Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Cloaked in Secrecy Approach to Contract Negotiations Not Working … T/E Teachers Return to Classroom Without a Contract

In the T/E School District, the students have returned to school and the teachers have returned to work. However, the District teachers returned to the classroom without a settled contract. The Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) contract with the T/E School District expired on June 30, 2017. No automatic alt text available.

The teachers’ contract expired in June with absolutely no updates from the School Board – deafening silence on the status of the contract negotiations. In a conversation this summer with a recent teacher retiree of the District, I inquired about the contract negotiations. Asking if the teachers and the District were on the “same page” regarding negotiations, I was told that the sides were “not even in the same book”!

Other area districts started the 2017-18 school year without settled contracts – Lower Merion, Methacton, Coatesville, Springfield in Delaware County. And we learned this week that Lower Merion Education Association has mounted a PR campaign, including an online petition asking the public to sign “and show the School Board that you a support a fair contract for Lower Merion School District teachers and staff.” Drumming up community support for a salary increase in Lower Merion may prove challenging; given that LMSD has the highest paid teachers in Pennsylvania. (average salary is $99,253).

Below is a letter Dr. Robert DeSipio, TEEA President which was posted on its website yesterday. In reading the letter, it is obvious that the teacher contract negotiations between the District and the teachers are stalled. I suggest that both sides need to “open the door” – this “cloaked in secrecy” approach to the negotiations by the School Board is not working and is showing signs of cracking. The public deserves to see the sunlight shine on the negotiations – it would help the parents, taxpayers (and employees) better understand the process and the District’s priorities.

It’s time to turn on the lights, open the windows and the doors.

TEEA Open Negotiations Letter

A Fair Contract for TEEA, the Tredyffrin-Easttown Education Association

The teachers of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District are currently working without a contract and it is a shame; a shame in many ways. The TEEA teachers are an enormously talented, dedicated group of educators who go beyond the expected and deliver the unexpected. Conestoga High School has been ranked the number one public high school in Pennsylvania for the last two years. Accolades of that magnitude and a number one ranking in the state are not only a reflection of the quality of education at the secondary level, but are also a testament to the dedication of the middle and elementary school teachers who prepare the students in their younger years. From top to bottom the TEEA teachers are top-notch and they deserve a fair contract!

A fair contract means the employer is not asking its employees to pay for his/her own increase in salary; certainly not contract after contract after contract. When the recession of 2008 wreaked havoc on the economy, the TEEA teachers stepped to the plate. We agreed to break the contract that was in place and under which we were working and accepted a half year salary freeze, giving back one million dollars to the district. One million dollars that had been earmarked for teacher salaries instead went into increasing the district’s fund balance. When that contract expired, we continued to give back as the economy struggled to recover from the recession. From 2012 to 2014 we accepted a 2 year TOTAL FREEZE on our salary AND we reduced the quality of our medical benefits AND we agreed to pay more for those benefits. That 2 year total freeze contract ultimately saved the district about $14 million dollars. As we continued to go above and beyond what is expected of us, that FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS was not added to our base or awarded to us as bonuses. Instead, it was used to increase the Fund balance of the School District. In addition to all of the above concessions, we agreed to a huge reduction in tuition reimbursement–a large sacrifice for a career that requires additional coursework to obtain permanent certification. We have continued to give back financially while continuing to provide one of the best, if not the best, kindergarten through twelfth grade educations anywhere in the country.

From 2015 to 2017, our contract that just expired on June 30, 2017, continued to reflect give backs. We increased the amount we pay for our benefits while no additional money was added to the teacher’s salary steps.

It is a shame that people who give so much of themselves, have provided so much value to this community, and have given back to the tune of 14 million dollars, are continuing to be asked to subsidize their own raises. Enough is enough! The TEEA teachers deserve a fair contract. We are asking for the support of every TE family to stand with us and to tell the members of this board that enough is enough.

Dr. Robert DeSipio
TEEA President






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  1. Welcome back to action Pattye! Back in June we mused that TE would be in status quo as the school year started. I believe the public will be “in the know” soon. The union has spoken; the district will have to respond. The details will naturally follow. I wonder if the TEEA is coordinating with the LMEA – two excellent wealthy districts with the union leadership issuing an open letter calling for a “fair contract”.

    1. Thanks Keith — I’ve been focused on the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s upcoming 13th Annual Historic House Tour on Saturday, Sept. 23. Tickets available the tour and the preview party, Party for Preservation (Sunday, Sept. 17) are available at along with further details.

  2. I agree that it is way past time for the Board to let the sunshine in. Otherwise the TEEA will continue to set the agenda with unbalanced communications such as reported here.

    The union letter conveniently starts its timeline in 2012 (despite the claim of “when the recession of 2008 hit….”), at the conclusion of a four year contract in which the average of all spots the matrix increased 14%, individual matrix spots increased 25% or more, and many teachers that moved up and over the matrix saw 40% increases. All the while transfer tax revenues evaporated, and many taxpayers not only had no compensation increases, but lost their jobs altogether. (And the 2012 agreement merely deferred an increase by six months).

    There are a couple of references to employees “subsidizing their own raises”. Presumably that means paying more for healthcare. What exactly does the union think that the rest of us (who pay their compensation) are doing? Negligible cost-of-living increases while healthcare premiums, deductibles, etc. are up double digits. Private sector employers are paying higher premiums instead of wage increases. Come on!

    Also, much discussion of a “fair” contract. After 16 years with the district, teachers at all grades and certifications earn around $100,000 a year, before EDRs, co-ordinator fees, workshops, unused sick days, etc., with included healthcare, dental and vision coverage, paying 13% of healthcare premiums. After another 14-19 years (depending on age) those at that level now can retire with 75% of that salary. How does that stack up on the fairness meter?

    One third of TE teachers are on the top level of the matrix. Another third are on the next five levels, where the typical increase (assuming moving up a level per year) is 4% per year.

    In the private sector, compensation increases are commonly paid for by productivity increases. In T/E the union has filed grievances to block on-line courses and has won the roll-back of a program to add one period at the High School. How, then, should the argued-for increases be paid for?

    So I’m hoping that our Board focuses on framing the discussion in terms of the present and future not the past, and in terms of relevant benchmarks, of today’s operating budget (not the fund balance!) and available resources. What can be done to attract the next generation of first class talent, in the face of cuts in the state pension benefits and taxpayers at the limit?

  3. Keith,
    Doesn’t the surplus reflect new construction revenue as opposed to salary freeze and shared health premiums?

    Doesn’t the surplus move back to the fund balance for specific line items like pension?

    I would suggest special education receive some of the surplus by hiring more special ed trained staff.

  4. The worksheet for the 14 million is very easy to explain. All the teachers who were frozen for 2 years spent 2 years at the frozen step instead of 2 years at the top step without the freeze. The difference between those 2 step values times 2 is the money lost to that teacher over the first 18 years of teaching. I hand calculated the value for each of my friends who gave that up. 14 million is alot of money. You can of course choose to ignore that fact, ignore that teachers also live in districts that quite often have high taxes or higher taxes and have shared the sacrifice as tax payers where they live. You can choose to paint the TE community as generally financially distressed. You can have an ideology that we are making more than we deserve but I chose to take pride in my value as a teacher and what I bring to the children of this community and as I teach my 6 periods of physics every day I wonder whd where some people get their facts.

  5. Mr. DeSipio,
    You wrote, “That 2 year total freeze contract ultimately saved the district about $14 million dollars.”

    That’s an interesting frame of reference. Yes, $14M was saved only if one thinks teachers are somehow entitled to a step every year. Step movement is a bargainable item and the union leadership with full knowledge of the consequences bargained those two steps away for job security. You made a deal in 2012 and it’s nonsensical to think the 2012 agreement saved the district anything. In reality the 2012 contract cost the taxpayers tens of millions more in salary, healthcare, and PSERS payments.

    1. Keith, your comment about step increases not being entitled may be true on a technical level – however, on a practical one, it is quite unusual to have teachers’ steps frozen as a regular course of action.

      When a new teacher applies to a district, they are given a salary scale that includes steps and education levels. It is assumed by the teacher that this represents a general guideline as to what to expect during their career at the district and how their pay will change over time.

        1. Liz,
          I’ve looked at dozens of schools and each one uses a matrix. That doesn’t mean there can be a few out of the 500 PA districts that do not.

      1. Doug,
        I believe it is fairly common in recent times to see no steps and half steps. Why? Most salary matrices were created in the 80s and 90s when inflation was higher, economic growth was robust and there was no Act 1 limit. In Unionville (and I suspect TE is very close) a step is 2.5%, horizontal movement adds 1% and attrition subtracts 1.5%. Now, add an additional 2% on the matrix to appease those at the top step and you’ve got a contract (2.5+1-1.5+2=4%) that is not currently affordable. It was affordable a decade or two ago; not now.

        1. Keith, your analysis assumes that 100% of the teachers will go up a step. As an extreme counter example, if 100% of the teachers were at the top step, then there would be 0% step increase instead of your 2.5% above. Of course it is not 100%, but it is not 0% either. I would hazard a guess it is between 25% to 50%. That would also be a very interesting data point from the school district if they wanted to be transparent.

          Even though all the teachers are not at the top step, you can still get an effective 0% step increase across all teachers if the same % of teachers end up at each step after moving up as there were before. To give another extremely simplified example, if 10% of the teachers are at each of 10 steps and each teacher retires on year 11, then there would be no step % increase cost to the district year to year even though individual teachers would be getting step increases.

          To modify my example a little bit to make it more applicable to reality, as long as enough teachers retire each year at the top step to match the incoming teachers moving into the top step, then you can still achieve the 0% equilibrium I mentioned. Again, we would need to get the numbers from the district on the for how many teachers there are currently at each step.

        2. The vertical matrix distribution as of October 2016 was as follows:
          (Steps 1-16)

          The horizontal distribution is:
          13% 23% 28% 16% 6% 11% 3%
          (Steps B to PhD)

          The straight average annual increase across all vertical steps is 4.2%.

          The straight average increase across all horizontal steps is 5.7%

          The B-1 salary (lowest) is $52,500
          The PhD salary (highest) is $111,900

          40% of the salary expense is on the top vertical step, 74% on the top six vertical steps.

        3. BTW, a data point relevant to Keith’s comment on the Act 93 raises of 1.7% elsewhere in this mammoth thread:

          CPI-U data released today showed an increase of 0.4% in August. Therefore Social Security benefits at this point would increase 1.7% in January, although there is one month remaining to complete the calculation.

        4. Ray, As I mentioned before, from a budgetary standpoint, any analysis from looking at the matrix alone does not give much insight. For instance, there are extremely few teachers in T/E that only have a Bachelors. Likewise, I would hazard a guess that there are not that many with PhDs (although more than with just a Bachelors).

          What a matrix tells you more is what the district is emphasizing. By looking at the T/E matrix, it is obvious that the district does not value having just a Bachelors and does not want teachers to only have just a Masters. Many districts have multiple columns for Bachelors with B, B+15, B+30 or something like that. T/E removed them probably because they want all their teachers to have a Masters and do not want to reward teachers that do not. Not to mention that they don’t hire many teachers without a Masters.

          As I stated before, the numbers you quote do not tell the impact on the budget as teachers at the top of the scale are leaving as newer teacher move up. Also, the teachers who are already at step 16 and done with school will impact the district budget 0% and their own salary 0%.

          I also think that implying that the teachers don’t need to have a % increase to the matrix as a whole because some individual teachers are getting salary increases through step increases does not hold water. If you take that to it’s logical conclusion, that means that teachers never need a % increase to the matrix itself because there will always be some teachers that are getting step increases each year. That would mean that we could still be using the matrix from 1960 as there would always be some teachers getting salary increases through steps every year.

          To have an actual intelligent conversation we would need 1) the % of T/E teachers in each of the boxes in the matrix, 2) the matrices of school districts that compete with us for teachers, and 3) the last offers from both sides.

        5. I guess I have to make the 100th comment on this thread.

          To Doug’s comment above, I do think that the matrix info I summarized gives a pretty good flavor of the TE distribution without my having to post the numbers of every step.

          From the data in my my post, 13% of teachers have just a Bachelors, 3% have a PhD. The most common levels are M and M+15 (about a quarter each), where the salary increases between levels are largest.

          Whether the matrix overall should be increased is really a function of where the community feels that teachers’ compensation lies relative to those that pay that compensation. I don’t think that there’s an absolute rule that salaries have to increase regardless of externalities. And I think it is an established fact that employer healthcare cost increases have depressed wage compensation increases.

          (Do the US-has-the-highest-tax-rates-in-the-world claimants add the employee healthcare costs to the tax rate?).

          As I noted in another post somewhere in the midst here, yesterday’s inflation data sets a COLA expectation of a 1.7% social security increase in 2018.

        6. I have heard of cutting columns out of matrix.

          For example, bachelors then masters then EDD.
          Instead of masters plus 30 credits then masters plus 60 credits…
          The matrix could slim down slowing down the expenses.

  6. Interesting note — I see that this week the Radnor Township School District and the teachers have signed a tentative FIVE year contract — ONE year in advance of its expiration. From the Radnor Township School District website:

    “Having a tentative agreement in place this early in the school year is a testament to the collaborative and reasonable approach both our School Board and faculty brought to the negotiations process,” RTSD Superintendent Kenneth Batchelor said. “We are a unified school district focused on educating, supporting and unlocking the potential in all of our students.”

    The tentative agreement calls for a 2.7% wage increase in 2018-19, a 2.92% increase in 2019-20; a 2.45% increase in 2020-21; a 2.53% increase in 2021-22; and a 2.36% increase in 2022-23, with additional bonuses for teachers at the top of the pay scale.

    “The Board was eager to work with our teachers to develop a long-term plan for sustainability,” RTSD School Board President David Falcone said. “We thank the faculty for their willingness to join us in the development of this agreement for the benefit of our students and the Radnor community. We hope that the positive result from such a collaborative process will help to create a new normal for our District in which the teachers, staff, administration and Board can communicate openly and work together in furtherance of Radnor excellence.”

  7. No transparency on this one! I wonder how the percentages were calculated? Can the whole matrix be moving up by these amounts? With additional bonuses at the top?

  8. Unfortunately, the percent increases quoted above make it difficult to evaluate the affordability of the contract. Is this with or without attrition (breakage)? How much money has been put on the matrix? Is bonus money included? What changes were made to the healthcare plan and contributions? We’ll have to wait for the contract to be published.

  9. Mr. Knauss,
    You are correct that perspective will influence how you see that $14 million dollars. I can tell you for a fact that the teachers frozen for 2 years will never see that money at all. You are also entitled to not recognize that step movement is based on yearly growth of teachers as professionals and then recognizing that growth through movement on the salary scale. And while it is not a legal entitlement it is how our compensation works. Districts do not hire teachers and explain step movement as some lose “don’t count it” kind of way. In my open letter I simply stated that we recognized the struggling economy at the time and took the freeze years along with many other concessions and the $14 million dollars emphasizes our reasonableness. Also, I am in no way saying we are owed that money back. I am simply saying that the TEEA has always been reasonable and we continue to be reasonable.

  10. It is my understanding that the school district (school board) is not meeting directly with TEEA — that is is being handled through attorneys.

    As a T/E School District resident and voter, I did not elect outside hired attorneys to serve me on the school board. I have repeatedly asked the school board directors to name the members of the negotiation team — and they have refused to respond. If the teachers are forced to go through legal counsel w/o school board members in attendance at meetings, it has to be frustrating!

    1. No Board members have ever been at the table.

      Everything they hear is second hand from the District’s hired attorney or Art McDonnell.

      Art McDonnell sits at the table.

      1. Wow — so the rumor mill got this one right, no school board members in attendance at the negotiating table. So the Board gets their teacher contract updates from the District attorney or the Business Mgr — doesn’t that become a little like “whisper down the lane”?? The last TEEA contract negotiations was not handled this way, there were Board members in attendance.

        1. It’s quite common to not have school board members at the table. It sends a signal to the union that their offer in its current form is ridiculous and not worth the effort. Is it ridiculous? We don’t know.

        2. I wish we did know if it was ridiculous. It is ridiculous that we don’t know at this stage what the last offers from both sides were.

  11. Here’s something I just don’t understand — Since it appears that the contract negotiations are stalled, why hasn’t this moved to arbitration? In 2012, when there was an impasse in the TESD teachers contract negotiations, a neutral, third-party arbitrator reviewed the contract proposals of each side and made recommendations which ultimately settled the expired contract. Why isn’t this situation moving to arbitration?????

  12. Mr. DeSipio,
    I applaud your effort to directly respond to public comments and critique. How refreshing it would be for the board members to do so. In my experience it helps to publicize the offers on the table as it is a deterrent to unreasonable positions on either or both sides. It gives the public a chance to weigh in on what is reasonable and fair. As the the district and union are in status quo and, most likely, at an impasse why not move quickly to fact finding?

    1. According to the school district and teachers union jointly asked the PA Labor Relations Board to begin fact-finding.

      That means in about a month and a half, we should have quite a bit more public information. It is a shame that we have had to wait this long.

      Keith, is there anything in the fact finding process that prevents the school district or teachers union from releasing their latest offers to the public?

      1. Keith, correct me if I’m wrong but I recall that during the last TEEA contract negotiations 2012 — process went to fact-finding and the information was made public. And if I recall correctly, the District rejected the fact-finding results. My memory is dim, but I think this is correct??

      2. Doug,
        I believe, either by law or convention, the offers at this point are secret and remain that way throughout fact finding. If fact finding results in a contract then the public never knows what the the offers were, but they do know the details of the contract. If fact finding is rejected by either party then the fact finding report is made public along with both offers.

        1. Thanks for that information Keith. I wish that both sides didn’t agree to keep everything secret all the way through the expiration of the contract. I understand keeping everything secret at the beginning, but we have long passed that point now that it is impacting students.

  13. Bob,

    I know teachers deserve it. I have a “to be” special ed teacher in my house for whom I would give my own life.I agree with you.I I am not your enemy.

    I need the math for a better understanding — could you use the actual numbers as an example.
    For instance, use an average salary person and show what the person’s salary was in 2012 through 2017 —
    Show what the health premiums were to now.
    Show deductibles to now.
    Show or compare to other districts.

    Can you explain where you are in the contract? Impasse? Arbitrator?
    To get support I think a simple explanation on the salary comparison between administrators vs confidential secretaries be teachers?

    Keep it simple. You are an expert at getting support. It’s hard to understand what is happening without facts and numbers.

  14. Seems the economy is better … new construction and transfer tax revenues increased.
    The pension crisis moves closer to a plateau – Teachers do step up on shared sacrifice – More administrator salaries.
    Is strike an option? How many total dollars are you apart? What big costs are coming up?

  15. An update on the teacher negotiations appeared late this afternoon on the District’s website. I’m glad to see that the process to resolve the stalled contract negotiations has moved to the fact-finding step. The residents look forward to future updates from the school board and TEEA.

    As you may be aware, the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District (TESD) has been negotiating with the leadership of its teachers’ union, the Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association (TEEA), since January 2017.
    2017. Because these negotiations have not yet resulted in a settlement, the District and the TEEA have jointly contacted the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) to begin a process known as fact finding.
    The goal of this update is to inform the public about the fact-finding process.

    Fact-finding is an option for both sides to pursue when negotiations are at an impasse. In the process,the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) assigns a neutral, third-party person called a fact-finder
    to examine the positions of both parties and to make recommendations in the hopes of providing a pathway to settlement.

    To read the full statement, click here.

  16. (Accolades of that magnitude and a number one ranking in the state are not only a reflection of the quality of education at the secondary level, but are also a testament to the dedication of the middle and elementary school teachers who prepare the students in their younger years. From top to bottom the TEEA teachers are top-notch and they deserve a fair contract!)

    (A fair contract means the employer is not asking its employees to pay for his/her own increase……………….)

    Accolades of that magnitude are due to the hard work and dedication of the students themselves and the tireless dedication to student success by their parents.. I have no doubt you are a good teacher who works hard teaching students. There are countless who could take your place and would for a much lower salary than your making.

    Tip: Life isn’t fair.

    It hurts you and your cause when you use “it just isn’t fair” as s reason for pay increases on salaries that are already higher than those who pay for them.

    When teachers talk about “fair” as a reason for salary increases that kick in pension increases, it reminds me of my 10 year old using that as reason for what he does not want to do.

    , I “deserve” a raise. But I can’t go to my boss and complain to him and use that as a reason to get a raise. No one negotiates their own contract and goes to their company and tells them, “it’s not fair, I deserve a raise.” This is insane and it has gotten way out hand and we better stop it now.

    1. Cute video, but average salaries are a function of both the salary matrix ($ for each step) and the distribution of staff on that matrix (how many on each step). How does TE compare on both those dimensions?

    2. I was surprised that we ranked #31 in the state for average teacher salary as I thought we were higher. While I don’t think that the fact that we are ranked #1 or #2 is a basis for salary increases, I am concerned about the ability to attract top talent in the future.

      Teachers looking at districts look their salary scales. In particular, they look at the starting salary and top salary. While Ray is correct that the distribution might be unequal based on teaching years, the fact that we are #31 shows that we are starting to slip in terms of competitive salaries for teachers that we want to attract here.

      My concern is that won’t continue to be competitive in attracting the top teachers in the future if more and more districts are willing to offer higher salaries than TE. Like any other job market, there is supply and demand. The supply of teachers has been decreasing due to the worsening working conditions of teachers nationally. This is demonstrated by the lower number of new teachers coming out of teaching programs in the past decade both in PA and the nation.

      As mentioned by Ray, information about the salary scales of districts in the larger Philadelphia area would be useful. The school district and the teachers union should have this detailed information in order to have an intelligent discussion on competitive wages. If they do, I would ask them to share it with the community. If they don’t, how are they having an intelligent conversation about salary? More importantly, how is the school district able to figure what is the salary range necessary to stay competitive?

      1. The question is – Are the salaries offered by TE sufficient to attract and retain excellent teachers?

        That question can be answered by 1) assessing the number of qualified applicant for every open position and 2) whether teachers are leaving for other higher paying district. My guess is that TE is swamped by multiple applicants for every open position and that the number of teachers leaving for other districts over the last 10 years is near zero.

        1. Keith, I agree that those are two very good criteria. It would be interesting to see the number trends over time.

          It is my understanding that they have been struggling lately with getting a sufficient quantity of highly qualified (in the competitive sense, not the legal one) candidates for certain teaching areas to apply in the last year or two.

          It would be useful if the school district published that data and the current trend for that data.

        2. Agree with Keith Knauss. I know TE is swamped with qualified applicants who would covet a job in this district. They have their pick and if it were so awful to work here, why wouldn’t they leave for better opportunities in Districts that meet their standards?

          I wouldn’t be concerned about TE losing competitiveness for top teachers because our
          salaries aren’t as insane as Lower Marions and others like them. Their District is being torn apart by infighting and lawsuits.

  17. Proud teacher and Bob,

    Do you think that Conestoga High School would be ranked highly if teachers from Philly switched places with teachers at Conestoga? Do you think Philly high schools would improve with Conestoga teachers?

    There would be no differences. Test scores grades achievements would be exactly the same. We appreciate you, but using students and their achievement for your purposes is the real shame.

    1. I am going to try to respond to your questions as a former Philadelphia teacher and parent of two TE students who have a combined 20 years experience in the TE school district.

      Firstly, you have a point that the largest indicator of success for students in education is the parents – most importantly their education level and income. That does not mean however, that teaching staffs are equivalent between districts or that they do not matter in the success of students.

      It is true that there are stronger and weaker teachers in any district. I worked with some amazingly strong teachers in Philadelphia. However, because of the higher salaries and better working conditions, TE on a whole has an average stronger teacher than the Philadelphia School District. This is partly because we have a superior pool of teachers to pick from and partly because our parents demand from the administration and the school board the best education possible.

      To answer your question, TE would be weaker and Philadelphia would be stronger for a short time period after you exchanged the teachers. However, the former TE teachers would leave Philly in short order and go elsewhere for the better salaries that their backgrounds support. In addition, the TE district would be working in overdrive to remove the weakest teachers brought in from Philly where the bar is lower for allowing a teacher to stay.

      There is a huge level of teaching talent needed to get the kinds of AP scores Conestoga students get every year. Most parents don’t have the background knowledge nor time to teach their children AP Calculus, AP Government, AP Physics, etc. The same could be said for the SAT scores of our students, the PSSA scores, or the Keystone Exams scores.

      Going back to my second paragraph, yes, I think the TEEA is stretching it a bit with the #1/#2 thing in the video as the parents play a large role. However, the teachers do play an important role and we wouldn’t be as successful without a strong teaching staff. It is not an either or – it is teamwork with all the various pieces working together. That means the parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and taxpayers.

      1. Parents do make the difference. Both my husband and I have terminal as well as multiple degrees and licenses. Our children have followed our footsteps to become doctor, lawyer and teacher.I have spent money on tutoring, summer college courses, SAT tutors, music lessons, horse back riding, dance, singing, traveling and reading my own father’s books.

        If we did not have time to teach math, art, science, we sought out professional and experts. I took them to libraries, movies, operas and orchestras.Parents are the models. As parents we shared our culture, knowledge of research, health, science, law, nursing, community and public service.

        I have gone beyond the public school curriculum to promote free thinking and alternative learning.Parents do have and make time. The real teaching begins at home.

    2. Hello “parent and tax payer,”

      I would like to believe that you are truly a parent and tax payer of TESD, but your comments are incredibly one-sided, ignorant and naive if you are. You sound like an admin trying to make a point and sway the conversation, but I could be wrong – there are some very sheltered people in this district (not to say that’s bad), so I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

      Let me give you some background as to who I am, so there can be no confusion – I am indeed a parent and taxpayer of T/E School District, and I worked hard to be here. I was born and raised in North Philly. When I was first married, my husband and I lived in the heart of West Philly. I still volunteer my time and money at a Catholic school in North Philly. I was fortunate enough to get out of that area because of a great boss who believed in me, but when I first had kids, I knew I had to get out and would have moved out to TESD, GVSD, LMSD, etc etc even to live in the smallest apartment for my kids to get a better education.

      I will absolutely admit that the ease of obtaining guns and drugs, as well as the strong lure of gangs, are major factors in students’ lack of success in Philadelphia School District. But there is something else. Why, then, do the students who graduate 8th grade at the independently run Catholic school I volunteer at graduate high school at a 95% rate over the <50% rate of those who attend public schools? I will tell you simply – teachers. The teachers I see at the Catholic school are of the same caliber as the teachers of TESD: dedicated, hard-working, invested in the students' success. My childhood friends who were not as lucky as I was and whose children attend public Philly schools tell me many of the teachers in Philly public are people we went to high school with; barely qualified to teach, let alone care about the students. To them, it's just a way to have a semi-cushy job in Philly, compared to other options. How would those people fare in the Main Line? The kids would run the school, and the teachers wouldn't care.

      If you don't pay these teachers a salary comparable to others in the area, they will leave and you (and WE the PARENTS) will lose. They are among the best, for sure. I know my son wouldn't be in honors classes if he was in the city. These teachers know what he's capable of and don't let him slide for anything, and that's what he needs. Do you think that if you don't pay these teachers fair and comparable wages, that you can skate by on your reputation alone and still get the same caliber of people? I don't think so. That can only last for so long. You either get the best by extrinsically or intrinsically motivating talented and qualified people. You can pay them great wages to be in the best district they've worked their whole lives to get into or you can make them feel like they're helping kids move out of a rough neighborhood. Nobody wants to be paid only OK wages teaching one of the wealthiest, privileged districts in the nation. Just my two cents, but who cares what I have to say. Pay those teachers better!!

      1. If families were going to leave TE because TE doesn’t pay their teachers more in salary healthcare and pension than parents make, they would have already left.

        Teachers aren’t paid Ok wages here. Teachers are paid very high wages here and if they would like to go to another District where they will be paid more, they should do it. Student success in TE will remain.

  18. So glad to see this discussion on transparency. As a tax payer who works 12 months a year, pays for my own health insurance and funds my retirement plan, I am all about fairness to everyone including the taxpayer. I earn every dollar based on my performance. Teachers need to be more accountable. TE is highly ranked for gifted students but I have become aware that children with special needs are not getting their needs met. Parents of these children have to hire lawyers to get special schooling and then sign gag orders about settlements. The teachers are highly compensated and the administrators benefit from those increases. My eyes were opened when I learned the School Superintendent was paid more than the President of the USA. I find this whole idea of the compensation program along with pension funding to be absurd. Look at the average salary for 9 months work vs the income for 12 months work of those who accept the challenge of entrepreneurship.The teachers have been shrewd in hiring powerful lobbyists. When are the taxpayers going to realize this is spiraling out of control?

    1. And just why does TE have low taxes? It’s not because the district is super frugal. It’s not because the teachers are underpaid. It’s directly a result of TE having a huge taxable real estate base relative to the number of students enrolled in the district. TE is the 13th richest district in the state only surpassed by the likes of Lower Merion, Upper Merion, New Hope, Great Valley and Radnor. What do all these districts have in common? Big homes and a large commercial sector. Thus, TE can raise a larger amount of money per each student for each mil of taxation than 487 other districts in the state.

    2. The property tax chart from does not show that TE taxes less than 473 other school districts. The property tax chart shows that we have less taxes per $100,000 of house value. As our houses are worth more money, that tax amount you see per $100,000 gets added many more times for the average homeowner here than most other places in the state.

      To put it another way, if a person’s house in TE was worth $400,000 last year, but is worth $500,000 this year, would you claim that that person’s taxes went down 25%? The chart you reference would claim exactly that. Actually, the school board has been arguing that as well in their annual budget discussions. I don’t think most taxpayers would agree with that.

      I think it is more useful to think about how much the average taxpayer cuts a check to the district each year as a dollar amount.

      Another way to look at it is how much we spend per pupil. In that regards, we rank 112/499, or the top 25% of districts from that same site.

      I am not arguing we are spending too much or too little. However, I would like to use statistics that mean something useful instead of being hand picked because they advance some agenda. The current school board does that way too much.

    3. This is a tricky subject, and the statistics can be used by all sides to make their own points. Consider this:
      – Taxes as a % of home value are relatively low because home values are relatively high (plus significant commercial %, as Keith says)
      – Home values are relatively higher than for comparable houses in some neighboring districts and generally in PA because the school district is highly regarded
      – Conclusion: The cost of schools shows up in the mortgage payment as well as the tax bill

      The system continues in balance for as long as the relative attractiveness of the schools continues and as long as variables like students per taxpayer (more families, less retirees/singles/etc.), cost per student (lack of expense control) and tax rate do not rise disproportionately to other districts.

  19. there are some rumors going around Conestoga right now. I would love to know if they are true. any comments?

    1) teachers are not supporting clubs right now. All clubs are student-directed without an advisor. Kids cannot use teachers’ rooms for clubs.

    2) teachers are not writing college recommendation letters for seniors.

    Does anyone know if these are true or just rumors?

    If true, shame on the teachers for putting kids in the middle. Teachers may think they are getting parents to pressure the board to get a contract signed, but this may be overplaying the hand. These tactics will hurt the kids… which will hurt Conestoga … which will hurt the teachers.

    I hope these rumors are false, but I have heard at least one of them from multiple sources.

    1. My understanding from a parent is that clubs are meeting together in cafeteria (?) rather than in the individual rooms of the teachers. The oversight (adviser role) is being performed by the administrators, which is why the clubs have to meet at the same place. It is my understanding that the teachers have resigned as club advisers. This information is correct as I understand it — if someone has a different understanding, please post.

      As for the rumor about college recommendation letters — I have not heard that and I hope it is only a rumor. I remember a couple of years ago there was a threat by Radnor high school teachers that they wouldn’t write recommendation letters until a contract was signed and hope that will not happen in T/E.

    2. The not writing college recommendation letters for seniors rumor is not true. Teachers are still writing college recommendations.

      However, many teachers have decided not to be advisors this year for after school clubs. Some teachers are still advising for their clubs. Therefore, it is going to be a case by case situation for each club. For those clubs that lost their advisor, yes, they will be meeting in the cafeteria with other staff (I presume administrators) watching over them.

      This personally impacts my son as I believe that all of the clubs that he attends lost their advisors. It will impact my daughter after volleyball season is over.

      As the contract impasse it is now impacting actual students, I believe that it is long past due for the secrecy to end. The last offers from both sides should be made public. Let the public weigh in on who is being more unreasonable. We can’t do that in any intelligent way without the facts.

      1. Thank you, thank you for sharing the information regarding the CHS clubs and advisers.

        It appears that this teacher contract/adviser situation impasse is having an effect on student volunteer requests for the upcoming historic house tour. It is unclear if the information about the house tour and volunteer opportunities has reached the students. For the last several years, Conestoga HS students have helped as volunteer docents on Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s annual house tour — this year it is Saturday, Sept. 23, noon – 5 PM. As a all-volunteer 501c3 nonprofit organization, the house tour is our largest annual fundraiser (all proceeds benefit historic preservation in the community) and we count on the support of our volunteers, including the wonderful students at the high school

        As President of the Trust, and chair of the house tour, in exchange for helping on house tour day (all historic houses are located within the TE School District) I provide each student volunteer with a personalized letter to thank them for their volunteer work and community service. The school district receives a copy of the letter that is sent to each of the students from the Trust. As students prepare their college application submissions, I know how valuable these type of letters can me to students and their parents.

        If you are interested in helping as a volunteer for house tour day (high school student or adult), please send your name and phone number to me at For details about the house tour, see our website

  20. Pattye,

    Since you’re unsure whether or not CHS students are aware of the volunteer opportunities for this year’s house tour, would if be possible or feasible to post some type of notice at the school? Is there a bulletin board or something like it in the lobby or cafeteria?

  21. PA’s pension fund –State Employees Retirement System (SERS) and Public School Employyees Retirement System (PSERS) are underfunded by $80B and growing every day.

    The majority of your tax payer dollars goes in the pockets of school employees who already make significantly more in wages, benefits and pensions. At least 75 cents of every one of your school tax payer dollars goes to unfunded pension liabilities for employees who are now demanding more with bullying and intimidating tactics.

    It will never end if this isn’t stopped now. School Board, stand strong. Let them walk. Call their bluff. Where are they going to go to get the same situation they have here? I can assure you, not the private sector where parents who pay for this madness receive far less in pay and benefits.

  22. Are there any updates on the sexual assault scandals at CHS? How can Bob and co. have the nerve to strong arm we parents for raises when he and his cohorts stand by and watch as our children are abused?

    Do not give raises. If anything, fire these people and set the example that their deplorable behavior will not be tolerated in our district.

    Where is the outrage?

    1. To my knowledge, there are no updates on the alleged sexual assault of a 15 yr. old CHS student by a school district aide. The alleged assault extended over a 4-month time period starting in January 2017.

      A Federal lawsuit was filed in June by the parents on behalf of their daughter (the alleged victim) against the District. The press release from the attorneys in the case states that “The suit alleges that administrators and teachers at the high school created and tolerated a culture that emboldened Arthur Phillips, a 67-year-old instructional aide, to repeatedly sexually abuse the girl, who was 15 and 16 years old at the time of the events.”

      As I have previously stated on Community Matters, I was given a copy of the Federal lawsuit by the attorneys who filed the lawsuit. (It is a public document). The reason that I chose not to post the lawsuit was because 15 different teachers and administrators names from the high school are contained in the lawsuit. However, the lawsuit is specifically against T/E School District and CHS principal Amy Meisinger and seeks her removal. The other teachers and administrators mentioned in the lawsuit were said to be aware of the alleged ongoing sexual assault of the student.

    2. If you were a parent, you’d have read the lawsuit. Most of my friends (fellow parents) have. If you haven’t, pay the $3 and read it. You’d know that while there were two teachers who didn’t react like they should have and one or two who were completely beyond the pale, the craziest oversight that I read about was an administrator. The administration’s huge contract, each making more than my boss does(!), was approved and I didn’t even have a chance to protest. I’d rather pay $1,000 more in taxes per annum to fund the raises of the majority of teachers who had no idea about the abuse than to pay even 1 red cent towards the raise of that admin. But that just went full steam ahead without any advance notice to the community, didn’t it?

      1. I am a parent and I have not read the lawsuit. Where can I go to pay the $3 to read it?

        The Administrators got big raises in June? Why would the board give them big raises at the same time they went into negotiations with the teachers? The timing is awful. They had to have known that.

        Whose decision was it to put Art McDonnell at the table? I looked, and he’s an Administrator. Is that why they got big raises?

        Are their raises available for public view? That says a lot that the Principal got a raise because the lawsuit is calling for him to be fired. Are all teachers in the lawsuit back teaching this year? And Administrators named in the lawsuit. Are all of them back?

        1. If you want the “raises” go to TESD website
          School Board meetings
          June 12 2017 on page 294 & 295 you will find the list
          2017 -2018 Supervisory & Confidential Employees Salaries
          and Bonus

        2. Raises for the Act 93 group (most administrators) was 1.7%. I’d consider this a modest raise. The reader can decide for him/herself whether this is modest or not. There are two administrators that have separate contracts (super, business manager) and, most likely, had smaller or larger raises.

          I’m guessing that the teachers could have the same 1.7% raise, but are holding out for more.

          1. Yes, Dr. Gusick’s contract and Art McDonnell’s contract are separate. Dr. Gusick’s employment agreement ends June 30, 2018 and Art McDonnell’s agreement ends June 30, 2019.

        3. My friend sent it out to a group of us, but I asked her how to get it this AM. She said just go to the US District Court of Eastern PA site and get a Pacer account and search the site. At some point it asks you to pay $3. Maybe if you ask around to other parents, someone may have it.

  23. compensation is both salaries as well as benefits. Do the above linked salary matrices only include salaries or do they also include benefits? How do TE benefits compare with both:
    – other peer educators?
    – other professions?

    Total compensation is more important to look at than total salary…. snd I don’t know those answers, but am curious.

  24. I see that the TEEA has forgotten to tell us that TE salaries are not quite as bad as reported. They may be 32nd in average salary, but they are 9th in maximum salary. That means that 491 districts have a maximum salary less than TE. The reason for the difference in ranking between average and maximum is most likely die to TE having more novice teachers or it takes longer to reach the maximum salary. From

    LEA_Name Average High
    Danville Area SD $100,002 $140,840
    Lower Merion SD $94,361 $132,329
    Neshaminy SD $90,842 $123,653
    Cheltenham Township SD $85,683 $121,535
    Upper Dublin SD $87,158 $119,130
    Colonial SD $90,044 $118,951
    Wissahickon SD $90,066 $112,376
    Tredyffrin-Easttown SD $81,062 $111,900
    Centennial SD $91,844 $111,867

    1. That’s a sad list. Cheltenham, where 8 teachers were beat up by students last year, makes more than TE? I wouldn’t be proud of that at all. I don’t know who should be more upset, Cheltenham taxpayers or TE teachers, but that is sad.

      1. N. Philly,

        There is no correlation between teacher pay and student achievement.

        Cheltnham teachers make more money than TE teachers and TESD is ranked higher than Cheltenham School District.

        And looking at CSD, higher pay hasn’t meant happy teachers. The Supt. was ousted and the teachers threatened to strike last year even though they make more in salaries than most teachers in the State. The same will happen here. The more they get, the more they will demand.

        All school Districts have to stop the escalation or it will never end. More than three quarters of our school tax dollars already go to teachers and their pensions and benefits. If this isn’t stopped now 100% will soon go directly to school employees and there will be no money for students and school programs and taxes will increase to the point where citizens, especially elderly citizens are forced to move out of the District.

        1. Wow! That escalated quickly. What a horrible worst case scenario. I can assure you as a rational person who works in the private sector that that will not happen. That being said, if you’re going to live in one of the wealthiest districts in the nation, you need to be prepared to pay the piper. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Speaking of the private sector, your earlier comment about teachers making less in the private sector with less benefits, I can assure you that is not true. Maybe my company is just awesome, but we have no issue with salaries or benefits. If we did, I would go elsewhere. That is the beauty of living in a capitalist society. I sincerely hope you grow to embrace a more positive worldview.

        2. Well, at least you’ve backed off of higher pay for teachers increases student achievement. It’s a start.

          Now you’re saying that because we live in a wealthy District, there is no such thing as a “free lunch” and paying the piper is required. This is highly irrational and makes absolutely no sense.

          The state of Illinois is going bankrupt because of the public pension crisis and maybe the first state to file for bankruptcy.

          New Jersey, Kentucky, Michigan………..the list goes on.

          I don’t know what you are talking about and neither do you.

        3. My salary dropped over 70% when I went from industry to being a first year teacher. When I left teaching ten and a half years later, my salary on step 10 jumped up 50% overnight when I went back into industry. I was obviously not overpaid as a teacher compared to my open market value.

          My personal example is as someone with a highly technical computer science background so it is not applicable to many teachers. However, it is pretty applicable to the physics, calculus, chemistry, and similar teachers with who have masters or doctorates in those areas.

          These are the areas that concern me with getting highly qualified teachers if our salary matrixes (not average salaries) are not competitive. I really wish that we could see the matrixes of all the districts that we compete against for hiring teachers to actually see how competitive we are. That would be very useful information for the district to share.

        4. The fact about Cheltenham teachers making more than T/E teachers struck me as odd so I looked up their contract. At the lowest end, T/E pays 14.4% more than Cheltenham ($43,934 vs $50,250). At the higher end of the steps, the salaries are pretty close with Cheltenham sometimes a little higher and sometimes T/E a little higher.

          Therefore, the fact that the average teacher in Cheltenham makes more than the average teacher in T/E has more to do with Cheltenham teachers having a higher average number of years teaching and not because Cheltenham is paying more on their salary scale.

          This reinforces the point Ray made about average salaries being a function of both the salary matrix itself and where teachers fall on the matrix due to number of years teaching and education level.

          In terms of recruiting teachers, their starting salary is the most important one. The highest salary is also important. Most new teachers looking for districts don’t do whole matrix analysis from one district vs. another.

  25. The teachers made a statement this morning. They all walked in the school together.

    Wouldn’t it be great if they supported and protected the students like they support and protect each other?

  26. All teachers and Administrators named in the lawsuit are back.
    Strict rules were created for students.
    There have been no consequences for teachers or Administrators except:

    raises for Administrators

  27. Independent Citizen, you are missing the bigger picture for our district. I’m not advocating for higher pay saying our students will do better because of it. I’m advocating for higher pay because I care about the reputation and quality of our district. Our good teachers will be gone. My kids will be graduated, so what do I care? They will raise their families in LM or GV. But I am putting the effort in here now because I love this district and love the memories I made with my kids made growing up here. I want it to succeed. I’d like my grandkids to grow up here. I also quite like my rising property value and would not want it to decrease.

    Higher pay doesn’t exactly equate to student achievement, but the good teachers we have will move onto districts with better pay and benefits if we do not keep up with other wealthy districts. We will then be forced to pick mediocrity from the “enormous” pile of applicants and our students will pay the price. It’s easy to do well in school with great teachers, but it is exponentially more difficult to do well in a school with so-so or bad teachers, no matter how involved or rich your parents are. I’ve lived it. Not to mention the high possibility the truly involved/wealthy will start to send their kids more and more to Agnes Irwin, Malvern Prep, etc. because they have the means to do so. Then, if you really want to talk worst case scenario, our schools will begin to slip in rankings until they become nothing more than bland unsightly blights on our landscape like some public schools in Delaware County are. Then my property value – and yours – will decrease dramatically.

    Going on that, re: paying the piper, I think it absolutely makes sense. You can get so much more house for your dollar in worse school districts, in Chester or Montgomery County, with plenty of local amenities. You chose to pay a premium for the location, aka the school district. I know I did. My house was expensive and my taxes are expensive because of the school district. I chose that. So did all of my neighbors. So did you. My good friend is a realtor and her listings here always have TE schools highlighted as a selling point. One can’t invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on an overpriced house and then feign surprise and a tight pocketbook when your taxes go up. It’s an inevitability when you buy a house that taxes will indeed go up. Would I like to have my taxes stay the same year over year? Sure. Do I expect them to? Absolutely not.

    That being said, I don’t believe either of our worst case scenarios will happen. Look at the states you mentioned. Kentucky has more areas living below the poverty line than perhaps any other state. Illinois has Chicago. Michigan has Detroit. New Jersey has Camden and the poorer NY metro cities. These are places that make Kensington look like TE. Barren wastelands where nobody has any money to pay the state anything; the state pays them! If you want to know why they’re having money troubles, look no further.

  28. What’s with all the gasping and moaning (on both sides)? Why not a raise in the ballpark of COLA, and move on with life?

  29. N. Philly

    The reputation and quality of TESD has nothing to do with higher pay for employees. In fact, just the opposite. TE attracts excellent students because of a business tax base that attracts talented people.

    Parents sending their children to Agnes Irwin, Malvern Prep etc. has nothing to do with high teacher pay. The high cost of private schools is pushing students to public school which is a big reason for student growth in LM.

    As far as Illinois, KY, MI go, PA is no better. PA’s pension fund is underfunded by 80 BILLION dollars. To use your words, we are a barren waste land at the state level. The state can’t pay our bills. The majority of our tax dollars go to salaries for state and school employee salaries, pensions and healthcare. Money that could be used in the classroom has been consistently diverted to meet rising pension obligations.

    I think that you are a teacher.

    1. I walked you through how higher pay/happier staff impacts our district. I walked you through why parents would start to send their kids to private schools. You still are completely missing the big picture; just focused on the small right-now issue of “I don’t wanna pay teachers more.” I believe all points I made are quite logical. I pay for the best; I want the best. Business tax base? What businesses? The retail on Rt 30? Shire in Chesterbook (if they’re even still there)? If people went for business, Great Valley Corporate Center – where I work, thanks – would make GVSD so much better than TE. Schools in KoP would be amazing! I am telling you – believe it or not, TE Schools are why we “talented” people choose to live here. If you don’t believe me, just open Zillow and look at some listings. It’s really very easy to fact-check me.

      You sound like some sort of admin or decision maker at TE. And you sound paranoid. And if this is any indication of the shortsighted, bad-strategy, low business acumen that sits at the top of my school district’s food chain, I’m moving the minute my kid graduates because this will not end well.

      Schools are businesses and the taxpayers are the shareholders. I’ve shelled out the additional capital to live here because I want a return on my investment by means of smart kids and an increase in real estate prices. And if I see you not investing in R&D and instead baselessly rewarding the C-suite, I’m going to get on a message board and speak my mind, just like people do about real companies. You think I haven’t written on boards among my shareholders pretending to be “independent”? Give me a break; it’s probably all teachers, admins and me in here.

      I am here because I’ve been an avid CM reader ever since the district wanted to raze a forest abutting my property for soccer fields and this was the only place to get news about it. Nobody else cared (thank you Pattye for caring!). Stories of our district and its leadership just continue to get worse and worse. I have to say something because I don’t want this place to go to the dogs because new people came in and ran it into the ground.

      1. http://www.lancasteronline .com
        Pennsylvania’s pension crisis just got worse, and the Legislature must act.

        Teacher pension costs will be higher than expected in 2017-2018.

        The percentage that each school district contributes to the PSERS (PA’s Public School Employees’ Retirement System) has risen dramatically

        Rising teacher pension costs are a main driver of increased property taxes.According to PSER’s projections, school districts rate of contribution is expected to rise to 36% over the next 4 years.

        The districts have to find that money somewhere, and you know exactly where every year when you see your tax bill.

        From a Conestoga tax payer named in the article, I won’t name her here,

        “We just wrote our first installment payment to pay our school taxes. I never thought I’d see the day when we would have to pay scholl taxes in payments.”

        The system is broken. Pensions take a bigger chunk out of school district budgets.

        The situation is unsustainable for everyone, taxpayers and Pennsylvania.

        Adding to the problem by giving employees raises who already rake in double and sometimes more what those who pay for it make, will make the problem worse.

        The School Board tells taxpyers tax increases are for the students. They are not for the students. They are for rising out of control PSER’s costs that will bankrupt our state and school districts.

        This is a fact.

        1. Look, I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think this is really TE’s call. The crisis is one for ALL public employees, not just teachers, but prison wardens, state hospital workers, etc. The directive to change the way pension plans work should come from the state if the state is the one having issues and the one that will be filing bankruptcy. The governor should get on TV and say that PA is changing public pension plans to 401k-matching effective 2020 or something. Expecting each district and industry to play chicken with each other and do it first is ridiculous, especially when districts around here all want to be competitive with each other. Then nobody’s happy and you get district decision makers shouting down taxpayers anonymously on the internet. Change the policy at the state level and then let each district decide what percentage they want to match up to. There’s your competition; and also therein is your money saver because you’ll only pay for employees as long as they’re active employees, but if you match quite a bit, they’ll be quite happy. Use a little bit of the money saved from the pensions, get a small contract with a financial advisory company and offer their services to employees who want to learn how to invest. That’s what we do as a little extra benefit for our employees. Essentially, “I won’t pay you indefinitely but I’ll put a little money toward someone who can show you how to do it yourself.” They’ll feel great about the extra services provided by the districts who can afford to do it.

          I guess what I’m saying is, don’t get mad at the employees for asking for what they usually get every year/contract/whatever when you really should be directing that anger at the state for still enforcing an ancient policy that was probably written when 1950s ad men were retiring at 45 with enormous pensions.

          One last bit of personal advice I feel is important: taking care of my employees has always been so important to me. I always rave about my group at my management team meeting. I do what I can for them because they are so excellent. They know I value them and their work is better for it. It gets me on a personal level to see people in any organization, public or private, who don’t feel the same way about their employees. I remember so many of my kids’ teachers because they were/are so excellent. I know this is a tense time, but I hope you make them feel valued and integral throughout the happier times because I have certainly never seen that expressed from your side here on CM, and I’ve been reading for a long time.

          I hope this negotiation gets resolved in a good way for all.

        2. Talking about the pension situation is a useless diversion. There is no quick fix such as “the governor should get on TV and say that PA is changing public pension plans to 401k-matching effective 2020”. The PA Supreme Court has ruled that all current and past State employees have a pension contract with promised benefits that cannot be changed by anyone. Legislation was recently passed that will put FUTURE employees on a different, less costly, retirement plan, but the cost savings will be minimal for a few decades. Thus, the local taxpayers are obligated to pay 30%+ of each employee’s salary into the pension fund for years to come like it or not.

          At the bargaining table the teachers will tell the district to ignore the large pension payments because it’s “the result of poor decisions by the legislature and not my fault”. The district will counter with “these are real dollars taken from the taxpayers for the sole benefit of the teachers and need to be included in any compensation calculation”.


          The PA House approves a budget plan that Governor Wolfe called irresponsible.

          Wolf said next week, his administration will have to delay a scheduled $581 million payout for the state’s share of pension obligations to public school teachers and employees.

          No political solution is in sight to the impasse between the Republican legislature and the Democratic governor. He has tough choices to make about which bills to pay. Interesting that the state’s share of pension obligations to public school employees did not get paid.

          The announcement comes at a time when the balance in the state’s primary bank account is careening toward zero and when the state’s budget remains out of balance — making some key state officials hesitant to approve a loan.

          This IS TE’s call, LM’s call,Radnor’s call, Great Valley’s call.

          Your comment says,……”The state is the one having the issues”

          We are the state! If the state files for bankruptcy, the teachers will have no pension. Your lack of understanding about what is going on and your unwillingness to learn about it, further reveals you don’t want to understand it. You’re like the President of the Union, “It isn’t fair, we deserve a raise.” He uses that “reason” because he knows he has nothing else. He knows that everything stated on this site is true.

          The pension crisis is already unsustainable and adding to the problem will not fix it. It is Worse Case Scenario right now.

          I think you are definitely a teacher, or your spouse or mother is a teacher. You offer no sustainable rational logical solution to this problem. You ignore the facts and push for higher salaries, because teachers deserve it and it isn’t fair. The teachers are threatening to strike for more when their salaries, benefits, and pensions are squeezing the life out of hard working tax payers who don’t get their salaries, benefits and pensions.

          A strike will not hurt student achievement and tax payers may be able to stay in this District and sleep at night.

        4. I don’t appreciate continually having my opinions minimized by you because you want to write me off as a teacher or teacher’s relative. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a teacher. I’m trying to help find a solution – the pension plan is the state’s issue and not relevant to this conversation. If you want it fixed, talk to the state. I pay my taxes to the district, the state and the US. You are not the state. I push for higher pay because with any business, it’s good to remain competitive. I know management is new, but bubbles burst. And they burst fast. If that isn’t rational logic to you, you haven’t been paying attention. If my property value is going to drop, I’d like to know now. This is fast becoming a lost cause. Telling me I am uninformed when my pet project is a school in Philadelphia. They’ve been named a model for similar schools in the city. And we love our teachers; I would never talk about them this way. I try to find solutions to big problems. And misguided green leadership at the head of one of my investments is a big problem. If you don’t want my advice, if you don’t think I have valid points, stop responding. You think my name has never been on message boards? You think in all my years people have never complained about me? And yet I’ve never attacked anyone for it. Sometimes people are upset with you, big deal. You are the one with much to learn. If competition dies here and the bubble bursts, the employees will go elsewhere. The taxpayers will move to a flourishing district. The management will forever be known as the ones who let TE fail. Say whatever you want to tell yourself about how it won’t, but I’ve lived here a long time. I’ve never been this worried about the direction our district is going. Unhappy residents, costly projects, scandals, and now the teachers are upset and yet everyone at the top maintains they do nothing wrong and it’s everyone else with the problem. This type of arrogance topples any institution, private or public.

        5. You push for higher pay for teachers because you say with any business, it’s good to remain competitive.

          Businesses generate revenue, schools don’t. Businesses can fire bad employees, school can’t. In down economic times. businesses contract, schools don’t. Businesses don’t and can’t run their operations like schools. Schools are funded by the tax payer and it’s the tax payers job to oversee what the government is doing with their funds. That’s what I’m doing.

          There is no “bubble” It’s not going to burst. (Worse case scenario thinking?) If competition dies here, you say, and the bubble bursts, the employees will go elsewhere

          The only reason tax payers will move is because of increased taxes due to higher and higher salary increases for employees who work less, make way more in salaries, benefits and pensions than tax payers who pay for them make.

          If the employees can find a better situation elsewhere,they should go if thats what they want to do because TE will not suffer. Teacher pay is not related to student achievement.

          As other knowledgeable commenters have said, TE has lots of applicants and those with teaching positions rarely leave. The reason is they know they are paid very well and they know how valuable it is to be able to teach smart kids who come from supportive parents.

          You seem very upset.

        6. If you don’t want people to be upset with you, then maybe you shouldn’t make such lasting bad impressions. Maybe listen to people, negotiate, show the best side of yourself instead of outright insulting homeowners in a report when you are literally building in their backyard. Maybe then they’ll trust you to make good decisions in other matters. I don’t know much about the teachers’ side but I’m inclined to side with them just because of how bad I know the other side to be. The fact that we became nationally known for a football hazing scandal, sexting in a middle school and now Phillips is not helping to make you look any better. And yet you all got raises without telling us a thing about it. Excellent!

        7. You are right.

          The lesson here is that culture matters. People, their traits, attitudes and work ethics are important. The Administration is simply a reflection of the School Board Directors and the culture that was created by design by former employees who hand picked and mentored the new employees. I am not committed to Administrators or teachers. I am loyal to tax payers.

          The Board’s obligation is supposed to be to the tax payer, not the Administration. The Board doesn’t have the strength or the willingness to speak up. Entire scrum of people and none of them say don’t do that., don’t treat tax payers like –don’t dig up their back yard and then send them an outright insulting report. They behave like loyal subjects, not effective leaders.

          Nothing will change until the Board changes. I don’t know who is up for re election in November but that’s where to go to get change. The voting booth.

    2. Where were you for the VFMS fencing debacle playing out on here a year or so ago? My neighbor just reminded me of that in our group chat – I thought we were quite clear then and now that we do not like you, TESD administration!

  30. Average Household Income is a flawed Metric

    Many posters are saying that teachers are overpaid because their salary is above the TE average household income. This is because average household income calculates all households. The calculation consists of many households with no or limited revenue such as retiree’s and college students. It also includes households that did not graduate high school, households that don’t have a member who graduated college. To compare average household income to average teacher salary is an apples to oranges comparison. A better number if one existed would be to compare the average salary of TE residents who are currently working and have a Master’s Degree or above. Using such a comparison would guarantee that both groups are currently employed and both groups are of commensurate education.

  31. Please substitute Per Capita income for Average Household income above. Working and blogging is never a good combo :)

    Here are some income statistics for TE ( Zip Code 19333 )

    Median Household Income – $108,150.00
    Average Household Income- $143,219.00
    Per Capita Income – $62,508.00
    Average Teacher Salary – $81,062.00
    Max Teacher Salary-$111,900.00
    Graduate/ Professional Degree or Higher (34.4% of population)

    1. Thank you for posting that data. It is interesting. Too bad so many of the other zip codes in TE bleed into other school districts (like 19087) or we could get a better idea for district as a whole.

  32. Doug,
    I’ve gotten the distribution of teachers on the matrix for several districts (TE, LM, UCF, Radnor) over the years. Thus, my 2.5% is based on real teachers distributed on a real matrix where everyone steps except those on the top step.

  33. In the 2015-16 school year, four nurses made over 100,000 a year, or a little over 60 an hour. Underpaid! We need a tax increase so that more elementary school gym teachers can have masters’ degrees.

  34. I know the Radnor super well as he came from Unionville. The details will be made public before the vote at next week’s finance committee meeting. The percentages quoted include step movement and money on the matrix. I don’t know if it includes attrition. Bonuses for top step teachers are not included in the percentages.

  35. “What a matrix tells you more is what the district is emphasizing.”

    Actually it tells much more about who controls the union (senior people) and how they negotiate to favor themselves at the expense of the bottom of the matrix.

    1. I agree Anon that it is a combination of what the district is emphasizing and what the union is emphasizing. While it is true that the leadership of the union tends to have more tenure (for obvious reasons), it does not mean that they only negotiate for themselves. The T/E union choose to forgo step increases for all teachers not too long ago in order to protect the newest teachers from layoffs.

  36. Doug,
    Please understand that the statement:

    “the teachers who are already at step 16 and done with school will impact the district budget 0% and their own salary 0%”

    is incorrect. The budget is not only driven by salary, which I agree remains constant, but also by healthcare, social security and retirement contributions. A teacher earning $100K last year also enjoyed $30,030 for PSERS, $7,620 is SS and an estimated $15K for healthcare for a total of $152,650. This year that teacher gets $100K, $32,570 for PSERS, $7,620 in SS and an estimated $15,600 for healthcare for a total of $155,790. That’s an increase of 2.1%.

    1. Kieth, I agree that the budget is driven by all the other things that you mentioned. However, I was only responding to your comments about the cost of the matrix to the budget. In that context, I stand by my analysis.

      To put it in another perspective, few employees at companies expect to have their salary frozen year after year after year because their healthcare costs to the company go up – or because the cost of raw materials to build their products continue to go up – etc. Employees expect that their salaries will at least keep up with inflation over time.

  37. Interested in where each teacher is on the matrix? Anyone can submit a right to know request for a list of teachers, their salary and their position on the salary matrix.

  38. There is more to the equation then salaries.

    A lot of teachers would have jumped over to the top paying schools?

    How can you measure the factor “we would not attract top quality teachers”?

    Performance? Experience? Degrees?

    Lots of applicants…few leave or quit.

  39. It looks like the TEEA has a PR person driving the teachers message — I just received this video about asking the TESD residents to attend the upcoming school board meeting on Sept. 25:

    It will be interesting to see if filling the room with teachers and supporting residents will make an impact on the District.

    Personally, what would make a difference for me is if BOTH sides presented their contract positions to the public — How can residents be expected to ‘take a side’ without all the information???

  40. A TEEA member has asked me to set the record straight and explain that that they have not hired a public relations firm — that everything you see, including the videos, is done 100% by the teachers. According to the TEEA member, they did not want to spend money on the a PR firm and believe that by getting the teachers involved in the process, that they are creating grassroots support within their membership. The TEEA member did not want to be identified but asked that I provide the clarification.

  41. I want to thank Ray and Keith for nudging me in getting more data. It turns out that Ray did a right to know request for the matrix breakdown for T/E as of last October and graciously gave me a copy of that document that I have attached to this post.

    I also found two very useful websites. The first one is and lets you see where various school districts are in regards to minimum and maximum salary and contributions towards health care. The second one is the PA Department of Education where you can download salary information.

    Here are a couple of insights by comparing T/E against up to 61 other school districts in Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Delaware counties depending on what information was available. Only full time active teachers were included in the statistics below.

    1) T/E is 26 out of 60 school districts in terms of average number of teaching years and 21 out of 60 in terms of the average number of years teaching in the current school district. This would seem to indicate that T/E hires teachers with a couple more years of teaching experience than the average school district. The average T/E teacher has 14.0 years teaching experience and has taught in the district for 11.9 years.

    2) T/E pays the same as 7 other school districts, more than 27 other school districts and less than 11 other school districts for those schools districts where teachers pay a percentage of of their health insurance premiums. Some other districts have teachers pay a flat dollar amount and in four districts teachers do not pay toward health insurance. Currently, T/E teachers pay 12% towards their health insurance premiums. This indicates that T/E teachers are currently paying a little more that average towards their health insurance premiums compared to the other school districts.

    3) T/E is 7 out of 62 for paying the highest minimum salary and 4 out of 62 for paying the highest maximum salary compared to the salary matrix of other school districts. This would indicate that T/E is currently quite competitive in salary for attracting teachers.

    The above information gives some useful insight, but does nothing in determining why the currently contract negations are stalled. The only way to have an intelligent conversation on that would be to know what the last offer from both sides is. I hope that both sides will be much more transparent in the future as the current secrecy is obviously not working and treats the T/E public like puppets to be manipulated instead of treating us like the highly educated and professional community that we are.

    It is sad that there is a history of school board candidates talking about transparency during their campaigns and then operate in secrecy while they serve on the school board.

    1. It is sad that there is a history of school board candidates talking about transparency during their campaigns and then operate in secrecy while they serve on the school board.

      I am going to track campaign promises this go around — the buzz words of transparency, community engagement, openness, etc. are routinely promised during campaigns and then mysteriously disappear once elected. Doug deserves credit as the ONLY current school board candidate to provide information and opinion on school board related issues. ALL school board candidates are encouraged to weigh in on the issues.

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