Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Admin OK's offer rejected by NFT

Board President Ritchie Webb read a brief statement at the outset of last night's meeting stating that the District Administrators had voted to accept the recent contract proposal offered by the School Board. Noting that this offer was virtually identical to the one proposed to the Teachers' Union, Webb added that he hoped this would be the impetus to bring the NFT back to the bargaining table.

Most of the audience applauded the announcement, but a few citizens still believed any salary increase offered would be too much in these tough economic times. Others acknowledged that this was a very positive step and they congratulated the board for their efforts.

My view: This is a tremendous accomplishment in light of where we started. The current contract for Administrators was basically the same as for the Teachers - generous salary increase, top tier insurance benefits with no employee contribution, free retirement benefits and perks, etc. There were many concessions made by the Administrators in accepting this new contract, and all indications are that they bargained respectfully and diligently with the Board's negotiation team. The agreement will become final pending Board acceptance at the next meeting.

I appreciate the willingness of the Administrators to cooperate fully with the Board during these negotiations. And while this was a team effort on the part of the Board, a couple of our members - Ritchie Webb and Bill Spitz - should be singled out and acknowledged for their efforts in negotiating this contract. Thank you all for taking this very important step to set Neshaminy on the path towards true fiscal reform.

You can read the Courier Times recap of last night's meeting by clicking here.


Steve said...

Nice job guys!

Gabriel said...

This is good news William. Thank you to the board for this effort, and a special thanks to Webb and Spitz for their contribution.

I found it interesting to read in the Courier that "The teachers union president maintains that their counter-offer is not being reported accurately, but would not discuss details." Ms. Boyd continuously says facts are misrepresented but she fails to qualify her statement. As a person who does respect and admire what teachers do, I very much want to hear what isn't being reported correctly about their counter offer. Accusations without supporting facts are convenient but they don't help the teachers' cause.

Enough with the rhetoric. No more "the facts aren't the facts" statements. The public is tired of excuses. Teachers, please get back to the bargaining table now!

JS said...

Just out of curiosity. Is the Neshaminy School District Administrators Association subject to Act 195 or Act 93? Essentially are they a bargaining unit or simply just a collective administration under Act 93?

Basically the reason I am asking this for those wondering, is that if they are a "unit" they can negotiate just like teachers. If not and they fall under Act 93, we in no way had to negotiate and could offer a contract in "good faith" at what ever level a reasonable person would.

William O'Connor said...

JS - The NSDAA falls under Act 93; they are not a formal bargaining unit. In theory we could have imposed any stipulations on them we wanted without benefit of negotiations. However, this Board values the importance of our Administrators and we wanted to have fair discussions with them regarding their compensation. Whether we asked them or forced them, it doesn't change the fact that the Administrators made significant concessions to their compensation. More importantly, this agreement affirms that the Board's offer to the NFT was indeed fair.

There was much rumor out there, especially on the Courier blog, that we had negotiated special sweetheart deals with the Administrators behind close doors, and there were accusations we would give them something superior to the the teachers' offer. In the end, we proved all those rumors to be false. No secret sweetheart deals - they were offered the same as the teachers; No closed doors - after initial discussions from where our offer arose, the Board disclosed its offer to the public before voting on it.

Now that we have (or will soon have) the Administrators offer signed, sealed and delivered, we can again ask the NFT to return to the bargaining table confident that we have offered them a fair and reasonable contract. We can only extend the invitation - it takes two to make a party. We'll see what happens.

KClarinet said...

Can the teachers "return to the bargaining table" without agreeing in advance to the Board's position on health care contributions? My understanding of the Board's position is that no negotiations are possible until the NFT agrees to health insurance contributions. Is a public capitulation by NFT on this specific issue a Board prerequisite to further talks?

acs said...

Mr. O'Connor, Congratulations on the Admin. Deal! To gain the significant concessions you did was real progress. I was pleased with the deal offered and accepted, but more importantly the transparency of the process for taxpayers. With public sentiment against the NFT and teachers growing every day, as evidenced in last nights meeting, the next move on the part of the union will be fascinating. I hope the board is totally committed to not budging from the offer the teachers recently rejected. Please keep the same level of transparency so taxpayers are not blindsided as we have been in prvious negotiations. The community has confidence in this board under Mr. Webb's leadership however if the NFT rejects it again then it should be withdrawn and substituted with a reduced offer including less increases and more healthcare contribution. As you know there is no support among the community for a contract benefiting teachers this time.

KClarinet said...

Is the full text of the contract the administrators accepted publicly available?

LivininLevittown said...

I still think it better if the administraters got no increase and then this offer would have been perfect. At least this board got them to make concessions that the last board wouldn't do and I give you guys credit for that Mr. OConner. Also this board has communicated more with the public so we know something of what is going on. That is a good thing. I also have to remind myself that you are a school board member and you use this blog to keep us informed. I think a lot of people forget that to. Last thing I would ask is that if the teachers do not except your offer in the next couple of weeks then you should take it off the table. Let the teachers know this is the best offer they are going to get from you and that the clock is ticking.

mamasaid said...

KClarintet--this will give you some info:

It's the press release the board put out, outlining the terms. That and other budget info is on the district website:

Look in the lower right corner of the home page under "Announcements."

Blume said...

I don't usually agree with the Levittown person on this blog but this time his/her last sentence was spot on - Let the teachers know this is the best offer they are going to get from you and that the clock is ticking.
I do have one favor for you Mr. O'Connor: Can someone please put a time limit on Mr. Pastor and other speakers at meetings? They take up way too much time. I agree with many of things he says but he loses my interest after the first 30 minutes of his monologues. Whatever happened to time limits during public comments?

acs said...

Mr. O'Connor, seems like there is broad agreement on pulling the offer if they reject.
Also, I agree completely with Blume. Although Mr. Pastor is a good speaker and represents hundreds of Neshaminy taxpayers I would prefer to hear from more of the people all speaking for less time. He and Mr. Rodos take up too much of the public comment time.

KClarinet said...

Thanks, mamasaid. It doesn't say much more than the Courier reported. I guess we need to wait to see the entire agreement until after the Board has approved it.

JS said...

Since the NFT seems to not be able to clarify what the "innaccuracy" in their claimed offer is, I will ask Mr. O'Connor or any other Board member who reads this blog to possibly step up.

We all know that there is "spin" on most things. So I'm guessing nothing being stated by the Board is "wrong".

According to the Neshaminy site the teachers have shown "no willingness to agree to any meaningful changes in the current health benefits package." The paper keeps saying this as "continued no contribution", so maybe this is where the informations is skewed.

The only other point ever mentioned about the teacher's position is the 6% (with steps) yearly increase. I don't know how that could be miss leading other than it not being a good number the NFT wants out there.

Other than that we know the Board wants to do away with most other retirement incentives (lump sum payout, obviously full benefits till 65, etc).

Can the anyone state (even if we have to wait for a press release) what the Teachers "have" actually "given up" in their offer? Or is their offer really the same one they put forth last May? (Please don't tell me it's essentially the same, essentially and "is" are not the same thing)

I'll accept if no one can say anything definite here, but maybe it would prove to the rest of the teachers (not the Union heads) to put pressure on their leadership if it shows that there isn't just Board spin on all of this.

William O'Connor said...

The following comment submitted by Nostradamus was edited for content.

My predictions for the next board meeting:
* At the 23 minute mark of his next public rant Mr. Pastor will spontaneously combust.

* While attempting to call 911 for an ambulance on his cell phone, Mr. O'Connor will be reminded that board policy prevents use of modern technology during meetings.

* Despite being engulfed in flames, Pastor will continue speaking for an additional 12 minutes.

* Business Manager Joe Paradise will blame Pastor for the fire because he did not shut off his cell phone when approaching the podium.

* Mr. Rodus will claim that Pastor would have known about the dangers of cell phones and spontaneous combustion had he attended full day kindergarten as a child.

* Mr. Spitz will yell out that someone should call 911 immediately. Mr. Webb will refer the matter back to committee.

* Union president Louise Boyd will call 911, but when asked for details by the operator, Ms. Boyd will refuse to provide further comment.

* Before fleeing the room in horror, the seniors will gather up all the cookies and snacks in the back of the room.

donkey said...

I think we need to keep in mind that fair is not equal

William O'Connor said...

Just catching up on some of the questions posed in earlier reader comments (it's budget time at work too, and I'm kind of chained to my desk at the moment) . . .

KClarinet - I think the NFT can return to the bargaining table simply by saying they want to touch base on where things stand. If they don't come to the table with at least some concessions in mind, it could make for a very quick catch-up session (just my opinion).

Blume - There is a 2 or 3 minute time limit for public comment but the board doesn't enforce that simply because we don't want to discourage public comment. Hopefully speakers in the future will understand that people appreciate brevity.

JS - I'll have to get back to you on your point regarding any differences with the NFT's counter.

Have I forgotten anyone?

acs said...

The courier editorial board is correct in pursuing the union and the teachers in this unfortunate situation. As well the board was right to make this very public. The paper is very consistent in their view in every school district's battle on school tax increases. However, I disagree on going after the Nesahminy board this morning. The board is doing everything it is in place to do here. If their lawyer says they can't reveal any details then they can't. Personally I am mystified as to why there is this persistent defense of the teachers. It really defies logic as to how anyone in this day and age can defend the teachers getting anything in this round of contract negotiations. Again they are the highest paid and compensated now in Bucks. In 2002 the extension was done in a vacuum by SS and was an example of complete board incompetence and padding the UNION requests. This board has the guts to call it like they see it. This isn't about taxpayers bashing teachers it is about people standing up for what is right in their community unlike what the teachers are doing. All over this country people are sacrificing pay and benefits so their companies don't have to lay-off their fellow employees. The Nesahminy teachers could have shown real class had they lead the negotiations by giving back to the community like all other SDs in Bucks have. Instead they are now allowing the community to justifiably attack them publically. It is a shame they are losing respect here but they only have themselves and Ms. Boyd to blame. Thanks to the board for their continued leadership in doing the right thing for the community. I only wish teachers had the same level of passion for the financial stress in this community as they do for their own self interest.
By the way I love Nostradamas' comments....keep it coming :)

William O'Connor said...

JS (and all): Here are the big, secret details you've all been waiting for . . . the NFT's current proposal is IDENTICAL to their initial proposal in February 2008, with the single exception that they have offered to change their medical plan from PC15 to PC20, as discussed in "Summary of Negotiations to Date" posted on the Board's website Feb 17.

I can't tell you any more or I may have to kill you :-)

William O'Connor said...

Donkey - Not sure I understand your point. Could you be a little more specific?

JS said...

Mr. O'Connor, you gotta give me some time to comment, lots of places to leave my thoughts today. :)

I guess we have no reason to question that what you say about their offer is correct. The problem I have is that then there is no logical way the Ms. Boyd and the NFT could say that the reporting is "not entirely accurate."

Even if we think the Union is being stubborn and/or greedy. None of us thinks they are dumb enough to keep saying that if something isn't accurate.

I guess we'll see eventually.

Jose said...

i understand that teachers dont want to negotiate in public but why not at least clarify where the inaccuracies are. if the board or the courier has it wrong, ms. boyd can just tell us what is wrong. she could say something like the board inaccurately portrays our salary requirements as a 6% raise when in fact it is only a 4% request, and the union will continue to negotiate these salary demands with the board in private. that's just an example. i don't know if the salary is what the union thinks is reported wrongly. my point is that boyd can communicate with the public without negotiating in public.

Wing Man said...

ACS said something that really hit home with me. There were other districts in Bucks where teachers didn't contribute towards benefits, but those teachers agreed to kick in something in recent years, and they did it when the economy wasn't so bad. Now we find ourselves in the midst of the worst economy since the Depression and our teachers, the last in Bucks with free benefits, are asking for a huge pay increase without any concessions. Has the teachers union brought in Scott Boras as a negotiation consultant?

Ivy League said...

***Please note I am posting this question in 2 topic areas.****


I do appreciate your work on the board and your efforts on this website, even if I don't always agree with you or the board's decisions.

I have made no secret of the fact that I disagree with the Board's decisions to post the proposals for a number of reasons.

1st, we elected you guys to do this. It seemed to be the case until the board wanted to engage a hostile community. (Nobody will convince me otherwise that some of these board members "plant" questions during the public comment.)

2nd, when the board published the negotiations "summary" there seem to be inaccuracies.

3rd, I am highly concerned that there is not ONE board proposal that would actually improve the education of our students. (Although I don't think it needs to be drastically improved... I am really tired of the PSSA dipstick argument used by.... well real Dipsticks. Why isn't Mr. Eccles and the rest of the board highlighting the incredible gains made by our students and teachers as outlined by Mr. Kadri? (If this board was truly concerned about educatioal issues and convinced that our teachers were not doing their jobs... then why in God's name don't any of you EVER speak about anything other than $, $, and $.) When are we going to talk about real educational issues... and I don't mean at the smaller board meetings, although I did attend one once and everything came back to the almighty dollar. EDUCATION COSTS MONEY!

4. I would bet the 2nd mortgage on my house that the board is cherry picking what it's reporting to the public regarding the principals' contract. There has to be something in it that would make them agree so quickly. I would love for you to tell me otherwise, but I don't know if you have even seen the entire package offered. I do know there is some kind of labor law that allows for parity when an employer is negotiating with more than one union. Are there 3 or 4 unions the board is negotiating with?

I want to state for the record (because I know it will come up as most of these bloggers assume anyone who isn't anti-teacher and does not possess the "make 'em suffer and if they don't like it fire 'em all" mentality)... I am not a teacher, I am not married to a teacher, I am not related to a teacher, but I was taught by OUTSTANDING Neshaminy teachers, as are my children).

To summarize, I don't think the board should have made any of the contracts public, but since it is, then... let's see all of the proposals in their entirety.

Thank you

acs said...

Ivy League,
I agree with some of what you say, especially as it relates to finding ways to provide continuous improvement for Neshaminy students. However, it is hardly true that there is a linear relationship between extensive spending and education quality. If it were so, the United States, which leads in per capita public school expenditures, would be near the top in global education performance. Obviously many other societal factors are influential here.
That being said, as it relates to the board, it is very difficult to defend past board actions as only thinking about saving money. Past boards spent significant amounts to improve Neshaminy performance. We have shown some incremental gains no doubt, but not in proportion to relative spending to other districts. Therefore, since boards have overspent, due to good intentions to improve our schools; as well as acted with incredible incompetence in relation to overly generous teacher contracts, we are now saddled with an unaffordable school district and a major budget deficit. Now it would be irresponsible for this board not to focus on money and fixing the existing inequity between taxpayer fairness and an anachronistic teacher contract with excessive benefits cost absorbed exclusively by tax increases. In addition, Neshaminy school boards really have very little credibility with residents due to prior actions that appear drunk and disorderly. I believe taxpayers are now owed public transparency to contract negotiation. I support what the board has done in this regard but the collateral outcome is that it ignites passion in the community on both sides and some people feel better if they name call, especially in anonymous blogs like this. In the end, the community has a very vested interest in the outcome this time, given the current economic dilemma everyone personally is going through as well as the school district ongoing budget challenges.

Jake said...

Thanks to the last board that approved the prior contract, I don't think this board had much choice other than to publicize its offer.

Our costs are higher but it wasn't all done with the noble purpose of improving our children's education. Our district has lacked good business sense for a long time. We finally got a superintendent with some smarts for business with Paul Kadri and look what happened to him.

Ivy League said...

The comments akin to "the board shouldn't budge" will NEVER EVER EVER in a million years work.

Why on God's green earth would anyone intentionally make less in the next three years than they have in the last three years.

The board's contract offer would do just that. Of course the NFT won't accept that. Would you? And please spare me the, "times are tough we all have to give back..." because I wouldn't and neither would you.

Do I need to remind everyone that the STATE APPOINTED MEDIATOR overwhelmingly found in favor of the teachers? Now I know the economy wasn't as bad as it is now, but, it was bad. So how did the NSD financial situation get so desperate, and forget the argument, "because these teachers raped us in the last contract." The last contract was what??? 7 years ago? Gary Bowman was still the super, the economy was doing pretty darn good if memory serves.

That Joe Paradise should be called to task. How is that we have a 14 million deficit? Did anyone plan? Isn't that his job? Isn't it the board's job to oversee it?

Or... is it the board's job to get elected, and stay elected by not raising taxes in a fiscally responsible manner for 'lo these many years. Then, BLAME IT ALL ON THE TEACHERS.

So...forget telling the teachers to get back at it, Mr. O'Connor, please tell your peers on the board to get in that room, talk to the NFT and negotiate.

Every day they delay, they are making it worse.

William O'Connor said...

Ivy League, you have misrepresented the findings of the Fact Finder. He did not "overwhelmingly" find in favor of the teachers as you state, instead he said "There has been no independent analysis of the health insurance issue and, as stated, there has been no real bargaining. Under these circumstances, I do not recommend a change in the health care insurance at this time."

There is a huge difference between "finding in favor of" and maintaining the status quo due to lack of information.

Although I respect your opinions, blaming our business manager for the budget deficit is absurd. Mr. Paradise has for years been warning boards, past and present, about the need to rein in spending. He didn't create the last teachers contract, but he's had to deal with it. Ultimately the board passes the budget, some times in spite of Paradise's warnings and objections, and then it's up to him to implement it.

Even if we were in the midst of a booming economy, my opinion would still be that the collective bargaining agreement needs to be restructured so that teachers are contributing towards health care costs and the retirement benefits would be scaled back or eliminated.

This board has made a concession in its offer to the NFT - a 3% salary increase. Your view is that it doesn't compensate teachers enough for what they'll lose, but remember that many in the public are demanding salary cuts. The board has found (what I believe is a) fair middle ground. At least it's a start. What was the NFT's counter? They asked for more without any substantive concessions - a 6% raise, increase the retirement payment from $27.5k to $30k, still no health care contribution, etc. As someone in the Courier blog said, the negotiation process is about give and take - where was the "give" in the NFT's counter?

It is my sincerest wish that negotiations continue, but the talks will be brief, and unproductive, if the NFT doesn't come to the table with some give.

Ivy League said...

Mr. O'Connor,

Thank you for answering my concerns directly; I cannot begin to tell you how much I respect what you bring to the board.

I beg to differ about the fact finders report analysis, simply because if it had been more favorable to the district, the board would be reminding everyone of that constantly, in fact, there might have been some sort of district holiday.

I by no means am implying that Mr. Paradise is the sole is to blame. I am merely saying that I am a little tired of hearing about our financial woes and blaming it entirely on the teachers' contract.

Are there no other reasons for the financial straits we find ourselves in?

Where's all the revenue the board promised from closing NMS?

Is the board really implying they didn't save any money with the numerous teacher retirements last year?

What about closing Tawanka?

Didn't we just consolidate some Adm. positions?

I know we spent a lot more on the high school than we would have had we just built a new one: a heartfelt thanks goes out to Mr. Lidner and all those retirees.

I believe you when you say it's your sincerest wish that negotiations resume. Unfortunately, you are not one of the negotiators and therefore are not at the table.

I believe even further that the teachers do not truly expect to stay at 3%, (that by the way was their proposal so please stop saying 6%.) and while continuing to pay nothing for their healthcare.

There's a reason for all of this, I don't know it yet, but I will be sure to figure it out. I do suspect that the board is using the administrators, who really can't "bargain", as a bargaining chip.

Mr. O'Connor, I implore you to make transparent the entire offer given to the principals, or answer this... is there any clause that enables them to benefit retroactively once the teachers or support staff settle.

Someone is controlling the board negotiators, I suspect it's Charles Sweet.

nostradamus said...

My predictions for the next two weeks:
* The board will post the entire administration contract offer on the negotiation web page to silence their critics, namely JS, KClarinet, ACS and Ivy League.

* Finding several instances of improper punctuation, JS/KClarinet/ACS/Ivy League will all criticize the board for using semi-colons instead of periods, and they will suggest this proves that the board is hiding something.

* All four will plead with Mr. O'Connor for the board to come clean and disclose the REAL reason the board opted for semi-colons.

* Realizing his blog has now been hijacked by four crazed readers, Mr. O'Connor will shut down the blog and will instead start tweeting on Twitter.

* At the 22 minute mark of his public comment, just before his spontaneous combustion, Mr. Pastor will proudly present the board with a petition with 6 signatures on it demanding that the board seek public approval via referendum before using semi-colons ever again.

* The senior citizens in the audience will applaud Pastor while they reminisce fondly of where the semi-colon key was located on their old Olympia typewriters.

* Mr. Koziol will confess that he is considering an upgrade to an Olympia, and wanted to know if anyone in the audience had a spare they would sell him.

* A kindergarten student will come to the microphone and read a prepared statement from Mr. Rodus confessing that he is in fact JS, KClarinet, ACS and Ivy League. Rodus will apologize for his absence by explaining he has entered a facility in New Jersey for treatment of multiple personality disorder.

Ivy League said...

Nostradamus, not quite as funny as your last prediction, but I did get a chuckle out of this.

Although, were you to speak to a lawyer, a misplaced comma get completely change the intent of a contract.