Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Residents express views on contracts

From today's Courier Times . . .

Dozens packed the Neshaminy school board meeting Tuesday night to express concern over financial issues, the lack of a new teachers contract, and the district possibly closing an elementary school in the future and implementing full-day kindergarten.

"We all know that teachers are the most important part of running a school," said Stacy Kirsh, 33, a Middletown mother and Pennsbury teacher. "It is because of teachers all of us can read, write or compute math problems. It is time respect is shown to this very valuable group of professionals. In order to attract good teachers, we need to compensate them and treat well. It is time to meet with the teachers on a regular basis in good faith to settle this contract."

While Middletown resident and businessman Larry Pastor, 54, said he thinks Neshaminy teachers are dedicated, professional and deserve a fair wage, he called the educators' requests outrageous and said they're already overly compensated. Pastor added that he hopes the community speaks up because he believes that most taxpayers are behind the board. He also asked that the board conduct bargaining sessions publicly.

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Board won't budge

From the Courier Times:

. . . board President Ritchie Webb told the newspaper's editorial board last week he believes there's solid unity on the board to stick to its guns. Webb's fellow board members were quick to agree.

While union President Louise Boyd also was invited to meet with the newspaper's editorial board, she declined, saying she meant no disrespect to the public, but it's the 700-plus educators' policy to negotiate directly with the district - not through the media.
"Unfortunately, the district has been unwilling to move this process forward in as timely a manner as the (NFT) has strived to achieve," Boyd wrote via e-mail. "Quite frankly, we're disappointed that the district has chosen to be more proactive in communicating with the media than with the (union's) negotiations team."

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome to Planet Neshaminy

In case you didn't see the Courier Times' editorial this morning, here are a few excerpts . . .

The latest contract demands are so out of sync with the real world that the union negotiators must be from another planet.

. . . it's mystifying that Neshaminy teachers have issued contract demands that make them look selfish and unreasonable - and disconnected from reality.

Could they be any more arrogant? Or dismissive of taxpayers, who, in the face of a $14 million budget deficit, could be hit with an average tax increase of $500?

The only power school boards have is to cut programs and raise taxes. Those are lousy choices and limp weapons in the battle for sensible teacher contracts.

The Courier's editorial staff did make one boo-boo when they stated that "the board's proposal (was for a) 3 percent annual salary increases, plus step raises." Our 3% increase offer included the step raises. The board has already issued a clarification to the Courier on this point.

If you want to read the entire editorial, click here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Union rejects latest offer

Update (Feb 18): You can read the Courier Times article on this matter by clicking here.

The School Board today issued a press release stating that the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) has refused their latest offer which seeks to add teacher contributions to health care benefits in exchange for an average salary increase of 3%.

The press release goes on to say that "For over a year, the NFT has indicated no willingness to agree to any meaningful changes in the current health benefits package. In addition, they continue to propose a salary schedule increase that would lead to average annual raises of more than 6% per year. Taken together, the union’s salary and health benefit proposals would increase District costs by an estimated $5.4 million next year alone."

To read the entire press release along with a summary of the negotiations to date, go to and look under the "Announcements" section to the bottom right of the page, and follow that link to the Board's negotiation website. Then look towards the bottom portion of the page under "Current Information"

Important Note: Although your comments to this post are welcome and encouraged, please keep your statements constructive and civil. Any comments that do not abide by this will not be published.

Input sought to trim budget

From the pages of the Courier Times . . .
Like many people and businesses in this recession, Neshaminy officials are going to have to get creative when it comes to the school district's budget. So, they're open to suggestions - from anybody.
That's why the focus of the next two strategic action committee meetings at 7 p.m. March 2 and 16 in Maple Point Middle School on Langhorne-Yardley Road will focus on ways to trim the fat of the $167 million 2009-10 preliminary spending plan, administrators said.

You can read the complete article online by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tawanka headed to high school

As printed in today's Courier Times . . .
Tawanka students and teachers can start packing their book bags and boxing up their classrooms - they're headed to the high school.
The Neshaminy school board Tuesday night voted 8-0 to relocate the alternative school program from a building on Brownsville Road in Lower Southampton to a portion of the high school that otherwise would've been demolished.

You can read the complete article by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's High Noon for the Alt Ed Program

Tonight the board considers the difficult issue of where to place the Alternative Education program currently located at Tawanka. For anyone interested in the future of this highly successful program, I strongly encourage you to attend tonight's school board meeting (7pm, Board Room at Maple Point).

Most people seem to agree that the Eisenhower facility would be educationally preferable to the BELC due to more space and the ability to protect the privacy of the students in the program. The other school of thought is the BELC provides a good location for the Alt Ed program where a great staff of professionals can maintain a high level of success, and it allows for the possible lease/sale of Eisenhower.

During our Ed Development Committee meetings, Tawanka Principal Joann Holland made it very clear that if the Alt Ed program is to be successful up at the BELC, space would be a major concern and she has made some very specific requests in that regard. District administration has stated that they can accommodate the space needs of the program but so far has not committed to Ms. Holland's requirements.

Not everyone shares Ms. Holland's optimism for housing the Alt Ed program at the BELC. Several Tawanka staff members have come forward to say that the Alt Ed program cannot be nearly as successful at the BELC since those students will be in proximity to the very influences that put them in the program to begin with. Opponents of that view say that the program's success is due to the staff, and they can make the program successful wherever it's located.

There is no easy answer here and I wish my fellow board members good luck in finding the best solution during tonight's meeting. Unfortunately I am out of town this week on business, and since we do not have a remote participation policy, I cannot participate in the meeting. So like many of you, I'll have to wait for tomorrow's Courier Times to find out what happened.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Board to make decision on Tawanka

From the pages of the Courier Times . . .

Parents, students, teachers and board members like William Spitz and William O'Connor have expressed concerns over moving the program onto the high school campus, including having enough space, a kitchen and gym area, a permanent home, maintaining the anonymity and confidentiality of the teens, and avoiding temptation and anxiety.

You can read the rest of this article by clicking here.

Setting the record straight

If you read the Courier Times yesterday, you noticed a headline that screamed Report gives Pa. teachers a 'D', which more than suggested that our teachers were failing in their performance. Yet if you read the article itself, it was clear that the report referenced in the article concerned the inability in Pennsy to retain good teachers.

In today's Courier, they printed a retraction stating "A report by the National Council on Teacher Quality recently gave the state of Pennsylvania a D grade for failing to retain effective teachers. Incorrect information appeared in a headline Monday."

I'm pleased that the Courier Times recognized their error. Now I wish they would revisit last year's screaming headline that proclaimed Neshaminy failed the PSSA's despite dramatic increases in our overall scores.