Tredyffrin Township

“He Said, She Said” – Now What? T/E School Board Race Plagued with Legal Questions

“He Said, She Said – What’s Next” says it all!  There continues to be accusations of misinformation and confusion surrounding the T/E School District’s 60-day resignation policy and how this regulation affects the Region II School Director race between candidates Doug Anestad (R) and Kyle Boyer (D).

Local municipal races are important and facts do matter! On October 12, chair of the Tredyffrin Republican Committee Neill Kling provided an opinion on the PA State Law in regards to the 60-day resignation policy.  On October 17, the post was updated to include subsequent responses from candidate Doug Anestad (R) and Kathleen Keohane, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee. In addition to their responses, I sent a personal email to candidate Kyle Boyer (D) inviting him to clarify his position and to ‘set the record straight’ on any inaccuracies. To date, Mr. Boyer has offered no further information nor responded to my email.

After reviewing TTDEMS chair Kathleen Keohane’ response dated October 17, Mr. Anestad believes it contains erroneous information and has sent a follow-up response. Rather than update the original post with this new information, below you will find Kathleen’s response followed by Doug’s.

Again, I need to ask where is Kyle Boyer? He’s the T/E School District school teacher running for the District’s school board. I understand that Mr. Boyer may not want to respond “on a blog” but isn’t the public entitled to some answers before Election Day?

Based on Mr. Anestad’s review (below) of the PA State Law, T/E School District policy and professional employment contract, it appears that there could be repercussions for Mr. Boyer if he were win the Region II School Director race. So … for any voters which be further confused by the “He Said, She Said” narrative, I suggest contacting Dr. Rich Guisick, the T/E School District Superintendent at gusickr@tesd.net.

Kathleen Keohane, Chair of Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee Oct. 17 response to Neill Kling, Chair of Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee regarding the T/E School District Region II School Director race:

Pattye,

Once again it is political season and some members of our community have sought to infuse false narratives into a local school board race that should be non-partisan and focused on the issues. Posted as a blog statement, last Thursday’s letter from Neill Kling, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee, calls into question Democratic school board candidate Kyle Boyer’s fitness to serve. Neill chose not to post this letter on his party’s website or in a letter to the editor but on a local blog, which allows for anonymous comments.

All voters should continue to focus on the facts:

Kyle Boyer is fully entitled to run for T/E school board as a resident of the district. He is aware of and appreciates the requirement that he resign his teaching position and leave the district if and when he is elected on November 7, and is fully prepared to do so. As for the 60-day provision in the PA Code, it gives districts the latitude to hold teachers for sixty days. However, there is solid precedent that the T/E school district has released professional staff with much less notice.

Further, T/E School District Regulation 4031, which governs all district employees, states:

The District will accept, without prejudice, the resignation of any employee provided written notice is given at least two (2) weeks in advance of the planned resignation date.

In late winter, Kyle Boyer informed his supervisor of his intention to run for T/E School Board. He did so out of respect for his colleagues and the school district, knowing that it would become public information after nominating petitions had been certified. That initial conversation and the public knowledge of his candidacy constitute over 8 months’ notice of a possible vacancy in his position at Valley Forge Middle School. It is safe to assume that school administrators have planned for that possibility.

Kyle has chosen to continue working as a teacher in the district until voters select him to represent them on the school board. He is a native of T/E, graduated from our schools, and most importantly, is committed to serving our community. Parents have found him to be an excellent teacher and role model for their children. They see him participating in the community (he is a member of FLITE’s advisory board and a member of the Tredyffrin Parks Board). They know him as a person of integrity who has shown he cares about all T/E residents.

Regarding the suggestion of a conflict of interest, Kyle would be serving as a former teacher – with all the experience that entails.  As others have pointed out, his opponent also is a former teacher, along with current school board vice- president, Scott Dorsey. Former school board members who worked as teachers and administrators include Rich Brake, Karen Cruickshank, Sandi Gorman, Kris Graham and Pat Wood, who resigned as TESD Coordinator of Community and Volunteer Services after her election to T/E’s school board.  All have brought an appreciation for the educational process and the systems in which they operated.

Lastly, in response to anonymous comments about Kyle Boyer’s relative youth, remember that Debbie Bookstaber was elected to the T/E school board in 2009. She was 27 years old, a short-time resident of T/E, and had never attended public schools. The TTRC willingly supported her candidacy.

At 29, Kyle is an example of TESD’s great success at preparing its students well to succeed, and to serve their community. With a B.A. from the George Washington University, an M.S.Ed. and M.P.A. from University of Pennsylvania and his principal’s certification from Immaculata University, Kyle has successfully spent his career teaching.  An ordained minister, he currently is pursuing a third Master’s in Divinity from Lutheran Theological Seminary and serves in the local faith community as well.

As one Valley Forge Middle parent commented online, “We should be debating the fitness of the candidates for their prospective positions, not procedural minutiae that are irrelevant to most.”  I agree.

Sandi Gorman, former T/E school board member and head of T&E Care has endorsed Kyle Boyer. She writes, “I’ve honestly never known anyone more qualified and dedicated to the causes he follows.  How lucky for the TESD that he believes that the good of our kids is a cause he’d like to champion!”

Sandi has served the best interests of the children and families of this community for thirty years and has earned our respect and appreciation. She clearly knows the facts and the law. A long-time Republican, she is supporting Kyle. All Region 2 voters should consider doing the same.

Best regards,
Kathleen Keohane
Chair, Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee

T/E School District Region II School Director candidate Doug Anestad (R) follow-up to Kathleen Keohane, Chair, Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee:

Dear Pattye,

Both Kathleen Keohane and Kyle Boyer are wrong on state law and wrong on T/E school district policy on the fundamental concept of the 60 day rule that anyone with a background in education should understand.

Kathleen Keohane stated that “some members of our community have sought to infuse false narratives into a local school board race that should be non-partisan and focused on the issues”. The irony here is that it is she is the one that is infusing false narratives into the local school board race – and she has struck out on each.

Strike one: a false narrative that states the 60 day rule does not apply to Mr. Boyer because of T/E Regulation 4031. The problem is, T/E Regulation 4031 does not apply to teachers. It is for all non-contractual employees.

The actual T/E Policy that relates to teachers is Policy 4470, Permanent Separation from District Employment (Instructional Employees), under the Instructional Staff section. Policy 4470 clearly states:

Resignations

Certificated Professional employees desiring to resign must present a written resignation within the time period as required by law. If no time period is required by law, then the employee must present a written resignation at least sixty (60) days prior to the effective date of resignation.

Strike two is another false narrative claiming Mr. Boyer’s “initial conversation and the public knowledge of his candidacy constitute over 8 months’ notice” and “It is safe to assume that school administrators have planned for that possibility.”  There is nothing that a school district will do to prepare for a teacher’s exit until they give their actual resignation. School districts have a process in place that starts once a letter of resignation is received, not before – and definitely not based on the possible outcome of a political campaign months away.

Strike three is another false narrative that “there is solid precedent that the T/E school district has released professional staff with much less notice.”  What is missing is that those teachers gave 60 days notice and then were allowed to be released early after the school district went through the hiring process, hired the replacement, and knew when the new teacher could start.

As if those three strikes weren’t enough, there is this: Kyle Boyer signed an individual contract with the school district. That contract clearly stated that he had to give 60 days notice when resigning.

Now let’s summarize as clearly as possible: Kyle Boyer has admitted he will not give 60 days notice to the T/E school district. This means that he has promised to break PA state law, break his personal contract with the T/E school district, and break T/E school district policy.

While I cannot fault Kathleen Keohane for not fully comprehending the 60-day rule, there is really no excuse for someone running on his educational background and educational knowledge not to understand it – especially after it was explicitly pointed out to him long before he was close to the 60 day deadline.

Sincerely,

Doug Anestad

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UPDATED: Who Said Local Elections Aren’t Interesting — T/E School District Region 2 Candidate is Also a T/E School District Teacher! How is that Possible??

UPDATE: The following  blog post originally appeared on October 12. After posting, I contacted T/E Region District 2 school board candidates Kyle Boyer (D) and Doug Anestad (R) and chair of Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee  Kathleen Keohane, offering to post responses to the post. I received responses from Doug Anestad and Kathleen Keohane and those responses now appear at the end of the post. (See Below). There was no response to my email from school board candidate Kyle Boyer.  

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Based on the colorful campaign yard signs sprouting in our neighborhoods, we know that the countdown to Election Day 2017 is underway.

While it should be a given that the the upcoming Municipal Election on November 7 for township supervisors and school board directors is important, we know that historically turnout on a non-presidential year is not good.  In an attempt to encourage interest in our local races, I wrote a post earlier this year after the candidates filed their petitions, listing all the supervisor and school board candidates.

In that March 8 post, I commented about the T/E Region 2 school board race between Democrat Kyle Boyer and Republican Doug Anestad; asking if a current T/E School District teacher (Boyer) could run for the T/E School Board.  Although intended as a “procedural question”, there were a few comments that suggested I was biased in this race because I knew Mr. Boyer’s opponent (Doug Anestad). My point wasn’t to advocate or side with one candidate over another — it was simply seeking an understanding of the situation from a legal/procedural standpoint.

I subsequently learned that a candidate (in this case Kyle Boyer) can run for T/E School Board as a T/E School District teacher.  The candidacy is not the problem; the difficulty arises should the candidate win the election … as a currently employed District teacher cannot also serve as a member of the District’s school board. However, it was stated in March that Boyer intended to leave the District and work as an administrator in another school district and that his departure would be long before the November election or the 60-day requirement of notification to the District. It was assumed that the situation would resolve itself.

Between the Trust’s 13th Annual Historic House Tour in September and a trip to Seattle to see our first grandchild Audrey last week, I have admittedly been distracted from local issues the last several weeks, including the upcoming municipal election. I have now learned that the situation with the T/E Region 2 school board candidate Kyle Boyer has not resolved itself.

Mr. Boyer did not resign from his position with the T/E School District and remains in the classroom as a T/E Middle School teacher. The deadline for candidates to withdraw their name from the election was August 8 and Mr. Boyer did not withdraw. We have a T/E School District teacher with his name on the ballot as a candidate for the T/E School Board yet he cannot serve the District as a member its school board and as a District teacher.  Now what??

The following email was received from Neill Kling, chair of the Tredyffrin Republican Committee regarding the Kyle Boyer issue, stating “what had been a troubling potential conflict of interest has now become a legal question …”  I will contact the chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democrats Kathleen Keohane and T/E School Board Region 2 candidates Kyle Boyer (D) and Doug Anestad (R) for their comments on this matter.  If responses are received, the post will be updated accordingly.

The local T/E School District Region 2 race just became a lot more interesting!

Pattye:
We know that T/E school district employees are forbidden by law from serving on the T/E School Board because that creates an obvious, immediate and irreparable conflict of interest. Nevertheless, one of the candidates for School Board in Region 2, Kyle Boyer, is currently a teacher at Valley Forge Middle School. While this may technically be permitted (so long as he leaves his position in time to serve — see below), it obviously creates a similar conflict of interest, particularly at this moment of District/Teacher contract negotiations.

However, I learned over the weekend that Mr. Boyer did not notice his resignation as a teacher in the T/E School District by October 6 and, to my knowledge, still has not done so. That is critical, because, as I understand PA law, a teacher must give 60 days notice of their resignation before it takes effect. I presume that rule is to protect the smooth transition of instruction for the students being deprived of a teacher, and give the district time to identify a proper replacement. In any event, should he be elected School Board Member, Mr. Boyer will not be able to assume the office on December 4, 2017, which is when the new school board sits. Thus, what had been a troubling potential conflict of interest has now become a legal question: is Kyle Boyer eligible to be on the ballot given that he will not be able to serve at the appointed time? And that raises other troublesome questions, such as: 1) By whom would a waiver of the 60-day rule be given and on what basis? 2) Could such a waiver be given conditioned on his election? 3) Is there some deal in the works whereby Mr. Boyer has already been promised such a conditional waiver? 4) Has he asked for one? 5) If Mr. Boyer’s name remains on the ballot and he gets the most votes, but withdraws from the race or is unable to serve, who decides upon the person to serve on the School Board in his stead, and under what criteria? 5) Should the parents of Mr. Boyer’s students have been told what the potential status of his employment is?

The PA state law for school directors can be found athttp://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/1949/0/0014..HTMunder ARTICLE III. SCHOOL DIRECTORS. The prohibition against an employee serving as school board member is Section 324. The language requiring teachers to give 60 days notice can be found in ARTICLE XI. PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES. Section 1121.

We are currently looking into these questions but I would appreciate your putting this up on the CM website to generate valuable discussion among community members.

Best,

Neill Kling
Chair, Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee

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UPDATE:  Below is the response to the post above from T/E School Board District 2 Candidate 2 Doug Anestad (R):

Pattye,

It is telling that neither Kyle Boyer nor Kathleen Keohane have responded for four days, and is a clear indication that they don’t have a good explanation. I am sure they will come up with something, but it will not answer the fact that teachers are required by state law to give 60 days notice to resign, or that teachers cannot serve on the school board of the district in which they work.

There are only two possibilities here if Kyle Boyer wins:

1) He violates state law and resigns with less than 60 days notice before the December 4th swearing in date. All signs point to the fact that – because he has violated the law and not resigned in time – he cannot serve on school board.

2) He does not resign as a teacher and simply cannot serve on school board.

This looks increasingly likely as Mr. Boyer has already missed two important dates this year in regards to resigning.

Now, no matter what explanation is provided, it must be noted that Mr. Boyer and his party leaders have already lied to the public about this issue.

On March 14, 2017, Kathleen Keohane stated on Community Matters that, “Kyle will have left the District long before the November election or the 60-day requirement.” He has not.

If Mr. Boyer were absolutely certain he was going to resign, he would have done so with the proper legally required notice, and in time to be seated on December 4th.  Again, he has not.

As noted by Mr. Kling, the legal problems run even deeper. The same law that says a school district employee may not serve on school board in that district also says: “No school director shall, during the term for which he was elected or appointed, as a private person engaged in any business transaction with the school district in which he is elected or appointed, be employed in any capacity by the school district in which he is elected or appointed”

The important phrase there? “During the term for which he was elected.”  This means that if Mr. Boyer were to win, he could not teach in T/E for the next four years unless he received special treatment from the board.  Nor could he serve for the next four years as he violated the resignation notice requirements.

Finally, if Mr. Boyer were to win, he would be taking away the voice of Region 2 residents.  Remember: he can’t serve.  That means that the remaining school board members choose who would take his spot – some of the same people who ignored our Region 2 community in the past would be the ones to pick our representative.

Mr. Boyer’s actions have put residents, the school board and even his students in an untenable position. A position that was avoidable had he and his party leaders just kept their word.  But they didn’t.

As for me, I will continue to run on my record and background as an active and involved citizen fighting for our schools. For example, after I found out that our region was underrepresented by almost 50%, I pushed for, and got, new boundaries for the voting regions for school board that are equal in population size. I was a voice for our parents and community in the Valley Forge Middle School fence issue. I fought to bring technology education to our middle schools. And, I have helped protect taxpayers by stopping wasteful school spending. If elected, I will continue to do the same.

Sincerely,
Doug Anestad


The following is the response to the October 12 blog post from Kathleen Keohane, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee:

Pattye,

Once again it is political season and some members of our community have sought to infuse false narratives into a local school board race that should be non-partisan and focused on the issues. Posted as a blog statement, last Thursday’s letter from Neill Kling, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee, calls into question Democratic school board candidate Kyle Boyer’s fitness to serve. Neill chose not to post this letter on his party’s website or in a letter to the editor but on a local blog, which allows for anonymous comments.

All voters should continue to focus on the facts:

Kyle Boyer is fully entitled to run for T/E school board as a resident of the district. He is aware of and appreciates the requirement that he resign his teaching position and leave the district if and when he is elected on November 7, and is fully prepared to do so. As for the 60-day provision in the PA Code, it gives districts the latitude to hold teachers for sixty days. However, there is solid precedent that the T/E school district has released professional staff with much less notice.

Further, T/E School District Regulation 4031, which governs all district employees, states:

The District will accept, without prejudice, the resignation of any employee provided written notice is given at least two (2) weeks in advance of the planned resignation date.

In late winter, Kyle Boyer informed his supervisor of his intention to run for T/E School Board. He did so out of respect for his colleagues and the school district, knowing that it would become public information after nominating petitions had been certified. That initial conversation and the public knowledge of his candidacy constitute over 8 months’ notice of a possible vacancy in his position at Valley Forge Middle School. It is safe to assume that school administrators have planned for that possibility.

Kyle has chosen to continue working as a teacher in the district until voters select him to represent them on the school board. He is a native of T/E, graduated from our schools, and most importantly, is committed to serving our community. Parents have found him to be an excellent teacher and role model for their children. They see him participating in the community (he is a member of FLITE’s advisory board and a member of the Tredyffrin Parks Board). They know him as a person of integrity who has shown he cares about all T/E residents.

Regarding the suggestion of a conflict of interest, Kyle would be serving as a former teacher – with all the experience that entails.  As others have pointed out, his opponent also is a former teacher, along with current school board vice- president, Scott Dorsey. Former school board members who worked as teachers and administrators include Rich Brake, Karen Cruickshank, Sandi Gorman, Kris Graham and Pat Wood, who resigned as TESD Coordinator of Community and Volunteer Services after her election to T/E’s school board.  All have brought an appreciation for the educational process and the systems in which they operated.

Lastly, in response to anonymous comments about Kyle Boyer’s relative youth, remember that Debbie Bookstaber was elected to the T/E school board in 2009. She was 27 years old, a short-time resident of T/E, and had never attended public schools. The TTRC willingly supported her candidacy.

At 29, Kyle is an example of TESD’s great success at preparing its students well to succeed, and to serve their community. With a B.A. from the George Washington University, an M.S.Ed. and M.P.A. from University of Pennsylvania and his principal’s certification from Immaculata University, Kyle has successfully spent his career teaching.  An ordained minister, he currently is pursuing a third Master’s in Divinity from Lutheran Theological Seminary and serves in the local faith community as well.

As one Valley Forge Middle parent commented online, “We should be debating the fitness of the candidates for their prospective positions, not procedural minutiae that are irrelevant to most.”  I agree.

Sandi Gorman, former T/E school board member and head of T&E Care has endorsed Kyle Boyer. She writes, “I’ve honestly never known anyone more qualified and dedicated to the causes he follows.  How lucky for the TESD that he believes that the good of our kids is a cause he’d like to champion!”

Sandi has served the best interests of the children and families of this community for thirty years and has earned our respect and appreciation. She clearly knows the facts and the law. A long-time Republican, she is supporting Kyle. All Region 2 voters should consider doing the same.

Best regards,
Kathleen Keohane
Chair, Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee

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Wednesday, October 18: Meet the Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidates at Surrey Services

Upcoming on Wednesday, October 18, Surrey Services located at 60 Surrey Way (formerly 60 Chestnut Avenue) in Devon will host a Q&A of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisor candidates.  The public is welcome to attend the free forum from 6-7:30 PM. Questions can be submitted in advance to info@surreyservices.org

Sadly, no League of Women Voters debate is scheduled for the supervisors and school board candidates but the Surrey forum will provide an excellent opportunity to meet and learn about the supervisor candidates in Tredyffrin Township.

Below is the list of six candidates on the ballot. Voters will choose two at-large supervisors and voters in District 2 (middle) will choose one supervisor.

Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has endorsed the following supervisor candidates:

  • Supervisor at Large: Matthew Holt, Attorney
  • Supervisor at Large: Murph Wysocki, Attorney *
  • District 2 (Middle): Kevin O’Nell, CEO, Peoplelinx

Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following supervisor candidates:

  • Supervisor at Large: Raffi Terzian, Physician
  • Supervisor at Large: Robin Bond, Attorney
  • District 2 (Middle): Beth Coppola, Real Estate Agent

* Incumbent

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Saturday, October 14 — Antiquing & Planting Trees in Tredyffrin’s Great Valley

If you are looking for something to do this Saturday, October 14th there’s a couple of events in the Great Valley section of Tredyffrin Township that you may find of interest.

Polly Hagan Antiques will hold its annual Fall Barn Sale (9 AM – 3 PM) on Saturday and will feature primitives, collectibles and antiques. The barn is full so come early for the best selection. Located 1 mile west of N. Valley Road, the Barn Sale address is 2205 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern.  For questions/information call 610-209-4618.

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Saturday will be a beautiful autumn day with temperatures in the 70’s – a great day to get outside and help Open Land Conservancy with its tree planting.  The Conservancy is restoring the riparian buffer along Valley Creek and Cedar Hollow Run in the Cedar Hollow Preserve by planting 750 native trees.

When:  Saturday October 14th, 9:00am – noon or until we’re done
Where:  Cedar Hollow Preserve, 1635 Church Road, Malvern (Preserve icon on Google Maps)
What to wear:  Temperature appropriate clothing, sturdy footwear, gloves
What to bring:  Shovel, trowel, mallet

Important notes:
– Car Pool if you can, parking is limited
– We will plant in light rain, but in extreme weather will postpone to the following week-end.

The planting area was inundated with the invasive Phragmites Australis Giant Reed which had eliminated all native vegetation. This has been cleared to give an open planting zone with occasional wet spots, well suited for planting.  We will be using container seedlings of 12 different wetland-suitable tree species, planted inside staked protective tubes, “vole guards” and “mulch plates” to keep the deer, mice and weeds at bay.  Our community planting date will be preceded this week by a planting team from Siemens Healthcare.

As a reminder, the Conservancy is a non-profit, managed entirely by volunteers, supported by 500 members that owns and opens to the public six Nature Preserves here in Tredyffrin.  http://www.openlandconservancy.org

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TE School District Taxpayers in the Dark

I received the following press release Sunday morning from a Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) representative.

Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association (TEEA) to Hold Informational Picket before September 25th School Board Meeting

What: Teachers and educators of the Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association (TEEA) are holding an Informational Picket before the next School Board meeting to protest their lack of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA expired, June 30, 2017 and both parties met one time over the entire summer. The membership is frustrated by the lack of progress in one of Pennsylvania’s premier school districts. Conestoga High Schools was recently ranked the best high school in all of Pennsylvania.

Who: Hundreds of Teachers, Parents and Educational staff of TESD School District.
Visual Highlights: Teachers will assemble prior to the School Board meeting, holding signs and marching and chanting for a new contract. Community members and families are invited.

When: Monday, September 25, 6:30 p.m. (Assemble) | 7:30 p.m. (meeting)

Where: Conestoga High School (200 Irish Rd, Berwyn, PA 19312)

Statement by TEEA President, Dr. Bob DeSipio:
“Our contract expired on July 1, 2017. Despite multiple offerings to meet with the School Board this summer to continue the negotiations process, we did not meet until the end of August. We want the School Board to know that it is not just the five or six of us on the bargaining team that are upset with the slow pace of these negotiations, but a membership of more than 400 highly educated and highly dedicated educators. We hope tonight’s Board meeting is a demonstration to the District that TEEA is resolute in our dedication to achieve a new agreement and want to reach a fair and competitive settlement as quickly as possible.”

Dr. DeSipio’s statement is confusing and unsettling – although the teachers’ contract expired June 30, 2017, the District held no negotiating meetings during the summer!  No contract negotiation meetings between the District and the teachers union “until the end of August”!  This makes no sense.

It is impossible for the community “to take a side” in the contract negotiation battle between the school district and the teachers union. Why? Because the taxpayers have received no information from either side about the offers/demands.

The teachers are asking for a “fair and competitive settlement” … wish I knew the offer on the table. The public cannot possibly know what is “fair” without knowing the contents of the offer.

The secret negotiations between the District and the teachers union once again underscore the need for transparency.

Getting the state union officials from PSEA involved, the T/E teachers will show solidarity with signs, marching and chanting on Monday night before the school board meeting.  Working without a settled contract is difficult but isn’t this “informational picket” apt to make the contract negotiation situation more contentious?

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No School for Students in Methacton School District – Teacher Strike Continues

Teachers in the Methacton School District have been working without a contract since January.   A stalemate in the bargain process led to the strike Monday by the teachers as authorized by its union, Methacton Education Association (MEA).

There are 5,000 students enrolled in the Methacton School District. The union represents 403 teachers and professional staff.

Issues being negotiated include salary, benefits, class size, teacher-student ratio and team teaching.  The talks broke down when the two sides failed to come to an agreement on how much teachers should pay for their health insurance.  The teachers argue that their salaries are in the lower range of salaries and the school district is expecting them to pay for health care as if they were in the upper range.

The teachers are using a pay freeze and delayed salary increases in the previous two four-year contracts, as examples of concessions from teachers that allowed the district to improve their finances dramatically and are unwilling to see this happen again.

The MEA released the following statement prior to striking:

The Methacton Education Association (MEA) is disappointed to announce that they were unable to reach an agreement with the School Board after the two sides bargained all afternoon and into the early evening on Sunday to avoid the potential of a work stoppage scheduled to start tomorrow.

The School Board’s position of dramatically increasing the employee’s share of the healthcare premium while not adequately increasing salaries is unacceptable to the Association. MEA was willing to increase premium share by over 23% in 3 years but that was not sufficient to the District.

In the end, MEA had 30 minutes to consider the final proposal of the Board and was more than willing to bargain later than the arbitrary 8PM deadline.

The strike will commence tomorrow at 7:30AM. MEA is willing to bargain with the District throughout the work stoppage.

It is unclear when the teachers will return to the classrooms. Pennsylvania State Department of Education rules will prevent the work stoppage from going past 15 days.  A state mediator is now involved to coordinate the exchange of proposals between parties.

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Cloaked in Secrecy Approach to Contract Negotiations Not Working … T/E Teachers Return to Classroom Without a Contract

In the T/E School District, the students have returned to school and the teachers have returned to work. However, the District teachers returned to the classroom without a settled contract. The Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) contract with the T/E School District expired on June 30, 2017. No automatic alt text available.

The teachers’ contract expired in June with absolutely no updates from the School Board – deafening silence on the status of the contract negotiations. In a conversation this summer with a recent teacher retiree of the District, I inquired about the contract negotiations. Asking if the teachers and the District were on the “same page” regarding negotiations, I was told that the sides were “not even in the same book”!

Other area districts started the 2017-18 school year without settled contracts – Lower Merion, Methacton, Coatesville, Springfield in Delaware County. And we learned this week that Lower Merion Education Association  has mounted a PR campaign, including an online petition asking the public to sign “and show the School Board that you a support a fair contract for Lower Merion School District teachers and staff.” Drumming up community support for a salary increase in Lower Merion may prove challenging; given that LMSD has the highest paid teachers in Pennsylvania. (average salary is $99,253).

Below is a letter Dr. Robert DeSipio, TEEA President which was posted on its website yesterday. In reading the letter, it is obvious that the teacher contract negotiations between the District and the teachers are stalled. I suggest that both sides need to “open the door” – this “cloaked in secrecy” approach to the negotiations by the School Board is not working and is showing signs of cracking.  The public deserves to see the sunlight shine on the negotiations – it would help the parents, taxpayers (and employees) better understand the process and the District’s priorities.

It’s time to turn on the lights, open the windows and the doors.

TEEA Open Negotiations Letter

A Fair Contract for TEEA, the Tredyffrin-Easttown Education Association

The teachers of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District are currently working without a contract and it is a shame; a shame in many ways. The TEEA teachers are an enormously talented, dedicated group of educators who go beyond the expected and deliver the unexpected. Conestoga High School has been ranked the number one public high school in Pennsylvania for the last two years. Accolades of that magnitude and a number one ranking in the state are not only a reflection of the quality of education at the secondary level, but are also a testament to the dedication of the middle and elementary school teachers who prepare the students in their younger years. From top to bottom the TEEA teachers are top-notch and they deserve a fair contract!

fair contract means the employer is not asking its employees to pay for his/her own increase in salary; certainly not contract after contract after contract. When the recession of 2008 wreaked havoc on the economy, the TEEA teachers stepped to the plate. We agreed to break the contract that was in place and under which we were working and accepted a half year salary freeze, giving back one million dollars to the district. One million dollars that had been earmarked for teacher salaries instead went into increasing the district’s fund balance. When that contract expired, we continued to give back as the economy struggled to recover from the recession. From 2012 to 2014 we accepted a 2 year TOTAL FREEZE on our salary AND we reduced the quality of our medical benefits AND we agreed to pay more for those benefits. That 2 year total freeze contract ultimately saved the district about $14 million dollars. As we continued to go above and beyond what is expected of us, that FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS was not added to our base or awarded to us as bonuses. Instead, it was used to increase the Fund balance of the School District. In addition to all of the above concessions, we agreed to a huge reduction in tuition reimbursement–a large sacrifice for a career that requires additional coursework to obtain permanent certification. We have continued to give back financially while continuing to provide one of the best, if not the best, kindergarten through twelfth grade educations anywhere in the country.

From 2015 to 2017, our contract that just expired on June 30, 2017, continued to reflect give backs. We increased the amount we pay for our benefits while no additional money was added to the teacher’s salary steps.

It is a shame that people who give so much of themselves, have provided so much value to this community, and have given back to the tune of 14 million dollars, are continuing to be asked to subsidize their own raises. Enough is enough! The TEEA teachers deserve a fair contract. We are asking for the support of every TE family to stand with us and to tell the members of this board that enough is enough.

Sincerely,
Dr. Robert DeSipio
TEEA President

 

 

 

 

 

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FREE: “Opioid Crisis in Our Back Yard” – Sunday, Sept. 10, 1-4 PM, Wilson Farm Park, Chesterbrook

Addiction can strike anywhere and in any community, including ours — we have watched heroin use and seriously life-threatening addictions become more common.  Our community, like many across the country, is learning this first-hand with a dramatic rise in the cases of drug abuse, addiction, overdoses and deaths.

Learn about the “Opioid Crisis in Our Back Yard” on Sunday, September 10, 1-4 PM at Wilson Farm Park in Chesterbrook.  A free informational session, open to the public, please plan to attend.  

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Looking for public updates from the TE School Board on District lawsuits, teacher contracts … but none given!

Communication + Transparency = Trust

I attended the final TESD school board meeting of the 2016-17 school year on Monday night for several reasons.

First, I wanted to hear the District’s statement about the two important lawsuits filed in the last couple of weeks.

  • On May 17, Thomas Batgos, an assistant Conestoga High School football coach fired by the T/E School District in the aftermath of the alleged hazing and sexual assault filed a lawsuit against District administrators – Superintendent Dr. Richard Gusick and Conestoga High School Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger. The lawsuit cited defamation of character, misrepresentation, fraud, improper termination, etc. and seeks damages of at least $50,000 in compensation plus punitive damages.
  • On May 8, a Federal lawsuit was filed against T/E School District and Conestoga High School Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger. The lawsuit alleges that District administrators and teachers at Conestoga HS tolerated a culture whereby Arthur Phillips, a 67-year-old instructional aide could repeatedly sexually abuse a 15-year old female student. The lawsuit filed by the parents of the student, seek damages of at least $75,000 in damages and calls for the resignation of Dr. Meisinger.

There was no statement from the school board on these lawsuits.  Nothing, nada, zippo … I get that this a legal matter but what about an acknowledgement from the school board that the lawsuits exist? What about a reassurance that all policies/procedures related to suspected sexual abuse will be reviewed and updated as needed?  The TE School District is more than school rankings and the number of college acceptances — it is the safety of our children!

The law firm in the federal lawsuit, Ross Feller Casey, has won record-setting awards for its clients, including victims of predatory sexual abuse like seven men who were victimized by Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. This lawsuit has the potential to bankrupt the District financially and yet the board makes no public statement. 

Secondly, I attended the school board meeting to receive an update on the District teachers’ contract, the non-instructional employees (TENIG) contract and the Act 93 (administrators) agreement – all three of these contracts are due to expire in two weeks, on June 30, 2017.

There was no statement from the school board on the status of the TEEA or TENIG contracts.

The school board did however approve a raise of 1.7% plus a 1% bonus for District administrators to extend the Administrator Compensation Plan (Act 93 Agreement) through June 30, 2018.

And finally, I attended the school board meeting to see how the school board was going to handle the passing of the final budget for 2017-18 given that the TEEA and TENIG contracts and the Act 93 Agreement account for 70% of the budget and these items were labeled ‘TBD’ (to be decided) in the budget.  During the budget discussion prior to the vote, there was no discussion about needing any contingencies for these (soon to expire) contracts in the budget.

Although the preliminary budget had contained a 3.435% tax increase, the board agreed to lower the tax increase before approving the final budget. The school board passed the budget 9-0 with a 3.2% tax increase for 2017-18. The newly passed budget assumes no increases for teachers and non-instructional employees. By my calculations, this budget for 2017-18 marks 13 consecutive years of tax increases.  You would have to go all the way back to the 2004-05 to find a ‘no tax increase’ year.

I attended the school board meeting expecting to hear updates about specific important issues facing the school district. Instead I left the meeting feel very disheartened about the lack of information. The school board has a responsibility to involve the community and to communicate clear information to the public. The importance of transparency and providing public information to the community cannot be understated.

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Conestoga High School Student Sexual Assault Case: Federal Lawsuit Filed — Lawsuit in Separate Case Pending

This is a follow-up post to my last post “TE School District served with another lawsuit” dated June 8. After posting the previous article, I was emailed a copy of the federal lawsuit and  press release from Ross Feller Casey, the Philadelphia law firm who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the parents of the 15-year-old victim in the case.

In the Ross Feller Casey press release, it states that the law firm, “filed a federal lawsuit against the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and the principal of Conestoga High School alleging administrators and teachers at the High School created and tolerated a culture that emboldened Arthur Phillips, a 67-year old instructional aide, to repeatedly sexually abuse a female student.”

Among other things, the federal lawsuit alleges that “Phillips, an instructional aide in the television production studio at Conestoga since 2006, engaged in a classic yet disturbing pattern of sexual grooming and assault against a student starting when she was only 15 years old.”

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan has criminally charged Arthur Phillips with over 100 counts, including 10 felony charges of statutory sexual assault and 10 felony charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. According to the lawsuit, the sexual assaults were daily between January and mid-April of this year and allegedly “took place in various locations at Conestoga High School, including the school’s TV studio, Phillips’ office, Conestoga’s parking lot and in Phillips’ automobile”.

According to Pennsylvania state law, “Statutory sexual assault becomes a first-degree felony offense in cases when the accused is 11 years, or older, than the minor. If convicted of this charge, a person could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Additionally, he or she may be fined up to $25,000.” The minor in this case is a 15-year old female and the accused is a 67-year old male, 52 years her senior.  And remember, the ten counts of statutory sexual assault is only one of the criminal charges against Phillips – if convicted, this man is going to prison for a very, very long time.

The lawsuit is against TE School District and Conestoga Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger, but numerous other CHS teachers and administrators are identified in the 36-page lawsuit.  The lawsuit is a public document but because 14 different CHS teachers or administrators (in addition to Meisinger) are identified by name, I will not upload it to Community Matters. To be clear, the only T/E School District administrator being sued in this lawsuit is Meisinger.

I have read the lawsuit several times. It contains many graphic and sexually explicit details that do not need to be repeated here. As the mother of a daughter, I cannot imagine the horror of this situation for the girl and her family.

What is remarkable is the level of detail contained in the lawsuit of places that Phillips took the student during school hours and after school including Berwyn Pizza, Handel’s Ice Cream and restaurants such as Estia (Radnor), Christopher’s in Wayne and City Works Eatery and Pour House (King of Prussia). Phillips and the student went to multiple Wawa convenience stores in the area including Malvern, Paoli, King of Prussia, Audubon and Norristown. Additionally, Phillips took her on shopping trips to the King of Prussia Mall and ice skating in Dilworth Park outside of City Hall in Philadelphia, and to the IFly Indoor Skydiving Center and to Valley Forge Casino.  Phillips gave the student numerous items, including gift cards.

My guess is there would be security cameras, date and time stamped credit card processing receipts, etc. from most of these locations. According to the lawsuit, “many of Phillips contacts with Plaintiff are documented on Conestoga’s video monitoring system, including those cameras used to observe school entrances and exits and around the bus drop-off/pickup location.”  The lawsuit claims that the school district “failed to review the camera footage and failed to intervene in the outwardly inappropriate and illegal behavior of Phillips” which therefore constitutes a “systematic violation of school district policies”.

To celebrate her birthday, Phillips and the student ‘double-dated’ with a Conestoga teacher and her husband at Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar in King of Prussia. According to the lawsuit, “numerous district officials and teachers were aware of Phillips’ inappropriate relationship with the girl but failed to take steps to investigate or halt the conduct”.  Further, the lawsuit alleges that Phillips’ office was decorated with homemade signs that included the girl’s initials, her first name and the word “love”.

The lawsuit alleges that Phillips continually wrote ‘hall passes’ for the student to miss class when school district policy only permits a teacher (not an aide) to write these passes.  It is alleged that “none of the teachers who received these ‘hall passes’ filled out by Phillips took any action to investigate, manage, question or stop said absences or tardiness”.  Between January and mid-April of this year, the student missed over 20 English classes yet the teacher (allegedly) never discussed the absences with the parents.

Ross Feller Casey is also representing the parent of the 17-year old male CHS student who was sexually abused by another Conestoga staff member, 26-year-old teacher’s aide Christine Towers. Towers was convicted earlier this year and is currently serving time for the crime. The law firm is investigating a separate federal lawsuit against TE School District in that case. In both the Towers case and the Phillips case, the parents of the two abused students are calling for the resignation of the Conestoga principal.

In the Ross Feller Casey press release, attorney Matt Casey stated, “The heartbroken parents I represent, and their children, are demanding accountability on the part of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, something that has yet to be achieved despite repeated, shocking instances of sexual abuse at Conestoga High School. The already-known facts lay bare a school district custom of deliberately turning a blind eye to criminal acts in its midst.”  To support this claim, the lawsuit includes the middle school sexting scandal, the football hazing incident and the teacher’s aide who sexually abused the male student case prior to this latest criminal investigation – all occurring in the last couple of years.

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The school board meeting is tomorrow, Monday, June 12, 7:30 PM at Conestoga High School and includes the adoption of the 2017-18 final budget. The meeting agenda continues to list the teachers’ contract (TEEA), the non-instructional contract (TENIG) and Act 93 Agreement (administrators) as ‘TBD’ in the proposed final budget. The contracts constitute 70% of the District budget yet the budget includes no contingencies.  However, it is noted that on page 293 of the agenda, we see that the school board will take a vote on giving administrators a 1.7% increase to their 2016-17 base salary plus a one-time bonus of 1% to be paid in June 2018.

Since the last regular meeting of the school board, there have been two lawsuits filed against the District … the agenda makes no mention of either.

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