Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E Teachers Union Turns on the Transparency Lights in Contract Negotiations

The teachers union in T/E school district, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA), provided an update on the negotiation process late last night. The basis for the union’s email was to deliver what the community members have been asking for from TEEA and the school board — transparency.

This latest press release from TEEA is comprehensive … and offers us ‘personal and up close’ information from the union’s perspective on the contract negotiation process. (Something that many of us have asked for, but told was not possible during the ongoing contract negotiations). With this latest communication, TEEA is laying the gauntlet down, providing us with documents that range from copies of their initial contract proposal, the District’s response to an explanation of the grievances.

On April 25, I wrote a post titled, ‘Seeking Transparency in TESD Teacher Contract Negotiations’ in which I called for transparency in the negotiations, suggesting that both sides ‘open the door’ and let the sunlight shine in. Because of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations, even the discussion on Community Matters has turned to conjecture; a world of ‘he said, she said’, which is never good. Some will suggest that this latest attempt on the part of TEEA to be more transparent and inform the public is nothing more than a ‘tactic’ to win favorable support from the parents, students and taxpayers. I will respectfully disagree.

Regardless if you agree or disagree with the contents of the teacher’s proposal, clearly TEEA now sees the merits of the community hearing the facts. To date, misinformation was perpetuated and the line between fact and fiction blurred, with the public left to fill in the gaps between the partial or half-truths from either side. The teachers’ contract accounts for a significant part of the District’s budget and strongly influences the financial ‘bottom line’.

To read TEEA’s latest press release, ‘T/E Teachers, Counselors, and Nurses Offer Opinion on the Negotiation Process’, click here.

Click here to read the teacher’s union initial proposal dated January 9, which TEEA believed to be a starting point for discussion. Their offer contained a one-year salary freeze for all teachers, second year freeze for those at master level. According to the union, they also ‘made repeated verbal commitments to discuss changes to healthcare benefits’.

The School Board rejected the teacher’s initial proposal on February 9. Click here to read the District’s 113-page counter-offer to TEEA. According to TEEA, this is the only offer to date made by the Board. If you recall, several teachers had commented on Community Matters regarding the District’s offer, claiming that family health coverage was not included in the District’s offer. Many readers questioned whether the elimination of family health coverage was in the counter-proposal; suggesting that unless the public saw it ‘in writing’, the information may not be accurate.

We can now read the District’s counter-proposal and it appears clear to me that option for teachers to insure their spouses and/or children is indeed eliminated, as is dental and vision coverage. I do not see how it can be interpreted differently – there appears this offer has no option for teachers to have family health insurance coverage through their employment in TESD. In addition, to be clear, the District’s counter-proposal includes no option for the teachers ‘to buy’ health insurance for their families.

In their latest press release, TEEA goes on to detail other areas the District counter-proposal seeks to eliminate or reduce, some of which could be viewed as reasonable given the economic climate and the severity of the budget situation – example, reducing the teacher’s stipend rates on mentor programs and homebound instruction. The District in their counter-offer seeks to freeze teacher salaries indefinitely – given the economics, although not satisfactory, the school board probably feels they have little option.

TEEA revised their initial proposal (click here) and presented it to the District on February 29. The District responded that they were unwilling to discuss the health care benefits. According to TEEA, it was shortly afterward that the ‘demotions of professional staff for economic reasons’ became a viable budget strategy option. As a result, the public has watched the circus-like atmosphere that now ensues at school board and finance committee meetings which has included students, parents, teachers and taxpayers. Additionally, the last couple of meetings have included the District releasing information that TEEA has filed two grievances, leaving some of us with questions. The union addresses the grievance issue in a FAQ, click here to read.

As I have repeatedly stated in other posts, making the teacher contract negotiation process transparent for the public would help the community understand how our children will be taught and how our tax dollars will be invested. The relationship between teachers and school administrators is an important element in what shapes this school district. There is no better way to understand this relationship than to observe the contract negotiation process. However, based on the way this process has worked to date, to suggest that the current relationship between the teachers, administrators and school board is ‘strained’ would be quite an understatement!

With the release of this information from the teachers union, I believe that TEEA is attempting to shine light and bring transparency to the contract negotiation process. However, for the transparency process to be successful, requires open dialogue from both sides.

Is it possible that the District and TEEA can put the needs of the students and families first and at the same time, honor the public investment of taxpayers? Can both sides be more open about the negotiation process – talk truths to each other and to the public?

Share or Like:


Add a Comment
  1. Very helpful info from TEEA: their opening proposal, the district response, the TEEA response to that.

    Term: agreed 2 years

    Salaries: Agreed freeze for 2012/13 at 2011/12 final level, union also wants step movement for 2013/14, cost $780,000 (before retirements). Not far apart?

    Health plan: District offer: change from district pays 95% of CIFI02 for family to district pays 80% of C4F402 for employee only. No vision, no dental. No union offer.

    Other: District has a long laundry list of other items reducing fringe benefits like personal days and allowing more flexibility. Most notable the ability to furlough for up to 6 days. Union mostly silent on these items.

    The union view is that the laundry list gets in the way of talking about a change to the health plan. Certainly there’s a lot there to think about.

    A key question for me: how much would the proposed health plan cost the district versus the current plan? You’d think the savings would be large (no vision, no dental, 15% increase in employee premium contribution, new plan). With that info (which should be available to the union?), a realistic counter-proposal could be made, including perhaps a few accommodations on the laundry list and a commitment to review the rest of the list after the first year of the contract? Some, though would be hard to consider (arbitrary furloughs?). A good use of the Fund Balance could be to support the phase in of some of the changes, for example.

    Why is this so hard?

    1. Ray,
      First, Pattye deserves a round of applause for encouraging transparency. I’ve got to believe CM was a driving factor in the union’s openness.
      Second, we see that both the union’s proposal and the district’s proposal are both [I’ll be kind] provocative. The union shouldn’t expect salary movement and the same health care. The district shouldn’t refuse to offer family health care coverage.
      Your figure of $780K for the difference between the union salary offer and the district’s is a bit off. Don’t forget about the addition of PSERS (~$130K), FICA (~$60K) and education column movement (~$400K).
      You ask, “Why is this so hard?” It’s because the district has to ask the teachers to go “backwards” to balance the budget. A salary freeze alone won’t do it. The district also needs to ask for health care concessions which means the average teacher will be taking home less in their paycheck than they are taking home this year. I think the average teacher will balk. The alternative, though, is furloughs and demotions.
      I would estimate [ballpark] the district’s health care cost at about $16K per teacher (95% of C1F1O2 for singles and families). The district’s proposal (80% of C4F402 for employee only, no vision, no dental) would probably reduce the cost to below $7K per teacher.
      Don’t forget that the union is trying to insert language in the contract that essentially prevents demotions. Most demotions are justified using economic reasons which are prohibited in the union’s proposal.
      Wouldn’t it be nice if the district shared their costing spreadsheet?

      1. Keith

        Good point about the benefits and column impacts of the step movement.

        I’d think it was hard for the teachers to go backwards if they hadn’t over the last four years gone forwards so much.

        The salary increases over the 4 year contract length range from $6,000 to over $30,000; the weighted average (I have a slightly old distribution) is $16,776 a year (plus pension multiplier impact). Those with the lowest increases (degrees but no extra certifications) are earning $90,000 and $95,900 a year.

        That puts a $9,000 healthcare premium difference (thanks for the estimates) and some work rule changes into context.

  2. Board, your proposal to the teachers absolutely stinks! Why are you taking this school district down? Do you want to bust the union? Don’t spend the money to do that–you won’t win. By the offer you presented, you are showing me (taxpayer) that you don’t care about this district. Wake up! Teachers (all school professionals) have rights under the PA School Code–and it’s legal! You wouldn’t hesitate in getting rid of a teacher if he/ she violated something in the School Code–you know, the Code benefits both sides. Don’t try to rewrite sections of the School Code you can’t change–you’ll loose again and us taxpayers will have to pay the price. Teachers stand your ground. Continue under the current contract until the board steps up with a more reasonable offer–then move forward and bargain in good faith as I know you will. And, most importantly, thank you for being the quality teachers that you are!

    1. Congrats to you TE Teacher for getting it out there,

      I reminder everyone — this is a negotiation. SInce these are the initial offers we are seeing, we are seeing the polar ends of what both groups want. The language changes requested on both sides are really extreme….REALLY extreme.

      SO Monie — take a deep breath. The District — for the first time in 26 years from what I can tell going back — is asking for language changes. In other words, nothing is sacred and no status quo. That has never happened — because all the openings have always been about pretty much the same language so let’s talk numbers. The district, having lost the grievance for distance learning, and now getting grieved for changes in “working conditons” (working more during the contract day) obviously is going to the letter of the law and trying to put in place provisions to run the schools the way the economy allows.

      THIS is all bluster. “I want everything” — “You get nothing” is a pretty long distance apart, but the district and the union make NO changes that are not agreed to by both sides. So read away, but none of it is real. We do see that both sides are pretty extreme in their requests — so the negotiations are going to take awhile.
      The numbers are what they are. They will work them out. The language is major. REALLY major. It’s as if they started from scratch. And maybe since the existing contract language had resulted in grievances that prevented the program from moving forward (I think we all accept that e-learning is part of this century!) , starting from scratch is what it will take.

      Sit back and don’t try to enjoy the ride. It’s going to be more than a bumpy flight. But I completely agree that the sunshine on it all allows us to comment with some intellect. More later.

    2. Thanks indeed, TE Teacher, to you and your colleagues. Now it’s possible to have a discussion about facts not emotions.

      Let’s hope the district follows through. In addition to quantifying the effect of the healthcare benefit change, maybe they can also put some numbers on the other changes they’d like. For example, what’s the impact of reducing unpaid personal days from 3 to 1? That may have a lower value to the membership than something else of equal dollar impact to the district, say the ability to use 10 rather than 5 sick days for care of a family member. Maybe some things that save the district money have negligible value to the membership?

      So: TESD – put some numbers behind the proposed changes if they are important; TEEA – health insurance is the most important issue on the table, don’t wait to resolve everything else before coming up with a proposal.

  3. Thank you Patty for pushing for transparency,and thank you teachers union for providing it. Now we have the facts.

    As Justice William Brandeis said, “Sunshine is a Powerful Disinfectant”! and isn’t that the truth!!

  4. Outrageous that the TESD won’t offer family health coverage at the expense of the employee. That is a disgrace. I understand cuts need to be made but having employees pay for their family health coverage would not affect the budget. Many companies work this way. Yes, paying $1300 or so a year for health insurance for a family is a thing of the past. I think the teachers know that. Currently my family, spouse and 4 children, pays $860 per month ($10,320 per year) for medical, dental and vision. Do I like paying that much? No. Do I have coverage? Yes.

    We are missing the forest and focusing on the trees. I don’t believe we would be having all of this discussion if it we not for the crisis surrounding the pension plan. I really don’t care that the teachers paid in what they were required to pay in. I really don’t care the school district paid in what they were required to pay in – but it wasn’t enough. What I do care about is that pensions are out dated and ridiculous. We can afford to pay a nice salary to our great teachers. We just can’t afford for them to retire. Next years budget crisis will be worse and it’s due to the pension.

    Thank you Andrea for your words about pensions. The writing is on the wall – we can’t afford the current pension plan. In case you missed this enlightening segment from Andrea’s 5/15 post…
    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.

    1. There is a mistake in the pension calculation: If a teacher retires at 55 years old with 30 years of service, their pension would be 60% of the average of the best 3 years’ salary, not the 75% stated above.

      Teachers must work 35 years to qualify for full pension benefits. For each year shy of the 35 years (unless they have reached the age of 62), there is a 3% penalty, to a maximum of a 15% penalty. In effect, any number of years worked that are 30 or less would result in the (former) 2% multiplier.

      60% is still a substantial pension, but the facts should be correct.

      1. Thanks Fact Checker. I was too glib with the information — but since you know this, you also know that you can “retire” and leave your money in the system and take full benefits when you reach retirement age (60 with 30 years, 62 with 1 year, or any age with 35) and the money earns 4% while you wait.

        The system is there ….. TC, TD, TE, TF…’s just not sustainable because it presumes a return, it doesn’t earn one.

  5. thank you to all who helped get the information out there. Remember, though, this is TEEA’s website – so they can put out there whatever they choose (or not) to put out.

    Remember, all negotiations are from extreme positions. If the Board put out a ‘reasonable’ proposal, then the Union would ask for the moon and we’d end up at ‘unfundable’. (is that a word?) We’re already there.

    So the Board goes extreme – cuts all healthcare except single payer, salary freezes, reducing personal days – full well knowing they won’t end up there. But if they start somewhere ‘reasonable’, they won’t end up there either! On the flip side, the union goes extreme, too – asking for 10 days take care of family members, knowing they’ll end up with 8 days (or something) instead. Still a better deal than the current 5 days, right? (as an example)

    I think Township Reader has a great point about language changes. This contract has more at stake than just dollars (salary and benefits). There are larger issues at stake – with regard to how teachers teach, prep periods, even movement from school to school. I think there is a lot more going on there than the average reader understands. I’m just not smart enough to understand it all.

  6. I have to wonder why the district isn’t offering family benefits to be paid for by the employee at 100 percent. As someone said above, it doesn’t affect the budget. Maybe book keeping time but thats it.

    Could it be that is being held out as a bargaining chip?

    1. FF
      The entire offer on both sides is so extreme it’s not worth scrutinizing. Clearly this is going to be a long process. As someone who did this, I can tell you that this is a complete change of process — except for very, very minor changes in language, most negotiations are about benefits and salary. But clearly, as the E-learning initiative proved, the district needs to change the rules so that they are not spending their time in endlesss negotiations.
      Note the language about the person who is President of the Union and what they want to district o underwrite. “Reasonable and customary” has been a little too broad — I still am encouraging the district to take health care OFF the table, and negotiate a dollar amount to contribute per employee. A “defined contribution” then could be applied to whatever benefit…and we wouldn’t have any exposure if costs went up. I believe if the district would talk about all benefits and compensation in dollar terms, it would be easier for everyone to understand.

      Likewise the new language relating to personal days and termination of benefits etc. Each day for the “average” salary is $450. They count days, not days off. But they have always gotten sick days and personal days — paid nand unpaid. Clearly a paid personal day off — when you are only working 191 days (industry work year is 260 days less holidays and vacation — completely different perspective) is a difficult thing to justify in this math. It costs the district the teacher’s salary plus the cost of a substitute. The district proposal left one in — not sure why — but the reality is that it is all about money this time around because money is the scarce resource.

  7. I have been very annoyed at the TEEA, but I have to commend them for bringing transparancy to this process. They provided very thorough information and timelines and this is exactly what the community needs to see. I hope the TESD responds in kind with similar information. From there, we’ll find common ground.

  8. This is union busting at is most basic. The school board never had any intentions of true “”collective bargaining.” First, they hire a known union busting lawyer to lead the team. Next, enter negotiations with a book of non-starters. Create the illusion of negotiating by agreeing on worthless articles pertaining to definitions but refuse to even discuss real issues. Then walk away from table and use propaganda through taxpayer funded meetings to steer public opinion. This board should be ashamed and they are a disgrace to this school district. This is nothing more than a political agenda to try and destroy public unions thus reducing their monetary influence on the democratic party. Although this board is a mix of both parties, it is obvious they have banded together to try and hammer the people solely responsible for the outstanding performance of the students.

    1. William

      Union busting? Not in the cards at all. Never was, and still is not today, even with the difficult economy. Politics? In the broad sense, yes – but if you think that one party – Republican – controls the board, you are grossly misinformed. Neither party controls the board. In my experience, the neither party evenc ontrols the individuals on the board. I served for 8 years with several of the current board members, and I can tell you they do what they think is best for the district – and this is often at odds with what many partisans in the local political committees would want.

      I am sure there are some in both parites who would like to truly obtain that kind of hegemony (and perhpas that explains the nasty character of the last elecetion) but as a matter of fact niether party commmittee really has that kind of influence. The more partisan among our local committes are perhaps the most frustrated of all.

      The notion that the D’s and R’s on the board banded together to forward a Republican agenda of union busting is frankly absurd.

      The board is composed of local citizens who are not politicians – and with very, very, very few excetions, not partisan at all. I think they are simply taking a hard line to begin with to send a message – that the district is facing a real financial crisis and there are few options left.

      The board no longer has unlimited taxing authority, having been capped by Act 1 of 2006. Moreover, simply increasing taxes to cover unaffordable benefit packages is no longer a politically viable option even if Act 1 had not been enacted. No, the board banded together because they have no way to cover the looming deficits and need significant concessions from the teachers to make this work. It is that simple.

      Niether side expects to get their opening proposals. At this stage, it is about communication – what messages do the opening proposals communicate?

      1. Please pardon my typo’s – it was late and I was very tired. One of “those days” at the office.

        A further thought – I am not necessarily endorsing the board’s tactics here. I might take a different approach were I still there (I probably would be board president right now, I was vp when defeated in the 07 election). But I don’t want to say too much about tactics, one way or the other. I presume the board is doing what they think is necessary in order to end up where they need to be

        This is all about negotiation. I settle lawsuits all the time as part of my work. If I have a claim for $1,000,000 and we think it is worth $500,000, I don’t start by offering anything near $500,000. I have to start a lot lower than that or I will never end up where I need to be. Now, if you are dealing with a party you know to be unrealistic, your opening has to be really low (sometimes offensively so) in order to get their heads out of the clouds. If you go for “transparency” as many have suggested here – throw out your real number – they never believe you, and all you have done is reinforce their idea that the case is worth $1,000,000 and in the end you will pay that if the plaintiffs hold firm.

        Again, opening salvos are all about sending a message. I think the message is “we are really facing a fiscal crisis – we have already cut everything we could think of operationally, and now we are going to have to start cutting things that directly affect the kids and hurt the program. We are out of options and we need major concessions from the teachers in order to make this work.”

        1. Kevin:

          I think your posts accurately capture the notion of “union busting”, the tenor of the School Board and their negotiating strategy, including their opening offer. As you suggest, the healthcare “salvo”, was intended to get their “heads out of the clouds”. Posturing, hopefully on the way to a solution that is equitable for the taxpayers, students, and teachers.

  9. William
    Since the right to collectively bargain is law in PA, I do not understand a charge of union busting. It is simply not possible to do. And if they “walk away” — either side — it’s status quo. So the union side already had status quo won — same salaries, same benefits, same terms.
    And from watching this for 30 years around here, the whole notion that it is anything about partisanship is a leap of non-faith. There are no parties on the school board. If there were, we could look forward to all the productive results of the 2 party system federall?

  10. I grow weary thinking about the rhetoric and gnashing of teeth that goes into these negotiations. As a neighbor of a current teacher in the district, I can tell you from arms length, it wears on them greatly. It would be darned difficult to foresee the teachers agreeing to a plan that saw an significant increase in their health premiums and no salary movement, especially given the recent contract that was recently signed in Radnor. I am sure the scenarios were different and the fund balances different as well. But a contract was signed that seemed fair given the current economics.

    Linda and Pattye mention the pension plan and I think everyone agrees that it is not sustainable. Those that are in the plan and have been in the plan should feel their benefits are safe. But new employees entering the plan should not expect the same benefit and that needs to be hammered out. But we also need to keep in mind that the State played a significant role in putting us in the predicament PSERS and SERS is current in. While the current administration refuses to consider a tax increase, they cut education funding and continue to under contribute to the pension plan. This kicking the can down the path simply puts more pressure on the local districts, teachers and tax payers.

    The animosity created by these negotiations hurts everyone and I for one just wish there was a more civil way to do things.

    1. Coal
      As long as the PSEA controls the strings, and I assure you — they do — then this is always going to be “cryiing wolf” as far as the teachers are concerned.

      I had the pleasure of going to the 5/6 music concert at VFMS tonight. The auditorium was filled — even saw some lazy teachers there working at 9:30 and taking applause. Saw one of those overpaid administrators (in charge of music) there, who was spending half the evening there and heading to TEMS since it was also their concert. (Note: THIS IS SARCASM….occurs to me some here are a little rigid)

      Going to an elementary orf middle school concert should be required of every negotiator, every taxpayer and all the union reps. Parents already attend (though I cannot tell you how depressing it is for me to see how many people in the audience are preoccupied with their cell phone screens…but that’s for another day).

      They ran out of programs, so I dont’ even know who to credit for the performances, but when the stage was lined with children, accompanied by one of the band directors playing guitar, and the kids were singing “We Are The World…and the words (which I hadn’t heard in a long time) were sung as solos by verse, I thought about what Coal said above — growing weary with the rhetoric….so like Ray does when he reports on a school board meeting, I hope you’ll indulge this report on the concert: (with these song lyrics sung so beautiful by boys and girls who count on us):

      “We can’t go on pretending day by day
      That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
      We are all a part of God’s great big family
      And the truth, you know, Love is all we need
      When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all
      But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
      Let us realize that a change can only come
      When we stand together as one…

      We are the world, we are the children
      We are the ones who make a brighter day
      So lets start giving
      There’s a choice we’re making
      We’re saving our own lives
      Its true we’ll make a better day
      Just you and me”

      TE Schools are terrific places to go and to work. We have wonderful people who work for us and with our children. We have wonderful children with supportive parents. Kids arent’ in 6th grade band because they walk to rehearsal at 7:15 in the morning.

      How can we solve this? Trust. I don’t know how you get there though. I’m certain a strong voice could lead us out of this mess — and I wish the Board was not using administrators at the table — because Dan Waters could navigate this for us if he wasn’t tasked with riding the ship. I believe that. Dan is so TE proud he bleeds Stoga Crimson. He admires teachers. At least when I worked with him, teachers admired him. They have all grown up together. But since he is the messenger this time around, I’m not sure what can happen. The union doesn’t trust the district — and after these grievances, the board certainly doesn’t trust the teachers. If the board reads here, maybe they will re-think where the leadership can come from. You have to have a strong understanding of the underlying issues, and the numbers, and the options. It doesn’t take negotiation. It takes leadership and trust. There is no path to follow — so we need to build one.


      1. Andrea — I’m sure the voices on this blog are happy for your past experience on the board and the perspective you can offer and I’m certain the performance of “We are the World” was moving, but the hand-holding-as-one you long for isn’t happening anytime soon. I think most of us would settle for a simple handshake.

        But I’ve got to take issue with the idea that Dan Waters could be some sort of Moses for this stand-off. He may be TE Proud, but we have seen no evidence of his admiration for teachers. This is a superintendent that hasn’t met with his teachers (at least at the high school) in 5 years. He has a zero profile with his staff. I know many teachers that have not spoken to him since he hired them years ago. There is a very practiced and intentional distance that Dr. Waters has set up between the staff and the administration. It is a tense, uncomfortable, and awkward atmosphere–for administration and staff alike. Perhaps there is a business model that suggests that management should keep their distance from staff, that there needs to be separation to keep order, etc. If that’s the case, it’s just another example of how much education is not a business. If there is a profession that needs proximity and familiarity, it’s teaching. If there is a profession that involves “handholding,” it’s teaching (and nursing of course). Many elementary teachers were probably leading little We Are the Worlds all day today. This is not an atmosphere that’s been created by the teachers. But, admittedly, now that it’s so entrenched, it’s hard to imagine a sing-a-long. The funny thing is: it doesn’t actually take much to make us feel like we’re important. It is small little gestures–the kinds of gestures that teachers offer students–that can move us. Unfortunately, it is often a gesture-less place.

        The impression many commenters to this blog have about teachers is wrong. We did not enter the profession out of greed. A teacher’s day allows no opportunity for vanity. It is a daily reminder of humility. It involves a lot of frustrating failure. There is no bull-dog mentality of getting all we can at the expense of others. If we are stubborn is out of protection. Our classrooms are often quiet places for reflection, risk, and reward. We do not compete against the classroom across the hall.

        And before you slough this off on the PSEA, I can assure you that whatever commentary you’ve read, whatever message you’ve received from our union, is the voice of the teachers. As much as people like to picture puppets, that is simply not the case here. We would love to tell you more. We’re teachers; we like talking. But we can’t speak at school board meetings. We are not invited guests. The result is that you’ve got a bunch of people on the board who are talking about the research they’ve read about classroom size or teacher degrees–and no one allows a primary source. So, I suppose folks on this blog can keep saying that the PSEA has all the power, but that’s not going to make it any more true.

        Because everyone has at one point attended a school and sat in front of teacher, many seem to think they know what it means to teach. I have visited a cardiologist once, but I don’t plan on telling him where to cut.

        So Andrea, I can’t speak to how it was back in the day, but I can tell you now that a humanitarian ballad will not bring us all together. I think most teachers would settle for a little courtesy and respect–a feeling that the powers-that-be were interested in conversation. Every indication suggests otherwise.

        I would also love to know what about the TEEA offer is so “extreme it’s not worth scrutinizing.” Those seem like hollow words. Scrutinize away.

        1. Almost every teacher agrees…one can not help but to conclude the lack of respect Dr. Waters has for teachers when he stated numerous times that the kids are and always will be successful since “they are often sucuessful in spite of us”…I was there when this was uttered with countless other teachers. Finally, there is no need to respond with accusations that this is PSEA tactics, blah blah blah. Ask any teacher if he and most administration should go. I would take a pay cut just to see him gone. I will not entertain discussion of what I know is fact…just not worth it since you will believe whatever you want despite the countless facts and evidence that has and will continue to be disclosed. I’m a proud TE teacher and frankly, the morale crisis is far more concerning since that is what will destroy the district. We’ve been on board thus far, but many, many of us are done!

        2. Superior
          I told Debra C back when they made the offer that Kevin M would not entertain that I would work for you all for free to get this done. The offer holds. I’m very sad to hear you say what you say about Dan, because that wasn’t the Dan I signed as superintendent. But I do have some major issues with several sitting board members — one in particular who not only wouldn’t listen to advice, but who shut down any effort for me to obtain information. Unlike every other employee, the Superintendent serves at the pleasure of the board. So if Dr. Waters isn’t who he was, I can only think of one reason.
          It’s not arrogance for me to offer to step in. I had a teacher from the past come up to me recently and tell me she missed me, because I might not say what people want to hear, but I never said anything to provoke or entrap. And I never lied. If there is only $5 to spend on compensation, I’ll help everyone figure out how to spend it.
          I promise. I’ll happily scrutinize if you want me to — contact me personally and I’ll tell you exactly what I think can and should happen to break this logjam. Because “winning” isn’t about to happen for anyone. And “we are the world” aside — I’m not naive. My father was a union contractor and I was around when the explosions happened in King of Prussia. I worked in a “right to work” state in Texas — and had union carpenters and non-union maintenance, with separate gates to enter construction sites.

          This can’t happen if it’s all about winning. Good luck! And THANKS for your comments. I am only too aware of it all. And it DOES make me sad that acrimony is infused into what is already a complicated and painful economy. I write candidly here because I “shoot straight.” WIsh for you all that everyone would.

        3. One more comment: Can you elaborate on the distance Dr. Waters maintains from the staff? One of the reasons our previous Super retired and moved on was that we expected and demanded more “hands on” in the schools and with the teachers than the “business model” he was used to. He was a very good administrator, but as I travelled the district, I did not get that feedback from the people who worked for him. As I interviewed every single administrator, looking for career path and to get a sense of who was respected, Dr. Waters name came up at every level. SO — if that is no longer true, I can assure you that is the role of some from this board — arrogance and distance. Perhaps there is more to it, as I do not know those elected in the more recent years.

          I have a very long lecturing letter from a previous board member explaining to me why this last contract was “fully funded.” despite my misgivings. I received a large bill for a Right to Know request and except for the help of Mrs. Bookstaber, would have had to pay it. But I would love to hear more detail about the perceptions of how the admins work. Because regardless of these dreams of mine about the past, this is a wonderful place to live and should be likewise to work.
          And I’m posting under my name to say this because they know I mean it.

        4. SuperiorFlyersFan,
          You asked, “I would also love to know what about the TEEA offer is so extreme it’s not worth scrutinizing”.
          Here’s why. Currently, the board is wrestling with how to balance the budget for next year. They are about $1.5M short. That’s assuming no salary increase for any employee, including the teachers. Balancing the budget will require furloughs and demotions. The subsequent year, again, assumes no employee salary increases and they project an even higher shortfall. Balancing the budget will require additional furloughs and demotions with the attendant unfavorable effect on education.
          The current TEEA offer asks for salary increases in the second year making the budget imbalance worse. I believe Andrea is saying that any TEEA offer that asks for more is not worth scrutinizing.
          I’m not sure how closely you have followed the conversation on Community Matters, but the idea of using the reserve fund to balance the budget has been thoroughly discussed. It’s just a technique to defer the problem to a later year (procrastination). My sense is that the board will tackle the problem this year and not use the reserve fund. We’ll see on June 14th.
          The only way for the district to avoid furloughs and demotions is for the teachers to accept less. That’s a difficult concept to sell when teachers have been accustomed to receiving more each year. The district has no options; it’s in the hands of the teachers.

          1. Keith, I thought at the last school board meeting, the board members voted to use some of the fund balance for the budget gap. However, it is understood that the final budget is not approved until June and that demotion and increasing class size are still on the table as budget strategies. Someone please correct, if this incorrect.

        5. Pattye,
          You are correct. The Proposed Final Budget uses some of the reserve funds to fill the budget shortfall. However, as you state, the demotion and class size strategies are still on the table.
          The Proposed Final Budget, by law must be available to the public 20 or 30 days prior to a vote on the Final Budget on June 14th. My guess is that the Board used reserve funds as a “placeholder” in the Proposed Final Budget while they decide on the magnitude of the class size strategy and the demotion strategy to be used for the Final Budget.
          Things will get interesting and personal if the Board uses the demotion strategy. The Board has to pass (vote on) demotion resolutions for the affected teachers. This is the official notification that your salary has been reduced by 20% or more. As a practical matter the vote will probably occur in June or July.

        6. I have always recognized that great teachers are essential to the success of the district, and if you know me you know that I have always been extremely supportive of our teachers.

          Having said that, I repeat what I have said before – under the current circumstances, it is no longer realistic or reasonable for teachers to continue to pay something like $1000 for an extremely excellent health plan that costs the district somewhere on the order if $20,000. This minimal contribution was introduced for the very first time in the 2008 contract, when the taxpayers working in the private sector have been paying considerably more for many years (even prior to 2008) for plans that offer considerably less coverage.

          Now, you are right that the board’s opening offer is extreme – but it was to send a message as I outlined above. What message did the teea offer send? Just as extreme – health benefits were not mentioned – no offer, when that’s where the money is since the pension is state controlled. So we have two parties at complete loggerheads.

          Given that, what will it take to move this along? I think what the board us saying is that the extreme – and growing – deficits, they are not able to offer more and need the teachers to make some concessions to make the budget work. It is that simple. If that can’t be achieved, in the next few years we will see drastic and harmful cuts to – guess who? – the kids!

    2. salary vs health benefits…. My understanding is that in equal dollars for each, it is cheaper to pay health benefits than salary when considering social security and medicare taxes that have to be matched by the employer.

      This is one of the “perks” to employers to legally circumvent these taxes in another form of non salary “income” to employees. So if there is movement on benefits and an equal movement in the other direction of salary increases it seems to me this would be MORE expensive to the district. Make sense?

  11. It has been over two months since the district walked away. So there is an impasse. An impasse created by the district. There should be back and forth between the negotiators. Compromise on both sides. This is not what is happening. The documents released by TEEA expose the intentions of the board. There is no negotiating on their side. Just demands and non starters.

    I know people want to believe that the board has the best interests of the community in mind but I disagree. If they truly did, they would never have hired a known union busting lawyer to represent them. They could easily have made the same demands themselves. These techniques come right out of the handbook. I have seen them used firsthand. If busting the union was not the goal, then why the complete elimination of health care coverage for family?That’s not even realistic. Does anybody really think that is justified?

    These types of demands are used to force the hand of the union. Yes, they have a continuation of status quo if nothing is agreed upon. But, they are hoping that the demotion of the higher paid teachers will get them to cave on some issues. Usually, the elders in a union are more involved then the younger members and of course have more Influence.

    I hope that cooler heads can come together and hammer out a compromise. That would be true collective bargaining. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the next meeting will result in a unanimous vote to demote the highest paid teachers and then it will get real ugly.

    1. Will GET real ugly?
      It’s there now.
      The only way to solve this problem is for the union to put something on the table that involves cost concessions — because that’s what the numbers dictate. Concessions.
      Problem is — with no one trusting anyone — no one wants to concede anything.
      The only thing the district can concede is that they cannot afford status quo… The more senior teachers have more influence between 40% of the rank and file ARE the senior teachers.
      Right now, 20% of the rank and file are in steps 1-6 (Report to TEEA on Oct 15). 40% are on step 14-16. And even if they take concessions, they accrue 2.5% on their highest 3 years. (the calculations are all over the place when it comes to how they calculate the number, but basically it’s the 3 highest years).

      I have such strong memories of how this worked when Carol Aichele and I sat down with Paul Slaninka, Lou Miller and Ken Foelster. No PSEA rep. No lawyers in the room. Just information and the art of the possible. That’s what is lost here. The art of the possible. Everyone wants what they want. I do not believe the union can be busted, but the PSEA needs to step away. They do not have the best interests od the district. Union leadership is about union power. Has to be. Survival.
      District leadership is about district survival.

  12. Just which heads will be the cooler ones?
    Sultanik is a professional negotiator — ask Neshaminy how things go when you wait out the union?

  13. I don’t remember where on this board, but there was discussion about why the board wouldn’t move the meeting to the high school…and it was decided that paying overtime and other factors would have caused that.

    If it was for money….then I am upset that I received a success and sustainability mailer yesterday. I would imagine that the cost of the paper, colored ink, and postage to send it to everyone in the district would have cost a lot more than moving a meeting to the high school. I understand posting it online for people to read, but the cost of sending it out to everyone, couldn’t be cheap.

  14. Pattye,

    You are correct about using some of fund balance and other strategies are still to be considered–but keep in mind the retiring teachers have not been factored in–a bit unusual I think.

    Does anyone know why so much money is being paid to the architects on a monthly basis?

    1. I can give you a rough idea from the 2012 summer project list (D & J Architect fees). You can also check the Finance Committee minutes ..the monthly checks are listed this will give you a good idea of how much TESD pays out .
      Hillside $109,225
      TEMS $56,735 & 15,800
      Conestoga $32,000
      Driveway sealings $22,100
      plus fees for printing etc
      There is a fee schedule ( hourly rate) for different members of the they get 6 or 8% of every project they do except roofing.

      1. Sorry found another summer project for Conestoga add another $26,160..
        Please keep in mind that the Clerk of the Works retired and the District replaced him with D & J..

        1. CHV

          Maintenance and storage buildings!!!!! $2,714,000!!!!! I thought this district was broke? Do we really need this? Oh yes–the board feels storage needs comes before education. . .Something stinks.

      2. Thanks CHV!

        This is what I obtained so far for D&J:
        Jan. 59,271
        Mar. 36,195
        Apr. 67,989

        I didn’t go back beyond Jan (I was afraid to!) but don’t you think this may be a bit high? Are they planning anything other than the summer projects you mentioned?

        1. May Facilities meeting $280,000 for a parking lot at VFES ( process just started)…..if you want to see future expenses look at Capital Sources & Uses 7 Yr purchase $400,000 also maintenance & storage buildings Phase 1 & 2 for $ 2,714,000..nice projects for D & J…..

  15. I see the superintendent’s name has been mentioned in several posts. Dr. Waters may not be the most charismatic superintendent in the state, but does anyone think he has anything more than an insignificant effect on reaching a deal? Likewise, let’s not get off track by talking about the board’s lawyer (Sultanik), the union’s PSEA representative (Waldie) or the business manager.
    It’s human nature to divert attention from the real decision makers – the board and the teachers.

    1. Based on what I know about the teaching staff’s opinions of Dr. Waters and the way they perceive his feelings about the teachers , more progress may be made by NOT having him at the table.

      1. Then no one wins. If the teachers think that, then the world is broken. But it is why I do not believe, and have written the board to say so — the Superintendent works for all of us. He serves at the pleasure of the board, but he should not be their representative in a negotiation. Administrators have their own contract and are 3rd parties in this exchange. I’m putting all this squarely on the shoulders of Ms. Cruickshank and her leadership. Being clever and using Sultanik and sitting back is fine, but putting 3 administrators at the table — where they have no “vote” and no power, is lazy.

    2. Keith
      Dr. Waters has far more than an insignificant effect. He is the person who informs the board as to what the district requries to function. He is also the person who has the face to face on grievances and develops the input for negotiations. I’m sure other admins have significant input, but Dr. Waters is the CEO of this district. So it’s human nature to divert attention but in this case, it’s reality. The board are elected volunteers — Dr. Waters IS TESD — clearly directed in style by the board, but not in substance.

      1. Andrea,
        Let me clarify my point. Certainly, the superintendent of the district is the CEO and has a huge effect on the functioning of the district in many ways. I have no information on Dr. Waters, but I understand from others that he is an excellent performer and a valuable asset to the district. My point is that regardless of whether Dr. Waters is charismatic or not it will have little bearing on the length or outcome of negotiations. The fate of negotiations, in my opinion, lies with the 9 board members and the 436 teachers. They are the ones that vote yes or no on a contract.
        My other point is not to get side-tracked by other largely irrelevant issues such as the cost of Mr. Sultanik (~$200/hr) , the cost of Ms Waldie (zero), the health care coverage of the administrators (see the Act 93 agreement) or the compensation of board members (zero) which are mentioned below by William.

        1. Thanks Keith.
          Reading these comments here makes me wonder what kind of results we can even ponder. The fact that people claiming to be teachers or representing teachers are so anti-Waters amplifies the fact that this board has ceded the “bad guy” role….Kevin Mahoney and Betsy Fadem are 100% responsible for Dr. Waters salary, which he voluntarily froze before all these financial issues became such hot topics. (They were President/VP during his contract renewals and salary changes) He has one child who has long since finished college.
          And for the record — he is NOT the highest paid superintendent around, though his contract may be the most transparent. He is certainly one of the most experienced Supt. around — and has served as our high school principal, director of education, and was a teacher and principal elsewhere before ever coming here as Principal at Conestoga.
          And the comment that he should not be at the table — I could not agree more. It’s not his job to play bad cop….Sultanik is paid and he doesn’t need admins by his side. They should not be there. Period. They are 3rd parties in this negotiation.

        2. To clear up what I was saying…the teachers I talk to and know never question Dr. Waters ability to perform his everyday tasks as Superintendent. Much of the staff feels that he is cold and aloof on the rare occasions that we see him. I have spoken to him one time, for ten seconds, in my entire time working in TE. He also has said things in private that makes it sound like it doesn’t matter who we bring in and stick in front of the students, that we do not greatly affect student success… but then whenever there is a public event, he thanks us for having such an impact on the students’ lives.

          Also to clarify… these opinions about his relationships with his teachers have been stated amongst the staff for years, it is not a new thing.

  16. what kind of healthcare coverage do the TE admin people get? family or individual? how many?

    are the school board members elected volunteers or compensated?

    how much is sultanik costing us?

    representation by PSEA comes out of the unions coffers, not taxpayers correct?

    1. William,

      I was just reviewing the architect payments for 2012 and I did come across Sultanik’s group as well other attorneys for district–$$ are way out there– you can see on check register pages from board meetings.

      The architect $$ were–I’m at a loss for words!

      1. I have tried to find that but cannot. Is it in the minutes?

        So the principles and all other non- teacher admin type people get benefits no different than the teachers? Even if the new contract removes family coverage?

        1. William,

          Yes, lists are in the minutes–check all months. Lists ranked by highest $$ payable check.

          Sultanik’s group–Fox,Rothchild,O’Brien $ Frankel
          K. Roos group–Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone $ Craig

          Other legal groups for other things, I guess–
          Cloud, Feehery, & Richter
          Portnoff Law

          Good luck. . .

        2. William,

          You will have to check all monthly agenda minutes. Check register list is sorted by highest check.

          Sultanik’s group is Fox, Rothchild, O’brien & Frankel
          Other district attorney group (Roos) is Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone and Craig

          There’s other attorney groups but don’t know what they are used for.

    2. Admin benefits are tied to the teacher plan.
      Township supervisors are paid. School board members are not.

  17. I have heard many of these things about the superintendent before. It makes me wonder why my tax dollars are paying for his kids to go through school but our kids’ education will suffer. I am having a really hard time with understanding how we have the largest fund balance and the highest paid superintendent, but no money to pay teachers and we are cutting programs for the kids. Where are his salary and benefits in all of the budget information? Has he had to take a salary cut in these hard economic times to help our district? I know this is not the answer to all of our problems, but every penny counts and I am sure a show of shared responsibility from the top would sure help with teacher morale.

    1. Rachel

      Wait until you see the cost of the new maintenance and storage facility! Is this really needed before education? Why wasn’t this project shelved? I’m sick.

  18. I am disappointed that people are mentioning individual names on this web site. Don’t make one person a target – that is not fair. I have heard from people who know Dr. Waters personally that TE students are his top priority. And he is the CEO of a hundred million dollar operation – I hardly think he is overpaid for the responsibility that he has. Any school district would be lucky to have someone so dedicated to a school district and its children. The negotiation problems are not about Dr. Waters. Anyone who has been involved in a negotiation knows that it takes many back and forth exchanges to reach a final agreement. These initial proposals are starting points. Everyone needs to calm down and let the process play out. I highly doubt any of us here, including teachers who are not on the TEEA negotiating team, truly knows the whole story. Even with the latest TEEA links, which are from their own web site, we only know what each party wants us to know – and that is all.

    1. It hasn’t been “slipped” in ..under discussion for years in Faciliites.
      They bought 4 homes on Old Lanc RD for 1.3million..tore them down & had plans for a TEMS parking lot..that cost some $$$$ ..then it changed to maintenance & storage buildings .( Capital Use Plan) be done in 2 phases. projected 2012-13 & 2013 -14………most projects are paid from “bond money” but thatt runs out 2014-15

      1. Is this the same maintenance facility that was discussed during the budget meetings last year when teachers, custodians, and others had to give up money? I thought money was tight then too. . .Do you know why the board proceded with this type of project/s when money was/is so tight? I know it’s bond money and deadline for using up is approaching–but it’s not “free” money.

        I believe in maintaining the current buildings/properties–but I surely wouldn’t add on to my home or buy up property no matter how cheap the interest rates were. If you don’t have the money or it will cause a hardship to pay back you don’t go forward with more spending.

        I feel bad for all those who had to give up money. I would stand my ground if I were a teacher because this board doesn’t have its priorities in order on how they spend “our” money!

        1. Yes, before they do this project they need to purchase the remaining home.Last year was the presentation/plans and the testing on the site was done by the civil engineer firm..cost roughly $40,000. Still needs to get the OK from the district to go to advance …but again its listed as 2012-2014 projects. Time will tell..meanwhile they are busy with the IT Capital Plan and 2012 summer projects

  19. Caroline
    What a lovely comment. It’s very hard to keep down the rhetoric — but I personally appreciate your tone and your message. Thanks.

  20. The math doesn’t work anymore. The union needs to make serious concessions on health insurance AND with the salary freezes. The absurd economic projections they were trying to push 6 weeks ago are already proven to be false.

    I am glad to see the board negotiating like pros and not caving into the usual union tactics. The hyperbole that the school district is going to suffer is pure nonsense.

  21. Moanie,
    One of the deceptive strategies used by the union to gain an advantage at the bargaining table is to try discrediting the school board using inconsequential, peripheral issues all the while feigning concern for the taxpayer.
    I’ve noticed over the past few days that you have been concentrating on just such issues.
    – the maintenance facility
    – legal fees
    – architect fees
    – union busting
    – asking non-profits for financial help
    – administrative salaries
    – the superintendent’s charisma
    It would be a pleasure to hear your opinion on the 2 issues at hand –
    How would you balance the budget over the next few years?
    Under what terms would you agree to a contract?

    1. Keith,

      First, I didn’t speak about supt charisma– I don’t know of him and/or how he interacts with staff. Next, should I place blinders on when it comes to what is spent in this district? Especially when the board is crying poor! And using taxpayer money!

      The board doesn’t seem to want to pull the reigns on expenses other than teacher expenses. I’m not a teacher but I do know the degree of education that they need to succeed. The board has been encouraging continuing Ed, until now. Who approved all the contracts in the past? Who approves all the large projects? If you think I’m belly aching–so be it!

      There’s money in the fund balance for future PSERS as well as $$ listed in the budget for same. We don’t need all these major building projects right now. We don’t need a high paid lawyer because he can’t bust the union–but the board will spend the money anyway to try! They can truthfully negotiate themselves–I hope.

      To balance the budget: stop the non-education spending, except for maintenance repairs. Highly paid teachers will eventually retire so replace with entry level. I’m sure there’s plenty of recent graduates. Raise taxes to the level that the board has been doing– they’ll do it anyway. Use some fund balance–this district has the money. And most important, treat the teachers with respect.

    2. Keith, you hit the nail on the head. I will amplify by addressing the maintenance facility. People should remember that the capital budget and operating budget are two different things. Facilities are built with borrowed money – bonds. You cannot borrow for the operational budget. The only place where the capital budget intersects with the operational budget is for debt service. In 1999 the percent of the budget devoted to debt service was 6 percent. It is still 6 percent today. True, it is 6 percent of a larger number because the budget has grown, but te has very low debt – lower than any comparable district, perhaps among the lowest of any school district. So it sound spectacular to talk about $2.7 million during a recessionary time, but it is not like they are pulling $2.7 million out of the fund balance in lump sum to pay for the project – thus foolishly using a pot of money that could have been used to meet this year’s budget shortfall.

      Also, the project has probably been in the plans for a long time – and would need to be evaluated in it’s own merits – including the cost of not doing the project (for there always is such a cost and it is rarely considered by those who oppose the project). Now, lots if things can be said for and against any project, but that is irrelevant to the topic at hand – which is how to balance the budget long term – through the next contract.

      1. Kevin

        You still have to pay back principle and interest and taxpayer is taxed on the yearly total of payments.
        The economy has been down for about 8 years, so it should have been a no brainer not to enter into any major projects, regardless of how cheap it was to borrow money. Where was the foresight?

        1. I am not commenting on the merits of the project, since I have been off the board since December 2007 and was not there for the discussions. However, my point is that this was likely in the works for a long time, and it may make perfect sense to go forward with projects in the pipeline at a certain point in their development. Again, there are costs and problems inherent in not doing a project, and it may have been very prudent – if one takes a long view – to borrow money when interest rates are low. You are correct that this is probably not the time to start a major new project, but completing something in the works has to be evaluated on it’s own merits, and I would want to study the specifics of the project before making a judgment on it.

          Plus, the main point I was making is that this (and several other things which have been ground up here) is a distraction from the bigger issue at hand. What does this have to do with the teachers contract?

        2. It has nothing to do with the teacher contract, but since they are not meeting right now, there is no new information to discuss.

        3. The problem I have is Monie’s strategy of giving teachers what they want by cutting back on other expenses is a lack of perspective. Monie would divert millions to teacher compensation each year forever paid for, supposedly, by squeezing thousands from other budget items – many of them one-time expenditures.
          Monie is certain ( a “no brainer”) that the Board should not proceed with the maintenance facility yet has no idea the magnitude of the yearly debt payment nor the downside of not proceeding with the project. Monie says, “We don’t need all these major building projects right now”, as if a $2M project is major and there is more than one project.
          Monie is certain that we don’t need legal representation at the table, but has no concept of the legal complexities that are inherent with a combative union, especially when entering the status quo period.
          And here is the best one – “To balance the budget: stop the non-education spending, except for maintenance repairs.” OK, Monie, tell us what you would cut, give us specific dollar figures and make sure it covers the deficit projected by the board.

        4. Another comment regarding foresight – in order to evaluate the prudence of any proposed project you need to know:

          The needs it addresses

          The alternatives to meet those needs

          The cost of the alternatives

          The cost of the proposed vs. Alternatives

          The cost of doing nothing, cost of status quo

          Costs need to include “hidden” as well as obvious costs, and financial as well as non-financial impacts.

        5. Correction to my previous comment – in the 2011-12 budget, debt service is not 6 percent – it is 5.24 percent.

    3. Keith,

      Your comment in regards to the union being combative: You have that backwards– It’s the board who is combative and if board doesn’t start to turn that unprofessional “personality” around this district will be in status quo with the teachers for years.

      The board can’t pretend that they are “fiscally responsible” with the teachers if they (board) have not addressed the “skys the limit” adm comp plans (not unionized) in the years past as well as the board giving their approval to begin major projects that are not maintenance or education related.

      The board can’t have its “cake and eat it too” — use the $1.5 mil contingency or the teacher retirement savings (close to $1 mil–if less experienced teachers are hired as replacements) OR , use the fund balance to clear the deficit.

      Even Corbett is encouraging districts to use fund balance to bridge deficit gaps instead of cutting, cutting, cutting.

      This district has the money.

      1. Last year the teachers delayed their salary increases for a semesster — in exchange for no demotions last year.

        IN other words, the board bought the savings.

        If you have read any other district administrative plans, you would know that not only is TE not “sky is the limit.” Boards are traditionally very secretive about these issues though. The 2011 audit report has over $6M of reserve identified for retirement obligations and sick pay cash-outs. That’s teachers and admins.

        Your comment about “will contribute” does not mean they get that now. They get the $16,500 now (though it was amended in 2011). The post-retirement contribution means the district will continue to contribute to their benefits — which is what the $16.5 represents now.

        The $16.5 is 5K less than the cost of the teacher plan, and it is meant to cover all insurance. That includes disability, life and health. (vision and dental) The $16.5 required the admins to think through the cost of insurance and select plans that were cost efficient. If they did not spend the money, they could keep it. It’s exactly what should be happening going forward with the teachers. We need to get out of the business of negotiating benefit plans and levels. It’s all compensation.

        Ironically, no one gets it right. The District purchases disability insurance for all employees. Anyone in industry knows that if you purchase the insurance with your own after-tax money, the benefit is not taxable.

        1. not all of the teacher plans do…teacher with family was estimated at 20K. Single (which I think was estimated at 8K) and Single with Spouse do not cost that much.

        2. For this school year, the TEEA benefit costs are as follows:

          Single $8,333
          H/W $19,213
          Parent w/Children $17,591
          Family $20,815
          Parent w/Child $15,978

          Add to that Dental at $359 single, $989 two or more

          THis is a very expensive plan. The point is, the district could negotiate a number just like the Admin number (Admins bought all insurance or kept what they did not spend) and demonstrate what it would purchase (or better yet, PSEA could shop it for them). There is no reason to negotiate a benefit plan. That’s 80s thinking. The Admin comp plan changed in 1994 and didn’t tie to the teachers until this past year…when the teacher plan/cost went up in price past what the Admins had. Never should ahve done that — should have shopped for cheaper options. They are “self insured” after all (which I also struggle with — but previous board financial guru Kevin Mahoney is with Penn Health Systems and shephered the plan because he insisted it would be much cheaper. maybe it is?)

  22. can anybody verify that the TE admin workers would also have family coverage removed if that was part of a new contract? including the superintendent?

    1. William
      COMPLETELY unrelated. The admins have a contract and so do the teachers. The two contracts are not tied together — it’s just that the current admin contract references the option to purchase the same coverage as the teachers. Each group negotiates/meets and discusses.
      Plus — and we need to remember this — the district has OFFERED single coverage. The teachers have what they have until the new contract is signed/ratified….so all this is simply rhetoric.

        1. Because they dont’ negotiate. It’s only a “meet and discuss” and there are no salaries in the agreement. (It’s not a contract ) Typically it is a renewal of existing language. You can request it to read it. It may even be on the TESD website.

    2. Ironically William, the Admin Comp plan was amended on June 13, 2011 to do exactly that —

      :be covered on the District self-insured medical plan as provided in the 2008-2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the TEEA and any extension, amendment or successor agreement in effect for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 fiscal years as follows:

      1. The administrator would be responsible for the health care premium contribution at the same level as if they were a member of the TEEA for whatever coverage is elected; and
      2. The administrator must agree to keep this election in effect for each of the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years.

      SO — watch the agendas for upcoming meetings to see if there is any effort to again amend the Administrator Compensation plan….because the language here sounds like any admin that had the teachers plan this year only gets what the teachers get going forward through 2014.

  23. i see, two completely different entities which is what i suspected.

    so if the teachers can only get single coverage with no other option in a new contract, the current admin workers continue to get family coverage until their contract runs out?

    how many non-union admin people are employed by TE?

    1. William
      Is this the first time you have ever paid attention to school district spending?

      Every administrator except the Business Manager and the Superintendent are tenured employees of the school district. “Union” if they went back into the bargaining unit.

      The administators contract does not speak to their individual compensation, just their collective ranges and benefits. I believe the last admin raise was an across the board 4% effective July 2009, which had been approved in the consent agenda in Oct 2008. Dr. Waters has not had a raise since 2008 to my knowledge (at his suggestion) .

  24. Did I miss something. The union is being “open”? OK, where is their health insurance proposal? Or are they merely open to NOT negotiating that?

    This is all very typical of a union especially a teacher’s union. Standard tactics. 101 stuff.

    It does nothing to change the bottom line. Serious, meaningful concessions on health insurance will happen whether the teacher’s union likes it or not. Perhaps the union can pay for the teacher’s health insurance out of their coffers? Increase the teacher’s dues to cover the insurance. Take the tax payers out of the equation entirely. Yea, right.

    Seriously, the tactics won’t work because they can’t work. It is a math problem pure and simple. Nothing will change that simple fact.

      1. Well, respond to the points then. For some reason, that isn’t done because it goes off script. I am going to continue to point out the math. Sorry if that bothers you.

        1. Md – you are right to point out the math. This is the 800 lb. Gorilla in the room that some don’t want to talk about. Administrators’ salaries? Assume for the sake of argument the (dubious) proposition that you could replace the administration with equally competent people for one third less money. Is that enough to balance the budget? Throw in debt service on the maintenance facility project. Now is it enough? Something like 70-75 percent of the budget consists of salary and benefits for personnel. It becomes obvious where the money has to come from since only a small portion of our people are administrators.

          Most of the easy efficiency cuts in operations were made years ago. Some more will be found from time to time, but nothing big enough to balance the budget. So whether they like it or not, the discussion needs to be about real math and focus on the teacher contract.

  25. Would a simple answer to the employee benefits issue be a “cafeteria-type” spending account for benefits – TESD gives employees for example $15,000 for benefits and they can choose what they get for that. One employee might choose high deductible health plus dental and prescription, another might choose HMO for family with no dental, no prescription. If an employee wants more benefits that the spending account covers, the employee pays. Could that work in TESD or does the self-insured method the district is using preclude that?

    1. I do think that is a start. For the record, I do think families should be provided coverage. It is clear that the board’s negotiator is sending a message that the old days are over. No more caving in to every demand. No more holding the community hostage.

    2. Been suggesting that to the board for several years. In fact ,the administators had that exact option — still do sort of — but then the admin plan was changed to allow them to take the teacher plan, which completely undoes the “learning” associated with having your own money and spending it on health care. (People tend to make wiser choices with their own money than with “free” money) . Until we only negotiate dollars and not benefits, we will never get a handle on the health care costs. How much easier to look at the budget and divide it by the numbers of teachers and offer them that amount….We were moving in that direction but somehow the course was changed.

      1. I just paged through the Admin comp plan and it refers to a fixed amount ($16,500) paid for whatever benefits the employee selects from the available options. This seems to have moved in a direction you have advocated, although it does lack the high deductible true “insurance” you would like to see. Did I miss something?

        This sum also seems to be less than the cost of the TEEA plan, if Keith is right in his estimate?

        1. Ray,

          Adm may be getting more than $16,500. See the following from “Activity at Retirement”–

          “the District will continue to contribute an allowance of $5,200 annually for the purpose of purchasing District-approved hospitalization, medical/surgical, major medical, dental, vision care, drug plans and long term care for 10 years from the date of retirement.”

          The words, “will continue” suggests that this is something the adm had prior to retirement.

        2. Ray
          Through the use of the Consent Agenda, IX, C 9 on June 13, 2011, the board approved an amendment to page 12 on this topic. I have no idea why the amended language is not on the website along with the Act 93 agreement.

          The amendment gave admins the right to elect the same health care plan as the TEEA.

          Note that the consent item claimed this :
          “The amendment provides a health care option for Act 93 Group Administrators which could result in a cost savings to the District and any participating administrators.”

          Of course, since the admins got $16,500 and the TEEA plan costs $20,000 or more for family, we know that didn’t turn out to be true. I have no idea if any admins took the option — but I’m disappointed it was requested or taken. The approach in the Act 93 plan is to allow the admins to purchase what they need. If they want high deductible, the district can price that. But instead of learning and passing on that cost control, the board gave them the higher cost option an a Consent amendment. See why they drive me crazy?

          On that same date, the board approved salary recommendations for Supervisor/Confidential employees and 2011-12 Administrator compensation recommendations “in the form presented” but there are no details included in the agenda.
          These were all handled in the Consent IX, C, 6 and C, 7.

        3. Township Reader–

          I thought adm, supv, conf, did not receive increase for 2011–12 ???

          See following from 2011-12 Budget Overview under Salaries.

          ….”The Board also accepted an offer from TENIG to waive 100% of the 2011-2012 salary increases amounting to approximately $300,000 in savings to the budget. The proposed final budget also reflects a salary freeze for all non- contracted employee groups. This includes administrators, supervisors, confidential secretaries, aides, and paraprofessionals.”

  26. i am talking about all the other school district employees who are not teachers. they are administrative workers who get some kind of health benefits. i want to know what they get. if that includes the superintendent then thats fine. how many non-teacher employees are there? the school board said that they have laid off more of them than the teachers.

      1. The link is for the TESD administrator compensation plan through June 30, 2014. For those that are interested in the benefit package, including healthcare, of District administrators, this information provides those details.

        1. The plan on benefits was amended through a Consent qagenda item on June 13, 2011. “Elective alternative for Participating Administrators” tying their rights to the TEEA plan from the 2008-12 agreement and any extension.

  27. As long as we remember that the Admin Comp Plan being part of this discussion is nothing but a diversion.

    1. Distraction from the real issues – yes. Here is more data to illustrate:

      From 2011-12 budget, item 2300 “support services, administration” – the total is $6,281,533 out of a $109,000,000 budget. That figure includes supplies and purchased services, it is not all salary and benefits. This category would include your superintendent, principals, etc. Salary is $3,843,159 and benefits are $1,410,737,for a total of $5,253,896 or something like 5 percent of the budget.

      And regardless of how one feels about any particular capital project, debt service is $5,713,928 or 5.24 percent of the budget.

    2. It is a tried and true strategy. So, being open about not negotiating is now a good thing?

      Just want to make sure I understand every side of this.

      1. keep talking to yourself…instead of waiting until the scheduled June negotiations meeting to hear what comes of it, keep acting like you know what’s been happening in the meetings…you don’t. And as you and many have said before, all of the stuff we see and hear in the public forum, from both sides, is “from the book”. As many more insightful people on here have pointed out….that’s what they start out with and what they have to start out with…what they negotiate is what we are waiting for. It should have been happening for the past few months but now that the admins finally agreed to come back from walking away from the table…we will get that…

        1. Yes, but you want to tout the fact that that are being transparent. They are not or they just aren’t willing to accept reality.

          I see you are still intent on blaming one side. Typical union tactic.

          For the record, your posts have added 0 insight. Just stale talking points. Union rhetoric. So, just ignore my posts and I will do likewise. I try not to insult anyone personally. You, on the other hand do employ the union tactic of trying to make every issue personal.

        2. I ask questions because I want to know more and people like Ray, TR, and Keith give unbiased answers…you just keep pushing the same agenda over and over again.

  28. I am still eagerly waiting to see the unions proposal on health insurance. I guess if they won’t negotiate it on that item, then the terms would eventually be mandated or an arbiter would decide. That would be a huge mistake on their part. I am not certain on the rules involving arbitration though. It is probably non-binding.

    I find the emotional blackmail and outright distortion of issues from the union disgusting. It is a standard tactic though and some parents will fall for it. However, we are now in a completely different era. In this era, that no longer works because……..the math doesn’t work!!

    Had to get that in. I know how popular that viewpoint is here. Perhaps we can have someone post the upteenth, union generated sob story in response.

    1. There is no mandate or arbitration available. It’s status quo until they ratify a new contract, which means salary freeze and $20K health care plans.

  29. TR –

    Thanks for your vigilance in picking up last year’s Consent Agenda item re the change in the Admin benefits plan. I share your disappointment. The optics are terrible. Something slid through without discussion (was there a prior Committee review?) and positioned as a cost saving when in fact it may have been an increase.

    I know that the numbers are not material, but I think that the district owes the taxpayers a proper accounting of the impact.

    1. Ray
      I know you attend meetings — I do not. I am counting on you to be vigilant on Admin and other comp issues. The consent from last year “approved” salaries…but there was no backup material. It was allegedly a wage freeze — but I wonder why it wouldn’t have said that.
      And had I seen that change before it was made, I would have stood on tables to stop it. But I know how the admins work — very very hard — and they don’t want to fall behind the teachers. This decision, however, was a wrong one. We made the change to cafeteria for admins — it’s time to finish it with the teachers. They (TEEA) resisted it because they were afraid of “pre-existing conditions” and felt that if the district didn’t provide the policy, they might not be able to get one. I think the current group of TEEA and PSEA are a bit more on top of it nowadays and know that not to be true. If I could get options from the district, instead of just policies in force, I promise you we could put together a proposal to save tax dollars and satisfy the rank and file….hoping someone on the board will do that.

      1. Township Reader

        May 2011-12 budget presentation footnote:
        No Salary Increases for Teachers, Administrators, Supvr/Confid, Aides or Para’s after FY 2011-12 (notice the word “after” FY. . .)

        From: 2011-12 Budget Overview under Salaries
        ….”The Board also accepted an offer from TENIG to waive 100% of the 2011-2012 salary increases amounting to approximately $300,000 in savings to the budget. The proposed final budget also reflects a salary freeze for all non- contracted employee groups. This includes administrators, supervisors, confidential secretaries, aides, and paraprofessionals.” (last two sentences)

        Apr 2012 budget presentation footnote:
        No Salary Increases for Teachers, Administrators, Supvr/Confid, Aides or Para’s. (no dates listed here)

        May 2012 budget presentation footnote:
        NO Salary Increases for Teachers, Administrators, Supvr/Confid, Aides or Para’s beyond 2012-2013 (notice word “beyond” 2012-2013)

        This was/is pretty “slick” by the board if these groups/persons received any kind of increases–maybe the taxpayer needs to see a person by person accounting in these mentioned groups starting with the 2009-2010 school year through 2012-2013, you think?

        Maybe you will get your chance to stand above the crowd at the next meeting.

        1. A right to know request for the consent back up info would work. I am travelling with only my Nook so I hope someone files it. Speculation is not appropriate when info is available. June 13, 2011

  30. The union has proposed that the district take a sunny, optimistic viewpoint of the economy over the next several years. That was a couple of months back. Has anything happened that would justify taking that position. Perhaps the union people on this board can shed some light on this.

    Transparency on who you really are would be a nice start. A couple of you are being overly obvious now.

    1. MD writes:
      “I find the emotional blackmail and outright distortion of issues from the union disgusting. It is a standard tactic though ….”

      One of many, many comments you’ve made. Your anti-union blather is really getting on my last nerve, MD. How ironic that you ask for transparency from CM commenters.

      Who are YOU, MD, beside an identified malcontent who never fails to trash unions? Not that you are “being overly obvious”…..

      I support the teachers, believe they are genuinely open to compromise, and appreciate their efforts to keep the community in the loop. I am a former teacher, and a parent whose children attended TESD over a 20 year period. My children had some exceptionally fine teachers during that time. (Several are likely targets for demotion, which I find outrageous!) I am pleased to see that several are involved in the negotiating process. I was active in PTO. I am active in local Democratic politics and on civic boards. I care deeply about the direction of this community.

      How about you?

      Talk about transparency…..There is a former TE school board member posting under pseudonyms. There is a current school board member from a nearby school district with an anti-union agenda posting multiple times a day. I find that mystifying and wonder what his fellow board members and his community think about his “investment” here….

      There are posters on this blog who know more about the teachers’ salary matrix and follow local budget matters with a more intense focus than any human being needs to….

      You’re right, MD. Readers should know who is dominating this blog and what their agendas are……

      But we should also refresh our memories as to the TEEA’s PUBLIC position in the one-sided contract negotiations (the SB and their attorney have been silent since February).

      As reported on the TEEA website on May 16, 2012:

      …”The initial proposal volunteered an immediate one-year salary freeze. Together with a voluntary partial freeze enacted during the current contract year, a concession that few PA teachers offered, this approach asserted our ongoing desire to cooperate. The second year proposed a continued salary freeze for master teachers but salary advancement for younger, non-master teachers. We also made repeated verbal commitments to discuss changes to healthcare benefits.”

      .”….Most significantly, the district has proposed to strip family coverage for T/E employees completely with no opportunity to buy. The implication is that while T/E teachers have spent our lives caring for the children of this community, T/E has no interest in caring for ours.”

      You and other cynics are so sure it’s all posturing. Based on what, beside your predisposition to distrust unions? And your apparent conviction that T/E teachers “don’t get the math” and are out to squeeze more out of the taxpayers than they they are entitled to?

      You’re “disgusted”? So am I.

      1. Feel better now? Now, what is the union’s proposal on health insurance?

        I will await your answer.

        Seriously, you hold no monopoly on caring. I also care about the school district and have children there NOW.

        The cost of health ins is completely out of control and the teacher’s have a plan that is unsustainable. In order to continue with that plan, many programs will be cut. I do NOT want that. Now, and please follow me here, the union’s offer of NOTHING helps the children how? The union has gone about their business in their usual manner. Everything they have done is textbook. They are hurting the children. Tell them to put something on the table. Oh, that’s right, that is only for the board to do. When it comes to the union, that would be “stupid”. Oh, please this is so beyond obvious now. I have dealt with union types before and the tactics are always the same.

        We have a math problem that needs to be solved. X+Y = Z. Now, we have an imbalance where X is the taxpayer. Nothing more can be done on that end. Y is costs – student programs, teachers, admin costs, facilities etc…wile Z equals the total budget. By definition X+Y has to equal Z. It does NOT.

        So, now that you have seemed fit to sing your typical sob story, please tell me how you solve the problem. Please!

        1. They have only met 3 times in 6 months….how do you expect grand progress to be made during 3 meetings? The SD walked away from the table until as of recently when a date was announced for the next negotiations meeting. Was either side just supposed to send their new offers/proposals telepathically during the last few months? The district needed to be at the table the whole time because if nothing gets done, it stays at status quo and they already mentioned they can’t afford that.

      2. Why kate, I’m mystified that you find my participation on Community Matters mystifying. The two school districts are very similar in demographics, academics and finances. I have many things to learn from the other participants on CM. We just went through negotiations with our teachers and we’ll start the process again next January. Please realize that each contract at UCF sets a precedent for TE and vice versa.
        If you are wondering about how my participation on CM is viewed by other board members, please ask them. Their email addresses are here. The community knows that I have strong opinions and will readily engage in debate – with teachers, parents and community members. Isn’t that what one would expect from someone elected to represent them and run the district?
        I find it disheartening that you would seek to stifle communications from others that do not share your point of view. It won’t work with me. I wish we had a similar “chat room” based in Unionville with participation from TE residents and board members. Actually, I asked the owner of a local newspaper if he would start a chat room, but he declined.

      3. Kate

        Another headscratcher in general, and specifically:
        “There are posters on this blog who know more about the teachers’ salary matrix and follow local budget matters with a more intense focus than any human being needs to….”

        How can it be unnecessary for taxpayers to understand what drives the expenses they are being asked to pay? Or for some posters to take the the time to cast a light for the rest of us?

        Only perhaps if the parties incurring the expenses are trying to hide something? Or to keep UCFSD and TESD isolated to leverage them off one another?

        Unfortunately the discussion is getting more polarized and less helpful every day. I’m back to wondering why it is that there is long a period between official negotiating sessions, and to hoping that all the parties are working hard every day to figure out what they, the students and the taxpayers can live with.

        It would be nice to think that someone here in the US is casting an occasional look across the pond to see how countries like Germany and Sweden with highly unionized workforces are able to deliver economic growth, low unemployment, low inflation and a government that delivers basic human services and still balances the budget. Take a look at last Saturday’s WSJ for a nice article on Sweden.

        One of the keys is the labor market flexibility that I’ve mentioned here before. Could TE, with all its demographic advantages, begin a grassroots movement away from the rigid language of the old contract model? Could our munificent fund balance be used in some way to help a transition?

      4. Kate
        Why does using an identity to post trouble you? I put in my time and to those who followed my time, my identity is no secret. I rarely use my name for the same reason I said elsewhere…after the slam on ‘Mike’ in his election, why take heat and find every comment in google? These are all opinions and I find the exchanges to be healthy. No need to try to trash thoughts, experience, or people. You offer up your “credentials” as if to validate your input. Tell us how you would solve this problem, or at least acccept the charge that TEEA has put nothing on the table. They prefer to let the Tesd bid up until they say yes.?

  31. The reason many do not post with their names is because who wants a Googlle” history of everything you posted. Names aren’t important. Content is. MD…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Community Matters © 2024 Frontier Theme