TE School Board & TENIG reach new 3-year contract deal — No outsourcing!

What a difference a week makes!  At last Monday’s September 23rd T/E School Board meeting, several TESD residents including Peggy Layden, Neal Colligan and Scott Dorsey questioned the Board about the status of the TENIG negotiations. The public was told by Board President Kevin Buraks that contract discussions were moving along and that the Board would report on the process when there was information to report.  And Betsy Fadem volunteered that once the responses from the TENIG RFP were received (and reviewed) there would be public discussion in January.  The current TENIG contract as well as the TEEA (teacher) contract run through June 30, 2014.   When questioned on public communication and transparency issues, Buraks was very specific that the public would be informed of the process although it was not clear how much notice there would be for public review of any proposed contracts.

Buraks (and Fadem) responses to residents was counter to the rumblings that some of us had heard regarding the ‘early bird’ contract discussions.  Nonetheless, because there was an overt attempt by several Board members to suppress any resident complaints on lack of transparency or public discussion, it was my expectation that the Board leadership would make certain that the public was kept informed.

This evening I had a phone call from Mary Minicozzi, the TENIG president. (She agreed that her name could be used and that the information was public).  Mary wanted me to hear the TENIG contract details directly from her so that the facts would be correct.  According to Mary, TENIG presented a contract proposal to the school board 2 weeks ago and that sometime since that point (she was not certain of the exact date), the Board ‘voted’ to accept the proposal.  At today’s TENIG meeting, members voted to ratify with 83 members accepting the contract and 5 members rejecting the contract.

This news surprised the heck out of me because at last week’s TESD meeting, President Buraks and Betsy Fadem were talking about keeping the public informed on the progress of negotiations – had they already accepted the TENIG contract offer?

The vendor bids were not due back to the District until October 11 so how could the Board know what the expected savings to the District would be.  How would TENIG know how much they needed to ‘give back’?  Was this not the point of sending the RFPs out to the vendors?  In addition, this reasoning lined up with Betsy Fadem’s remark that the discussion would take place in January 2014 (allowing for adequate review of the vendor bids and public input).  According to Mary, there were a number of vendors lined up to provide bids to the District – 13 vendors for janitorial, 3 vendors for security, 8 vendors for maintenance, 3 vendors for secretarial and 5 vendors for the cafeteria. Presumably, now the vendors will be immediately notified that the District has cancelled the RFP and has settled the contract.

The good news is that the 3-year TENIG contract, July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017, has no outsourcing of TENIG employees and no discussion of outsourcing to occur during the length of the contract.  Any new employees hired will be part of the District (and TENIG) – those positions will not be outsourced.  However, there will be wage restructuring for all new TENIG hires, equating to an average of $3/hr. less than current employees in that position.

All TENIG employees received a 4-1/2% raise for the final year of their current contract (which is July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014).  In the new 3-year contract, the custodians will receive a 2% salary reduction and additionally will give back 1 week of their vacation.  (The rationale is that the District has to hire subs when the custodians are on vacation).  The other members of TENIG (security, kitchen, maintenance, and cafeteria) will receive a 4% salary reduction in the new contract but their vacation benefit remains intact.

On the benefit side, Mary explained that TENIG currently receives the best healthcare benefits of all District employees – paying an average of $300/yr. for a family health insurance plan.  Under the new contract, TENIG member’s health insurance will be on par with TEEA (teachers) members.  In the new contract, the TENIG employees will contribute approximately 6% for their health care benefits.  For year 2 and 3 of the 3-year contract, TENIG employees receive a freeze on their salary.

As an incentive for current employees to leave the District, there is an interesting caveat in the new contract.  If any TENIG employee with 15 or more years of District service, voluntarily resigns prior to end of the first year of the contract (by June 30, 2015), they will receive a buyout bonus of 15% of their salary, up to $7K.  The idea is to replace some of the higher-paid District employees with new lesser-paid employees, thus decreasing overhead budget costs.

So, how much is the new 3-year TENIG contract saving the District?  The contract savings includes $400K from the healthcare benefit component, $207K with the employee salary reduction and $207K from the custodian 1-week vacation giveback for a grand total savings of $719K to the District.

Although Mary stated that the Board had voted to accept the TENIG proposed 3-year contract and that the TENIG membership ratified the contract, I believe that the contract still has to be officially ‘voted on’ in public, doesn’t it?  According to Mary, the Board will sign the contract at a special Board meeting that will be held in conjunction with the Finance Committee meeting.  Looking at the upcoming District meetings, the Finance Committee is scheduled for Monday, October 14 – which interestingly is Columbus Day.  (The offices in Tredyffrin Twp are closed on Columbus Day, but I guess not for TESD).

I want to be clear about something – I am pleased for the TENIG employees; glad they will not be outsourced and that they will not have to worry about outsourcing for the duration of their 3-year contract.  However, last week’s School Board meeting has me troubled. After several residents asked for greater public input and communication, the public was assured that the Board was transparent, and that contract updates would be provided, and that simultaneously to early bird negotiations with TENIG that the Board would also review the results from the RFP.  With agreement from the Board and TENIG on the new contract, there will be no vendor bids.

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  1. Still up to their old tricks. I would like to know what the district plans to do with our 719K savings. Fix up more buildings, give it to the teachers, more bonuses to administrators,buying up more properties? And what if come June we happen to “find” another surplus? We didn’t really have any choice but to agree.
    The board held the RFPs coming back in a couple of weeks over TENIG’s head to get a quick agreement. It was “come up with savings(they wanted 950K), we don’t care where it comes from or we’ll outsource all your jobs.” I don’t know if they ever even intended to outsource at all or this was a ploy to see how much money they could get from us. They jumped on the 719K right away-maybe they would have agreed to 400K?
    Not to mention all the time wasted for the people who came out to bid on the jobs from the RFP’s.
    The only good parts are that they’re not supposed to talk about outsourcing us for the next three years (we’ll see-I don’t believe it) and we still have a job.
    *Note-kitchen/cafeteria do not have any vacation benefits

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  2. Great piece Pattye. SS, your eyes are wide open and thanks for you comments/insight.

    Congrats to Mary, I’m sure this was some heavy lifting and it seems your membership was in strong agreement with the proposal you offered. I would guess it was stressful for you given the pressure tactics mentioned above.

    At least your side had the opportunity to review the details before adoption. On the taxpayer side, it seems we were bound by the secret vote of a simple Board majority…maybe 5 people, maybe 6…all without the benefit of seeing any details. I guess that’s Representative Gov’t….the ability of a small group of elected officials to bind the community to financial obligations without disclosure. It could be different. I heard Board members who asked for more community dialogue just weeks ago. They, like the core leadership group who “ratified” the terms of this contract, must have been aware of this detailed proposal. Seems that only new leadership will change the closed-door, secretive actions of this Board. Change is inevitable but I hope it happens soon.

    Does anyone know the total value of the contract…salary, benefits, pension contribution over the 3-year period? My estimate is around $40 MM but I don’t have salary break-outs. That’s a lot of tax dollars to be committed by a small group of volunteers on the eve of an election likely to change the core leadership group of this Board.

    Alas, that’s the system. This Board chose to coordinate this contract negotiation this way…they chose to keep the public out…they chose to TELL the community a week ago that we would be kept informed. Talk is cheap…actions speak loudly.

    Again, congrats to all the hard-working TENIG employees.

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  3. Sorry I couldn’t give more information earlier. I didn’t want to be responsible for “messing up the deal” that so many of us realized we had no choice in. The board reps said that if TENIG could come up with the savings before the RFPs came in, then outsourcing would be off the table.I was afraid they might renig on that if too much info came out on CM. We asked our TENIG reps where the board came up with the figure of the 950K savings they were looking for. Apparently it was just a number they pulled out of thin air. I guess it won’t matter now if facts are revealed. From what we were told, TENIG reps met a couple of times over the summer with Betsy Fadem and Jim Bruce. Then again in the last month. I heard that Rich Brake was at the last get together, but I’m not 100% sure on that. I ‘m not sure why Mrs. Fadem has so much vested in this as she is leaving the board soon. Or maybe that is why-she could play “hardball” (and she did) and she’ll be gone, so nobody can hold a grudge. At least we’re all relieved that we can go through the Holidays (and the next couple of years) not worrying if we will have a job or not.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I want to be really, really clear — I am glad that TENIG jobs were saved from outsourcing! Look at how hard many of us worked to keep the aides and paras jobs from outsourcing. What I am absolutely NOT OK with is the lack of transparency in this process. If Buraks and Fadem had simply said they ‘couldn’t discuss it’ at the last week’s board meeting, that would have been one thing. But to tell the public that they were waiting to see the vendor bids come back, review them and then discuss it is January when they KNEW they already had given the OK to TENIG leadership, that was WRONG. Like I said, they wasted taxpayer money using administrator time to write the massive RFP, wasted vendor time with the RFP and then make a decision without ever seeing what the numbers would have been — TENIG gave back $700K+, what if the savings turned out to be only $300K and TENIG didn’t need to give back the additional $400K? You are absolutely right — where did the $950K savings come from? It certainly didn’t come from the RFPs because they haven’t come back. The public simply doesn’t matter, does it? Unfortunately, that’s the real lesson here. Residents show up at Board meetings, ask questions and apparently there’s no pressure to receive honest, truthful responses.

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  4. Neal and Patty, applaud your efforts but most us have given up

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    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Please don’t give up – we make a difference!!

    Why is it that the full terms of the agreement are now published on the TESD web site, fully ten days before the Board is scheduled to vote?

    I think it is largely because of the efforts of concerned citizens of all stripes, especially including CM, Pattye and those who participate here.

    Let’s study the details and weigh in!

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  5. This is a tough crowd to please.
    .
    The board has negotiated a 3-year contract that saves the taxpayers a fair amount of money and provides job security for the support staff. Applause and congratulations anyone?
    .
    The supposed “secret vote” is standard practice. It’s called a sense of the board and is non-binding. The negotiators come out of the meeting with an offer that both sides at the table think is acceptable. Before the offer is placed before the full union membership, the union leaders want assurance that a majority of the board will support it. Hence, the board president probably found 5 votes, a sense of the board, so Mary could put the offer before her membership.
    .
    So, when do CM people think the public should have been privy to the details of the contract? Just after the negotiators came out of the room and before the full board and union membership saw the contract? After there were 5 board votes, but before the union membership saw it? . Immediately after the union voted?

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I’m just curious Keith — would UCF School Board have told the public the contract process was to send out an RFP, state a vendor bid deadline, explain there would be a review of the bids and that the recommendations would be offered in January. But at the same time that they explain the contract process to the public, they know they have already decided to accept the contract proposal without ever receiving the return of the bids. I’m left wondering how either side knows if it’s a good deal if they don’t know what the actual savings (if any) would have been. I’m really glad for the TENIG employees — if they are happy about their 3-yr. contract that saves them from outsouring and are OK with the give back of salary, vacation and benefits — that’s all good. I just don’t understand why the rush, if the vendor bids were due in to the District on October 12, why not see what the numbers are — afterall, the contract doesn’t expire until June 30, 2014. For some reason the District stated that they needed a savings of $950K from TENIG (it’s unclear where that nunber came from) and in this new contract, TENIG was able to provide $719K in savings.

    I get that contract negotiations are private between both sides — all the Board needed to say was just that, it’s private and we will not answer any qustions on the topic But tht’s not what happened — they volunteered that they will concurrently negotiate with TENIG at the same time they review the vendor bid. Sorry, that’s the disconnect for me.

    But in the end, it doesn’t matter what me or anyone else in the public thinks about this decision or any other one for that matter — the Board only needs 5 votes and they can make any decision they like on any issue. The Board is under no obligation to keep the public informed and they also don’t have to answer resident questions at Board meetings. These individuals were elected by the public and once elected, how they choose to conduct themselves is their choice. Applaud and congratulations you ask …

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  6. Hi Pattye,
    I haven’t followed the timing of the events closely, but I’ll speculate. This is the description of events I’m using:
    .
    According to Mary, TENIG presented a contract proposal to the school board 2 weeks ago and that sometime since that point (she was not certain of the exact date), the Board ‘voted’ to accept the proposal. At today’s TENIG meeting, members voted to ratify with 83 members accepting the contract and 5 members rejecting the contract.
    .
    Here is the statement describing the concern of many on CM:
    .
    But at the same time that they explain the contract process to the public [on the 23rd], they know they have already decided to accept the contract proposal without ever receiving the return of the bids.
    .
    There are a lot of assumption is the sentence above. I’m unsure whether those assumptions are correct.
    .
    On Sept 23rd we know the board had an offer in hand for several days. We’re unsure whether any of the board members had time to do a critical review of the offer. We know there was no executive meeting of the board to discuss the contract before the 23rd. We’re unsure whether there were 9, 5, 2, 1 or 0 board members supporting the offer on Sept 23rd. We know the union membership had not yet ratified the agreement and I’m assuming the union membership had not even seen the offer.
    .
    It’s very possible there was no majority support on either side for the offer by the 23rd and it was prudent not to bring the public into sensitive discussions. Have I missed something?

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  7. Keith, I tend to agree with you. Trying to piece together the subterfuge timeline for all of this, I think you hit the nail on the head. Why doesnt pattye or someone ask the board those very questions asked here? I think the board did well as an agreement that keeps things moving, keeps the employees employed and saves the district money is good. Sometimes applaud and congratulations are in order. Any more questions about the process? Ask Buraks or Fadem.

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  8. Indignation is warranted, but Betsy Fadem won’t be on the board in January, and long time observers had to have known she was being deceptive if not deceitful. If they had said it was not something they would discuss, that would have been subject to further community debate. Betsy wanted this deal on her terms and her watch. Now she retires to Easttown where she can take her “experience” to them.
    Bottomw line: TENIG wrote this agreement…for whatever the reason. Once again the district has accepted a defined benefit, which means the costs will not be controlled, just shared. I would have rejected it on that basis alone,,but the board got something, and avoided the pain of outsourcing. Note that these are employees with pensions and social security and health care at little cost and a low deductible. It’s a model from the 60s….and it’s going on for 3 more years. It is WHAT this blog and many on it wanted. Is it really a legitimate lament that 5 votes can make decisions? Do we want to go to referenda as a decision tool? Is our voting electorate so much more qualified to weigh in collectively? I’m asking.

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  9. Agree with side. Betsy wanted this deal on her terms and her watch. Explains a lot about why she was so uptight at the board meeting and why she shut just about every suggestion and comment down before listeners could give any thought to what was said.

    Also agree with Neal. Tenig went into this eyes wide open. Asked for no help. Must not have thought public involvement would have been any benefit. Baffling to me.

    Agree with Keith. Tenig negotiated the deal they agreed to and the administrators and board seem satisfied with it.

    My 2 cents. The loser was the tax payer, the citizens and residents who pay for these very monumental financial decisions that obligate us for years down the road. I believe our voters are qualified to weigh in and have a tax paying right to weigh in. When different kinds of people with wide ranges of education and experience are brought together, they can identify more solutions, see more alternatives to problems than a single group of 5 people.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    S/L & Shinning point to Ms. Fadem as the driving force — “wanted this deal on her tems and her watch”. Someone needs to educate me on this one. Why push through a contract 8 months in advance of the contract expiration? It makes perfect sense as to why any suggestion of public input or dicussion was met with such disdain at the last Board meeting — for whatever reason, it was important that part of her legacy of her Board tenure be this 3-yr. TENIG contract.

    As one of the 2 co-chairs of Paoli Blues Fest yesterday (BTW, the 5th annual festival and street was fantastic fill with great music, 85 degree sunny temps, lots of fun and by some estimates we exceeded 15,000 visitors!) I was surprised how many people brought up the school board meeting and the contract, etc. to me. It appears alot more people are watching (and talking about) the Board meetings than I thought! The bigger surprise was how many people that I did not know spoke to me about CM, the need for public discussion, our elected officials (and candidates) … looks like more people are engaged in what’s going on with our local township(s) and school district than I expected. Very good news on that score!

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    SupportStaff Reply:

    That’s thanks to you Pattye-you’ve got people talking and watching. It’s a great thing!

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    margaritiville Reply:

    so you are willing to take the decision away from the board and have a referendum? If not, I am not sure what more you would want. Thats why we have a board, to handle this, and thats why we have elections, to handle the board!

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    SupportStaff Reply:

    Shining, I agree with you. We had very educated people from different walks of life come together and actually came up with a plan for the aides/paras that complied with the ACA last spring. We see how far that got. It’s obvious that this board doesn’t want any ideas or plans other than their own agenda, for whatever reason that may be.

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  10. The median family income in Tredyffrin was in 2007 $105,183 and $109,103 in Easttown. Can someone explain to me why our school board is so proud to cut the salaries of our school employees rather than a modest increase in taxes for our very well off community?

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    Shining Light Reply:

    We don’t have a revenue/taxing problem. We have a spending problem. Taxes have been increased almost 10% over the last 3 years. Enrollment does not support these increases.

    Median income in 2013 for a household in TT. is $82, 258. The median income for a family is $105,183. Male med income is $76,393 vs. female $46.124.

    Average income for teachers in TE is around $85,000. Not one administrator makes less $110,000. Most make significantly more. Please check it.

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  11. Why push through a contract 8 months in advance?

    Because TENIG gave back 719K, without even knowing what the outsourcing savings would have been. Because public scrutiny was non existent, (how long could that last?) because it was a really good deal for the administrators and board.

    It stands to reason that Art probably guesstimated the numbers and came to the conclusion that a 719K savings without the hassle of outsourcing, and possible bad publicity which could potentially wake the sleeping giant, was a good deal. We will never really know.

    To keep squeezing employees who make the least amount in wages, while employees who have a heavy hand in making these decisions, continue to receive bonuses and raises on their already inflated salaries is outrageous. Someone said to me well, they wouldn’t make what they make in TE in the private sector. Neither would the teachers. Neither would the administrators. No where close. And everyone knows it. TENIG is an easy target. Do you know how many qualified teachers there are, waiting in line, who would be grateful for a job in the TE school district and who would bring a smile on their face and a happy attitude to work every day at a fraction of the cost? Quite a few. And every one knows it.

    The real savings lie in the more than governor salaries and benefits of the employees who make these decisions. During this government shutdown, even many members of Congress think it is outrageous that they are being paid when military people and veterans who risk their lives to protect this country are not, so they are donating their salaries back to the treasury or to charity. In our tough times, our decision makers grant themselves raises and bonuses, while squeezing the economic life out of hard working employees and citizens who make the least.

    Now I am the broken record.

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  12. shining, true. So why won’t congress exempt themselves from the subsidies that pay their healthcare, just like is happening in the private sector, where employees are canceling policies and throwing people into exchanges where they will have to cover the whole freight, and even when there may be “subsidies” for lower income folks the price will still be higher than when covered by employer insurance? And of course, those Congressional “subsidies” come directly from whom????

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  13. MVille,

    You’re right and I agree. There is no accountability.

    People in power enrich themselves, while they systematically threaten to dismantle our school district when contracts come up for the segments with the least amount of power who make the least in wages .

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    SupportStaff Reply:

    Shining you’re right on. Therein lies the problem. Our little community is just a reflection of the larger picture of what is going on with the whole country.

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  14. Hello-

    Having children in the school district, I am in the schools quite often. I know many TENIG workers including custodians, clerks and security personnel.

    The impression I have, from talking to many of them over the past year regarding outsourcing. is that they went into these negotiations accepting the fact that they would give up concessions even before the bargaining began.

    These people, though smart and hard working, are a very nice group of people who don’t seem to have the stomach for a long battle to keep what they have. They accept that times are tough and are willing to give concessions………again.

    If these employees were outsourced, there would be absolute chaos in the schools. Some of these people have been there for years and have served in many different positions making their knowledge and expertise essential to the smooth running of the schools. For example, the custodians not only clean the buildings, they groom the playing fields, shovel snow, and help with PTO
    activities. Outsourced custodians wouldn’t do any of these things. The administrators lives would be adversely effected by a slew of new employees in these positions.

    I am happy that TENIG did not get outsourced. I believe they are happy. I wish they had put up a bit more of a fight to keep what they had but they didn’t so I accept it.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    And let’s not forget the fact that many of the TENIG members (as well as the aides, paras, subs and teachers) are taxpayers (and voters!) in this school district!

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    SupportStaff Reply:

    Babs, you are so right! NOTHING would function without our custodians. I think that the board should have taken into consideration (and in the future) while they were attempting to get bids (and feel that custodians should only make $12/hr and no more) that the prices they were going to get back at that low rate would be for janitors-NOT custodians. There is a big difference. Our custodians not only clean buildings but maintain them AND handle all the security systems, running the fire drills, etc. It is a big responsibility. Also, out kitchen people know which children have life-threatening allergies, diabetes, etc.and plan those students’ meals/snacks accordingly each day. Outsourced people would be changing all the time-they wouldn’t know these facts-would they even care? The school district does not value us, they have showed us that over and over again. We love our jobs, the kids and are very happy that we did not get outsourced. We are not happy that our pay got cut-AGAIN. We had a go-to plan in place to bring in the community and parents (like the aides/paras did) but were stalling it for just a little bit on the advice of our union reps. Looking back, that was a mistake. We should have spoken out sooner about what was going on. With all your help, we may have been able to save our jobs AND not have to take a pay cut- again. TENIG reps basically told us that a fight would only make us lose all our jobs come June-that’s how hard the board (or certain people) played. The majority of us did not “put up more of a fight” because frankly, we felt it was too late at that point and it was a no win situation. There were only days until the RFPS were due back and that was the deadline.It was already past the Sept. board meeting. My opinion is that most TENIG people are looking at it that they now have three years to find another job before they cut our pay again (that’s what is going to happen) Many of the long-timers will take the buy-out they’ve offered (so the district can hire new employees at a much lower rate) so you will see a changeover and many of the friendly faces will be gone in a year or so. You’ll have to start over with new people and get to know them. As much as we love our jobs, we have to be able to pay our bills. It’s getting really hard to do that with cuts and freezes year after year after year. We know that we’re in the same boat as many of the taxpayers and citizens in our community who have lost jobs, have had pay freezes, etc. and we are grateful that we still all have jobs. The hard part to swallow is when the board whines about no money and then a surplus shows up two years in a row or you see them spending money on other projects that could be postponed until the economy is a little better. It seems that some members of the board each have their own agenda and legacy that they want to leave when they go. $5M in facilities projects scheduled for next summer-REALLY??? Since when are buildings more important than people?

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    Sidelines Reply:

    “My opinion is that most TENIG people are looking at it that they now have three years to find another job before they cut our pay again (that’s what is going to happen)”

    So, most TENIG people believe there are jobs out there that they are qualified to do that will
    1. Pay Better
    2. Have better benefits (at a lower cost)
    3. Include a pension contribution and a guaranteed pension

    Well — I understand the bitterness, because we have had paycuts in our lives too…but your Union reps were right. Look at the feedback here — where people are opining that the board should have waited to get the outsource costs before settling. If you are a long-term employee, maybe you were around when the bus drivers were outsourced. TENIG union reps would not even allow the drivers a chance to price their services. The board had a deadline to sign a contract with a transportation company and the TENIG reps basically hung them out to dry.
    And I understand your frustration about capital expenditures. But government budgeting requires revenues to cover expenses. So “saving” money results in a surplus, but the revenues are simply not guaranteed, so much of the surplus comes when revenues exceed projections. And sadly — buildings are not more important than people, but delaying maintenance and capital improvements has a serious cost. Why do you think our elementary schools have no air conditioning? Because the cost is prohibitive and the buildings were not designed for it.

    This is a bad economy. Maybe it’s turning around, but maybe not. When all is said and done, I mean this : YOU HAVE A PENSION. The amount of assets that you would have to save to produce that pension is beyond your imagination….look around at your peers who have retired….more school teachers and policeman and public employees are retiring in their early 60s or even late 50s than any typical workforce. The rest of us cannot contemplate it.

    So — you can talk about looking for a better job…but I genuinely hope you can get past that view, as a job with benefits and a pension is about as “better” as it gets out here without more hours or more education or different credentials required.

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  15. SL and others
    You keep pointing to the “overpaid” in our district and then suggest that TENIG gave up too easily. This is market-based economics. TENIG are custodians, secretaries, maintenance and cafeteria people who have A+ benefits at little cost to them, a pension, and a job where termination is pretty unlikely. That is where their market value comes from. SO their wages are reduced to preserve those other pieces. The administrators and teachers are market driven as well — and while you love to say they all reflect their own efforts and not the market, you have yet to produce anything but median incomes of a community with 40,000 residents some of whom do not have reportable income but sit on major assets. And as I said awhile back — talk to me about what Radnor paid their newest Superintendent…and why if this is a cushy job that Delvin Dinkins left to go to Episcopal where his public pension will no longer apply.

    As to Betsy Fadem — my tone was wrong. I don’t mean to suggest she was deceptive by design — she was certainly obfuscating to allow time to get it done. And what’s the hurry? Do you see anyone in the wings with any sense of how to do this? Ms. Fadem’s first negotiation (I dont’ even know if she was on the team) was the teacher contract that damaged the entire budget structure. It wasn’t because she was careless — she was lacking experience. And again — TENIG wrote this contract, so the board set expectations and TENIG met them with much less effort than the board could have anticipated. This was an early bird, which means nothing was binding or on a clock unless they resolved the contract. Are you disappointed you didn’t get to influence the negotiations? The claim that people came up with a solution for the Aides and Paras that dealt with reality is fantasy. Nothing is solved until both sides agree….and with the aides/paras, they do not bargain…so the agreement was not on the agenda until/unless it needed to be.

    SO — for TENIG to put up more of a fight — based on WHAT???? They should make more than a custodian because teachers in our district make more than them? This is market driven.

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  16. plus, many of the custodians have a commitment to the kids, would be there for them in crisis, and are part of the community. Thats worth a lot.

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  17. The administrators and teachers are not market driven.

    You say that Ms. Fadem’s first negotiation was the teacher contract that damaged the entire budget structure. It wasn’t because she was careless but that she was lacking in experience.

    She has plenty of experience now so given the current economic climate and the fact that citizens continue to lose their jobs (Lockheed Martin), perhaps she could repair the budget structure in a way that stops bleeding the tax payers dry while enriching the people in power who have the most and at the same time stop the dismantling of our school district by targeting employees in the segment with the least amount of power who make the least in wages.

    I agree 100% that TENIG met the expectations of the board and agreed to this deal 8 months before the deadline. No, I’m not disappointed I didn’t get to influence the negotiations but I think citizens have a tax paying right to weigh in and I think changes are coming fast.

    The only reason the aides/paras kept their jobs was because they asked for help and welcomed public support.

    I don’t know Delvin Dinkins and don’t know why he left so I can’t comment on that. You have mentioned this before. Do you know why he left?

    This is not market driven. This is people in power enriching themselves while they squeeze the economic life out of employees who have no power and who make the least.

    [Reply]

  18. The TENIG tentative agreement is indeed on-line and I don’t remember that ever being the case. I’m happy for the TENIG folks as you can now have some clarity on your employment future. I hope you feel like this was right for you and sorry if don’t feel that way… I can’t analyze this contract from your point of view. My comments below are based on my perspective as a taxpayer. I don’t think they will offend you as they are mainly written for my elected representatives on the Board. So here’s my review:

    The basic financial terms are just as you presented above: a 4% wage decrease for Cafeteria, Security, Maintenance, Secretarial and Transportation employees effective 7/1/14 with an hourly wage freeze for the remainder of the new contract period. A 2% hourly wage decrease for Custodial followed by the hourly wage freeze. Employees can still have hourly wage movement based on changes in Classification. TENIG employees will contribute 6% to their health care plan and the plan option has changed to C4 F4 O2…I assume the TEEA plan. Dental, vision, life and disability coverage’s seem to be the same as prior contract. TENIG employees with 15 or more years’ experience who voluntarily separate from the District will qualify for a Separation Incentive payment. Custodians have a new vacation schedule with 5 less days annually as reported. The District gives up its right to sub-contract for the term of the new agreement.

    Savings of $719,000?? Let’s look at that. My definition of savings is “costs less next year than it does this year”. That’s how we run our individual finances. Missing in the District savings calculation is a major component in the costs of these employees, namely deferred compensation/PSERS costs. This year 12.36% of every salary must be contributed to PSERS, next year the percentage grows to 16.75% and then 21.25% and 25.56% in the last year of this contract. This means is that the compensation costs for this employee group grow at an annual rate of over 4%. While the wage concessions do produce some savings, the related PSERS increases overwhelm those savings almost immediately. In a like manor, health care costs have been inflating in the District budgets at a rate of 6-8%. While this employee group does begin to make a 6% contribution to their health plan, likely this savings is also neutralized very quickly via cost increases in the underlying coverage. The change in plan option is probably a savings although I can’t calculate how large…above my pay grade. The one week reduction in paid vacation for a segment of this work group would produce actual savings. My educated guess is that the first year of this contract will produce some limited savings (my definition…costs less next year) and then the costs inflate in the last two years of the contract. The total savings over the contract period of $2,333,000 touted on the TESD website is total Shenanigans and ignores major components of compensation and does not account for inflating benefits costs. This is the same Shenanigans the Board play when they tout their $10 MM or $12 Mm or $14 MM of cost-cutting YET every year…EVERY YEAR… spending go up. Difficult to reconcile those statements with reality. For a great analysis of a proposed contract’s costs, go read Keith’s website. In a simple form, he prices contract offerings in his District down to the impact on the taxpayer. Really good and really easy to follow.

    Is this a Good contract??? Unknown as we don’t know the price of any alternatives. Numerous sub-contractors (detailed above) were scheduled to present bids to the District this Friday pricing various options on this segment of the workforce. Now, outsourcing has its drawbacks and I am not advocating for this strategy. However, going the sub-contract route would produce significant savings. Capital “S” Savings as in true overall cost reductions next year and into the future. How much, we’ll never know now. Likely several million dollars annually with a good portion of that the result of the permanent reduction in PSERS contribution. Sub-contracted employees would not remain in the State pension fund. I do not have salary totals for TENIG but if the total wages of this group were to be $10 MM next year and the next and so on…you can apply the PSERS contribution rates above to see the Savings (capital S). Again, this is not advocacy for this plan…the last time I dealt with the District and outsourcing it was speaking for the para-educators after the Board had made the decision to outsource them. The point here is why would someone in a District leadership role make this contract decision a week away from knowing the costs of the alternative??? Obviously, the timing was not by accident. I don’t know the total value of this 3-year contract but I would estimate its total cost to be around $40 MM (salary, pension, benefits). For me, I’d want to know the costs of all the alternatives before I bound the constituents I represented to a $40 MM obligation. This Board did not have the political will to outsource a Union Collective. They voted twice to outsource the para’s but that was different, they were not unionized. Still, they used the outsource threat several times to bully certain segments of this workforce into payroll give backs. Like those recent chapters in our SB history, the outsource threat was again used to force this settlement at this time. While I’m normally not in favor of giving up negotiated rights in a contract; taking sub-contracting off the table for the length of this agreement probably makes sense. Let the employees breath and remove the bullying stick.

    Should the Board adopt this contract?? They already did last month; I don’t think the core leadership group will change their minds. They wanted this done early in the year and now it is
    .
    What can we take-away from this?? Let’s think of our own school days for lessons. “Do your homework”; price all the alternatives before making major, long-term contract decisions. “Stop bullying”; this goes for the public who has asked for greater dialogue, the Union who got threatened with Outsourcing and the members of your Board who question the core group. “Be honest”; self-explanatory. Final Grade??? You tell me; CM readers are all smart enough to decide.

    [Reply]

    SupportStaff Reply:

    Neal, you are correct that the health plan is the same as what the teachers currently have. The drug plan is different and the rest stayed the same. The savings to the district breakdown we were given by union reps was as follows:
    Healthcare $410,000
    4% salary reduction for TENIG employees and 2% for custodians total of $207,000
    Net PSERS and SS Savings $30,042
    Custodial vacation “giveback” $34,205
    Salary savings from sub/temp reductions $37,300
    Total $719,017

    [Reply]

    Neal Colligan Reply:

    Thanks SS. BTW, my spelling on here has been atrocious…apologies to you all….

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Neal,
    That was a very thoughtful post. A few comments –
    .
    I have no problem with the savings calculation the board used. At UCFSD we also do a calculation of what the status quo would cost over the life of the contract v. the proposal. The savings of $719K looks reasonable. Normally, we don’t make the savings number public because the public does not have a frame of reference. Is $719K a big savings or is it insignificant? That said, the news release does have many other ways to evaluate the contract. (e.g. a 4% salary reduction)
    .
    The status quo applies to any school union including TENIG, so comparing the TENIG proposal to the status quo is reasonable. Thus, the scheduled increases in PSERS and healthcare inflation “drop out” of the equation of big S when compared to the status quo. I understand that these two factors must be included in a calculation of outsourcing v. outsourcing.
    .
    Outsourcing is no panacea. The outsourcing companies, typically make a profit (some are 501C organizations) and have administrative overhead. If the numbers are close I’d always choose not to disrupt the work environment with outsourcing.
    .
    I’m going to estimate that the average TENIG employee’s salary is $30K, healthcare is $12K and the district portion of PSERS is $2.7K (8.5%). The 4% salary reduction is worth $1.2K. The change in healthcare plan (10%) and increase in contribution to 6% is a 16% savings worth $2K. Multiply that $3.2K aggregate savings by 200+ employees to get to $719K.
    .
    I’m unconcerned that the board chose not to proceed with opening the bids. Their strategy was, most likely, a preference to keep employees in-house if reasonable concessions were made with the back-up of outsourcing. I imagine the district had a reasonable estimate of what outsourcing would cost by talking with business managers of neighboring districts. Remember, Kennett just went through outsourcing and the outsourcing contract is available to anyone through RTK. Thus, there was no need to open bids.
    .
    The word “bully” was used several times. I’d rather the term “hard bargaining”. Wasn’t the board elected to do what the PA constitution says, “provide a thorough and efficient education” or, in other words, get the best bang for the buck? I’d agree with Ray where he said, “this seems to be a good outcome all around.”

    [Reply]

    Neal Colligan Reply:

    Thanks Keith,

    Always great to hear your perspective. Good counter points as always. The only issue with a “savings” calculation (based on their method) is the tendency to think “where can we spend it now”. It was already mentioned in this column; albeit tongue-in-cheek…I think. That’s why I try to think in term of “what will it cost next year (or 3 years) compared to this year”. That’s Savings you could spend….so I include accelerating PSERS as it is a real cost. That said, your approach is valid too of course.

    I was pretty emotional when I wrote that review…I too believe the Board was less than honest in it’s approach. Being close with several members of the Board and attending meetings regularly with our “normal” group…I see the bullying first-hand and its been documented often on CM. I can not speak for the employees of TENIG although I saw the intimidation applied to the para’s…I should not have assumed I know how the employees feel.

    So, let me look a the good side on this contract. It certainly slows wages acceleration. The existing contract increased wages approximately 19.3% over it’s 5-year term. Some of these scheduled increases were “given-back” in certain years by some functional areas of TENIG. This contract gives incentives for early retirement and replaces those workers with lower salaried workers (Ray’s point). This is the choice of the individual. The contract begins to share the costs of medical insurance with the individual although 94% of the cost increases are still borne by the District. And, outsourcing is removed as a strategy for 23 years giving the employees comfort.

    Funding and operation of education (at all levels) still needs a major overhaul and these large contracts are opportunities to change to culture, make-up of workforce, the manor in which we deliver quality learning experiences. You know this more than anyone on here…you’re fighting those battles and tackling those issues. Your “change of perspective” writings were excellent and made me think. This just seems to be a get-it-done-quickly, not-much-different- from-the-last contract. Not enough long-term strategic thinking about how this fits in with long-range planning in IMHO. I think the contract was shoe-horned into a time frame that they chose based on political calculations and not good business sense…and I hate that my experience and knowledge of the process/people make me come to that conclusion.

    [Reply]

  19. It’s easy to see why the proposed contract would be attractive to TENIG members. Current employees will be paid at a 33% premium to the market rate (straight average of all hourly rates), assuming the proposed new hire wage scale will attract qualified employees. They will also receive family health, vision and dental care for about $1,000 a year, 12 paid sick days (that accumulate from year to year), 12 paid holidays, 2 paid personal days, up to five weeks paid vacation and membership in the PSERS defined benefit plan. The wage reduction amounts to a give back of the current year’s increase. There’s a 15% salary incentive to retire in 2014/15.

    The District also gets a benefit. The disruption of out-sourcing is avoided. There is a path to a significant cost saving over time and to some extent next year.

    As a Board member, I would want to know the assumptions behind the administration’s claimed three year $2.333 million savings. Can they confirm Pattye’s annual benefits, compensation and vacation time numbers? What rate of new hire and accelerated retirement are factored in? What is the size of accumulated benefits pay outs that will be triggered by accelerated retirements?

    I am concerned that the proposed agreement sets a precedent for all future healthcare benefits, but overall, this seems to be a good outcome all around. It’s especially gratifying to see this out in the open well before the Board ratification vote.

    [Reply]

    SupportStaff Reply:

    I agree Ray. It’s a nice change to have the information well ahead of the meeting.

    [Reply]

  20. Most teachers don’t decide to become teachers for the great salary. They do it because they have heart and it is their calling. They feel a pull towards helping to educate our future leaders. Little do they know the political and economic situation they are walking into.

    [Reply]

  21. Most employees have little to no appreciation for the cost nor the value of a pension. They compare their health care benefits to “last time” and to the teacher benefits.

    As long as this and every other district participate in a defined benefit health care program, costs will NEVER be managed. And Neal…the savings are government accounting, not FASB or anything you might recognize.

    The board heard loud and clear how much this community value our own employees…they still hear complaints about the perceived diminution of service with contracted busing.

    And SL…no matter how many times you say it, teacher and administrative compensation is market driven. may be driven by wealthier districts, but it is market driven. there are actually market numbers in the admin comp plan. And the teacher pay is totally about what other districts pay. That, and the pressure of a threatened strike. And again…admins can return to the classroom at any time (3 exceptions). So the baseline for admins with tenure is their level and educational credits on the salary schedule…

    Now…does the “system” enrich itself…you betcha. From having a starting salary on the schedule for people who are not even hired…to a narrowing of the eligible candidates based on credentials. But that starts in Harrisburg and the PSEA….the largest lobby in the state.

    [Reply]

  22. There is a wage restructuring for starting salaries of TENIG workers. Why can’t we have wage restructuring for administrators and teachers? That will take care of “the starting salaries on the schedule” for these people who are not even hired too.”

    Why do you suppose we continue to put up with a defined benefit healthcare plan? Because administrator plan is the same as the teacher plan and they won’t give that up. You’ve said it yourself.

    I’m tired of being held economic hostage under the threat of labor unrest.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    Why do you refuse to consider that all the groups are influenced by market forces? Status quo is the base. While TENIG has status quo theoretically, the threat of outsourcing drives their concessions. The other two groups are certified and credentialed and cannot be outsourced. So Status Quo is the base, and retention and working relationships do influence outcomes….there is no “bargained” restructuring when the numbers reflect market conditions. The admins had. 2-4 year wage freeze (I don’t remember the details) and this new 1% pool is a way to ensure retention as admins…because the teacher schedule was frozen, but step increases were not. And again…as has been explained as nauseam…the pension supplement at retirement for admins replaces sick pay buy outs and is only awarded when sabbaticals are not taken.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    It’s not that I don’t consider that all the groups are influenced by market forces. I do look around at other districts in our area. They have just the same or bigger problems than we do.

    I don’t believe one administrator would have left had they not received those raises and bonuses. There is no union here dictating that we escalate their salaries to more absurd levels than they already are. Harrisburg would not have driven down here and beat us up because we didn’t fold to their demands. They must have thought the same thing because the whole thing was slipped and hidden in a consent agenda so no one would find out. Actions that make sense and can be justified can hold up to public scrutiny and don’t need to be hidden in the dark of night to pass.

    Market forces are on the side of the citizen, not the union and not the administrators.

    [Reply]

  23. For the record, the admins HAD a defined contribution plan. When the cost of the teacher plan was well above the admin contribution, the board granted the change in terms. I suspect the board has little understanding of what they gave back…

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    I agree, I suspect the board has little understanding of what they gave back too.

    It will always be easier for the administrators to exploit the education system for their own benefit than for parents and citizens to fight the eternal bureaucratic political wars necessary to protect their school system.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines Reply:

    SL
    I cannot seem to overcome your malice towards all the decisions that you don’t agree with. “Administrators exploit” the education system. Parents need to protect the school system? Do you REALLY believe that the admins in our district, or most districts, aren’t there for the benefit of the students? The numbers may sound generous at this stage of their careers, but they all started out as teachers or guidance counselors — and unless the current teachers are mistaken, they got into it as a calling. Yes — they also pay their bills with it, but none of them anticipated that the economy would tank and the world would be jealous of what teachers make in terms of pension benefits. 30 years in a career with a PhD and the top of your peers in terms of outcomes and experience — that’s not a “median” professional.
    I’ll go back to Radnor yet again. Radnor had a superintendent who for a change lasted 3 years (the others had left much more quickly). She had come form the city — and stayed at Radnor exactly long enough to qualify for a pension with her “3 highest years” based on her time as the Radnor Superintendent. Then she left public education and went into consulting. That was market driven. No one has yet produced the information for what they are paying their newest Superintendent. These are BOARD decisions based on market analysis. These are not administrative demands. And the PA constitution protects all public employees from demotion unless collectively bargained (which means what TENIG undergoes). The Administrative staff at TESD had at least a 2 if not 4 year wage freeze. This most recent 1% pool that you call lucrative salaries and bonuses is hardly lucrative — and was put in place to retain the individuals in the job. Was it necessary? Do you understand the concept of merit increases, or are we to just limit all compensation to what we can get away with?

    Grrrr. Malice should not drive ideology. Go on the PSBA and PSEA help wanted boards and check out the searches for admins. The guy at GV made about $80K before he came to GV.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    If our supt. want s to leave because he gets something better in the private sector, he should take the deal if he wants to. We’ll be just fine.

    These are board decisions based on what the administrators want.

    If a 2 to 4 year salary freeze is such a big deal, then why wasn’t that the strategy for TENIG?

    We don’t need to give anything to retain these administrators. They would not have left and everyone knows it.

    I have no malice. This is about market forces and they are on the side of the tax payer.

  24. Does anybody know anything about the School District’s contract with Tot-Time Child Development Centers, Inc.? They provide before and after school care as well as a kindergarten enrichment program to children in T/E.

    This company has been godsend to lower income parents by offering discounts and scholarships. Parents have just received a letter stating that due to increases in rent paid to the District they have had to make drastic changes in their scholarship program. Many parents are seeing huge increases in childcare costs.

    At New Eagle Elementary ACP lost their classroom space and now the kids have to hang out on the stage in the cafeteria…

    What’s going on?

    [Reply]

  25. “I have no malice. This is about market forces and they are on the side of the tax payer.”

    There is not a single data point you have brought to the table to reflect that position. Get the administrative comp at neighboring districts, and the “help wanted” signs….and then talk to me about the market forces you are using to substantiate your position. If you have data, please share it. I only read the contracts — I stopped getting the data years ago. “What administators want” is what we all want….good wages and benefits….and they have credentials that put them at the top of a very small and dwindling pool of qualified employees.

    [Reply]

  26. You don’t live here or pay taxes here or have children in the school district here so it’s strange that you would continue to post comments about what “we” all want.

    We are teetering on the edge of dismantling our school district by systematically threatening to outsource the segments who make the least in wages so employees in the highest paid segments can continue to receive wages and benefits that are way above market value.

    There is no reason for any employee in this district to be outsourced, furloughed or laid off. If everyone would truly share in the minimal sacrifice it would take to get this done, this would go away in an instant.

    I have looked around at other districts. I know exactly what is going on in Lower Merion and Radnor. Circumstances in both districts justify my points.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Well said Shining. I was talking to Pete Connors on Monday night at the Finance Committee Meeting. He seems to be in agreement of EVERYONE sharing the sacrifice. Re: administration taking a 4% paycut as well. I’m anxious for Saturday and the LWV event with the candidates for the school board. Should be very interesting.

    [Reply]

  27. Perhaps Pete Connors should read the legal opinions on the subject…and Shining’s mystery data. 20 years ago, a group ran on a slate to put prayers back in schools in a Chester County district. They won. Guess what?

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    and your point is???

    [Reply]

  28. When I cite data, you discount it and say it means nothing. When I don’t cite data you mock and ridicule my comments.

    Administrators all across the country are agreeing to pay cuts in order to share in the sacrifice in the face of huge budget deficits.

    You reference Radnor quite often. The township manager, Mr. Zienkowski is helping the township with it’s ongoing underfunded retirement plan by opting out of it. He says it’s the right thing to do. He said changes have to be made and he’s taking leadership and making sure the changes start with him by standing up and taking responsibility for his part of this massive financial problem facing all townships and school districts around here.

    There is no correlation between a group of people 20 years ago running on a slate to put prayers back in schools and the massive financial burdens facing most districts in this country today.

    Perhaps you should go outside and say hello to your new neighbors. Shake some hands and get involved with the local politics in your town. I’m sure they would appreciate your knowledge and expertise.

    [Reply]

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