Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Will outsourcing in TE School District signal decline of property values?

At the Monday TE School Board meeting, our community’s taxpayers, parents and School District employees deserve an open and honest discussion on the impact of outsourcing. If the jobs of aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers are outsourced with a third party contractor, we deserve to know the long-term costs and financial benefits, if any. Based on the numbers provided at the Financial Committee meeting, I am not convinced that outsourcing is a cost-savings measure.

Outsourcing subjects our most vulnerable students, those with special needs, to a revolving door of low-paid, less qualified replacements hired by the low bidder outside contractor. Is this better for children with special needs than keeping the dedicated longtime TE employees who parents and students trust and respect?

And what about the taxpayers in the community who don’t have children in the school district … the issue of outsourcing affects you too. To date, Tredyffrin and Easttown Township residents have enjoyed stable real estate values; the reputation of the T/E School District a key to the sustainability. The quality of a school district affects local property values and as a result, homeowners are willing to pay a premium. With the outsourcing of paraprofessionals in T/E, I think we will see the beginning of a downturn in our home values. Everyone needs to understand that if the School Board votes on Monday to outsource the aides and paraeducators, the jobs of the District’s custodians, kitchen workers and support staff will not be far behind. The homeowners in this School District should have assurances that living in the T/E community will continue to mean sustainability of the home real estate values.

Upon his election as T/E School Board president in December 2012, Kevin Buraks stated, “We’re benefiting families with kids who are in school because they’re getting a top-level education that they’ll have for the rest of their lives. I think we’re also benefiting families who don’t have kids in school, because we’re keeping high property values because the schools are ranked in the top of the state”. Contrary to what you stated 5 months ago, I would argue Mr. Buraks that outsourcing of aides is not beneficial to our families and outsourcing will certainly not keep our property values high. Perhaps, President Buraks should review his own words prior to the outsourcing vote.

Scott Dorsey sent in a comment for the last Community Matters post but rather than have it buried in the stream of comments, I am adding it to this post. Mr. Dorsey is a School Board candidate and voices strong opposition to outsourcing. Opposing Dorsey in Tredyffrin Region II is currently serving School Board Director Rich Brake. In Tredyffrin Region I, incumbent Kevin Buraks is challenged by Peter Connors. The four Easttown Region III candidates are Doug Carlson, Virgnia Latner, Maryann Piccioni and Jean Kim.

Primary Election Day is May 21 and knowing where candidates stand on issues has never been more important than in 2013. I invite current School Board Directors Buraks and Brake and candidates Connors, Carlson, Latner, Piccioni and Kim to submit a personal statement on the issue of outsourcing. Similarly to Scott Dorsey’s statement, all statements received prior to Monday night’s meeting will appear on Community Matters. (Although Betsy Fadem and Anne Crowley are not seeking re-election, they are welcome to submit outsourcing statements as well Pete Motel, Jim Bruce, Liz Mercogliano and Kris Graham.)

From Scott C. Dorsey …

As a resident of Tredyffrin, I stand firmly against any proposal that would outsource the jobs of my fellow neighbors. I truly believe there is an assault on those who have no union representation and it is time for our community to let its voice be heard.

I am saddened by the latest actions of our School Board. The Board has lost its way in giving our top administrators a sweet pay increase and retirement bonus while pushing paraprofessionals out to the lowest outsourcer bid. I understand the Board struggles to find financial opportunities to keep the school district solvent, but do we stoop to tactics of harassing nonprofit organizations by questioning their tax status or attempting to tear down neighborhood popular tennis courts? Do we discard loyal and valued employees who contribute to our students’ success?

Why are they making these decisions without the full input of the community? Where is the transparency?

Government can’t solve all the problems on its own, but Tredyffrin has been a community where people of all backgrounds can raise their families and provide their children a great education. In recent years, our educational system has come under attack. It is time to have public meetings and hear the voices of our neighbors before making decisions that will radically change the character of our schools.

Outsourcing will not save the district money or be a better deal for aides and paraprofessionals, as some School Board members have suggested. I beg my friends on the Board to listen to the people. It is time to focus on investing, not slashing the greatness of our community. I ask all my neighbors to come to the School Board meeting on Monday night to oppose the outsourcing of our educational system. Let us fight to protect those who are oppressed. May God bless us to find the right solutions that will preserve a great school district by investing in its children and valued employees.

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  1. Whether you’re a T/E resident with children in the district or a taxpayer who cares about TESD’s ranking as a factor in maintaining your property’s value, the proposed outsourcing of 175 District employees – all of whom directly affect the quality of education – should be of great concern to you.

    As far as I can tell, this scheme to cut costs:
    – has no short-term benefit
    – has not been clearly shown to have a longer term benefit per the District’s “analysis” at last week’s Finance Committee meeting
    – is a 3-year commitment to STS during which time the state may well change its position on PSERS obligations to school districts
    -harms children who rely on established relationships with aides, para-educators and substitute teachers familiar with our district and curriculum
    – treats almost a quarter of our District’s workforce as expendable, interchangeable, of limited value to the quality of services T/E provides
    – sends a clear message that TESD is no different than Walmart; they will gladly pass off the benefit costs of pension and healthcare while telling about-to-be outsourced workers that with STS, they will be able to collect unemployment in the summer months. This after they required these very employees to sign statements promising NOT to apply for unemployment from June to September each year. What hypocrites!
    -It’s laughable to suggest that STS will provide any real healthcare benefit out of the 22.5% fee they collect for each outsourced employee. Nor will they contribute to any 401k plan. STS will pay what is legally required: 6.2% for FICA, 1.45% for Medicare and 3.68% for unemployment.

    The ACA penalty per individual employee is $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016. The cost of even basic healthcare coverage is so much greater that it is obvious what the for-profit outsourcer will do.

    I was struck by Keith Knauss’s comparison estimate. He believes the difference between keeping aides, paras and subs on the District payroll or outsourcing them is about $600k a year.

    That’s right. The choice to keep our valued classroom support staff on the District’s books, continue to pay their PSERS contribution AND offer them basic healthcare as required by ACA in 2014 is a net $600k – or $32 for the average homeowner.

    $32 when…..
    Our administrators got raises and the promise of golden parachutes of up to one year’s salary as they walk out the door.

    $32 when the School Board opted NOT to apply for exceptions to the 1.7% Act 1 limit, which would have provided up to an additional $1.6 million in revenue.

    What kind of people are we in T/E? Where’s the sense of fairness and respect for people who have invested in our children?

    Come out tomorrow and raise hell if you care. The school directors were elected by us to serve in our best interest.
    They apparently think our voices don’t count as they plan to vote to outsource the most vulnerable employees – without any public input.

    Shame on them. They need to hear from parents and taxpayers. NO OUTSOURCING. There’s a better, fairer alternative in T/E.

    Note: I am not a TESD employee, nor am I related to one.

    1. Thank you for your support. Residents need to know that the aides and paras were not told about the outsourcing. We learned about it from each other or from Patty’s blog. I have worked for TE for 10 years and I can’t believe how poorly we are being treated. Some people here have compared the school district to a corporation. I think if this was private industry, we would probably be better informed. I wish residents could have been in my school this week, morale is the lowest I have ever seen.

      1. Sad TE Aide,

        Is it true that employees were told not to talk about it to parents and teachers? It is sad that we have to get this information from the very people who are being affected.

  2. Unfortunately the Board and Administration’s apparent complete disregard of the human impact of this strategy has opened the door to speculation and emotion.

    I think that the property values in T/E are a function of the demand, in turn driven by both the quality of the students/parents and the program and also of the cost. Which latter maybe this strategy will help control.

    It may be that this “outsourcing” makes sense when the perspective of all constituencies are considered. I hope that those attending the Board meeting demand that the case and impacts on employees, the programs and the finances are fully explained and weighed, not simply that the idea is rejected because of the emotional pull.

    1. Ray, if the numbers presented at the Finance Committee on outsourcing had been fully explained (and made sense), I’d feel more comfortable. At a minimum any cost-savings that the District may tout from outsourcing, must be able to stand up to the public’s scrutiny. If outsourcing is such a good idea, why is it that the numbers just don’t add up? The personal relationships between the aides and the children, and what is in their best interest, is a completely different issue. I think many people (including myself) feel a need to defend the paraprofessionals as a counter to the seemingly disregard that some of the SB members have toward these District employees.

    2. If the district is trying to save money by targeting the employees who can be disposed of with the least aggravation and who are at the bottom as far as wages and benefits are concerned, just imagine how much could be saved by reducing the salaries and benefits of the employees who are at the high end of the wage and benefit scale. That’s where real cost savings can achieved.

      I don’t believe any of them would leave, and if they do, let them leave.

      Outsourcing the weakest segment, (while doing it in such an inhumane way) does not make sense when a district has just granted raises and bonuses and golden parachutes to the segment making the most. Neither fact nor common sense can justify this. Corporations are more decent to their employees. At least they let them know and some even provide time and space for the employees to find another job. This is just cruel.

  3. You know its Art McDonnell driving this nail. He has been hell bent on outsourcing from the minute he walked through the door.

  4. Just left the meeting before the rubber stamp vote occurs. It struck me that is seemed many of the board knew very little about STS..

    If this passes, I CALL ON ALL THE AIDES ET.AL TO CALL OUT SICK TOMORROW.. OR WEDNESDAY IF ORGANIZATION IS NEEDED. then let the district call STS for substitutes… A pox on this board. They are going broke anyway. So screw the unrepresented. Media will get the wage tax, reducing the hourly take home. On our least compensated workers… So retirees don’t want tax incfeases , say 120 year, afraid it will snowball, Dr Brake? Well retirees paid for their kids public education. They can pay up or get the hell out of here. Thats my take… This should be tabled.

  5. Dear Pattye and Community,

    THANK YOU so much for your support. As aides, our voices are NOT heard. Further, I am very alarmed that the parents have NOT been formally notified of the situation at hand. Please continue blogging and spreading the word about this inhumane treatment of the lowest level employees. As an aide, we are prepared to assist the most needy students. We consider it a blessing to work in special education.

    I have a master’s degree in education, as do some of the other aide’s. Many of the aide’s have been with the district for over 10 years. I challenge STS to find employees of similar caliber and education and pay them $10 per hour with no guarantee of employment location or student assignment.

    Morale is very low at work. I can not even look administration in the eye. When I see my special education student, I am fighting back tears knowing that next year he will have a sub-par aide who does not care about him. Staff and faculty are just giving up right now. They don’t want come to meetings anymore. This is a problem because we lack cohesion. What happened to United to Stand, Divided We Fall?!

    The outsourcing will not stop at the aide level. If they outsource the aides, the secretaries, the security staff, cafeteria workers, and janitors will also eventually be outsourced. The only people that would work for the district are teachers and the administration. ARE WE OKAY BEING AN OUTSOURCED DISTRICT? This is NOT how a top 5 school should act.

    There are two upcoming meetings, one is a budget meeting and one is regarding the education board. Please be on the look-out for these meetings.

    Pattye, we need your help. Again, we do not have a voice. Please keep blogging. As aides, we have no way to contact the parents. WE NEED YOUR HELP.

    1. your principal has known about this for awhile. They are NOT on your side, even though the lives of the teachers will be adversely impacted. Top 5 school? Slippery slope to mediocrity… and why not outsource the teachers? That would be a fun meeting to attend.

    2. FYI–the email Pattye posted from Dan Waters went out to anyone who gets TE info. Somits out there, albeit rather arrogantly and one-sided considering the outcome so far.
      Ask Buraks to,appoint a citizen task force. I did it for class size …. Took heat from all sides and from committee members, but we had lots of input and even spawned the “Kids Count” political action group. Too many newsletters…not enough face to face. Resurrect the idea of a listening post…small groups randomly formed and reporting to the crowd. Marie Slobojan has retired, but surely Rich Gusick or Delvin Dinkinsd could facilitate a large discussion on how we spend our money on programs vs. people vs. facilities etc.

      1. Andrea,

        I think it’s clear, the people in charge do not want citizen input. When major decisions are slipped and hidden in consent agendas in the hopes tax paying community members won’t find out, the idea that Rich Gusick or Delvin Dinkins will facilitate large group discussions with citizens is not realistic.

      2. Andrea, to clarify the sequence of events — the District sent Dan Waters’ outsourcing Q @ A to the aides, aides and substitute teachers at 3 PM on Monday. Immediately following this notification, the Q & A was sent by TESD to their newsletter email list; the Q @ A was then added to the District website. Based on several of the aides that I spoke to on Monday night, the Q @ A email received 4 hours before the SB meeting, was the FIRST time they were aware of the outsourcing prospects. I certainly don’t think that Community Matters should by how District employees receive status reports on their employment.

        1. Pattye–I totally agree. I think the district has fumbled this all the way and I am only reinforcing that they did distribute the email…albeit arrogantly given the tone and the outcome…

          Lest anyone think I am defending them…let me lay that to,rest. Go back to the posts before these people,ran last time…they were not ready for prime time candidates with the way they botched the EIT signs. Here’s my concern–good people are reluctant to step up and yard signs are not campaign information.

          So keep talking. And I suggest that past can be prologue–ask Buraks the Pres who is also a candidate to charter a citizen task force. ,And ask the admin to resurrect a tool they perfected…a listening post. We can all,say they aren’t interested, but make them say it. ,Ask for a public forum. There is ample precedent to ask and for them to comply.

      3. Delving is leaving next month to work for Episcopal Academy. Great move for him, a loss for TE.

  6. Ohh… I forget to mention a cost-savings idea! How about we outsource the board?

    1. Anonymous Angry TE Aide,

      I and many in the community who are aware of the situation, are not Okay with being an outsourced district and I agree with you when you say they will not stop at the aide level.

      Salaries and benefits are 70% of the budget. Special education is a small fraction that amount (15%) but they target the employees in this segment who make the least in wages and have the least amount in power because it is easy for them to do so. The children in special education are the most vulnerable and the quality of teaching (many with masters in education) care for the money ($13.00 to 18.00 per hour) is unbelievable. It is shameful and as last nights meeting revealed, the savings sighted by administration is suspect at best. We as citizens should be asking ourselves why administrators resorted to such tactics as plugging in inflated numbers to give the appearance of generous cost savings. What is the real motivation for this action? Because it doesn’t seem to be cost savings. Why attack this segment when there are so many other expense related items to discuss first.

      Citizens are not your enemy Mr. Motel. You should be grateful to have interested, intelligent, knowledgeable, motivated citizens who want to be involved in the budgetary process. Instead you name call them and treat them like they are an unwanted intrusion into a process that should be open and welcome for the whole community to take part in.

      Thank-you for your comment AA TE Aide. We will do our part but you need to do your part too. Keep posting on this blog. This is probably the only way you can get your stories out. We can’t help you if we don’t know what is going on. It is posts like this that keep the ball rolling.

      Board participation is voluntary. A good idea is to organize your segment and vote in a candiate that represents your views. I have never seen citizens so involved. Now is the time to keep building political clout and spend it wisely.

  7. Pete Motel jumped in last night, and was asked a rebound question, had NO idea and ran for cover, looking over to Tiede and the accountant. Weird dude

  8. Didn’t all board members defer to administrators for info and answers? I understand that directors rely on administrators for info for things but this is a very serious issue that will impact peoples lives greatly. Don’t you think directors had a responsibility to do a little more due diligance? Even when they did defer,administrators shockingly didn’t know much more than board members.

    How could they possibly have thought they were going to get that through without answering questions to a room full of very distraught people. Are they out of touch?


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