Pattye Benson

Community Matters

outsourcing aides

White Ribbon Campaign no Longer Needed — TESD Not to Outsource!

The TE School Board held an executive meeting last night and have decided against outsourcing of aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers for the 2013-14 school year! This is great news for the District’s children and their families, the employee and the school district community!

Below is the email from the Kevin Buraks to the employees:

June 6, 2013

Dear T/E School District Aides, Para-educators and Paraprofessionals,
I write to you on behalf of the T/E School Board to inform you that the Board will not outsource our aides, para-educators and paraprofessionals in the 2013-14 school year. This action is in response to what we learned from you on our visits on May 21, 2013.
The District will restructure the work hours of the aides, para-educators and paraprofessionals in a manner that complies with the Affordable Care Act and does not result in new costs or penalties to the District. The 2013-14 approved Proposed Final Budget does not require adjustment and continues to reflect a 1% raise for all aides, para-educators and paraprofessionals, as well as associated PSERS benefit costs. In addition, the School Board is not required to take any action since the budget is unaffected by this authorization. As I shared with you on May 21st, we greatly value and appreciate the contributions that you make to our students and staff every day. I wish you the best for a successful closing of the school year, a fine summer and look forward to seeing you in the fall.
Kevin Buraks
Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board

Say No to Outsourcing in TESD … An Outsourcing Alternative

The decision about outsourcing the aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers should not only be about money. It should be about doing what’s right — these employees are part of our community and deserve to be treated fairly. The outsourcing sales pitch may seem like the answer but it’s not a panacea. I hope that the Board and the administration will re-think the proposed outsourcing … tripping over dollars to pick-up pennies is not a solution.

Following the May 13th TE School Board meeting, the community was left with many unanswered questions related to the proposed outsourcing of the aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers. Requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the effect that compliance will have on the District are at the core of the situation. The aides, paras and substitute teachers are the only group of TESD employees not currently receiving health care benefits. As of January 1, 2014, the ACA will require the District to offer these benefits to all employees working 30 hours or more.

Since the last School Board meeting, the aides, paras and substitute teachers, representing all 8 District schools, have met three times and I attended the meetings. The mission of the meetings was to disseminate information and discuss acceptable alternatives to outsourcing. The meetings were intended to provide a ‘safe’ forum where affected employees could express their concerns and ask questions, yet some did not attend, fearing workplace retribution for their participation.

At my request, Neal Colligan attended the meetings and helped us understand how the District could comply with the ACA without resorting to outsourcing. I want to be clear that neither Neal nor I represent these employees – we are simply residents seeking a solution to a community issue. Through the discussion with the paraeducators and other members of the community, an outsourcing alternative evolved. As part of the collaborative effort, Neal spoke with health care experts to better understand the requirements of the ACA and what compliance would mean for the District.

The parameters of the ACA requires that the school district offer health insurance to its employees that work 30 hours or more that is both affordable and of minimum value. Currently the only group of employees in the District not receiving health care benefits is the aides, paras and substitute teachers. The ‘affordable’ test means that the employee cannot be asked to pay more than 9.5% of their household salary for insurance. The insurance plan is of minimum value if “the plan’s share of the total allowed costs of benefits provided under the plan” is at least 60% of such costs.

Given the information available, Neal created a conceptual outsourcing alternative that would comply with the law and keep the jobs of 260 employees from outsourcing. (Click here for copy of the outsourcing alternative). The alternative was presented to the aides, paras and substitute teachers in attendance at this week’s meeting and copies were sent to the administration and school board members for their review (in advance of Monday’s Finance Committee meeting).

Neal provided the following explanation of the outsourcing alternative for today’s Community Matters post:

As the District has spent all of its time on a plan to outsource to avoid the Affordable Care Act (ACA); we based our plan on the idea of complying with the new Federal Law. With the help of community members and industry experts, we were able to price a health care insurance offering that is Affordable and meets the minimum standards required by the ACA. You will see in our analysis that complying with the Law (and offering a health care option) should be far less expensive to the district and its Taxpayers than paying the fee attached to outsourcing. We’ve also done some work on PSERS costs as it relates to this employee group and have devised a plan to neutralize those cost increases to the District.

Please know that this is a conceptual plan only. We did not have all of the information needed to develop “hard” numbers. The District, if it decides to investigate this option, would not be limited by estimates. Further, the cost of our insurance offering was also estimated. We believe this to be a conservative estimate as the District is a large insurance client and may be able to secure this type of plan at a more competitive cost. The new insurance plan offered (in our analysis) may be considered discriminatory as it is not of the caliber offered to the other District employee groups. Certainly it is no more discriminatory than the current situation where this employee group is not covered at all. We also believe the District is not in danger of violating the discriminatory parameters of the ACA as they do not meet the test of “fully insured employer” (they are partially self-insured…this may be too mush inside baseball for many).

We ask the District to consider this conceptual approach. We believe an alternative to outsourcing along these lines can and will produce a more cost-efficient and sustainable solution while keeping this employee group as District employees.

If you oppose outsourcing the jobs of the District’s aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers, please plan to attend these meetings:

  • Finance Committee Meeting: Monday, June 10 at 7 PM, Conestoga High School
  • School Board Meeting: Monday, June 17 at 7:30 PM, Conestoga High School

Against outsourcing in TE School District – Join the White Ribbon Campaign to show your support

white ribbon

The TE School District is currently exploring outsourcing the jobs of all aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers in our School District.

It saddens me that vulnerable, dedicated employees have become the school district pawns, at the mercy of the School Board and the administration. ‘To outsource or not to outsource’ and the future of approximately 250 District employees (approx. total of aides, paras and substitute teachers) will be discussed at the June 10 Finance Committee meeting and then voted upon by the School Board at their June 17 meeting.

Without the benefit of a collective bargaining organization, there is little that this group can do to fight back against the outsourcing of their jobs. Although many TE School District employees in this group are also Tredyffrin or Easttown residents, they have virtually no say in the decision-making process. This community values the aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers for their dedication and caring support of the District’s children. As employees of the TE School District, this group of people deserves better treatment from the administration and the Board.

A lack of transparency and openness from the administration and Board has continued during this outsourcing process, to both the residents of the District and to those most affected — the aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers. Misinformation or lack of information remained following the outsourcing presentation at the May 13 school board meeting. Although some of us learned that the District’s preferred outsourcing vendor, STS, withdrew their proposal, there is no information on the District website or press releases from either the School Board or administration indicating the change. I only learned the details myself by speaking directly with the president of STS, Jay Godwin.

Bringing awareness of the proposed outsourcing to all residents of the school district is paramount. Parents need to know that the best interests of the District’s children are the priority of the Board and administration. District employees need to know that the Board, administration and the community value them.

Support keeping the jobs of TE School District aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers in our District. If you oppose the District’s proposed outsourcing of this important group of employees, show your support with a white ribbon. Tie a white ribbon on your tree, mailbox or light post. If you are District employee, wear a white ribbon in support of the aides, paraeducators and paraprofessionals. If you are a student in the District, maybe you can wear a white arm band or white ribbon to indicate support for the District employees whose jobs are threatened.

We only have a week until the Finance Committee on June 10 — let’s show our support for the aides, paraeducators and paraprofessionals!


Just spotted this ‘Say NO to Outsourcing in T/E ” in the Great Valley section of the District!-

Say NO to outsourcing in TESD

The School District spins the roulette wheel on outsourcing vendors – What’s going on in TE?

The saga of outsourcing continues in Tredyffrin Easttown School District … Last week at the infamous TE School Board meeting, we listened as the Administration and School Board members presented the case for outsourcing of aides, paraeducators and substitute teacher positions. The business manager Art McDonnell, personnel director Sue Tiede and superintendent Dan Waters provided the background and the reasons for choosing Substitute Teacher Services (STS) as their preferred outsourcing vendor.

At the meeting, I asked McDonnell for the names of the other four outsourcing vendors and he was unable to remember the complete list. I do recall Kelly Services was one option however; the services and fees of the other vendors were not presented to the public. I asked McDonnell if we could assume that STS was the low bidder at a rate of 22.5%. Although McDonnell responded that the District was not required to accept the low bidder because no RFP (Request for Proposal) was required, he did offer that STS was indeed the lowest bidder. McDonnell further stated that the 22.5% was a negotiated rate, down from 34%.

Tiede, McDonnell and Waters repeatedly told audience members that STS would provide a great opportunity for our employees, that they would make more money with the outsourcing company, have the ability to contribute to a 401K, keep their same jobs and on and on. We heard that even though STS was the largest employer of its type in the country, that the District would retain complete control over who worked in our schools and that interviews would be conducted on site, etc. Waters volunteered that an administrative employee of STS would actually have an office in the administration building! In other words, the public sales pitch of STS knew no bounds.

During the District in-service training for aides and paras today, Waters announced that STS is no longer involved in the proposed outsourcing, stating that the company had pulled their proposal. Eight days since the School Board meeting and the preferred outsourcing vendor is no longer a consideration and that replacing STS is CCRES (Chester County Regional Education Services). Why the change … this made no sense to me. Little over a week ago, the Administration led the community to believe that STS was the best fit for the employees and that the company offered the most experience and maximum cost-savings to the District.

Absent any details from the School Board or the District to explain this outsourcing vendor change, I contacted STS and spoke for 45 min. to Jay Godwin, the president of STS. Although Godwin would have liked to work with the TE School District, his decision to remove his outsourcing proposal was two-fold.

The first reason that Godwin offered for withdrawing his proposal was the School Board’s decision to delay the vote on the outsourcing plan until June 17. Godwin did not believe that there is adequate time between June 17, the earliest date that the Board could approve the outsourcing agreement and July 1, the start date of the agreement to meet all the necessary State documentation requirements.

According to Godwin, Pennsylvania state law requires school district employees provide certain documentation, including Act 34 (Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Background Checks), Act 114 (PA Department of Welfare Child Abuse History Clearance) and Act 151 (Child Abuse History Clearance). Unless TESD employees had this required background checks within the last year, all necessary background checks, etc. are required.

When asked, what he thought the adequate time frame to accomplish the necessary ‘paperwork’ to move 175+ employees to an outsourcing plan, his response was 3 months. Had the School Board approved the outsourcing plan at the May 13 meeting, although less than his preferred 3 months time frame, Godwin felt he could accomplish the task. However Godwin was of the opinion that a 2-week turnaround timeline was not possible for his company, STS. He was unwilling to say whether another outsourcing vendor could meet that 2-week requirement.

The second reason for withdrawing the STS outsourcing proposal was based on TE School District resident and employee sentiment. Godwin was overwhelmed by the anti-outsourcing feelings of the public and the employees. Typically, when a school district is considering outsourcing, there is a longer timeline for public discussion. The District plan to outsource the aides and paras took the residents, parents and employees off guard; and was met with swift and immediate opposition. If you couple the short timeline with misinformation and inaccurate budgetary numbers from the District, the reaction should have come as no surprise to the School Board and Administration.

As much as Godwin wanted to be a part of the TE School District, he said that he knew there would be unhappy employees and an unhappy community, and that was something that he did not want for his company. Based on the sentiment of the residents (and employees, many of which are also residents) Godwin is of the opinion that this “is not the time for outsourcing in TE”. Godwin has worked with many school districts and the community’s anti-outsourcing response is the loudest and most significant he has seen in his career.

We discussed the uniqueness of TE School District and the education and background qualifications of our current aides and paraeducators. Godwin acknowledged that the high level of education and commitment of these employees was not typical and would probably not be achievable by an outsourcing company. I do believe that Godwin intended to hire all our current TE School District employees – I think that he truly understood their value and credentials. Personally, I think Godwin feared that he would lose many of our current TE employees if the District outsourced and, may have been concerned whether he could replace them with the same high standard.

Godwin and I discussed how helpful it would have been for the outsourcing company (in this case STS) to meet with the aides and paras before the School Board meeting. Such a meeting would have given the employees an opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, understand the benefits, healthcare, etc. etc. School Board and Administration transparency was discussed, with Godwin agreeing that an issue as important as outsourcing needs all options thoroughly vetted, and discussed in public, as part of the decision-making process. Godwin was forthcoming and extremely willing to answer all my questions — his candor much appreciated.

Based on my conversation with Godwin, I am left with many questions including:

  1. If the School Board approves the outsourcing plan on June 17, how is it possible for any outsourcing company to meet the deadline of July 1?
  2. If STS was the preferred vendor offering the best cost-savings to the District, where was CCRES on the ranking?
  3. How does CCRES propose to complete the necessary background checks, etc. within 2 weeks, should they receive the contract?
  4. The Administration is not meeting with CCRES until tomorrow, when will the aides, paras, substitute teachers be given the proposed plan?
  5. When does the School Board intend to explain that STS, the preferred outsourcing vendor has withdrawn their proposal?
  6. Presumably the fee schedule, cost-savings, benefits change with a new vendor, when is the public given this information?

The taxpayers deserve to know what is going on in this District. Where is the leadership of the School District?

Following the last School Board meeting, I sent two emails to School Board president Kevin Buraks. The emails voiced concern on two topics – my opposition to outsourcing of aides, paras and substitute teachers and the issue of intimidation by the Administration towards the employees of this District. My first email ended with the following, “You must lead … the employees of the District deserve your support, they need your help. It is no longer acceptable for District employees to live in fear of their jobs.”

I closed my second email to our School Board president with, “We need governance, we need leadership. To say nothing and to do nothing is not an acceptable solution.”

For the record, there has been no response from Mr. Buraks. Today is Primary Election Day and Kevin Buraks is on the ballot seeking re-election.

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