TEEA

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

—————————————————–

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

TE School District Served With Another Lawsuit

Lawsuits against TE School District and Conestoga High School administrators are climbing at an alarming rate.

Two weeks ago on May 25, I wrote the headline, “Conestoga High School Hazing Fallout: Football Coach Sues T/E School District Administrators”.  We learned that 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 had filed a lawsuit against District administrators – Superintendent Dr. Richard Gusick and CHS Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger. The lawsuit cited defamation of character, misrepresentation, fraud, improper termination, etc. and seeks damages of at least $50K in compensation plus punitive damages.

In April, I wrote about Arthur Phillips (age 67), a male instructional aide in the television production studio at Conestoga High School, who was charged with having sex with a 15 year old female student from January to April of this year.  According to the victim, they had sex on more than 10 occasions and that Phillips also groped and sexually assaulted her. Hundreds of sexual text messages were found on both of their cell phones, including a picture that Phillips texted the victim of his genitals. Phillips was charged with statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and related offenses.

Today we learn from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that a federal lawsuit was filed against TE School District by the parents of the girl, seeking at least $75K in damages and calling for the resignation of Conestoga High School Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger.

According to the article, the lawsuit claims that the District was aware of the improper conduct of Phillips and “created an environment that allowed the assaults to occur”.

The Inquirer article states, “According to the suit, Phillips took the girl from the Conestoga campus to buy her meals, took her shopping, and “groomed” her during and after the school day. The lawsuit alleges a teacher and her husband went to dinner on a “double date” with the girl and Phillips and that other teachers knew Phillips was taking the girl off campus during the school day. An aide referred to the girl as “Art’s girlfriend” to several teachers, the suit said.”

How in the world could a teacher go on a double date with Phillips and the 15-year old student?  And the relationship was known by teachers at the high school and the victim is called “Art’s girlfriend”.  How is it possible that this could go on and no one knows?  I just do not understand.

The original article has been updated to include a statement from the District’s solicitor, who claims that the accusations against the school district are false, that no staff (including Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger) knew of the relationship between Phillips and the student until contacted by Tredyffrin Township police.

An interesting point is made in the lawsuit – Phillips wrote hall passes for the girl to miss classes and that between January and mid-April, she missed 20 English classes. Isn’t there some kind of parental notification when a student misses that many classes?  What is the policy?

The parents also claim that there was no review of camera footage at by District employees which would have shown Phillips repeatedly leaving Conestoga High School with the girl. According the lawsuit, the sexual assaults occurred in the high school parking lot, Phillips car and office and in Conestoga’s production studio. Again, I would ask — what is the policy for reviewing camera footage?  School security has been an ongoing focus of the school board, which would presumably include routine review of the cameras.  I would think that if you have a student missing 20 classes during a relatively short time span, and there is an aide who is writing the passes, shouldn’t this cause an internal investigation, which might include a review of the camera footage?  Just asking the question, do not know if there is a process currently in place and it was ignored or if such a process doesn’t exist.

There is also the potential of another lawsuit against TE School District.  Remember the 26-year old Conestoga coach and teacher’s aide Christine Towers who had a sexual relationship with a 16 year old learning disabled student who she tutored.  Towers received a jail time of 11 to 23 months.  Now the parents of that boy are also considering a federal lawsuit against the District.

I have been harping about what I see as public information and transparency problems, most recently as it related to the three contracts due to expire in 3 weeks – TEEA (teachers), TENIG (non-instructional) and Act 93 (administrators). The monthly school board meeting is on Monday, June 12 where the final budget for the 2017-18 school year needs to be approved and the status of the contracts is unknown. The contracts make up 70% of the school district budget but the public has received no updates.

I think the school board’s approach to public information needs to expand to include lawsuits. In two weeks, two lawsuits have been filed against the school district with the potential of a third lawsuit.  My guess is that the school board will make no mention of the lawsuits at the upcoming school board meeting. It’s easier to pretend that it isn’t really happening.

A few weeks ago, the school board reappointed Ken Roos as the District solicitor for another year, July 1 – June 30, 2018 at a rate of $180/hr.   Wouldn’t you love to know what the taxpayers are spending on legal fees to Wisler Pearstine between lawsuits and contract negotiations?  Sadly, that would probably require filing a ‘right-to-know’ through Art McDonnell, and I have a feeling that the request would be denied.

By all accounts, Conestoga High School graduation last night was wonderful — congratulations to all our 2017 graduates and best wishes for the future!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Three T/E School District Contracts Due to Expire in 30 Days … What is the Status on the Teachers (TEEA) Contract, Non-Instructional Group (TENIG) Contract and Act 93 (Administrators) Agreement?

The TESD Finance Committee meeting agenda for Wednesday, May 31, 6:30 PM is available here.

The school board is on the countdown to the approval of the 2017-18 budget on Monday, June 12 but there’s a major open issue as indicated in the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting. Actually, there are three unknowns or ‘TBD’ as stated on the draft budget as shown below:

Displaying 1496170620929blob.jpg

For the first time that I am aware, the school board is faced with the contracts of the District teachers (TEEA), the non-instructional group (TENIG) and Act 93 (administrators) all expiring on the same date — on June 30, 2017. In years past, the contracts terms were staggered. To my knowledge, there has been no update from the school board regarding any one of these three contracts that expire in a month.

In years past, the threat of outsourcing of some of TENIG’s employees was considered by the school board (as a budget savings).  In tight budget times, the District’s custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers and kitchen workers all became a target for outsourcing during budget negotiations.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m no fan of outsourcing.  (We don’t need to look any further than the school board’s decision to outsource the aides and paras and ask how that has worked out.)

In the current TENIG contract (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2017), the custodians received a 2% salary reduction and additionally had to give back 1 week of their vacation.  (The rationale was that the District had to hire subs when the custodians are on vacation).  The other members of TENIG (security, kitchen, maintenance, and cafeteria) received a 4% salary reduction in the new contract but their vacation benefit remains intact.  Since the current TENIG contract required salary reductions, it does not seem plausible that these T/E workers would not receive an increase in the new contract (at least the new contract should bring the TENIG employees back to their June 30, 2014 salary level). The public doesn’t know the answer.

The current TEEA contract (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2017) was ratified in February 2014, months in advance of its June 30, 2014 expiration date. The contract protected the jobs of the District teachers and included a ‘no furloughs or demotions’ clause through June 2017.  The teachers received salary increases based on their step movement in the matrix.  The contract included a Distance E-Learning Pilot Program that ran the length of the contract, expiring on June 30, 2017.  If you recall, TEEA previously filed a suit (and won) against the District over their implementation of distance learning so it was somewhat surprising to see its inclusion in the contract. Are we confident that the new TEEA contract will honor the ‘no furlough or demolition’ clause contained in the current contract?  The public doesn’t know the answer.

The third TESD contract due to expire in a month is the Act 93 Agreement — the District’s administrator compensation plan. The current Act 93 Agreement (January 29, 2013 – June 30, 2017) included a one-time bonus for service in the previous two and one-years and a one-time bonus of 1% of the individual’s salary award each June.

At the time the Act 93 contract was signed, there was discussion that the lowest paid groups – the TENIG workers – were taking a salary decrease whereas the administrators’ salaries were increasing.  So with the teachers, administrators and the non-instructional workers with contracts expiring in a month, it’s going to be interesting to see if fairness will prevail. Will the administrators continue to receive an annual bonus? The public doesn’t know the answer.

For me, the problem is that there’s been no update whatsoever in the contract negotiation process and the final budget is to be approved in a couple of weeks on Monday, June 12.

Although the draft budget includes a maximum tax increase of 3.4%, it indicates a $1.6 million deficit. The plan is to make up the deficit with a transfer from the District’s fund balance. Plus, we do not know the impact of the teachers, administrator and TENIG contracts on the budget. As indicated in the graphic above, the three contracts are ‘TBD’.

I re-read an old Community Matters post on this topic from April 2012, ‘Seeking Transparency in TESD Teacher Contract Negotiations’  which had a follow-up post on May 17, 2012, ‘TE Teachers Turn on Transparency Lights in Contract Negotiations’. In re-reading these posts and the many comments, what was striking was the need for regular updates to the public by the Board. The lack of information and/or misinformation during the contract negotiations aggravated an already difficult situation. In the CM post of May 17, 2012, I wrote,

” … making the teacher contract negotiation process transparent for the public would help the community understand how our children will be taught and how our tax dollars will be invested.  The relationship between teachers and school administrators is an important element in what shapes this school district.  There is no better way to understand this relationship than to observe the contract negotiation process. …”

Harping on the lack of transparency and public information by the school board does not seem to work – except maybe in an election year! (School board directors Doug Carlson, Virginia Lastner and Scott Dorsey are up for re-election although Scott has no opposing candidate.) No doubt the school board would lament that they cannot provide updates during the contract negotiating process as its explanation for keeping the public in the dark.

The final approval on the TESD 2017-18 budget looms in two weeks, Monday, June 12. When will the school board provide the public with the three contracts? When will the final budget (with the missing ‘TBD’ contract information) be made available to the public?  Perhaps some of these answers will be available at the Finance Meeting on Wednesday night.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Will Lower Merion School District’s handling of teacher’s contract play out similarly in TE School District — Some school board candidates weigh in

Last week a tentative agreement was reached between Lower Merion School District and their teachers. The deal between LM and the union was made in secret, with a process devoid of transparency.  The proposed teacher’s contract and its terms were not published for public review.

There are rumors that the TE School District is currently in ‘Early Bird’ contract negotiations with the teacher’s union. Because of the existing situation in Lower Merion, rumors of early bird talks and five seats on the TE School Board up for grabs on Election Day, there was discussion as to where our candidates stand on this issue.  The following email was sent to the ten Tredyffrin and Easttown school board candidates on Saturday.

To All TE School Board Candidates:

I know that you are all very busy campaigning in advance of Election Day. Tredyffrin resident Ray Clarke added a comment on Community Matters regarding the teacher contract, negotiations and keeping the public informed. He has spoken with several of you regarding his concerns, particularly given what is currently going on in Lower Merion School District.  As a result, I am asking you to read the following and provide a very  brief (100 words or less) response to me by 9 PM, Sunday, Nov. 1. The question and all candidate responses received will appear on Community Matters on Monday, Nov. 2.

Negotiating union contracts (teachers and support staff) will be important tasks for the new Board.  In Lower Merion School District, a secret deal is playing out between their school board and the teachers union.  Much to the chagrin of Lower Merion taxpayers, the union members get to review the contract before signing but the public is left in the dark and provided no information.

During the last teachers’ contract negotiations, the TE School Board moved in the correct direction with periodic updates to the public. Assuming that there are no secret “Early Bird” deals already in discussion  between the current Board and the union, [if elected] where do you stand on publishing any proposed contracts to the public at the same time as the unions send it to their members? In addition to publishing the terms of the contract to the public before signing, to also include the full annual cost of the contract for each year (including PSERS, salaries, benefits, etc.) with an explanation of how the Board will pay the costs. 

Again, I understand that you are pressed for time and I thank you in advance. Your responses may help get additional voters to the polls on Tuesday.

Pattye Benson

Because I know how busy the candidates are in the last days leading up to the election, their responses were to be brief – 100 words or less. One hundred words is very short; the second paragraph in the statement above (from “During … costs.”) is 109 words.

During this campaign season, most every school board candidate has used themes of transparency, public engagement and responsiveness to citizens in their campaigning literature, meet and greets with voters and during the Chester County League of Women Voters candidate forum. It is for that reason, that a brief response would allow each candidate the opportunity to restate and to reconfirm their transparency commitment to the voters before Election Day tomorrow (November 3).

Of the ten school board candidates, responses to the question were received by Kate Murphy (R) and Fran Reardon (D), Easttown, Region 3 candidates; Neill Kling (R) and Neal Colligan (R) Tredyffrin East, Region 1 candidates and Ed Sweeney (R) Tredyffrin West, Region 2.  The responses from these five candidates appear below.

The four Democratic school board candidates from Tredyffrin (Alan Yockey, Michele Burger, Roberta Hotinski and Todd Kantorczyk) each sent similar emails; all declining to respond, citing time constraints due to the campaign and/or previous personal commitments.  There was no response from Kris Graham.  If, as rumored (and I do say if) there are early bird negotiations already underway between the TE School District and TEEA, the District teacher’s union, it would not be possible for Ms. Graham to respond.

The TE School Board candidate responses are as follows:

Neill Kling, Tredyffrin East, Region 1 candidate:

A cloak and dagger approach serves neither party.  The union must understand throughout that what their members receive can be no more than what our tax base will reasonably be able to bear.  The current PESERS situation resulted from disregard of that sound principle.  Thus, I believe that the taxpayers should view the contracts when they are sent to the teachers for approval.  I am also in favor of providing a public estimate of how we propose to meet the contractual obligations.  The District must conduct negotiations with this estimate uppermost in mind.  Publishing it when they are completed is responsible stewardship.

Neal Colligan, Tredyffrin East, Region 1 candidate:

Of course, the public should be informed as negotiations move forward….this is by far the largest municipal contract in our community.  Start now by presenting the existing economics…total salary, benefits, pension contribution…show the history of these costs.  This information, reviewed at an entity level, will not disclose any employees’ personal compensation package and will not violate the rules of new contract discussions.  As the process advances, let the community know of the issues…I doubt the Union side would object.  People here are pretty fair and can draw their own conclusions on what is just as negotiations move towards a new contract.

From Ed Sweeney, Tredyffrin West, Region 2 candidate:

I would strongly agree to the first proposal if it was consistent with current agreement between the School District and the Union and with the provisions of relevant labor law.  As far as his other proposals, I need more information but I am a proponent of maximum disclosure at the appropriate time.

I agree with the principle of “MORE” . . . more transparency, more public disclosure, more committee meetings convenient to working parents, and more involvement of residents and stakeholders at an early stage of committee consideration of issues.  In my view, more = better.  More increases public confidence and protects the taxpayer.

From Kate Murphy, Easttown, Region 3 candidate:

In Pennsylvania, salaries and benefits make up the lion’s share of any school district’s budget, generally between 70% and 80%.  Pension benefits (PSERS) are set legislatively by the General Assembly and the Governor, and are not negotiated by local school boards.  All collective bargaining agreements must be available to the public for review and comment well in advance of the public vote to approve such agreements.  Periodic updates during the negotiations can be a helpful tool to inform the public.  District estimates of the full annual cost of the contract for each year should be available for timely public examination.

From Fran Reardon, Easttown, Region 3 candidate:

In negotiating contracts within the School District, we should maintain a high level of transparency for all parties involved.  Periodic updates should be available to the taxpaying public and all other stakeholders.  Current annual cost of contracts should clearly be given with the long term effects of PSERS obligations also laid out and presented to the TE community in a timely fashion before any vote by the school board.

As a member of the TE School Board, I will work with the full board to give the taxpayers value for their dollar and also maintain the excellence of our schools.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Standing on the sidelines changes nothing — TE School District aides and paras taking steps to unionize

collective bargainIt’s official, the aides and paraeducators of TE School District are taking the necessary steps to unionize. As announced by Supt. Dan Waters at last night’s Finance meeting, this group of employees is currently engaged in the process to join the collective bargaining unit TENIG (Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group).

If you recall last spring, the District’s aides and paras came very close to having their jobs outsourced over the Federal government’s Affordable Care Act.  Because of ACA compliance issues, it appeared that the District would be forced to either offer insurance or outsource the jobs of the aides and paras. At that time, the Board claimed that the District could not afford healthcare for these employees and could not risk the possible financial risks for ACA noncompliance.  As a point of record, the TE School District is the only school district in the area that does not offer healthcare coverage for this group of employees.

Unfortunately, without the benefit of a collective bargaining organization there was little that the aides and paras could do to fight back against the proposed outsourcing of their jobs. In the end, the Federal government pushed off the required ACA compliance for another year.  As a result, the School Board granted the District aides and paras a reprieve for the 2013/14 school year; their jobs and hours remaining intact for one more year.

As the current school year ends, what has changed for the District aides and paras during the last twelve months – are they any better off than they were a year ago? Based on their moving forward with plans to collective bargain, my guess is the answer to that question is ‘no’ – nothing has changed.

Without job security and healthcare benefits, the aides and paras are now seeking protection of their jobs and collective bargaining representation for their own jobs and for the jobs of those that will come after them. They seek fairness and consistency in employment policies and personnel decision,  job security and protection of employee rights.

The community respects the passion and commitment of the aides and paraeducators to the parents and children of this District and values their contributions. It saddens me that this group of vulnerable, dedicated employees remains the school district pawns, at the mercy of the Board and the administration.

Supporting the need for an organized voice, the District aides and paras believe that all employees deserve fair and equal treatment. Standing on the sidelines changes nothing — I applaud the collective bargaining efforts of the aides and paras.; they deserve to be treated as full players not as an afterthought.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Twp: Public Works Director Scott Cannon and Finance Director Tim Klarich are out and it’s only February!

Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors held a special board meeting on February 10 to terminate the employment of Public Works Director Scott Cannon.  Stating several acts of misperformance, including two instances of improper disposal of materials on Township property in addition to procurement procedure violations, the supervisors voted unanimously to dismiss Cannon, without public discussion or comment.

Two weeks to the day after the Public Works Director’s termination, the ominous “discussion of personnel action items” appears on the Board of Supervisors agenda. We learned last night that the township’s Finance Director Tim Klarich is the next one out the door.  Without explanation or discussion, the supervisors unanimously voted to accept the resignation of Klarich.

Although the public wasn’t privy to the details of Cannon’s termination, after only a couple of years in the job, I didn’t have a real sense of the pubic work director.  On the other hand, Tim Klarich was Tredyffrin Township Finance Director for nearly 4 years.  I found his analysis and preparation of the yearly township budget detailed and complete and his monthly financial updates to the board unfailingly thorough.  Two township department heads gone in two weeks, there was an  uneasiness with more questions than answers.

During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, I asked several questions and voice concern about Klarich’s abrupt departure from the township. When I received no response to my question as to when Klarich gave his resignation notice, I then asked ‘when’ his last day was.   Board of Supervisor chair Mike Heaberg referred my questions to the solicitor Vince Donohue, who stated that yesterday (Monday) was his last day. Donohue then stated that because it was a personnel matter, there would be no further information. It was obvious to those in the audience that there was more behind the departure of Cannon and then two weeks later Klarich than was publicly provided. I

Falling under the jurisdiction of ‘legal and personnel matters’, it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the details of Cannon or Klarich recent departures from the township. Less than two months in to the New Year and two department heads are already gone — What’s that saying from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Something is rotten in Denmark”?  Makes you wonder if there is more house cleaning ahead from the Board of Supervisors.

From the T/E School Board meeting also held last night came the unanimous vote to approve the teachers to approve the new 3-year contract.  Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and provides the following personal comments:

  • Dr. Waters actually lead the presentation of the TEEA contract.  A surprise since he rarely speaks.  He addressed many of the questions raised on CM, but with only occasional reference to the data on the slides so it was hard to follow, even for an experienced ear.
  • One of the ways that the impact is minimized is that the caps on column movement are lower than numbers assumed in the budget (but wouldn’t we have budgeted “status quo”?), and that difference is taken as “budgetary savings”
  • Also helping the overall budget is that (my estimates) there has been a redistribution of ~50 staff from the top level to the bottom levels through retirements and replacements.  Dr Waters provided total staff by level which will be handy for those wanting to sanity check the calculated impact.  No further “breakage” going forward is assumed in the impact assessment.
  • It sounded as though the one-time bonus was not included in the baseline numbers.
  • Note that the increased teacher contribution to healthcare premiums averages $74,000 per year – $160 per teacher.  We should not lose sight of the fact that taxpayers fund a very generous benefits package!
  • Outside the contract, I thought that the Committee Chairs gave richer summaries of their recent meetings than we have been used to.  Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but to be encouraged!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

T/E School Board and Teachers sign tentative 3-year contract

The Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) and the T/E School Board have signed a tentative 3- year teachers’ contract for TEEA logoJuly 1, 2014 – June 30, 2017.  After the teachers ratification, the School Board will take action at Monday’s school board meeting on the contract.

The contract protects the jobs of the District teachers and includes no furloughs or demotions clause through June 2017.  The teachers will receive salary increases based on their step movement in the matrix.  Not certain how this equates to percentage yearly increase or budget impact – need some help to understand.

2.013 Salary Progression

Through the end of the contract, the salary of Employees will be determined by placing them on the Salary Schedule as agreed to by Employer and Bargaining Agent as set forth herein.

Effective July 1, 2014, current Employees except those at maximum, will move one (1) vertical step on the Salary Schedule. Each employee is limited to one column movement per year subject to Section 2.025.

Effective July 1, 2015, current Employees except those at maximum will move one (1) vertical step on the Salary Schedule. Each employee is limited to one column movement per year subject to Section 2.025.

Effective July 1, 2016, current Employees except those at maximum will move one (1) vertical step on the Salary Schedule. Each employee is limited to one column movement per year subject to Section 2.025.

For all Employees hired prior to July 1, 1995, no Master’s Equivalency achieved after January 1, 1997, will be recognized as a Master’s Degree on the Salary Schedule.

Unless specifically mentioned in this Section, Section 2.013 does not apply to Health Room Nurses.

I was surprised to see a distance e-learning pilot program included in the contract.  If you recall, TEEA previously filed a suit (and won) against the District over their implementation of distance learning. However, this contract includes a Distance E-Learning Pilot Program that will run the length of the contract, expiring on June 30, 2017.  The e-learning opportunities will be offered to students by non-bargaining sources at the discretion of the District.  The rapid growth of information technologies has influenced the way in which education is delivered and experienced – it is encouraging that the teachers’ contract includes an agreement for this pilot program in the District.

It looks like the teachers should be pleased with this 3-year contract!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

T/E School District institutes 7-minute clock-in and clock-out rule for aides and paras & progressive discipline for violation

A bit of background —

On February 4, I received a copy of a memo dated January 31, 2014 from Sue Tiede, Director of TESD Personnel.  Tiede’s letter went to ‘All Employees paid on an Hourly Basis’ (aides/paras) with the subject line, ‘Attendance & Punctuality’.  Although I was told that ‘all aides and paras’ received the letter, that was not accurate – some of the aides and paras did not receive the letter until this week, 10+ days later.  On Wednesday, February 12, aides and paras across the District were called individually into the principal offices of their respective schools to read Tiede’s letter. Before discussing the contents of Tiede’s letter, I have a problem with lack of District cohesive communication.

Memo to T/E aides and paras –

The focus of Tiede’s memo is the District’s establishment of a 7-minute period of clocking-in and clocking-out for hourly employees.  These employees are only permitted to clock-in within a 7-minute period before their scheduled start time and within a 7-minute period after your scheduled end time.  If scheduled to start work at 7AM, employees can only clock-in between 6:53AM – 7AM. If scheduled to end your workday at 3:30PM, employees can only clock-out between 3:30PM-3:37PM.

Having set the guidelines for the 7-minute clock-in and clock-out period in her memo, Tiede then details the progressive discipline measures for violation. A three level discipline approach, aides and paras receive a verbal warning and written notice for their first offense.  An employee receiving a second violation receives a written warning in theur personnel file with threat of suspension or discharge if another violation occurs. If an employees is cited for a third violation of the 7-minute rule, they are subject to suspension without pay and possible termination.

I find the contents and tone of Tiede’s letter demeaning and threatening to the District hourly employees.  District aides, paras and substitute teachers currently do not have District provided health coverage.  TESD aides, paras and substitute teachers do not have the benefit of organized union protection as do other District employees — the  teachers (TEEA) and members of  TENIG.

What is driving this letter of intimidation from the District?  In my opinion, the answer is Affordable Care Act and a way for the administration to make certain that hourly employees not go over the 30-hour limit that requires employee covered health coverage.  By instituting this policy of progressive discipline, the District is not considering the safety of flight risk children and special needs children. Did the District explain this new 7-minute policy to the parents of these children?  There will be situations occur where aides and paras are required to choose between remaining with a child or risking disciplinary action by not clocking-out within the 7-minute window.  The use of time clocks for our District educators is nothing more than a different category of factory worker.

Was this 7-minute District policy and corresponding disciplinary action vetted by the School Board members? Was their discussion about the ramifications of this policy for special education students and their parents?  Is this just another approach by the District to outsource the aides and paras – meaning, intimidate and threatened these employees to the point that they just leave.

Last spring, we saw the backlash from the public over the School Board’s attempt to outsource the aides and paras rather than comply with the Affordable Care Act — is this letter to District’s hourly workers, and its contents, a precursor to round two this spring? As previously mentioned on Community Matters, the School Board has repeatedly delayed any further public discussion of the ACA compliance issues — meeting after meeting.  Perhaps part of the back-story to the Board’s continuing resistance to discuss the associated ACA compliance issues is related to Sue Tiede’s letter to the aides and paras.

I encourage you to read the letter below, draw your own conclusions and welcome your comments on Community Matters..  Please share the information with District parents, particularly those parents (and their children) who rely on the services of these targeted District employees.  On the offside chance that School Board members are unaware of Sue Tiede’s letter to the aides and paras, I will email them a copy of this post.

 

TESD Suspension

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Reflections from TE School Board Director Richard Brake

Locally elected school boards are the only entity that has the mission of keeping public schools public. They have a vested interest in retaining public control of schools and ensuring quality education since their actions directly impact local community life.

Richard Brake, a Republican, was defeated on Election Day in his attempt at a second term on the TE School Board; losing to Democrat Scott Dorsey.  Monday, November 25 marks the final school board meeting for Brake, Betsy Fadem and Anne Crowley.   On Monday, December 2, the torch is officially handed to those newly elected  to serve the school district,  including Dorsey, Doug Carlson and Virginia Lastner.

The defeat in a local election is not what defines you.  I hope that Dr. Brake and other school board (and township supervisor) candidates defeated in the recent election  will take the words of Andre Malraux to heart and remain involved in the community – it’s important.

 “Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.”

The following is an editorial written by Rich Brake which appears in the print version of Main Line Suburban this week.

Why I Lost, and the Future of Tredyffrin Politics
By Richard A. Brake, Berwyn, PA

You win some, you lose some.  That’s what I told my family and friends after I lost my re-election bid for T/E School Board.  As a lifelong Cubs fan and former competitive long-distance runner, I have experienced defeat much more than victory, and so I know that you always learn more from your losses than your wins.  I also believe in Providence, and that it is likely that as this door closes, others will certainly open and new opportunities for service will present themselves.  I very much enjoyed my time on the Board, and hope that I performed some small public service for the benefit of our community.  The bottom line is that the sun rose the day after I lost, and since politics at all levels remains a peripheral part of our lives (which is a good thing I think, though not without its downsides), it would be wise to keep this small little episode in its proper perspective.

With that said, I am reminded of a saying one of my graduate school professors was fond of repeating – “If you’re not interested in politics that’s too bad, because politics is always interested in you.”  So I do think that there are important lessons to learn from this campaign season.  It is also the case that it is hard to have your entire life’s work, and the principles that this work represents, pilloried, caricatured, demonized, and ridiculed in front of the entire township.  It is natural, then, to try to make sense of a difficult experience like this – was it something I said; was it something I did?  Are my principles that reprehensible?  Did I allow them to blind me to the real issues we faced on the school board?

When I look into the mirror, I don’t see a monster or a label, but a flawed but nevertheless dedicated father, husband, educator, veteran, and public servant – but I know that we all come-off very differently to others than we do to ourselves, and maybe some of the problem was not what I said but how I said it.  Regardless, it was clear on election day that there were a lot of people that didn’t like me, or what I supposedly stood for, and that is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you have to explain this to your kids (by the way, I don’t want to teach creationism in the schools, and have no idea where that outright lie came from!).  Obviously I could have done a much better job communicating to the voters who I am and what I really stand for, but it is also the case that the other side bears a great deal of responsibility in creating a false and misleading picture of me.  Politics ain’t beanbag, to be sure, but I brought a water pistol to a bazooka fight, and that kind of negative, name-calling brand of politics unfortunately won on November 5th.

As a result, I’d like to spend the rest of this piece examining the case my opponents built against me; whether that kind of campaign, though successful in the short-term, really serves the best interests of our community; and whether someone like me, with the principles I believe in, should be or will ever be allowed, to serve the public trust here in Tredyffrin again.  Along the way I hope to suggest a more optimistic, collegial, and effective brand of local politics than the slash and burn variety that we have witnessed these last two election cycles.

So why did I lose?  Four years ago I won by 400 votes, 55%-45%.  This year I lost by over 200 votes, even though I garnered more votes this year than four years ago.  So what happened?  From a sheer numbers perspective, the Democrats turned out their base more than the Republicans did, and in a local race like this, turnout is everything.  How did they do it?  Simple.  They labeled me Tea Party to their supporters – and successfully tarred me with the residue of the recent partial government shutdown, the responsibility of which – rightly or wrongly – has been placed by many at the feet of so-called tea party republicans in DC.  In other words, instead of focusing their campaign on local issues, the democrats nationalized a local election (sometimes Tip O’Neill is wrong; politics is not always local), and the white-hot antipathy local democrats have for the tea party convinced many more of them than usual to come out and cast their ballots not only against me, but other republicans as well.

Now there is a lot to say about these tactics.  First, I think that the partial government shutdown was a collective failure to compromise on the part of the entire elective branches in Washington, and not just some vocal faction that controls only one house out of three.  And with the recent problems with the disastrous roll-out of Obamacare, we will just have to see how this DC morality tale plays out in the weeks and months ahead.  I also think that by and large, local campaigns should be about local issues and not distant fights in far-away capitols (I will have more to say about those local school issues in a moment).  I have no problem with a vigorous and aggressive exchange of views that draw sharp distinctions between candidates.  That is the heart of elections – a debate about competing ideas – and as long as those fights are fought on the merits, I am happy to accept the verdict of my community if they feel my ideas won’t work to solve the pressing issues of the day.  But that is not what happened here!

What did happen was a classic case of guilt by association.  What heinous thing was I guilty of being?  Why, a conservative of course, and working in the conservative movement and with local tea party groups on their constitutional education classes.  So let’s deal with the charge of being a conservative.

I am a constitutional scholar who has a great reverence for the founding principles of our country, and have spent most of my life teaching the story of our country and its animating leaders and ideas to high schoolers, college students, and ordinary citizens who have expressed an interest in learning more.  That’s what I do at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute today, and I am proud of our work in teaching American first principles – constitutional government, free enterprise, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, and traditional moral values.  Since when have those principles become dangerous and subversive?

So again, I guess I am guilty of being a conservative, and I happen to be a conservative of the Edmund Burke, G.K. Chesterton, Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, and Ronald Reagan variety (just to name a few, along with founding fathers like John Adams, James Madison, John Dickinson, and Richard Henry Lee).  If you don’t know who these guys are, look them up and tell me if you disagree with them.  As a “traditionalist” conservative (www.imaginativeconservative.org), I have great sympathies for localism and grave misgivings about corporate “crony” capitalism.  I believe that liberty must always be tempered by the requirements of order and the mercies of justice, which means that we have both rights and duties in a free and virtuous society.  I believe in community and what some now refer to as “crunchy” conservatism, whose tenets are best expressed on this great blog www.frontprochrepublic.com.  I could go on, but I was under the impression that I was running for my local school board on November 5th, which is why I spent all of my campaign talking about my record on the issues, and not about far-away political battles and my particular brand of conservatism.

But my opponents had other thoughts in mind.  For them, conservatism is not a legitimate rival public philosophy that has a distinguished history and respectable intellectual pedigree.  My guess is that the local democrats are completely ignorant of the great thinkers of the modern conservative movement (I can assure you that I know and respect, though disagree with, their great thinkers, like Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Croly, John Dewey, and FDR), and instead rely on caricatures of conservatism from the mass media and their own think tanks and interest groups.  No, conservatism has become a dirty word, boiled down to the epitaph “Tea Bagger” – and like the term “communism” in the 1950’s, this neo-McCarthyite name-calling seems to have worked among a large swath of the electorate, not only here in Tredyffrin but across the country.  I honestly expected more from such a highly-schooled community, but clearly there is an emotional reaction this term engenders and it does the electoral trick (and as a conservative, I too had problems with some of the tactics employed by our politicians in Washington).

I think the main reason why the democrat’s tea party strategy worked is that they equated all conservatives and republicans with the tea party, and then they equated the tea party with one simple word – MEAN.  And there are a lot of Tredyffrin residents who view conservatives exactly in this way.  We are MEAN because at all levels of government we are skeptical of large government programs, and the growing tax burden they require, actually working to solve the very real problems of poverty, hunger, joblessness, and access to quality health care, housing, and education.  But what most people hear, and what conservatives do a horrible job of addressing, is that we are simply against THE PEOPLE who are poor, hungry, jobless, homeless, and lack other basic necessities.  And if that was really true, then conservatives would be MEAN, and should not be trusted in public office.  Since enough people believed that caricature on November 5th, conservatives like me were shown the door.

The only problem with all of this, besides the glaring rhetorical problem conservatives have, is that in my case, I really am not mean.  As a devout and practicing Catholic, I do try to practice my faith through good works for the poor, and a helping hand around the neighborhood.  I think those that know me, even those on the other side of the political aisle, know this to be true.  I really do believe in the parable of the rich man, the camel, and the eye of a needle, and hence know that we can’t serve both God and Mammon, which is why we must be truly charitable with our time, talent and treasure.

I guess what it comes down to is that I don’t believe that the only or primary way to be charitable is through large bureaucratic government programs that spend most of their resources not on their poor clientele but on salaries and benefits of an ever expanding government work force (I would be for a complete de-regulation and consolidation of welfare assistance, cutting out the government middle-men, and increasing cash payments to the truly poor for a fixed period of time).  And with our ever-growing unpaid debts we are incurring – whether it be in Harrisburg with our pensions or in DC with all of our entitlement programs (and now a new one in Obamacare) – the worry I have is that these unsustainable programs will continue to crowd-out private economic activity that produce the jobs that we all need to pay our mortgages, feed our families, and send our kids to school.  The best welfare program still remains a good job!

And so to turn the argument on its head, I actually thinks it’s MEANER to continue to rack-up mountains of debt and debase our currency in Washington; not to address our unsustainable pension obligations in Harrisburg; and not to put a brake on higher and higher property taxes here in Tredyffrin – because this failure to act will end up hurting our kids who will be saddled with debt, hyperinflation, bleak job prospects, and lower standards of living; will damage our educational program as more funds are diverted from the classroom to retirees; and will force more seniors on fixed incomes out of their homes.  In the end, then, it is MEAN to believe in utopian good intentions and hopelessly complex social engineering schemes that not only fail to ameliorate the true suffering that exists in our fallen world, but will also make it that much harder for those who are trying to play by the rules and be self-sufficient to have the spiritual and material resources they need to take care of themselves and not be overly-reliant on government.

As for the actual school board issues that I thought would be the focus of this campaign, I’m not sure that the outcome on the 5th will help us come to terms with the very real problems we all face as a school community.  My opponent Mr. Dorsey criticized me for voting against recent school district budgets, and then his party put up signs saying to stop the cuts to our schools and vote democrat.  Hmmn?  I know that democrats Kevin Buraks and Karen Cruickshank voted for every district budget these last four years, and I voted for one.  Who then voted for the cuts?  I was for the cuts if they were also coupled with a more prudent use of our over $30 million reserve fund to cushion the blow to taxpayers during a recession.  Since that did not happen the last three years, and we raised taxes higher than we should have and still produced surpluses – I voted against those budgets.  Someone needs to tell me which side acted rashly and radically?

Now that I’m off the Board, I can also make clear that when we were negotiating our last teacher contract, which was indeed better than the last one (but that wasn’t hard – average salaries rose 8% per year under that one with virtually no teacher contribution to health care), we were told by our chief negotiator Jeff Sultanik that our $30 million fund balance was a major liability in our bargaining position with the teachers.  That is why the leadership of the Board moved $10 million out of the fund balance into the capital fund where it could not be touched.  Now, we do have anticipated capital projects that need to be paid for, but the more traditional approach would be to issue a bond and have more than one generation help pay for the capital expenditure.  I would have also developed a more transparent plan to draw down some of these reserve funds in a coherent fashion to help cover our growing pension obligations.  Instead, the board leadership decided to use part of the fund balance to give our teachers another bonus to help buy labor peace, and not to give our hard-hit taxpayers a break.

I now hear rumblings that the teachers are indicating that they have given all they can give, and that they will not accept further salary and benefit concessions, so my guess is that they will be looking at that reserve fund as ripe for the picking.  What will Mr. Dorsey and his allies do then – another pay-off bonus?  My guess is that they will also argue that we need more revenue, and with the Act 1 caps in place, they will say that they are forced by circumstances out of their control to adopt an earned income tax for approval by the voters.  My position, not surprisingly, would be different.  To be clear, I would NOT call for a cut in teacher salaries (just FYI, the average teacher makes over $85,000/year plus pension and benefits for 10 months work), but instead would reduce the rate of growth in teacher salaries by completely revamping the salary matrix, instituting pilot merit pay programs, and asking teachers to pay private-sector levels for their health care.  Now that I am off the board, there will be nobody making those kinds of arguments, and your taxes will continue to go up without any commensurate increase in enrollment or academic achievement.

Of course these positions I suggest are not easy to take – some would call them MEAN – but I don’t think realism is mean.  It’s actually what is called for when adults confront tough issues, instead of relying primarily on emotional appeals.  I do think that conservatives need to do a better job of appealing to both the heads and hearts of our community, but that does not mean we shouldn’t make the necessary changes to our system because it might offend those that stand to gain the most from maintaining the status quo.  This is what Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, meant when he reminded us that “a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”  In an ironic twist, it’s conservatives like me who are calling for prudent reforms to the status quo financing of public education in order to save the system, while it is forces on the left – the public sector unions and their democrat allies – who are conservatively maintaining an unsustainable system.  I’m for change, and my opponents are for the status quo – who is for hope and change now?

Finally, a few words about the disturbing tone and declining civility of our local politics.  Two years ago I was the only school board member in Tredyffrin who spoke out publicly against some of the tactics employed during that election cycle.  The issue was the EIT, and while I am strongly opposed to such a measure, I did think we needed to study it, and probably have a public referendum on it to finally put the issue to rest.  There were misleading mailings sent out on this issue, and I took a lot of heat from my side of the aisle by speaking out against them in a public meeting.  I also had written a letter to the editor prior to the election making my opposition clear, but the Suburban refused to run it given its timing (I have the letter and emails to prove it).

That was not an easy thing for me to do, so I was very disappointed that my opponent Mr. Dorsey forgot what I did and proceeded to launch a negative campaign, not against my school board record, but my closely-held beliefs and educational career.  I can tell you that it hurt to have so many people on election-day cast disparaging looks my way, as if I was a leper or worse, because I believe in and work for the Constitution, free enterprise, and traditional values.  I guess Mr. Dorsey also forgot how we collaborated together on the bipartisan survey and forum I did with Sean Moir to help increase public input into school affairs.  I know Mr. Dorsey is a preacher and believes in Christian values like turning the other cheek, which I certainly plan on doing once I pull the knife out of my back.  Eh Tu, Scott?

In the end, we need a better brand of politics that treats rival beliefs not as heresies but as differences between means, not ends.  We all want the same things for our community, we just disagree on the size and scope of the government that is required to help us get to where we all want to be.  I for one would love, as a start, to completely shift the ratio of taxes we pay, so that most goes to our local governments, then the state, and the rest to Washington.  If that happened, not only would there be greater accountability, I think you would be surprised by the new political alliances that would emerge, because I know my brand of communitarian conservatism has a lot in common with such left-of-center causes as historic preservation, open space, local agriculture, the new urbanism, and anti-box store campaigns.

Now don’t get me wrong. I also think Americans as a whole pay far more in taxes than we should (right now, the average American pays 45% of their income in locals, state, and federal taxes, and I think the maximum should be around 30%).  I believe that because I would rather allow Americans to keep more of what they earn so they can practice private charity rather than compulsory government assistance, and to take care of their own problems rather than relying too heavily on government welfare.  Of course, you are free to disagree with me on this, but that doesn’t make me mean-spirited (and to think so might make you narrow-minded and overly-ideological).

What I am hoping for is an entirely new political paradigm that rejects the old bromides of the right and the left, and the cynical politics of personal destruction, and instead looks hard at the pressing issues of the day and offers common sense solutions and not bumper stickers.  And since I now have a lot more time on my hands, I’d be interested in helping begin a new conversation, perhaps even a new coalition, that would be inclusive and not exclusive, that would be open to tea partiers and occupiers, to libertarians and greens, to independents and partisans of all stripes, not because we will always agree with each other, but because we value each other’s opinions and are more interested in the public good rather than private interests that tend to dominate our politics (along with the insiders who benefit from the same old fights).

After all, wouldn’t this be a lot better, and a lot funner, than what we just went through this time around?  I certainly would hope so.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this apologia, and for the great honor of representing you on the T/E School Board.  I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Sincerely,

Richard Brake
Berwyn. PA

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Community Matters © 2017 Frontier Theme