TE Finance Committee meeting — How does the School Board regain public trust?

 I do not know anyone who attended last night’s Finance Committee meeting that left feeling good.  Although the Finance Committee is chaired by Betsy Fadem and includes other Board members Rich Brake and Jim Bruce, all members were in attendance.  Expecting a large audience, the meeting was at Conestoga.  Nearly all chairs were occupied with a significant number of aides, paraeducators and paraprofessionals in addition to teachers, members of TENIG, teachers and residents.

Following the budget discussion, the public comment period was troubling and disheartening.  Based on the TE School Board president Kevin Burak’s email last week, we had learned that the District would not outsource the jobs of the District’s aides, paraeducators and paraprofessionals but instead decrease the hours of 80% of these employees from full-time to part-time status.  The reduced work hours will cause a decrease  in pay as great as 25% — all this to avoid providing an affordable healthcare benefit option as required under the Affordable Care Act.

The Board cited the May 21 in-service day meetings with Buraks, Dan Waters and Sue Tiede and the aides/paras as the reason for this choice – stating that the paras and aides wanted reduced hours to stay employed as District employees.  Not only was this not the case, but also as I have stated previously on Community Matters, as Waters and Tiede explained to the aides and paras at that meeting, reducing hours was not a viable solution because it would then require the hiring of 35 more part-time employees to fill the void.

TE resident Neal Colligan asked the Board why no other alternatives were considered, including the one that he had offered.  For the record, Neal’s outsourcing alternative document was sent to the school board on June 4 with a request to notify that it was received.  Hearing no response, I re-sent the document to each individual school board member and we receiving nothing.  Neither Neal nor I received any notification from the Board that they received the document. Yet last night, school board member Karen Cruickshank not only tells the audience that the Board notified him that the document was received but that additionally, that the Board had thanked him for his efforts.  This simply did not happen.

Neal attempted to reason with the school board and asked they consider other alternatives rather than cut the hours of employees to avoid compliance with Federal law.  Seriously, what kind of message is this sending to our children — if you don’t like a law, look for ways around it?

There was no reasoning with the Board members in regards to their decision to reduce employee hours.  The Board stated that the District’s solicitor and the health care provider had researched the Affordable Care Act and provided the opinion that lowering the employee hours was the only way to avoid penalties for non-compliance. I will say that other than Liz Mercogliano  and Anne Crowley who did not speak, the school board presented a unified team on this issue.

TE resident Joanne Sonn ‘attempted’ to offer her own Affordable Care Act research and to present information that differed from what the District had previously presented.  Joanne had done her homework on ACA and offered names of several legal and healthcare expert sources, including Dania Palanker*,  senior counsel  at National Women’s Law Center in Washington, DC, .  Unfortunately, Sonn was not far into reviewing her research (which disputed the District’s findings) when Board member Pete Motel shut down further discussion by loudly yelling, “You’re wrong” at Sonn.  Motel’s action caused an immediate reaction from the audience and defense of Sonn’s right to ask questions.  Although this resident had much ACA information to offer to the Board, they were unwilling to listen, preferring to close further discussion by referencing the opinion of the solicitor.

In an email to me following the meeting, Sonn says in part, “I felt really disrespected by the board and patronized and I was not expecting that. All we are asking from the school board is to do due diligence. As you heard tonight, they will not listen to anyone but their own advisors. I think if they at least were respectful and open we would have left feeling better about this school board.”

Since the response to Neal Colligan by the Board was similar to Joanne Sonn’s … an attempt to limit discussion on the Affordable Care Act and its requirements, I asked Neal for his thoughts on last night’s meeting.  Here are his comments:

Interesting meeting last night.  Certainly the Board did not want to discuss the fate of the Paraeducators.  Seemed their impression of the situation was that this employee group was satisfied with reduced hours to avoid the ACA.  As that will impact about 80% of these 175 workers resulting in a cut in their total wages next year, I think it was clear that the Board’s impression was wrong.  It was nice to see so many of the employee group out at the meeting.  I wish they could have shared with the Board their individual situations as it relates to the reduced hours solution but I know they are still worried about workplace reprisals.

We don’t know how much work the Board has done on trying to find a plan to comply with the ACA Act so that these employees could maintain their status quo of hours.  They say they investigated and, on the advice of their solicitor, rejected the concept as containing too much liability.  We never heard that compliance could not be done to that another solution was not possible.  The audience last night only heard that they went as far as to ask their paid expert for an opinion.

As one Board member said last night, this situation has been a train wreck.  For the last six weeks, much effort has been spent soliciting outsource venders, negotiating with two of these firms, presenting inflated ACA penalty numbers to the community and finally abandoning outsourcing all together.  The current plan is the fallback avoidance strategy…cut hours and makes all of these folks part-time.  With all that work, time, and money spent on avoidance schemes, it is hard to believe that a compliance solution was fully vetted.  But we’ll never know.

This volunteer Board works as all of our local Boards do in the Public Trust.  They extract money from the community through taxes and use it for a public purpose; our community schools.  But the Trust of the Public is exactly what is missing here.  There were ugly parts to last night’s meeting as the audience clearly disagreed with the Statements of the members of the Board.  The shouting down of community members who rose to give opinions was also ugly.  I believe that this Board has lost its most critical attribute that it needs to carry on in the Public Trust and that attribute is the Trust of the Public.

As Neal states, the aides and paras are “worried about workplace reprisals” and fearful of speaking out.  They saw what happened to a resident Joanne Sonn when she dare offer an opposing opinion (and Ms. Sonn is not an employee of the District.)  It is remarkable to me that residents are encouraged by the Board to get involved, attend school board and committee meetings.  I guess what that really means is that you are welcome to attend, just don’t dare have an opinion.  I have often wondered why more residents are not involved but after last night, I know understand why.

Besides Joanne Sonn and Neal Colligan, the other TE resident asking questions at the Finance Committee was Ray Clarke and here are his comments:

Last night’s Finance Committee meeting was most astonishing to me for the complete absence of any interest in collaboration with the community and affected employees to solve the aide/para healthcare issue.  The default approach is “how do we get around the AHA?”, not “how do we comply with the AHA most efficiently?”  Inexcusable.

We did also get for the first time an integrated picture of the expected financial results for the year, although you had to be quick with ear and pen to catch the numbers.  It’s part of a pattern of the Administration to keep all information tightly controlled.  Anyway, as best as I could figure, it looks like we are heading for revenues of $111 million ($2 million over budget) and expenses of $106 million ($3 million under budget).  The net result: a $5 million surplus.

It should be noted that $0.8 million of the revenue was paid by Vanguard under protest and is subject to the result of their assessment appeal.  Key parts of the favorable expense variance are $1.8 million of healthcare, $0.5 million of salary due to retirements and leaves and $0.2 million for transportation.

So there are a couple of important questions.  First, does this outcome have any impact on the 2013/14 budget, revenues of $112 million (up only $1 million with a proposed $1.5 million tax increase) and expenses of $114 million (up $8 million)?  Well, apparently not.  But of course there is no documented analysis of that.  Dr Brake did have a shot at getting an breakdown, but that went nowhere.  The Board should demand a clear explanation before voting next Monday to approve any tax increase for 2013/14.

Second, what to do with the surplus?  Dr Motel was quick and brusque in claiming it for his Facilities empire.  I asked for an explanation of how the $50 million Infrastructure Implementation Plan is vetted by the Board, and it is clear that there is no integrated oversight.  After the proposed approval on the Consent Agenda, the next the Board sees will be a decade-long, rolling series of one-off projects, also slotted in the Consent Agenda.  Who is making the trade-offs between employee benefits and security and new kitchens, lights and toilets?

It could indeed be that the best use of the surplus is a transfer to the Capital Fund.  The district has some $60 million of debt and interest to be repaid over the next dozen years, of which all but ~$10 million has already been spent.  Although there is a good argument that the cost of new facilities is properly shared with future generations through debt financing, the district needs to be very prudent in loading up with more and more interest-bearing debt.  The first step, though, is of course to make sure that the funds need to be spent in the first place…..

There’s an important Board Meeting next week, but last night’s evidence does little to inspire confidence in Board or Administration leadership.

Isn’t it amazing how last November 2012, the District discovered a surprise surplus of $3.9 million from the 2011-12 budget. Other than some health insurance adjustments, it was never clear how the financial forecast could have been off by nearly $4 million last year.  And if you recall, the surplus was conveniently found immediately following the signing of the teachers’ contract.

If we were to believe that last year’s budget surplus was a fluke of nature, guess what – the fluke happened again. According to Art McDonnell, it sounds like the District will have a surplus of $4-5 million from the 2012-13 budget.  Two things come to mind – if the District has a surplus of $8-9 million in the last two budget cycles, how is it that (1) we cannot afford to offer affordable health insurance to every full-time District employee  and (2) shouldn’t the taxpayers receive a check for overpaid taxes?

The questions continue but the answers do not.  Perhaps the Board will behave differently at next Monday’s School Board meeting … the cameras are on and their performance is recorded.  If you are an aide or paraeducators, a resident, TENIG employee, a teacher or a parent – I encourage you all to attend the meeting, June 17 at 7:30 PM, Conestoga HS.

Open dialogue and communication are key to the success of any organization. As TE School District residents, we have a right to comment and to ask questions of our District leaders and we cannot allow that right to be taken from us.

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*  Joanne Sonn has had extensive communication with Dania Palanka, as she sought expert legal assistance to better understand the Affordable Care Act and what its requirements would mean to the TE School District. Here is a brief background from Ms. Palanker’s resume — Dania Palanker focuses primarily on implementing health reform and expanding access to quality, affordable health care for women and their families. Prior to joining the Law Center, Dania worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Starting her work at SEIU in the research department, she became interested in expanding access to health care to low income families and spent a few years as Deputy Administrator of a health benefit program at SEIU, working to provide affordable health insurance to previously uninsured low wage workers and their families. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), she worked on implementing the law as Associate Director of Health Policy. Her background in the ACA includes insurance reforms, coverage expansions and delivery system reform, with particular expertise in employer benefits and insurance reforms. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Based on Ms. Palanker’s background, it appears that she is eminently qualified to address ACA compliance requirements in the TE School District.

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  1. I was thoroughly disgusted last night in attending the finance meeting, as an employee, a parent, and a taxpayer of T/E School District. The untouchable, we can’t be wrong attitude, all the members of the board presented was distasteful. To not allow attendees the chance for rebuttal in answering a question, is complete “monarchy like” behavior. A board member, yelling “your wrong” like a child, the presence of a Tredyffrin police officer (obviously requested by the board, and paid for by the taxpayers), and the chairperson miss-using her gavel, was certainly a strange way of presenting a unified front in trying to solve a problem. O yea, there were no camera’s their last night, were there!

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  2. I attended the meeting last night and was appalled at the board’s lack of respect for the community members who spoke and their total disregard for any of the points the citizens tried to make. Perhaps the financial meeting format does not allow for a proper dialogue between the public and the board but there should have been a better way to handle the audience’s obvious disapproval and questioning murmurs…..”we are not having a dialogue” is not how a board member should have addressed a questioning citizen.
    Furthermore, Mr. Motel behaved very poorly, shouting at a woman that she was wrong, YET not offering to explain how or why her facts were wrong. He owes her an apology. The other board members, however, did not step up and admonish or show disapproval in any way for his bad behavior.
    When will the board actually take appropriate time, do their due diligence concerning this issue before announcing their latest plan. The time frame between each one of the board’s new “solutions” has been terribly short and does not show the community that they have looked at every side of the issue or have looked at the consequences of their actions.
    One board member said this has been a “train wreck”….it has been…but it is a train wreck the board has caused. Pattye, Neal, and now Joanne S. have all been trying to get the board to look ahead at the signals on the track…have tried to show that there are different paths to take and yet the board has driven the train steadily in the direction of a concrete wall.
    We need all of the community to come out on the 17th to challenge this board one more time to be wise and fair with their decisions.
    Thanks for “listening”
    Many thanks to Pattye, Neal, and Joann as well as those who have continued to fight for the 175 employees.

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    supportstaff Reply:

    Anonymous, I agree. If. Mr. Buraks has any hope of holding his seat, now is the time to step up and lead. He’s the board president for heaven’s sake! That meeting should never have been let to get out of hand the way it did last night.As far as Dr. MoteL is concerned, I think it’s time that he steps down, as this is not his first public outburst. To have to put up with him until 2015 is just asking way too much.

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  3. Not precisely. PSERS has changed so the rules are vastly different. But again, this is arithmetic. 25 people at 40 hours costs the same as 40 people at 25 hours. Dr. Motel has probably heard enough about ACA to last him a lifetime.

    Very disappointed to read this feedback. This falls on the board, regardless of how many want to blame the admin. I would imagine that the STS plan would have kept most employees whole as far as payroll. Under this, they keep,their PSERS. And remember:PSERS is calculated on your three highest years, so cuts will only reflect how quickly your accumulate service time in terms of hours. (which is why a lifer in Education came to be Superintendent at Radnor and putown roughly 3 years…and left for the private sector.).

    By the way–Radnor is still “searching” according to their website, despite plans to have hired by the early spring.

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  4. One thing you left out about the meeting Patty was Dr. Brake’s political tea party speech at the end of the night. I got up and left when he starting ranting about Obamacare, the federal govt and the constitution.

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    supportstaff Reply:

    I agree with you, Disgusted. We did not need to hear his political rant about the Supreme Court and what is a tax or not a tax. Bottom line is that the ACA is a federal LAW and therefore, we should comply.

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  5. I went to last night’s meeting to show support for the aides and paras. I was thoroughly disgusted at the behavior of the board members. Betsey Fadem, Dr. Brake, and Dr. Motel showed poor form and obvious lack of concern. I had to stifle a laugh when Dr. Brake said, “no good deed goes unpunished.” as if this one year reprieve was a gift. This one year reprieve is seen as the School Board’s inability to seal a deal with an outsourcing company and, in turn, making like their doing something great for the aides, paras, and substitutes.

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  6. If it really is about the ACA why cut hours in September? Why not late December? Why? What if there is a delay of the law (Irs problems), will the hours come back? No. You know it will not happen. I love how they blew quick through, for the second time in a year, they have “found” money. And they moved on quickly.

    The most important thing I take out of this whole circus is how out of touch the admins are, the board and Dan. Most of the aides are people who love the job, want to work in the district they live in. They also are working for maybe earning enough to help pay their kids tuition, or maybe earning enough to help to get a car for their kids and so on. Yes the board does not get a salary. However admins and Dan pull in close and over 200,000. It seems by observing the board their household income, I bet(no facts but just by their actions) is about the same. They do not understand the need for these “small” jobs with income. They just do not understand how important it is.You can tell by the tone at this meeting. They were talking down to people and treating them like they were dumb and less.
    I noted this before that the people who spoke at that meeting saying they do not mind cutting hours are employees working31 hours. They cannot speak for employees working 35-40 and will take a large cut.
    At what point is the board going to stop cutting on the back of the employees.

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  7. What I witnessed last night at Finance was an absolute disregard for the district’s own rules. Policy (370 (Code of Civility Board Members)..a few key points :
    The School Board expects the members to be role models of civility .
    The Board expects the members to promote a respectful environment
    Communicate with the general public in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect
    How is anything going to be solved without communication from ALL parties.
    Please work together for a solution the children deserve it.

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  8. Kris Graham quoted something at the last School Board meeting from the Fact Finders Report about the “Administration being expected to continually perform financial miracles”… What she quoted was taken out of context but it made me look over the report again. In reading over the report I found some interesting parts where the Fact Finder states about the good fiscal condition of our district. I do not know why these same facts would not also apply to the aides/paras(other than they are not part of the bargaining unit). The fact finder states “Although the School Board is faced with very real financial challenges, it appears from the overall position of the District at bargaining that the District’s School Board is more comfortable seeking savings from the most convenient(and perhaps the weakest group of individuals)….than exercising the leadership required to seek the funds necessary to operate the District at the very high level expected”…”Here considering the realities of it’s financial condtion, and its educational and financial goals, there is absolutely no good reason why this School District would not offer more than single medical insurance coverage to its teachers…
    “There is no defensible reason for this School District-this School District that is one of the richest and best performing school districts in ths state-to champion any proposal that would pressure and weaken the families of the teachers…” We have the money to provide insurance for this group of employees. We should insist upon it.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I could not agree more!

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  9. What is the cost comparison between the amount of money the custodians gave up (when they took a 10% pay cut) and the admin bonuses this year? Aides, paras, custodians, etc. who are on the lower end of the pay scale will be the hardest hit by pay cuts and reductions in salary. Yet those making much more are receiving bonuses. What is going on? A $5 million surplus!!! Are you kidding me!

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    T/E Aide Reply:

    Jake, it goes back to what I posted. They have no respect for the lower wage workers and what they do. That 5mill they hide behind “we can use that money in the future”. They rather disregard offering insurance to aides and take money out of your pocket. They are very shady right now and not trustworthy. That bonus says sooooo much. They are spitting on the employees. The sad thing is…..there is no fighting them. As you see from the attitude Monday night..they are never wrong. How dare us tell them our opinion. When is the last time you saw a school board member sit in a class? By the way..somthing that has not been mentioned. While a aide was talking on Monday, Dan sat there texting. Real nice. Can we show him the door please!

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    Aides unite Reply:

    Wait serious Dan Waters sat there and texting? I wish I had been there to witness this. I would have marched up taken his phone and had his wife pick it up the next day. RULES are rules.

    I will now tell my kids they can whip out the phone and use it as they please as our fearless King has total lack of respect for the people who pay his very own salary + perks.

    GIVE ME A BREAK!

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  10. someone needs to analyze the surplus. This is government accounting,, That means revenues were higher than expected (or forecast low…look at the model) and expenses were less than budgeted (only the 2nd or 3rd year of self-insurance). TESD has 9 buildings and countless fields. To suggest that a capital plan is wasting money is exactly what got is country in a mess…with decaying bridges and roads and infrastructure.

    What exactly do people want? The original plan with STS was designed to keep employees whole, but they would no longer accrue pension benefits (they do not lose service credits). That was shouted down and STS ran off as any business would be smart to do…all that bad press when they were only doing their job?

    Ths business model at TESD has aides and paras without benefits. can someone tell me how many aides our neighboring districts have? TE has always been well staffed…do we have fewer aides than comparable districts?

    I am very disappointed with this whole process, but public attacks on people who are clearly stufgling to make all these decisions..that voters selected. Pete Motel is a physician who was just re-elected for a 4th term….did he suddenly become incompetent? Radnor is doing a Superintendent search…I believe it will be their 5th Superintendent during Dr. Waters term.

    This board made a tactical error putting administrators at the negotiating table. The mentality was always US (those who are paid) and “THEM” (the board). The Process relabeled admins as part of “them”….and this board stopped working hard to find solutions. They handed over far too much.

    But regardless, the “surplus” means NOTHING in government accounting. The budget requires revenue to manage expenses. Using the surplus only creates a false reduction in taxes. The only way to get a handle on Act 1 issues is to control expenses…and offering insurance to a segment that were hired to do jobs that came without benefits does not control expenses… So point the finger all you want, but this is not a problem that lamenting will solve. This board is in over their heads…and unless voters pay more attention to who you vote for, that won’t change. This is not about what people know–this is about what people do NOT know.

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    Disgusted Taxpayer Reply:

    I don’t care what a school board director does for a living. Just because Motel is a physician should not give him a pass to behave badly to the public. And as for having recently been re-elected, than I say he really should know better.

    You say that ‘someone’ needs to analyze the surplus? Should that be a citizen, a SB director? How about Art McDonnell – we are paying his $180,000 salary plus that Cadillac insurance plan. Maybe he could offer us some analysis of his budget model.

    A $50 million facilities plan and a multi-year, mega-million budget surplus but we can[‘t give workers insurance in TE.

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    supportstaff Reply:

    The “original” plan would not have kept them”whole”. The were only going to be paid $10 an hour plus change. The shady way it was presented said they were not losing anything but it was not true. I agree that this is partially our fault as we voted this board in. The dummies in MOTEL’s neighborhood need to stop voting for him just because they recognize his name on the ballot. People need to learn about the candidates before they mark that ballot. This has never been more important than now. I don’t agree with your comment about them being hired with no benefits and it’s not part of the”business model”. The law has changed.It is not the aides/paras fault.They did not just one day decide to demand benefits.Things change sometimes and this is one of those times. They have all this”contingency” money built in-time to use some of it. And I don’t really think that all those bonuses were part of any “business model” either. It’s about priorities and this admin and board has placed this group of hardworking, devoted people on the bottom of the heap under tennis courts, parking lots and air conditioning.It’s WRONG!!!

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    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Suggesting that the Capital Plan in NOT wasting money is exactly what got this SCHOOL DISTRICT into a mess – trusting the officials to do the right thing. “A surplus means nothing” – Huh? Time to cut off the cool-aid.

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    CHV Reply:

    Sidelines
    I urge you to read the newly released Capital Plan ..its a 10yr dream list that will paid for by taxpayers now & way into the future. I’ve attended Facilities meetings for years ( 3 different board members ) and this committee is “run “” by a private firm .. It makes the project list ..handles the bids ,checks the projects ,collects a percentage of the total cost plus get an hourly salary for meetings etc. Watch that “extra tax money ” be dumped into the Capital Fund instead of being used for education.

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    Jeffersonian Perspective: Governement serves the people Reply:

    CHV,

    This is new and surprising and interesting information to me. Who is the private firm that “runs” this committee? Do you know how long they have “run” it?

    Is this the way other school districts (Radnor, Great Valley, Lower Merion) “run” their facilities committee?

    Any info anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Daley and Jalboot Architecture — if you ever look at the District check register that comes with the agenda for the school board meetings, you will note the significant dollars to the firm. There was a sizable fee to Daley & Jalboot just to create the $50 million facilities plan. I have wondered has the District ever considered looking around at other companies and do they check to see that their rates are competitive in the marketplace. In some school districts, there is a director of facilities that is an employee that would have oversight versus outsourcing the job.

    Both Daley & Jalboot and the solicitor law firm Wisler Pearstine (Ken Roos) have been associated with TESD for as long as I can remember.

    Shining Light Reply:

    Thank-you Pattye and Papadick. It’s helpful to get information from people who have been around a while.

    So we hire a firm to facilitate facilities and it seems they are a “self supporting” entity unto their own. I’m getting dizzy again.

    I’m curious; what do the administrators do? what are Art McDonnell’s duty’s? What is his job discription? Does anyone know?

    A big thank-you to Neal and Joanne. Your work is not in vain.

    Shining Light Reply:

    CHV

    How long has the Private Firm been “running” facilities?

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    CHV Reply:

    2002 or 2003 .. D & J brought in for Teamer & Conestoga renovations… also when the Clerk of the Works retired a few years ago they got his job. I would like to know what other districts do.? Do they all have a permanent architecture firm on the payroll.?

    Shining Light Reply:

    Thank-you CHV. I would also like to know what other districts have architectural firms on their payroll.

    It seems to me, in these times of dire financial woes, capital expenditures should be curbed and the first thing to look at would be the architectural firm on the payroll. Especially when the board and the administration don’t want to give our valued aides and paras who work one on one with children on a daily basis, health insurance.

    It really is a matter of priorities and ours are in the wrong place.

  11. What are the “rules of order” for these meetings?

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    Sidelines Reply:

    D&J did the architectural work for the elementary renovations, well preceding 2002. They competed with RFPs for virtually every project, including the Stoga renovation. To my knowledge, every project through the CHS project was on time and under budget.
    You can and should challenge board decisions, but D&J are not “permanent architecture firm on the payroll.”. I understand you have a stake in the board behavior on Old Lancaster…but advice is bought and paid for. It is the board decision what to do. And check the D&J rates compared to other projects on the ML.

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    CHV Reply:

    I’ve attended Facilities for years due to my address and have challenged certain projects. But I have also seen how this committee functioned when the economy was good and it was fiscally conservative. Granted some of the leadership then was free.
    Now one firm is in charge and has been paid $197,041 this year ( Jan -May) , With an hourly rate of $155 and 6-8 % of every project except roofing that is a lot of money when times are tough .. If everything is on the line in the district then this area needs to be evaluated also,

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Thank-you for shedding light on this CHV. I’m still trying to get an accurate understanding of how this works.

    Does the firm decide what expenditures need to be made , do the work, or hire someone to do the work, and send the bill to the district? Is it that disconnected or do board members at least look at what the firm recommends and rubber stamp it. Does anything they present get vetoed?

    The way it’s going the district may spend close to $600,000 on the firm alone this year? Do you know how much was paid to them in past years?

    Ray’s original comment provoked my curiosity. If you or anyone else could provide more information on how this works, it would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Sidelines. You asked what do the people want. To start we want to know how come our district is so top heavy. Not only top heavy, but those admins making obnoxious salaries and bonuses. So top heavy that when Dinkins lsaid he was leaving they did not replace him ( by the way Dinkins is one of the good people and is a huge loss for the district). There are rewarding people who never have any contact with students.
    What do people want? We can start there.

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    Aides unite Reply:

    Parents want caring souls to care for the kids who need it most. The great aides that have given so much and more.
    The greeter, the library, the classroom, the special ed class, the copy aides the attendance people. The list is endless to what aides do to make the schools loving caring and safe. Most of all better. Stop treating aides and custodians like they are second class staff and just workers.

    People want a solid administration who can be paid well if they were not some form of a hasbeen gang with rules and punishments for those who don’t follow. Bye Dr. Dinkins, Bye former amazing principal at CHS who they chased out of town with lies.

    People want an elected school board who listens to the people, the staff, and cares about the future. Rude bullies are not who we elected. If you hate the job so much stop running or resign!

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  13. “No governement can continue good, but under the control of the people” — Jefferson to Adams 1819.

    “No other depositories of power, but the people themselves, have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge. Jeffferson to Kercheval, 1816.

    Our government is designed so that the people can exercise as much control as possible over elected officials.

    As Jefferson says citizens have to be attentive:

    “If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.” Jefferson to Carrington 1787.

    What should we the people do?

    “What country can preserve it’s liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance.” Jefferson to Smith 1787.

    Petition officials, if they are unheeding, the next remedy is to educate people and make our power felt at election time. Band together and identify the elected officials who are not performing properly, make an issue of their inattention to the public will, run candidtates to oppose these issues in the next election, and throw them out of office. This is the way our system should work.

    It’s easy for people to get away with whatever their power allows them to get away with. In this country we are provided remedies. Let’s not forget that.

    Band together, educate citizens, vote.

    Shining, Giant, We

    [Reply]

  14. Motel is just the same old Motel — He acted this way back when the budget for the high school renovations was voted on — and one of the Board members voted No and he had a hissy fit then using loud yelling and a condescending attitude to belittle the member. This was even after she explained that she objected to the cost to color the concrete in the courtyard. He acted like a little child — how could anyone question the Facilities Committee — He is a bombastic ass and how he gets re-elected is beyond me.
    I agree that if the decision is to reduce hours it should be as of January first — much can change by then in Congress.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    Ppd — that did not happen quite the way you describe. The no vote was opposing the cost of air conditioning…Unless you want to share your identity, you need to stop personalizing your anecdotes. The amount of inaccurate information being “offered” here is approaching a danger level. WHAT is being accomplished?
    CHV–it took Radnor 10 years of infighting to build a middle school at more than 3 times the cost a renovation cost TESD. It cost LMSD more than 10 times what TESD spent to get renovated buildings. And LM HAD a full time facilities director. What alternative do you suggest other than hiring professionals? Phil Hooper was an architect and until he passed away, HE was free as a board member and ultimately as a consultant.
    Not replacing Dr. Dinkins is a budget move…and since distance learning was shut down by the TEEA, one of his areas of focus is moot.

    before you suggest that TESD is top heavy, I would suggest you count at a few other districts. In fact, with 175 aides and paras, some might conclude it is likewise bottom heavy….but it is not either.

    And I assure you that Art McDonnell has analyzed the surplus. He reports to the board. If everyone wants to make their efforts about scrutiny, and second-guessing, ask for the report.

    [Reply]

    Disgusted Taxpayer Reply:

    ” … Unless you want to share your identity, you need to stop personalizing your anecdotes …” But somehow you continue to share your school districts anecdotes under the cloak of anonymity. Sidelines, you should take your own advice.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    I am not anonymous. Nor do I launch attacks.

    T/E aide Reply:

    Sidelines. Why do I care about other districts? Everyone of the aides at the school are important. By the way are a product of no child left behind. Talk to the parents who have children with special needs..or with learning disabilities..you will see how they are far from bottom heavy. In fact right now the aides are overwhelmed because the teachers teach six classes at CHS now and cannot give personal attention to these kids and it then falls on the aides to explain a quiz or test or what went wrong for them. Bottom heavy comment is insulting to children with learning disabilities. And yes you are anonymous after that statement you have to be.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    The ” bottom” is the claim you all are making here…assuming the lowest status because of the treatment. Get over this drama. I said neither claim would be true, but this discussion has gone beyond helping anyone. Staffing resource rooms with aides is a choice. Taking a “low paid” job and then becoming an “underclass” is your version, not mine. I am very aware of the importance of theosotion. It was a science aide that developed the elementary science curriculum. The aides allow resources to be deployed with much more flexibility, and I presume the paras are there out of commitment,,,so seriously…who are you helping with this bitterness and acrimony?

    Sidelines Reply:

    TE had mountains of aides long before NCLB. But then, who cares? Until cuts hit home, no one cared. (importance of the position…typo above)

    papadick58 Reply:

    Sidelines — my memory of the Board Meeting is clearly different than yours. Maybe the female Board member that decided not to seek another term could confirm my recollection if she reads this blog. It was a big big loss when she decided not to run.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Papadick,

    It doesn’t matter if the no vote was about air conditioning or color of concrete, a sitting board member should not disrespect, humiliate or shut down a citizen tax payer with a “loud tone.”

    The fact that he has behaved this in the past demonstrates he views this as an effective way to get what he wants. It is an inexusable, inappropriate tactic and one that citizens should no longer tolerate.

    We need board members that value citizen input and treat all tax payers with the respect and dignity they deserve.

    Insider Reply:

    Your memory is indeed faulty. I was at that meeting and nothing of the kind occurred.

    Andrea Reply:

    I chaired the meeting and have no such recollection. Linda Bravacos opposed the air conditioning plan. PPD — Perhaps you are thinking of another meeting. Regardless, board members tend to be civil to each other and have relationships that don’t always survive public scrutiny.

    Dr. Motel, in my opinion, should not have shouted at anyone. But look at the lack of civility on this website to other posters (will SL once again remind you I don’t live in Berwyn any longer?) and explain to me where unending criticism doesn’t push buttons.

    Many here have shown up for this issue. It’s SO common for the board. People come on one issue, fight that fight, and then head out. They come with little history, and in some cases, no dog in the fight. With the hours and hours put in to prepare for meetings, sometimes tempers run a bit thin. That does not excuse it. But the lack of patience on people who want their ideas reviewed and accepted NOW is understandable, if not right.

    I quit the board at the very last meeting that was not televised for just this reason. The cameras create this artificial exchange. The fact that Pete Motel yelled at a non-televised meeting reveals just how much the cameras likely restrain the conversation.

    Pete Motel is a physician. As was said earlier, I’m sure he is knee deep in PPACA information. Doesn’t mean he is right, but it does mean he has heard it before.

    YOU ALL voted these people in. This is Pete’s 4th term. Neal is hard working, but he didn’t want to run because he didn’t feel he could put in enough time I assume. I left the board because I needed to get paid for the amount of time I was spending in meetings, in research, and in endless community exchanges. Everyone went to school — so everyone knows how it should work.

    As to the distance learning comments above. Tim Donovan and Marie Slobojan left the district and were not replaced technically, so Dr. Dinkins skills were redeployed after the TEEA grievance shut down the distance learning initiative. (Yes — Mr. Donovan had left CHS and gone to administration — his administrative position was not replaced per se) Not sure you can argue that Admins are overpaid and then not give the admin staff credit when they take on a departing person’s responsibility.

    But the reality is, you all will argue. I keep thinking I’ll stop writing and then feel compelled to at least offer some background. No good deed goes unpunished….

    Good luck. PAY ATTENTION TO THE CANDIDATES FOR THIS FALL!!!!!!! Stop reading the “responsible financial management while providing an excellent education” and thinking that means anything. You need people with skills and time. John says I want a gold star, but in fact I have an MBA, and a background in expense control, benefits, and construction. Phil Hooper was an architect. Don Clarke was an attorney who was active in the Municipal Authority. Marian Schneider was an attorney passionate about public education. Debbie Rollins was an accountant with two kids in the schools and was active in school affairs. Carol Aichele had been president of PTOs at every level and was a school teacher by training. She was also a good politician and helped communicate with the public. Pat Wood had been the Director of Volunteer services for years and had been a PTO president at several levels. My apologies for any I leave out. It’s because I don’t want to keep going… I could go on….but my point is — GOOD PEOPLE chose to or were solicited to run for the skills they brought to the table. They weren’t just coaxed into getting interested for a primary. Vet your candidates. WHAT will they bring to the board?

    margaritaville Reply:

    what about the shutting down of distance learning.. So much for the TEEA… maybe if the Aides were unionized they would have energy from the bully pulpit.. this whole school district is crazy/.. We are looking out for the kids, need aides and yet we aren’t allowed to have distance learning because THE UNION PUT AN END TO IT? Whose side is anyone on here?
    All these competing INTERESTS supercede those of the clients… i mean students…

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Not only that, they kept administraters, responsible for distance learning making $180,000 a year on for years after the union put an end to distance learning.

    It has been reported that Art McDonnell ($160,000) now responds to citizen e-mails because Karen C. says they get so many.

  15. It seems that many on this blog are concerned with a lack of transparency from the TE school board. There are two law that can help ensure government transparency – the Sunshine Act and the Right to Know Law. By far the most most important law is the Right to Know Law. It allows citizens to access documents that otherwise might not be made public by a school board.
    .
    Pennsylvania thought transparency was so important that the created the Office of Open Records (OOR) to provide quick adjudication of Right to Know (RTK) requests. The process for requesting documents is simple and is outlined at the OOR website. From the OOR website:
    .
    Ensuring open and honest government is a bedrock principle of democracy. It can only be attained through the unfettered exchange of information between citizens and their government. A citizen’s right-to-know, sometimes known as freedom of information, fosters accountability, prevents abuses of power and promotes trust in government. Pennsylvania has codified this important right to access government records in Act 3 of 2008, called the Right-to-Know law.
    .
    The Right-To-Know law fundamentally changed the way people access public records of their government. The hallmark of this law, which took effect January 1, 2009, is its presumption of openness. For the first time in Pennsylvania history, citizens no longer have to prove that a record is public and that it should be released. Now, a government agency must presume that a record is a public record available for inspection or copying. If the government agency chooses to withhold a record, the agency has the burden to prove – with legal citation – why that record should not be available to the public.

    http://openrecords.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/open_records/4434
    .
    There is another non-profit group that will help any citizen understand the RTK law and the Sunshine Act – the PA Freedom of Information Coalition. You can ask questions and receive answers from a knowledgeable moderator. I asked about the purported advice from TE’s insurance carrier and the solicitor. You can see the question and response here under the title “Legal and Insurance Carrier Opinion”:
    http://www.pafoic.org/forum/YaBB.pl?board=OpenRecords
    .
    My point is that if you want answers, you won’t get them at a public meeting. You’ll have to use a Right to Know request to pry documents from the school board/administration. Why not ask for all documents and communications, including emails, regarding outsourcing of paraprofessionals or reducing the hours of paraprofessionals from or to any of the following: insurance carrier, solicitor, any member of the administration and school directors?

    [Reply]

    supportstaff Reply:

    I know from my own personal experience in the past, I’ve requested documents under Right to Know. I received the 30 day notice for them to obtain documents and when I followed up after the 30 days day had passed,
    then I was sent a denial. Thank you for the information Keith.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I suggest you let the PA FOIC moderator review the denial and then appeal to the OOR. Or just appeal to the OOR.
    .
    I’ve seen the transformation that can happen when documents obtained via the RTK law reveal that elected officials are being deceptive.

    [Reply]

    From A Distance Reply:

    “Neither Neal nor I received any notification from the Board that they received the document. Yet last night, school board member Karen Cruickshank not only tells the audience that the Board notified him that the document was received but that additionally, that the Board had thanked him for his efforts. This simply did not happen.”

    Amazing. How about a RTK request for the copy of the communication sent to Neal thanking him for his efforts?

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Further clarification on the receipt of Neal Colligan’s outsourcing alternative strategy will appear in the next CM post.

  16. papadick, agree about motel. Seems like he is ruling over a powerful committee and maybe needs a thorough audit too…

    [Reply]

  17. Any way these people can be removed from office?

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    And replaced with who? Trivia question: who just won the primaries and what do they know?

    [Reply]

  18. I think it’s time to get Andy D involved in this. Anyway he can see the meeting ? Also I think if all the aides and tax payers in T/E that witness this event speak up and write a nice note about the behavior of this regime that we elected and the corruption of our current administration maybe we can get somewhere.

    Also it’s time to take this local grass roots effort, which by the way is brilliant, to the real press. It’s time to stop being afraid of the fear and face the bullies here head on.

    By the way here was the really first of many clues to fire our finance person. If they found this gem imagine all the other things ? It’s like a buried treasure here.

    “Isn’t it amazing how last November 2012, the District discovered a surprise surplus of $3.9 million from the 2011-12 budget.”

    [Reply]

  19. As a concerned parent I was truly disappointed by the behavior of the school board members on Monday evening. I have difficulty with how they manage the tax payers’ money, treat the citizens of the community and all the while think they are always right and they have a high and almighty attitude. I have trouble with how a certain member of the school board gets elected without knowing what an IEP is and sends his kids to private school, what interest does he have in public education? (Hint as of 6-12-13 his political signs still decorated the district) I realize that the economy is turning around after a huge down turn but really to claim that we are always scrambling to find money then find surpluses in the past 2 years. Honestly the board really needs to examine their current behavior. I remember when committee meetings were a dialogue with the community. I really fear that TESD is going to lose the educational status they have in the state if they continue to have a school board that behaves like some members did on June 10, 2013.

    [Reply]

    supportstaff Reply:

    I was wondering if anyone else noticed all those signs. I figured we will have to look at them until November. Come on Rich, give US a break and clean up all your signs.

    [Reply]

    Insider Reply:

    The board member you refer to told the combined republican committies at a recent joint meeting that he could run the district for $50 million (current budget is over $100 million). This comment was not only wildly unrealistic but also grossly irresponsible. The last time the program cost $50 million was in 1994! Get real!

    This individual is “tea party”. Be careful in your desire to throw everyone out – you may only be electing more ideologically motivated tea party types. If you don’t like the cuts and proposed cuts you now see, wait until the board is dominated by tea party types. Anti public education, slash and burn. This is the real risk to the district and the kids.

    This blog, well intentioned, has become a cesspool of bitter negativity, innuendo, speculation, alleged “facts” confidently repeated as if they are true, and personal attacks. You are unwittingly serving the interest of the worst element of one of our local political parties, and the result will be the downfall of our schools – a self fulfilling prophecy.

    [Reply]

    margaritaville Reply:

    Huh? “this blog, well intentioned, has become a cesspool of bitter negativity…” if I read your entry, you contributed to that cesspool… like me asking if there are any socialists or communist party members in our community.. Are there? conflicting opinions do not require pilloring your opponent, slash and burn Clinton/obama esque techniques… labels are a staple of the democratic party. Cut it out, if you want dialogue and not confrontation.

    [Reply]

    Insider Reply:

    Labels are the staple of both parties. My concern is that this feeding frenzy of board bashing will result in the election of people who are not pro-education, much to the detriment of our schools and our kids.

    While the concerns expressed here are valid and real issues exist, this personal character assassination and extreme negativity is not good for anyone. Much of what is stated here is speculation, assumed facts which are not accurate.

    Let’s look at the alleged incompetence of the board and administration:

    I urge everyone to watch the replay if the Conestoga graduation. You will hear an impressive list of high accomplishments by the students and by this school district, including the fact that this year Conestoga is the number one open enrollment high school in the state!

    How about the allegedly out of control debt, alleged in this blog to have resulted from facilities. Here are some facts from the Pennsylvania Department of Education:

    2011-12 total debt:

    TE – $59,190,484
    UCF – $108,654,937
    Radnor – $108,502,171
    LM – $294,937,572

    TE wisely chose to renovate the high school at a cost of roughly $30 million, while LM, for example, built 2 high schools at a cost of well over $100 million.

    Not only does TE have top academic results, but we are among the LOWEST property tax rates. Also from the Dept. Of Ed:

    (ranking of 501 PA school districts where 1 is highest taxes and 501 is lowest) (Equalized mills)

    TE – 475
    UCF – 278
    Radnor – 418
    LM – 395

    Debt service in TE has run around 6 percent of budget since 1999.

    Pretty good for a bunch of incompetents!

    Shining Light Reply:

    “You will hear an impressive list of high accomplishments by the students.”

    This is the same year after year. Although, there are some very impressive teachers in this district who I have great respect for, much of the credit for high achieving students goes to the parents who have high expectations and demand excellence.

    You make some good points, however, because we are a high achieving school with lower taxes compared to surrounding districts, does not make it O.K. for citizens to be shut out of the collaboration process with board directors. It does not make it O.K. for citizens who have worked to come up with alternative solutions to problems to be disrespected and shut down during a public meeting of tax paying citizens who have a right to give their opinion and offer a solution.

    Why are you silent about that?

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I’m not sure I recall seeing anything here about the debt being out-of-control, but in any event it pretty much has to come from facilities spending since a district can’t borrow for operating expenses. And of course, since the resources required to educate a child are relatively constant from one district to another, factors like the level of property values and the commercial property mix have a big impact on tax rate rankings.

    The danger is that the cited 6% ratio will rise if spending continues at the historic rate when there is an already-spent $50 million that is still to be repaid. And at the moment the Capital Fund is receiving further funding from transfers of the 3-5% surpluses from the General Fund. At a time when there are many competing demands for limited taxpayer funds, it seems to me that a prudent Board would want to have a thorough review of spending trade-offs, before moving on to consider the appropriate funding mix.

  20. I have also witnessed what concerned describes. Board members (surprisingly, directors who have been in office a long time) do not know basic fundamentals about the way many things work. (Including education) They rely completely on administrators for the information, ask questions based on how it was presented by administrators and immediately adopt the attitude, opinion and belief about the topic based on the information and the way it is presented by the administrators. It is truly shocking.

    We need board members who are interested in asking questions to parents who have children in special education. These citizens know best about the program because they have been through it and live it every day. Does one board member have a child in special education? Why not call a special meeting and ask parents who have a child in the program to come and talk about it, instead of relying on administrators, who are not directly involved in the program for all information. Isn’t it best to talk to people who are actually engaged in the system?

    [Reply]

  21. Shining Light,
    Yes, in fact we have one board member with a special needs student. He has opted to send his child to a private school for a better education. More “one on one’ time with the student and aide!!! Student is not being sent to a “special” school, but instead a private school.
    Yet, our aides are not important. go figure.
    Of course, I wouldn’t think of mentioning the name of this tempured tantrum bully that is above all else.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    poor form. this is the kind of crap that causes board members to shout….you pay tuition for your child by paying the taxes here. if a board member chooses to pay tuition at a private school, they have every right.

    There is a dedicated group of parents that attend virtually every meeting who are special ed parents. I think they could weigh in very differently than those who simply want to support the aides…

    [Reply]

  22. To Insider:

    I attended the finance meeting, did you? No one here is exaggerating the behavior of certain school board members towards the public. There was no sense from the board that they wanted to listen to anything the public had to say. Their mind was made up and they were unwilling to have further discussion. I have never attended a meeting where a public official yelled at a citizen.and treated the person with such disregard. Maybe this bad behavior is saved for the non-recorded school board meetings like the finance mtg where there is no lasting proof, just the shared memory of everyone in the room. Yes, people are upset about what they witnessed and I am one of them.

    [Reply]

    Insider Reply:

    I did not attend the meeting, so I won’t debate what did or did not happen, other than to say that I know this person and this does not sound at all like him. While it is never right to be angry or inappropriate with a citizen, I wonder what was the provocation? What was the tone of that meeting? Civility is a two way street. There are two sides to every debate, and don’t think for one minute that there are not contributions made to this problem by the public (aids, bloggers, etc) who are involved. And yes, given the heated rhetoric on this blog, I do suspect exaggeration. The alleged incident regarding the vote over colored concrete (it was NOT the air conditioning vote – which had no uncivil behavior at all) is a case in point – highly exaggerated, nothing of the kind happened.

    The board (or someone in the administration) felt they needed a police presence. That has happened only one or two other times in the past 10 or 15 years. It means only one thing – some person or persons has made threats or acted or spoken in such a way as to create a concern for safety – i.e. someone’s behavior gave rise to a concern that there might be violence.

    Do you know that during the flap over the tennis courts, a board member was out walking her dog and a man in an SUV pulled up and said “Maybe I should just run you and that dog over” . A FELONY, terroristic threats against a public official. All over the stupid tennis court “issue” and flames fanned on this blog. Do you think the board may be on edge?

    Perhaps some of the people engaged in this bear some responsibility as well? There are things repeated over and over on this blog, always assuming the worst and making accusations against the board and administration. Perfect example – all day long people have been grinding up the Neal Colligan thing – the board/admin made sure nobody would ever see the email or consider the plan, Betsy lied about acknowledging receipt and thanking Neal etc, etc. ALL UNTURE BASIS FOR FALSE ACCUSATIONS. See the correction, where Neal himself refutes this, and asks what all the fuss was about.

    There are numerous other examples of false accusations based upon assumptions and so-called “facts” which are not true. Too many to cite each here, that would be a VERY long blog indeed!

    Just go back a couple days and count how many times the word “corruption” is used. The dictionary meaning and the common usage suggest something very serious, unethical or even criminal like taking a bribe. This is constantly repeated but there is ZERO factual basis for this. Libelous.

    And someone brought a board member’s kid into the discussion VERY WRONG, TOTALLY OUT OF BOUNDS. By the way, the person who did that has the facts wrong once again – the kid is back in our public schools. When parents decide what is best for their children, that is something which should be respected, not used for cheap political shots. Talk about disrespectful!

    This is not the way to conduct a useful public debate. Anonymous bloggers making all kinds of accusations without any accountability. To the extent there are legitimate concerns and issues here (and there are, certainly) they are lost in all this negativity. No one is well served by this, least of all the kids.

    [Reply]

    supportstaff Reply:

    I agree with much you have written. However, I was at the meeting and I did hear the citizen get yelled at by the board member. It is a two way street and the public is suspicious because many items of importance have been hidden in consent agendas instead of being laid out on the table. We are all feeling a little cynical right about now so everyone is scrutinizing every issue, even those that are several years past. I’m with Neal. Let’s put all this other nonsense aside for now and get back to the real issue which is getting our aides and paras what they rightly deserve. Let’s just get through Monday night and we’ll go from there.

    [Reply]

    Jamie Reply:

    ” board member was out walking her dog and a man in an SUV pulled up and said “Maybe I should just run you and that dog over”

    Really??? Does anyone know for a fact that this is truthful?? Maybe just another “poor me” antic from our illustrious board members. I ask, did you get the license number and report it to the police? This should be an easy find.

    [Reply]

    Insider Reply:

    It is a fact. It was not a police matter, but it should have been. For the record “I” did not get the license number, because I am not the board member in question.

    If it were me, I would have prosecuted that individual. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior.

    The internet has made things infinitely worse. Inflammatory rhetoric has a dangerous effect on the weak minded. People need to exercise their right of free speech responsibly. They need to make sure of the facts and avoid personal attacks – just keep it about the issue at hand!

    Concerning “facts” I ask you Jamie, why should the reader believe the alleged board-bashing “facts?” By your logic the reader could conclude that self-serving entries offered by interested parties in what is essentially a labor dispute are not reliable.

    Aides unite Reply:

    For the record and clarification people do not use names on here because they have faced punishment for speaking up and out.
    What you fail to understand is the ‘bullying’ this administration does to try to protect themselves.

    It’s a sinking ship that has gotten away with this behavior for too long and we’re asking our elected officials to listen, to help to do something new.

    Instead people are greeted with rude outbursts to the people we trusted to help make our district a sound, thriving educational institution.

    I am sure we could fact check a lot of things said here but if the truth actually all came out Dateline would have a field day.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    People do not use their names here because they are cowards. Don’t pretend to be afraid of someone you have no courage to face.

    There is not a single attribution here that can be verified as “bullying” you claim. The board member who shouted was wrong. We know his name. Maybe after 14 years of serving this community, he is sick of one-issue testimonials… people here didn’t hesitate to bash him and bring in stories of his children.

    Look in the mirror Aides Unite. I don’t want you working with the children in our district. You are too angry and too conspiratorial. “For the record and clarification”…..whose record and what has been clarified? A sinking ship. WHy ride it?

    Because you say it is so, it must be true. IF you knew what you claim was true, then your name could be heroic. But stay behind the wall and throw spit balls. It’s SO helpful.

  23. we have no one to blame but ourselves, or at least those able to vote for Motel. We are responsible for putting people in office. If no one runs against him, what does that tell you about the position and about us?

    [Reply]

  24. After reading what Insider has written, and how you all responded, I think it’s fair to say that few here have any interest in dealing with the reality.

    ” No one here is exaggerating the behavior of certain school board members towards the public. There was no sense from the board that they wanted to listen to anything the public had to say. Their mind was made up and they were unwilling to have further discussion”

    Well, no one here seems the least bit interested to consider what Insider has said. Rich Brake is a tea party champion. He has recruited another tea party person to run. Being TP doesn’t disqualify someone, but the Sequester in DC makes sense if YOUR job hasn’t been cut, or your services haven’t been cut. What do you think this whole outsourcing thing started with??? Saving money.

    [Reply]

    margaritaville Reply:

    saving money that we were told we don’t have.. Does anyone know that is the truth? Does anyone know what time it is? (Chicago Transit Authority ).. and then there is the purported surplus.. Should we cut aides and all get a tax refund? Give it to Motel so he can chase rainbows>?
    I just want to know what the truth is and right now have no idea..

    [Reply]

  25. Did you notice that all of these vendors (lawyers, consultants, firms and advisors) advise (rule) in favor of the way administrators and therefore the board would like things to go?

    From Sultanik to Roos to the firm.

    [Reply]

  26. It is clear to tax paying citizens who try to involve themselves, by offering assistance and collaborative efforts to elected officials that they don’t want citizen involvment. Citizens are met with rude, sarcastic, disrespectful and flippant comments and tactics designed to obstruct and shutdown ideas citizens would like to share.

    For you to imply that Joanne provoked Pete Motel into disrespecting her and her work at the meeting is preposterous. It seems that this is his behavior of choice when things aren’t going his way. A big booming “YOUR WRONG” and now you’re blaming Joanne and possibly the tone in room? because you suggest she or the tone in the room possibly provoked him into it?

    The party hosting the meeting sets the tone, not the public. Do you think it was really necessary to hire a police officer? What did that do for the tone? I highly doubt a room full of aides and paras,(very gentle people by nature) posed any threat to the citizens in that room.

    [Reply]

    Insider Reply:

    I am telling you that having a police officer is very rare and it happens for a reason. Not everyone involved in this is gentle. And at school board meetings, the public does often set the tone, although it is the board’s job to try to bring it back to civility.

    Regarding civility, your comments on this blog are exactly what I am talking about. Are you not one of the ones using the word “corruption”? You see a conspiracy in everything.

    The name you chose is ironic, because comments like that create more heat than light.

    This process is giving a huge can of ammunition to candidates who may very well not be good for the district or the kids. No one is well served by this level of rhetoric.

    The Aids are not even well served. I invite the reader to look back over a couple days of this blog and ask how much time has been devoted to a factual discussion of the pros and cons of outsourcing aids. Very little. Most of the space is devoted to irrelevant topics (all spun to bash the school district), conspiracy theories and attacks on individual administrators and board members.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Your point about re-shifting the focus to solutions is a good one. The problem about the outsoucing issue was that there were members in the community that were diigently working with healthcare experts to understand the Affordable Care Act and what it would be mean for our schol district. But the problem occurred when the citizens did not feel that alternatives had been thoroughly vetted but rather discounted by the Board and administration because that is not what they had been told by their solicitor. As Neal said to the Board, if you want the answer to be no to other options, that is what the solicitor will deliver. If you want the answer to be, another alternative, than that’s what the in-house experts will do.

    Personally, I’d like all sides to just clean the slate with past history, and come Monday night be willing to work together towards the right solution for the District and the children. If the Board is willing to have an open and honest discussion with the public on ACA, I know that there’s a number of people in the community that are very willing to help.

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Thanks Pattye, I couldn’t agree more.

    Insider Reply:

    I agree as well. You said it well. Time for good people on both sides to take a deep breath, clam down, and look for solutions.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    The striking difference I find between the behavior of TE school directors and the UCF directors is the willingness of the UCF directors to willingly engage in debate and to justify whatever stance they take on controversial issues. It is usual for me and many of my colleagues to make their personal email addresses available and to answer constituent questions in detail – and to expect that answer may be passed around and made public. After all the facts are on the table, it sometimes comes down to, “You have a valid argument and I understand the pathway you’d like me to take, but since I’m the elected official, I’m following my pathway.”

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  27. You had me until:

    “but since I’m the elected official, I’m following my pathway.”

    I’m learning that ego plays a huge part in running and holding office.

    How about:

    We have analyzed many alternate solutions to this problem and although I appreciate your input, the committee has voted to go with the one that gives the most attention to the will of the people. Or something like that.

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    Insider Reply:

    Shining – what you said is a good summary, except there are times when an elected official will feel compelled to do something unpopular if he/she believes it to be what is best for the people. I think that is what Keith was saying.

    It is not always going to be “what pays the most attention to the will of the people”. It could be that the will of the majority at any given time is not what is right/best/better in the long run. Elected officials are supposed to consider the will of the majority, yes, but they also represent ALL the people, including the minority. So elected officials are also supposed to use their best judgment and knowledge to make the right decision, which may at times not be what most of the people would want.

    They are supposed to exercise judgment too – this is the difference between pure democracy (which is not our system) and representative government (which is).

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Shining,
    .
    I go to lengths in my post to encourage answering “constituent questions in detail” and making sure “all the facts are on the table”. You twist it into “ego plays a huge part …”
    .
    You are the poster child for conspiracy theories and elected official bashing.

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Sorry you’re so upset…………again Keith. I state the facts and back them up with data to support my facts.

    And…….. as always readers can determine for themselves.

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  28. According to Jefferson and our forefathers:

    “No government can continue good, but under the control of the people.”

    And it is incumbant upon people to be attentive to public officials and how they are conducting our affairs.

    “If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.”

    Interested citizens are banding together and identifing officials who are inattentive to the public will. Officials are not used to this level of accountability and are facing tough battles come election time. That is the way our system should work. And God Bless America that is the way it is working!

    Rich Brake says he is a constitutional scholar. Given that claim, I can’t understand his actions on this board.

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  29. what actions don’t u approve of re: Rich Brake. Many on this blog have mentioned HIM, as well as Motel, motel only for his “outburst”.. lets hear what it is that bothers you about him, and maybe there is at least one other board member you can criticize?

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  30. Well, he clearly supports the outsourcing of aides, paras and support staff (which is his choice) but he was going to allow the vote to be slipped and hidden in a consent agenda with no public discussion or debate. That confuses me and doesn’t sound like the action of a person who is an expert on the constitution.

    Insider claims that he stated at a gathering of like minded people that he could run the district on 50 million dollars. Then why does he allow and vote for raises and bonuses for employees who already make more than double the national average and why does he allow expenses for architectural firms and parking spaces when we’re told we can’t afford to provide basic health care for an entire segment of valued employees after Neal (his fellow party member) offered a viable soution that the board rudely rejected out of hand at a public meeting.

    Board members and ex-board members have complained that citizens don’t get involved so now citizens are getting involved and we’re accused of criticizing.

    I think now is the time for citizens to get involved and talk all they want about these issues and the candidates that are running for office because in 6 months, we’re going to be locked in again and it will be too late. So let’s start talking.

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  31. Im not sure who you are talking about shining, and whether it is Motel or Brake. The number one person who wants to see outsourcing of aides is Waters. You know, the outsourcing option, save for losing retirement, doesn’t have to be a death knell, assuming a few things which may or may not be true.. First, salaries.. would they remain constant? Would there be room for raises? Since healthcare is not an issue TO THE AIDES, maybe this could have been viable, notwithstanding the fact that this all happened quickly and maybe with not enough time to organize this outsourcing. Also, the board did exactly what some espoused, cut hours. But then they cut hours not the way the aides would have it… so now there is another issue.. No matter what anyone says, the two issues are PSERS and ACA.. Whether outsourcing would have been an issue without ACA is moot. It is here and a factor now. But I believe even without ACA, Waters and the board were looking for a way to reduce their PSERS cost and this was their last item on the bucket list of things to do and BOOM… You can criticize Motel for his childish and frankly embarrassing outburst. It speaks to the man, really.. How people react under duress. And you may disagree with Brake politically, but we the people did vote the majority anyway in the national election and now we are left to deal with this. How ironic that there is such confusion, especially as an example, over whether the discrimination clause will be implemented in 2014 or not. Boards attorney says yes, we say no. What other surprises are in this plan that we had to pass before we read it? Yes my fellow community members, there is a lot here. Taken with the lack of trust in the administration and board, derived from many things the aforementioned has done, it looks bad. I am not sure what will be accomplished at the meeting monday. Despite the herculean efforts of Pattye and neal and so many others.. I think the board will vote unanimously for this, D’s and R’s and there will be a cooling off year at which time the s@#t will hit the fan again. Many people will be hurt with significant hours cut. These people depend on their stipend. Others won’t. Microcosm of the world. With surplus surprises, faciilites budgets and pipe dreams, to increase taxes or not, whats a community member to believe?

    [Reply]

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