Friday, April 11, 2008

Personnel matters and board interference

Once again your school board is under the microscope over its insistence on mucking up the hiring practices of the district. Despite the fact that board policies exist which forbid such behavior, some board members choose to trample over the established rules while other board members do nothing to enforce the rules.

Self governance is not a strong point of this board. Here are a couple of examples:

Back in October 2007, superintendent Kadri stated in a public meeting that there is “inappropriate interference” in personnel matters and requested an executive session meeting with the board. No such meeting ever took place.

Several months ago, Dr. Spitz and I requested information about the attorneys being considered for the upcoming teacher contract negotiations. During a meeting in which several board members were present, the board president acknowledged his intentional refusal to supply the information we had requested. Shortly thereafter, the board president issued an email to the entire board stating he never received the requests for information. There he is – our board president caught in the act of withholding information, then contradicting his previous statement to the entire board as to why he withheld information. So what did the other board members do in response? Nothing.

We have so many important issues going on at the moment – building closures, redistricting, budgets, PSSA scores, etc. – that the issue of board ethics could be a most unfortunate distraction. But how can we turn our backs on the matter of ethics? How can we pretend that our board is not impeding our district staff when we should be empowering them? If our own school board isn’t watching out for the welfare of all employees in the hiring process, who will? If a board member violates written policy and the other board members refuse to take action, then what is the point to having written policies?


You can read a summary of last Tuesday's meeting in this Courier Times article.

36 comments:

It's about time said...

Thank you Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Spitz for finally taking on the politics that has burdened this district for so long. I've written on this blog before questioning why you hadn't gone public what many of us in the district already knew, but now I understand you were trying to resolve things behind the scenes. It's a shame that didn't work out. I appreciate your courage. I'll be contacting the board reps in my area and asking them why they are not standing with you gentlemen.

Anonymous said...

I may not have agreed with splitting the position but it is not a decision the president should have made by himself and certainly not behind closed doors. Why are some board members so damn involved in our district? If you want to run Neshaminy, quit your day job and apply for superintendent since it looks like we'll be needing a new one on account of his being forced out.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean you Mr. O'Connor when I said quit your day job. I was referring to the board people who want to make all the hiring decisions.

disgusted said...

It's time this board got over their egos and got back to Education Business. It's a horrible distraction! Our students and the taxpayers deserve better! Once again, I'll ask, when was the last time a board member went to their schools' PTO Meeting? Only when it's election time! The board has lost touch with the public. They bow to the Flowers Mills group and go see them but when the parents ask for board members to attend a PTO meeting, you'd think we were asking for a million dollars. All we want is for them to hear issues that affect our students. Sure we can go to the board meetings but if it's something that can be discussed during a PTO meeting the communication lines open for the board to discuss with the admin. What is the role of a board member...just to sit there and say nothing since that's what our rep does! We are all busy, please don't give me - the "I'm too busy" crap. Make the time, we made the time to go vote for you! This is not directed at you Mr. O'Connor, you've obviously made this site a way to communicate with the Neshaminy public and I applaud you for it. I'd like to see the Lower South board members wake up and speak up! Believe me, I've seen it for myself. I've had it with this board! Scores are down, morale is down, staff can't manage people because they are afraid of the rebuttal not that they can't manage. They aren't allowed to. Kadri has no idea what's happening underneath of him because no one is allowed to tell him. It's so frustrating!! Neshaminy is a mess and laughing stock. I can see other districts' meetings since I have FIOS. Amazing things are happening around us while Mr. Eccles gets away with the crap he does! Someone needs to knock him off his pedestal! I like Rick as a person, I don't know what happens when he steps into that room...he loses everything he believes in. I've seen him with our students and he's great with them, what happens when he steps into that room? It's like Jeykill and Hyde.
(Editor's note - this comment was edited for content)

Hit the nail on the head said...

Wow Disgusted, you said what I was thinking. I have known Eccles for a number of years, and he is not the same man who has been on the board. I was so proud of him when he first got on the board because of the way he stood up to the bullies who tried to keep him out of decisions but now he has become everything he fought against. I heard he became a different person after leaving his last job a few years ago. Maybe he is bitter about his old job and doesn’t realize how much it effected him. I don’t know if he reads this blog but if he does, please Mr. Eccles be the man you used to be on this board before you became president.

Worried in Neshaminy said...

My concern with a group of citizens heading up an "investigation" and creating new guidelines is two-fold.

1. Like you wrote on your blog...guidelines are in place. I get the impression that the problem is that at the end of the day the Assistant HR for some reason didn't let the board know of the interference. If it wasn't for Kadri asking a question (and perhaps before he could instigate some damage control) no one would have been the wiser.

2. Having citizens try and get to the truth of the matter without having people under some sort of oath or something seems futile. This group may never get to the bottom of what is going on. What powers would this group have?

Is there some outside agency that could take over to investigate? Like you mentioned...we have to many issues coming up; we have to have complete trust that all board members have only the best interests of students and the community at large when they make decisions.


The way it looks now it seems like there is an environment of secrecy and side deals. Coming up with more guidelines or having a powerless citizen group try and get to the bottom of what is going on is ridiculous in my opinion. The accusations are just too serious.

This isn't an "oopsie..didn't realize I wasn't supposed to do that" set of accusations. This seems to go very deep. Especially if..by Eccles own mouth... was his statement that multiple supers asked his opinion about cause what is accused of this time? Position changed and one person presented over another?

worried in Neshaminy said...

Sorry...

clarification:
Mr Eccles himself said that multiple superintendants asked his "opinion" about candidates. if he truly did suggest this change in position favoring one candidate of a political crony, troubling questions are then raised. Questions will then arise about whether changes were made in past candidates/positions before presentation to the board by admin.

He has neither denied or confirmed accusation and the assistant HR won't tell us what happend either. Not good enough

Anonymous said...

I found this info on the web. If it is true, why can't the board force a vote to remove Eccles as president and get on with things? "Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article IV, Section 7, a school board president is an appointed public officer who may be removed at any time 'at the pleasure of the body who appointed them.' Thus, the school board can decide to change its president at any time. No reason needs to be provided — just as no reason needs to be provided when the president is appointed. The process is simply for the board, upon a motion, to vote to remove the current president."

Here we go again said...

Once again politics gets in the way of personnel decisions. I don't know why the other board members won't do anything about it. It must feel lonely up there for you guys. Hang in there Mr. O'Connor because you, Spitz and Kadri are doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Once again, an embarrassing moment for Neshaminy. I am in a state of shock. I can't believe that the first politician in Neshaminy sat in the board meting and was the lone person to clap and say "go get 'em Rick" as Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz were attacked by Mr. Eccles. Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz appeared to be looking for answers, and Mr. Eccles won't give the necessary answers. This community has lost the confidence in the Board President. He has become nothing more than a common bully. It has become quite evident (based on what I have seen on the Neshaminy TV channel) that he has, and will continue to grossly abuse his power as Board President. After 10 years, it is time for Mr. Eccles to go. It is evident that under his leadership, this district is quickly heading down the tiolet.

Anonymous said...

Why is Dr. Muenker getting a free pass in all of this? Eccles interference is obviously out of bounds. However, it is Muenker who allowed the interference to impact the hiring decision. And how did Mr. Kadri allow all of this to go on? Seems like there is more than just one person to blame here.

Anonymous said...

How does one man from Langhorne yield so much power? Why do certain board members bow to his every request? Something is rotten in Langhorne.
(Editor’s note – this comment was edited for content)

Anonymous said...

Is the district trying to make a bad problem worse by preventing staff from reading this blog? I cannot view the comments on the blog if I am signed onto my computer with my Neshaminy credentials. I was able to see the comments before. I guess it's easier for district admin to hide its behavior rather than change it.

Mr. O'Connor, can you please look into this? You are one of the few board members who has ever stood up to political shenanigans within our district, and now it appears that the district prefers to keep us in the dark.

A sinking ship said...

We're losing a good superintendent. Many of the good teachers will either retire or look for work elsewhere. How long before we start losing good administrators in this district? Is it the board presidents mission in life to completely gut Neshaminy? He is out of control while the rest of the board just watches.
(Editor's note - this comment was edited for content)

Anonymous said...

It is great to see that people are finally taking notice of the abuse of power that the current board president and his cronies have forced on the Neshaminy family. Using tactics of fear and bullying they have tried to take control of the board and make it into their own little kingdom. It is a shame that they don't see that what they are doing is hurting the students of Neshaminy. It is refreshing to see that both Mr. O Connor and Dr Spitz are finally pulling back the curtains to show what is really going on. Why are the students in the high school having to go to school in a construction zone? Because the board president scared the senior residents with a referendum on a new school. New school would have been state of the art, cost less and would not have subjected and exposed children to a construction zone. The second concern is the hiring situation at the school. The AD hiring was a travesty, whether it was revenge against Kadri or some other unworthy reason, the powers that be should be removed. Now that they have gotten away with that, they flaunt the hiring of a political crony's daughter and then attack anyone that gets in their way. Any administrator that assists them in this should be removed also. The Admin is there to serve the children of Neshaminy not the board members political pals. Please Mr O'Connor and Dr. Spitz keep exposing the abuses of the Board.
(Editor’s note – this comment was edited for content)

st319 said...

For the record, Mr. Eccles is from Levittown and represents that region.

Fed Up said...

If someone accused me of interfering with the hiring practice and I had nothing to do with it, I would be denying it with all of my being. The fact that Eccles and Muenker keep silent, only points to their guilt. Let’s face it, if Muenker would have admitted that he and Eccles had a conversation, he would be incriminating himself. He choose to just sit there and keep quiet. Eccles continued to pose the question to Muenker, almost daring him to say something. Just watch the meeting and you will see how arrogant Eccles is when speaking to him. Eccles seems to think that if there is nothing in writing, then you can’t prove it. Again, the fact that the two of you just sat there and said nothing, is all the proof I need!

Anonymous said...

Well said, Fed Up!

They both chose to incriminate themselves by their actions during this meeting. No words were spoken in defense and that silence spoke volumes. The words that were spoken were words of retaliation in an attempt to deflect the attention off oneself.

The reality is, actions speak louder than words, and the actions of a school board president who aligns himself with a political entity who continually works to divide this community, is the actions of a person who certainly should not be in a leadership role. This community can no longer afford to stagnate under such divisive leadership and we should be demanding better. More importantly, the children of this district deserve better!

fed up said...

Since so many of the board members have sat back silently and watched all of this unfold over the past two months, I have no confidence that they will do the right thing and demand not only that Eccles resign as president, but from the board! I think it is up to us, the community, to make that happen. Petitions need to circulate throughout the district. Perhaps the PTO's can organize this. We need to show up at each and every board meeting and demand for Eccles to resign!!!

It's time for the entire board, even Eccles Levittown co-representatives Webb and Kozol, to show the students of Neshaminy that when a wrong has been committed, you have to correct it.

Those board members who continue to do nothing...we won't forget your lack of leadership the next time you run for school board.

Anonymous said...

So as a community, what are we going to do about it? Venting on this blog is not solving anything. We need to band together and do something!

Anonymous said...

So once again, what are we going to do about it all?
All talk and no action will get us nowhere!
Which of you will write letters to the editor on behalf of Mr. O'Connor? There have already been three derogatory letters published and none in support of him.
How many of you will come to the meetings and demand change?
I have all but given up as one of the lonely voices fighting for a New High School at Board meetings, and most recently, in support of Mr. Kadri. There is strenght in numbers and this is where we fail royally!
Don't look for others to do the bidding for you. You who care MUST get involved beyond typing your thoughts in a blog!!

Nothing's changed said...

Quite amusing that a former superintendent accused you of trying to influence a hiring decision. Wasn't he the same superintendent in charge the last time a hiring scandal rocked this district? Nice to see that his legacy lives on.

Anonymous said...

Better stage the next board meeting at Harry Franks Stadium...lol...

Ask me my "opinion" said...

I have some friends and associates I want to get hired into the district. I hope the district will ask me my opinion since that's what matters, and decisions aren't based on qualifications and consensus.

i must be living in Jersey said...

In Jersey, it's the Democrats. In Pennsy, it's the Republicans. It all comes down to power - who holds it, and what they're willing to do to keep it. The public should be grateful to men like Spitz and O'Connor who are standing up to the political machines. Now they will be the targets of retaliation. Will you stand by them just as they stood up for you?

ST319 said...

I couldn't agree more with I must be living in new jersey.

Don't think because it has been quiet that there isn't something in the works to discredit Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz. That is the way those people work. I'm sure there have been many letters sent to the Courier. And you can bet that there will be a large number of people in the audience ready to speak against Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz or cheer on those that do.

So the answer remains...will you show up at the meetings to stand up for them? I will!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Neshaminy Community,

The following is a joint statement written by representatives of residents of the Villages of Flowers Mill together with representatives from parent-teacher group leadership in the district. In an effort to end the divisiveness that the drives some of the unacceptable behavior that occurs on the school board, we have come together on some main issues that both groups can agree on and support wholeheartedly. It essentially calls the school board to stop the current unacceptable behavior and get on with the true business to which it's called.

If you are in agreement with what this letter says, we ask you to stand in support of its ideas while it is being read at the board meeting on Wednesday night. If you cannot be at the board meeting, we ask you to please send an email to the school board stating that you support the concepts laid out in the statement and demand the appropriate action from the board. Please refer to it as United Community Letter # 1.

An email may be sent to the school board by sending it to the office of the superintendent and asking his secretary, Mrs. Debby Spadaccino, to forward it to the school board. You can send an email to: dspadaccino@neshaminy.k12.pa.us
It is policy that if something is forwarded to anyone on the board, it is forwarded to everyone on the board.

You may choose to include in your email your role in the community (parent, senior citizen, staff, community member, taxpayer, voter) so the board has an idea of the wide representation behind these requests.


********************************************************************
UNITED COMMUNITY LETTER #1

We, the united community of Neshaminy School District, come before you, the Neshaminy School Board, tonight to demand that you begin to fulfill your duties as elected school board officials.

May we remind each of you that you serve at the pleasure of this Community. You work for us. And frankly, we as a united community do not approve of the job you are doing. The public arguing and pettiness must stop. Take it behind closed doors. Your behavior as a group has become an embarrassment to the community that elected you. The board should model appropriate behavior. Students may not know the details of an issue, but they sense the tenor of the community.

"Dysfunctional school boards that are in constant conflict, meddle in minutiae and don't communicate well with each other have districts with lower test scores, fewer kids going to college and more dropouts," according to a five-state study conducted by the New England School Development Council. These results are supported by the Iowa Association of School Boards.

(Reference: http://www.post-gazette.com/localnews/20031130boardsmainlocal2p2.asp)

This Neshaminy Board has lost the confidence of the community because of 1.) The attempt to micromanage the district, 2.) Special interest interference and 3.) Petty political partisanship. You as a board and we as a community are facing many challenges that will have long term implications for all of us; the high school renovation, a new teacher contract, school closings, the alternative school placement and the redistricting or restructuring of the schools.

That being said, we as a united Neshaminy community have three (3) demands that we want fulfilled by the next board meeting of May 6, 2008.

First and foremost is our concern for the children of this community. How will the decisions that you make today better the educational experience of our students? To that end, we demand to have a two (2) and five (5) year written strategic plan presented with a ten (10) year plan to follow. This plan must utilize the information in the McKissick Report, input from your administrative staff and other FACT based information. These plans must also be presented publicly.

Second, these strategic goals must be sustainable to the entire community. There must be a written outline of accountability that is followed. Monetary goals and concerns must be clearly defined to this community as well as to the superintendent. These goals must be written and publicly presented.

Third, we demand that you publicly define the role of this school board, the role of the superintendent and the roles of the building principals. These roles must have clearly defined written goals. One of the major roles of the school board is to appoint a superintendent who is an experienced public school administrator to function as the district's chief executive to carry out the day to day decisions and policy implementations. Let Mr. Kadri do his job.

Neshaminy School District used to be the innovative leaders of education in Bucks County. If you, as a board, begin to do your job, we as a united community know we can become leaders again.

decisive action needed said...

To United Community Letter #1,

That's great that you say you got a group together to come up with a letter.

You are reiterating what the rest of us have been pleading with the board to do for over six months.

They have failed to come together and work for the good of the Neshaminy community.

Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz alleged at our last baord meeting it is due to interference from Mr. Eccles.

While I would love to stand up to this "feel good" letter...wish it would work...I think we are way way beyond that.

Let them set up an investigation...and if/when allegations prove true (the few allegations that were made) the affected people can be weeded out while the board continues with the work we voted them to do.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree the board does need to be addressed for their divisive behavior, I do not believe this letter will be effective. This letter is merely a slap on the wrist and once our backs are turned the same divisive behavior will continue. The players will just be more sneaky in the way they go about it and this district will continue to stagnate in it's unwillingness to change. The effective course for this community to take is to demand new leadership and to pressure those who are supposed to represent our best interest to take charge and demand effective change.

fed up said...

I will not join in by standing up with the group who wrote the letter. While I applaud your effort, you are stating nothing that hasn't already been said at meetings for months now. Funny how there are no names attached to this letter, yet you want people in the community to write e-mails and stand by you. I like to know who I am dealing with before I commit to something. My guess is that some of the people involved with this letter are supporters of Eccles and know that the community wouldn't support this if their names were attached. Until everyone involved with this letter comes forward, no one should support this.


You lost sight of the fact that it’s obvious Eccles and Muenker were involved with tainting the hiring practice. And you mention in your letter that certain issues should be handled behind closed doors. Are you kidding me! That's the last thing that should be done. This kind of abuse of power and bullying has been going on in Neshaminy for a long time. If some of the people involved with this letter are supporters of Eccles, it makes perfect sense that they want this handled behind closed doors. At the last meeting Mr. O'Connor stated that he tried to handle this privately, only to be refused of an answer from Eccles and Muenker. So perhaps it makes everyone a little uncomfortable, especially the two involved, but it needs to be handled publicly. And for those board members who continue to sit there and not say a word, it sounds to me like you could have had this all settled in private if you had just demanded answers from the two involved. If they would not cooperate, then you should have had the backbone to remove Eccles.

Of course there is the issue of disciplining Muenker. That is up to Kadri. And I am sad to say that I have lost a lot of respect for Kadri. He has been aware of this situation for over two months now, and no discipline has been taken against Muenker. Doing so would have shown the community that you are still in charge and the students that when you do something wrong, you are held accountable. Funny...don't we have a zero tolerance policy in Neshaminy. Guess that doesn't apply to the administration. This could have all been old news if you had done the right thing back then. Your actions would have show the board that Eccles needs to be removed as president and the community would feel that things were finally heading in a the right direction for Neshmainy.

Also a concerned parent said...

"...together with representatives from parent-teacher group leadership in the district.."

Please stop making statements as a PTO representative for all of us parents. You give the impression you are speaking for all parents.

Give yourselves a name for yourself. Have people sign your letters. But please separate from the PTO name.

Not trying to be ugly..seriously..but I don't see how you can appoint yourself a political parent representative of the district by being a PTO leader.

Please separate your actions from the PTO group..otherwise you will head down the same lane as Linder who appointed himself the "community voice" You are on a slippery slope with this one.

Let parents know what votes are coming up..when meeting times are but leave your "agenda" out of it please.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"concerned parent"
You are delusional if you think it is the responsibility of the PTO to "alert you" when there is a vote.
Why don't you take some time to familiarize yourself with the issues, meet with your repspective PTO members, school board members and share your "plan" with us?
Seriously....I mean no disrespect....

concerned parent said...

Umm..kind of missed my point "anonymous"

I *do* have a mind of my own and that is why I do not want a group of PTO presidents putting out political agendas (however much I agree or don't agree with them) that give the impression they are from the parents of Neshaminy.

You should calm down and re-read what I wrote.

I don't need them to tell me when there is a vote. My point is that they really should go no farther than giving out general information *if* they desire.

It is just not a good idea to start making statements that are said to represent the community as a whole. The PTO should stay out of the political arena and remain a vital pipeline to parents on what is going on with their schools and perhaps the school board if they so desire.

The group has great ideas, they need to just step away from the PTO name is all I was writing.

Lisa Reiser said...

To “Concerned Parent” and “Fed Up,”

I’m trying to figure out what it is you perceive as the “political” angle to the United Community letter. I see it as a letter which calls for the school board members to be responsible in the roles they were voted to fulfill and to be held accountable if they don’t. It states that the school board cannot rely on the community to fight with one another, and therefore keep everyone, including the board, distracted from real board matters.

With regard to the PTO leaders staying out of things, it’s a fine line. Though it would be a mistake for a PTO leader to use that platform to blatantly act on behalf of a political party or support any particular candidate, the fact is that the PTO leaders are among the most informed and the most involved parent community members, with regard to the district and board issues that we are all tremendously affected by. PTO leaders attend regular meetings with district administration, including with Mr. Kadri. PTO leaders frequently attend school board meetings. PTO leaders serve on the re-districting committee. PTO leaders are in regular contact with one another to keep updated on what is happening throughout the district. All of this in addition to the sports, scouts and other extracurricular activities that so many other parents are engaged in, as well as the ongoing responsibilities of PTO leadership at the local schools--and sometimes even for more than one school! The willingness to step up to this level of involvement is what makes them leaders. What point would there be for PTO leaders to just announce meetings or the fact that a vote is taking place, without offering a framework for how it affects the children, schools and the community? And yes, some of it would be personal opinion, but should we not be allowed to hear opinions from a very well-informed parent’s perspective, when we are already inundated with opinions and pressure from other community and special-interest groups?

That being said, corruption is everywhere and even the sincere statement and effort attempted in the United Community letter is bound to be exploited to serve the agenda of others. I guess that’s the “political” part. Sadly, there’s just no stopping that machine.

Oh, by the way, my name is Lisa Reiser. I’m the PTO president at Heckman and I co-authored the letter. Just wanted to give you a name—if you had received the letter by email, my name was on it, and I stand behind the lofty principles that are in it. Not that it all hasn’t been said before, but much of it bears repeating. And to be clear, we were NOT advocating for closed door deals, or for ignoring unethical or illegal behavior—it should NEVER have come to that! We just want a school board who does the job they’re called to do—to stay focused on the tasks at hand, to do the right things, for the right reasons, and to use their time and ours productively. The future of our children is at stake and I can’t just stand by and watch it go down the tubes.

If you want to contact me directly, email Mr. O’Connor and he can send me your address to write back. Please be sure to include your name.

concerned parent said...

I respect PTO leaders. I sincerely appreciate the time and dedication it takes. The point is not how well informed you all are or how good your intentions are.

You travel down a very precarious road when you make *any* list of demands and say it is from a group. I feel by saying the letter is, “ representatives from parent-teacher group leadership in the district” You are implying that the parents of the school district agree with your letter. You just can’t make that assumption no matter how innocuous the letter may be. I hope you aren’t going to continue making any demands on the school board in the name of all parents. It just isn’t a good idea.

I respectfully, but whole-heartedly disagree that the job of a PTO president is to make *any* demands on the school board in the role as representing the parents of Neshaminy as a whole.

I stand by what I wrote. I don't disagree with what the letter said. You are failing to understand my philosophical point. I will leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

"Concerned parent"
You said you don't disagree with what the letter said but feel the PTO should not stand behind the concept? Your logic is confusing and contradicting. There was nothing political about the letter other than the board doing the job it was hired to do. The PTO's job is not to "serve" the community. The boards job is to do just that. The letter holds them accountable. Re-read what you've written and I encourage you to meet with Lisa ASAP--