Call for Internal Investigation: Interference in Collective Bargaining Process of T/E Aides and Paraeducators … Was a Crime Committed?

Not all is equal.  In the T/E School District, some workers enjoy equitable treatment and benefits while others do not.  This is the story about the aides and paraeducators, the District’s lowest paid employees, their collective bargaining efforts and the questionable behavior of those trying to derail the process.

Most of you reading this post will have no idea what I am talking about or what has been going on with the District’s aides and paras since January of this year.  My association with the aides and paras began last year with the District’s outsourcing threat over the Affordable Care Act and has continued during the collective bargaining process of the last five months.

At the request of Ruthann Waldie, UniServe representative for PSEA (Pennsylvania State Educational Association), I have not written about this matter until today.  Early on, Ruthann told me that the collective bargaining process for the TE aides and paras was ‘fragile’ and if the effort were to succeed she suggested that I not write about it on Community Matters.  I trusted her experienced wisdom and complied. However, during the last 72 hours, circumstances have dramatically changed that make it no longer possible to remain silent.

Before explaining the recent actions in the collective bargaining process, it is important to understand the timeline and review the details.

In 2013, after a very loud public outcry, the jobs of the District aides and paraeducators were saved from outsourcing – however, for only one year, the 2013-14 school year.  At that time, there was talk among some of the aides and paras about forming a collective bargaining unit but once the school board agreed not to outsource (and to keep their hours intact), the discussion on the subject lessened.  However, things heated up again when these employees received a threatening, demeaning memo from Sue Tiede, (the former TESD Personnel Director), in January of this year. Her communication established the 7-minute check-in and check-out policy for the aides and paras, and detailed the progressive discipline measures for violation, including suspension.

Tiede’s message represented a continuing trend of disrespect and intimidation directed at the aides and paras.  Growing concern returned about possible outsourcing and … with that concern, a sense of urgency among the aides and paras developed. Unfortunately, many of the aides and paras continue to feel undervalued and unappreciated by the administration and references such as ‘disposable’ by at least one school board member have done little to improve their morale.

Without representation by a collective bargaining group, the District’s aides and paras are powerless; their continued employment is solely at the mercy of the T/E School District’s Superintendent and School Board.  As a result, a small group of determined, dedicated aides and paras came together in early February to discuss options and plot a course of action to improve their working conditions.

According to Ruthann Waldie, PSEA representative, the aides and paras could not join the District’s teachers union because they were not considered ‘instructional’ employees. Furthermore, Ruthann explained that due to a law change five years ago, the aides and paras were prohibited from forming their own ‘new’ union when a qualifying union already existed. As explained, TENIG (Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group) the District’s qualifying union with non-instructional employees and therefore, the aides and paras would become part of that group.

Before the collective bargaining campaign was officially underway, I spoke with TENIG president, Mary Minicozzi to ask her opinion about adding the 176 District aides and paras to their union.  Her reaction was overwhelmingly supportive, stating that she was 110% in favor.  I invited her to attend the upcoming organizational meeting with all the District aides and paras and PSEA representatives. Mary confirmed that she would attend the meeting and that she would ask fellow TENIG members to also attend. However, something happened between that phone conversation and the organizational meeting a few days later. Mary did not attend the meeting nor did anyone else from TENIG attend. To my knowledge, she has had no further contact with any of the aides and paras since that point.

Over the course of the following four months, we learned through PSEA representatives, that Mary was no longer supporting the idea of the aides and paras joining TENIG, although it remained unclear as to why. However, the PSEA representatives continued to tell the aides and paras that it did not matter because the law required them to join TENIG.

The organizing campaign for the aides and paras continued to move forward. On February 21, the T/E School District and the School Board received official notification regarding the aides and paras interest in collective bargaining. Once notified of the organizing campaign, the PA Public Employee Relations Act 195 protected the aides and paras from any interference, threats, harassment, reprisals, etc. from the District during the process. (Or so we thought).

The T/E School Board hired solicitor Jeffrey Sultanik of Fox Rothschild, LLP to represent the District in the aides/paras collective bargaining process.  As an experienced labor relations attorney and school district contract negotiator, it is clear that Sultanik counseled school board members against interfering in any way with the aides and paras in the unionizing process. As their legal counsel, Sultanik would have explained the liability issues to the District if tampering occurred in the collective bargaining process.  Likewise, that same warning would have applied to all District administrators, including the superintendent.

Before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) in Harrisburg will schedule an election, there must be a suitable showing of interest by the employees in forming a union. PLRB requires a minimum of 30% of the effected bargaining unit employees to show interest by the signing of a ‘union assignment card’. The card does not indicate whether you would vote for or against a union – the signature simply signifies that you are in interested in moving the process forward and that you desire the appropriate local union (in this case the PSEA) to represent you for the purpose of collective bargaining. However, we learned that PSEA’s policy was to have at least 60% of the eligible employees sign the cards as an indicator of their commitment to the bargaining process.

As the campaign progressed, aides and paras from the eight District schools showed support for the collective bargaining process by signing the cards. (Due to years of intimidation and low morale issues in the District, the process however, was very slow.) In early May, after receiving 94 signed commitment cards, the PSEA representatives filed with the PA Labor Relations Board for an election for the aides and paras to join TENIG.

Upon approving the collective bargaining application, the PLRB was to set up a conference call between (1) the PSEA representatives, (2) the School District representatives and (3) the PA Labor Relations Board.  The purpose of the conference call determines all the rules and details around the election and sets the date for the actual election.

The aide and paras hoped that if the conference call occurred by early June, PLRB would schedule the election for before June 20, the last day of the 2013-14 school year. To vote in the election, you must be an eligible employee.  All 176 aides and paras are eligible to vote (whether they signed the commitment card or not). TENIG members are not eligible to vote. The PLRB requires that the union receive 50% + 1 votes of all employees who cast ballots. (Example: if only 10 eligible employees showed up to vote, the count needs to be six voting yes).

Unfortunately, the scheduled conference call between the Labor Relations Board, PSEA and the School District was delayed until June 18, which in turn pushed the election to September, after school starts. Although the aides and paras were disappointed to learn of the election delay, they had fought an uphill battle to come this far and remained committed to staying the course.

Then the unthinkable occurred this past Thursday, June 5 … the reason for this post.  A pre-selected group of 6-8 aides and paras received word in a PSEA conference call that their collective bargaining application would be withdrawn from the PA Labor Relations Board.  Why? Because Mary Minicozzi, president of TENIG, did not want the 176 aides and paras in her union. During the call, the PSEA representative further stated that the aides and paras would now need to start the campaign process all over again to form their ‘own’ union in the District.

By early Friday morning, as aides and paras learned the news, accusations of impropriety, collusion and tampering in the collective bargaining process began to surface. Interestingly, members of TENIG were also seeking answers.  Evidentially there was no official discussion with the TENIG members about the aides and the paras joining their union nor was a vote taken by the TENIG members. It would appear that the president of TENIG, Mary Minicozzi made this unilateral decision on her own to exclude the aides and paras from joining TENIG.  (Remember, this same individual personally told me four months before that she “110 percent supported” their inclusion!)

Many TENIG members have worked together with the aides and paras in the T/E School District for years.  The aides and the paras are their fellow District employees and TENIG workers know all too well, what it is like to be the target of the school districts’ outsourcing ax.  It seems highly unlikely that if the issue had come to a vote, that the TENIG members would have voted against including the aides and paras.  Why would they? Adding 176 more employees to TENIG would increase their collective bargaining group to over 300 members.

And let’s not forget that PSEA’s Ruthann Waldie told the aides and paras from the start that ‘legally’ they had to be in TENIG – as she explained, it was their only option.  She had further indicated that because it was the law, it did not matter whether TENIG wanted them or not.

The PA Labor Relations Board has already fielded calls from the District aides, paras and even TENIG members demanding answers – and some have already reached out to attorneys.

How is it possible that the TENIG president can control the future of 176 aides and paras in the T/E School District?   If Mary didn’t involve her fellow TENIG members in the decision-making process, exactly who was involved. I find it impossible to believe that she acted completely on her own.  It makes no sense — Why would you not include 176 additional workers in a union; adding the aides and paras would increase TENIG’s collective bargaining group to over 300 members strong!

We know that Mary’s decision was not based on an impending TENIG contract. If you recall, Mary signed a new TENIG contract in September 2013, 9 months before the existing contract was set to expire. The new 3-year TENIG contract begins July 1, 2014 and goes to June 30, 2017. I will not believe that Mary Minicozzi made this decision on her own – what did she have to gain? Was there a promise of something in exchange?

Why did Ruthann Waldie repeatedly tell the aides and paras that the law required them to join TENIG when this week the story changes and now are told they must form their own union? Things just don’t add up.  It reminds me of the line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Somethings rotten in Denmark”.

Section 1201, Article XII, Unfair Practices of the Public Employee Relations Act states that public employers, their agents or representatives are prohibited from engaging in ‘unfair labor practices’. As defined by Public Employee Relations Act, unfair labor practices include a couple of relevant sections: (1) Interfering, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights under Act 195 and (2) Dominating or interfering with the formation, existence or administration of an employee organization.

We know that interference has occurred in the collective bargaining process of the aides and paraeducators of the TE School District. At the ninth hour, the collective bargaining process was derailed. Why would anyone risk the legal ramifications of tampering with the process?  Who is involved and why?  Did the president of TENIG act alone or was she coerced? Did the Superintendent, the School Board or the District Solicitor know what was going on?

For the record, as of Friday, June 6, an attorney at the PA Labor Relations Board reported that the aides and paras collective bargaining file remains open and their application active.  By exposing the interference in the collective bargaining process, maybe there is a chance that this situation can ‘right itself’ and continue to move forward with the June 18 conference call and a September election to join TENIG. The District aides and paras have earned this right.

The T/E School Board has a fiduciary responsibility to those who have elected them to serve as advocates and stewards of our school district. I do not want to believe that any member of the School Board was involved nor had any knowledge of the derailment of the collective bargaining process of the aides and paras.  With accusations of interference, tampering, collusion, misconduct, etc. swirling, the Board needs to act quickly.  I suggest an internal examination to figure out ‘who’ knew ‘what’ and ‘when’. The PA Labor Relations Board may deem there is sufficient evidence to conduct their own investigation and if I were T/E School Board directors, I would want to be out in front of such an investigation not behind it.

51 Comments

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  1. I believe I posted something about a delay a month or so ago.. No question someone got to someone… Do I have proof now? Not yet.. WHo could it be? WHo would be interested in outsourcing non union aides? School board? Administration? thats where my interest lies…in this age of DECLINING union affiliation, interesting that Minicozzi would not want more members….fishy… very fishy…

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  2. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe my anger.

    I was witness to this entire process, missed maybe only one meeting (and there are many of us “witnesses” there!). I can tell you that many of us heard Ruthann explain in the second meeting at Keene Hall that the law was that TENIG was our only option, they had to take us. (Was a plan in place to derail us from the start, if so, by whom?) Mary was enthusiastic to have us. Her exact words…”I am 110% supportive”. Unions get there power from dues and numbers, of course they’d want us. We agreed, why reinvent the wheel if an established union is in place? So, we did everything asked of us, and finally success, 94 cards signed of people willing to hold a vote, everyone agreed the next step was an actual election. That was only a couple of weeks ago.

    What happens next , the past few days, will sound like an episode of “The House of Cards’s

    Here is what I have been hearing at the Middle Schools on Friday, and then through friends (including Tenig coworkers) at the High School :

    The rumor is that Dan Waters has been in collusion with Mary M (Tenig President) for some time although until this week, no one suspected. Her friends are saying she was promised a highly paid position-called a “confidential secretary” position before Dan retires. In return, she was not acting in her fiduciary responsibility to current Tenig employees nor the Aides/Paras in their collective bargaining effort this week. This may also explain the fact that Tenig employees were (they also started to connect the dots) furious that their contact last year was signed off before they could even negotiate. Coincidence? anyone would be fools to think so. This is also looking like the reason Mary (acting alone, I think not) pulled the plug of the Aide/Para collective bargaining process without consulting anyone . Tenig employes (once again) were left out of this decision.

    It appears to many that Dan Waters and Mary M broke the law at several felony levels, and could both go to jail. Any Board Members who were in on this scam (heaven help you if you are an attorney, you could also be disbarred). I know of five calls that were placed into the Department of Labor on Friday asking for an investigation.

    This makes me sick.

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    Middle school aide Reply:

    Now the public is starting to see the real Dan. The vindictive Dan that the public did not want to see. However the employees have seen this. Fear. The reputation of TE within the teaching profession is shot to hell. “yes they pay a little more but it is hell, go to LM or Radnor or GV first to apply”.

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    concerned tax payer Reply:

    Maybe just maybe you should open a huge investigation on this to get your facts 100% very clear.

    Why did Mary M get moved to the administration building in the first place? Did you ever ask those questions? You likely can’t because she isn’t allowed to tell.
    She protected an innocent child with huge issues and got caught speaking ill will about a principal. Who protected a bad teacher over a child.
    I highly doubt that Dan promised Mary anything when she lost the one thing she adored more. Her job as secretary at VFE.
    So before you spew a few lies around town perhaps you should get the real facts straight.

    Not to mention Mary was a parent turned aide for a long time before she got her full time job as the back bone to VFE.

    She just happened to care a tremendous amount about the custodians when they were going to lose jobs and the secretaries I believe they took a raise cut to allow custodians to stay.
    I’m pretty sure she’d be your #1 supporter about parents in the district. and our own aides.
    Most especially when we saw how outsourced aides treated children who needed help the most.
    She had a child living under her desk for a half year because of an outsourced aide. Yet that is the way administration wants things. To save money not what is best for kids.

    So please get your story straight and dig a lot deeper.
    You will uncover a lot.

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  3. This is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Outraged Para 1, I heard the exact same thing about Mary being promised a highly-paid job. I understand why Dan hates unions, but am confused what power he has over Ruthann, there is so much we don’t know. Wee other Board members in on this too? I was also at the meetings, everything cited here by you and Pattye was exactly what Ruthann and Mary told our group. I call for an immediate investigation, and charges made against those who broke the law. Any Board member who sits idly and does nothing is also complicit in my book. An IMMEDIATE investigation is necessary, Dan Waters should be fired, this is disgraceful. I am embarrassed this is happening in our district. I’m told the Inquirer has been contacted by a current Tenig member who is convinced this was “at play” in their bad deal last year.

    Also, knowing what has happened, how do Aides/Paras get to a vote, is it too late? Should I call the Dept of Labor also?

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  4. All the Aides/Paras who have recently quit this past year have already been replaced by temps . If parents knew the type (with some exceptions) of people who are their kids “one-on-ones” they would be more than a little concerned. Not only do they quit every few weeks, but not even close to the caliber of our community employees. Some of them sit on their cellphones all day ignoring the kids. As long as the district is meeting their legal obligations of providing a one-on-one, we no longer care about the quality of our employees? Are these Delta T people backgrounds even checked, a lot of them look very creepy and sleazy to me. There is a lot going on parents aren’t being told. Is this the option that is preferable to valuing our Aides and Paras, giving them a fair wage, health insurance? seriously?

    I have the same question as Liba, is it too late? Can we still hold a vote? Can good prevail over corruption here? Chime in here, anyone know if our election can still happen?

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  5. Questions:
    1. Did TENIG vote to ratify the contract extension? (The article states Mary signed it…but thatbwould have been upon group ratification).
    2. Did Ms. Waldie negotiate the new contract?
    3. Was PSEA involved in advising the aides/paras concurrent with the negotiations?

    One point of clarification–a “confidential” position is a nonTenig position, not a “highly paid secretarial position.” It is not a feather for her nest.,

    Another comment: TENIG barely functions as it is because of the diverse job descriptions…mechanics, custodians, security, drivers, secretaries…somit may be a stretch to to suggest there is no reason to object to adding a group larger than the existing constituency,,especially since they have a 3 year signed labor agreement in place that does not address employees whose job classification is quite different. I would assume many TENIG members with some understanding of the process might have reasonably challenged making the existing groups in a minority position.

    As to the “sleazy” comment about the newer aides…they have the same clearances required as the in house aides. I remind you again that aides/paras evolved from a volunteer job pool, and when they were hired, the PSEA argued they were taking workmfrom the teachers…

    As to unfair labor practices…I was charged with one because I questioned a teacher about giving a detention….so I think the criminal conclusions (if this happened ) being addressed are a bit far reaching.

    Unions are NOT about members…they are about the power of the union. Ruthann Waldie has all the answers. And saying TRUST and PSEA in the same article is flat out naive. What was fragile and obligatory suddenly becomes off topic and optional.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Waldie told us that her PSEA services were not desired (permitted) by TENIG president during the contract negotiations in September. The contract signed in September 2013 starts next month July 1. PSEA was not involved in advising aide/paras in September 2013, PSEA became involved with this in February 2014.

    Regardless what you may think of the TENIG employees, their counsel was not sought in the decision-making process on whether or not to include the aides/paras. I am not saying that the president of TENIG was required to include take it to a vote, just saying that it didn’t happen. Personally, as president of an organization myself, I cannot imagine making such an important decision and not involving the rest of my membership, whether I had the legal right to do so or not. Beyond disrespectful, I would not want the full weight of the decision on my shoulders — whether it was viewed as a good or bad decision by the membership.

    The aide/paras may be naive when it comes to the collective bargaining process (and I am right there with them!) – why wouldn’t they be, if you have no basis of union experience. Therefore, the we never questioned the accuracy of PSEA statements, we didn’t see any potential to be gained by PSEA to lie. Why would you state that the law was changed 5 years ago so that it was no longer possible to start a new union if one already existed. And that because of this law, TENIG had to take the 167 new members into their group. Why wouldn’t we believe that story, we heard it stated repeatedly. And not just by Waldie but by other PSEA reps. There were at least 4 other PSEA employees involved in this process over the last 5 months, I have just chosen not to name them. What potential was there for PSEA to make false statements to the aides/paras?

    I will continue to say over and over again, none of this makes sense and I know that without any doubt in my mind, that there’s more to this story. It’s not a simple case of one person misunderstanding what was said!

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    Middle school aide Reply:

    How about just getting some of these Delta T aides to shower!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sidelines..is exactly what you do!! Call from the sidelines. You have no idea..how bad they are. No clue. Some are almost scarey!!!!

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    Middle school aide Reply:

    Or even scary.LOL

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  6. I agree with Pattye none of this makes any sense. Aides/Paras thought all this process was going to protect
    their jobs but I think they should be worried. Once again,we end another school year thinking about whether we will
    have jobs in September or not. Hopefully we get some answers. Good luck.

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  7. No one could make this stuff up – it reads like an idiot’s guide for how to get rid of the aides/paras without going through the ugliness of the 2013 Outsourcing Debacle. Problem is, the folks involved are not really good at running interference. Lies are difficult to cover when they start to pile one on top of the other; it gets more difficult for everyone to keep their stories straight.

    The Fat Lady has not sung on this one yet.

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  8. so where do the aides go from here? Do they now need counsel to start to dig? I am suspicious of waters, Minnocozzi and Waldie, and unions too.. there should be alot of suspicion because of the level of mistrust created by the admninistration and school boards past and present…So how do you beat a soviet bloc style oppressor? Start digging.. bad guys usually get found out and lose.. should the aides get lawyered up? Who pays? At some point the aides and paras will just leave.. saying “who cares anymore” that would be defeat, but it just may not matter…

    As far as the level of service from the new aides, most of the school population and their parents do not come in contact with aides.,., I would suggest a mailing of a flyer of somesort to all TE school parents with this information so they can read it for themselves.. many may not care. Some will. and maybe they will be vocal and join the fight.. TE continues to be dumbed down.. now its more than government interference, clearly I smell corruption, collusion and bad behaviour.

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  9. Let me get this straight. The aides and paras spent months getting enough cards signed to hold an election to join TENIG. They only needed 30% of their members to sign, but PSEA imposed a higher standard. But they met that bar and were assured an election would be held before the end of the school year.

    But they find out there has been some foot-dragging (sloppy application filing)on the part of PSEA and the election will not be held until sometime in the fall.

    Then a few days ago, the aides and paras learn they will not even have an opportunity to vote to join TENIG because its president, Mary Minicozzi says they’re not wanted -apparently without talking to her members.

    Sadly, the same PSEA reps, who had repeatedly assured the aides and paras that TENIG had to accept them, did an about-face last week and told them they had to start from scratch and form a separate union, in essence doing everything over.

    Even to someone who has tried to stay abreast of the series of morale-busting events inflicted upon TE teachers and non-instructional employees in recent years, this story is mind-boggling and rises to another level. And yes, perhaps criminal. I’m sure high-priced (taxpayer-paid) labor lawyer, Jeffrey Sultanik told members of the administration and school board there can be no interference with the aides and paras’ efforts to form a union. It’s a federal crime to do so.

    But apparently that hasn’t stopped some among them from trying to interfere through back-door means. Is it possible TENIG president Mary Minicozzi went from telling the aides and paras she was 110% behind them to singularly ending their hopes of joining TENIG? No. But this is the woman who “negotiated” a bad contract for her union without their input and then told them they had two choices: vote to take a pay cut or be outsourced. Some leader. She represented the SB and superintendent and not her own members. She deserves to be kicked in the pants and escorted out the door.

    However, the weight of this fiasco doesn’t just fall on Mary’s shoulders and those elected officials and district administrators who illegally influenced her to act days before the budget is passed – with no additional money for the aides and paras. The PSEA has acted in bad faith. They are not to be trusted.

    The aides and paras need their own legal representation and a thick skin. It’s time to play hard ball.

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    Sidelines Reply:

    Morale busting? Do you mean budget balancing? I have friends and family who have no promise of a lucrative pension at the end who have taken paycuts, benefit cuts, and layoffs during this time period. This class warfare is smoke and mirrors. The only comfortable retirees are near retirees I know have tax funded pensions….
    i said this four years ago.the decision OF THE BOARD to put administration at the previous TEEA negotiations changed the entire character of TESD. Administrators work FOR the board on behalf of us all. making them the bad guys (per PSEA lesson plan) radically revamped the entire philosophy of a team. It moved the administration from the middle ground into “they.” and the employees (and apparently some residents) became “we.”

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    margaritiaville Reply:

    sidelines, I am usually on your side, and the morale busting is not scientific but it is true that the morale in schools is crap.

    this whole state system is jeri rigged.. moving soon..

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    Sidelines Reply:

    Please help me find a place where morale isnt generally crap? The state handcuffed districts to control spending, but not unions to control demands. You moving? Isnt that like finding a new job? sick of where you are, move on. OR sick of where you are – complain. Or sick of where you are– change it.

    TESD is a mature community that is facing the same challenges any suburban community with an upwardly mobile (with no more room at the top?) demographic. Taxpayers dont want to pay more, they just want the best. People who moved her 30 years ago cant afford to buy the house they own…so of course the taxes are hard to tolerate. And people who move here now are back to paying top do,lar and they eant the school system that built this reputation, only we cant afford that anymore…not and keep “morale” high.

    Ask the people at ACME how their morale is? Can we blame Wegmans? So the morale in the schools is no different kind of crap,,.life is hard, and we are facing the first time since before WW2 that a generation can not expect to catch their parents. A college tuition at a private college was $5000 a generation ago…it was the GI bill before that. Now its $40-60,000 and your degree might not get you a job, much less a good job. But instead of adjusting our lifestyles, we want employers to step up and pay better and pay more. The wage gap is staggering…everywhere.

    So I get the morale issue, but have heard enough whining about “the lowest paid” who may or may not need their job, or may just need to find another one, Oh wait…what other one with summers off, 5 minutes from your house, school hours. The world is made up of people who work for a paycheck. This issue is nothing new, The economy has changed and now the compensation matters. It has ALWAYS been market driven. Aides didnt get raises and there was a line for the jobs. If the wage went up, it was market based and “fairness” driven. No bargaining. But now its not fair that the ACA has prompted employers to rethink the model, and if those folks who applied for jobs have new issues, the employer must address them…the way the employee wants it addressed.

    We ALL have countless examples of being screwed. To focus so much wrath on this issue is fine, but for me, too little and too late. And sometimes STUFF happens…it isnt always because someone wants to screw you.

    Repeal Act 1–let local control of schools return to local boards. Let elections dictate priorities, (Now stand back and listen to those who believe Act 1 was esential to fix what didnt used to be called broken).

  10. I said PSEA is only about PSEA…who is captaining this Aides/Para effort?

    The use of “we” when referring to this group makes me wonder if they are relying on you for this? While well intentioned, free advice may not be what they need. This is higher stakes than it seemed.

    I am thrown off a bit by the inference that TENIG members are clueless. They had to vote to ratify their contract. If PSEA was not involved (really) then why did a majority accept it? I dont know their current leadership team, but its not a one person group.

    The demographics of TENIG and the aides/paras are not necessarily union savvy…and I would bet that whether the district or the board wanted any of this, PSEA is at the root of the misinformation. They would want more members, but TENIG has a 3 year agreement in place, so a new unrepresented segment would offer TENIG nothing but an obligation to reopen and expose themselves to reduced benefits to accomodate a new approach. Outsourcing even.

    Is there any benefit to the aides and paras who want to work at TE to apply for the Delta option? keep a good job or lose a great one.

    You are generous with your time Pattye, but it may be time for this group to invest in themselves if they think their cause will prevail going this route. My own experience suggests someone who IS an aide/para needs to be a spokesperson and ask to meet with Sultanik or the board.

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    Former Summer Painter Reply:

    Perhaps since they thought they were going to become part of TENIG they didnt feel obligated to select a representative? Did you ever consider that?

    Did you ever consider that these people are thought of as expendable and anyone speaking up could be deemed “noisy” and quickly removed from their position? I wouldnt put it past the cowards in the school board to pull something like that.

    Clearly you are against these people and want them outsourced. Im sure you would also like to see your buddy Dan Waters get another pay increase off of the budget cuts too, wouldnt you?

    Makes me sick to see this whole “squash the little people” mentality going on in the main line. Hopefully someone WILL step up and fix the solution, by removing every nefarious crook from the school board.

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  11. LTO.. exactly…there are solid community leaders, pattye for one who may know how to get the ball rolling towards independent representation… gloves off..

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  12. How is the district able to pay $220,000. to put up perimeter fencing at all elementary schools(don’t most of the schools have fencing already) and not give health insurance to aides/paras. See 6abc website for interview that reporter Vernon Odom did and spoke with Art McDonnell.

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  13. I know first hand that no TENIG members were asked about the paras/aides joining the union. The paras/aides were behind the TENIG members when it appeared that TENIG employees would be outsourced.

    The majority of the TENIG members welcome the addition of 160 new members. The leadership of the union is weak and ineffective in communicatiing with members. I think they’re too comfortable and need to be replaced.

    While we’re at it we should replace some of the School Board members, you know, the ones that think a 5 foot fence can keep anyone out. How idiotic. I know people in their seventies that would have no problem getting over that fence. A deterrant? To what? Tumbleweeds? This shows the lack of leadership and the lack of a thought process prior to making knee-jerk decisions. There is not ONE security professional in the world that would tell you a five foot high chain link fence will keep criminals out, unless the criminals were from the Wizard of Oz.

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  14. I am sure the fence was recommended by the high priced security expert, ex-police chief, and personal friend of Waters, that T/E hired last year. It is the most ridiculous waste of money I have ever heard of.

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    margaritiaville Reply:

    those fences are a joke.. we as a district are a joke.. How fast will it be cut, trampled down and otherwise abused and for what? Agree.. security??? I contend there is LESS security because if the kids ever had to evacuate the property they are fenced in…What the hell is goind on here? idiots.

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    CHV Reply:

    Came from the TESD Safety Committee which is made up of many people & meetings are open to the public.
    This summer project was listed and gone out to bid months ago. Been discussed several times at Facilites.(nearby neighbors making suggestions) Check the minutes or attend Facilities and ask questions .

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    margaritiaville Reply:

    were residents immediately impacted, who live on the property lines, notified? Guess there is never enough notification… Where was it? on web site?

    even if no one showed up, this is a dumb idea.

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    CHV Reply:

    Just passing the info I got from attending Facilities meetings ,,,fences and gates are 3ft in from the property line. Bids went out Jan 30.. committee vote (Feb 14) Board vote (Feb 24) and some residents made comments at Facilities ( April & May ) …IF you go to TESD .net .. get the Facilites Committee agenda for this Friday the revised drawings are included in the packet of info.
    How does this or any of the 7 summer projects relate to the aide /para issue??? If someone feels that strongly about a matter do something , write to the board or go to a meeting and speak up .

    Marco Reply:

    So, CHV, because the fence was recommended by a safety comittee, you think it is the right option? How many professionals on that comittee? Even if the comittee recommended the fencing, it is just a recommendation. The Board can use their own judgement about implementing the project.

    This is another “feel good” measure that will not add to the security of any students. This is just like the other “feel good” item they were touting, you know, the fact that the custodians were checking trash cans for bombs. How stupid was that idea?

    I think after the fencing is installed we should hold a contest. Any person that can’t get over the fence wins, the prize will be “The World’s Worst Criminal” trophy.

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  15. This is an interesting thread. There is no one posting that knows any details of labor organizing. There is no one posting that knows any details of labor law. There is no one posting that has spoken at length to any of the major players in the organizing effort – Ruthann Waldie, Mary Minicozzi, the PLRB or the organizers – to find out the details of the situation. Yet, in this vast sea of ignorance, many seem qualified to repeat and amplify accusations of impropriety, collusion and tampering in the collective bargaining process by anyone even remotely involved.
    .
    Seems inappropriate to me.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I must assume that you are not suggesting that I have not spoken directly with Ms. Waldie, Ms. Minicozzi, PLRB & organizers because that would not be true. As a UCF school board member, you may indeed find this information “inappropriate” — but to myself and many other members of the T/E School District we do not.

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    Former Summer Painter Reply:

    Nah, the only thing inappropriate is the underhanded and criminal methods these disgusting people on the school boards and that doofus Waters. Cowards who have taken advantage of people in their employ and of the trust of the public who gave them their jobs in the first place. I would love to see the cowards you mention come on here and directly address these accusations. My guess is they will be answering them in the court of law eventually…

    They should be ashamed of themselves and of the families they hurt. To what, save a few bucks? To give themselves massive pay increases? To give themselves the ability to hire their “close friends” as “advisers”? How about their frivolous spending?! That could have saved the jobs of many people already let go, like the bus drivers they contracted out.

    They make me SICK.

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    margaritiaville Reply:

    keith, your statement is why, previously I suggested doing this the right way, perhaps getting an independent counsel to dig for answers… If there is nothing there, he/she will find out. But investigations usually start when there is an appearance of wrongdoing, or questions about how things all of a sudden changed… from what I read, there is enough suspicion to ask questions… I hope you can agree with that.,.

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I’m assuming you want the school board to appoint an independent counsel. It would be very unusual for a board appointed and board paid counsel (with no more legal power than any other citizen) to investigate why a union organizing effort was bumbled. If you want legal trouble, just ask this board appointed special counsel to start questioning the TENIG president and the union organizers. Then you’d have real coercion.

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    andrea Reply:

    I’m feeling badly for the acrimony coming from this and aimed in too many directions. Our Summer Painter would have us accept that the aides and paras have no leadership because they thought they would have a leader soon. The nature of unions in PA is serious and political. You need a leadership functioning to engage. Conference calls and memos on the topic are small change. RENT Norma Rae…oh, the final.result of story was the union happened….and the mill closed. TENIG has a new Ratified 3 year deal…joining them had ZERO upside for the aides and the only way tenig could help a new group would be to reopen….and put their jobs back in play.

    margaritiville Reply:

    well this is only one reason I don’t like unions and I thought, for once,
    this union could help the aides and paras… it is dirty business…To andrea I don';t understand why the aides joining tenig would have any bearing on the current members..

    And Keith, the aides and paras, if unified and interested would have to get their own counsel.. Expensive, yes, and maybe not worth it…the powers that be, honest or corrupt are powerful and often there are shenanigans that go on. Clearly no trust here, with waters and the board… maybe an assistant DA would be interested in making a name for himself, assuming there is data to be mined that would reflect wrongdoing..

    The mill closing is not a good analogy here. The school isn’t closing and there is money for fences, the question is how to pay for these dedicated folks under the constraints of Obamacare… Lets face it, that is the elephant in the room .. bad news.

  16. Thank you Pattye for keeping us informed. I would ask any parent of students in T/E, what message do we send to our “leaders of tomorrow” when we acquiesce to the mistreatment of employees? Why do we pay sub-poverty level wages to the people with whom we trust our special needs students, people who are as dedicated to their charges as any teacher? I believe that the unspoken sub text is that T/E only begrudgingly provides aides for students when required by law, not because it is morally responsible. This affluent, educated community deserves better representation and our aides deserve better treatment.

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  17. Actually “our summer painter” would have you believe the confusion and lack of communication going on from TENIG and the PSEA is making it difficult for the aides and paras to get a grasp on the situation. There are many lies from every direction and it’s not helping the aides & paras make any decisions when they cant even figure out what is going on. This is a mess and I think it is safe to assume they have a lot going on in their lives already to quickly become organized and select a leader.

    This is people’s lives being played with. People with families and people that have been a part of the school district for years. They don’t make much and have plenty of bills to pay and now an unsure future.

    The council, Waters, the union, none of their benefits or jobs are at risk! Just the aides and paras. Acrimony isn’t the right word if these people are dropped to save a few bucks and let those on top get another yearly pay increase and bonus. Rage is.

    Excuse me for being passionate about the people that work for our school district that most people don’t give a damn about. My mother is one of them.

    I think it is obvious that the situation is being danced around until the 11th hour so that all bargaining is lost and the worst deal for the paras and aides can be offered. A “take it or LEAVE” kind of offer.

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  18. Margaritiaville said it right, “no trust here, with waters and the board” and no trust for PSEA union. It’s hard to know who is sleeping in bed with who at this point.

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  19. Pattye, Thanks for all of your efforts to keep this issue in the public consciousness. It is sad that these people keep ending up in the crosshairs. They are such a small part of the budget and an important part of the children’s lives. In my opinion the real elephant in the room is the public pension issue that needs to be solved. If the board and administration had the trust of all of the employees there could be an open discussion of what needs to be done to the pension system in a way that balances the economics of employee retirement with taxpayer capability. It does not seem fair that taxpayers fund pensions where people can get retirement payments of up to 85% of their salary for life when the majority of taxpayers have nothing close to that. If there was trust throughout the district that conversation could happen….public employees are reasonable people…..they can understand if it is presented openly and honestly……but there is no trust…and it appears little courage to identify the issue out loud and solve it. So instead of confronting the issue the easy road will be taken….outsource to avoid pensions instead of honest respectful reform. Who is next….TENIG……..then the teachers? Unless the culture changes that is the direction we are taking.

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  20. A few points –
    .
    For the support staff (aides, paras, TENIG) the “elephant” is NOT the pension issue, it’s healthcare. Healthcare averages about $12K and PSERS just $3K.
    .
    The pension issue can only be solved by the state legislature. The TE school board is powerless in reconstructing the retirement program and, by law, is required to contribute payments dictated by the retirement commission.
    .
    Given that PSERS contributions are determined in Harrisburg, the ONLY way school boards can control compensation ( the major driver of tax increases) is to moderate salary and healthcare costs. I believe the TE school board has “identified the issue” ad nauseam and been holding an “open conversation” continuously for several years – in the form of teacher contract negotiations, TENIG contract negotiations, outsourcing and budget presentations.

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    Pete Connors Reply:

    Keith, I am fully aware that the pension is controlled in Harrisburg. The only groups standing in the way of pension reform are the unions through the politicians they control with campaign contributions. I believe that the teachers unions are the largest lobbying group in the state. Until the school board can convince the teachers that pension reform is the key to financial stability and long term job security then this will never get done. A long time Democrat school board member told me that she was sure the end game was going to be turning public schools in to charter schools because the unions were bankrupting the system. I happen to think that open, honest public discussion about the issue is better than waiting until we crash in to the wall.
    On the healthcare issue….this won’t get solved until we actually get free markets where insurers have to fight for our business. Huge insurance companies have manipulated the politicians in to limiting our choices. As an employer in this state I have 3-4 choices of health insurance companies. In the tiny country of Switzerland they have 100 or so choices. As a result they have great healthcare that costs less than ours.

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Pete,
    I’m not sure how an open conversation about PSERS at the local level has much of an effect at the state level. Even if the TE board and the TE teachers agree that reforming the pension system is each party’s best interests (highly unlikely), they are powerless to enact any changes. It’s interesting how the state has given districts the power to hire/fire teachers, negotiate salaries and negotiate healthcare, but decided to retain decisions on pensions. If I remember correctly, townships administer their own employee pensions. Why not school districts? I’m guessing the PSEA has done a wonderful job getting favorable laws covering pensions, tenure, sabbaticals, furloughs, strikes, etc.
    .
    As for healthcare, there are numerous options available to local districts to reduce costs – gold/silver/bronze plans, co-payments, deductibles, premium share, smoker surcharge and the big one – working spouse provision.

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    JanieMeg Reply:

    Pete, Also recall the informal survey done last year, that the majority of this Aide/Para group would decline health benefits as most were “second incomes” and covered by their spouses. Even though, this group still felt strongly that it was a benefit worth having for those who needed it. For this group, that was only one issue, maintaining hours, pension, and high-quality community employees working with our students were significant concerns as well. These employees don’t earn much, not the group we should be trying to balance our budgets with.

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  21. I worked in the private sector for 45 years, 30 of those years in management and fifteen with a Fortune 500 company. The two qualities I deemed most important for success are integrity and discretion. These two traits seem to be sorely lacking in the T/E school district. In the fields of industry as well as education, management and administration must focus on the needs of the customer. In education, the customers are the students, their parents and the taxpayers who have every right to expect the highest quality product to be delivered for their dollars invested. That only comes about if all employees are invested and committed to delivering that product. Sadly, that does not seem to be what is happening in our school district with the current school board and administration which seems to rely more on intimidation than motivation.

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  22. Patty, I am a previous employee of T/E school dist. for 14yrs. and I must say the TENIG group has always been a joke.. would never ask to be represented previous and present presidents were and are residents of T/E protect my taxes and punk employees scared to speak thier mind and do the right thing for others and not just thier friends in the district because of threats to thier job of my years there only 2 presidents stood out angelo cecco and john ganski how the custodial staff be forced to give up 10 percent and mind you most of them were making less then other custodians and no one else (glad that made a dent in the budget) or how 3-4 million dollars can just disappear and reappear after the fact and no apology what so ever and don’t forget about the great buisness manager ART McDonnell when he came in saying i don’t believe in outsourcing bunch of crap now look at this mess would not be suprised if that was going on all along. know your rights and fight very hard to outsource a multiple school district

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    Centerville Reply:

    Don’t forget about the outside contractors they have now helping the custodians for the summer. Did you know that most of these folks have criminal backgrounds and do not have to go through the checks that a district custodial employed there must go through… Tell me the security measures here.

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  23. Very good honest, open discussions about important issues.

    “A long time Democrat school board member told me that she was sure the end game was going to be turning public schools into charter schools because unions were bankrupting the system.”

    If this is true, we have a sitting board member who believes the public worker pension, healthcare and salary crisis will bankrupt the system and turn public schools into charter schools yet she quietly sits by and allows salary increases and bonus payouts to the highest paid workers, who more than a few, make more than the highest paid governor in the country? How can this be? When teachers see this, they dig their heels in and of course want the same. It’s a self perpetuating cycle.

    Raising taxes is not the answer. We don’t have a revenue problem. We have an expense problem and clearly, until someone steps up, starts talking about the real issue, outloud, it’s going to get worse and worse or I fear what the long time Democrat Board member said: Public schools will turn into charter schools because the union will bankrupt the system. When that happens, everyone loses.

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  24. charters can be good.. not sure its a loss for the kids, anyway.. just the bloated expense line in the budget, as you aptly point out..

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  25. Being a retired employee of the district, and working in the security dept. I often wondered why all of the administrators at the high school were becoming “assistant athletic directors” all of a sudden. I did some research and found that the position was given to them, even though we had a full time athletic director, his own office and staff, and was a principal. It was discovered that the position of “assistant athletic director” was the “yearly bonus” for the principals at the high school. So they did get their bonus when most of the custodians were taking a substantial pay cut.

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