I attended last night’s School Board meeting and noted a common thread linking many of the resident’s comments. The words may have been slightly differently from residents Neal Colligan, Scott Dorsey, Peggy Layden, Michelle Berger and myself, but the message to the School Board was the same. We were all asking for transparency, public dialogue, open communication, etc. etc. between the Board, administration and the public.
In the first comment period, Neal Colligan asked the Board to detail the timeline and process for the TENIG and teacher contract negotiations. He referenced the ‘early bird’ contract negotiations that are underway and asked that the public have adequate time to review any proposed contract. The public understands that negotiations are private between the sides and we cannot be part of the process — however, once there is an agreement it would be appropriate that that there be adequate time for review. Disappointingly, the Board did not offer much in the way of a response, except to say that the discussions with TENIG are ongoing.
At the August Board meeting it was announced that the RFP was going out shortly which would seek outsourcing bids for the TENIG contract. (Both the TENIG contract and the teachers contract expire June 30, 2014.) It would seem to make practical sense for the Board (and TENIG) to have the cost analysis for outsourcing to use as a starting point to negotiate a contract. How else would the District know what (if any) savings would occur through outsourcing without the ‘real’ numbers? And for the TENIG members, how would they know ‘what’ they needed ‘to give’ back in salary and/or benefits if there was no comparative numbers from the outside? Last night it was entirely unclear if the RFP was sent out yet there’s rumblings of an agreement between the District and TENIG. If there is an agreement, it will be curious to see what TENIG members gave up to keep their jobs. If you recall the last time, only the custodians were in the position of giving back whereas this time it is the all of TENIG that is at risk. Whatever happens with TENIG is certain to have an effect on the teacher contrac negotations.
My comments last night related to Community Matters and the school district’s apparent ‘blocking’ of the website from their computers. I read a prepared statement which included asking for the reinstitution of the District’s ‘Public Information Committee’ . I spoke of the need for open communication and transparency and asked the Board to respectfully remove the ‘block’ of my sebsite. At least some members of the school board were not aware of the situation until I brought it to their attention. Dr. Waters told the Board that he would look into the matter and report back. Improving communication between the administration, Board and the public should be something that we all want to achieve.
As follow-up, I sent the following email to the Board, Waters and Robin McConnell:
Dear TE School Board Members,This email is follow-up to my statement at last night’s school board meeting regarding the ‘blocking’ of Community Matters website from school district computers. It was my understanding from the Board’s response that none of you were aware of this situation until I brought it to your attention. For the record, I have had at least 15 people, including employees working in various District schools, support staff, substitute teachers and students to either call or send emails asking why they are receiving ’this site is blocked’ notifications when they attempt to access Community Matters.At the school board meeting, Dr. Waters stated that he would look into the matter and would check with Robin McConnell, who was not at the last night’s meeting. I respectfully asked last night that the ‘block’ be removed from my site and the access be restored. Can I expect that Board members will follow-up with the administration and correct this situation?The community is looking for transparency and open communication from our elected officials; thank you all for supporting that goal.Sincerely,Pattye Benson
Recent history indicates that when there is public input, initial decisions of the Board can sometimes be changed — we saw this with the proposed outsourcing of the aides and paras and again with the tennis courts at Valley Forge Elementary School. When members of the community supports an issue, shows up at meetings and offers their opinion, it can make a difference. Transparency and open dicussion between the Board, administration and the public is critical.