TESD Employee & Resident Debbie Watson speaks out about District morale issues

On May 16, I wrote, “TE School District … Intimidation to Silence” on Community Matters.  From the outside, the school district is the image of excellence by any standard, with its impressive test scores, accomplished, high-achieving students, supportive parents and caring teachers.  After receiving many emails and phone calls from teachers, aides, custodians, kitchen workers, etc., it was apparent that those inside the District described an atmosphere far differently, “a place of fear and intimidation, a place where our District employees, fearing retribution do not feel they have a voice.”   The article received many comments, including from former and current District employees, who could take cover behind their anonymity on Community Matters. Many TE employees believe that they would risk losing their jobs by questioning decisions of the administration or by voicing concerns.

Other than bringing awareness to the morale problem, there was no indication that anything is changing or that anyone on the School Board actually listened.  Emails in May to the School District and the school board president received no response. On May 31, I followed up with another Community Matters post on this topic, “Harassment, intimidation and bullying have no place in our schools …”  I wrote, “With the level of discontent, negativity and lack of respect that many District employees are indicating, I simply do not understand why the School Board does not investigate and find answers.” Employees are the District’s most valuable assets and they need to know that their contributions are valued and respected.

This campaign season has had many school board candidates using buzzwords like ‘communication’, ‘morale’ and ‘trust’ on their campaign websites, voter literature and during the League of Women Voters forum.  All school board candidates, with the possible exception of Kevin Buraks, recognize there are District issues related to communication and employee morale that need addressing.  Mr. Buraks stated in the LWV forum that the employees must be satisfied because otherwise they would leave the District.

I received the following email from District employee (and TESD resident), Debbie Watson.  No longer in the shadows of anonymity, Debbie is an insider speaking out about the morale in the schools and recent hiring trends of the District.  It is with Debbie’s permission that this letter appears on Community Matters.  Debbie is courageous, her words powerful and I applaud her for speaking out and making a difference! 

Hi Pattye,

I’m writing to you today about a disturbing statement I heard from another T/E employee.  I found the remark ironic as our school board and administration keeps touting their transparency, openness and willingness to communicate with the public.

It appears that the new trend is going to be only to hire people to fill open school district positions if they are outsiders (that is they do not reside in T/E School District).  In this person’s words, “Dan has put the word out that new hires will NOT be District taxpayers. We do not want them going home and talking to their neighbors about what is going on in the schools.”  REALLY????

It seems to already be happening. They replaced the Food and Nutrition Services Director with someone who came in from Twin Valley School District even though we had qualified people inside the District who applied for the job. He in turn hired a neighbor of his to be the Cafeteria Manager at Valley Forge Elementary. This manager does not have Food Service certification from Chester County, and he told the girls that he has never worked a kitchen before!

The morale was already very low in the schools and it is getting worse. The District passes over qualified T/E employees and hires less experienced outsiders for the job. We had several people (with Chester County certification) already working in the District that applied for the job (I didn’t bother, as I’ve been “blacklisted”), one was from my kitchen (Beaumont Elementary). One of the reasons given for her not getting the job was that she “didn’t have the experience required.” Another woman (from Devon Elementary) was told that she lacked managerial experience (she was a manager for Aramark for YEARS) And he does???

If the District cared about its employees, they would give us a chance to advance. The Union was contacted and their response was that the bottom line is that the District can hire whomever they want regardless of experience. This just isn’t fair to the hard-working T/E employees. We’ve already seen how awful our union is with the TENIG contract that just came about. I don’t know why people continue to pay their dues and give the union their money for nothing in return. Art McDonnell sat in on the interviews so he knows the lack of qualifications as well.

I’ve been with the District almost 10 years and am a ‘general kitchen worker’. I was a ‘Greeter’ for 5 years, took a year off, then came back, and moved to the kitchen.  Before that, I was a stay-at-home mom and was a PTO president at Devon Elementary School.  Basically, I have been in the schools for 25 years. (Also grew up here and went to T/E schools).

I’ve finally had enough and gave the District my notice a couple of weeks ago. I had actually decided during the summer that I was leaving but it got too close to the start of school and I didn’t want to leave my kitchen shorthanded at the beginning of the year as it’s too hectic. My last day of work is November 15th. I can’t continue to work for an administration that treats people the way they do!

Mr. Buraks was correct in his statement that if someone had a morale problem in the District that they would just leave — he’s right and I am (leaving). Sad thing is that I LOVED my job. I just don’t want to do it anymore.  I wrote a short resignation letter and didn’t blast them (advice was given to not “burn any bridges”) much as I wanted to! I know that you (and Neal and Ray) stay on top of things and wanted you to be aware of what’s really going on inside the schools.

Sincerely,

Debbie Watson

Investing in the District’s best talent and promoting from within the TENIG union is good for employee morale.  TE employees, like Debbie Watson, are frustrated when a position is given to someone from the outside, especially when the person is not as experienced or qualified as an existing District employee.  What kind of message does this send to the our employees?

How sad that the District is losing Debbie Watson, a dedicated, long-serving employee. As long as the leadership and administration choose to put a sunshine spin on the District’s morale issue for the public’s sake, nothing is going to change.   Can the School Board agree that employee morale in the Tredyffrin Easttown Scholol District is an important issue and a critical topic worth discussing.   School board candidates, are you listening?

57 Comments

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  1. Good for you Deb! Recognizing employee’s value goes along way to raising employee morale. Based on past performance, it’s hard for employees to trust the administration. I go to work and keep as low a profile as possible, figuring the less interaction with the leadership, maybe I can avoid conflict. How does Buraks know how we feel. The morale is really bad but I stay because I need the job. Hoping that the economy imporves so that I can move on to a happier place to work.

    Signed, annonymous T/E employee afraid to use real name

    [Reply]

    Neal Reply:

    Wow, thanks Debbie. I’m sure it was a tough decision to make this public. For you, the bullying and intimidation will end soon enough…although the next couple of weeks might be rough. Hopefully this story and all the others we’ve read on CM and heard from our District employee neighbors finally bring spur change to your (soon to be former) workplace.

    Is the District really placing jobs with out-of-area residents over local folks? Well, there’s some strange logic to it if “We do not want them going home and talking to their neighbors about what is going on in the schools”. This is your testimonial and I believe you as it came from the heart at an emotional time.

    Can it change? Sure. Of course, first will come denial and personal attacks…that’s already true. Hopefully, in time, the environment will change…it has to. Brave citizens like you make it inevitable. Whether through retirements, personal changes or (yes) elections, new leadership will emerge. For the good of our community public education franchise, we have to do better. There’s too much at stake here.

    But today: you’re my hero. Thanks for having the courage. I hope that everything works out for you.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Thank you Neal.

    [Reply]

  2. A disgruntled, soon-to-be former employee quoting an anonymous source . . . . Hmmm . . . Meanwhile, this blog ignores the biggest political news in years – the Republicans endorsing two Tea Party candidates. When are you going to do an expose on Brake and Connors?

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Up to this point, TE employees (current and former) have feared retribution for speaking out. Then we have a current employee Debbie Watson who does speak out and you call her disgruntled. As to the anonymous source to which Debbie refers — Debbie didnt want that employee’s job at risk so decided against naming her in the letter. You may not view employee morale in the schools as a serious issue – your perogative. However, based on the feedback I have received from teachers, custodians, aides, paras and kitchen workers, (such as Debbie Watson) the issue is active and should be addressed. Employees should not feel their job security is threatened for speaking out.

    As for an expose on the Tea Party candidates, you must not live in Tredyffrin. If you did, you would have had sufficient education from Scott Dorsey and Kevin Buraks in their campaign literature on this topic. Rich Brake and I have had prior discussions about the Tea Party – if you utilize the search tool on the home page of Community Matters, you can find a previous article on Dr. Brake and the Tea Party from a couple of years ago. In fact, the TTDEMS used Community Matters last week for this purpose and cited my article in one of their mass anti-Tea Party strategy emails. Expose suggests that I would be uncovering something ‘new’ — I wrote the article several years ago on Rich Brake after he was first elected.

    As for Pete Connors and his association with the Tea Party — my understanding is that it is his wife who is connected with the movement. However, if that information is not accurate and Mr. Connors is a card-carrying Tea Party member, maybe he can leave a comment to set the record straight.

    Other than an occassional reference to the Constitution at a school board meeting, I don’t see how Dr. Brake’s association with the Tea Party has had an effect on his school board decisions, one way or the other. If that is not accurate and his Tea Party involvement has affected his school board performance, that’s a discussion-worthy. Like Mr. Connors, I invite Dr. Brake to respond to his critics and the Tea Party accusations.

    [Reply]

    margaritiville Reply:

    You paint “tea party” as some kind of albatross or equivalent to some badge of indecency.. Wow! his WIFE is connected with the party… or maybe pete.. WHich “party” are we talking about? The Nazi party? Give me a break.. No pun intended. I am really tired of the fear mongering that liberals. progressives, democrats or whomever engender with a witch hunt like brew of ” HES A TEA PARTY MEMBER”.. I understand progressives, many empty headed and severe followers of the progressive mantra and many of whom can’t think for themselves are scared to death of many of the logical, even tempered and sober ideas that just may restore some sanity to this area and country.. Closed minded as you say the “tea partiers” are, many of those progressives are fascist like in their determination to stamp out descent, at any cost and with any method, so that their own sordid notions of how this area and the country should be are implemented unencumbered by any different idea. Worked great on the national level!. No, they are not all correct, their ideas, in my view, but there is no way I can align myself with a progressive ticket that behaves in such a child like manner. Present YOUR ideas, and we can have a discussion. Scream and point “tea partier” and you lose. I hope you lose big.. Thanks for listening

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    The ‘point’ I was trying to make (apparently unsuccessfully) in response to Insider’s comment (that I needed to write an expose on 2 Tea Party candidates) was that although Rich Brake is associated with this ‘movement’ not party, I am not aware of the same association with Pete Connors.

    Know the issues and then decide which candidate best represent your opinion on those issues. If your ballot includes a school board incumbent (Brake or Buraks) – know how that person voted on the important issues. Did you agree with their vote? Which candidate is going to do the best job for the school district? Don’t school board members cross-file for a reason?!

    Insider Reply:

    We will have to disagree and leave it at that. I find these allegations suspect given the timing just before an election. Plus I know the people being accused, and to be blunt, I think the charges are false. This blog is full of people prone to believe in conspiracies, no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince them otherwise.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    No conspiracy for me – I believe people. And yes, we will have to disagree on this topic.

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Insider, I feel so strongly about what I said that I put my name out there-how about you???

    Outsider Reply:

    The biggest news in this election (for me) is finding out that the School Board President’s firm has a business relationship with the District. We don’t know how much they have billed the taxpayers on this contract and it was awarded without a bid process. That’s news….

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Outsider,

    Do you have an opinion or knowledge on why other board members went along with this arrangement? I’m wondering if the whole board voted to allow it or was the decision passed based on the least amount of votes necessary to get it approved?

    When one board member wants something passed, do they call others until they get enough to pass something? There does seem to be a group of 4 or possibly 5 on the board who seem to agree with each other and the other 3 or 4 seem isolated and cut out of the process. And yes, that is most definitely my opinion from my own personal observations.

    [Reply]

    margaritaville Reply:

    the no bid, if true is what concerns me.. That would be very corrupt in at least its perception.. Does it not rise to a threshold of inquiry because he is a Democrat? See NO buzz on this blog about this… The truth would be interesting… lets find out.

    [Reply]

    Chesterbrook resident Reply:

    Someone needs to run the clock back on this one or read the minutes. There were no other bidders because no other vendors were solicited. Guess the only game in town was Buraks law firm, Portnoff Associates. According to the minutes, he did recuse himself from the school board vote. Its unclear how much his law firm has benefited from T/E taxpayers.

    Outsider Reply:

    This is where I got the basics:

    http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2013/10/22/main_line_suburban_life/opinion/doc52667f0f3e8ff061646662.txt

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Neal, thank you for bringing this to light with your article in The MainLine Media News. I had no idea! In reading Mr. Buraks’ response, it appears that the district policy of bullying now includes the citizens as well. Thanks for all the time you put in going to the meetings and filing the RTK requests.

    [Reply]

    margaritiville Reply:

    is it discriminatory to rule out te residents based on residence?

    T/E aide Reply:

    Why is TEA PARTY a bad word. TEA PARTY wants government out of our pockets. I have know issue with that. It seems we are learning from the health care mess is…maybe they are right. Oh I am not a Republican.

    [Reply]

    margaritiville Reply:

    it is a bad word because the liberal media and liberal politicians have made it one. Amazing.. We the people are in deep doo . With deblasio NY mayor, can’t wait to see what happens.. He is the anti tea partier.. He may in fact be a communist. Read about him.. But he gets elected overwhelmingly. The strategy of the progressive/liberal party has been brilliant. Deep and wide are their tenticles,with patience and perseverance and over decades they have succeeded in changing the basic nature of this country. You decide better or worse. Obama is just the crowning jewel of their plan.
    Gotta look for new insurance as I was dropped.. so thats what I am doing today. sorry about lousy spelling

    [Reply]

  3. Wow! Thank-you Debbie. I appreciate your comment. Information like this is very helpful when deciding what vote to cast come election day.

    When school employee morale is low, it reflects on everyone: administrators, teachers and most of all, the students. It doesn’t have to be like this.

    Thank-you for your service. I wish you could have held on a while longer because I believe things will be different soon. Good luck to you in the future.

    [Reply]

  4. Thank you for your comment Shining. Sidelines-I am not “digruntled”-I’m disheartened. As I said-I LOVE my job.I don’t love the people in charge.
    As to who is a Tea Party candidate and who is not-who cares???? We all need to stop looking at who belongs to which party and instead look at who represents the values that we hold important and want instilled in our children. It’s a choice of how we as a community wish to live and treat our neighbors. I’m a registered Democrat yet I agree with many things that both Pete Connors and Dr. Brake have said-Tea Party or not. Personally, I wish to vote for someone who holds the same values-I don’t care which party they belong to. If everyone does the same, then we WILL get out of the mess our country is in.

    [Reply]

    margaritiville Reply:

    Debbie, you are exactly right about the party stuff.. I have found Rich brake refreshing, independent thinking and yes I am not sure I always agree with him. I think Buraks is a company man… or a party man.. kinda controlled by forces not readily evident but they find a way into his board persona.. Administration>? Democratic controllers? Just what i think… so be it

    [Reply]

    Liba Reply:

    Debbie, what a loss when we replace an employee like you (so committed way beyond your paycheck) with non-resident employees. You aren’t alone, I am very unhappy this school year, also after many years of loving my job, I am also seriously considering leaving. I know none of the people we work for care, my resignation will be largely unnoticed, but I want to tell you that I appreciate your public letter, and I thank you for all your service. I work in an environment where leadership is retaliative and cold-hearted-not the same as it used to be. I mostly just feel sad.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Liba,
    It is sad to know that some TESD are feeling undervalued and unhappy in jobs. I know that this is not simply sour grapes and part of an exit strategy for Debbie Watson. I have had too many employees talk to me about the morale situation to know that it isn’t an isolated disgruntled employee.

    I had a most unfortunate encounter today at one one of the polling places (the person will remain nameless at this time). This person approached me & was outraged that I had only told ‘one side of the story’, suggesting that Debbie’s account was inaccurate and demanding I ‘had’ to post the Board’s side of the story (not sure what that is). As I told this person, I believe that Debbie Watson is entitled to have her voice heard — she used her own name, lives here, went to school here and has been associated with the District for nearly 25 years. We’ve been talking about morale issues in the District since last spring — that’s not ‘new’ news.

    There may be an official TESD hiring policy that encourages promoting from within and the hiring of T/E residents — I don’t doubt that such a policy exists. But as we all know in life, there can be an’official’ policy and then there can be the ‘who you know’ policy. I am not saying that’s what happened in this case, but I think the situation bears looking into — our TESD employees deserve it. I’m still wondering why the Business Manager Art McDonnell was sitting in on interviews — shouldn’t that be Sue Tiede’s job.

    For the record, if the school board has looked into this particular situation and has a different account, I will be happy to post it on Community Matters.

    [Reply]

    margaritiville Reply:

    pattye will you be posting results or can you provide a link to the results? thanks

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Election Day results? The polls close at 8 PM and then the ballots go to Chester County Voter Services for verification. As the numbers of verified, Voter Services will update their website with results.

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Thanks Liba. Pattye, since your post went up the other day I have had people approaching me at work to tell me that others have been passed up for jobs in other departments as well. We have many men who are working as custodians but are qualified roofers, painters, plumbers etc. (these are jobs they held previously before becoming custodians) As higher paying jobs have opened up, they have applied and been overlooked and job placements have gone to outside applicants. Also, aides have come to me. The ones that have been replaced (due to resignations during the summer and at the start of school) have largely been hired through a company called Delta T (?) So in reality, the district IS outsourcing, accomplishing their goal from last year but doing it in a way that at least deserves to be questioned.

    T/E aide Reply:

    The thing is there was no real negotiations….they pretty much said..take this or you are fired we are setting up contract employees. That is how the board negotiates.

    Babs in Berwyn Reply:

    Hi Liba,

    I want you to know, that although you think those you work for don’t care, the ones you serve and the ones that matter, the kids, care a great deal. I know that’s true because mine include talk about lunch ladies and custodians at our dinner table right along with talk about teachers and class work.

    From the custodian who hands out jolly ranchers with his words of wisdom to study hard and “develop your mind.” (he has two kids who went through TE and are in college studying engineering so he knows a little something about developing the mind, to the lunch lady at TE middle who won’t let a kid pass until they say hello to her. I love that lady. Never met her but have heard about her for 8 years. Kids are kids and they’re not going to tell you how much they like you or how the things you do and say influence their lives; they save that for the dinner table.

    You might not know it, but you are appreciated, by the people who matter the most.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Babs, that is a very nice post. Made me smile!

  5. I agree Debbie. Great Post! If Rich Brake is a tea partier, you would never know it by the way he is on the board. Granted, he is one of the more independent members and he has demonstrated some independent thoughts and votes in the past, (which I think is great) but he has done nothing to demonstrate his loyalty to the tea party. I like the man and I also like Scott Dorsey. One is R and one is D, but they both seem to appeal to many voters R and D alike. I also like what Pete Connors has to say. I have no reason to not believe him. (sorry for the double negative Mville) I would vote for all three of them if I could, but I can’t so I have great conversations with my friends who can.

    Thanks again Debbie

    [Reply]

  6. I congratulate Debbie on her courage. Not having the opportunity to speak directly with her and do some investigation I can’t substantiate any of her claims but I can tell you I am hearing similar concerns directly from others. Having spent time in recent months walking the district I have encountered district employees in every category including kitchen workers, custodians, aides, paras, subs and teachers. EVERY one of them I spoke with felt that morale was low. Just today a teacher told me that she does not feel the same upbeat enthusiasm that was evident years ago. All of them seem nervous to speak out (with the exception of TE Middle School custodian Mr. Ha Lieu who enthusiastically and fearlessly endorsed my candidacy). These dedicated people create the mood that our children experience every day. How much better would that mood be if our employees felt respected and valued? What could that mean to our children?  

    I have led organizations through difficult times and understand that people are willing to support leadership if they have confidence that the leader is willing to lead by example, is telling them the truth and is listening to their concerns. It is time consuming but the benefits are incredible.  

    We are stuck in a confrontational system that creates winners and losers but together we can shift to a cooperative model focusing on win-win solutions if you make that choice on Nov 5.

    I promise Tredyffrin that no one will be afraid to talk to me about their concerns. I will encourage input from all quarters because information is the key to great decisions

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Pete, thanks for backing me up and saying that you are hearing the same things. Unfortunately, you will not be on my ballot but I am telling everyone I know in your voting district to cast the votes your way. I believe you are part of the change we are all seeking for our School Board.

    [Reply]

    Centered Reply:

    You are on a first-name basis with candidate Connors?

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Come on, stop trying to read things into what is said-if you look back at comments, some of us reply to each other by our name. I did meet Pete at a school board meeting and spoke with him for a few minutes a couple of months ago.

    Centered Reply:

    The School Board is majority-ruled by Republicans, not by Kevin Buraks acting alone. The School Board is not under authoritarian rule by Buraks. Blame for dissatisfaction at how the negotiations proceeded, or the cuts made due to lower tax revenues, cannot be laid at the feet of Buraks. Why didn’t any of the Republican board members elect one of their own party to lead the school board or step up to show leadership? Buraks’ board service has been marked by a lousy national economy in which property values have plummeted and local businesses have failed, and hence the property tax levies by which our school district is funded have dropped as well. That is not Buraks’ fault and it is not a secret. The Republicans have had majority rule of the Township, but haven’t attracted the new businesses necessary to spur on the local economy, create jobs, and fill the vacant buildings and office spaces to replace the lost tax revenues. They haven’t committed to moving the businesses they own here either–why is that? Because labor and land are cheaper in such places as, for example, the City of Reading, than they are in Tredyffrin. I hear you–not all decisions should be made on economic math realities alone, and I don’t believe that they have been. The personal stories, contributions, and intrinsic value of our district’s employees, students, parents, residents, business owners, and citizens all figure into the success of our school district–and IT IS a success story and will continue to be a success story. Buraks has three children attending T/E schools; he is clearly vested in the success of the district.

    [Reply]

    margaritaville Reply:

    well it appears you will be voting for Buraks. And that is your prerogative. For all the reasons you absolve Buraks, you can absolve the whole board. The state legislature, governor(s) past and present all have a hand in trying to equalize the mediocrity that is prevalent in many school districts in the commonewealth. It is the progressive egalitarian way.. Lower all boats.. the next board and future boards will have it tough., good luck to them.

  7. Debbie, I used to use my own name – I did it courageously many times, and I was quite savageously attacked personally. I finally decided to do what all my cowardly attackers do, and use a false name.

    [Reply]

  8. I think we can all agree: we are entitled to our own opinions, but facts are facts.

    Where are the facts in Debbie Watson’s letter? I’ve read it a number of times looking for any facts upon which a reader could reasonably reach a conclusion and form an opinion. I find none.

    It’s her opinion that an unqualified person was hired over several qualified TESD employees. She reports someone told her that Dan Waters has unilaterally changed a formal, approved district hiring policy to give preference to community residents in hiring. That’s hearsay. She represents the majority opinion of all TESD employees that there is a serious morale problem. Again, her take on what hundreds of District employees are feeling – most of whom, we can presume, she has never spoken to – hardly qualifies as factual.

    Is it brave to let it all hang out when you’re about to walk out the door? I guess that depends. My first reaction to Mrs. Watson’s letter? Sounds like sour grapes. Probably ill-considered. I guess she wanted to be a “shining light”, but her case is full of holes.

    There is the question of her credibility. “I’m a registered Democrat yet I agree with many things that both Pete Connors and Dr. Brake have said-Tea Party or not. Personally, I wish to vote for someone who holds the same values-I don’t care which party they belong to. If everyone does the same, then we WILL get out of the mess our country is in.”

    Really?

    Take a few minutes to read about has happened all over the country when TP members infiltrate local governing boards. Here’s a sampling:
    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704336504576259543303853376
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/11/AR2011011107063.html

    Rich Brake claims he’s “stood strong for students” and safeguarded “our top-flight curriculum and programs”, yet he’s voted NO on every budget since he’s been on the SB and believes our school district could be run for half its current budget. He made this claim at a public TTRC meeting. If he had his way, there would be steep cuts to a budget that has already been cut by $14 million in the last 3 years.

    High on the Tea Party agenda is getting rid of teachers’ unions. As fellow Tea Party supporter Pete Connors opined at the LWV forum, there is no need for unions if management does its job. He trashed teachers’ unions on his Facebook page… until he took the link and his comment down last week.

    Another Tea Party agenda item is to divert taxpayer money from public school funding to a voucher program for privately run charter schools or private and religious schools. Before Connors removed a link and comment on FB, he publicly supported vouchers and tax credits to businesses that contribute to tuition vouchers. That’s less for public schools.

    I’ve lived in Tredyffrin for 27 years. This community has changed over the years. It is certainly more diverse and more Democratic. But in general, we are politically moderate, reasonable people who value strong families, excellent schools for our children, and the most efficient use of our tax dollars to keep and protect what we have. I trust people to see through this last-minute truth-telling. It’s politics as usual.

    Oh and facts are pesky things. They’re verifiable.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    K.E. I appreciate you comments. I said I agree with “some of the things” they say-not all. Rich Brake has also had 4 years to try and make some changes but really only started speaking out about that in the last couple of months. That does give me pause of where I should place my vote.Everyone needs to make their own deicision. My point was to not vote blindly just because a candidate is with a certain party. I have lived here for all of my 51years (except 4) and I agree that much has changed but we do value strong families.Community is important to us. I don’t want to see that eroded away.
    As for my making a stink on my way at the door, this is not the first time I have gone up against what I consider wrong doing by the board/administration. Last spring I stood up and spoke out when they were about to outsource all our alides a paras with nobody in the public knowing a thing about it. We were able to get a reprieve for the time being. As for timing before the election, I just found out the information on Friday, otherwise I would have let it out sooner. You are entitled to your own opinion-this is America afterall. Eveyone go out and vote tomorrow!

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Hi K. E.,

    I know what you mean. I liked Obama so much (and still do), I changed my party affiliation so I could vote for him in the primary and I voted again for him the second time around. I have grown disappointed in his leadership but don’t regret my vote. (NSA, Syria, etc) But it will influence my vote next time around.

    No one can predict what a candidate trying to win office will do or say once they are in. If they have never been in office though, what do we have to go on except what they say and what they have done at this point in their lives? (That can be verified, and is factual) I have researched Pete Connors. He has given interviews in business journals, I have talked to him personally (he is very approachable) and because of his entrepreneurial back ground, experience and success as a business person, given the current economic climate, I think he is the best person for the job. Do I know that for a fact? No, I don’t. Whenever, any citizen casts a vote, it is a risk. That’s why we do our homework and make the best choice we can based on the information that is available to us at the time.

    I have said this in the past, I don’t go by what people say, I go by what people do. Rich Brake has done NOTHING on the board to indicate he is remotely a tea party supporter. (4 years) It doesn’t mean he isn’t. As a matter of fact, I get the impression he and Anne Crowley (D) are on the same page about quite a few things so I hear you, you have valid points but I see no reason to be afraid of Rich Brake or Pete Connors.

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    margaritaville Reply:

    KK,
    One would think it would be a progressive idea to divert funds from the public trough to support charter schools the serve the kids who are hurt most by the liberalization of America, the inner city kids. Lets face it, the war on charter schools is led by the unions, who imo have more interest in preserving their own niche than helping kids.. generalization for sure, but it is relevant in many situations. No, vouchers shouldnt be used for TE kids to attend Episcopal Academy. But inner city public education is a disaster. yes, many reasons but don;t these kids and families deserve help? I used to believe the answer was somewhere in these schools, in these neighborhoods but the only answer seems m ore money more money.. Doesn’t work. So what next?

    There is antipathy towards the union right here in TE.. read this blog.. they have to be reigned in. And yes, good management may reduce the need for unions. But it is idealistic. Whats wrong with idealism?

    Why don’t you print links to liberal, progressive or democratic clap trap too.. Will you?

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    Roberta Hotinski Reply:

    Everyone should research the candidates well and pick whichever candidate aligns with his/her priorities. As a scientist with two kids in T/E schools, I am concerned about Mr. Connors’ ill-informed views on mainstream science (I wrote a letter to the Suburban about this – http://mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2013/10/23/main_line_suburban_life/opinion/doc5265504ec0559681397452.txt) and don’t feel he is the best choice to steer the education of the district’s children.

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    margaritaville Reply:

    fascinating that you consider global warming to be a watershed issue for Pete Connors candidacy because you, say, may i day “extrapolate” that it then follows he is ill informed on MAINSTREAM science?

    THis is SCARY, MS. Hotinski… Global warming??? differing views??? NOT ALLOWED.. I rest my case presented above.

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Roberta,

    Thanks for this post. I saw your letter in mlmn and I’ll admit it raised an eyebrow. I told myself Pete Connors or any other board member have no power to change science curriculums even if he wanted to and he’s entitled to his opinion on the matter. Do you think he may try to do that or do you not want someone with those views representing the citizens?

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    Roberta Hotinski Reply:

    If you read the letter, my issue is not with differing opinions on climate change (note that the Suburban created the headline, not me). My problem is with posting easily debunked scientific information as fact – the first article Mr. Connors posted never appeared in Nature (one of the premier science journals) as purported, and the second was revealed to be written by “the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology.”
    This is an issue of judgment and sorting out the reliability of different sources of information – an issue I would argue is VERY pertinent to the School Board and this forum.

    Sidelines Reply:

    KK– thanks for identifying the “elephant” in the room….people get angry when I use references to other districts and other times, but the reality is that comments about unions are simply poorly informed and misguided…and Brake’s assertion that he could run the district on half the budget is simply self-aggrandizing commentary from someone whose original platform in running last time was that our middle schools were terrible and he didnt’ send his kids to them.
    He didn’t do anything “TP” because he didn’t have an anti-establishment ally. He will soon….
    @Margaritaville: As to Idealism, unions have NOTHING to do with good management in public education. They are a fact of life, and for anyone in TESD to waste time or headlines talking about them is silly. The “low morale” coming from our teachers may in fact be a PSEA strategy…and “reigning them in” is an equally ridiculous notion. There is no executive power locally. And while our own TEEA may not be out of control, they take marching orders from PSEA. We don’t have particularly independent thinkers there…they have classes to teach and do defer much of their negotiating strategy to the State powers. The move to 6 periods of teaching a day has been demoralizing, and the state union is angry. Well — ask Federal employees about Furlough Friday…ask the 3.5 million people who just had their health care policy cancelled if they are demoralized.

    Change is painful. Leadership is important. But until our district stops marching to outside influences — both the board and the union and the political parties — and focuses on what’s BEST FOR TESD, it is going to be demoralizing everywhere.

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    margaritaville Reply:

    I agree with you Side, about marching orders from PSEA..

    And the legislature too, handcuffs our local districts from local control..

    PS arent the furloughed Federal employees going to get that pay anyway? leadership… now theres an idea.but why would low morale be a strategy?

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    margaritaville Reply:

    Roberta, I would prefer to stay away from global warming discussions. I have listened to Pete at the meetings and like his business experience. We can argue about “debunked” facts about this for ever

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    Roberta Hotinski Reply:

    I’m not even talking about global warming – I’m talking about getting your science information from Breitbart.com and spreading it as gospel when the article you cite never even existed (and it was clear from the get-go that it was unlikely.). Shows poor judgment to me, and was a repeated theme on his page.

  9. Well said Insider.
    Here’s the deal in my sidelines view:

    The “morale” of the district took a major plunge when the board made the administration the bad guys. Until the last TEEA contract, which everyone KNEW was going to be bad and very difficult, the board was “management” and the administration, almost ALL of whom came from the classroom, were the liaisons. Then some board members, primarily Cruikshank and Fadem from the sidelines, turned the negotiating table into a place where only the Superintendent and Personnel Director took the heat. Jeffrey Sultanik is a professional shark and he created stress and pushed buttons. The idea is that a professional does this and goes away. But by having him accompanied ONLY by administration, the tone of the whole district changed. Lo and behold, the negotiations were ugly and the board took the role of the white horse….riding in to settle it. That’s now how it should be….but considering the previous contract, where some of the board were AWFUL, Sultanik was a good idea. It’s just that the board had no business making Waters and Tiede the bad guys.
    Now we hear woe is me morale about people in leadership who were once ” us”…and were turned into “them.” Tiede and Waters were once very welcomed into the schools, and for many, still are. For the disgruntled, however, they are “them.”

    Please people — cast your votes for someone QUALIFIED to do the job. I know that’s hard to do considering the absence of enthusiasm for doing the job that so few come forward (Neal?) This is not about power. This is about service. But you have to have a clue. That earlier contract was a result of relatively unqualified decision makers. Righteous if not right.

    And whoever you elect this time, they will be doing a LOT of administrative hiring, as the legislation prompting getting out by 2015 will drain a lot of people from the pool across the state. And people like Dr. Dinkins will continue to look to places outside public education where the winds of politics and tax agendas do not make educational decisions. The morale can be blamed on whatever/whoever you want, but the reality is that the institution of public education is under attack. The economy, the reassessments, the unions, the cost of health care, Act 93 and countless acts restricting local control — these are all factors that demoralize everyone. Don’t restrict your “low morale” to the little people — I can promise you the morale is equally low throughout the district, top to bottom.
    Who wants to go to work in a social media world where people get their information from anonymous sources? Who wants to have to wait out an election to see who their next boss will be? If you are disappointed in Kevin Buraks, read back 4 years ago when some warned us that a parent with 3 very young kids in the schools would have a hard time learning the job with any independence. Rich Brake is using the same signs…but what has he done? Did he pull any of the nefarious “secret decisions” off the consent agenda?

    New faces are new blood, but beware of people who have paid NO attention to the job until they decided to run for it and fix everything. The laws governing schools are ever more restrictive.

    I appreciate people stepping up to run. Just make sure they have some basis for their promises…and some understanding of what the role of a board member is. You set policy. You don’t run the schools. Employees should be talking to their supervisors, not board members. And if there is really a problem, you have to use your name to stand behind it.

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    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Sidelines, you are correct with the “us vs. them” mentality. I don’t know if it’s possible to “turn back the clock” and get things back to the way they were before the last negotiations. We all need to be one team again. I don’t know how or if that is possible, but hopefully change will take place. It is absolutely necessary.

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  10. If you think that Sultanik’s involvement in the last teacher contract added to the internal strife between the admin, teachers and SB, he’s baaack! Sultanik will sit at the negotiating table for the teacher talks starting in January.

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Another,

    I’m probably stand alone on this one. I have always said, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have Sultanik. It’s hard for board members with kids in the classroom to stand up to a teacher who their kid may have to go sit in front of the very next day. It’s intimidating (and the board does not make it easy either) for citizens to stand up at board meetings and give statements, I can’t imagine what it would be like to negotiate with the teachers union in this economic climate.

    The key factor here is though, who is directing Sultanik? Is it the board negotiating committee? Is it the administrators? Or do the administrators and board team truly collaborate with Sultanik and they agree on a strategy together?

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  11. I just recd another robo call from the local Democrat party and I’m sick of hearing the tea party scare tactics. The phone calls, the signs, the campaign cards, sick of all of it. I work in Jersey and wasnt sure I would take the time to vote. But the actions of the Democrats have convinced me to make time tomorrow. This is one voter who will now vote AGAINST all Democrat candidates. I get it, one vote doesnt make a difference.

    [Reply]

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