TESD Agenda includes bonuses for administrators & 5-year contract for Business Manager; Tredyffrin Township Agenda includes new Finance Director and Police Department news

On Monday, there is a TE School Board meeting at 7:30 PM, Conestoga High School. Rather than hitting the print button, I suggest that you read the agenda and accompanying materials online because it contains 450 pages.

On the fourth page of the agenda, under Section VII Other Recommended Action, these three items grabbed my attention.

A. 2014-2015 Supervisory and Confidential Employee Compensation Plan, Compensation Adjustments for 2-14-15 and June 2015 One Time Payment

B. 2014-2015 Administrator Compensation Plan, Compensation Adjustments and June 2015 One Time Payment

C. Business Manager Employee Agreement

In April, the School Board adopted a $120 million proposed final budget for the 2014-15 school year that includes a 3.2 percent tax increase. How is it that the District can increase our homeowner taxes for another year, but still manage to find available dollars for administrator and supervisor bonuses? Where is the fiscal watchdog looking out for the residents? (To find the current salaries and proposed bonuses on (A) and (B) in Section VII, you need to go to pgs. 435 and 436 of the agenda.)

Item (C) under Section VII, ‘Business Manager Employee Agreement’ refers to the proposed contract for Art McDonnell, the District’s current business manager. McDonnell’s salary for 2014-15 year is $163,220 although he is due to receive a one-time bonus of $1,632 as mentioned above.  Under his proposed employee agreement (see pgs. 438-441), McDonnell will enjoy a significant salary increase of $22,000/yr. or approximately an 14% yearly salary increase – if approved his salary becomes $185K/yr. rising to $186,632 with the addition of his bonus.

Under the position responsibilities in the proposed employee agreement, the terms state that McDonnell is “responsible for responding to all questions relating to the District business, financial and operation matters” and that he “will interpret the financial concerns of the District to the community”. Further responsibilities refer to an ‘Appendix A’, which is not included with the agenda – the business manager duties are vague and the job description without detail.

Setting aside the salary, the pending employee agreement for Art McDonnell includes very surprising job security, especially given current economic times – a whopping 5-year contract with automatic renewals for additional five-year terms. How does someone get this kind of deal these days?

The length of the District superintendent’s contract is 3-years so why should the business manager receive a five-year contract. Who negotiated this contract with McDonnell?  With the retirement of Dan Waters in June 2015, the replacement will inherit the business manager for the entire length of his or her superintendent contract.  Having just launched the search for a new Superintendent, why would the school board agree to a five-year contract for McDonnell?  Why would the Board want to force prospective superintendent candidates into this type of situation?

According to the proposed employee agreement, the District is required to give McDonnell 6 months’ notice if they want to terminate his contract; otherwise, his five-year contract rolls over with automatic five-year renewals.  (With an unsatisfactory evaluation, termination notice is reduced to 60 days). Gratefully, McDonnell’s contract was not included in the consent agenda.  Does this mean that the residents expect a Board discussion and explanation (rationale) for the terms of the proposed contract? Again, I ask who on the school board ‘negotiated’ this contract?  It looks to me like Art McDonnell asked for “the moon, the stars and the sun” in this contract and he’s likely to get it – where’s the fiscal responsibility?

Also on Monday night is the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting, 7:30 PM at Township Building.  I found a couple of items interesting on the agenda

(1)  The appointment of Finance Director

(2) Approval of a Memorandum of Understanding (2015-2018) with the Tredyffrin Township Police Association (TTPA)

If you recall, within a two-week period between February 10 and 25 of this year, the Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors terminated Public Works Director Scott Cannon without public discussion or comment and agreed to accept the resignation of Finance Director Tim Klarich, also without explanation. Klarich was Tredyffrin Township Finance Director for nearly 4 years. I always found his analysis and preparation of the yearly township budget detailed and complete and his monthly financial updates to the board unfailingly thorough.  There was uneasiness with the departure of these two department heads four months ago and Klarich departure was particularly unsettling. I look forward to the announcement of the appointment of the township’s new Finance Director.

As for the other agenda item of interest — the residents are aware that the Tredyffrin Township Police Department has been working with an officer deficit during the last several years. If you recall, the supervisors approved the spending of $49K for a Police Department study that concluded hiring of additional police officers was needed.  I am interested to see if the needs of the police department will be addressed in the Memorandum of Understanding.



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  1. This news is beyond a slap in the face AND a sock in the gut to all in the district who have suffered through salary cuts and to parents who continue to be saddled with higher taxes and decrease in programs and services for our children.

    How can board members justify this? Will they justify it? They go on and on about the lack of funds, and hard financial times and then turn around and grant administrator bonuses and grant Art McDonnell entry into group of administrators surrounding and supporting the supt. who make more than the highest paid governor in the country?

    If there is money for administrator bonuses and if there is enough money for Art McDonnell”s governor like salary, then there is enough money for student programs, and for aides and para healthcare and for student’s activity’s and for all the rest that has been financially restricted in the name of of shared sacrifice. Every segment has sacrificed except for administration. If this isn’t proof enough about who really is in charge, I don’t know what is.


  2. I know keith and others will say to analyze other districts and this is the prevailing wage/benefit package.. Well even if it is, all I can say is… wow…. and the fences are going up too!


  3. SL,
    If you want to be taken seriously, you might want to do a bit of homework before whining about administrative raises. It’s so easy to ignore someone who doesn’t put compensation in perspective. Some questions you might want to answer:
    Did the administrators get a salary decrease or a salary increase? What percentage? How does it compare to the teacher contract? How does it compare to other districts? Is Mr. McDonnells compensation commensurate with his peers? Is his contract terms unusual for his position?


    Shining Light Reply:


    Because others overpay their administrators, we should too? It makes no sense. And if you didn’t take me seriously, you wouldn’t address me so thanks!


    Middle school aide Reply:

    Keith I have had enough of the talk of commensurate or the phrase falls in line with other districts. On other comments in the past I read it compares with other district.
    It makes me sick the phrases are used to take care of themselves. Aides in other district get health insurance. However we don’t fall in line. High School teachers in other district teach one less class a day. We don’t fall in line with that also.. Comparing to other district only works if they want to take care of themselves.


  4. I suppose the board has zero clue that Art is a major factor in the morale of this district? So essentially thanks Board for really paying attention to the needs of the true blood behind the schools walls. If you look up corrupt, egotistical Art’s picture pops up.
    Just when we hold on to hope with change on the board you do stuff like this. Wow just wow. Raise our taxes cut the little people and reward the crappy administration who don’t care about the kids!


    Sidelines Reply:

    You may use a blog to call him egotistical, but I would suggest Pattye should hesitate to approve a comment that calls him corrupt. It’s a baseless but dangerous accusation unless you are prepared to document it with your name.


  5. Not sure where the love for McDonnell comes from — but his predecessor was absolutely awful, so it may be that he compares favorably to the people before him. On the other hand, he has grown a department around him (the Business Manager used to have secretary, period). For the record, the superintendent contract may be no less than 3 and no more than 5 years. The board deciding to give McDonnell 5 years is literally tying the hands of the next Superintendent, but at the same time, is assuring themselves of financial “stability” during any transition.

    Once again — the market may be dictating this move….not a whole lot of “qualified” people eligible for this job….that would not need someone looking over their shoulder. But I would NEVER approve a series of 5 year agreements…that’s just stupid and naïve. And I hope you all have the nerve to tell the board that in public, not just here on the blogs.


    Pattye Benson Reply:

    It really doesn’t matter whether the public thinks the decisions by the Board are “stupid and naive”. Decisions such as renewable 5-year contracts for the Business Manager are approved by the Board, because “they can”. If the selection of the new superintendent is chosen from the inside as many are speculating, it’s quite simple — he or she just needs to get along with Art McDonnell.


  6. We heard last night that Mr McDonnell is indispensable to the District and that this contract is required to retain his services. Although the data was not provided, the Board cited benchmarks of salary levels that support the new amount. And there is the opportunity for a net cost saving if the Director of Technology ($185,000 a year plus benefits) is not replaced upon retirement as Mr McDonnell takes responsibility for supervising the IT and network staff. Maybe there will be an opportunity for increased effectiveness, too. The Spoke recently characterized the BYOD initiative as “Bring Your Own Delay”.

    It will be interesting to see what level of control is meant by the responsibility for “Reviewing requests/policies related to the distribution of information via the School District Web site”.

    There was really no satisfactory reason given for the five year contract term with automatic five year renewal terms. I’ve never seen anything like that in my professional or personal experience. There was no data provided for a cross-section of other Business Manager contracts. Note that the contract only allows for termination during a five year period in the event of an unsatisfactory evaluation withing 60 days of the expiration of a renewal term. So a new Superintendent coming in one year into the term who found that the performance was unsatisfactory after a further year would have to live with that for the next three – or taxpayers would have to buy out the contract – unless somehow the District found “…. cause pursuant to Section 1089 of the Public School Code …”

    So, this contract and its endorsement of the current responsibility to “interpret the financial concerns of the District to the community”, actions like the new plan to list taxpayer questions on a white board before answering, and constant complacency from the Board, suggest that our Board thinks that things are just fine as they are. Our District’s fine performance has no room for improvement. Taxpayers know all they need to know. Don’t bother to come to meetings.



    Pattye Benson Reply:

    So, this contract and its endorsement of the current responsibility to “interpret the financial concerns of the District to the community”, actions like the new plan to list taxpayer questions on a white board before answering, and constant complacency from the Board, suggest that our Board thinks that things are just fine as they are. Our District’s fine performance has no room for improvement. Taxpayers know all they need to know. Don’t bother to come to meetings.


    Couldn’t have said it better myself Ray — why should anyone bother to attend the school board meetings!


    Shining Light Reply:

    Pattye and Ray,

    A school board member told me to come to committee meetings. She said the work is done in committee meetings. By the time it gets to a school board meeting, the deal is done and the dye is cast. Directors are not going to be persuaded at a Board Meeting.

    The real question is, why this wasn’t discussed in committee? Why was it slipped and hidden in a consent agenda. (again) leaving tax payers out of the decision making process. Was there a decision making process? Did the Board vet other candidates to see if a qualified candidate was available to take the job at less pay? Would Art have quit if his demands were not met? Where would Art go to get the same deal? How many other districts in PA pay their business manager the same pay as the highest paid governor in the country? Did anyone research it?

    Would the administrators quit if they dd not receive bonuses? Where would they go? It was reported in Chaddsford Live that 60 applicants were vetted for the vacant elementary school Principal position.

    How does this decision effect the already low morale among the employees in the district? Were any of these questions considered when making this decision?

    How will this decision effect the attitudes of the hard working PTO mom’s in the schools who continue to see the financial gains of their efforts diverted away from their causes and onto decisions like this.


  7. watching a repeat of mays meeting this monday, I could only watch for awhile.. short while.. Buraks et.al.. could not stand to watch these people, most anyway.. just disdain, distrust and a nauseous feeling.. I know this adds nothing substantive to the conversation… but it is a reflection of the new world order here in TE….

    Middle school aide, you said it very well in your last post..
    fences anyone?


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