Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Teachers Union Files Grievance against T/E over Additional Teaching Period

Have you ever attended a meeting where you left shaking your head in confusion and wondering exactly what was decided? Last night’s Finance Committee meeting of the school district was that kind of meeting for me. I would think it was just me, except that following up with Ray Clarke, who also attended the meeting; I took solace that some of what was said too confused him.

Unfortunately, if Ray and I were a tad confused, I fear that the standing-room only crowd in attendance may be likewise. Here are some of the highlights; if you attended the meeting, and find that, I misunderstood the information, please jump in.

The remaining 2012-13 budget deficit is $1.5 million. There are 3 budget strategies under review to bridge the gap:

  1. Strategy N-14: Solicitation of tax-exempt property owners for payment in lieu of taxes. A letter from the District would go to these property owners requesting a payment in lieu of taxes equal to 10% of the total amount if their property was not tax-exempt. The District will do the research and insert the actual dollar amount of what they would pay (if not tax-exempt) along with the requested 10 percent amount. There is a potential of $5 million from the 308 tax-exempt property owners. This is a 2-prong approach – the District will be quantifying to see if any property owners have lost their non-profit status and there should be paying taxes, and to ask for donations from non-profit property owners. Interesting to note that 2 of the largest non-profit property owners are Tredyffrin Township and Tredyffrin Easttown School District.
  2. Strategy N-19: Increase class size by one student. Grades K & 1 would go from 22 to 23 students, Grade 2 from 23 to 24 students, Grades 3 & 4 from 25 to 26 students and Grades 5 & 6 from 27 to 28 students. Estimated savings: $607K
  3. Strategy N-16: Demotion of professional staff for economic reasons. Estimated savings: $640K TESD solicitor Kenneth Roos attended the Finance Committee meeting and gave his legalize during the meeting, as needed. He explained that the District could not demote on merit because it is subjective. Demotion cannot be “arbitrary or capricious”. Dr. Waters offered that by demoting those with the highest salaries, the impact would be lessened with fewer teachers affected. The solicitor confirmed that the TEEA contract is silent on the subject of demotion.

Last year, budget strategies numbered 31-35 combined are listed as a cost savings of $1.125 million — these strategies were ultimately approved in the 2011-12 budget. Strategy 31 requires high school teachers to teach 6 periods per day, Strategy 32 maintains the 8 periods per day at Conestoga and limit students to 42 periods per cycle. Strategy 33 requires science lab teachers at Conestoga to teach 5 classes, Strategy 34 eliminates German and Latin in the middle school and final Strategy 35 curtails applied tech, FC and Tech Ed in Grades 5 and 6.

Because of increased teaching periods that started this school year, an announcement by school board member Betsy Fadem last night that was surprising. It is my understanding from Fadem and the solicitor that the teachers union has filed a grievance against the District in regards to the additional teaching period in the high school — Conestoga teachers are teaching 6 periods per day versus 5 periods.

The TEEA grievance topic was the number one most confusing, and least explained item of last night. Between Ray Clarke and me, we have tried to figure out what was said but there was little to go on. There is a potential $1 million price tag associated with this grievance, should the District lose. There is an additional problem (which could be costly in time and money) that’s the rescheduling required if TEEA prevails and the number of teaching periods returns to where it was before this budget strategy was imposed.

The statement from Roos on TEEA grievance was confusing. I absolutely do not understand the scope of the grievance, the timeline for appeal, associated costs, etc.; the public is owed a much more comprehensive explanation than was offered last night. We all left the meeting shaking our heads and not understanding this grievance issue. I couldn’t help but wonder is this a ‘balance of the scales’ contract strategy from TEEA against the ‘demotion talk’ from the school district? Please school board, can the taxpayers have transparency and explanation on this important issue. If there are any teachers who can shed light on the complaint, please help us understand.

The only other item I will mention from last night had to do with creating a way for residents to donate to the school district to help the budget. Many residents have spoken out that they would like to contribute with donations to the District, some suggesting that they were willing to see their taxes increased to ensure the quality of the T/E education. There was discussion about having a ‘button’ on the District’s website for contributions and setting up a foundation to collect donations (as a Great Valley organization recently did). In addition, FLITE is willing to have contributions go through their organization that would be earmarked for the District. A number of students and parents spoke out in support of voluntary contributions to the District.

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  1. This is a wonderful way for the TEEA to show how open and willing they are to help both the school and taxpayers during these tough economic times.

    This should show everyone in TESD exactly where the teachers union’s true interests lie during the contract negotiations: neither with the students or the future of the TESC.

    1. Thank you FTW. You are exactly on point. And this is what anyone familiar with the historical negotiations could have forecast.

      The board and the union do not negotiate. They want to WIN….. filing this grievance well into the school year is evidence that everyone gets out their guns and wants to see whose is bigger…. I’m ashamed of them all.

      But teachers — again — we get the success and sustanability numbers. WHERE ARE YOURS????? A grievance is just a way to be obstreporous. Hardly a conciliatory move.

  2. I work at the elementary level and really have no clue about this grievance. I just know what everyone else knows…that they increased the number of periods taught at the high school from 5 to 6. It could have to do with prep time. Prep time is built into the contract, and there is a minimum that must be met when they make schedules at the high school level. There are certain restrictions too. Time is not considered prep unless its 30 minutes or more at a time. For example, you couldn’t count the 4 minutes in between class as prep time. I do remember discussions about whether this breached the contract when it first happened (last year I think), but being in the elementary grades, it never really was discussed at our building meetings. When they made the change from 5 to 6 periods, it allowed them to fade out part time positions and spots given up by retired teachers, saving money.

    I just wish all this extra stuff would be over with, and that both sides could just get together, and figure something out. Its definitely possible. At our membership meeting we were shown summaries of both sides’ initial proposals. You could tell that the administration was trying to draw a hard line on many parts of the contract and trying to take out a lot of things, but it was also the first offer, and as with negotiations, you have what you start with and where you are willing to end up. The same with our proposal. I can say that the salary schedule was almost no different than the current (minimal increases [1-2%]down the line, but most importantly for the district freezes for the next few years, and no increase at the top). The administration wanted 4-6% decrease in salary, but I am sure they would be more than happy with the union’s initial salary proposal especially if there was a change in health care plans, which we were informed that in our counter proposal, we addressed, and offered a changed plan. The problem seems to be that the administration refused to discuss it and said single coverage only, no option for the family. That’s all we are offering, no discussion. I think this is what led to all of the press releases and news letters, and the he said she said a few weeks ago. Both sides got defensive and that is not going to help anything. One thing I found shocking was that at this point in the negotiations in the last contract the district and union had met something like 15 times, but so far, both sides have only met 4. After our first proposal, the district said nothing for a month, and then came out with their proposal, but didn’t address any part of our proposal. Then in the few meetings following, when our second proposal was made, they did not want to discuss that one either, and things have been at a stand still since.

    I really hate all of this stuff, and while most teachers I talk to a saying, “lets get this going, lets just move on, make it work”….others are getting upset by all that is transpiring and developing a stubborn nature about the negotiations. Unfortunately, I think both parties at the negotiating table are feeling and acting like that, and it’s hurting everyone.

    1. Thank you TE Teacher for shedding light on what you know of the negotiating process. In regards to health insurance, I continue to find it remarkable that the District is not moving on employee spouse/family coverage. Understanding that the teachers would need to pay for the additional coverage, WHY should this be such a sticking point. Without the option of spouse/family coverage, there is certain to be situations where teachers will not be able to stay in the District. Thank you again for your candor!

      1. Again, another extremist proposal. We need to remember that it cannot happen without ratification, so it’s rather moot.

  3. TE basically laid all the numbers out for everyone. I am sure we all got that email. If the union can change the laws of math, then they will have great success.

    1. I got that email too. I am not saying their numbers are wrong or right. For however they calculated them, I am sure they are right…but what I want to know is what all factored in to the calculation? Does the PSERS contribution factor in…if so, of course the number is going to get higher and higher, because as we know, that is going up every year, but I thought that is what the fund balance was for… I just want to know how they calculated those exact numbers. Without all the details it’s easy to make something look a certain way. I am sure my union will come out with a response that shows a different number because they will factor in things that the district did not. The only true way to know is to let the public in on the exact costs of everything proposed from both sides.

  4. The grievance procedure (with timeline) is spelled out in Section 5 of the union contract.
    This grievance will, most likely, find its way to binding arbitration spelled out under Section 903 of the PA Employee Relations Act (PERA)
    Filing of grievances and unfair labor practice charges are standard union negotiating tactics.

  5. I’m assuming the the email mentioned above is latest Success & Sustainability Newsletter from TESD – it’s available here -

    The most interesting point to me is on page 3 – “Have Proposals Been Exchanged?” Seems that this is the heart of the matter but there’s not enough information to understand what the proposals were.

  6. Keith – it is also a sign that they know what is coming. Look, they aren’t going to be eating cat food. This is hysterics pure and simple.

    TE Teacher – read the entire email especially the part about expected pension contributions. I actually think the contribution amounts could be higher than what they are projecting. That is just an educated guess though based on my years of experience in doing those types of calculations.

  7. TE Teacher’s comments provide a very helpful window into the teacher perspective, and also fundamental words of wisdom:

    “The only true way to know is to let the public in on the exact costs of everything proposed from both sides.”

    Exactly what does the minimal [1-2%] increase proposed by TEEA mean? The whole matrix would go up by that amount? That would mean that the overall increase would be 1-2%, plus the step increases (straight average 3.9%), plus certification increases, less retirements, plus new hires. The devil is in the details!

    Similarly, what does the district health insurance proposal really involve? Surely not no option to obtain family coverage?

    You’d think that the district’s projection model for total [compensation plus benefits] would be a fairly obvious bound on what would be an acceptable total expense.

    Last night’s meeting prompts the thought: should the district go all-in on fund raising and set up a development office on the college/private school model? One-off donations might be very difficult to manage and budget for, but steady funding from an alumni/corporate supported endowment would be another matter.

    1. Going off what I remember from the slides….it was a three year contract. first year was a pay freeze. So matrix would be the same as this year, no movement, no step increases, no certification increases. I think the second year was no step or certification movement again but the matrix increased 1-2%. So if a person was at 75,000 in the first year of new contract, the following year they would get a 1-2% raise…lets say 1.5%…so they’d get a $1,125 raise in year 2 of the contract. I think year 3 was matrix stays the same as year 2, but every moves one step like they normally would. There was also something with the highest step on the matrix where there was no movement or change at all for the first two years (or something like that)

      1. Thanks TE Teacher. I’ll use the 2011 certified matrix and tell you what that would cost.

      2. Something is amiss in what TE Teacher was shown at the union meeting and what the District has shown in their recent newsletter.
        The District has shown the increased cost of the teachers contract offer over the status quo to be:
        Year 1 $0.7M
        Year 2 $2.2M ($1.5M in Year 2 + the additional cost in Year 1 of $0.7M)
        Year 3 $4.3M ($2.1M + 1.5M + 0.7M)
        An increase of $0.7M in Year 1 equates to step movement with no matrix movement.
        An increase of $1.5M in Year 2 equates to step movement plus 2% on the matrix.
        An increase of $2.1M in Year 3 equates to step movement plus 3.5% on the matrix.

        1. Like I said before, we were not given a handout of the slides or supposed to be taking notes and taking this information out into the public so I tried to remember the best that I could. It was a week ago and a lot of other things have crossed my mind since then. I don’t remember the exact proposal, but I do remember there were freezes in pay and in the matrix and in step movements in some combination. Sorry I could not be more exact. People wanted an idea of what was offered so I was trying my best to provide that. Again for the exact details of the offer, you would have to get them from the negotiating committee and since that’s not possible on my end…we would need the district to explain the math in their newsletter so we can see where the changes come in…

    2. FLITE is already a foundation in place to support programs in the schools. Makng donations directly to the district is just misguided. My opinion, but this is about solutions, not symbolism.

      And yes Ray — note that even a well-meaning teacher says “only 1 or 2 percent” — because they just don’t have the information. I have said before — no one can tell anythuing about the cost of the staff unless they match up the matrix (where the people are) with the schedule (changes annually).

      I posted before and it received no response — it’s almost like no one wnats to get mired iin the details. Don’t people find it staggering to think that since July 1, 2008 (which is the first day of this contract — the salaries of the 7 members of the negotiating committee have risen from $493K to $612 K. (They got a raise to get to this number — June 30th in the previous contract they were likely making another major step less). The final raise for each of them on this salary schedule totalled $48,000. 7 people. 48,000 increase from year 3 to year 4 of this salary schedule.

      So indeed, the devil is in the details. But why confuse ourselves with those? Let’s just let the rhetoric win the day.

      1. Well, the one teacher who consistently posts on this board (that’s me), didn’t see that kind of increase in their salary over the last 4 years….not even close. If you take off the 4 from the 48,000….that seems about right. The last contract (current contract) really benefited those step ten and higher, and masters +15 and higher. Those teachers are obviously in that range. On a personal level, it sucks for me because I am never going to see those big jumps in salary which would have greatly improved my quality of life, but knowing that and being disappointed by that I am still okay with the fact that pay freezes, little movement, and benefit changes are going to have to happen. Most people across the US, especially those in the middle class,are suffering due to the economy. I know that it is what it is. I feel like if I am okay with it and willing to accept it, then those who have benefited from this current contract should be willing to change/be okay with change too. That’s what I am trying to stress to people I talk to that are all worked up about this process. I said to someone today…you benefited greatly from this contract, and even if huge changes are made, its not going to send you back to where you were before this last contract. As they say, sh** happens. In this case, for the overall health of our district, it has to happen. I would rather take a pay freeze and change my benefits than see this school district spiral downwards. As I stated weeks ago, each year in this district has left me more and more worried about its direction. Its going to take sacrifices from everyone…teachers, admin, board, taxpayers, etc to save this district and get it back to where it was 6 or 7 years ago.

        1. TE Teacher has identified the reality that most unions negotiate contracts that benefit those with seniority, and will throw under the bus the new hires in order to protect the more senior members.

          “The last contract (current contract) really benefited those step ten and higher, and masters +15 and higher. Those teachers are obviously in that range”

  8. Ray – I actually think that is a good idea. I would be for it. That would allow us who have children in the district to pay more as we see fit. However, I will NOT give if it goes towards keeping an overly generous health insurance package in place.

  9. All things being equal I wish the teachers could continue with the status quo.

    All things aren’t equal though. The math flat out doesn’t work.

  10. I don’t dislike the teachers, but I really dislike the Union..what a load of C**P bringing a grievance now. I hope the district takes a hard stance and says go pound sand and sticks to their guns financially. This is going to get uglier before it gets settled. Cooler heads in the TEEA need to take over and be reasonable. Is it not clear that this district can not afford more contract in this current day/time? Settle without animosity and take a better shot down the road. Talk about bringing the district down – everything is about teachers being demoralized, demotions, etc. Grow up, get a better attitude and be a professional about your job. Filing a grievance is not the way to win taxpayer minds!

    1. Just an FYI…I looked into this today and asked around. This was filed a whiile ago, months…it was just being brought into the public now by the district-and supposedly/technically its not to be discussed publicly because it’s a legal issue.

      Not saying that is going to change your mind, but to know that it was filed months and months ago does make a difference.

      1. TE Teacher, thank you. As a resident and taxpayer, I find is so troubling that our school board would decide to exploit the grievance filing in the midst of contract negotiations. I don’t know how it works with the school board, but in township business, legal and personnel matters can only be discussed in ‘executive session’ with supervisors and the solicitor — supervisors are NOT permitted to discuss these type of matters in the public. Apparently, this same restriction does not exist with the school board. What is interesting is that when Betsy Fadem divulged the grievance filing it was implied by her that it was very recent — certainly did not give the audience any notion that it was actually months ago. Shame on the board for this type of grandstanding to get the public to move to ‘their side’ and against the teachers. And I don’t really care to hear that this is just part of the ‘negotiating game’! Very disappointed in the school board.

        1. I strongly disagree. The board has an obligation to reveal the existence of a legal issues that may have a significant bearing on which cost saving strategies the board adopts. In fact, if the board enters an executive session to discuss a grievance they are obligated to give the pubic a specific reason for the executive session. “Discuss legal matters” won’t suffice; the board is obligated to give a specific reason such as “discuss a grievance”.
          A significant court decision clarified requirements of this portion of the Sunshine Act when it ruled the reason
          for holding an executive session must be specific. A city council had announced an executive session to
          discuss matters of litigation. A newspaper objected to the closed meeting because the litigation matters were
          not announced with specificity. The trial court ruled the council must spell out in connection with existing
          litigation the names of the parties, the docket number and the court in which it is filed.

          Further, there is no legal or ethical obligation to discuss legal matters in executive session unless the information revealed is protected by other statues. (e.g. personnel files). The Board may choose to discuss the details of the grievance and the strategy of addressing the grievance in executive session, but can also choose to do so in public.
          The stance that “supervisors are NOT permitted to discuss these type of matters in the public” is in error and contrary to the very openness ( the terms of the offers) that many of us desire from our elected officials.

          1. Keith, at every Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting, the chair announces at the start of the meeting that “the board met in executive session and discussed legal and personnel matters” — end quote. That happens at every BOS meeting. I’m not saying that I think its OK or that I like it, but we are told and the solicitor concurs, that the board members will not discuss these matters in public. For instance, I know that the police contract negotiations have been going on for awhile now & that is never discussed or updates given — for legal reasons. I have not objection to the school board members telling the public that a grievance was filed but … it that filing occurred months ago (or a year ago as someone mentioned) than I take real issue that the District decides that now is the time to tell the public. My guess is the grievance was indeed filed a ways back because the high school teachers started teaching the extra period last September so why would they wait until now to file it (especially in the midst of contract negotiations). No, I’m sure it filed some time ago, but the information was conveniently delivered up to the public in mid-May. What do they say — timing is everything.

        2. Keith, if they are allowed to do it and it is important, why didn’t they bring it up when it was initially filed?

        3. Here’s portion of section 5 from teachers contract noted by another on the grievance issue:

          The parties to this Agreement agree that an orderly, expeditious and equitable resolution of grievances arising out of the interpretation of the terms of this Agreement shall be provided for by the five (5) step process which is described below. The purpose of this procedure is to secure, at the lowest pos- sible level, equitable solutions to grievances which may from time to time arise affect-ing members of the Bargaining Unit. Both parties agree that these pro- ceedings will be kept as confidential as may be appropriate at any level of the procedure.

          5.048 Separate Grievance File
          Documents, communications and records dealing with the processing of a grievance shall be held confidential and shall be filed in a separate griev- ance file in the personnel office. However, for auditing review purposes, nota- tion shall be made in the individual’s personnel file only if any change in finan- cial status arises out of the grievance process.

          Does anyone feel it’s inappropriate that board can ask for money from non profits when public budget projections, at this point of budget process, did not include/consider a calculation for the 17 retiring teachers?

        4. A few comments:

          Specific Reason For Executive Session
          The court case quoted above is very clear that “the board met in executive session and discussed legal and personnel matters” is not sufficient. It’s a common error by solicitors; they can’t be current on every nuance of Law. And if solicitors are uninformed, imagine the effect on officials and the public. A statement such as, “we met in executive session to discuss a grievance” would probably be sufficient. The Sunshine Act has no “teeth” so there is no penalty for not giving a specific reason. However, a public statement pointing out the error would probably nudge the school board or township supervisors to comply. From the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors:
          The public announcement must provide meaningful information to the public about the executive session. The information provided must be extensive enough to describe a real, discrete situation and may not be so general as to be meaningless. Requiring agencies to specifically inform the public of the nature of private discussions balances the public’s right to know with the agency’s need to keep some matters private for the good of the public.
          From the PA School Board Association:
          The Sunshine Act requires that even though it is in the public interest that certain matters be discussed in private, the public has a right to know what matter is being addressed in those sessions. The General Assembly intends for people to get this information so they can determine from the reason given that the executive session is proper. … The purpose should be fairly descriptive, but need not contain so much information that the issues to be discussed privately in fact become public.
          Discussing Legal Matters Publicly
          There are various levels of disclosure. I don’t see any disadvantage to either party by revealing that there is a disagreement and the general nature of the disagreement/grievance/court filing such as “the teachers are grieving the 8 period workday”. There may be a tactical disadvantage to revealing a detailed justification of your position as this would give the other side an advantage before an arbitrator or judge. But there is no legal reason a grievance cannot be discussed in public. Let’s remember that the arbitrator will eventually publish a report with all the details as was done with the e-learning grievance.

          As per the teacher’s contract, there are various stages in the grievance process with timing spelled out. Many grievances are routinely settled amicably before proceeding to arbitration and there is little need to discuss the grievance in executive session or to inform the public. Why was it revealed at the last public meeting? We can’t get into the head of Ms. Fadem and it may have been “grandstanding”. More likely, though, is that the grievance has just been referred to an arbitrator or the grievance has a direct bearing on one of the cost reduction strategy being addressed at the meeting – the demotion strategy.

        5. I was aware of this grievance at the start of the school year. My limited understanding at that time (It was liberally discussed) was that they (the high school teachers) would grieve teaching the additional period, especially going into a new contract. The previous contract is allegedly silent on the issue of how many periods they teach — and they are grieving that it represents a change in working conditions so required bargaining to implement. There is a right to discuss things in executive session, but no obligation.
          Bringing this up at a Finance meeting is the obvious place to put people on notice, because if the teachers are successful in this grievance (and sadly, many grievances go the way of the union in my experience), this could be a major cost issue retroactively (depending on the relief)…or at the very least will influence staffing decisions at the high school going forward. Teachers have a 7:35 contract day plus half an hour for lunch….duty free prep time and other things spelled out. Traditionally they taught 5 periods a day…leaving 3 periods free for prep and duty and advisory etc. The only basis for the grievance is if it is a change in working conditions — you know — your boss gets to tell you what to do without asking.
          Simplistic….ask the elementary teachers about the nature of their work day. They teach all but their prep period. This is a high school issue — guess where the union power lies?

  11. TE parent, I feel exactly as you do. I hope others in the community won;t get weak kneed and buckle. We need to be strong here in fighting off the union tactics. The teachers would be best served if they get a hold of their negotiating team from the state brownshirts and take control. This grievance has really ticked me off. And strengthened my resolve.
    Not good.

  12. I disagree with Twp Reader that FLITE’s foundation should be a catch-all for individual and corporate donations for our District. Its mission statement specifies that “FLITE targets its funding toward programs that reach groups and individual students who are unable to take full advantage of the curriculum and activities that the District offers.” A worthy focus, no doubt.

    However, alumni, (grand)parents, residents and area corporations should have broader opportunities for giving to particular areas of study, even to individual courses, programs and teachers.

    FLITE’s mission to identify and meet individual students’ needs should remain separate, in my view.

    I believe the District should have its own outreach program with its own Board and representatives from each district school. Fundraising and grant-writing efforts can be both coordinated district-wide and school specific.

    Though at least in the early years, donations will be hard to predict and budget for, I think this kind of funding could make a measurable difference, and I’m all for making an all-out effort.

    Another “giving” option open to all property owners – residential AND commercial: don’t pursue reassessment.
    The District is reeling from these permanent losses in revenue. T/E has a lower tax rate than any area school district besides Upper Merion. You have gotten good value for your tax dollars over the years. Those who can should pay their fair share to protect our schools. That includes you, Vanguard!

    1. FLITE is identified as a non-profit foundation for the purposes of tax deductions and the TE school district.
      Great Valley, Radnor and I’m sure countless others have similar foundations. The district is not in the business of fundraising, nor should it be. I’m certain tax deductible donations to FLITE could be designated. I for one don’t want to see public gestures co-mingled with tax dollars. Aren’t these the same people who critized the fund raising for the Fire Department?

    2. Kate – Love your “That includes you, Vanguard” comment…. Are you honestly proposing that Vanguard, or any other company in TE, should voluntarily sacrifice shareholder value by forgoing reassessment in order to prop up the TESD budget ??? You are too much.

      1. Corporate responsibility dictates that corporations act as responsible citizens in any community. Unfortunately, corporations have chosen to balance the needs of their stockholders over the needs of their community. Remember, without the community supporting the roads, the bridges, the police, and the rest of the infrastructure, Vanguard would have to build those devices themselves. Additionally, I would argue that TE functions as the “minor leagues” of academia for Vanguard and other corporations.
        They choose to abandon their corporate responsibility at their own peril. When their “minor leagues” go down the tubes they will have to educate their employees themselves.

        1. “balance the needs of the stockholders over the community”?? More talking points without any basis of fact. Next comes the “fair share” argument right?

          You clearly have no understanding of Vanguard culture, it’s corporate giving, it’s community outreach, or most importantly the structure of the company – and how it’s expenses directly effect it’s shareholder returns….

          Also, you and Kate must be forgetting that Vanguard BUILT it’s entire campus in Tredyffrin and CREATED property value that didn’t exist before. They have contributed more than their “fair share” already.

          How about we balance the TESD budget WITHOUT searching for new revenue sources or expecting bigger support from those already “doing their part”.

        2. blue dog you are channeling Elizabeth Warren on this. Well its one way to look at it… Not sure how it relates to school taxes though.

      2. Im thinking that kate, based on her vanguard comment must be giving her “fair share” of charity and beneficence to the School district in the form of additional payments.

        This one is a head scratcher, but unfortunately probably not uncommon. Where do folks get these kinds of ideas?

        1. Not So Fast

          Yor comments about Vanguard’s contributions are worthy, but Kate’s concern that assessment appeals are hurting the community are also worthy. She’s not suggesting that Vanguard apply as a non-profit — just that they don’t join the sinking ship brigade and take advantage of the fact that because properties are declining in value, we can all claim that decline for our own. Vanguard created the value of their campus, and that’s important. But the area around it has also benefited. For them to do a major assessment appeal simply reduces the value of all properties…
          I know that is convoluted, but you can be serious about capitalism and still see a request to stick with us a while longer as fair.

        2. Township Reader – I hear what you are saying, but still completely disagree. One of the key tenets of Vanguard is low expenses to their shareholders – for them to forgo the opportunity to reduce their property tax burden would be totally foolish – and completely contrary to their stated mission.

          The prop value decline IS their own to claim. And mine too! Assessment appeals (regardless of size) do not drive down prop value, in fact successful reductions do exactly the opposite…

          It is time for the Board to figure this out by reducing expenditures, not by trying to influence revenue. We need creative leadership – need leaders to be transparent and honest.

    3. I have an idea: let’s stop the insanity and focus on EXPENSES instead of revenue (taxes, state funding, etc.)

      This is the time for our community to come together and stand strong against the teachers’ union and their tactic of using our kids as pawns.

      We can be fair to our quality teachers (and, of course, we have to be fair to the non-quality ones as well since the union has made sure they are well protected) in this new contract while still facing economic realities. Both sides can get a fair deal…and teachers (not their union) can get the respect they deserve.

      If we cut and control expenses (and the previous Board failed on this) we can build a system that provides a strong education and is sustainable financially. (Whether Vanguard or anyone else applies for reassessment.)

      I fear, however, this new Board doesn’t seem to have the backbone.

      1. FTW
        While I usually agree with your pragmatism, it’s too simplistic to talk about cutting expenses. This is a negotiation, the the revenue forecast directly impacts the options associated with spending.
        But I do agree that thsi board is misguided…not about backbone, but they do whine a lot.
        I repeat again that Act 120 of 2010 DID help with the PSERS crisis….significantly. It didn’t make it go away, and the board needs to fess up to their own indifference to the pension issues in the way they pay administrators and senior teachers etc. These are great employees and we should work to retain them, but not at the 2.5% pension accrual AND raises. We are compounding our own problems.

        In the current teacher matrix, 35% are on the final step. With the next “step” increase, 40% will be on it (again, no information about retirees — but there is a declaration date after which those names should be available) A 2.5% accrual on your pension IS a raise….costing all taxpayers across the state. So putting money on the last step should be very well thought out — and asking for it likewise.

    4. Kate – Nice way to run Vanguard out of Tredyffrin. You are brilliant. Have you ever thought of running for office, because it would be spectacular.

      1. evidently Kate is just looking for deep pocketed help and and altruistic ear. If vanguard felt like deferring a tax re assessment it should be their private decision. Grandstanding in public, which can put our corporate neighbor in a PR bind is really irresponsible.

        When the real estate market was high, Vanguard, like all of us paid the tax. And no one complained. But as real estate values dropped, we should expect tax re assessments to drop that income stream.. Its the law, its structural and relying on the whimsy of the good will from a ‘corporate” neighbor is not sound fiscal policy, from the gov’t s perspective and from the corporations perspective. Seems like a set up to bash those corporate monsters.

        1. But Fllyers Fan — IF the market rebounds, the district in all probability cannot go the other way — get assessments to where they belong — the state is doing legislation to grab any gains from a rebound (any reassessments retoractively may also cost the district as the state wants the money). SO — asking Vanguard and others to slow down the assessment appeal might seem greedy, but it’s reality. The tax millage is based on an assessed value. IF the assessed value changes, the taxes don’t adjust to recapture lost revenue. So let’s lighten up on the idea Kate put forward. If Vanguard is a good corporate neighbor, which we know they are, they have a decision to make. They are not wrong going either way, but community support to ask them to ride this out with us isn’t unfair.
          And it’s not “whimsy” to rely on a taxable base. When you buy a CD, the principal stays the same, the rates change. But for the district, they tax a base. Their costs don’t go down because the value of real estate dips — and they cannot recapture the lost revenue when the value returns.

          Can no one understand this other side?

        2. township reader, Look I don’t have to defend Vanguard, and we may never agree on this but you seem to want to punish low cost vanguard for their successful business model, pay more of their “fair share” because of their success. Sounds all too familiar. And folks like kate want to put the onus to get our financial house in order on the corporate sector, almost always villified but never forgotten when some one needs a handout. Sorry, but vanguard can do what they want. But I totally disagree with yours and Kates premise. Are you going to forgo your reassessment? Thats your decision but I have no currency in telling you to do so. The fact is we are getting off the subject of reigning in costs that our school system incurs and we cannot afford. So your party looks for revenues. the other party looks for expense cuts. maybe working together it will get done/

      2. I can understand not agreeing with something that somebody said, but is it necessary to also insult them in the process? For a second I forgot I was on a community blog and not back in the 90’s in a teen chat room.

        1. When someone says something that nonsensical, any way you respond is hard not to sound insulting.

        2. I don’t agree with her either, but there were some pretty harsh personal shots at her intelligence…

  13. Pattye, I still have a headache from the Monday evening meeting!

    But the following is what I came away with besides a headache:

    • Envelope will be enclosed with non-profit request for money letter.

    • Questions were asked by board as to legality of demotion as proposed. I feel Roos stammered with his legalize explanation of demotion. Demotion doesn’t sound so cut and dry. I think the board will be faced with a huge on-going litigation expense if board proceeds with demotion the way they have been defining the strategy.

    • I was surprised at the mention of the grievance– is this even appropriate to discuss in public? See teacher contract, Section 5- Grievance (last sentence). If this grievance could cost $1 mil to the district (if district fails with litigation) imagine what the demotion strategy could cost!

    • Teachers were correct — 17 retiring teachers were not factored in the budget projections.

    • Some comments from community suggested: that all work together; the district name may already be somewhat tarnished by the demotion commotion; parents are willing to pay for extras; asking for money from non- profits may be a waste of time; have a way to directly donate on district website.

    However, aside from my notations above, I do have a question in regards to the salary matrix analysis described by other bloggers:

    Note the following from teacher contract:

    2.02 SALARY
    2.021 Salary – Initial Placement
    The salary for Employees first employed (no prior professional teach- ing experience) shall be at Step 1 of the agreed Salary Schedule.
    For Employees hired on or after the effective date of this contract, placement on the salary schedule will be at the step reflecting their education level and years of teaching experience, capped at Step 8. This cap may be waived at the discretion of the Employer.

    Does anyone know how many teachers were hired in the last 4 years and where he or she was initially placed on the matrix when hired? And, if any teacher was waived from being capped at Step8?
    I’m sure that all new hires in the past 4 years with their “initial” matrix placement have much to do with the overall cost of teacher salaries derived from the matrix today–not just the teachers hired before the start of this present contract.

    It seems like this section of the teachers contract most benefits the district (employer) by having the ability to hire (attract) teachers with experience and education; therefore, is a direct contradiction to their demotion strategy.

    Basically with this demotion strategy, the board is saying that we want to hire (attract) you with experience and advanced education and we are willing to make an exception to place you higher on the matrix (above step8) for your experience. But since we can’t retain you because we won’t be able to afford you, we will have to demote part or all of you at some point in your career with TE.

  14. The matrix as reported on 10/15/2011 to the Union from the District is as follows : (Note that as of Jan 1, 2012, each of these people moved up a step – this was the 2010-11 Calculation)
    Step 1: 6 B, 3 M
    Step 2: 2 B, 3 M
    Step 3: 2 B, 3 M, 1 M+15
    Step 4: 4 B, 3 M, 3 M+15. 1 M+30
    Step 5: 3 B, 7 M, 2 M+15, 3 M+30
    Step 6: 10 B, 6 M, 2 M+15, 2 M30, 3 M45, 1 PhD
    Step 7: 2 B, 12 M, 7 M15, 6 M30, 1 M45, 3 M60,
    Step 8: 2 B, 8 M, 8 M15, 3 M30, 3 M45,3 M60
    Step 9: 1 B, 10 M, 12 M15, 6 M30, 3 M45, 3 M60
    Step 10: 3 B, 6 M, 11 M15, 7 M30, 3 M45, 2 M60
    Step 11: 3 B, 9 M, 2 M15, 5 M30, 7 M45, 3 M60, 1 PhD
    Step 12: 0 B, 4 M, 6 M15, 5 M30, 1 M45, 5 M60, 1 PhD
    Step 13: 0 B, 4 M, 8 M15, 4 M30, 1 M45, 1 M60, 1 PhD
    Step 14: 1 B, 8 M, 4 M15, 4 M30, 1 M45, 4 M 60, 1 PhD
    Step 15: 4 B, 7 M, 4 M15, 4 M30, 2 M45, 2 M 60
    Step 16: 12 B, 33 M, 22 M15, 19 M30, 7 M45, 37 M60, 5 PhD

    This is 447 FTEs. Given part-time calculations, there are 440 FTEs total.

    If there are 17 retirements, we would need to know who they are to modify this matrix.

    This can be used in conjunction with the salary schedule to calculate costs.

  15. I too was surprised at the mention of the grievance and I wonder if bringing it up at the meeting was meant to get everyone upset at the teachers. I have heard that this process was started at least a year ago. So, I find it interesting that it was brought up by the board at a very strategic time.

    Does anyone else find it strange that the board has not decided to move the meeting to the high school as they have done in the past, especially when they were well aware that so many people were planning to attend. I heard the sound in some of the room was not working.

    1. Rachel, I could not agree more. Last year, there were several times when District meetings were held at the high school. Especially given the turnout at last week’s school board meeting, another standing room crowd was expected for the finance committee meeting so why did they not move it. I thought it was awful that the overflow of residents were forced to either stand or sit on the floor at the meeting!

  16. I brought this matter to their attention last year and they moved to Conestoga. ,The limit for the meeting room at TEAO is 80….with all the people attending its a matter of public safety.

    1. I’m guessing the housekeeping costs for doing it at the high school are much higher. Custodial OT to get the place ready for the next day. The TEEAO can be cleaned on regular time and no one needs it the next morning (and the mess is obviously much less with smaller crowds). It would be kind of hypocritical to schedule meetings knowing it would add to the budget problem. Public safety is certainly a factor. Has anyone asked?

      1. Asked yesterday at Faciliites..meetings stay at TEAO..size of the crowd is unpredictable and not enough time to notify a change of location.

        1. Thanks for asking! Based on the turnout at the last school board meeting, they should have changed all Finance and regularly scheduled School Board meetings through June. The numbers are not going to go down in attendance as long as demotion is on the cutting board. I would suggest to the school board that the crowd is predictable — the last 2 meetings have been standing or ‘sitting on the floor’ only options. I will predict that the turnout with students, parents, teachers, taxpayers will continue.

        2. If the School Board claims they cannot get their heads around the predictability of meeting attendance how will they ever be able to solve the budget challenges?? Come on, this should be the easy stuff.

  17. Monday’s grievance discussion was very brief and mumbled, but this is what I can piece together based on what I heard:

    – We are at Step V of the procedure, referral to arbitration
    – Step I was the filing of the grievance by the union, which could indeed have been months ago
    – In step IV, the School Board wrote to the union denying the grievance
    – Thereafter, the union had 20 school days (4 weeks) to refer the matter to arbitration
    – The Board thought – for a reason I did not hear – that the 20 days had passed and therefore that it needed to take no further action, communicate to the public, etc.
    – However, on April 24th (I think) the union notified the Board that it was referring the matter to arbitration
    – Since the issue now presented a higher financial risk to the district’s budget strategies, the Board felt it had to inform the public.

    Just to lighten the mood here, if Pattye allows an OT reference, here’s a link that may amuse current and to-be college students and their relatives/funding sources, from Monday’s xkcd.
    Most of the panels are funny and clever, but I really liked the Terry Patchett quote:
    “Geography’s just physics slowed, with trees on top”

    If CM is getting you down, try to sing the comic.

  18. In regard to the comment about having the meeting in a bigger space than at TEAO, I sent the board an email specifically asking that question. Art McDonnell, the business manager replied that “the Board was sent the email.” Obvious. But not one Board member responded. I am shocked that the May 14 meeting is also at TEAO. Are they trying to keep people at home?

    1. They are doubtless trying to keep down the costs of custodial and maintenance. Conestoga is a school the very next morning. Having a large crowd there when the cafeteria opens again at 6:30 am is not an inexpensive decision.

      But keeping people home is certianly part of the reason. Just not the one they have to own up to. Remember — the board “stages” these meetings. They practice what they are going to say and do. These are not paid public speakers who necessarily speak well from the floor or think on their feet.

      1. If ” … keeping people home is part of the reason …” than I say shame on the school board. If true, no one should wonder ‘why’ more residents are not engaged (and that includes elected officials). Who wants to stand for 3 hours or sit on the floor!

        1. Maybe the board should not have authorized the demolition of the old administration building–I’m sure there was plenty of room there in the auditorium!

          What about the CHS auditorium?

          What does the Fire Marshall have to say?

      2. The board does not “stage” meetings – they do not “practice what they will say and do”. That is inflammatory and calculated to bolster the false image of a cynical and conspiratorial board. These are not professionals, nor are they career politicians. They are instead unpaid volunteers. Really, the notion that the board stages meetings is absurd. When is the theatrical rehearsal? Or perhaps individual board members practice facial expressions and hand gestures at home in front of a mirror?

        1. Thank you for your clarification Kevin. I was thinking that if school board meetings are this orchestrated as was suggested, any hope for transparency and public honesty would be a hopeless cause.

        2. Kevin
          You know very well that these meetings are practiced for the demonstration, and the discussions that go on between members as to the direction it will go takes place. That is not conspiratorial — that’s practical. As someone with a full time job, perhaps you were not always part of the process, but I can assure you the agenda was reviewed and anticipated.
          Don’t overreact to the term stage. My point is that they have information to disseminate and that is the point of the meeting. Many of the current board are reasonably new to this and prepare remarks to make for the public, and others do not think as well on their feet and wait until their moment.
          Transparency and public honesty is not compromised by having a plan. In fact, it can be thwarted by unanticipated debate from the audience. What the public sees is not scripted — so perhaps stage is the wrong verb, but the point is that there is a plan for the meeting. And I think it is safe to say that few if any board members make up their mind on anything as a result of what happens AT the meeting. Except possibly they back down if they feel intimidated or confused.

        3. The word “staged” does not have to take on the connotation of deceptive, “cynical and conspiratorial” but, in many ways the meeting is staged. Yes, many of my remarks to the public are written out before hand and practiced. When a school director’s remarks are recorded verbatim in the minutes and the meeting can be replayed multiple times it’s important to be accurate and clear. Further, there are few surprises at board meetings as in a staged play – the outcome is usually known beforehand. Debate and deliberation has already taken place in committee meetings. Remember, there are 10 to 20 hours of committee meetings in preparation for the 2 hour board meeting. In most cases, the voting outcome is known beforehand through board member comments at committee meetings and/or one-on-one conversations. Board meetings do take on some positive aspects of “staging”.

        4. Keith (and township reader) – yes, there is an agenda, a standard agenda which changes very little from month to month (speaking of regular board meetings) and to that extent the meetings are planned. And I suppose some people do prepare their comments in advance – particularly committee reports – although in my experience that consists of speaking extemporaneously from notes. And the board members usually – but not always – know how they will vote on an issue because the issue most likely was discussed ad nauseum in multiple committee meetings for months. But we need to be very careful not to characterize this in a way that fuels the already popular (but false) notion that decisions are made in some smoke-filled backroom with no public input.

          The problem is that discussing and deciding everything at the single monthly board meeting is impractical – it would need to be 20 hours long. An issue therefore goes through the committees- usually more than one – education or facilities, for example, the on to the finance committee before coming up for a vote at the monthly business meeting. And then there are two chances for the public to be heard – two months, a first and second “reading”.

          Now, I have seen board members change their minds as a result of public input. I also have seen the board do many things over the years to make the process more and more transparent. But for complex issues (aren’t they all complex these days?) people really need to attend committee meetings. Most people don’t do that. That is unfortunate because it leads to the myth – and I assert it is a myth – that the board is secretive or does not care what people think. Nothing could be further from the truth, but too many people believe the myth. It does not help when people use language like “staged” or “practiced” in the context in which it was just used here.

  19. The old ESC building was not handicap accessible — the only place to meet in that building was the first floor “auditorium” which put everyone on a stage. Not exactly user friendly.

    You are right Pattye that this is not right — but then buying the TEAAO was a pretty stupid idea too. No one was engaged during that decision. I know the intention is always to use the HS, but in this case, I seriously think the budget crunch is influencing the decision not to use the HS and have to get it back in order by 6:30 Tuesday morning. AP testing this week in several spaces means lots of room changes and having 100+ people in the building until 10 or 11 at night isn’t really educationally beneficial.

    But these are excuses — not reasons. Get there early….and maybe the teachers won’t show up since it’s just grandstanding for them to do it. Their presence doesn’t present any benefit to making decisions. They have the bargaining table to make their points.

    Main Line Life this week — letter from a “retired resident” — is in fact from Debbie Dooling. A retired teacher, a former Union big, and ex-wife of a major PSEA honcho. Not a single reference to that in her letter.

    1. Yes — that is what that means. In fact, they are approving a transfer of over $3M from the fund balance, with a concurrent transfer TO the fund balance of approx. 1.5M.

      And for the record — THIS is what I mean by the fact that these meetings are staged. Did anyone see any debate on this topic yet to reach this conclusion?….of course not! But it gets made in the sunshine. SO — This is a decision that they will “react to” at the meeting. To thunderous applause by those who feared demotion. Or they will decide to implement demotion and someone will make a motion to do so and change the fund balance contribution….
      This is a board meeting, but it is televised and orchestrated. You woudln’t want people showing up unprepared.

      1. As per slide 6 both the class size and demotion strategies are still “Under Review”.
        Remember, the final budget is only a “plan” that may or may not be followed over the coming year. Passage of the final budget does not preclude the class size and demotion strategies from being enacted later this summer. Only the RE tax rate is unchangeable after the June vote. Demotions can take place anytime during the year regardless of the budget although scheduling concerns mean demotions are, most likely, enacted before the start of the school year.
        I’ll be interested to hear what the Board has to say tonight. It may be that a decision on demotions will be delayed until the grievance is resolved later this summer.

      2. The budget is really irrelevant anyway as 70% is the contract…Can anyone help me to know if there is an open meetings for the community re: the contract negotiations? Has there been any further update then the newsletter mailed by TESD? Also, are the TE union members able to express their views during the process as well? I don’t know it to be true, but it seems like a few are negotiating both sides for the rest of us left in the dark.

  20. The T/E School District is a great one due to the team effort of Teachers/ Administrators/ Community/ Students and Families.

    The teachers need to become economic participants and drop the entitled attitude that is prevailing here. Yes, you are doing a great job….but we the parents are holding up our end with the kids AND the money.

    We the parents, especially those of us who are entreprenuers, are struggling with healthcare insurance payments, taxes and retirement issues. AND WE WORK 12 Months a year.


    I have lost patience with a teacher who will not teach an extra period. I gave up 8 hour days a long time ago.


  21. The grievance was not about having to teach an extra period…its not like a free period was taken away…another duty which was usually a period to work with kids who needed it was taken away. If you read the release about the grievance you would know its not about that.

    95% of teachers don’t work 8 hour days….that’s what they are contracted to work, but I know very very few who don’t come early, stay late, and do work at home….and its always been that way…its not just now because of the economy like it may be because of your job.

  22. TEACHERS…STOP YOUR WHINING!!!!!! PULL BACK YOUR GRIEVANCE AND SHOW SOME RESPONSIBILITY TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PICKING UP THE TAB! The wallets of this community are not bottomless! You are taking the position of a entitled class and you are not. Your contribution is valued but you need to know that there are limits that you are starting to push with your lack of understanding of the economic impact of your demands.

    See the following comment of a neighbor who is also concerned;

    The teachers probably feel they’ll have one less period to use to prep for classes. I have no sympathy because the Conestoga School day is 7:20 to 2:40 or so, which is less than 8 hours. On top of that, are the teachers assured a break for lunch? If so, they are working even less time per day. Prep time cannot be assumed to be on the teacher’s personal time, but they need to be at school for a full work day. Paid lunch hours are a thing of the past. Most companies require employees to be on-site for 9 hours with an implied lunch hour that is off the clock.

    Compared to the rest of us who are in the trenches of the economy….The Teachers have a great deal…..further demands and an unwillingness to contribute more when it is needed will change the culture of your work.

    The tax payers need to take a look at your situation if you do not see the need for cooperation. The colleges of PA are full of young people who would like to teach.

  23. In the spirit of transparency and to confirm that the union’s major concern is “a period to work with kids who needed it” I’m wondering if the union would publicize the grievance.
    I understand there is contract language that says:
    Documents, communications and records dealing with the processing of a grievance shall be held confidential and shall be filed in a separate grievance file in the personnel office. However, for auditing review purposes, notation shall be made in the individual’s personnel file only if any change in financial status arises out of the grievance process.
    However, this contract language is only there to protect the privacy of an individual. Since this grievance deals with a large group, the entire HS teaching staff, I see no reason why the grievance need remain secret.

  24. TE Teacher: It’s the possibility of “work to the contract” which looms large…and your contract is 7 hours, 35 minutes with a guaranteed 30 minute duty free lunch. The grievance is because of the extra teaching period. It isn’t about more duty or use of free time.

  25. The entire nature of “work to the contract” and filing a “grievance” is the problem – educating our children is a respected profession, however the compensation package and multi-year detailed contract is unlike many professional jobs in the world today. Year after year we are reducing the education/service provided through cut-backs and paying more in taxes to fund the “contracted” employees. What business or industry raises prices, reduces the quality of it’s product/service to pay is staffing an unrealistic compensation package that’s on contracted. It would seem the customer (student) and payor (community) are all suffering to fund the district employees. This would seem backward especially at a time when the idea of “employment” is a dream for many given the economy that continues to suffer. To file a grievance is ridiculous – the rest of the professional world is either looking for a job or doing 3x the work connected 24/7 by laptop, smart phone etc and w/out the rich pension and health benefits our district employees have – yet we are paying for them and they file a grievance. It’s ridiculous that there is plenty of opportunity for community input to the budget but NO ability to have input or learn about 70% of it – these negotiations. Nice that we can help decide if we should bus kids, teach a 2nd language or have kindergarden but we can’t have input on a rich pension that the rest of the world eliminated years ago knowing pensions are a financial death sentence for any entity – look at the industries and business that have eliminated them. Unfortunately I fear this is all just us “chatting” to no benefit and we’ll just slowly watch our school district’s rank continue to decline along with the caliber of our children’s education while pensions are paid and raises are granted due to an unrealistic “contract”. Wonder what we’d get if we just started fresh and hired all new staff like a non-union organization? We’d certainly have the money to offer german and latin again in middle school.

  26. Concerned parent:
    I hear your concerns and feel your frustration, but please remember that WE ARE NOT ALONE, and in fact are better prepared for what we face than many. Having said that, clearly the politicians in Harrisburg haven’t the first clue, calling fund balances “rainy day funds” and suggesting that it’s a rainy day. Likewise the district’s decision to start to solicit/accept donations to the general fund. Unless you pledge your donation each year until the revenues turn around, any gift is no more than another dollar we cannot use next year.
    This is government accounting. Everything is calculated on a base amount of property. Unfortunately, the value of the base has eroded, and the right to tax to replace lost revenue does nto exist. The good news is that the board can also not tax just to satisfy contract demands. But the place in between — where the kids are — is not fun.
    Teachers have only their own experience to base their expectations and demands on. It seems that once there is this adversarial approach, I haven’t the first clue how you break through. Both sides truly believe the other side is crying WOLF. And the grievance was filed to protect future rights….but ends up making the TEEA look self-righteous.
    Someone needs to tell the truth — and both sides need to listen. And then there needs to be a mediated outcome where both sides believe that it’s the best they can get — without crushing the kids. “Work to the contract” is an ugly experience. No one — including the teachers who participate in it — comes out a winner. But as long as the tone of this exchange is so combattive — with both sides using the playbook and looking for the edge — we are all victims on the sidelines.
    This is not, however, just about the teachers. This is about the need to face the facts on both sides — and until fact finding is ordered, I guess no one wil believe or trust the information being shared.
    And to our Governor and his rainy day notion — GET A CLUE. Rainy day fund use would be the same as the debacle created by the Federal Stimulus….you cannot use home equity to pay your electric bill….

    1. face facts on both sides you say.. seems like the board is facing facts.. so one side should face facts. and yes, the gubber mint has created a problem or at least painted boards and teachers into a box. Great governance. Where do these geniuses come from? Certainly not te schools.

  27. “you cannot use home equity to pay your electric bill….” is a bit of an exaggeration. You can use it, but not for long. The secret to expenditures and budgetting is for the income (revenue) to equal the expenses….and when you cannot up the income (and should not), then you need to cut expenses….not fund them another way. Because once you do that, you need to keep doing it. The school district used one-time funding from the food services “pay as you go” fund previously, and it only created a bigger hole to fill. So == you can use your home equity loan to pay your utility bills, but unless you can find some income to pay it, you will eventually lose it all.

  28. It simply amazes me that education has boiled down to this. On a daily basis we preach to our children how critical education is and how important it is to create a foundation to support the rest of our lives.

    So our children move on and attain advanced degrees in their chosen professions while supporting their families and along the way reaching for their dreams.

    I can’t imagine telling my daughter not to strive to be the very best she can be, especially if she desires to be an educator. “Sorry honey if you want to be a PHD you better become a Doctor who practices medicine.” “If you are a teacher, especially in TE you will lose your career, benefits, income and possibly your home because you have worked so hard to maximize your foundation.”

    Shame on the school board for sending such a backwards message. You have benefited from such a strong school district for years. Why do you think your property values are what they are while your tax base is still one of the lowest in the county.


    1. Reply to Moral Compass

      You are right on!

      This board has to stop crying wolf because many of us taxpayers are getting pretty tired of this ridiculous smokescreen towards the teaching staff. This district has the money and always had more than a rainy day fund–just look at what’s in that fund balance!

      Board, start to clean-up your PR act–you dropped this school district down a notch or two. Teaching is a profession–board, treat it as one!

  29. It is not a matter of how much advanced education is valued…it is how much work is accomplished by the person who is educated.

    I would love to see the full hourly rate for compensation for TE teachers. It would be shocking in comparison to what the taxpayer in the district is earning!

    I pay for my own health insurance and fund my retirement program. I work 12 months a year. I am not a seasonal worker!!!!!

    Parking yourself in academia does not earn anyone the right to a taxpayer annuity especially in the current economy.

    The role of the Teacher Union needs to be evaluated. There is NO SHAME in evaluating the cost of teachers in light of how much they work.

    We live in a culture that values family, work and education. There are too many graduates of PA teaching colleges who cannot come home to jobs because of union protected jobs. Teachers have become a protected class in this economy… it has to to stop!!

    Teacher MUST contribute more to their health insurance and start funding their retirement. This is about fair play.

    1. Reply to Valley Forge Lady

      You can’t compare teachers salaries with tax payers salaries unless that tax payer is a teacher in a public school. And, you can’t compare a teacher work year to a seasonal employee–doesn’t work that way.

      There are plenty of teachers retiring in this district and others–but I’m not so sure this board wants to hire all newbies to the ranks.

      As far as the retirement (plan) issue–you have to take that up with Tom because it’s a PA backed retirement plan.

      1. Monie
        I won’t be as glib as FF, but your conclusion is confusing to me. WHY can’t you compare compensation in one job to compensation in another? The only difference for teachers is tenure…so presumably that has some added value when compared to an accountant or engineer or some other professional.
        And you absolutely can compare a teacher work year to a “seasonal” employee for the simple fact that many teachers run camps in their own “off season”….and administrators do not have that “off season”
        Teachers work a specific number of days — and are contracted for a specific number of hours. They are grieving the change in how those contracted hours are managed.
        WHY “doesn’t it work that way?”

        1. Township Reader

          A public school teacher has the PA School Code (Law) to back them. As much as this board dislikes the School Code they really shouldn’t ignore it. There is something in the Code in regards to this (workday) grievance–and that’s why the board may lose this one. And, demotions are in the Code too–board will get in trouble if they go into this unchartered territory with the way they want to demote.

          Speaking about time off in the (seasonal) summer, do you know how many vacation and personal days the administrators receive? I’m curious. We already know about healthcare and other misc spending accounts afforded to them.

          You want to compare something? Fast food workers have the opportunity of paying for family healthcare coverage.

    2. Demotion by salary does not value Education nor does it gauge work accomplished by teachers. It simply targets the most senior of Teachers as well as the most Educated. Another words it is a slap in the face to all of our senior employees who have dedicated their careers to educate our children.

      It amazes me how these message boards buzz with posts when it concerns salaries, benefits and tax increases but no one takes the time to recognize the Educators when YOUR school district is listed as the third ranked school in the state behind two private schools.

      Our property values are where they are because of our schools. You can’t have it both ways. Remember folks….you get what you pay for and in TE we have certainly benefited a very long time due to the strength of our schools.

      ? If you are a recent graduate and are looking to begin a career, start a family and purchase a home would you want to join a company that will cut you at the knees once you have reached a salary level deemed too much? I wouldn’t. Would you want to send your children to a school full of part time employees who are with the district only until they can find a full time job in a year or two? Not me.

      This is what will happen to our schools once we start cutting at the top. PHD first, Masters next….where does it stop? What will happen to our prized schools? We will have a forever changing staff that our children will have zero bonds with. Our schools and classrooms will become just another business.

      Way to go Board!

      So let me get this straight. Take our highest paid Educators, cut their salary in half and strip them of their benefits (this means their children too.) Seems reasonable……I’m sure all of you out there would love to go to work after your employer slapped you in the face with such disrespect. How many of you would stay with this company after such gross acts of disregard? Not me. You?

  30. My entry into this discussion is in support of the comments by “concerned parent”. Over the past few decades, how is it that our elected school board officials didn’t recognize and address that the Teacher’s Union compensation packages were preserved when it was going by the wayside for the rest of corporate America? I was in the employment force back in the 80’s, but too young to understand the full impact of the introduction of 401(k) plans. I was smart enough to understand that I now had to give to get anything and that the company match portion was not as great as a pension plan contribution had been. And back in the late 80’s early 90’s I didn’t like having to start paying for health benefits when they were 100% funded up until that point. The school boards are made up of volunteers, why didn’t they address the changing compensation culture and address it, even slowly? Is it because T/E had a terrific revenue from real estate transfers and the budget was easily balanced? As in the movie “Network”, I believe we are now “Mad as hell and don’t want to take it”. How do we get Harrisburg to swiftly make the policy changes that are needed to move PSERS to and instrument that is sustainable? How do we get unions to be conscious of our community’s profile before they demand more than we-the-community have had to accept for ourselves. I understand why some issues need to be discussed behind closed doors. But, I would expect that our elected officials would have our backs. On a year by year, budget by budget basis, they may have thought they had our backs, but closed door – non-transparent negotiations have not kept in-line with how our community sustains our own households.

  31. PA has the highest number of teacher strikes in the country. Districts PAY for labor peace. Let’s all remember that we are not the only district with this problem…and PA isn’t the only state.
    That’s the bottom line. The board are not financial experts — they are who you voted for.

    I agree that things need to change, but read the comments here. The board has absolutely NO POWER in the negotiation. The only leverage they have is the threat of demotion. It was the same threat used last year that resulted in TEEA taking a one semester wage freeze. Where was the outrage then…or were we too busy thanking the teachers for “giving back?”

    I wish it wasn’t hard. I don’t think it needs to be, and I have been in situations where it is not, but these are two sides in a war right now. Both sides are spending inordinate efforts to be sure the community thinks the other side is wrong. These things eventually settle — or they go status quo. IF our district goes status quo, the only wy to balance income and expenses is to cut expenses. As I have said before (and many of our readers are hardly financial experts either apparently), you can use the “fund balance” in lieu of income, but that does not solve any problem. It simply defers it. The problem with the pension contribution is exactly because no one has wnted to address the pension laws — so they continually deferred the pain of upping the contributions.
    Teachers DO contribute to their plan. It’s just that the plan is a defined benefit — and the economy isn’t offering the returns it once did, so the contribution needs to go up.
    Our district is asking for contributions? Just doing so emphasizes how even THEY don’t get it. I think that will likely compound the income shortfall. It cannot be fixed without major expense changes or major revenue improvements.

    A possibility with the same concept: why don’t we offer our fund balance to the state for the pension problem? It would be a contribution to stem the tide. If enough districts used their rainy day fund to support the annuity values, the contribution rates could go down.

    Then again, the only way the fund balance can help the district is from the income earned on it. Otherwise, since more than half of it came from a bond, we can build or fix stuff, but not pay people.

    Next time you talk to a board member, ask them what their background is….and then decide what their qualifications are to solve this financial pickle?!

    1. The only leverage they have is the threat of demotion. It was the same threat used last year that resulted in TEEA taking a one semester wage freeze. Where was the outrage then…or were we too busy thanking the teachers for “giving back?”

      That is misinformation..the union made an offer prior to the freeze….not to work and thus not to be paid the final three inservice days of the year. The board turned it down stating that they were not going to accept anything that didn’t open up the contract but did not tell the public. It was then brought up at the school board meeting by the a TEEA member and they board and Dr. Waters got all defensive. Over a month later, the TEEA agreed to a salary freeze with the compromise of no furloughing…demotion was not on the table last year.

      1. The union did not make any offer about not being paid. They made an offer about not working and not being paid. And they never put anything in writing. I was at the meeting, and sitting with teachers — your characterization of Dr. Waters is quite inaccurate. It was finance chair Kevin Mahoney that shut down the discussion.

        The board agreed to take demotion off the table if the union did what the TENIG people already did — responding to state union suggestions to freeze wages. Furloughing is not legal. A promise not to furlough is not real. It was no demotions.

        But regardless, past is meaningless. We need to deal with the future. What can the board suggest to get the teachers to PUT SOMETHING ON THE TABLE….where is your health care plan? Where are your cost savings…not reduction of increases — cost savings? Not freezes. Cost reductions.

        1. #1.. I said they made an offer to not work and thus not get paid for the last 3 days of inservice, how is that different than what you said: “They made an offer about not working and not being paid”

          I am in the union…I know what we offered…we had to vote to agree to do it. The offer was made well before that night at the meeting….in writing. The board said no because of the reasons I mentioned above, bur never announced the offer to the public. So a member got up to speak and said it out loud. Mahoney stopped it and gave his grandstanding speech (I was there too), but it was followed by angry comments from Fadem and Waters. The offer was real and did happen. Then later the 1/2 freeze occurred.

          I am not arguing with you…Ijust making sure the facts are straight…

        2. Before 20 posts come flying in and a big hubbub starts…the previous comment from “Squeeze” was supposed to be from me, “TE Teacher & Taxpayer”. After hitting send and rereading what I had typed, I realized that my posting name was not there but my wife’s was. She showed me on her laptop this morning that my post had a comment, so I took it and replied. I didn’t even think about having to type in the name and mail in the bottom because it is always saved, well it being her computer, her posting name and email were saved. Hope that clears it up, now back to the real discussions.

      2. That offer, by the way, was the previous year. It was not last year. Debra C. was president at the time — she stood up in CHS auditorium and talked. At some point after that problem, I think she went on sabbatical . Pete D. followed her term– and subsequently stepped down? The wage freeze offer was unrelated to ANY of the “not working, not getting paid”.

  32. Monie:
    You MUST be a union rabble rouser… wrote this:
    “You want to compare something? Fast food workers have the opportunity of paying for family healthcare coverage.”


    Can we all stop pretending that these changes are being forced down anyone’s throats? This is a negotiation. Without changes to the contract, NOTHING changes. Same health care. Same salary.

    The fact that the demotions may happen is totally up to the teachers. I think it’s a shame that this is the tactic that is available, but as many have said here (and few have answered) WHAT IS YOUR SOLUTION?

    There are sources of income. There are items of expenses. Income does not cover expenses. Laws prevent income from being generated TO cover the expenses. There are offers on the table to reduce expenses. Instead of pursuing those options (or offer specifics of their own on the part of the teachers) you want us to take money from savngs and pay the bills. More than half the money in “savings” comes from borrowing. And almost ALL the money in “savings” is designated for specific purposes, including cashing out sick days for teachers when they retire.

    So — we take money in savings. At the start, we have $100 in expenses and we tax to cover them. Now expenses go up, and we cannot tax to cover the increase. Now instead of having $100 in income and $100 in expenses, next year we still have $100 in income, and $125 in expenses….and we’ll pay the other $25 from savings. So, with the same level of increases, the next year we have $110 in income, and $150 in expenses…and the next year we have $120 in income and $175 in expenses…..only now the savings is gone, and we STILL cannot raise the income. (It does go up, but the assessment appeals reduce the tax base so you increase the tax rate and the overall income barely moves).
    SO — you have to do a MAJOR expense realignment to get your expenses under control. How do you do that? Well — your SCHOOL CODE controls much of it. It won’t let us furlough. It won’t allow programs to be cut without red tape. It WILL allow demotions that are not random (which is why the most expensive people are targets for demotion).

    How can we change that? I’d be happy to sit down with the teachers and go over the health care options in this community. I believe a fixed contribution per employee — rather than a benefit plan — would be achievable and acceptable. We’ve all gone through it. I am confident I could present a package that they could support — and would cost half of what we pay now. And would not prohibit any teacher from paying for their family – -as long as you understand that the taxpayers would not subsidize that part any longer. That would dramatically alter the cost structure of the district ($2-3M would be my guess) , and would actually put more control in the hands of the teachers. \

    See Monie — I get it. Because we can pretend the old way will work, or we can get busy fixing the problem. Teachers teach. They learn about contracts from the PSEA. And the PSEA is about power. NOT about TEEA, and not about kids, and not about anything besides self-preservation. Unions may play a role, but let’s remember that union leadership is rarely about union membership. Union leadership is about union control and union power.

    Remember Norma Rae? Great Movie with Sally Field holding up her Union sign. Well, JP Stevens was eventually unionized, and the real-life character was awarded back pay. (Though she worked in fast food for a long time before she got her settlement) But those mills are all closed now, and the textile industry in the US is all but gone, with remnants serving to distribute textiles, not manufacture them. Mill towns were demolished. But teachers need to teach. And kids need to learn. So we better make it work, or we’ll be outsourcing education in no time.

    1. Township Reader

      I’m a union “rabble” rouser you say? Why the “labels” when one’s thoughts or statements don’t personally agree with yours? Isn’t this an open forum?

      Regarding my “fast food” (family) healthcare comparison–hasn’t the healthcare (items) discussion in this forum been based on “offerings” from both sides for the next contract? Whether tactic, threat or strategy, it’s what the board is offering–maybe the board should have kept their mouth shut instead of communicating through their expensive attorney to deliver messages that won’t even come to light. (Could have been some savings here!)

      What I really want to know is why the board/administration did not shop around for a “lower cost” (as is) healthcare plan in any of the past four years? It’s allowed (by contract) to do that as long as coverage is not changed. I would think some savings would have been realized–but as you said that’s the past. And, that’s been the problem all along–no one. . . board/administration wanted to reduce costs in the areas that they had control of because the funds were already in the bank–so why should anyone go the extra mile to reduce costs. Now, the board is only left with empty threats for their expensive lawyer to communicate.

      Oh yes Township Reader, you can furlough: Read on from SCHOOL CODE:

      Section 1124. Causes for Suspension.–Any board of school
      directors may suspend the necessary number of professional
      employes, for any of the causes hereinafter enumerated:
      (1) Substantial decrease in pupil enrollment in the school
      (2) Curtailment or alteration of the educational program on
      recommendation of the superintendent, concurred in by the board
      of school directors, approved by the Department of Public
      Instruction, as a result of substantial decline in class or
      course enrollments or to conform with standards of organization
      or educational activities required by law or recommended by the
      Department of Public Instruction;
      (3) Consolidation of schools, whether within a single
      district, through a merger of districts, or as a result of joint
      board agreements, when such consolidation makes it unnecessary
      to retain the full staff of professional employes.
      (4) When new school districts are established as the result
      of reorganization of school districts pursuant to Article II.,
      subdivision (i) of this act, and when such reorganization makes
      it unnecessary to retain the full staff of professional
      employes. ((4) added Aug. 8, 1963, P.L.564, No.299)

      Also, Township Reader, demotions are not totally up to teachers like you said–it’s up to the parameters of the SCHOOL CODE– and it’s not legal for the school board to “pick and choose” the highly compensated experienced teacher.

      Teachers are seasonal employees you say? I don’t think the length of the school year is up to them. It’s probably LAW somewhere. . .don’t you think?

      Seems like there are some out there who are very envious of the teachers. Maybe those individuals should have pursued a degree in education. I wonder if their feelings and beliefs would be different if they were teachers here in TE?? I’m not a teacher, but I do know the value of a great education.

      Finally, your feelings and some others in this blog represent the assumption that the economy will not improve. My feeling is that’s not so. But if this board continues to degrade the TE education system then more and more homeowners will want to have their homes reassessed because this “negative” publicity is surely not improving the home values in TE. Moral Compass is not blowing smoke–he/she speaks the truth! Listen.

      Yes, probably someday TE District will shut down like your reference to the textile mills in Norma Rae because if you don’t have families with children moving into this area what are you left with? You can’t educate let alone “outsource” if you don’t have children in the classrooms to teach so don’t go there.

    2. Township Reader–

      More FYI for you to dissect in regards to suspensions/demotions from the SCHOOL CODE (LAW) in case you missed the last time it was blogged.

      Section 1125.1. Persons to be Suspended.–(a) Professional
      employes shall be suspended under section 1124 (relating to
      causes for suspension) in inverse order of seniority within the
      school entity of current employment. Approved leaves of absence
      shall not constitute a break in service for purposes of
      computing seniority for suspension purposes. Seniority shall
      continue to accrue during suspension and all approved leaves of
      (b) Where there is or has been a consolidation of schools,
      departments or programs, all professional employes shall retain
      the seniority rights they had prior to the reorganization or
      (c) A school entity shall realign its professional staff so
      as to insure that more senior employes are provided with the
      opportunity to fill positions for which they are certificated
      and which are being filled by less senior employes.
      (d) (1) No suspended employe shall be prevented from
      engaging in another occupation during the period of suspension.
      (2) Suspended professional employes or professional employes
      demoted for the reasons set forth in section 1124 shall be
      reinstated on the basis of their seniority within the school
      entity. No new appointment shall be made while there is such a
      suspended or demoted professional employe available who is
      properly certificated to fill such vacancy. For the purpose of
      this subsection, positions from which professional employes are
      on approved leaves of absence shall also be considered temporary
      (3) To be considered available a suspended professional
      employe must annually report to the governing board in writing
      his current address and his intent to accept the same or similar
      position when offered.
      (4) A suspended employe enrolled in a college program during
      a period of suspension and who is recalled shall be given the
      option of delaying his return to service until the end of the
      current semester.
      ((d) amended July 10, 1986, P.L.1270, No.117)
      (e) Nothing contained in section 1125.1(a) through (d) shall
      be construed to supersede or preempt any provisions of a
      collective bargaining agreement negotiated by a school entity
      and an exclusive representative of the employes in accordance
      with the act of July 23, 1970 (P.L.563, No.195), known as the
      “Public Employe Relations Act”; however, no agreement shall
      prohibit the right of a professional employe who is not a member
      of a bargaining unit from retaining seniority rights under the
      provisions of this act.
      (f) A decision to suspend in accordance with this section
      shall be considered an adjudication within the meaning of the
      “Local Agency Law.”
      (1125.1 added Nov. 20, 1979, P.L.465, No.97)

      Board, let’s take the demotion threat off the table–you’re gonna lose.

  33. amen!!!! So glad that there is courage here to question the role of the PSEA. The unions have been the third rail for too long. This is not about politics, it is about economics.

    The entire state is at the mercy of these powerful unions If our relatively affluent community is scrambling…what are other areas doing?

    What is it going to take make this culture shift without short changing students and making our community taxes beyond the reach of those who have been supporting the schooll system for years?

    When I look at the curent financial markets, umemployment figures, and labor costs of the school distirct I shudder. I also see a major brain of new teachers away from the state where they are educated.

    Passing that hat at public meetings, dipping into reserves, and not doing anything is not smart.

    Evolve or Evaporate.

  34. We are in an economic war for survival. The Valley Forge Encampment was essential to the future formation of our Nation. I genuinely pray for a fair solution to these important issues. We need to be fair, kind and humble in dealing with these problems. We are blessed by the presence of great minds for financial and legal matters in this community.

  35. Moral Compass – i would think the lesson to all (and our children) is that economics and financial responsibility is something people of all industries and professions need to learn and should be taught early on. The lesson your daughter and our children should learn is that if you can’t afford something you need to make adjustments that are long term and sustainable not short term (ie borrowing money from mom for a cell ph bill you cant afford). Being responsible is tough – telling people “no we cant afford it” is tough. Looks to the other unions of many industries that wouldn’t wake up to the financed and caused bankruptcies? (united airlines i think is just one example) Reality is tough to face but it’s unfair to try and keep living on rich “contracts” on the backs of the kids, tax payer and the district employees that will loose their jobs to fund the others. I’d ask someone negotiating to do a comparison to industries for a “benchmark” of what’s common for well educated professionals employed in other industries.

    1. concerned parent, I am glad you were able to respond to Moral compass as I was only able to utter “sophistry” in response.. I was frothing at the mouth wondering if he/she was on the level.. “teaching my daughter blah blah blah…

      Seems to me there are more salient “lessons” to teach the kids here. No need to debase their teachers, that is counter productive but this is a great opportunity to teach economics to our generally privileged kids. Right on!

  36. Township Reader – I appreciate your comments and completely agree! I hope someone with power is listening and someone with power can do the math. There’s lots of talk in the US that we need help competing globally and that we are not competitive in math and science. Maybe this is just on example of how critical it is to all aspects of life. Do the math right?

  37. in addition, my own kids who passed through our system were initially up in arms about the talk of “demotion” of their favorite teachers. Know what? We sat down with them and discussed the economics of the situation, of the restrictions placed on the board by the state, of the rising costs of pensions and health care and how things have to change to get in line with current economics and they understood. Again, we did not denigrate the teachers, most of whom have served my kids very well. Like a microcosm of the world, some better than others. But what a good opportunity for a dinner time round table discussion of what is happening. Lesson learned (i hope!)

  38. Mr. and Mrs. Squeeze TE Teacher,
    Being in the union does not guarantee that you are in the information circle.
    And my point is NOT about what was offered by whom or when. My point is that something has to happen going forward — where the future is.

    The union is trying to be helpful, but they are an unguided missile with a state leadership hell bent on using TESD as a lighthouse district.

    I had an occasion today to spend time at a church event where several parents were talking about concern for some of the higher level teachers — “the demotables”. There was an interesting comment made by one parent who has sent all her children through our schools — her husband is a small business man and she said that it is so hard for them to explain to their kids that we want to support teachers, but that we simply cannot afford to pay the benefits they have as well as a risk free retirement. A realtor in the group stepped up to say that her health care costs them $12,000 for a very high deductible plan, and that they want good teachers too, but the days of being able to subsidize their health care and their retirement has to end. As it has for all of us.

    My pain comes from the fact that I believe a perfectly acceptable plan could be crafted that would save the taxpayers (remember — there is no district without the taxpayers — it’s our pockets we dip into) substantial money, would reset the bar and would allow us to genuinely review compensation on an annual basis. I’ve often asked why we don’t have a 35 step schedule which we could drop steps off of the bottom as inflation made the starting salary moot…and add them on to the top. After you reached step 35, you would continue to accrue 2.5% a year towards retirement if you weren’t retired already. Then there would be no need for this every 3-4 year agonizing “salary and benfits” march to hell.

    Moral Compass: Demotion by salary is the ONLY legal way to do it. IF you can suggest AND execute another cost-saving measure, I’m sure we would loe love to hear it. There is no right to furlough. There is no right to terminate bad teachers. The ONLY cost savings available are through attrition (class size rising) and demotion — which cannot be targetted. If you are going to demote, you have to start with the highest cost — otherwise it’s illegal. Sadly, the highest cost equals the most senior/highest level (education) particpants. Do the math.

    This is not about right or wrong, good or bad, cheap or generous. This is about income and expenses — debits and credits. Income is below expenses. Cannot increase income. Have to decrease expenses. If the union wants to avoid demotion, they need to offer something specific to REDUCE expenses — not modify their work year.
    Let’s talk about $10,000 per person for a health care allowance. Or $8,000….whatever the district spent this year, reduce it by some percentage and then divide it by the 430+ members of the bargaining unit. That becomes your health care allowance — just like the administrators have. Then you can buy what you want. When it is your own money, I’m pretty convinced you will want higher deductibles and copays to keep the premiums down. And then in the next contract, you can negotiate for a higher contribution….and maybe PSEA can step in and consolidate districts and shop for better premium rates….

    1. I truly appreciate your comments about the issue of fairness on this important issue.

      We are required by our Maker to be fair, kind and humble.

      The teachers need to undertand this! Or should I say the leaders of their Union!

    2. Dear Township Reader:

      The end is near isn’t it? The clock is ticking, it’s the two-minute warning, and desperation time isn’t it? Got to be your “Hail Mary Pass” when you resort to calling the HEART of this district “seasonal”. There are plenty of baseball, football and basketball players who are truly “seasonal”. Sign but one contract, miss the ball two out of 3 times, become national heroes and get so filthy rich that it gives me agida.

      You have no right or cause when you infer our teachers as being “seasonal”–like migrant workers. These are true PROFESSIONALS of this District who week after week, month after month and year after year prepare our young men and women for Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and MANY other prestigious institutions. Your labeling is unconscionable!!

      It’s yours and this board’s “ownership of staff” mentality… the us vs. them, the getting even with, the settling of scores, the perpetual fostering of insecurity…All your barking is causing such deep wounds to our teachers that they will NEVER, NEVER heal. When the dust settles, there will be handshakes and pats on the back, but this period of instability will never, never be forgotten. GREAT JOB BOARD AND ADMINISTRATION!!!

      Go ahead, make my day, call me too a union rabble rouser for standing up for teacher justice. Call me a rabble rouser for pointing out, as TEEA has done, that this board has “axed” every major point and building block of past contracts negotiated by BOTH parties in good faith. This board is not only lashing the teachers but also slapping the face of every past board member for
      being failures. (Can’t blame it on the asbestos anymore, thus it must be the High Tension Electrical Lines straight from LImerick over the new TE administration building.)

      The board’s battle cry is that this district is “broke”. As a testament you (board) have sent out more than a hundred letters requesting donations from those who don’t have it. How laughable when you have $32 Million in your back pocket. WE ARE NOT THE NEW PAUPERS OF PA…We have Money. Stop Begging!!

      Your assumption that the present economic conditions are permanent, are not definite. Your crystal ball in predicting far into the future is clouded, much like when the economy was flourishing and thus you “Approved”, “Approved”, “Approved” every economic decision that came across your approval stamp. Where was your crystal ball then and why was there no fiscal restraints?

      We should be thankful for each and every teacher in this District. They are no dummies, otherwise you would not have hired them. They understand the present economic condition that’s why they halted half of their pay increase. They’re not asking for the moon in their next contract either: NO pay increase in the first year and basically a cost of living increase in the two subsequent years. This is a major contrast, I’m sure, to what the board is willing to negotiate… board, you’re not getting their First Born and guaranteed no 1%, 2% or 10% rollback in their salaries either. As stated they are no dummies.

      Township Reader, you have asked many times what solutions can be offered to fix the purported shortfall. I will give you some: Tom, the man who appoints the boss, the Secretary of Education, has strongly recommended in using some of the gargantuan fund balance instead of cutting and trying to demote. Listen to him, USE IT. No you have laughed and jeered him like you have done to us little voices. Cut your losses and divest your self of the properties on Old Lancaster as well as the property on First and Bridge. And by all means STOP the construction of a $3 Million ill conceived storage GARAGE!!

      But if you insist that your crystal ball is perfectly clear and the economy will never take a turn for the better, my suggestion is to use the $3 million in rehabbing the Diamond Rock Octagonal Schoolhouse for that’s where we’ll be headed for. Although someone on this blog has given us Haiti as an option.

      Keith K., I have some directions for you about our TE situation: Take US 202 South, watch out for the construction zones, stay on 202 for approx. 24 Miles. Upon reaching US 1, take a right. Stay on US 1, past Kennett Square, beyond Longwood Gardens till you reach home, and stay there. This district is not big enough for two people who are all knowing. ONE Township Reader is PLENTY!!

      Kevin G., or should I address you as KG, the great one for the Boston Celtic? I was going to give you 1 oz. of credit for pointing out that TE is essentially “Numero Uno” in Pennsylvania but then I decided to take that credit back and give you ZERO credit, much like this board and administration does to it’s teachers. The reason is that you have NO clout; you have yet to convince any board member or administrator, influence the TE Web Site or stand up at public board meetings in acknowledging what you stated on this blog.

      FlyerFan, Please stop using words such as “sophistry” (even my spell checker won’t tell me if it’s spelled properly), we are not all members of the MENSA society like you. Truth be told, though…did you pick up this word from Bill O’Reilly? Or is it that you, pretending to have such a verbal advantage will make you much more assertive?

      1. Jf lube – your personal attacks add nothing to this discussion. If you have a real argument – a specific argument – concerning anything I have said, please make it and leave the personal attacks alone.

        You want me to speak at public meetings? Hey, I did that for 8 years (where were you? Perhaps you had no foresight either?). But if I had chosen to speak, I am sure I would get to hear from you attacks regarding how outrageous my comments were. In summary, here is what I have been saying:

        1) yes, the district is great, and yes that is largely because of great teachers
        2) while I generally do not feel the teachers are overpaid, some of the benefits are way out of line in the current economy
        3) since pensions are state controlled, the focus needs to be on health care
        4) the fund balance is not very large when compared to the known liabilities for which it is already designated. Therefore, it cannot be used to pay for a contract which is not sustainable.
        5) using the fund balance as suggested would only result in deep cuts to the program (the kids- the kids! Remember the kids!)
        6) although it will not solve our problems short term, everyone needs to lobby Harrisburg for true reform

        I am not “anti” teacher I am trying to be realistic, and above all, I am as always “pro-kid”. In my experience, this position is the one which brings the most vicious abuse to my doorstep.

      2. Jf – another thought. If I had “clout” (which I do not as you correctly point out) I presume from your comment that you would have me use it to convince the board to spend the fund balance as our governor would have us do? But if you have followed any of my comments here you would see that I do not agree with that course of action. That only kicks the can down the road and will result in deep cuts later on. My position is that the whole equation is unsustainable and something needs to change. There is very little the board can do – the real power to resolve this lies with the teachers.

        I will give you some slack because I understand that emotions run hot in this kind of contest. But here is my concern (and my reason for getting emotional) – if we do not wind up with an affordable contract, the kids will bear the impact. Among other things, we can expect class size to go up. In a few years, it will go up to just about as many kids as can be physically stuffed into a class room. There will be other cuts directly affecting the kids as well.

        That is where I am coming from.

  39. Township Reader

    Before you “stir the pot” with vigor, read the following FYI from the SCHOOL CODE (LAW) which says you can get rid of an incompetent teacher–looks like TE has all great teachers because none of them were fired. . .right?

    ” Section 1122. Causes for Termination of Contract.–(a) The
    only valid causes for termination of a contract heretofore or
    hereafter entered into with a professional employe shall be
    immorality; incompetency; unsatisfactory teaching performance
    based on two (2) consecutive ratings of the employe’s teaching
    performance that are to include classroom observations, not less
    than four (4) months apart, in which the employe’s teaching
    performance is rated as unsatisfactory; intemperance; cruelty;
    persistent negligence in the performance of duties; wilful
    neglect of duties; . . .”

    Your explaination of the legality of the board’s demotion threat is incorrect. It’s “illegal” to demote without regards to seniority–read the SCHOOL CODE!

    1. Again and again, Monie mindlessly confuses furloughs (where seniority applies) with demotions (where seniority does not apply). It’s been explained many times, but Monie continues to mislead readers. I can only conclude that the purpose of his posts is to mislead.
      From page 60:
      – Demotion is a “reassignment to a position which
      has less authority, prestige or salary.” (PA
      School Code)
      – Demotions are permitted by the School Code for
      economic necessity. Seniority provisions do not
      apply to demotions for economic necessity.

      – The right to demote employees is an inherent
      management right and does not need to be
      bargained. The TEEA contract is silent on

      1. K Knauss

        Why do you believe the budget presentation as being truthful when this board has been known to blow smoke because it’s the only option it has to use? I’m surprised that you, a board member, are not interested in what the School Code really says. Is this a board thing? Or is it just plain old “head in the sand” mentality? If demotions were allowed by School Code without regards to seniority then all the school districts in PA would jump on the band wagon and balance their budgets with one giant cut.

        Forget about the board’s presentation on demotions–they’re worthless.

        1. Monie,
          You have, again, quoted school code that applies to furloughs; not demotions. Please consult your union representative to get an understanding of demotions.

      2. K Knauss

        Does the following Section 1151 from School Code help you: and the wording contained within — “. . .except as provided in this act. . .” meaning that the causes for demotion reverts back to section 1124 then to section 1125.1 of the Code.

        Section 1151. Salary Increases; Demotions.–The salary of
        any district superintendent, assistant district superintendent
        or other professional employe in any school district may be
        increased at any time during the term for which such person is
        employed, whenever the board of school directors of the district
        deems it necessary or advisable to do so, but there shall be no
        demotion of any professional employe either in salary or in type
        of position, except as otherwise provided in this act, without
        the consent of the employe, or, if such consent is not received,
        then such demotion shall be subject to the right to a hearing
        before the board of school directors and an appeal in the same
        manner as hereinbefore provided in the case of the dismissal of
        a professional employe.
        (1151 amended Aug. 8, 1963, P.L.564, No.299)

        Now KK, if you can find anywhere in the PA School Code that addresses demotions without regards to seniority the way as noted on board’s presentation, let me know the section. And, if you are correct, then I will be more than happy to ditch my current PA link to the School Code. After all, the State does make mistakes, don’t they?

        FYI – I don’t have a union rep for guidance because I’m not a teacher. But I do respect the teachers of this district and their contributions. They will bargain in good faith.

    2. Monie: TESD has a prof. Improvement plan that addresses termination. Reading the school code provides no enlightenment. Consecutive failed observations…be bad 4 months and dodge the bullet.

  40. I’m genuinely tired of the obfuscation in these anti-reality posts. summer vacation is almost here. Graduation is tomorrow. Now the community and the Psea and the board can go back to ignoring the kids and just rant about money and fairness and school codes.
    I left the school board precisely because of this kind of IGNORANT debate. Lube — do you have anything to contribute?
    Monie — you are clueless, but you sure can google.
    Kevin –thank you for your board service. You know I am on board about the absence of taxpayers unless someone stirs up a hornet’s nest.
    Keith –thank you for bringing board info and economic reality checks to these discussions.

    People–please try to understand the budget issues and stop trying to make this personal. I do think the board is misguided in this negotiation, but only because this is not about where it starts, but where it ends…and proposing solutions does not require polarizing the issues. But I do not think anyone on the teams involved are about settlement, but rather have the SHEEN approach of WINNING.

    My legacy on the board was “an unflinching manner to speak her mind on issues” (Suburban 6/6/2002) and no one questioned the accuracy of my statements on the budget. But folks–the numbers don’t work…it is really so simple.

    Demotions are about cutting costs. I assume this board has legal direction on it…so instead of debating whether it is right or wrong, there has to be an alternative on the table to make it work. Tom Corbett is a politician who probably has never read anything about school finance that wasn’t legal advice or political spin. The fund balance will only dig a deeper hole because you pay expenses with INCOME. We can buy every student a computer and it would not affect anything…because we would use capital funds. We need to change the costs of running our schools…and unless it is with major health care changes or a salary realignment, it will be done on the backs of the kids. Class size through teacher attrition.

    It’s time for summer vacation. Summer refers to a season when kids are not I school. It is NOT insulting to acknowledge that teachers get a break too. It’s part of what makes teaching a decent career for parenting. Let’s thank everyone for a job well done…and let’s get real about what requires our attention.

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