Dave Fillippo

Outsourcing ‘Chopping Block’: A real possibility for custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, kitchen staff, security personnel, aids and paraeducators in T/E

In my last blog post, I indicated there would be a follow-up post on TENIG and discussion of outsourcing.  TENIG President Dave Fillippo delivered an emotional statement at Monday night’s TESD Budget Workshop on the eve of his TESD retirement this Friday.  His statement, in its entirety, follows this post.

Much troubles me about the idea of outsourcing of the non-instructional employees of the District, especially at this time.  Excluding the District’s administrators and teachers,  TENIG members are the secretaries, custodians, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and security personnel.  Although aides and paraeducators are not members of TENIG, their jobs are also on the outsourcing ‘chopping block’ as budget impact items under consideration.

The Budget Workshop presentation only included two budget impact items for the Board to consider – (1) the outsourcing of TENIG staff and (2) the outsourcing of aides and paraeducators.  The Board has given the required 120-day written notice of their intention to issue an RFP to seek outsourcing bids for TENIG and the aides and paraeducators.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, we know that the Board has increased the District budget for safety.  They approved $250K for ‘district security enhancements’ and hired former Tredyffrin Township police chief Andy Chambers as a security expert, in an effort to make the school buildings more secure and to protect the students and staff.  From a security standpoint, how then can it possibly make sense to dismiss long-serving members of the T/E school district community in lieu of strangers that do not know our schools or our children?

Those employees whose jobs are under consideration for outsourcing,  are highly trained, dedicated and caring professionals with roots in our community; the majority  live in the T/E School District.  These are the people who the community knows and trusts.  How could it make sense to replace them with high turnover, sub-standard inexperienced workers?  There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of workers (and probably the productivity) will diminish with the largest percentage of new workers coming from outside the District.   Should outsourcing occur, the District will not only lose local, dedicated employees, but we also lose the community pride and spirit that comes with people working in the schools that ‘they’ attended, and that their children attended.

In these tight budget times, the custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and aides all become a target for outsourcing.  By privatizing the jobs, the District hands over important public service jobs to huge, private corporations who pay their employees lower wages. When private companies take over, they do away with as many full-time positions as they can and hire part-time workers at the lowest wages possible, so that do not have to offer basic health care benefits.

Outsourcing is not non-profit.  Outsourcing companies only exist for one reason – to make money.  The profit margin is key to the success of outsourcing companies and they will always act in their own self-interest.  As a result, our students, their parents and our community will come ‘second’ to the financial driver of outsourcing companies … profit.  Saving the District money may be the endgame of outsourcing, but with that decision should be the acceptance that our children are nothing more than a “commodity for profit” to an outsourcing company.

The budget of Tredyffrin Easttown School District should not be balanced on the backs of the lowest paid public service employees.  It is remarkable to me that the Board could bury administrator raises in a consent agenda and then just a few weeks later notify TENIG members of the impending outsourcing RFP.  As I said in an earlier post, “Where’s the fairness?”

Beyond this discussion of outsourcing, something else occurred on Monday night that troubled me.  At the end of the meeting, there was opportunity for resident comment.  It was at this point that Dave Fillippo delivered his emotional statement (see below).  As President of TENIG, Dave was speaking out on behalf of the union against outsourcing of the members’ jobs.  However, his statement was also his “swansong’, his good-bye to the Board and to the staff.    Having served the District for 32 years, Dave retires this Friday – as a result, his words delivered with emotion and pride for a community and a career that he loves.  Upon finishing his statement, I found it incredulous that Board President Kevin Buraks offered no words of appreciation or thank you for a “job well done’ to Mr. Fillippo.  Sure, for those 32 years, Dave was ‘doing his job’ for the District, but does that make him any less deserving of gratitude for doing it.  Acknowledging years of service is important, not only to the one retiring but also to show that the Board and administration cares about its staff.

I know I am on my soapbox on this one, but saying thank you to people and letting them know that they are appreciated is important.  If we do not acknowledge our thanks, I think we lose a human moment, a human connection. So, in what I hope was an oversight on Mr. Buraks and the School Board’s part, I want to wish Dave Fillippo all the best as he begins a new chapter in his life.  And to thank Dave for his 32 years of dedicated service to the Tredyffrin Easttown School District and for the contributions he made to the community.  Thank You!

Dave Fillippo’s statement read at the TESD Budget Workshop, March 4, 2013

Community and friends, Dr. Waters, Sue Tiede, members of the Board, principals, teachers and colleagues that have made my career here at TE so special.  My association with this school district started at kindergarten at Paoli Elementary School through graduation at Conestoga, and eventually employment in the maintenance department in 1980.  I have never lived a day of my 60-plus years outside of residence in Tredyffrin Township.  TE is my home and always will be.

I have loved working here in the community, no regrets, even though I was mocked at times, by friends and contractors who made millions while I, in comparison worked for a meager hourly wage. Today, I have a deep concern that in the future, others like myself, that are gifted with a servants heart will not be able to earn a sustainable wage here, in our community.

For the last two years, I have listened to the “Success and Sustainability” speeches here from the Board.  A campaign destined in part on devaluing the employees of TENIG.  Knowing that indeed the members of TENIG in fact are much of the reason for this District’s success and sustainability.

TENIG harbors a wonderful culture that provides security and safety to our children, maintenance of our schools and communities infrastructure, far beyond that of any contract service.  TENIG offers the District workers who are members of the community, who have a stake in the community.  ‘True Community’ one may say.

My vision of TENIG is one of servant leadership, employees who have a stake in the growth of our community, who are approachable, willing to make sacrifices as we have done, time and time again.  Question is why then would you [the Board] want to turn the services overs to profiteers?  Knowing that TENIG has always been responsible and yielding to the financial circumstances of the times.  Are we to be the scapegoats to remedy the mistakes of previous Board decisions?  TENIG is not at fault here.  We have been here doing our job and wish to continue to do so.

Our custodians have conceded more than anyone, with the wavering of wage increases for 2 years, and taking a 10 percent wage cut. Secretaries work an unpaid lunch while sitting at their desks, often coming in early, clocking in at their scheduled tie, clocking out at quitting time, only to return back to work to finish their day; unpaid for the extra hours.  Yielding to the workload that has evolved with the condensing of assigned duties.  Yet, I seldom hear them complain, they are here for the kids, our teachers and community.

Our food service cooks, preparers, servers and cashiers provide quality lunches to our students and staff at affordable prices and in fact pay for their own operation and show a profit.  Maintenance has answered every emergency in a timely fashion, once again to provide safety to our students and residents, even with the disruption of moving from our original facility, then to ESC, to scattered closets and storage spaces, and now to the old transportation garage.  We did not allow the constant changes to break our commitment and spirit of service.

TENIG is here to serve its community; we offer outstanding in-house service, with responsibility to the children, parents, and taxpayers of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships.  You will not find this dedication in a for-profit contract service.

In retirement, as of this coming Friday, I will not be going anywhere.  I intend to be a vital part of the negotiations with the Board and community along with new TENIG President Mary Minicozzi, Vice President John Brooks, Treasurer Gwen Durante and Secretary Jen Doyle.  TENIG has an excellent leadership staff here that is sensitive to the needs and concerns of our District and is eager to share our ideas with those members of the School Board assigned to the negotiations.

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A look at Enrollment, Projected Staffing, Real Estate Assessment Appeals and Economic Impact in T/E School District for 2013-14 Budget

I attended last night’s TESD Budget Workshop for the development of 2013-14 budget. Sue Tiede, Director of Personnel presented enrollment history and trends, projected staffing needs and changes for the District.

In the review of staffing changes from 2008 to 2013, it was interesting to note that full-time teachers during this period has decreased by 48 teachers, compared to an enrollment increase of 355 students during the same period.  The total enrollment in 2008-09 was 6,132 increasing to 6,487 in 2012-13, which indicates a 5.8% increase or 355 students.

An enrollment history chart dating from 1975 to 2012, indicated that in 1975 the District enrollment at 6,497 students.  From that point, 37 years ago, the District’s enrollment steadily decreased for 15 years to its lowest point in 1989 of 3,990 students.  Starting in 1990, the District’s enrollment began to increase yearly to 6,487 students in 2012, which marked the highest enrollment since 1975, when there were 6,497 students.  We know that there are currently 48 teachers fewer than in 2008, but the chart did not indicate what the staffing was in 1975, when the enrollment was within 10 students of where it is today.

The projected requirement for 2013-14 indicates additional staffing needs of 7.6 educators. Included in the 7.6 staffing number is the addition of one special education, one technology and three mental health specialists.  The special education professional is for autistic support.

The District’s Business Manager Art McDonnell presented updates on property tax revenue lost from reassessments and economic impact on other local revenues (interest income, transfer tax, delinquent tax, and interim tax) and provided a revenue variance analysis and 2013-14 budget summary. In 2006-07, the annual property tax revenue lost to the District in reassessments was $256,561.

As presented by McDonnell, annually since 2006-07, residents and commercial property owners have continued to appeal their property taxes. The annual loss to the District in property tax revenue due to reassessments is as follows: 2006-07: $256,561; 2007-08: $244,236; 2008-09: $417,041; 2009-10: $975,994; 2010-11: $826,923; 2011-12: $595,072; and 2012-13: $411,051.  However, these numbers do not paint the total picture.  There is a cumulative loss as the new reassessment revenue loss is compounded each year.  The accurate property tax revenue lost to the District from assessment appeals based on the cumulative effect is as follows: 2006-07: $256,561; 2007-08: $512,000; 2008-09: $44,126; 2009-10: $1,947,142; 2010-11: $2,847,464; 2011-12: $3,536,508; and 2012-13: $3,946,559.  The District’s budget for 2012-13 is nearly $4 Million less due to property tax revenue lost from assessment appeals. And by the way, the $4 Million may go up as Vanguard’s assessment appeal remains an open issue; scheduled court date is April.

McDonnell presented the economic impact on other local revenues (interest income, transfer tax, delinquent tax and interim tax).  Although we all know that the interest income rates at the banks is nearly nonexistent these days, it is certainly evident when reviewing the District’s financials.  In 2006-07, the District earned about $3 Million in interest income versus $109K in 2011-12.  However, there was some encouraging news – the District’s interest income for 2012-13 is projected to nearly double from last year, $200K.  The transfer tax revenue is also indicating projected growth, from approx. $1.7 Million last year to projected $1.8 Million for 2012-13.  Looking at the total revenues from interest income, transfer tax, delinquent tax and interim tax, the District is projecting $3,227,647 for 2012-13, down from last year’s $3,981,314 – indicating an approx. $750K loss in revenue.  However, when you look at interest income, transfer tax, delinquent tax and interim tax in 2006-07, the total revenues to the District was $7,542,466 – approximately $4.3 million more dollars than projected for 2012.13.

McDonnell was able to provide some possible good news.  Under Governor Corbett’s 2013-14 proposed budget, the state subsidy revenue for TESD is basic education funding increase of $92,016 and special education funding decrease of $11,024 – providing a net increase of $80,992 in state subsidy revenue.  This is cautionary news as Corbett’s budget is the preliminary stage.

The impact items included in the District’s 2013-14 budget: $200K for administrator salary increases, $250K for District safety enhancements and $125K for support staff for network upgrade.  Open budget impact items under consideration including the outsourcing of TENIG staff and outsourcing of aides and paraeducators.  The President of TENIG, Dave Fillippo, read a statement in regards to outsourcing, which will be presented in a separate post.

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T/E Teachers Union Offers Salary Freeze . . . TESD Rejects Offer, Wants Pay Increase Waiver

Tredyffrin Easttown School District is struggling with the budget crisis much as other school districts across the state and the country.  Serious budget issues escalated last month with Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget, which contained massive cuts to public education funding. 

School districts nationwide are looking for ways to balance their budgets in the face of looming deficits. Often budget discussions focus on teacher unions, which quickly turn into a debate about whether they have given too much or not enough at a time when school dollars are scarce.  There are those that vilify teacher unions as the cause of escalating school district budgets, claiming that their pensions, health care coverage and guaranteed salary raises have increased the property taxes of those who pay the teacher salaries.  Counter to this attitude are public school teachers and their supporters who claim that politicians are looking to balance budgets on their backs.

School districts and the teachers unions are vying to make their individual cases to the public.  As budget discussions become more heated, often times the divide increases between the two sides. School district officials are looking to balance their budgets and teacher union leaders struggle to protect the rights of their workers. There are always two sides to a story but there is a very important third party, whose rights are often overlooked in the debate . . . the taxpayer.

“ . . . It is well understood that this school district [TESD] like so many in this country is facing a financial crisis.  It would appear that this is the time for all of us to work together instead of against each other.  As a good first step, I would propose that the information disseminated be supported.  Unfortunately, when situations reach a crisis level within an organization (whether it is the school district, local government, corporations, etc) rumor mills explode and before you know it, things are out of control.”  Community Matters, January 18, 2010

I wrote these words 15 months ago in the post, ‘Is the Teacher Union aiding in the Fact vs. Fiction Component of the TESD Budget Crisis” and they are just as important today.

I believe in the value of transparency and availability of information from government to the public.  To understand a situation and to make an informed decision requires knowing the truth.  As I said in January 2010, “. . . when situations reach a crisis level . . . rumor mills explode and before you know it, things are out of control.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth. 

Residents in the T/E School District were told by the T/E School Board that letters (dated April 6, 2011) had gone to the two district unions, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association, TEEA the teachers union and Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group, TENIG.  According to the school board, the letters could not be made public for legal reasons. It is my understanding that the school board letters contained a request to both unions for a pay increase waiver for next year.  If you recall, Gov. Corbett had suggested that teachers unions in Pennsylvania encourage their members to take a salary ‘freeze’ for next year to help their budget shortfalls. Several residents have contacted me and some have spoken up at the school board meetings to ask about the TESD letters, and if there has been a response from either union.  With hands apparently tied legally, our school board was not able to provide much detail.  I was told last week that members of TENIG were considering some kind of ‘give-back’ offer to the district and were to vote yesterday on their offer.

Until earlier this week, I assumed that the teachers union was not considering any type of ‘give-back’ offer or concession. My impression from attending district budget, finance and school board meetings was certainly that no response (or offer) had been received by the district.  During the course of this week however, I have had phone calls and emails from numerous sources suggesting that a salary freeze offer was made to the T/E School Board but that the offer was rejected.  To clarify, these sources of information were not TEEA union leadership. 

Clearly confused but believing in the publics ‘right to know’, yesterday I contacted via email the members of the TESD school board and Pete DePiano, TEEA union president. The following email was sent to the School Board and DePiano asking for clarification:

Dear __________

I am in receipt of information that indicates, among other things, that there was an offer made from Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association teachers union for salary freezes for next year, in advance of the negotiations for the next contract.  According to several sources, the TESD school board rejected the teacher union’s salary freeze offer, citing that such an offer would only be acceptable if the current teacher’s contract were opened and renegotiated. 

I am working on an article on this topic and I am affording you the opportunity to comment on this matter.  If you wish to comment, I will need the information within 24 hours, by 10 AM Friday, April 29, 2011. 

Kind regards,
Pattye Benson

From the President of TEEA, I received the following email response:

On April 15, 2011, TEEA formally offered a salary schedule pay freeze to the T/E Board of School Directors.  The Board formally has responded to TEEA that they cannot accept the offer.  As the T/E School District prepares to finalize its budget for 2011-12, TEEA will continue to work diligently with its members behind the scenes to attempt to reach another cost savings offer.

Pete DePiano
TEEA President

In response to my request, I received the following response from T/E School Board President Karen Cruickshank:

Dear Pattye:

Many thanks for contacting the T/E School Board about a teacher offer in T/E.  As you know we are in a significant budget crisis, and have asked both of our unions in a sense of shared sacrifice to participate in a pay waiver.  At our Monday night Finance meeting we will provide a detailed presentation about why we can not accept a pay freeze but would welcome a pay waiver.  I would encourage you to attend the meeting so that you can see the entire presentation and ask any questions that you have of the board.

Many thanks for your commitment to providing information to our community. 

Most sincerely,
Karen Cruickshank
T/E School Board President

Karen Cruickshank sent a follow-up email:

Dear Pattye:

In regards to your request for information about union offers in the T/E School District, the TESD School Board does not negotiate in public.  We continue to remain in close communications with both of our unions.  

As I did say in my earlier e-mail there is confusion over the difference between a pay waiver and a pay freeze, and we will clearly point out the financial differences between them at our Monday night Finance Committee meeting.  The Board as always will be most happy to take questions from the community at the meeting.

Most sincerely,
Karen Cruickshank
T/E School Board President

Although we learn from these responses that there was an ‘offer’ from the teachers union and a ‘rejection’ from the school district, what did the offer letter and the rejection letter actually say . . . ? It is obvious there is confusion between a salary ‘freeze’ and a salary ‘waiver’ and it is noted from both of Cruikshank’s responses, that the school board intends to clarify those distinctions at TESD’s upcoming Finance Committee meeting on Monday night.

I did not receive copies of either the TEEA letter to T/E School Board or the letter from the T/E School Board to TEEA.  However, with a bit of research online I was able to track down both letters.  The letters are available online (and therefore public) and can be found at www.teeacher.org .

In addition to the TEEA and TESD letters, there is a note to the teachers from DePiano:

To all TEEA members:

Below are two letters. The first, dated April 15, 2011, is TEEA’s response to the TE School Board’s request that we waive the fourth year of our contract. It consists of a refusal to waive the contract and an offer to freeze the contract for one year and extend it.

The second, dated April 27, 2011, is the District’s response, a refusal to consider any agreement that involves extending our contract.

To clarify: A waiver would cancel the fourth year of our collectively bargained contract and put us into immediate negotiations for a new agreement. A freeze is essentially a one-year pause. We would work in 2011-2012 under the same provisions we have this year. We would then realize the negotiated final year of our contract in 2012-2013.

Yours in solidarity,

Pete DePiano, President TEEA

You will note that the TEEA offer letter dated April 15, 2011 to TESD states in part,

“ . . . In an attempt to prevent more painful cuts from having to occur (including program cuts, increases in class size, or an outsourcing of the custodial staff) yet also honor the contract that was negotiated in good faith, the Representative Council of TEEA has authorized a salary freeze proposal for the Board’s consideration.  This includes a salary step freeze for 2011-12 based on the current 2010-11 salary schedule, with the final year of the originally bargained contract realized in 2012-13, including step movement and salaries.  It provides PSERs clemency to staff that will be retiring next year, and maintains status quo on all other provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. . . . I estimate this proposal will generate over $2.5 million in savings for FY 2011-12. . . “

The T/E School District response of April 27, 2011 rejected the TEEA offer stating that their letter of April 6, 2011 called upon the unions to accept a

“. . . one-year pay increase waiver as their contribution to the shared sacrifice to support T/E students.  After June 30, 2011, a waiver indicates that there will be no movement vertically or horizontally on the matrix for the 2011-12 school year.  The settlement of the new bargaining agreement effective July 1, 2012 will direct the placement of staff on the salary matrix for future years.  A one-year pay increase waiver would waive contract raises for the two unions’ employees for the 2011-12 school year and would result in a cost savings of approximately $3,000,000. . . “

Again, as I said more than a year ago, “rumor mills explode” and there is only one way to correct misinformation and that is with the facts. 

The budget crisis facing the school district and our community should not be about ‘picking sides’ . . . it should be about providing transparency, factual information and letting the public draw their own conclusions.

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