Preliminary 2014-15 TESD Budget Indicates 3.4% Tax Increase

The TESD Finance Committee Meeting and the 2014-15 Budget Workshop 1 was held on Monday, March 10.  Click here for the videos of the budget workshop. Please note that there are three separate videos. For those people unable to attend the budget workshop, including myself, I appreciate the District providing the videos.   To fully understand the budget discussion, you should also review the agenda and slides prepared by TESD Finance Manager Art McDonnell prepared for the workshop – click here.

The following slide from the budget workshop, ‘Budget Development Summary’  reviews the 2014-15 preliminary budget development and indicates a $3.1 million budget deficit without any tax increase.  With the addition of 2.1% Act 1 tax increase and 1.27% referendum exception (combined total 3.37% tax increase) plus the impact ($1.9 million) of the recently signed teachers contract, a deficit of $1.9 million remains.

Budget Development Summary

The budget workshop slide,  ”Tax Impact from Act 1 Index and Exception’  indicates that the currently projected $3.37% tax increase will mean an average increase of $166 to the T/E homeowner.

Tax Impact from Act 1 Indext and Exception

It is interesting to note that the last time the District had a zero percent tax increase was budget year 2004-05, a decade ago.  A review of the ‘Tax Increase History’ slide (below) indicates the property tax increases each year since 2004-05:

Tax increase History

Earlier this year, the preliminary 2014-15 budget indicated a 3.2% increase.  However, Harrisburg subsequently announced an increase in the PSERS exception, which allowed the District’s total allowable increase to go to 3.37% for the 2014-15 budget year.

But here’s the problem – even with a 3.37% increase, the District is still facing a nearly $2 million deficit.  Other than a transfer from the fund balance, how does the District resolve the deficit?

In reviewing the budget workshop materials, I noted that there was additional staffing allowances in the budget visa-a-vis the technology upgrade implementation. I thought that the District was utilizing a consultant and technology company for the transition so I was not clear regarding the need for additional staffing and the associated costs.

The Budget Workshop II on April 7 will include discussion of:

  • Healthcare Consultant provides “Second Look” for Insurance Costs
  • Update 2013-14 Revenue and Expenditure Projections
  • Impact of Affordable Care Act
  • Monitor Enrollment and Effect on Staffing

It will be interesting to see the revenue and expenditure projections for the 2013-14 school year.  If you recall, the District has somehow ‘found’ mega-millions in surplus the last two years.  Unfortunately for taxpayers, each year the money has been found after the next year’s budget has been passed (with a tax increase).

For the 2011-12 school year, the budget surplus was $3.9 million and it was nearly $5 million for 2012-13 school year.  It’s never been entirely clear where the budget surplus came from although I seem to recall that ‘lower than anticipated insurance costs’ was used to explain a portion of the surplus.  Surely, the school board would not approve imposing a 3.4% increase on its taxpayers and discover a budget surplus for the third year in a row. Not sure that there’s any valid explanation if that were to happen.

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  1. These numbers show how far TESD has yet to go to achieve “sustainability”, how critical it is that the Board has accurate projections to work with and that they ask hard questions about those numbers, and how important the upcoming Expense Budget Workshop is.

    Taxpayers should expect a perpetual annual rate increase equal to the Index and Exceptions, except perhaps in an election year where there may be minor moderation. (BTW: That’s 50% more than the rate of inflation in the last decade when assessments have moved little and enrollment has had a double digit increase.)

    If expenses are not held to the revenue increase, then the District has to use Fund Balance. No problem until that $30 million is used up, when either taxes have to take a referendum-approved jump, or expenses take a big cut.

    One option to achieve the latter would be to slow capital spending, avoid new bond issuance and save on interest/principal as our current bonds are paid. Certainly there’s no room to add additional bond repayment costs. Or, perhaps there’s an expectation of large scale retirements/replacements that will cut compensation costs? It would be nice to see a realistic 10 year view that incorporates all the above.

    In the meantime, a prudent Board should be looking hard at that $2 million deficit. In the first place, that’s the result of the TEEA contract that was just approved, on the basis of a much lower Year 1 impact, if I recorded the oral numbers correctly. Secondly, there are already signs of expense creep. Even though the last workshop focused on revenue, there were requests for added expense: headcount for financial software training and for iPad support. Really?

    Maybe we will indeed find at the workshop that the updated 2013/14 projections show a better experience and that can roll forward into the 2014/15 budget. But the community needs to be paying attention as the discussion may take the next turn to class size or perhaps to a tax basis that includes income.

    [Reply]

  2. “Taxpayers should expect a perpetual annual rate increase equal to the Index and Exceptions…”
    .
    Ray, You’ll find some disagreement with that statement for several reasons. First let’s start with the fact that the majority of a district’s budget is comprised of employee compensation. In our district it’s 72%. Therefore, any tax increase should reflect the increasing/decreasing cost of labor.
    .
    I would ask these questions:
    1. Is the district having trouble attracting, retaining and motivating employees? If employees are leaving in droves for other employment or the district is having problems finding qualified applicants for open positions, then salary increases above the Index plus Exceptions might be warranted. If no one leaves and there are flock of qualified applicants, then increases below the Index may be warranted.
    .
    2. Do PSERS contributions really deserve to be an Exception? Retirement contributions are part of an employee’s compensation along with healthcare. Both are increasing far above the rate of inflation. There is no exception for healthcare. Why should there be one for retirement? During the period when PSERS contributions were low (around 2000), employees saw large salary increases. Now that PSERS contributions are high, employees might expect modest on no salary increases.
    .
    I’m comfortable with using the Index plus only the special ed exception as a guideline. But first I would examine the district’s fundamental taxing and compensation strategy.

    [Reply]

    Kristin Hoover Reply:

    I’d say you have a lot of nerve to tell TESD or anybody else how to their District should be run financially. You just gave the UCFSD Superintendent a $30,000 raise when his prime accomplishment (outside of re-tweeting) was to make a deal against school code that allowed the theft of tuition money by a Chadds Ford business owner who actually resides in Cochranville (outside the District). This family continues to send their children to UCFSD completely free! You constantly harp on the high cost of labor and then outsource so that the morale in the District is at an all time low. I hope the people of TE take their advice from somebody else!

    [Reply]

  3. I’m amused that someone can gauge staff morale in Unionville and give supposedly authoritative information about events in Pennsylvania when they live in California. Amazing!
    .
    (Woe be it for any pubic figure who didn’t give in the demands of an over zealous parent who lived in the district years ago)

    [Reply]

    Kristin Hoover Reply:

    Dear Keith (aka “Open Eyes” in the Unionville Times):

    So let’s recap—you have a family who committed a crime (education theft) which also happened recently in Lower Moreland resulting in news footage all over the country with their $10,000 fine in lieu of jail time. Instead of removing their children and prosecuting the family as Lower Moreland did, the Superintendent makes deal with the family to allow their children to continue to attend UCFSD schools for free. The father is clear in the fact that it is a “deal” because that was his word when he described it in front of Dr. Manzone (then a School Director) and the State Police in Avondale and other witnesses. I’m no lawyer, but I remember Watergate and I know that if I covered up a crime, I would be an accessory to that crime. Instead of exercising their oversight responsibility and taking any action, the Board allowed the family to continue to be enrolled and they allowed the deal to continue, but they took another deeply troubling step — they defended their Superintendent saying it wasn’t actually a deal. Dr. Manzone could not go along with this action perhaps because she saw the potential to be an accessory or because as Sean R has said, “what’s wrong is wrong.”

    And….if that weren’t troubling enough, the Board never investigates why Dr. Sanville made the “deal” or “agreement” or whatever you want to call it. People don’t make deals unless they get something in return…. This is the “64,000 question” for the District.

    So….instead of exercising your fiduciary responsibility to collect the money due the taxpayers, you spend more on 16 other residency investigations and give the Superintendent a $30,000 raise. You then find there is no money for activity fees and you raise them on the families….all at the expense of taxpayers. You even managed to make TE taxpayers share in the expense of this problem when you run to the CCIU for political cover. It may be free to UCFSD as a member, but it sucks up some of the resources of CCIU so they are no longer available to the other Districts. TE and other District residents ought to be furious that malfeasance in office in Unionville bleeds their resources.

    It’s ironic that residency clearly bothers you so much. My residency is important, but living in Cochranville while you send you kids to UCFSD doesn’t matter. It’s more important to call me an “over zealous parent” and to volunteer unwanted advice to TE than it is to perform the oversight function that you were elected to uphold. You would do well to start listening to the public in Unionville and let TE run it’s own District.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    First it was one paragraph of an off topic rant. Now it’s a 4 paragraph off topic rant. Can we expect 8 on her next post? Maybe I’m wrong but I think the topic at hand is the TESD Budget.
    .
    As I said, woe be it for …..

    [Reply]

    Kristin Hoover Reply:

    When you sanction corruption in your own District, you shouldn’t be giving advice to another District!

    Shining Light Reply:

    Keith,

    I have observed that when you want to skirt an issue, you blame, label and ridicule smart, hard working citizens to diminish their credibility and redirect the focus on them so you won’t have to face questions about your part in a matter. I have witnessed you go off topic many times. I can provide evidence if asked.

    Ms. Hoover has some good points and I don’t classify her comments as a “4 paragraph rant.”

    Sidelines Reply:

    Ms. Hoover
    When you demonize board members, what do you expect to accomplish? I can assure you that residency issues are complicated and less than a drop in the bucket…you have 9 board members who have to find a solution that earns 5 votes. The costs you associate with this are illusory…lost revenue perhaps had UCFSD charged tuition or levied a fine, but no taxpayer was affected. Righteous indignation toward a decision is sort of lost energy. I have seen countless apparent residency “violations” that had no affordable solutions…at some point, residents (who presumably are also voters) can cast their vote for change…but it takes a village to change, not just an angry few.
    Almost every voter knows the name of the governor. Fewer know their Congressman, fewer still the state government reps. The number who know their supervisors or school board members–people who impact daily lives–are smaller still. You may disagree with decisions, but you must at some point accept that your elected member has the duty to make informed decisions.

    [Reply]

    Kristin Hoover Reply:

    Your statement that “no taxpayer was affected” is incorrect. Taxpayers provide the money for the School District and ultimately for the CCIU through all the Districts who share their costs. UCFSD will tie up resources of the CCIU for something that should have never happened. Costs are not a “drop in the bucket” as you say. It costs around 12,000 a year to send a child to UCFSD and the Cochranville family has more than one child and they have been sending their children to UCFSD for a several years. I estimate that this one family has cost taxpayers $50-100K. The average teacher salary for a year is about 50K. They are outsourcing custodial staff in a desperate attempt to try to save money, Now activity fees need to be raised. That comes back to the parents who are also taxpayers. Keith constantly complains about labor costs, but seems willing to standby while his Superintendent makes a deal to allow these Cochranville kids free attendance. Dr. Sanville’s actions were against school code and just plain wrong. They did their best to vilify Dr. Manzone who could not standby and be an accessory to something she believed was wrong. The attempt to discredit and vilify is a pattern they follow with anybody who disagrees. Sometimes, you just have to demand accountability and transparency. Citizens have a right to expect elected officials and administrators to follow the school code and the law.

  4. Thanks for your comment Keith. I’m wondering if you guage staff morale in your district and if so how? Because I have also read where staff morale is very low in your district from citizens other than Ms. Hoover. Maybe she has read the same articles I have read.

    Regarding the outsourcing of custodial staff, I noticed where Ms. Do contacted law enforcement who said that is not a good idea because custodial staff is the first line of defense. No one knows the out lay of the schools and how things work better than custodians. I think this is true.

    [Reply]

  5. How about the morale in T/E??? I have been here for 18 years, and the morale has never been worse. The attitude is not going to change until some of the administrators leave and the problem resonates from the top of the District on down. This is my last year and all I can say is that as an insider, the T/E schools are not the place that residents and parents think that they are.

    [Reply]

    Kristin Hoover Reply:

    I wouldn’t presume to know the issues in TE. I do know that in UCFSD the Superintendent has a catch phrase when asked anything. Everything is “never better.” He re-tweets pictures and recites his mantra. When bullying is reported, it either never happened or if it did happen, it wasn’t “to the degree described by the distraught parent.” This same approach applies to any problem either through gross indecision or through a deliberate attempt to bend reality toward their ideal.

    http://www.chestercounty.com/2014/03/19/u-cf-school-board-addresses-bullying-and-participation-fees?tracking=related

    Keith has a long history of being anti-labor which is a point of view to which he is entitled. However, you cannot routinely bash your labor force which constitutes 72% of your expenses when education is not a robot widget factory. These are children and teachers and support staff who interact with each other in a very human environment. The more motivated and happy they are; then so is the overall environment and the better the chance for learning and positive connections. He plays groups against each other like taking on the support staff because they have less chance of fighting back or union support. He threatens and/or actually chooses outsourcing as if money were everything or that current costs won’t increase. Then he finds money for whatever the Board wants.

    Philosopher William James (1842-1910) said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” I suspect that an unrealistic idea of what is happening or how the District is perceived contributes to the morale issues in Unionville (at least).

    District employees make a difference. It sometimes isn’t clear until years later and often then only to the individual student and the teacher or support staff person never finds out how they mattered. I say to you exactly what is often said to military personnel: Thank you very much for your service. It mattered.

    [Reply]

  6. Thanks for your comment District Employee. To what do you attribute the low morale in the TE schools.

    As a remedy you suggest that some administrators leave. How would this change the attitude?

    What exactly are the problems and what do you suggest employees at the top of the district do to make it better.

    Thanks.

    [Reply]

  7. And when new administrators are hired, TESD might struggle to live up to the expectations of parents and taxpayers. When did self-esteem become the measure for success? Morale? The uncertainty in TESD mirrors the economic uncertainty of our nation. Few have confidence about the stability of their income…kids who have been rewarded with trophies for attendance have “helicopter” parents who stand ready to fight their battles on all fronts. Athletes play their sport in various leagues at huge costs, and their parents complain about activity fees and demand playing time without being available for practices due to conflicts. Snow days…no thank you…we have vacation plans…pay the teachers anyway…who cares that kids are losing instructional time?

    I get thhe angst of the staff uncertainty…but it is no different than the work expwrience of countless people for the past decade. The school oards dont have the first clue how to negotiate with the unions as labor peace trumps expense control. And Keith is spot on–there is no way that the PSERS should be an exception….its a cost of compensation, and raises should be balanced to reflect that reality.

    My point? Be careful what you wish for….TESD has produced great academic outcomes…that is not just about demographics. But TESDs residents are demanding and to a large extent relatively clueless. The state is a mess and the tea party message is dysfunctional…good things cost good money. Do you think Penn State provides so much more that tuition should be one of the highest for state schools in the country? Ivy Leavue schools ost $60k a year…Episcopal is $30k…TE is free, and NOT selective. They are obliged to educate everyone that is eligible, and to provide services to anyone that “needs” them. Why do you all ignore the complexities and drill down on the numbers?

    [Reply]

    margaritiville Reply:

    TE is not free, sidelines… and what does the Tea Party have to do with helicopter parents and the mess that is our community and country? The tea party message has not translated into action. Just look at crony spending, taxation, corruption and all of that. I am not a tea party person. I wish they would shut up so maybe we can have meaningful change on all levels of government.

    TE is not free… and yes, not selective, providing you can afford to live in the district.

    [Reply]

    Sidelines has left the state Reply:

    FAPE…point of information. Your choice of home and the tax costs of that home result in paying for schools. But TESD is not charging any student to attend. The activity fees are a slippery slope…but foundations are there to protect kids whose family wants these non-mandated services and does not agreenwith or have asequate resources. “The next level”—division 1 scholarship. Id love to see that statistic in the CHS profile…how many measureable outcomes for athletes and at what incremental cost. Its an investment in YOUR child…is it really more likely to earn acceptances more than diligent academic effort of the comparable magnitude.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    “Is it really more likely to earn acceptances more than diligent academic effort of the comparable magnitude?”

    Yes it really is. I personally know many, many athletes who wouldn’t have the first shot in getting in the schools they’re going to without their athletic abilities. And there is nothing wrong with that. Athletic involvement in this country is big business and highly regarded in the business world and every other facet of life. I’m sorry if that bothers you but it’s true. I just talked to a business owner the other day in a state far away and he told me that his company has a policy of hiring 50% athletes. That’s participation in a D1 program in college. When I asked him why he said because athletes are more disciplined, worked very hard to achieve at the D1 level, are team oriented from having been on teams their entire lives so work well with others and also because they are personable and people like them.

    Also, I know many students, now and years past, with perfect to near perfect SAT scores, perfect grade transcripts, leadership in every club or activity who did not gain admission to their college of choice. My child has more than one friend like this. He/She came home the other day and said, I want to see every application (Princeton, Harvard, Brown, take your pick) because there is no way they’re better than the friends he/she has who just got rejected from one or more of those schools. And it’s true. There is no way kids who got accepted into those programs have better credentials than these kids at CHS.

    margaritiville Reply:

    what does FAPE mean? And what does your post attempt to say? Except in your first sentence, you seem to say we DO pay for school, (its not free) but TESD isn’t charging any student to attend? Nope.. where ever we CHOSE to live, we pay through taxes for our kids, and others to attend… I need some clarification.. especially with the rest of your post. thanks

    Shining Light Reply:

    Ville,

    Fape is an acronym for Free and Appropriate Public Education. It is a component of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.) It mandates that school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services. It requires that children with disabilities receive support “free of charge” (I know our taxes pay) as is provided to non disabled students.

    Board members (perspective from administrators) say that TE provides such a good special ed. program that parents with special needs kids move to this district to take advantage of services their special needs kids are entitled to under FAPE. I think that this is probably true but if you look around and read, LM, Radnor and other highly desirable districts around us, say the same thing. Board Members and administrators blame special education for the soaring increase in the budgets each year. Please take a look at the percentage of the budget dedicated to special education. Then please take a look at the increase in PSERS costs in the next three years.

    As side says, PSERS should be a cost of compensation and raises should be balanced to reflect that reality. Not only are PSERS costs rising astronomically every year, employees in these segments continue to receive raises, pay little into their healthcare, and then they blame special education for the soaring cost increases in the budget. It’s absurd. Tax payer money should go to educational services for the students.

    Shining Light Reply:

    Side,

    I know a person whose child called to complain that his parents had “let him quit soccer” in the 5th grade. His company has soccer, basketball and softball teams. He feels at a disadvantage for advancement because “he stinks at soccer.”

    It is becoming more and more common for companies to form teams and get together even on the weekends for games. These experiences build relationships and foster cohesiveness.

    Shining Light Reply:

    Side,

    In Ms. Hoover’s latest post, she says the average teacher salary in U-CF is $50,000. Don’t U-CF students test higher than TE students? In your comment above, you say, good things cost good money. The average teacher salary in TE is over $85,000 per year.

    [Reply]

  8. Side,

    Clearly the only TE employees who have to worry about economic uncertainty are the aides and paras who have not only taken pay cuts but are under constant threat of outsourcing. Tenig workers took a huge cut last fall too but they could have waited until june to make a decision. Not sure what the strategy was there. The teachers and administrators work situation has shielded them from the economic reality that private sectors workers face every day.

    Teachers and especially administrators are doing just fine and I see no threat to their economic certainty unless citizens start to organize because their taxes have gone up astronomically in the last 3 to 5 years and it looks like they will continue on that path.

    I’m not sure self esteem and high morale ARE measures of success but I believe the more people have them, the better they feel about themselves, and the better they feel about themselves, the harder they work.

    It’s true that athletes play their sports at huge costs. They have to if they want to pursue it at the next level. That doesn’t mean parents should also be saddled with activity fees to pay for team school sports on top of ever skyrocketing taxes.

    I agree with the helicopter parent , snow days and vacation plans comment.

    You say the school boards don’t have the first clue how to negotiate with the unions. I always wondered about that. It explains alot. Do you have a solution?

    I agree with you and Keith, PSERS should not be an exception. Its a cost of compensation and raises should reflect that reality. Why do board members fight so hard and defend so strongly and hide so deceitfully the decision to raise salaries for administrators who already make more than the highest paid governor in the states?

    TESD and U-CF have produced great academic outcomes mostly because of the achievement oriented culture their parents model for them. Also, the kids are very smart, and highly motivated.

    I’m not saying we should get rid of any employee and hire new. I know the labor market is chocked full of highly qualified applicants who would slip right in and do just fine in any event and at a fraction of the cost.

    No one is ignoring the complexities. I’m looking at the facts.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Shining,
    In response to your question about why TENIG took an early deal agreeing to a paycut instead of waiting until June:It was presented to us that RFP’s had been sent out for all our positions. Someone on the school board (I think it was BF?) informed our TENIG leaders that if we did not come up w/an agreement before RFPs were received WE WOULD ALL BE OUTSOURCED. There was not even a question about it.
    We voted and figured that a job w/a paycut was better than no job at all.Looking back now, they were probably bluffing, but it worked.
    As far as PSERS is concerned, it is so out of whack right now. The district contribution is so high, in my opinion, THAT should have been considered the raise for teachers. I feel like I’ve been double-taxed.
    Side, you are right-on w/the helicopter parents, snow days, spring break, etc.
    Also, for the person addressing the D-1 athletes-we will never have a decent amount of D-1 recruits as long as we have to play everyone who joins a sports teams. Come on, this is high school. Not everyone is a good athlete. The ones that have more talent should get to shine just as students who make the National Honor Society, etc. are recognized for their talents. These kids are on the brink of being adults and it’s time they learned about the real word-not everyone is a winner.
    I agree that we do have great teachers in TE. but we also have an extrordinary amount of parental volunteers in our schools and high expectations, that is why we have such exceptional kids. It Takes a Village-and we are an example of that.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Debbie,

    If that is true, if a Board Member threatened outsourcing unless TENIG met their demands, that is sad. and that a community member would treat valued employees in our schools with such little regard and respect is hard to believe.

    Parents, TENIG employees and aides and paras have to know their value, and know what they are entitled to and they don’t. They must negotiate services and contracts from the school but the administrators/Board Members are experienced in these negotiations, while the parents and TENIG employees generally are not.

    I think if TENIG had appealed to parents, gotten the message out there, released the information that a school board member threatened the entire group with outsourcing, things might be different . The contract didn’t expire until June.

    So your group takes a 20 to 30% cut and and administrators get raises. This makes no sense to me. We can’t balance our budget off those who make the least in wages, especially when we continue to grant raises and bonuses to those who make the most.

    [Reply]

  9. TESDand U-CF have produced……achievement oriented culture their parents model for them..BINGO.. I believe this is the single most important factor in getting kids to achieve in school.. set expectations high, tweak them as your kids abilities come into focus, guide their education to get them help when needed, emphasize effort and quality work.

    [Reply]

  10. I am writing to inform the residents of TE why there are morale problems in the district. There is one school that has not had a certified food handler since October. The person in charge does not have the required Serve-Safe certificate and has previously failed the test. Technically, he should not be in charge of the kitchen. Under the rules of the Chester County Health Department each food service establishment within the County must have a certified food handler on staff, this person may, in their abcense, appoint a PIC (person in charge). This is not the case at Valley Forge Elementary School. The kitchen manager at this school is not certified ,yet he makes the same amount of money as every other kitchen manager in the district. How does the Health department reconcile this when they do their kitchen inspections?

    How is this allowed to continue? Why was this person hired without being qualified? Who hired this person, and why? Every other kitchen in the district has a certified kitchen manager, except Valley Forge Elementary.

    I no longer work for the district, this is one of the reasons why.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Marco, I left too. One, of many reasons.I cannot believe that someone who is put in charge of several workers and a school kitchen cannot pass the test. I took it and passed with a 98. It is not rocket-science, but has important consequences. If you can’t pass that test, you have no business being in charge of a kitchen where food is supposed to be prepared safely everyday for hundreds of children. The outcome could be potentially disasterous. Just the thought of the kids with food allergies and what could happen, makes me cringe. There were many people already within the district who applied for the job at VF and were passed over for someone from the outside. That’s one of the reasons morale is low.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Debbie & Marco — are you saying that the person in charge of the kitchen did not pass the required certified food service handler test? If this is a Chester County health department requirement, how can the person remained employed by T/E School District?

    [Reply]

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Pattye, at the time I left my job at the district, the new manager at VFE was not certified. I don’t know what has transpired since then, but if Marco is correct in his/her facts, it would appear that they are operating without a Certified Food Manager. There are many ways to skirt around this (we know this district is great at skirting around an issue) one way is calling on another manager (who is certified) to come to that school as a “fill in” on a given day. The new manager was hired more than 90 days ago (not sure of exact date of hire), more than adequate time to take the class and pass the test. He is well past the district’s probationary period now. I don’t know the district’s policy on this, but once again, it is something that is not right or fair. It seems that certain exceptions are made for some people and not others.

    Marco Reply:

    Yes, Pattye

    I know for a fact the kitchen manager failed his test. As of this moment he does not posess a valid Serve-Safe certificate. Debbie is correct in her assessment of the double standards that are applied.

    This is a quote from Chester County Health Report from an inspection in January

    Inspector Comments
    –The food facility does not employee a certified employee as required. An employee (Mitali Barot)has attended an approved training class , but has not applied for the Chester County Health Department Certified Food Manager License. Mr. Matt Misciagna stated he will attend a serve safe course January 27 in Exton and will apply for the CCHD CFM after that time. Obtain CCHD CFM License with 90 days.

    Subsequently, Mr. Misciagna failed his test. Yet, he makes the same exact salary as employees that are in compliance and have many years of service. His superior has very little, if any, people management skills. He is gruff, short-tempered, and unprofessional.

    I’ve been gone for several months but in the past the District would use threats of “outsourcing” to make the employees “pliable”.

    There are no “sour grapes” here, I am in a much better position than I was at TE. I am treated well and allowed to have input in all decisions.

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    According to the Serve-Safe website — the regulatory information to meet the food safety requirements for Chester County states —

    “Every owner/manager of a food service establishment must be certified. At no time shall a food service establishment be without a certified manager. (Chester County Food Protection Regulations, Ch. 300)”

    A 16-hour course must be completed plus an exam with registered proctor. The certification renewal is every three years.

    Debbie Watson Reply:

    Interesting information at http://www.chesco.org click on “food protection” at left, then look at restaurant inspection reports and you can see how your school (or favorite area restaurant) scored.
    VFE had 5 violations(!) at their most recent inspection in January. This never happens in our district-almost everyone gets a perfect every year.The Health Dept. is aware that there is no Certified Food Manager on duty. The person in charge of Valley Forge Elementary’s kitchen has 90 days to obtain his certification (I’m assuming that’s 90 days from their inspection date in Jan). This is all documented on their report.

  11. Average salary is nothing more than average teaching experience. Salarynschedules reflect seniority and educational levels. She is only right if her entire staff is on the first few steps. I dont feel like looking up their contract numbers. The starting salaries and max are worth reviewing, but average just reflects time in seat, Until Merit is part of that (subjectively…objectively, they presumption is that more experience and nore course work produce better results,)

    The notion that a single student costs $12,000 is based on flawed logic…only with hard caps on class size that would trigger hires can create that cost. Its a large cost divided by a large population…one student does not generate incremental costs of that magnitude

    That being said….I dont pretend to know thhe details and why Ms. Hoover is so mad at this family…but in my dozen years on a board, I saw much more grey than black and white in residency disputes, and someone quitting a board on “principle” is not compelling for me…you cant fix something you can’t see…leaving the foxes in the henhouse (for other political pastures) is a choice, not a solution.

    Nothing is free, and the essence of education is effort and resources…and good demographics help. But it’s again flawed logic to ignore any single piece and either take credit or assess blame. The synergies of schools are hard to pinpoint….everyme went to school so everyone has some clear notion of what they think a good school is. add to the notion of a good school the concept of a good education.

    The state’s largest and most powerful lobby is the PSEA…any legislator in Harrisburg takes them on at his/her peril. Their goal a few years ago was a starting salary of $50k…bachelors degree, no experience. They sit at the negotiating table…district after district.

    The PSERS costs are as high as they are because when the market lost 40% of its value in 2000, no one lost a dime of their pension promise. Can anyone in this economy say the same about their 401k or retirement savings? Schools are restricted in tax increases, but the PSERS cost is an EXCEPTION? In the real world,,its a cost of compensation.

    In 2015, the state will see a mass exodous of administrators….maybe there will be cost savings (except many admins have been around long enough to earn close to 100% pensions)…but you wont see those costs in your school tax bill..or you wont think you do.

    Simple answers are rarely effective to solve complex problems. I have spent some time in very low performing schools…property taxes are very low…good thing too, because achievement oriented parents have BIG tuition costs for independent schools. A teacher retired from the system said to me “you cant make chicken soup from chicken shit.” The state hasnt given teachers a raise in a decade…LOW taxes. Do you want a teacher who has so little regard for kids who have so few choices? I don’t…but when good people only focus on cost…OR on any single data point….

    Dont give up. And at some point, please step up….do something real…besides bashing board members for making decisons you dont agree with. people with ALL the answers often lack much of the information

    Consider the benefits of having good schools and having neighbors who can afford to support the effort. Its a social contract. 3-4 years of taxes per year per child…you pay even if you dont go.

    My final comment is that until we examine Singapore and how they have remade their entire education system–by identifying bright students and paving their way to teaching (as opposed to football or lacrosse), educating them as elite professionals, and recognizing best practices…guaranteeing a GOOD EDUCATION and the accompanying resources to support kids getting the best of the education opportunities….

    Smart parents dont always produce good students.Good parents want good programs,,,good programs require good curriculum (admins), good building management (facilities and discipline) and a broad commitment to results that reflect best efforts.

    ZZzzzzzzzzzzxx

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  12. “synergies of schools are hard to pinpoint.” The people at the top cultivate the culture in the schools and thats the way it goes.

    PSERs should be a cost of compensation

    In 2015, the state will see a mass exodus of administrators? Please explain

    Again the schools are good because the kids have high test scores, the kids have high test scores because they are smart and motivated, they are smart and motivated because their parent model this to them from birth.

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  13. Does anyone know the reason that Sue Tiede is now staying on until May? I was just wondering if they gave an explanation at the board meeting. Are we paying for two Directors of Personnel until then?

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Sue Tiede’s last day of work is tomorrow. The reason that the Board approved her extension to May 1 is so that she could receive her sick days paid. There have been 2 Directors of Personnel since the first of the year — the yearly salaries for the 2 Directors of personnel are $178K and $167K. Generally, MAYBE you would have a month of overlap but this overlap was 3 months! Plus, after Sue Tiede leaves the District, she has board approval for $86/hr. to continue to help her replacement! This is on top of the 3 months that the District has been paying for 2 personnel directors. I will say that the Board capped Tiede’s hours not to exceed 8 hr. The District can pay highly paid directors of personnel for 3 months training and at the same time not find dollars for health care for its employees. Wow. A real indicator of priorities. The lowest paid employees are disposable but the highest paid just get paid more.

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  14. Really??? You think that someone so highly educated in such a lucrative position should surely be able to “learn the ropes” in several months. That is more than most executives in the private sector get. I can’t possibly fathom why she would be needed to consult after all this time. But, if you look back at other high-rankers who’ve left. Joyce Videlock is the first one that comes to mind, although there are more, they all seem to have an “in” to shovel more money from our district taxpayers into their own pockets as consultants, as if the high salaries, perks and pensions weren’t enough.

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    Para Reply:

    Sue Tiede being kept on as a consultant is all Dan’s doing. Dan doesn’t want anything going wrong on his, hopefully, last year. He needs her there to keep the status quo. God forbide he has to deal with someone with new ideas or ideas that differ from his. If I were the new HR director, I would be highly insulted. Let’s see how long she lasts.

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  15. The overlap, if ANY, should have been two weeks max. I am disgusted by the lack of fiscal responsibility of the board and the administration. I would have hoped a newly hired Head of Personnel would not need $77,000 of on the job training.

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  16. Jeanne Pocalyko is the districts new Director of Personnel. She is the former President and Executive Board member of the PA Association of School Personnel Administrators. She is the consummate insider who knows better than anyone how to operate in this world. Ms. Pocalyko is not insulted by Ms. Tiede’s service. They are a team and they understand the rules. They work together to cultivate a culture where they foster and keep power and control.

    Very few candidates were chosen to interview for this job. I was told it was because most applicants weren’t qualified. I find that hard to believe in this labor market. The first thing businesses cut back on in tough economic times is Human Resources. There were thousands of qualified applicants for this job and we could have hired one of them at a fraction of the cost.

    As citizens, we need to perform our duty of inquiry. We need to create an environment of accountability and transparency. Our trust in Dan prevents us from pushing hard enough to get deep answers. Our deference to administrators is worrisome.

    IMO, Dan would never bring anyone in from “the outside” to work beside him.

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