Fact Finder

T/E School Board: 2nd Vote Not to Accept Fact Finders Report

Last night was both the Board of Supervisors meeting and the special meeting of the school district.  I attended the BOS meeting and Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and kindly provided his personal notes of the meeting.  Although we should not be surprised that the school board rejected the fact finders report a second time, in speaking with Ray I am troubled by something that happened.  Now again — I was not there so if my interpretation is incorrect, someone please correct me.

It appears that there was a heated exchange between Sultanik (the negotiating attorney hired by TESD) and Laura Whittaker, the  teacher union president.  Apparently it is OK for Sultanik to make public claims against the union but Ms. Whittaker is not allowed to defend her position.  Why?  Because although Ms. Whittaker is a TESD teacher, she is not a T/E resident.   Regardless of which side you support (TESD or TEEA)  this does not seem fair.

I understand the economics of the school district, but that does not give Sultanik the right to disrespect the teachers and then offer no option for them to defend.   These people teach our children, are they not entitled to respect?  The school board has a policy that non-T/E residents are not permitted to comment at school board meetings and I appreciate that if there is long line of people waiting to comment, that it is fair that residents be permitted to speak first.  Regardless of the union, TENIG, TEEA, etc. I am of the opinion that the union president representing his/her members should be permitted to speak at school board meetings, without a ‘residency’ requirement.  I am not saying all the non-resident teachers, custodians, etc. just the presidents, should they be non-residents.

Again, I did not attend the meeting and would certainly appreciate the opinions of other who did attend.  Bottom line for me … I want both sides fairly represented but I don’t like the idea of public ‘dressing-down’ from  either.  Here are Ray’s notes:

The School Board took advantage of the forum offered by tonight’s Board meeting to present their side of the contract negotiations and to outline the details of their three year offer suggested at the last Board meeting.  Unfortunately, perhaps, they felt the need to rebut the TEEA week-end comment that “School board members have not met with us….” with Mr Sultanik recounting a minute by minute list of the emails between him and the union’s Ms Waldie, during which an offer to meet was repeatedly made, and which did in fact lead to a meeting of the parties on August 15th.  At that meeting the Board presented their proposal, to which – according to Sultanik – the TEEA has not officially responded.  There were shouts of “You lie!” or similar from the audience, but Ms Whittaker, not a district resident, was not permitted to speak.

Here’s the essence of the District proposal:

– Freeze matrix, step and column positions for 2 years.  One step and column movement halfway through Year 3

– One time $2,500 bonus for all teachers in Year 2 and one time $1,000 bonus for all teachers on the top step in Year 3

—  Sizable incentives that do not build in recurring expense (use of the fund balance!)

– 189 day calendar in Years 2 and 3, down from the current 191 days

—  Locking in the 2 furlough days (1% salary reduction) in the Fact Finder report

– Two health plans with family coverage with premium share rising from 9-10% to 11-12% in Year 3.  The individual dollar cost for the most expensive plan is projected at $1,743  to $2,531, compared to $1,020 under the current plan.  A $50,000-$60,000 copay pool in Years 2 and 3 if the higher cost healthcare plan can be dropped due to less than half the employees selecting that plan.

— The national average for premium share is 29%

   — There’s a tax provision that allows employees to deduct their premium share, reducing the net cost by their marginal tax rate

– A cap on tuition reimbursement of $150,000 in Years 2 and 3 (compared to $290,000 under the current MOU and $650,000 last year)

– Radnor and Lower Merion have introduced caps on tuition reimbursement

– Prescription copays as in the Fact Finder report

– Demotions allowed for economic reasons in Years 2 and 3

– Settlement of outstanding grievances, particularly re the CHS 6 period day

— If ruled in favor of the union would require the hiring of 12 additional FTE at a cost of $1.2 million a year

Sultanik stated that the deadline for a TEEA response is August 27th at 12 noon.  It’s not clear if that is a mandatory deadline per the law, but it could be, since the process is still under the aegis of the state arbitrator and law does require continuation of the negotiating process.

Art McDonnell presented two slides that provided the current status quo budget/3 year projection and the Fact Finder report.  As presented, the Fact Finder report reduced the Year 1 and 2 deficits by about $300,000, but the year 3 (and 4) deficits increased by the same amount.  He did not show how the latest Board proposal would stack up under the same model, but in response to my question there were general comments from the Board that the deficits would still not be eliminated under likely tax scenarios.  (I think that there may be enough data to model the impact ourselves, and with some time over the next couple of days I’ll take a shot at that, but it will be difficult to account for all the inter-relations of salary, PSERS, etc.)

Ann Crowley and Kris Graham explained their August 9th votes to accept the Fact Finder report largely on the basis of expediency and on the intangible impact of an unsettled contract on home values, teacher stress, need for students to continue to out-perform, and so on.  Mrs Graham thought there was now benefit to the teachers to get the 3 year deal and so changed her vote tonight, in order to get the parties back to the negotiating table.  Mrs Crowley abstained from voting in protest of the email litany recounted by Mr Sultanik.  Dr Motel reminded the audience that salaries for all other employees have been flat for three years, and at some point increases may need to be found.  President Cruickshank also noted this and the give backs from TENIG employees and separately custodians.   She noted that the Board has to balance the budget and recounted the last three years total of $10 million expense cuts, maximum tax increases and falling real estate assessments.  Remaining options are to cut kindergarten, transportation and extra-curriculars.  She made a plea for “two austere years to right the financial ship”.

The Board voted 8 to 0 with one abstention to reject the Fact Finder report.

The audience seemed to be largely teachers, with little public comment.  Andrea advocated rationalizing the healthcare benefit craziness by providing a defined contribution rather than a Blue Cross-specific defined benefit; another resident supported the Fact Finder report on the basis of retaining qualified teachers and supporting property prices.  ABC News was there, also.

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T/E Teachers Union Weighs in on Fact Finder’s Report

Last night I received the following press release from Laura Whittaker, president of teacher union Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA).

TEEA Votes to Accept Fact Finder’s Report, Asks for Community Support 

On Monday, August 6, the members of TEEA met to discuss and vote on the Fact Finder’s report. Acting as an independent third party, Fact Finder Mr. Timothy Brown carefully examined all of the issues in dispute as well as the District’s finances and revenue potential. By law, TEEA members were required to accept or reject the report in its entirety, and the membership voted to accept the report.

Under the provisions of the Fact Finder’s report, professional employees would be frozen at the current salary for a year and a half.  Association members also agreed to a choice between two less expensive health care plans as well as increases in premium sharing and prescription costs. The report linked no demotions of professional staff with a reduction in tuition reimbursement during the second year of the agreement, a provision that built upon the previously established Memorandum of Understanding which reduced tuition reimbursement in exchange for no demotions during the first year of the contract. Furthermore, the Fact Finder acknowledged the District’s desire for cost savings by allowing the District, in the second year of the contract, to furlough teachers for up to two full days with a corresponding salary reduction, a provision currently non-existent in any teacher contract in the state of Pennsylvania. TEEA estimates that the furlough days alone would cost TEEA members approximately $500,000 in lost wages.

“We are disappointed by the School Board’s choice to reject the report and stated efforts that they would like to continue bargaining,” TEEA President Laura Whittaker said. “By voting to accept the report, TEEA members have acknowledged the need for shared sacrifice. We believe that the report offers a fair and reasonable contract settlement. We urge members of the public to read the full Fact Finder’s report that is available on our website and ask the community to support acceptance of the Fact Finder’s report in order to reach a contract settlement so that we can all focus on the education of the children of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District.”  The School Board will take their second vote on the Fact Finder’s report on Monday, August 20 at 8 pm at the Tredyffrin-Easttown Administrative Offices at 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700 in Wayne.

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T/E Fact Finders Report — TESD and TEEA at Odds on Salary and Health Care/Insurance

The Fact Finder’s report has now been released (click here to read).  In a quick review of the report, salary and health care/insurance appear to be the issues of major conflict between the school district and the teacher’s union.  I offer the following summary and my personal remarks, but encourage you to review the report and weigh in with your own opinion.  The public has 10 days to review the Fact Finder’s report and then the School Board votes again on Monday, August 20.

Salary

District (1) proposes that as of July 1, 2012 freezing teacher’s salaries at the 2011-12 contract year level; (2) proposes that as of July 1, 2013, freezing teacher’s salaries at the level at which they were at the conclusion of the 2011-12 contact year; and (3) proposes no column and step movement during the term of the Agreement.

Union proposes (1) that for the 2012-13 freezing salary at the 2011-12 contract year and (2) for the second year, 2013-14 year, there will be column and step movement throughout the salary schedule and that those bargaining unit members at the top of their respective columns will receive a payment of $1,000 off-scale bonus.

Recommendation:  (1) 2012-13 freeze salary at the 2011-12 contract level and (2) for 2013-14 year, freeze salary for the first one-half of the school year at the 2011-12 contract level and for the second half of the year, there will be column and step movement.  Those bargaining unit members at the top of their respective columns will receive a payment of $300 off-scale bonus.

Health Care/Insurance

District proposes to make available health benefit plan to full-time employees (including full-time Health Room nurses).  I do not see a coverage option for employee’s spouses and/or dependents (even if the employee pays the difference).

Union proposes a shift to Personal Choice C2 health plan, which would include an increase in copays for doctor’s office visits.  Union also agrees to increase its premium share from the current 5% to 7% of premium costs in year one of the Agreement and 8% of premium share in year two.

Recommendation: The Fact Finder report took real issue with the District in regards to health care, stating, “… considering the realities of its financial condition, and its educational and financial goals, there is absolutely no good reason why this School District would not offer more than single medical insurance coverage for its teachers. … There is no defensible reason for this School District – this School District that is one of the richest and best performing school districts in the state – to champion any proposal that would pressure and weaken the families of the teachers who serve the District’s families; removing medical insurance coverage from the children and families of teachers would do just that and I cannot recommend such.”  The Fact Finder believes that the District should offer health plan options for teacher’s spouse plus children and family options, suggesting that the District will pay 90 -95% of the premiums and employees 5 – 10% of the premium based on Year One or Year Two of contract.

I’m not certain that I correctly understand the recommendation about ‘who’ is paying for the spouses and/or children of employees.  To be clear, I totally disagree with the District on the subject of health care insurance – employees need to be able to have an option of insurance coverage for their spouses and/or families.  It does not appear that the District offers that option.  Although I am of the opinion that employees should have their individual insurance covered, perhaps the employees should be responsible for the additional costs of insuring their spouses and/or children. If I read the recommendation correctly, that does not appear to be an option.

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Tredyffrin Teachers Union Accepts Fact Finder Report, T/E School Board Rejects

The results from last night’s special meeting of the T/E School Board were anticlimactic and expected.  Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association, the teachers union, voted to accept the fact finder’s report from the PA Labor Relations Board.  With a vote of 7-2, the School Board voted to reject the report. Kris Graham and Anne Crowley provided the two dissenting votes in support of the fact finder’s report. The recommendations in the fact finder’s report must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.

According to Jeffrey Sultanik, TESD contract negotiator, no public discussion of the fact finder’s report is permitted until the report is published.  It is expected that the PA Labor Relations Board will release the report today.  During the next 10 days, the public can weigh in on the report and on then at a second special meeting on Monday, August 20, the school board will take another vote on the report.  If the school board votes again to reject the report, traditional negotiations will resume between TEEA and TESD.

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T/E School District Teacher Contract Update … Special Meetings to Consider Fact Finder’s Report

Back on June 19, the contract negotiations between the T/E School District and the teachers union, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) reached an impasse and both sides requested that the PA Labor Relations Board (PLRB) assign it to a ‘Fact Finder’.  The neutral third-party was to review the proposals of TESD and TEEA and then make a recommendation.

On June 30, the contract deadline for the T/E teachers came and went with no new contract signed.  As of July 1, the school district and the teachers union, TEEA entered the ‘status quo period.  Status quo freezes the teacher’s salary at the 2011/12 salary until a new contract is signed.  The teachers continue to receive their salary at the current rate until either (1) a strike or lockout within the terms the 1992 Act 88 or (2) they enter into a new contract. The teachers health care benefit plan remains intact (based on the expired contract term) during the status quo period.

The Fact Finder’s report was issued on July 30 and TESD and TEEA has 10 days to notify PLRB as to whether they accept or reject the report.  The School Board and Administration are expressly prohibited from making any statements about the Fact Finder report until after PLRB releases it for publication.  But PLRB will only release it for publication after either or both sides formally inform the PLRB that they are rejecting the report.

Here’s what I don’t understand – the School Board is holding two special meetings (August 9 and August 23) to consider the Fact Finder’s report.  If the School Board is prohibited from making statements until the report is released and they only release it if one or both sides reject the report, how is it then possible that the School Board can now have special meetings to consider the report?  Jeez, I must be missing something here on this process.  Another question … is TEEA likewise prohibited from discussing the Fact Finder’s report.  Keith Knauss, if you are reading Community Matters, can you help me understand how this process works.

I am curious, so I will attend this week’s special meeting on Thursday at 8 PM in the Tredyffrin Easttown Administration Office, 940 W. Valley Road, Wayne, PA.

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