Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E School Board Meeting, 2/22/10 . . . Meeting Highlights from Malvern Resident Ray Clarke

In addition to the Board of Supervisors Meeting last night, at the same time there was a T/E School Board Meeting at Conestoga HS. As usual, my friend Ray Clarke kindly attended the School Board meeting and took notes. Here are the notes . . . thank you Ray!

Selected highlights from the School Board meeting, chaired last night with a light hand by Jim Bruce:

1. The extension of Dr Waters’ contract for a further 5 years. The last item on the Agenda, but given ample discussion. Strong support from the Board, led by Kevin Mahoney, and from community members. There is no salary increase for the full term, and it was emphasized that there are no “side deals” and that effort was made to ensure that this is a “clean contract” It will be available on the district web site soon.

This support seems to me well-deserved (taking the administration’s response ot the budget deficit elimination challenge as one recent example) and it says much about the Board’s commitment to transparency (a word much used last night) and to fiscal restraint, with its benchmark for future contracts of all types. One downside to leadership longevity (Dr Waters will have been the Superintendent for 16 years in 2015) is that you might miss the fresh ideas that an outsider can bring. That perspective can come in part from the Board, and it’s encouraging that we continue to see probing questions from Rich Brake.

2. Bill DeHaven reminded us of the times he climbed the fence at Teamer Field to play football, but more significantly spoke of the Citizen Soldier project that has compiled into a book the names of all T/E residents who served in all the nation’s conflicts up to World War II. The book, available at the CHS and township libraries, is dedicated to its prime mover and my good friend and open space visionary, the late Neil McAloon.

3. Nothing new on the budget, except that – per the Finance Committee discussion – the strategies are being regrouped to link related items, and this list will be available on the web site likely late this week. I had hoped we might hear about substantive discussions of the TEEA offers alluded to at the Finance Committee meeting, but it seems there is nothing to report. Kevin Mahoney emphasized that the Board is taking a 3-5 year perspective on the finances – clearly critical when one element of the near term solution is to use the fund balance, which can only go so far. The Board has recently met with local legislators about the PSERS problem

4. Three items related to our district going digital: a) On line course options will be increased for 2010/11 to 25 courses not currently offered at CHS; b) acknowledgment of the role of blogs like Community Matters as well as all community input (a long list of correspondence to the Board); and c) next year CHS will submit its part of the college application materials electronically – should be a big time-saver, quality improvement and stress-reducer!

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  1. I must take exception to the Contract for the School Superintendent as well as some comments on the lack of Board involvement on Budget matters.
    On the contract — as a business man for nearly 40 years – the last 12 of which was running my own small business of 12 full time employees I would like to know who “drafted” this Contract. I know of no business that would be able to get their Board to approve such a travesty.
    First the base salary of 224,515. PLUS 15 % for benefits. (33,677). If that is not enough we add something that should be explained in simple English called “Competitive Market Rate Adjustment” of 35,000. WHAT IS THAT??? Is this a replacement for his kids educational costs?
    We are not finished – seems that the “Rate Adjustment” does not seem to get the job done so we add another 5,000 per year and call it a “Retention Bonus” And glory be – we are not done as with a salary of 224,515 per year it seems that Dr. Waters can not afford to make his contribution to the state Teachers retirement plan (PSERS) – which by the way all teachers must make from their salaries of no where near 224,515 per year. But are we done yet — on a compensation package of over 300,000 per year it seems that we the taxpayers should provide a car for Dr. Waters for his business & personal use and it is tough making ends meet on that 300K pe year so we will pay for his gasoline, oil, repairs, insurance (liability & property damage) and all maintenance.
    I wonder which member of the Board takes credit for working on this.
    And now to the Board. It is certainly a positive step to ask Administration to submit recommendations for budget cuts. However – there is a glaring area missing in the recommendations – and that is Administration itself. It is hard to imagine that they would recommend making cuts to their close friends they see every day or suggest consolidation of jobs on West Valley Road. Dr. Waters wants to pat himself on his back for item 7 on the original proposal entitled “Eliminate Supervisor of Special Ed Position” for a savings of 140,000. This is a reduction due to a schedule retirement or “attrition” and not from a belt tightening. However the more interesting point is that item 6 on the original proposal is “Eliminate all CHS Classes with fewer that 15 students” and has a value of 146,000. In response to questions Administration said this was equivalent to 2 FTE’s. So – 2 teachers equal 146,000 and one Admin person equals 140,000. Interesting..
    Now we have a shortfall yet no where in any of these numbers is there any consideration or recognition of the value of disposable Real Estate. Several years ago the Board approved the PURCHASE of the buildings on West Valley Road to house Waters and his people. They did this with a cost of purchase and retro-fitting of over 7 million dollars — ooops no more budget shortfall. If this is not bad enough – this was done with no PLAN to dispose of the ESC building in Berwyn and no plan today other than to ask for a study to tell he Board what it will cost to knock it down. The District also owns 4 – 5 houses next to the T/E Middle School which they now say will be demolished. I would ask why?? The expansion of the parking lots were tabled so why not SELL these houses — even at a below market rate of 150,000 per house it seems we could save 4 or more FTE’s or buy one hell of a lot of supplies or teachers aids.
    I would suggest that the Board has an Fiduciary obligation to the taxpayers in the District and at the moment they are not carry out their duties. Starting with the blatant approval of Waters contract to the District owning non-productive real estate.

    I would propose that we sell the West Valley Property and send Waters and his people back to the ESC building and we may solve the shortfall.

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