from having para professionals in our schools that are there every day.”

If you care about the future of 175 aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers  in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District plan on attending the upcoming School Board Meeting.  Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a paraprofessional, a TENIG member or a resident and oppose outsourcing, join me on  Monday, May 13 at  7:30 PM at the T/E School District Administration Offices (TEAO), West Valley Business Center, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne.

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57 Comments

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  1. My suspicion is real. Few in the community (even support staff) know the board is voting on Monday to outsource their jobs. Some have begun to organize by writing letters, sending e-mails and calling their friends to ask for support.

    The mood is the schools is very low. This is not good for anyone, most of all the students and it will get even worse if this plan by the administrators and board goes through.

    Support staff needs our support. Let’s give it to them. They are a very important part of every childs day and deserve the respect, consideration and support that all employees in this district enjoy.

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  2. Sleeping Giant is correct. I spoke with several lobby aides in the schools yesterday and they JUST found out that this is happening. They didn’t have a clue that it was even up for condsideration. I’ve spoken with some district parents and their response was “What outsourcing, who is being outsourced?” What is with this School Board trying to do everything on the sly? Could it be they know what they’re doing is wrong, so therefore, trying to keep it a secret???
    At the very least, please email the Board members and let them know that outsourcing is not an acceptable option.
    Thanks for your help!
    http://www.tesd.net (click on school board tab at top of page, then contact school board tab)

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    flyersfan Reply:

    and you get bet the farm that the teachers knew about this all along.. count on it.

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    Anon Reply:

    When they were told, they were told NOT to talk about it, especially with parents or people outside the school.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    This smacks of secrecy. We get why the District doesn’t want the public to know about what’s going on — how dare those paying their salaries be permitted to ask questions and expect reasonable answers. It is astounding to me that many on the School Board thought it acceptable to add outsourcing to the consent agenda. I am so naive that I figured after their misstep of including the administrator raises and golden retirement bonus in the February consent agenda, that they would never try that sneaky approach again. But here we were, 3 months later and the very same thing almost happened. Unbelievable. The SB needs to know that not everyone sleeping through their decisions. Again, thank you Anne Crowley for standing on this issue and giving the public a chance to comment on outsourcing. Unfortunately for us, Ms. Crowley is not seeking re-election. There are 2 incumbents (Kevin Buraks and Rich Brake) that are running for re-election — their outsourcing vote on Monday may influence a few voters.

    flyersfan Reply:

    ANON, that is exactly the truth.. they were silenced… Until 3 days before the vote when the aides were notified of all this.. I am no lawyer but something smells here.. John where are you???

    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    -They were told not to talk about it with parents or outside of school-

    Outrageous

    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    About Pattye’s comment

    “hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!”

    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    Can you imagine telling a teacher or administrator that their job would be eliminated and then adding insult to injury by telling them not to talk about it?

    What do you think would happen? Do you think they wouldn’t talk about it?

    This is unbelievable.

    Hubris

  3. People can email the District but it has been my experience that those emails don’t always find their way to the School Board. I suggest emailing Board members privately. And show up at the Board meeting The District’s idea of transparency is not my idea of the way it should work!

    Why not outsource the business manager’s job.

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    Anon is correct. I thought the same. How do citizens get access to Board members private e-mails though?

    Maybe calling them at home is best. Talking to someone is better and gets more consideration. E-mails can be easily dismissed, deleted and forgotten.

    Show up at the board meeting with signs.

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  4. the aides should all call in sick tuesday. See how the schools function… ALL have to be on board, whether they have sick/personal days or not… Call the media… make a legal ruckus..

    IS this happening in Great valley? In Radnor? LM>? I mean low men/women on totem pole getting crapped on? And the students they serve too????

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    FF,

    ……………………………

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    I heard that none showing up has been mentioned.

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  5. Yes, the children with special needs that the Aides and Paraeducators are hired to work with will be affected greatly, but the rest of the students will be affected as well! The school district will give up the interviewing, screening and making sure the Aides and Paraeducators are a good fit for not just the individual student, but the teacher, the class, the school… This would be trusted to a third party to do. How is that good for our children? (And this third party has a 3 year contract.)
    Now these Aides and Paraeducators are working for the school district and have a vested interest in the school and all of our students, if for no other reason than they need their job. For most, if not all, this vested interest runs deeper because they have forged relationships with staff and others within the schools that they work . With STS they can ask to be reassigned to another school if they desire; “when the going gets tough…” The loyalty component is taken away. How does that benefit our children?
    It is astounding that the school board would seek to push this through without opening it up to discussion (as they did with the administrators’ raises!) They know it is wrong and want to have it done before they have to see the human-factor side, or get proper input from those with a vested interest. From what I’ve read, it does’t seem as though the financial side makes all that much sense either. A 3 year contract where the district sees no cost-savings until 6 years? Who is the finance person who thinks that is a financially sound move?
    That aside, we need to think what we are saying not only to the people’s jobs and livelihoods we are affecting, but to the students, our children. Is it okay to dismiss those loyal to us/our children/our schools without regard for them, and without proper due diligence?

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    flyersfan Reply:

    dont you think contracted employees from Upper darby, Philly and Coatesville. P hoenixville, will care as much, do as good a job?

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    Sunny Reply:

    I have been an IT contractor for over 20 years. Contractors have to do a good job, else you’re out.

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    Well said anon. This move will further in John’s word “dehumanize” our school system. Many of the aides are parents and have a vested and personal interest in their jobs. They are the eyes and ears of what goes on in the schools.

    Outsourced employees won’t care. It’s simply a job to them. Corporations dehumanization of the American workforce is now bleeding over into our school systems complete with bonuses and raises to the segment who earn the most.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    Corporations may have their faults, and our society has taken swipes at them. But this is a direct result of GOVERNMENT policies, intrusive regulatory policies that have weaved their way into the local public domain. Private corps are dealing with this too. If you are favored, you can get a waiver from the government. Unions, large corporations.. its all the same. Corrupt… control…loss of freedom…because the GOVERNMENT knows best, is right.. We reap what we sow.

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    There is little the same about how a corporation is run and how a school district is run.

    flyersfan Reply:

    not sure..you are witnessing a new economic reality in a cost cutting measure, same as in a private institution, maybe with less public oversight, but the impact on employees is the same.

    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    O.K maybe I should have said corporations should be run diffrently than school districts. You’re right, this does smell like a corporate move. As I said this morning, this move further dehumanizes our school district bringing it more in line with a corporation that callously casts away it’s employees with no consideration for respect or decency.

    Many other options could have been considered before resorting to this one. And tax paying citizens have the right to be included in the decision making process.

    Hubris

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    In addition to the individuals involved in this outsourcing approach, I for one am not convinced that this is fiscally responsible. Neither Art McDonnell or members of the School Board have convinced me that this makes economic sense! The District is charged 22.5% by STS as their fee for outsourcing. The District loses money until the third year with outsourcing the aides and paraeducators and until year 6 with the substitute teachers! How in the world does this makes financial ‘good sense’! I think residents need to come prepared Monday night for an explanation by the School Board and the administration as to how specifically this makes sense — I don’t get it and I know at least 175 District employees who don’t get it either!

    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    Pattye,

    Do you suppose there is another reason or motivation for outsourcing?

    As I stated when commenting on the standardized testing threads, any function that can be repeated or automated or any form of logical thinking can be outsourced. Teachers plan a lesson and can repeat the same lesson for 30 years. Are they next? And what about administrators? Their job seems to be very rule based and straight forward as well.

    If support staff can be outsourced, they can all be outsourced.

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Clearly, if they outsource the aides and paraeducators, the members of TENIG cannot be far behind. An earlier comment about the possibility of outsourcing the business manager’s job (Art McDonnell) did cause me pause! There are school districts which outsource their business management … wonder if it’s possible in TE?

  6. Let’s not forget to mention that the pay scale for these people will go from low (most making around $12-14/hour), to just above minimum wage – with NO benefits!

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  7. Thank you so much for posting this. I had recently emailed the school board on this issue and the only board member who responded to my email was Anne Crowley. I will certainly pass along to neighbors.

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    SupportStaff Reply:

    Same for me also. Thanks Anne for caring what we think.
    We will really miss you.

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  8. Pattye, I have emailed WPVI and WCAU news to see if they find it newsworthy enough to show up. I also referred them to your blog right here to gather info and get up to speed.. Hope you don’t mind, but since its a public forum thought you would appreciate it being properly used in support of the community! perhaps others can contact these and all local news outlets… Lets bring pressure to bear!

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  9. Why wouldn’t the teachers be next? If you consider the aides outsourcing good policy, the teachers would be too. Not sure how unionization would fit into this scheme, but I am sure they could make it work..maybe someone can shed some light on this?

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  10. Thank you to Andy Settler, executive editor of Main Line Media for appreciating the importance of this story– this Community Matters post has just gone up as his ‘Editor’s Choice’ online at: http://mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2013/05/11/main_line_suburban_life/opinion/doc518e70ab9fabb137772297.txt

    Should outsourcing of aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers occur, the members of TENIG — the custodians, kitchen workers and support staff – will not be far behind.

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  11. Or, you could just play less to the substitutes. Trust me, they will still come in to work a day at a lower pay. Most of them are out of work teachers. $ is better then no $ and going to a sub day at TESD is a treat compared to other school districts.

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  12. It seems to me that during the budget process it may be reasonable to consider the raises to administration vis a vis paying the aides… but I guess aides are a dime a dozen, those highly educated, indispenscable (sp) bloated administrators are not.

    But I think you are right, CJ, at least the subs will suck it up. Many of the aides/paras, maybe not.. Maybe waters will volunteer a day or so for some classroom work with an autistic student. Any volunteers?

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  13. Many in support staff in our district are highly educated with not only bachelor degrees but masters degrees as well. These people are not a dime a dozen. They are highly skilled, care about their jobs and contribute way more than their jobs pay. We as tax payers and parents get a great value for our dollar.

    Citizens, especially in this segment, should not be afraid or hesitant to stand up for their jobs. Read about Quakertown and Pennsbury. District support staff in one district even solicited 200 signatures from students.

    Many of these employees live here and pay taxes here to support the inflated salaries of the administrators who are now trying to eliminate their jobs. It’s obsurd.

    Support Staff, stand up and advocate to save your job and advocate as a taxpayer to stop the rubber stamping of these pay increases to the inflated salaries of administrators slipped and hidden in a consent agenda in the hopes tax paying citizens will not find out.

    If it were not for Ms. Crowley, the elimination of your jobs would be hidden in a consent agenda vote with no public awareness, discussion or debate.

    This action, targets the employees who can be eliminated with the least amount of trouble and aggravation for the administrators and board while conveniently ignoring the high salaries and benefits paid to teachers and especially administrators. Just imagine how much money could be saved if each and every teacher and administrator contributed just a little more to their health care.

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  14. sg, I was being sarcastic about the dime a dozen comment, although I truly believe the bloated ignorant school board believes this. You make great points in the rest of your entry. I am pissed. Many folks will be at the meeting tomorrow..I am not trustful of the teachers and their union showing up… they could have done more earlier, If they were told to hush up, then this is really bad.. No guts no courage…and yes we are taxpayers too. perhaps we can petition to cut some principals from the employee rolls. How many do we need? Can we do with one less? this is uglier than most people think, yet except for a few of us, it hasn’t garnered as much outrage on these boards as say the st davids debacle.. Hope the folks will be at west valley road tomorrow.. Cynically I don’t think it will matter. The stooges have made their minds up.. See alot of Buraks signs on lawns… Who can vote for this clown? Even if you are democrat, isnt there anyone else?

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    Every new person who finds out about it, is outraged. I, like Pattye, have not talked to one citizen who agrees with this action. By design, citizens found out about this too late. Support Staff found out about this too late. I think many if not most teachers knew.

    They eliminated guidance counselors at the schools and things seem to still be running smoothly. I don’t see why eliminating a principals position would be any different.

    Dr. Waters said he hired Mr. Chambers because he “is my friend.” He defended the decision and “his friend” even though there was tremendous public outcry on this blog and in the local paper. The writer actually labeled him a very derogatory name.

    It’s too bad that Dr. Waters doesn’t count any of the support staff as his “friend.” It seems that’s a very good way to keep or get a job around here.

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    Outraged Aide Reply:

    I would like to know how we outsource Mr. Waters’ position. Let’s put that on the agenda and see how he would feel!! I still can not believe that bonuses and raises were given out. Shouldn’t those be the first things removed from the table when looking at saving money to fix the debt we are in!

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    FF

    I know you were being sarcastic about the dime a dozen comment.

    My point is, if our highly skilled, highly educated employees in support staff are outsourced………..they will be relaced with employees whose skill sets are a dime a dozen.

    Please read anon’s post above………..all of the children will be affected.

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  15. pattye you mention fairness… it is not really about that, primarily, although the tactics used are grossly unfair, subterfuge,et.al.. it is about good management of resources. Clearly the board doesnt want to pay health care to these people, and that is coming. With teachers having health care already, they may be in the clear outsourcing wise.

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  16. This is the new reality until PSERS and health care for teachers is brought into the 21st century. In this blog we have stated we don’t want our taxes to be increased for continuing the benefits package of yesteryear. But on this topic, people claim we should have the funds. Can’t have it both ways. Outsourcing it a viable solution to our budget woes. And no one is stating that the outsourcing choice will bring a lower standard of operation to the school district. I wish we could keep the same operational model, but the PESRS increases are mandatory and stresses our purse. And we cannot take exception to the increases for the administrators without weighing in PSERS and healthcare for teachers. Administrators are responsible for the curiculum and ensure our school district stays competitive and elite. We cannot pick and choose … we have to consider every facet of running the school district. That is what the school board has to consider.

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    CP

    Healthcare for the administrators is the same as the teachers. That is why healthcare for teachers is gold standard. The administrators are not going to work hard to get concessions from the teachers because this would also effect them.

    Because the administrators are responsible for the curriculum, does not mean they are entitled to make more than double the national average in salaries especially when they are working hard to outsource the segment with the least amount of power and who make the least in wages.

    I agree that we have to consider every facet of running the school district.

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    CP Reply:

    Sleeping Giant – You really thing the administrators are “working hard to outsource the segment with the least amount of power and who make the least in wages”? You have introduced this as your opinion and is not related to my comment.

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    Sleeping Giant Reply:

    CP

    You said, “And we cannot take exception to the increases for the administrators without weighing in PSERS and healthcare.”

    The administrators, in the negotiations last summer, did not get much healthcare concession from teachers because their healthcare is tied to the teachers helathcare, It is exactly the same. The administrators negotiated that contract. There were no board members at the table. The tax payer was not represented. Why would administrators work hard to get concessions on healthcare when their own benefits would be affected? It was a direct conflict of interest for them to be at the table especially with no board members present.

    In my post above, I did not say administrators are working hard to outsource the segment………….I was referring to your comment about teacher healthcare.

    But, I do believe administrators are working to outsource support staff? Have you not read Dan Waters’ comments?

  17. thanks for the support CP..its healthcare for the aides. And considering how the board runs every facet of the school district, I would like your support in supplanting this board.

    Even considering the tight constraints budgetary wise, this is a cheap shot across the bow, and into the hull as well. You may not see it. I want low taxes as well but like the federal govt which sees the economy as a zero sum game, lets consider the budget zero sum… split the pie better so there is some for all… and no GROWTH of taxes..
    Bonuses for administration> Raises? college education paid for, for Waterbug? Are you kidding me>???

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    CP Reply:

    It’s a trickle down effect and it is happening everywhere. Other posts have said the aides are not particularly looking for healthcare benefits because they already have them with their spouses. So, I’m not going there. I’m saying the root problem of the real stressers on our budget need to be addressed because they are out of date, they are the benefits we all had “yesteryear”. I’m also saying we shouldn’t assume outsourcing is going to be bad. It will be different, but due diligence can make it comparable. I agreee with you that we ALL have the opportunity to vote in board members who support our views or, better yet, seek out our views and represent them.

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    CharlieHorse Reply:

    This kind of outsourcing is an experiment and not a proven method. That certainly came to light at the board meeting last night. I have a growing suspicion that someone associated with the push to implement this service has a hidden interest. Appears to be a collective interest in rewarding the contract to STS! As McDonnell said last night indirectly there was a specific interest in establishing the contract with STS, interesting! In fact they actually negotiated a deal for a lower rate with them to acquire a tentative deal! We’re the other bidders ask to negotiate to a lower price! Food for thought!

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Good point — when I asked Art McDonnell who the other 4 vendors were, he couldn’t remember all of them!! All I remember him saying was Kelly Services was one o them! When he told me that they negotiated the 22.5% rate from STS and I asked negotiated ‘from what’ — he said it was originally higher, 30/32% higher. I didn’t think to ask if the other 4 companies (if there really were 4 other companies!) did they have the same opportunity to ‘negotiate’.

  18. Well.. I think its high time we vet ourselves some new board members! I think I’ll be voting for Scott Dorsey . This crap is getting way out of hand now!!!

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    CharlieHorse Reply:

    I appreciate Mr. Dorsey’s comments and support of the aides, our wonderful teachers and the TENIG support staff. As well as his chastising the board for going after the non profit organizations in our community. Time to weed out the corruption in the TE board and administration. It amazes me how this board whines and complains about having to pay their employees what they have rightly earned trying to weasel out of their bound commitments and then give administrators and additional pension and retirement medical benefits for life.

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    SupportStaff Reply:

    Scott Dorsey has my vote!

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  19. Our business manager isn’t even married or a parent.
    So I am not sure how he is really thinking about the best interest of a child. Or a child with needs that require an aide.
    His mentality is strictly the almighty buck.

    Shame on the board for supporting his suggestions and promoting him to manage our district. Which is heading down down down. We might as well move out to Unionville and Chaddsford where they seem to be thriving.

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  20. Lets face it Aides Unite, this township, and the school district of TE has been ossifying for years now. Same leadership, sometimes different faces but the story is always the same.
    Mismanagement, behind the scenes wheeling and dealing. Even the honest people of the BOS and BOE get caught up in it, or at least become powerless to stop it. It is really time for new leadership, but as I pass yard signs in our community, I see the same old names on placards…Truth is why would anyone run for say, the school board and have to be led around by the nose by waters and his cabal? Tiede, Macdonnel or whatever his name is….Dr Brake, there is more than one constituency in our community… the board seems to be most influenced by the retirees, those that can consistently make meetings because they no longer have to help get homework done, laundry, dinner, and all work associated with family life/kids. there was a time, as I previously said, when the previous generation of retirees supported the new retirees through taxes that elevated the school district. It is the way the system works. I don;t like increased taxes too, but we need some level of revenue to sustain our district…there seems to be no balance now..

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