Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Fund Balance Transfer, Another TEEA Grievance & Demotion Remains an Option in T/E!

I attended last night’s marathon Board of Supervisors meeting and public hearing continuation on the Trout Creek Overlay district. For the first 20 minutes, Keene Hall was overflowing with a standing room only crowd to witness the swearing-in of Tredyffrin’s new Superintendent of Police Tony Giaimo. Family, friends, co-workers and elected officials from the community and beyond, enthusiastically supported the appointment. I also add my ‘Congratulations Tony’!

Three-fourths of the audience left following the ceremony and then it was back to ‘business as usual.’ Comments from the Trout Creek Overlay working group, a developer update and discussion from supervisors and residents took the public hearing to 11 PM. I’ll offer my remarks in another post. The T/E School Board meeting was held at the same time as the supervisors meeting and Ray Clarke kindly provided his notes on that meeting.

As I understand it, the teachers union, TEEA has filed two grievances against the District. At the last District finance meeting, we were told of the one filing ($1 million expense), which pertained to the additional high school teaching period not covered in their contract. Since September, the teachers have had 6 teaching periods rather than 5 periods. However, the community learned last night that those teachers affected by the additional teaching period are seeking a one-time payment of $2.2 million, as compensation for this extra period of work.

Although the school board unanimously approved using some of the District’s fund balance for 2012-13 budget gap, the three budget strategies remain under consideration – (1) soliciting tax exempt property owners in lieu of taxes, (2) increasing class size and (3) demotion of professional staff for economic reasons.

Here are Ray’s notes from last night’s school board meeting:

There were two you-better-be-paying-attention moments in tonight’s drawn-out meeting, marked otherwise by earnest students delving at length into school funding and opportunities for tax increases and donations, restrained only by the Solicitor waving placards announcing that their time was up.

First, in a discussion about risks to the “Proposed Final Budget”, we were reminded about the $1.4 million of revenue risk from commercial appeals and the $1 million of expense risk from the union appeal of having to teach 6 periods. Then the solicitor was asked to report on another grievance just filed by the TEEA. As last time, much incoherent mumbling, but it appears that the new grievance covers the same issue as the first one, but it goes back to the current year, adds some kind of multiplier and that’s worth another $2.2 million.

Fast forward to the very end of the meeting, Karen Cruickshank reads a statement about the negotiations that essentially says:

  • It’s a new world
  • The district has nothing for salary, wages and benefits (SW&B) increases
  • All other employee groups have made concessions or had salaries frozen
  • The Board does not like asking people to work more for less, but that’s reality for many taxpayers
  • The next steps would be to revisit demotions and then all non-mandated programs
  • “Everyone has to give up something”, and if so, there can be a solution
  • In response to resident questions: a) Both sides are represented by professional negotiators because the stakes are high, and b) if the Board talked directly to teachers they would open themselves up to potential Unfair Labor Practice charges
  • The next negotiation session is on June 7th

You would think that the Board position would be straightforward: here’s how much money we have (assume tax increases of index plus exceptions; at some point PSERS and maybe even Special Ed increases will begin to tail off), work with us to figure out how it should be allocated. The Projection Model for combined SW&B would be pretty much the line in the sand, you would think.

It appears as though the TEEA strategy is set up an extreme position for possible arbitration, and to seize as much as possible from the fund balance while it’s there, and keep the pressure on the citizenry to support new funding sources (sales or income taxes, or some change in the Act 1 index?). The $1 million from the original grievance would be an ongoing expense, but – if I understood it right – the $2.2 million would be one time.

The budget with the $1.55 million fund balance contribution was approved 9-0, but it’s clearly not final. They still have not updated the compensation costs for the retirements/replacements, which will bring a material saving. And the class size and demotion issues are still on the table. The next Finance Committee on June 11th (still at the TEAO) will hopefully bring us some decisions and accurate numbers. (But not likely a negotiations breakthrough from June 7th – what are the negotiators doing for the next three weeks, anyway?)

If anyone wants to weigh in on the donations issue, it will be discussed at the Policy Committee on May 23rd at 6:30pm in the TEAO. The June 14th Board meeting for Final Budget adoption will be in the CHS cafeteria.

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  1. A $2.2 Million one time payment? Once again, the TEEA shows exactly what they care about: the money and only the money. Definitely not the kids.

    Their goal to grab as much from the Fund Balance – “while its there” as Pattye says – proves it even further.

    I guess what really infuriates me is that it isn’t like these teachers are spending extra time at the schools because of this extra period. They are simply doing work during the workday they are already paid to be there. Of course, since it may not line up exactly with their clock-watching contract, the union wants more.

    Let the union find exactly one job in the private sector for their teachers where this would be possible. In that world, they would be laughed out of the building.

    Once again, the TEEA has shown its total disconnect from the real world that we taxpayers, who fund their contract, live in.

    I respect our teachers and their contribution to our schools. I realize that many of them go above their contracts to prep for classes, offer extra help for kids, etc. What I don’t respect, however, is that they have the absolute power to tell the TEAA to “sit down and shut up” about things like this and they don’t.

    If the teachers really wanted to the public to believe they understand our concerns on contract costs, etc., they would throw the TEAA and PSEA out and sit down with local school board members. Instead, they brought in the PSEA to negotiate for them – causing the school board to bring in its attorney.

    I am “all in” for this fight against the TEAA and the PSEA, even if it means being inconvenienced by a strike. I just hope the school board has the strength for the fight – and local residents have the strength to back them up.

    We can keep our high quality schools at a lower cost and be fair to teachers. But we can only do it if we stand up to the teachers’ union.

    1. For the most part that extra period had been used to give kids access to teachers. I know my kids have griped that they have a harder time getting in to see the teacher for the extra stuff because they have less non-teaching time. And adding an additional class is not just the time for the class it also adds prep and need for “extra help” as well. Just so you know it isn’t a simple matter of using time that they are paid for but that they sit idly by watching the clock.

      So I agree I don’t like seeing grievances filed but it isn’t as simple as it appears and is typically a response to how such issues are created in the first place. Responsibility lies on both sides of the action.

    2. I am going to try to respond to some of your statements without taking this/making this personal

      “A $2.2 Million one time payment? Once again, the TEEA shows exactly what they care about: the money and only the money. Definitely not the kids.”….

      Let me first say…. “Do I think that the timing of the high school’s grievance is good?”…the answer is NO. “If I were a high school teacher, would I have pushed for this grievance to be filed?’…the answer is NO again.

      That being said….

      1) This grievance was filed a long time ago and is being brought to your attention now because of the budget crisis.

      2) I was informed when I asked about the grievance that its something that happens all of the time, and its something that has to be done for the following reason: If you don’t file a grievance when a change has been made that is not in the contract or breaches the contract, and you don’t do anything about it…then down the line if an additional change is made that is similar to/related to the previous change, then there is no record/no documentation that this was an issue before…which then allows the district to make changes that may have originally breached the contract. Nothing is going to come from this grievance, as nothing comes from most grievances. Its just a way to put on record a dispute with a change. The district can say that it may cost them 2.2 million, but its not going to–the rep in my school said its not going anywhere. They are blowing it out of proportion because it garners favor for their side. It is obviously working… (and to respond to a comment I am sure someone will make…yes, I agree, both sides do the same sort of thing)

      3) Think of the reverse situation. Lets just say I decided to stop doing something that is stated in my contract because there just wasn’t time for it anymore or because I didn’t agree with it–that is a breach of my contract/I am not following what I agreed to do. Would you want the administrators to just let me do it without question because it’s bad timing to bring it up. Would the excuse of please don’t fire me or reprimand me because the economy is tough, and if I get fired, I won’t be able to survive financially. Would you want the administrators to give me a free pass and let me breach my contract just because its a bad time, or do you want them to follow the appropriate steps to note that I am not following my contract?

      On to the next one….

    3. The next one to discuss….

      “I guess what really infuriates me is that it isn’t like these teachers are spending extra time at the schools because of this extra period. They are simply doing work during the workday they are already paid to be there. Of course, since it may not line up exactly with their clock-watching contract, the union wants more.”

      People don’t fully understand the “went from teaching 5 periods to 6”. As John pointed out….their planning time did not change. They have one period a day out of the 8 periods given as planning time. The district allows the absolute minimum for planning time as stated in the contract. For the other 7 periods a day they have always had an assigned responsibility. They taught 5 periods and then had 2 periods for advisory, duties, etc… Now they have 6 teaching periods which adds more planning, more prep work, more grading…and only 1 period for advisory and duty, which basically just takes away 45 minutes a day where students could get help from their teachers, meet with their teachers, etc… They are not grieving about teaching the extra period…as Andrea stated the grievance is about a “change in working conditions” which is supposed to be negotiated.

      Again, just because I understand it, doesn’t mean I would have pushed for the grievance because of the timing and because of the current financial situation. To be honest, the grievance makes many in the elementary school upset because on the surface without true knowledge of the situation, it makes the teachers at the high school look like complainers, which then reflects on all of us. But the elementary teachers have always been “the forgotten group” when it comes to the union and to the public. We teach all day, except for a 45 minute planning period and have to prep for Math, Science, Social Studies, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, 3 Different Levels of Reading Groups, and more. From the West, do you truly believe that 45 minutes a day is enough time to prepare quality lessons for all of those subjects? Don’t forget grading time, conferencing with kids, responding to parent phone calls, analyzing and imputing data. Also don’t forget dealing with social and behavior issues. Elementary teachers run a one stop shop with not even close to enough time to be ready for it built into the day. So the overwhelming majority of elementary teachers spend hours each day before and after school, and at home doing all of the stuff that can’t be done in 45 minutes. Then of course, if you want to go above and beyond and make something extra special for the kids (which again a majority of el ed teachers do) add a couple more hours of work in there.


      In the last three years we have lost FLES and the Applied Tech program. That has caused an increase in instructional time for the classroom teacher of 135 minutes a cycle in the elementary schools. That is no small amount of time when teaching an 8 year old. So we lost prep time, but had more time to prepare for. Not only more time to prepare for, but more curriculum. That time wasn’t just filled with things we already do. More curriculum is added to fill in that time…which is more to plan for. We are now losing help in our title I programs and the responsibilities of those positions are again falling on the classroom teachers.

      SO….as you can see, the elementary teachers are a little peeved about this too because of how it makes us look. We could of filed a grievance with the Applied Tech change because our working conditions were changed too, but we didn’t. We in the elementary school always just go with itand roll with the punches….but in the grand scheme of thing I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

      SO…I take offense to being called greedy and a clock watcher and to being called disconnected. Again, I offer it up to you….come teach in my classroom for two weeks and then tell me how easy it is, and how I am a money grubber, and a clock watcher, and how we have plenty of time to do what we need to do.

      IF teachers only stuck to their contracted times, the schools would be garbage, the lessons would be garbage, the kids would hate it, and the results would show it. The district knows that no matter what they will get more than what the contract says because people care about their jobs and care about the kids…so don’t give me that crap that we don’t care about the kids. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t work beyond our hours, we wouldn’t start preparing our classroom weeks in advance (1/2 a day is given), we wouldn’t show up to numerous after hours events… You live off the assumption that because we are teachers we should just work more than we are contracted because that’s part of the job. Its not part of the job…teachers make it part of the job because that’s the only way to truly do a good job. Ask the administrators what the quality of education would be if we all walked in at 7:55 and left at 3:40.

      1. TE TEacher
        Thanks for your comments. Every single thing you say is true. And elementary teachers always are under-represented….but you all are the only ones who can change that.

        Here is the “flip side” to your view though. Professionals do not work 8 hour days. Professionals do what it takes. You do work at home at night because you can — many professionals are at the office until 8 or 10 at night to finish their work. Many professionals cannot even relate to the idea of “paid” preparation time. Now — we all have it. I have always said that teachers run a 6 hour meeting….in a 7 hour day. It is a VERY hard job.
        But so are lots of jobs. Lots of them. And in this economy, people don’t get to grieve too much work. Productivity is measured in most industries — it’s a whole new consulting term called benchmarking.
        If teachers would add prep time from 3:40 – 5:00, they’d have plenty of time in their schedule. If teachers would accept an 8 hour contract day (PLUS lunch), there would be another hour to discuss. But none of that was ever put on the table — “We have a 7:35 minute day — longest in Chester County” was the response when I begged to go to 8 hours JUST for how it would look.
        You work at home because you care. Are any of the administrators at TE not previous classroom teachers? I don’t think so. Their expectations come from experience and history.
        No one has an easy job. Parents who need to work two jobs and hope their kids are self-directed don’t have it easy. Watching your property taxes go up so that your kids’ teachers can get free health care when your own benefit plan has been cut to the bone AND you pay for it…

        IF we had some really horrible schools in our district, maybe our lifelong teachers would have a better understanding of just how good things are in our schools. You are not a money grubber or a clock watcher. But you are also fairly compensated and have a very comfortable retirement guaranteed by the state. Most taxpayers do not have any kind of promise like that. And certainly no job protection where a “demotion” causes a community uproar.

        So thanks TE Teacher. I’m sure you cannot relate to the elementary teacher who wore the “GO FOR THE CONTRACT” button when my children were in elementary school, and when asked about it, told the class to ask my son to go home and ask his mother. I”m sure you cannot relate to the elementary teacher who shared my child’s crying about missing the bus to the teacher’s lounge “because he must be afraid of me.”

        So thanks TE Teacher. Please continue to do a great job. But also please share with your peers that we do appreciate that they DO THEIR JOB. Look at your PSERS statement of earnings and at the pension you will receive for your life after teaching. Look at the health care plan you pay so little for and ask around to your non-teacher friends what they pay and what they get. Look at your contract with 11 non-student contact days. And as bossy as you believe the admins are, confirm with them that they have other districts trying to hire them because most teachers would prefer to just stay in the classroom.

        Life is tough. And IF this contract goes unresolved, WILL YOU work to the contract? We aren’t suggesting you do that now — but that IS what will be asked in all likelihood. So maybe your contract is NOT that tightly worded? Maybe contracts presume professionalism.

        I’m sorry for sounding as bitter as you sound. I have sat opposite teachers and listened to them bargain. So many of you are wonderful, but NOT ALL.

        This contract cannot be “more of the same” because the same is over. Thanks for your patience here. It does help to educate us all. I hope you don’t take my comments personally — but in the end, this IS personal.

        1. “Here is the “flip side” to your view though. Professionals do not work 8 hour days. Professionals do what it takes. ”

          —-I don’t work 8 hours a day…I work more because as you say…that’s what it takes. If it is accepted that all these other professionals do more…why can’t people on this board accept that we do more…we do what it takes..if we didn’t we wouldn’t get stuff done. Most professionals do it for fear of losing their job. I do it because its the right thing to do (again, you will say I don’t have to fear my job loss because of the union…but if that’s the case then even more interesting that even though it gains nothing for me on a personal level to do…I still do it.

          “You do work at home at night because you can — many professionals are at the office until 8 or 10 at night to finish their work.”

          — Working at home is the same as staying at the office or a school to work. When I say working at home…I don’t mean while watching TV or playing with my kids or lounging on the couch…I mean sitting in my office…doing work. If I could stay longer at school I would, its easier to do work there….they want you out by 7 at the latest in my building. The place in which you do work makes no difference…the work is what does…

          “Many professionals cannot even relate to the idea of “paid” preparation time. Now — we all have it. I have always said that teachers run a 6 hour meeting….in a 7 hour day. It is a VERY hard job.”

          —-if you are a web designer or computer programmer or etc etc….your whole day mostly consists of paid prep time….you are working and creating…working towards completing a task. You may have a meeting or present something based on it for a minor percentage of your time…but I run as you say a 6 hour meeting with kids (people who can not sit for long lengths of time doing one thing like adults can). It’s like performing a one man show for 6 hours, and then having to come up with a whole new,different, and exciting one man show for the next day, everyday…

          As I said before…I am not saying my job is harder than everyone’s…but what I am trying to get across is that it’s not any less demanding or easier. Enough of….I like to see them work in the private sector….

      2. TE Teacher,

        Teachers in TE get a full day of prep time immediately prior to end of marking periods – an in-service day to prepare report cards, grade and prep. They are one of the few districts around that get this – all other teachers manage to grade tests and prepare report cards without an extra in-service day.

        This is a source of frustration to many TE parents – it feels like random in-service days in the middle of the year – and has two negative consequences:
        1) parents need to arrange child care of those days (not recognized holidays by most employers).
        2) it extends the end of the school year longer than most districts around.

        I have asked at meetings why can’t we eliminate these days and the administration is hesitant to do so – because they are concerned that teachers can’t manage without an extra day to grade papers. They have all but stated that it would be a union problem if they try and take that day away because the “teachers expect it” and it has become a defacto part of the teaching contract.

        So, I tend to lose sympathy when I hear examples of how teachers in TE have it better than their counterparts yet file a multi-million grievance about actually having to teach more and prep less.

        1. you are completely misinformed about inservice days and planning periods.

          Teachers in TE get a full day of prep time immediately prior to end of marking periods – an in-service day to prepare report cards, grade and prep. They are one of the few districts around that get this – all other teachers manage to grade tests and prepare report cards without an extra in-service day.

          We don’t have any full days of prep time for report cards….no level…elementary, middle, or high school.

          We are given three am meeting times 8:05-8:35 in elementary to complete report cards…so instead of going to a meeting…we do report cards…which cannot be completed in that time.

          We are rarely given assessment time at an inservice….most inservice days are completely scheduled with workshops.

          You also say….
          This is a source of frustration to many TE parents – it feels like random in-service days in the middle of the year – and has two negative consequences:
          1) parents need to arrange child care of those days (not recognized holidays by most employers).
          2) it extends the end of the school year longer than most districts around.

          The district makes the schedule, they schedule all of the inservice days…they continually ask for more inservice days in every contract….your frustration is with the administration….we have 10 inservice days…thats not by our choice…that’s what the district wants. They wanted additional days in the last contract…which would be inservice days if added. None of what you mentioned is controlled by the teachers…

    4. This is from #1 Teacher Supporter Ray Clarke’s blurb about the meeting and Karen C’s comments:

      “All other employee groups have made concessions or had salaries frozen”

      —We voluntarily took a 1/2 year pay freeze last year which allowed the district to balance the budget…didn’t have to…

      —What concessions did the administrators make? Hell, I’d take a pay freeze for life if I was already making $150,000 a year.

      –We made concessions in our first proposal…the first one…so undoubtedly by the time negotiations were over, a lot more concessions will be made. Only problem…the district is STILL refusing to negotiate, but somehow that fails to be mentioned.

      The board does not like asking people to work more for less, but that’s reality for many taxpayers

      –We already have been at the elementary level. During our current contract, we have lost 135 minutes of planning time a cycle (an average of over 22 minutes a day) and therefore have added 135 minutes of instructional time and everything that goes with it (new curriculum, creating new materials, more assessment). Also, many support positions have been cut, and their responsibilities do not just disappear, they get added to our workload. So we’ve had more teaching, more planning, with less time, and less support…

      1. TE TEACHER — you selected this to respond to:
        “The board does not like asking people to work more for less, but that’s reality for many taxpayers”
        with this:

        –We already have been at the elementary level. During our current contract, we have lost 135 minutes of planning time a cycle (an average of over 22 minutes a day) and therefore have added 135 minutes of instructional time and everything that goes with it (new curriculum, creating new materials, more assessment). Also, many support positions have been cut, and their responsibilities do not just disappear, they get added to our workload. So we’ve had more teaching, more planning, with less time, and less support…”

        So please forgive me for needing to emphasize a point here:
        You ahve not been working more for less. You have been working more productively for the same amount. You are spending more time in student contact during your contract day. I’m sure you know countless teachers — especially at the elementary level — that haven’t changed some of their curriculum assignments in 20 years. (I have 3 children who are quite close in age — I can show you their “FALL WALK” assignment ….their “GLOBE THEATER” assignment…should i go on?) Not every prep is tailored to the class of the next period.

        What you do is hard, and personal. So is living. I have friends who have been out of work for more than a year — with masters’ degrees and more.

        I asked in my long post to NOT make this a rant against teachers. But where else can people turn? Teachers have access to our children 7:35 a day. And your comment about FLES taking away free time was certainly unintended –as the FLES program was NEVER designed to provide the classroom teacher time away from the students. Applied Tech — yes but many teachers went with the kids as it was new to them too. Science? Weren’t the science aides often certified teachers?

        So we know it’s hard. And I’m sorry for people who are “disgusted.” But you need to accept that grievances are NOT nothing — they cost the district thousands of dollars in response and legal work. And the grievance about e-learning plainly and simply forced us into the past. And we both know that if we added time to the school day, even if it was for prep and planning time — the teachers would demand additional pay. Sigh.

        Are there any grown-ups in the room? Please step up to your union and be sure they represent you. You did not grieve FLES because it would have been wrong to do so. Thank you. We aren’t wringing the last ounce from the teachers. Tenure. Health care. Pensions. Summers off (whether you work or not)

        1. Science? Weren’t the science aides often certified teachers?

          Science aides are para-professionals. They do not have to be certified teachers. ours is not. They do not teach the lessons, they do not plan the lesson. They prep the materials and support the lesson…and they are a godsend. Without them, Science would be so much harder to successfully implement. They have been mentioned in cuts before, just like many of the title I support teachers, and the math support teachers, and the instructional aides…all people a school needs to function properly…are being slowly phased out of the school.


          Summers off (whether you work or not)….right….

  2. Disgusting….I am so disgusted with the teachers of TESD, no to mention FURIOUS. If they cared one measley ounce for this community and it’s youth, they would NEVER allow these grievances. Total greed. At this point, let them ALL go find employment elsewhere. They act like spoiled brats, and to think they are teaching our students. Just awful.
    PLEASE TESD School Board, stand strong. There are better out there, we don’t need or WANT them any longer. and don’t tell me not to blame the Teachers. It is up to them if a grievance gets filed, NOT R. Waldie. She can only suggest they do so.
    Any respect I may have had is long gone…

    1. I am disgusted with you….I am a taxpayer, teacher, and parent….and to read these ignorant statements upsets me. People want to become involved now that something is wrong, but aren’t truly knowledgeable about all that’s going on and just react emotionally to snippets of information they hear….Then they blast an entire group of people that they don’t even know or communicate with…

      1. that pension… wow! Can I get a teaching job in TE? healthcare.. wow… where do I sign up. Typically, I missed the boat. because things will change. They have to. The teachers, through their union are creating a monster. The taxpayers are revolting. Until the teachers de-link from their grubby union leaders, I fear the conversation will get more acrimonious. And the support for the board will soar.

        Sorry te teacher, we don’t cry for you anymore. But allow me to say I do understand your work, the dedication and time you put in. The care you have for the kids. But turn the page to econ 101. The existing model is a failed model in todays economy. You guys have it good. Don’t blow it. thanks for listening. and thanks for taking prep time or personal time to respond on these boards. Very informative.

      2. Te teacher – as a parent who put two kids through our schools, as a taxpayer and former school board member (1999 – 2007) I want you to know how much I appreciate the fine work our teachers have been doing – and despite a degree of incompatibility inherent in union representation, I agree with you that most of our teachers are true professionals. I know how difficult it is to work with kids all day (I have done quite a bit of that myself in other contexts). That is why I fought for smaller class size at the elementary level. And in my opinion, you are not overpaid. We are really number one in Pennsylvania (two schools that beat us are magnet schools) and of course the foundation for success in the high school begins in elementary school.

        Having said that, we have to recognize current economic and political realities. Significant concessions will need to be made – particularly in the arena of health benefits. Otherwise, more cuts directly affecting the kids will be made – and none of us wants that . . . .

        1. how ironic that the default position is cuts to the programs. And nary a concession, a true concession from the union.

          Just gets people all flamed out. still thinking about the bennies… pension health care..

      3. Ps – people coming in uninformed at the 11th hour, attacking with ignorant comments – ha! Welcome to the school board!

  3. Very well said, FTW. Grab the fund balance, while it’s there – how sickening, but true.

    There is a solution that is equitable for the taxpayers, the students, and the teachers. The union stands firmly in the way, intent on protecting the broader interests of the PSEA. It’s time for our teachers to stand up for the best interests of our community’s schools.

  4. I am very happy to read the above posts. I too have had it with the TEEA and the teachers too, frankly/ Either they are too weak to stand up to their own union or they agree with the tactics. Either way, I am concerned that this creates a profile of the TE teacher that may show they are LESS than what all these kids and parents and alums are saying on their behalf. Im ready to go to the wall. Strike? Lets have at it.

    And lets support our board and our negotiator. It is time to say enough is enough. The teachers are supposed to be PROFESSIONALS. They SHOULD go the extra mile for their kids. Time clock be damned. ENOUGH!

    1. ” The teachers are supposed to be PROFESSIONALS. They SHOULD go the extra mile for their kids. Time clock be damned. ENOUGH!”

      are you a professional?

      are you going to go the extra mile for me while I am going the extra mile for you and damning the time clock at the same time? Are you going to come babysit my kids? are you going to come clean my house? are you going to come make my family dinner?

      I mean its not in your contract as a human being, but it sure would be helpful—. I think you should just do it, regardless of what you have to do or your responsiblities…your life be damned…ENOUGH!

      You wouldn’t ask this of any other profession…so why is it implied for a teacher? (and hint hint…we do it already…time clock be damned)

  5. FTW and others – I apologize for the length of this. I won’t do it again, and will post any other long-winded information on but I want to keep the discussion focused here with Pattye’s excellent and dedicated work.

    I was a board member from 1991-2002. I did 3 teacher contracts and the PSEA was absent from the table in the final one. (6 years — numbers for the first 3 years, parameters about finances to establish the pay for the final 3 years — ratified based on trust). There have been complaints on this blog and elsewhere that the board has given things away over the years, but perhaps now we can get to the root of it – labor peace comes at varying prices. Every contract has been bought by your tax dollars. And it’s important to understand that all the power in this relationship belongs to the PSEA with the support of the courts.
    You are correct that this grievance is simply a PSEA enforcement method. We need to remember the earlier “successful” TEEA grievance about “online learning” – a student-centered initiative quickly annihilated by the PSEA to “protect jobs.” All was based on preventing the transfer of work by “bargaining unit members” to others. (pdf of the order available) As the outcome, our students cannot take coursework online from another institution or source for credit – our teachers want the right to be paid to teach those online courses. It was not an unreasonable decision, but it has eliminated the options for TESD to offer e-learning. The decision is outlined in the pdf I have provided to Pattye.

    Under the existing contract, our teachers have a 7 hour and 35 minute contract day, including 30 minutes for lunch. To save you from going there ( The contract language is as follows:

    “Except on the parent conference days, the Employee scheduled work day shall be a continuous period of seven (7) hours and thirty-five (35) minutes for secondary (5-12) Employees, which is 2,275 minutes per week. For elementary Employees, the work day shall be scheduled within the parameters identified in Section 4.10 and will be 2,275 minutes per week. Each Professional Employee shall have a thirty (30) minute duty free lunch each day.”

    As to union membership business, the district also subsidizes a good deal of the time that any union business takes place during work time:

    “The Employer agrees to allow the Bargaining Agent thirty (30) paid days for union business during the contract year. The TEEA will reimburse the Employer for the cost of substitutes for the total number of days over twelve
    (12). If four (4) or more union members will be out for union business on the same day, at least thirty (30) days notice to the Director of Personnel is required. Additional district days may be used to assist the Employer with Employer/
    Employee initiatives which may from time to time benefit the Employer and its Employees. These days will be determined at the discretion of the Superintendent
    of Schools or his/her designee after consulta-tion with the TEEA. The Association president shall not receive any non-instructional duties. ”

    (Note from the hyphen in “consulta-tion” above that these terms are typically annually carried over and never renegotiated….so the board does NOT use all their “weapons” in negotiation. )

    TE Teacher on this blog has explained that the elementary teachers (and middle school) have no part in this grievance happening now, because only the high school teachers had traditionally been scheduled to teach 5 periods per day. In a 6-day cycle with an 8 period day, the high school teachers previously taught 30 out of 48 periods.
    To avoid making cuts to the program while improving the efficiency of our tax dollars, the board changed the teaching schedule AT THE HIGH SCHOOL to 36 out of 48 periods. The grievance is about “change in working conditions”…..which they claim needs to be negotiated.
    As part of their negotiated “work day” of 7:35 minutes (30 minutes for lunch included), teachers also receive the following time off from teaching:

    4.091 Individual Preparation Period
    A “preparation period” is defined as the time during the work day when a member of the Bargaining Unit shall be released from instruction or student contact and be free from other responsibilities, including meetings, except for teacher initiated meetings, in order that such time may be used for teacher-directed preparation for instruction. Each full time Bargaining Unit member shall receive an average of two hundred twenty-five minutes per week of preparation time within a range of two hundred to two hundred fifty minutes per week in any particular week and a minimum of one preparation period per day. Each preparation period shall consist of a minimum of 30-minute blocks of time at each level. Other released time beyond two hundred twenty-five minutes per week may be used at the District’s discretion for additional preparation time and/or non-teaching assignments (NTA).”

    Note that the “per week” is per 5 day week I believe, not the 6-day schedule/cycle that our schools run on.

    Memory Check/ Reminder: Then Union President Debra C. claimed that the teachers were willing to give back their “end of school year days” at a savings to the district. (In other words, they were willing to not work and not get paid). They would not, however, put that in writing or negotiate it. Yet, in these grievance issues, they “Demand to bargain.”

    SO — this is just tit for tat. And the reason I am commenting here is because IN MY OPINION, the notion that the board should be willing to take a strike is misguided. There is NOTHING to be achieved by that. The teachers do not lose one dime of pay. NOT ONE DIME. The disruption to lives of students, families and employees (if the schools are closed, the other employees not protected by the teacher laws may in fact lose pay — bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, maintenance) is significant. It’s why the website STOP TEACHER STRIKES is so focused on ending this process. NO ONE is served by it — and it’s a nasty experience on all sides. It’s a stretch to point it out here, but in some more militant districts in PA, teachers who have ignored the “work to contract” rules have experienced personal attacks.

    As has been pointed out here before, the bulk of the negotiating team for the teachers comes from the high school. One of the members is a step 16 PhD who would probably fall under the demotion scenario. The PSEA sits back and threatens the district and taxpayers with every strategy under the sun, and files grievances with their staff lawyers that require time to defend and respond with “paid by the hour” solicitor time. Yet we filled the room recently as so many from this community ran and supported teachers when faced with two budget cutting strategies — demotion and class size.

    Why? Because the only true struggle in this is about power. And the PSEA has it all.

    The teachers can say the district doesn’t care about them — and the PSEA reinforces that perspective with a focus on what the board ‘will do to them’ with benefits and pay — when in fact the board cannot do anything with either of those issues without a change to the contract.

    Education and schools are not by any means an “us vs. them” mentality – except during negotiations when the PSEA playbook is in full force.

    SO — it’s a shame that this all happens. But I stand in the background sadly knowing that being “all in” even if it means a strike is absolutely hollow. A strike not only serves no purpose — it’s just a disruption without a reward. Teachers lose NO PAY. And kids lose throughout — as typically the PSEA orders teachers after a strike or in contemplation of a strike to “work to the contract”. While I’m not sure our teachers would ever do that, the process typically involves teachers refusing to do anything that is not written into their contract. If they strike, teachers are ordered back to work in a short time period so that the district can complete a full legal school year. Teachers are “annually compensated.” Once they “work to the contract” they walk out of the building at the end of the 7:35 day. They do no work at home. They won’t write recommendations. They won’t do anything not specifically articulated in the contract. And folks – these are PROFESSIONALS….but they do things in negotiations that belie that. What other professional do you know of that punches a time clock?

    Standing up to the teachers union is a waste of energy, as we have no power to enforce. Look — we scheduled the high school teachers to teach more time in their work day, and we have exposed ourselves to a $3M grab. Now here’s the irony: the ruling that they are annually compensated pretty much flies in the face of the fact that they are grieving now for over $3M because they (high school teachers) were asked to teach 20% more in a work week — during the time they were already contracted for and paid to be there.

    I apologize for this incredibly and even unfortunately long post. I have one other comment to make: the board’s statement that they are not at the table because of the threat of Unfair Labor practices is not false. It’s not likely, but I was threatened with one during a negotiation because I had talked to a teacher about a detention my son with a broken ankle had gotten for getting out of his chair during class. My sister is an attorney and we handled it privately. It was never filed and I think the TEEA and I reached an amicable view of how we would proceed. But side note: I sent that child to private school the following year. The scrutiny he felt as the Board president’s son was extreme. My two other children were thicker skinned. So it was not without cost to me.

    This is not a pleasant time. This is a war. PSEA provides a negotiator, and the TESD has hired one. I wish the board would remove the 3 administrators from the negotiations, as I believe it damages the “working together” our people need to do after this is over. Like FTW, I wish the TEEA rank and file would understand the fact that they have all the power on the side of the union – and the district really is at the mercy of this process. The PSEA is not overly concerned with TESD — but with power. The TEEA cedes the quality of the district to issues like this grievance to comply with PSEA strategies.

    There is one clause in the teacher’s contract no one ever seems to remember:

    Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association and the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District agree that the continuation of the high professional and ethical standards that exist in the District is of utmost importance. They further agree that the maintenance of discipline and high academic standards is an important aspect of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. Therefore, both the District and the Association will strive for the perpetuation of these practices and standards.”

    This economy is dreadful, and I’m not an economist, but I do not in any way think it is rebounding. Houses are selling because the prices have gotten so low and mortgage rates are also so low. And some people really do need to move. For the first time in my memory, my school taxes will be over 1% of my property’s value. My family is not in an industry with any kind of pension, so we are tasked with trying to save money to be able to retire someday. My teacher friends have heard me say this too many times: To have a pension equal to 75% of your highest salary (free of Pennsylvania taxes) after working just 30 years is something few people working can even understand. Retiring with $100,000 salary means $75,000 a year for life in pension. With estimated earnings today of 3% on an annuity (good luck finding even that), you would need to have saved $2.5 million dollars to generate that pension. Any clue how much you would have to put away each year to do that! So you can complain all you want about “not making big bucks” during your career, but you are – it’s just that so much of what you make is being saved elsewhere by taxpayers on your behalf. Two married teachers would have to save $5M to have the kind of pension income that a TYPICAL and average teacher will generate at the age of 55 – after 30 years of teaching. Stay until 65 and you will have 100% pension. That’s why things have to change for the next generation. Federal pensions are nowhere near that kind of generous nowadays – but they didn’t have to bargain the change.

    This is the deal we all have struck. But it’s not something we can afford any longer. I left the school board after 3 terms because I didn’t have the energy to deal with the demands of parents and teachers, along with taxpayers. We had people wearing 80/20 shirts to meetings and complaining that AP courses should not be offered – as we were subsidizing college costs. We had parents suggesting we should have one gifted elementary school so that their gifted children should be able to have the same level of attention that special education children had. We had post-Columbine families that were convinced Conestoga was super-sized and threatening. We had a local landowner telling the world we were going to take his property from him (when in fact, we didn’t want it…the state required additional acreage for the high school). The only way we could fill a meeting room was to move a bus stop — then people were personally affected and came out.

    I was extremely heartened by the final contract I did with the teachers because it reflected the truth that TE teachers care about TE – and we were able to fix some of the step issues and incorporate health care costs into our salary increases. But after I left, so did the senior TEEA people – and in came the PSEA. Every contract since then has been done by a PSEA negotiator at the center of the talks. This is the first time TESD has hired an “outsider” to do our talking.

    Good luck to us all. If anyone has any questions for me, I’d be happy to answer them. I have a blog at that I stopped using when Pattye’s wonderful effort here at Community Matters became so useful and helpful. (but it’s still there…) I don’t like to clog up her conversations, but none of my answers are short or simple. I don’t come to meetings because the current board quite honestly has heard enough from me. I don’t blame them. It’s their turn.

    I said it before – good luck to us all. This is NOT going to be fun. And that makes me sad. But we are not alone. We see things here, but you only need to go on to see the magnitude of the negotiating problems. And I’m not sure they even keep that up to date, because fighting the PSEA is rather futile.

  6. andrea great info. I am confused as to why the teachers get paid during a strike. Maybe its in the contract? or part of labor law in PA.. (another give away by our legislators?)

    I am in favor of an amicable settlement. But those pension numbers are staggering. I am losing my respect for our teachers. Talk about greedy capitalists.

    Lock out anyone?

    1. Teachers do not get paid during a strike. But by the end of the school year teachers will work the full number of days that they are contracted to work so they will get their full salary.

      1. They work a legal work year — NOT the full number of days in their contract. Distinction WITH a difference….(our teachers contract for 191 days….)

      Both parties agree faithfully to abide by the provisions of Pennsylvania Public Employee Relations Act 195 and Act 88.
      As a condition of the various provisions of this Agreement to which the parties have agreed, the Bargaining Agent pledges that members of the Bargaining Unit will not engage in a strike (as that term is defined in Act 195 and
      Act 88) during the term of this Agreement, and the Employer pledges that it will not conduct, or cause to be conducted, a lockout during the term of this Agreement.

      I don’t know if the provisions go beyond the term of the agreement ….but I presume “status quo” holds at least the district to the no lockout portion. Perhaps lawyers or other districts more familiar would know.

      As to the pay provision — I defer to Keith who explained it previously. But my understanding is that it is state case law — teachers receive an annual salary. They are ordered back to work so that a full school year is completed, so they are paid for a full school year….

      Please don’t rant at the teachers. The whole mentality has evolved over a lifetime. “Teachers don’t make much money…so their benefits and pensions are good.” Just listen to the teachers on this blog — they are earnestly supportive of the District. They “know” they will have to give back. It’s just that they don’t question why they don’t get the information in writing (“we weren’t supposed to write anything down”) — but taxpayers and residents presume information as well. WHY won’t the board tell us about the cost of the 17 retiring teachers (if they have, I apologize. I haven’t read everything they have sent out).

      The decision to make this negotiation acrimonious was made in advance. I have said before — labor peace is purchased by the district. The cost varies depending on the contract year. The PSEA will not accept that there is no money, and with a $30K fund balance, the grievance is a way to grab it or up the ante in the negotiations.

      Every single time we all sit down, someone goes home not sure who they can trust. The board came at this with a forceful view — because they cannot AFFORD to buy labor peace. Since the departure of Paul Slaninka, the TEEA has turned to relatively inexperienced people to run the union. It’s NOT an easy job. So they have turned to the state for PSEA reps at the table. When you have all the power, it can be invigorating. Why else file these grievances…with free legal help. The district has to assess whether or not it will cost more to litigate or to give in. The district has to assess whether a strike can be more damaging than the acrimony from taxpayers when they raise taxes.
      Act 1 changed things. The decision about how to pay for things changed forever. Only with taxpayer approval can the district raise taxes to maintain programs. But it’s hard to take things away from the teachers — all kinds of contract language continues each time. You have to “buy it back.” No money to do it.
      So teachers — TE teachers — it’s all your decision. Help us flourish, allow us to survive, or particpate in our demise? Keep good jobs, or lose great ones? If it costs us too much to provide, we have to cancel it. The custodians understood. PSEA wouldn’t let the bus drivers even cast a vote.

  7. The link to the grievance that was successfully filed by PSEA regarding “E-learning” can be viewed here. For your amusement, you might also want to look at the PSERS report from 2009 that basically forecast all the problems we are “suddenly” discovering.
    The website is out of date — I only put it together in 2009/10 to provide an analysis of the contract and the possibilities that it would ruin us. But, what did I know?

  8. One line in Andrea’s post hits me the most – what other “Professional” group has a union/timeclock standing up for them — attorneys, doctors, accountants?? NO. If teachers want to be considered “professional” they would drop the union representation and all this nonsense. Don’t let them blackmail our district or taxpayers with their “grievances”. Stand firm.

    1. What other “professionals” have to worry about being demoted just because they make the most money – even when they are more qualified than others? Why doesn’t the district use the demotion opportunity to demote sub par teachers in hopes that they might leave, instead of some of the best teachers just to make a point to the union?

      1. Jake
        EVERY professional worries about getting demoted — every single one. We pretend that seniority and age discrimination laws protect us, but in this economy now, if you are a senior person and some college kid can “almost” do your job for 1/2, furloughs for economic reasons are common.
        And consumers won’t pay for overpriced lawyers, accountants, even doctors. Insurance companies reduce reimbursements.
        And making the most money — by having the most education — does NOT guarantee anyone is “more qualified”. IF the teachers were not represented by collective bargaining, I can assure you the best teachers would make more, and the worst teachers would be gone. They take on the risk of protecting the weakest and as a result put the rest of themselves in jeopardy.

      2. Jake —

        ALL of them do. If you don’t believe that, you haven’t been in the work world for a while. Or you have been working for a group protected by a union like the PSEA. Either way, the highest paid professionals at almost all companies are the first to go anymore.

        1. My definition of “professional” may be different then yours. In my line of work – not union protected – we value quality and therefore keep the people that are performing. If someone needs to be fired/laid off/ etc. it will be the employee that is not performing up to their potential for in the long run they will end up costing more money. If this is not what you experience in your profession – I am sorry. But as so many have suggested to the teachers – if you don’t like your current situation – don’t complain about it, get a new job.

        2. Oh Jake — “in your profession.” I think you are in your 30s. You sound like my son.

          You do not keep people that are performing if you can hire someone who can “almost” do the job for much less. When it comes time to lay people off, they dont’ look for the new guys who don’t make much….(though sometimes they do to keep age discrimination from rearings its head).

          A movie that didn’t do so well critically because it hurt to watch starred Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Affleck among others. It’s called THE COMPANY MEN from 2010. Rent it.

          And read the WSJ for the law firms that are going down by the burden of their pension plan…and reorganizations because the senior people cost too much so younger cheaper people are spinning off.

          And that “get a new job” sounds like someone who hasn’t had to do that too often. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry. But “get a new job” only works in a country that is hiring. Unlike the teachers’ union, lots of jobs have been “outsourced.”

          Come on. Was it Winston Churchhill who said this?
          “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 50, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”

          A little perspective: WHen I was getting my MBA in the 70s, the GOAL was to make your age by the time you were 30.

          So let’s ease up on people who have a problem with tenure for people who are 30 and vested and making in the 60s…with a pension accruing yearly.

    2. What other professional group is just expected to go above and beyond just because “they should”?

      What do you think our schools would be like if every teacher just worked their contracted day? THEY WOULD ABSOLUTELY SUCK!….but they don’t….BECAUSE ALMOST NO TEACHERS (maybe 1%) JUST WORK THEIR CONTRACTED TIME.

      I can work my contract exactly to the T or I can go above and beyond my contract…either way…I am compensated the same. so then why do teachers work harder and longer than they are technically contracted to? …because they care about their PROFESSION and the people the have an effect on…if they didn’t those children would suffer and not have a valuable and fun education experience. Instead of just implying/assuming that teachers should spend all of the extra time and give the extra effort, maybe appreciate a group of professionals that could do less but does more. It ticks me off…this whole time clock thing is just junk….at my level (which is what I have experience with) I would say that over 90% of teachers spend an additional 2 hours a day working beyond their contract hours. I would say that over 75% spend 3 hours or more a day working beyond their contracted hours.

      1. I know my husband leaves his hotel room at 7:00 in the morning and gets back to it at 11:00 at night — 3 or 4 nights a week. He had 196 nights on a hotel frequent stayer plan last year. And here’s the deal –‘ it’s not considered “above and beyond.” If he didn’t want to do that, he could quit. If he refused to do it — he would be fired. For cause. YOU can loaf (as you say 1% might) and it takes repeated failing observations to even put you on profesional improvement plan.
        A carpenter building a deck next door just worked 14 hour days — rain cost him time — and he had deadlines to meet.

        This is a job for you — not a profession — or you would not consider doing it well “extra.” You chose a profession that requires time and effort . If you can find a job that doesn’t, I would expect it to pay far less — and have no security. I would hope you would ask your non-teaching friends about their day. If you like what they do more, perhaps it’s time for a career change? Oh wait — you have tenure and a pension.

        1. I am done responding to you and anyone on this board. You try to take what I say and spin it to your benefit…put words in my mouth.

          I tried to come on this board as a parent, taxpayer, and teacher, and let people in on some things I know about and have heard about to give everyone a little more transparency on what I know is going on, but instead I just read comment after comment blasting my profession and me (as a TE teacher). There is no reason to provide any more commentary on this board.

          1. TE Teacher,
            Thank you for offering transparency ‘from the inside’ as a teacher. I am troubled that some are personalizing their remarks to you — I think their words represent the frustration that many of us are feeling with the situation (But I want to believe that it is NOT you, but the overall situation).

            As a teacher but also a parent and taxpayer, you are providing all of us with invaluable information. I very much appreciate your insight, thank you.

        2. TE Teacher,.
          I appreciate your well thought out and level headed comments even if I don’t agree with some. Please reconsider your participation on this board. We learn from each other even if it’s uncomfortable at times.

      2. Get with the program… you think being a “professional” is working your contract? Professionals work until the job is done, the client is satisfied, and because it is their reputation, not their obligation. Every private sector employee can be demoted — its called being laid off (you didn’t deserve it) or fired (you did deserve it).



          Professionals work until the job is done, the client is satisfied, and because it is their reputation, not their obligation. THAT IS WHAT WE DO….WE DO IT UNTIL THE KIDS ARE SUCCESSFUL, UNTIL IT IS DONE RIGHT>>>BECAUSE ITS OUR REPUTATION>>>>WE ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO DO MORE THAN IT SAYS BUT EVERYONE DOES BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO DO GET THE JOB DONE….you are saying the same things I am saying…the private sector is no difference in that sense that being a teacher…HOW DONT YOU GET THAT!

        2. Right….so about those “work grievances”? Teaching an extra period within the 7.5 hour day?

          Just saying… TEEA is not winning the hearts and minds of taxpayers with this!

      3. the whole time clock thing is just junk.? So what are we fighting for? And that on line learning.. what a boon to the educational experience it would be for YOUR KIDS.. But the union nixed that. Whose interest were they protecting? E learning occurs at the college level. It opens a whole new world of ideas that the kids would be exposed to.
        But no go.. got to protect the teachers. this really ticks me off. Yea, you have my sympathy. Pi cha…

  9. There’s a lot of back and forth here, and it’s helpful to get the teacher perspective, but can there be any dispute about the following:

    – All jobs have pluses and minuses, including teaching, business, carpentry, etc. Generally people strive for a job that’s the best fit for them, given the constraints of the economy. Generally, again, people understand the requirements of the job, and if they learn something they don’t like, they change their situation.
    – It’s hard to establish the perfect relative compensation of teaching in TE versus other jobs, but we can quantify the value of the total compensation package and see that it exceeds local benchmarks and does not impose any hardships.
    – Moreover, over the last four years teachers have seen an increase in compensation and the value of healthcare and pension benefits that exceeds the growth in income of the people that pay for those benefits.
    – Now revenues are limited and out of the control of the school district and compensation costs continue to increase, so programs have been cut, yet there is still a deficit. It seems reasonable to expect that some of the gains that resulted purely from the favorable timing of the last contract should be used to prevent further program cuts.

    I had conversations with previous union leadership in the early days of the current contract when I felt there was an opportunity to take proactive, collaborative steps to eliminate this inevitable day of reckoning. Those went nowhere, and I have to admit that it colored my perspective and the conclusion that Andrea’s view of how the game is played is inescapable.

  10. TE Teacher
    I’m sorry you feel that way. As others have said here, I don’t want you to be blasted — but I do want you to understand just how insular the life of a teacher seems to many of us. We know you work hard, and we appreciate it. It’s just that in this economy, everyone who has a job better work hard, or they are gone.
    As a teacher, parent and taxpayer, you are in a unique position to understand both sides. But when you make comments like : “What do you think our schools would be like if every teacher just worked their contracted day? THEY WOULD ABSOLUTELY SUCK!….but they don’t….BECAUSE ALMOST NO TEACHERS (maybe 1%) JUST WORK THEIR CONTRACTED TIME.” you do put yourself on the line.

    You have to understand that money is always personal. What you get paid matters, and what it cost matters. When the economy was good, money was there largely because of transfer taxes booming and providing revenue that was almost like getting a “bonus.” No one had to raise taxes to get it…it was just “there.” Even putting it in the budget as a revenue seemed normal.

    This post has gotten so many responses that they are not in order. I don’t know if you read my earlier post where I referenced some really unpleasant experiences I had in the elementary and middle school as a board member and a parent. I certainly do not judge teachers by those experiences. I don’t think comments here are meant to degrade or “spin” your words.

    You seem to be a teacher with a great understanding of the complexities of the situation. I hope you will stand up and represent your views with the TEEA. You said the elementary teachers did not file a grievance — was that because the TEEA didn’t step up on your behalf? We need you to step up on behalf of the PROFESSION. No one works extra “because they should” unless they have no respect for the quality of their job. Teachers work hard because the job requires it. Raises have been automatic — and for all but union and government workers, that’s just not something most of us can relate to. We had to “earn” raises based on a review of our own performance.

    So please TE Teacher. Don’t give up on us — we certainly don’t want to give up on this process. It is personal. It feels personal. When someone cannot afford to live in their home any longer, it gets VERY personal. When someone loses their job, and sees their life disrupted by the threat of people who have so much influence in their lives not being happy with what they have — and possibly suing the taxpayers for more — it’s scary. And unsettling.

    But don’t give up. This is so much hyperbole. But filing grievances — and realizing they could add to our tax bill — is scary — and real.

  11. TE Teacher,

    It feels like you are asking us to praise you for getting the job done and working longer than listed in your contract. What I see is that many people work many many longer hours than a “standard” 8 hour day just to keep their job. Those people working those long hours? They don’t have gold standard benefits at minimal cost. They don’t have tenure. If all teachers are professionals and work such long hours, why is the union filing a grievance that may have such a significant negative impact over working hours?

    We’ve all lived through some tough times the last few years. No… actually we all haven’t. The teachers haven’t. They didn’t give up their raise – they deferred it 6 months. They ‘verbally’ offered to give up paid in-service days after school was out (which most teachers HOPED would happen! They all told me they wanted to get out early for summer vacation). This was never offered in writing because the entire contract would have had to be re-opened.

    I disagree with your statement about in-service days at the end of the marking period. Historically, TE teachers (especially HS teachers) were given these to grade papers. The Administration explained that these days have always been in the calendar and would create a problem if eliminated. (from a union perspective). At least in the coming year, they have been able to consolidate them with 3 day weekends, but looking at last year, who exactly wanted Monday, October 10th off? Not any parent – it was a hassle.

    I’m not against the teachers. I’m against the strong arm tactics of the union representing the teachers. Taxes can’t be raised enough to keep up with the increases in the contract. Do the math – that means cuts must be made. The fat is gone – we are getting to the bone. That scares me.

  12. TE Teacher
    I have to clarify one comment you made earlier, that if it is your understanding, certainly needs clarification.

    You talk about the “inservice” days as if it is meeting the administrative needs. These days were ALWAYS negotiated by the union. In the time prior to my time on the board, these days were actually added to supplement the payroll increases without admitting to it — i.e. they would say there was a 6% increase but with 2 or 3 additional days, the raises were really 8 %.

    In trying to reduce costs, there were several efforts to cut those days — after all, most are not student contact days — and it was a no-go. Reduction in compensation not on the table.

    SO — maybe we are all lamenting the same thing for different reasons. The calendar says you work 191 days, with 182 days for student contact. It outlines how the other 9 days are used (it was 8 days in the first part of this contract — student contact days did not increase).

    I think part of the problem is that teachers want/expect/get annual raises and the district feels they need to have something in return for thsoe raises — so they add days….

    And let’s all be clear — those “non student days” are not about “time off.” Room set-up and take down take up two of the days — (along with staff meetings), and 3 or 4 are for parent conferences — hardly time off. The district went to full days of inservice because the child care issue for half days was a bigger problem than random days off….and middle and high school parents didnt’ want their kids coming home mid-day without supervision.


    Hang in there TE Teacher. If these contracts weren’t so damned nit-picking, it would be easier for all of us. After all –even the administrators are teachers by training. No one got into this to be in business.

  13. After this negotiation is settled, I hope that both sides will have the foresight do some work to make the next round of negotiations less acrimonious. A Rutgers professor has written an interesting analysis of six districts that have improved administration-union relations through a long-term effort to enhance collaboration: Haven’t read it in detail, but clearly other districts have faced even worse problems (many of the collaborations were (to my surprise) precipitated by votes to strike!) and may have lessons to offer.

    1. The only way to less acrimony is more resources to buy labor peace. We have to get the community on board for what education is worth, and what we will pay for it. Just Say No doesn’t work in any context. Reasonable people have to be willing to understand, not just debate. The negotiatons in my time were reasonable — but I still could not get any movement on length of day “we have the longest day in Chester county.” One strong reason teaching as a profession has appeal is because it aligns with the schedule of a parent. You don’t work when the kids aren’t in school. We need to get back to the costs of compensation — not just the duties of the teacher. What IS compensation? It’s not just a paycheck. What is a job? It’s not just the contract language.

      Check out the PSEA website where they have a research paper excerpted (full version only available to PSEA members) about how strikes don’t damage academics. It’s an interesting perspective…..and odd to me that they would tout it.

    2. Whenever a study is referenced as in Reforming Public School Systems through Sustained Union-Management Collaboration I like to see the funding organization. In this case it is American Progress – a self proclaimed “progressive” think tank. Unfortunately, as a 501C3 organization, their donors are not revealed. We’re left unsure if the research is biased by the donors.
      The paper reviews six districts where union-management cooperation is “extraordinary”. I strongly support union-management cooperation, but wonder if this extraordinary cooperation has helped these districts. A quick read reveals no comparative financial information nor any meaningful academic achievement information. I suspect this is a “fluff” research article supportive of the union perspective. The following statement is revealing, “We thank the American Federation of Teachers—President Randi Weingarten, …… – for helping to identify these collaborative districts and local unions, and for their guidance, support, and technical assistance with this research.

  14. My advice is to treat TE Teacher with the utmost respect. He/she and like minded rank-and-file teachers are the key to a settlement. When the rank-and-file understands the implications of their contract demands (demotions, furloughs, increased class size) they will withdraw support from the union negotiations team. That’s when a settlement is possible.
    My estimate is that it won’t occur very soon. Expect:
    – a ruling on the grievance during the summer
    – rally ’round the flagpole at the start of the new year
    – handouts at back to school nights
    – additional grievance filings
    – unfair labor practice accusations
    – en mass teacher attendance at school board meetings
    – solidarity uniforms worn to school
    – misleading news releases
    – a union vote authorizing the negotiations team to call a strike when necessary
    – work to rule in the fall
    – fact finding in the winter
    The antidote is patience, respect and truthful information.

    1. Thanks Keith. I sadly agree with you.

      But my last comment on this is again a reminder: every single contract in my memory has been bought and paid for by the taxpayers. We come to the table and say “wage freeze” and the union says 10%….we say “we want more days” and the union says — okay, but still 10%….

      Eventually, we say “we’ll do x for copays and give you 3%” and the union says “No copays, 6%…)

      And eventually, the groups settle on something that costs more than what we had — how much more is about the urgency or willingness to settle.

      Obviously these are fake numbers…but know that taxpayers BUY contracts. To get a discount goes against everything our teachers know. So Keith is right — until the rank and file teachers have a true voice in this — people who have jobs and are happy to have them — people who care about this community and want it to flourish, not just survive — we go nowhere with this.

      That “GO FOR THE CONTRACT” button that my kids were told to explain was when my 28 year old was in 3rd grade….we got through it. But in those days, it was about TEEA and TESD. TEEA has to be the leading voice in this, because the PSEA uses TEEA to bid up other contracts.

      Patience, respect and truth. Guide to success. Are all sides willing to take that view? (TESD. board, parents, teachers, taxpayers…..)

  15. Certainly amusing on both sides. I love the “its not that way in the real world comments”, especially when we forget that for most of the real world, i,e. other districts in PA, people are paying a heck of a lot more in taxes than we are here in TE, yet we cry incessantly that we can’t pay anymore. I’m sure all the TE teachers that live in other districts and who pay EIT’s feel our pain when they drive into our district and see nothing of the kind. Remember, the district put up that we are the 470th or so ranked district, out of 500 or so, in terms of taxes, so in reality, considering our relative wealth is in the top 10, we have it made compared to most of the “real world”.

    Do the teachers have perks? Absolutely, and I’m sure we’d all love to have tenure and those salaries as well as the pension, especially after the state raised the multiplier in the dead of night a decade ago. But judging from the comments on here, there will always be a teacher’s union – what fool would voluntarily give up their union protection and work for many of the people who have posted on here? If I ever taught, I certainly wouldn’t want my future decided by the denizens who are spouting what they are spouting here. I think the teachers have plenty to give up or back, but I can understand their reluctance to do so when they are talked about and treated like many of you would like to treat them. There will always be a union when parents and taxpayers are like we are seeing.

    1. >>people are paying a heck of a lot more in taxes than we are here in TE, yet we cry incessantly that we can’t pay anymore<<

      The School Board is limited by state law how much they can raise taxes by. If they want to raise them more than the state allows, they must go directly to the voters on a ballot for more tax revenue.

      So, yes, they CAN'T pay any more. It is a legal thing. (Obviously, this doesn't speak to an EIT but the allowable tax increase year over year).

      The problem with this is that if there were no other cost increases – heat, water, utilities, transportation, etc. the SB would still have to cut – because of the teacher contract. The contract goes up – cost wise – a higher percentage than the state allows the SB to increase tax revenue. And that doesn't even consider all the tax revenue at risk (ie. appeals).

  16. I’m saddened but not surprised at the level of self-righteous vitriol directed toward T/E teachers and TEEA on this blog.

    First, TE Teacher, I appreciate your honesty, I hear your frustration, and I too take offense at some of the nasty, sour grape comments directed at you and your colleagues by the “usual suspects”. Please consider that the comments here are not representative of our community. Some have an agenda that includes union bashing and a cut, cut, cut mentality that they magically believe will not affect the quality of a T/E education or property values. Because they want all the cuts to come out of your hides.

    Reading the comment stream, I’m struck by two things:

    First, if teachers are now viewed as so richly compensated and undeserving of anything but pay and benefit cuts and possible demotion, where were all the disgruntled taxpayers in 2008, in 2004 etc? Nowhere, bc the vast majority didn’t perceive teacher compensation as out of line then. They accepted the importance of attracting and retaining excellent teachers.

    Not in 2012 though. Four years on, with additional experience and education under your belts, you’re now worth less. Since many taxpayers have less, you must have less too. Since their job security is diminished, yours needs to be too. After all, in a free market (that good and natural force to which we should all be subject), the supply and demand for well-educated, experienced teachers has changed. Market forces would dictate that all members of the TEEA work for as little as the SB has to pay to keep bodies in front of the classrooms.

    In the minds of some here, the only thing that stands between firing your a** and any job security right now is that evil union.

    Which brings me to my second observation:

    Clearly, it has never been more important to have union support than it is now. The SB’s timing on announcing h.s. teachers’ grievances is a calculated negotiating move. Can they justify it as carrying out their fiduciary duty to T/E’s taxpayers? Probably, but that was true many months ago.

    I understand your ire at the apparent need of some to knock teachers down a peg. Why, you can’t possibly work harder than…..someone forced to travel half the year to keep his job! You can’t be nearly as pressured as those who have to stay late AT THE OFFICE to do what’s required. Ridiculous and insulting.

    However, here’s what many in our community believe:

    *T/E teachers are one of this community’s most valuable assets. You’re not interchangeable, nor can you be easily replaced. You are largely responsible for our district’s excellent reputation in the state and the nation.

    *We know you understand the economics of the upcoming contract. We believe that you are ready to do your part to reduce the District’s healthcare costs – within reason. (Providing no option for coverage of spouse and children is draconian and unreasonable.)

    *We believe you have realistic expectations as far as the District’s ability to offer raises.

    *We respect your right to have a trained professional representing you at the negotiating table – just as many in this community use professional help to advise or look over their employment contracts. Just as the SB has chosen to hire a professional negotiator to “get the best deal” they can.

    Please don’t be too discouraged. Many T/E residents are on your side. Ignore the CM commenter who accuses teachers of being “greedy capitalists” who should be “locked out”. What a fool! Ironically, he no doubt plans to vote for a man who perfectly defines that label in November.
    Let’s work to make sure HE is locked out of the Presidency.

    Others on this blog obviously carry personal grudges against teachers or have an ideological agenda that includes cutting education spending to the bone by decimating teachers’ unions and eliminating pensions. A proliferation of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious school tuition would be manna from heaven for them.

    Plus there’s the “wallet brigade”, who are, above all, concerned with their own tax bite. The concepts of getting what you pay for, paying one’s fair share to maintain excellent schools, and investing in one’s community take a back seat to minimizing their own taxes.

    Unfortunately, this very vocal minority is attempting to make the teachers the villain in this year’s contract process. So
    the rest of us must speak up on behalf of our dedicated teachers. We trust they will do their part.

    1. Kate,

      I am a product of TE schools and, as I have pointed out repeatedly, appreciate our teachers and respect their contributions. Yes, there are some teachers who arent good or dont care anymore (and are unfortunately protected by the system) but on whole our teachers are good, commited people.

      I also dont believe in vouchers and dont want to cut education to the bone.

      I am, however, a realist. Pa and TESD face massive, long term fiscal challenges and we need to make changes – or the long term ramifications will be disastrous. My bone is not with teachers but with the PSEA.

      While they claim to understand the realities, their actions and tactics show they dont care. And our teachers dont tell them to stand down.

      At the end of the day, the union members need to dictate to the union what they want to do. I truly believe our teachers would make more concessions than the PSEA wants them to … But thus far it has been the union playbook step by step which means the teachers have joined their tactical path.

      Sorry to pee on your PSEA/dem party line parade.

    2. Let’s all be frank. The primary factors that drive schools to excellence are not money and not teachers.

      Every credible study on education – and if you talk to most teachers they say the same – point to two factors more than any others that result in excellent schools:

      1 – Socio-economic levels
      2 – Parental involvement

      If money alone were the factor, Philadelphia would be a fantastic school system; it is not. And I would venture that there are plenty of quality, committed teachers throughout lower income districts, but they can’t fix the schools on their own. They need the help and support of parents/adults at home.

      Also note, these two factors do not seem to be mutually exclusive. The same studies show that, most often, those from higher socio-economic areas are also more involved in their children’s education. This is also why many school districts from poorer rural areas, but with strong parental involvement, achieve great results (without spending more than they can afford.)

      I bring this up for no other reason than to point out that a portion of the success of our schools comes from factors having nothing to do with what we spend or who we hire (within reason.)

      These are facts the PSEA and TEEA would never bring out in their discussions, but we must if we are to have a reasonable debate.

      1. Very good post.

        “These are facts the PSEA and TEEA would never bring out in their discussions, but we must if we are to have a reasonable debate.”

        This is the key. These facts need to be brought up in discussions.

  17. clearly a one sided view with subtle personal attacks and self righteous indignation. Too tired to go through your rant piece by piece. Same accusations of union busters etc, old

  18. Brava again Kate. The playbook is not scripted exactly by what you say, but pretty much. It’s hard to stay civil — so I won’t bother this time.

    I love when liberals (and you are a poster child for that monniker) love to point in the direction outside and say there are many of us who love and support you. Then you say that anyone who doesn’t wants to decimate education. No reason to recognize that there are flames here — pointing to them is crying fire in a movie theater.

    Well my comrade, you again fail to address the elephant in the room: there is no more source of revenue now, and the district cannot do anything about it. We can lament all we want something done 10 years ago to pensions. We can lament all we want that some people are disgusted with teachers. We can compare unfavorable factors in society. We can pay attention when things happen and before it’s too late (like Act 1).

    Yada yada yada. Now — how do we pay a bill for a service we don’t have the income to support?
    1. Cut the service or use less of the service
    2. Reduce the cost of the service (few legal options)
    3. Ask the service providers to make some concessions
    4. Borrow the money — we’ll figure out how to pay that loan off later
    5. Borrow our own money — use equity to pay daily bills, knowing full well that we don’t have the ability to raise revenues to meet the expense obligations. (So that doubles the amount we would need to “borrow” next year when we again cannot raise the revenue required to meet current obligations)

    6. None of the above. Stand above the fray and mock people who are tryinig to address the details, and reassure the people “things will be okay.”

    It’s not a minority Kate. It is very vocal. But it’s NOT a minority. As well as anyone who has seen “no EIT” claims win the day, you know that this community doesn’t understand our low tax burden, because it’s the only burden they know…and it’s grown. Maybe if you lived in NJ, you would see that TESD is cheap. But the people here are here —-and this is — for the most part — where they came from.

    So — since other people “obviously carry personal grudges against teachers or have an ideological agenda” …. we’ll look to you to tell us how to fix it. Because it is broken.

    So — go for it. Fix it. At least do something besides pander to the masses who lament our fate. We cannot fix this without the teachers. And your calm assurance that the teachers understand and will certainly be helpful in this is hyperbole — said with the same level of information that you obviously create to write your post. We all hope you are right, because the school district has no other options — demotions, class sizes, and …..demotions, class sizes and….kicking the can down the road. No problem. Maybe next year will be better.

  19. Hold on, Kate. It’s certainly important to have a balanced debate and there is data to support teachers being the most important — in-classroom — determinant of educational achievement, but it really doesn’t help your cause to lob out unsupportable generic claims. Many contributors here are trying to come up with solutions to a very real financial problem. The net result of your comment is simply to leave us scratching our heads and wondering into which of your target groups we are classified.

    Let’s take a look at your two points:

    “…the vast majority didn’t perceive teacher compensation as out of line [in 2004 and 2008]. They accepted the importance of attracting and retaining excellent teachers. Not in 2012 though. Four years on, with additional experience and education under your belts, you [teachers] are now worth less.”

    Well, no. A teacher employed for the whole length of the contract has averaged a 36% salary increase, received the value of benefits that have increased 10-15% a year, and seen the value of their pension increased by that 36% (or more precisely, I think, the last three years compensation versus the last three under the previous contract) times 4 years of service times 2.5% for each year of service.

    So maybe something has in fact changed?

    “Clearly, it has never been more important to have union support than it is now.”
    Followed by a number of claims like:
    “The SB’s timing on announcing h.s. teachers’ grievances is a calculated negotiating move. Can they justify it as carrying out their fiduciary duty to T/E’s taxpayers? Probably, but that was true many months ago.”
    The status of the first grievance was announced when the union requested arbitration, at apparently the last moment, which changed the expected risk of an adverse expense outcome. The second grievance was announced when it was received, presumably because it is related to the first one and likely to have a similar course.

    Then we have:
    “You [teachers] are largely responsible for our district’s excellent reputation in the state and the nation.”
    There is absolutely no data that supports this. The strongest predictor of educational achievement is the education level of parents.

    So perhaps the union is in fact standing in the way of a solution? Could it be, as others have suggested, that individual teachers like TE Teacher can in fact break the log jam here?

    But now I see that there is a big TEEA news release hot off the presses …………..

  20. Let the fun begin. The TEEA’s website has offered us complete transparency…..
    If this doesn’t read like a sandbox argument, then you haven’t been at the playground recently.

    “I want everything.”
    “You get nothing.”

    Finding middle ground from there won’t be easy….but this is clearly no longer business as usual. BIG changes in language. Pretty dramatic language changes offered by both sides.

    Before we get into the details, though, let’s all remember it is a negotiation. Neither side gets anything unless both sides agree to it. So don’t look at demands are real — just as posturing. A taste of what life is about.

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