Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No news is . . . no news

Here's the good news . . . The Board and NFT negotiating teams met recently.

Here's the not-so-good news . . . Nothing really happened.

But on a positive note, both sides agreed to meet again soon. Remember, great accomplishments often start with a single step.

You can read the latest update at the Neshaminy School Board's new blog.

And here is an article from the Courier Times.


Libertae said...

Over a year and no meaningful negotiations. The vast majority of teachers will back their negotiating team. The concensus is that the Board has never negotiated in good faith.

On another note ... will the New Tawanka and the High School renovations be done in a month? Will there be enough room to comfortably accomodate the 9th graders. How will discipline be handled now that the disciplinary administrative aids were fired, especially considering that you've increased the student population by 33%?

acs said...

Libertae, whoever you are I suggest you attend board meetings once and a while then comment.
Ms. Boyd's incoherent ranting and personally attacking almost all board members in the June meeting does not strike me as good faith. For the first time speaking in months she really embarrassed herself and her cause. The board has conducted completely transparent negotiations as they should and consistently offered open discussions with the NFT. The only consensus in the NSD is the teachers are makes outrageous demands on their neighbors and the board had the guts to call them out on it. Teachers and their union have literally zero support in this district. The school board hasn't got everything perfect but they have done an exemplary job this past year in managing the budget shortfall down and holding firm on fair contract proposals while the teachers try to hold up a community and will likely strike to get their demands.

Libertae said...

acs, I do try to watch the meetings on TV whenever possible. I don't think either side has done a good job. The object of negotiations is to come to some middle ground. If you don't negotiate, you can't get to an agreement. Final agreements are often far from initial offers and demands. Hopefully both sides will now decide to work out a new contract.

acs said...

Again, Please read the proposals. The board's offer is final and is much more then a middle ground. If the teachers get anything more than offered then YOU ME and everyone in the district will pay through the nose forever. Now is the time for this board to draw a line in the sand and stand firm. There is new reason to compromise the teachers have gouged the community since 1998 and now it needs to stop.

JS said...

Libertae, you are right that first and final offers usually are far different.

Here's the only problem. Both first proposals were put forth back in May of 2008. The real estate market was starting to bust, and the economy was beginning to slow down.

Fast forward to today. The real estate market has blown up and bottomed out (far from the May 2008 level). Billions have been paid out to financial and automotive companies, and we are at the highest unemployment levels in decades.

Essentially the bargaining chips have changed. What is "reasonable" in this economic environment is not what was reasonable just a year ago.

All in all you could say after dozens of people laid off and millions in budget costs eliminated that the Board would have every right in saying that their first proposal should be rescinded and another given. The Board hasn't done that, they've said they feel their proposal is the max that the residents of the district can manage. And the teachers? Their demands are still at levels from a different reality (to be honest that reality doesn't even jive with May 2008).

The teachers have the extreme misfortune of having a contract negotiation following an extremely generous contract and during one of the worst economic environments in US History.

Sorry, but the Board has put a "good faith" offer out, so it's up to the teachers to face reality (though sadly there is no legal or logical way for them to ever have to do that)

acs said...

JS, You are generally correct however under any economic situation the demands of the NFT would be completely insulting to the community that gave them the ovderly rich contract in 1998 and extended the madness in 2002. What the board has offered is much too generous given the current environment and that is why the board is taking the high road in good faith to leave it on the table. Everyone I talk to says pull it and start over with a much reduced one. The NFT should grab it since they have been checkmated and have blown the negotiations. They seem to live in another reality and don't realize the weak position they are now in.

Erik said...

The teachers really need to look at the situation carefully. The Board has already stated they will not give retro pay, and their agreements with the other union groups in the district have equity clauses (meaning they will receive enhanced pay/benefits if the teachers agreement is better than what they signed for). The current offer of 3% raise and 15/16/17% benefit contribution cannot get any better because the board could not afford to pay it. Even if they could pay it, it would be political suicide for them.
The teachers can hold out the next year or two in hopes of getting a different agreement, but the reality of the situation is that they won't get a better agreement. The board has painted themselves into a corner which is a good thing for taxpayers. NFT negotiators can complain all they want and they can chastize the board at every public meeting, but none of that changes the situation. Whether they settle now or in 2 years, the teachers will not get a better offer than what is on the table now.

Newbie said...

Thank you everyone for your opinions because it helps me to have perspective on this important subject. I tried to gain perspective on the Courier blog but am turned off by all the name calling.
Erik's points really enlightened me. From the teacher perspective, this really isn't a negotiation because the board has no wiggle room. Looking at it from a board member's eye there have been too many years of expensive perks and now is the time to take a stand.
This raises a question. If the teachers only stand to lose ground in a new agreement, and if the board isn't in a position financially to make concessions, what incentive is there for either side to even bother negotiating at this point? Aside from a little bit of good pr negotiations are a lose-lose for the participants.
I would like to hear what you other posters think about that. Thank you.

nostradamus said...

NFT leadership has lost face and the board is held captive by an angry taxpaying mob. Neither side has reason to settle now but the pressure will mount on the NFT as yearly pay freezes will drop the teachers ranking as the top paid in the state.

My prediction - a new agreement will be reached in 2012 with no retroactivity.

Jose said...

and what of the students? does anyone care about what this is doing to them? while both sides pat themseslves on the back for standing firm there are young impressionable minds at stake.

acs said...

I find it interesting when people talk about the kids as if wanton spending is the only thing that apparently shows you are concerned about the kids. Well friends in 25 years NSD school board never saw a spending proposal they didn't love. They have spent and spent and spent on labor cost for 20 years until we have the highest COMPENSATED of any teachers in PA. Include healthcare for those who want to debate it. Now they want more, lots more. What have we gotten for the money???The best school district in PA? Not by a long shot.
So let me ask all of you on the blog. Is it caring about the children to show up everyday at school wearing your NFT UNION shirt with a little sticker of how many days you have not received your completely self absorbed contract that is literally robbing the parents of your students? Isn't that dragging the kids into the mess?? I think one way to show you care about student quality is to determine how much WASTE there is in NSD labor costs. There is a lot more than this board and the Superintendent found this year. The current board is the best I have seen in NSD history. I hope they hold up on the caving to the NFT bandits. The residents are firmly behind this board and their contract proposal. Most people live in the past when it comes to teachers compensation and do not know that teachers in our district have literally become affluent on the backs of NSD residents. Many live in much more affluent district than ours.Not one penny more for the well healed sticker wearing crowd.

IrishFarm said...

The public discussions and union buttons might make the children a little uncomfortable but they should adapt. A greater concern will be if the teachers work to the letter of their contract or strike. These actions would directly effect the students. It will be interesting to see if the teachers try to put pressure on the board through some type of job action and risk further public opposition, not to mention hurt the students?

acs said...

Good point. I believe they will now have to strike no matter how unpopular that will be. Remember the senior teacher really don't care since they are all tenured and have all the perks under the old contract. They will just delay retirement a year or so to see if they get even more goodies. They will get much pressure from the members who are younger and will not get raises or retro steps. So they will be forced to bring it to a head. Again the NFT has failed miserabley in the negotiation strategy since the underestimated the resolve of the board and the anger in the community about taxes.

Teacher said...

A strike is not likely. Working to rule is a strong possibility but probably not in September. It may depend on how the next negotiation session goes. The most recent meeting wasn't a negotiation at all because Chuck Sweet did nothing but restate the Board's previous offer. It would have been helpful if there was something different in the discussion even if it was to remove some of the more superfluous aspects of their offer.

I would also strongly recommend that you put a gag order on Frank Koziol to prevent him from making insulting comments during public meetings. It's one thing to defend your point of view, but it's another thing to insult an entire group of people by using demeaning references such as "the Good Ship Lollipop." There is no room in these negotiations for public humiliation, and such insults will only draw retaliation.

TFR1984 said...

What do you people expect? Verbal invitations weren't enough so your leader demanded an engraved invitation.

Question - What prevented the teachers from requesting a meeting?

Now you are upset because the board didn't come back to you with a different offer.

Question - What prevented the teachers from coming forward with a different proposal?

Teachers are upset with the board talking about the negotiations in public.

Question - Why should the public allow private negotiations when the last time that happened it resulted in the overpriced contract we now have? If you were us, would you trust private negotiations?

Do you even understand that the Board is in a no lose position right now? If you guys take their offer, they are heros for taking a stand. If you don't accept, they earn public accolades and we save tons of money by not paying your increases. If you strike or work to rule, the public will only condemn you and rally around the board more. If you stall for a long time as Nostradamus points out, your ranking as being the #1 paid teachers in the state will drop down to 2, then 3, then out of the top 5. Every day this drags on - you lose!

May I respectfully suggest you teachers stop sitting back and waiting for the board to make something wonderful happen. Like it or not the ball is in your court. Either cut your losses and accept the board's offer now, or just sit back and try to ride it out and find out how much more you stand to lose.

acs said...

I know Bill opposes us calling out people in the blog so suffice it to say we all know who "Teacher" is. I will direct my comments as such.
NFT leadership never had to act like union bosses since in 2002 the contract was not negotiated it was a behind closed door handshake with the prior board conceding everything to the union.
Now this board has backbone and won't be rolled. NFT leader doesn't know what to do. The community is firmly behind the board so the Union is essentially neutered here. It was interesting that since May of 2008 the NFT hasn't moved from its absurd position. Now "Teacher" has the nerve to say the board should counter???? WHAT? Then to critisize the one board member that has the guts to say out loud what every resident says is just laughable. I agree TR1984. The teachers lose more everyday. Frankly after seeing the greed it will be fun to watch the union squirm. I wonder when the union will force the current leadreship out?

William O'Connor said...

Actually what I really oppose ACS is being called Bill. William is fine, "School Board Guy" is even ok, but Bill is out :-)

acs said...

My sincere apology William. So I guess Willie is out?

William O'Connor said...

Call me "Willie" and it's Double Secret Probation for you!

srodos said...

The offer from the Board to the Teachers union is more than fair in the current economic climate. It is also more than fair in any economic climate. The only new proposals that remain are to take more items out of the existing contract not to add new perks.
A few more years without raises and those teachers not at the top of the pay scale will in all probability see where they should have been and then ask for greater input in settlement. However, it is still their right to work without a contract. If the residents will put up with the inconvenience of working to the contract or a strike, the students will still get the 180 days of school, but not in the oder set out for them and vacations will suffer. All the while the District will be saving money. It is not helpful to make personal attacks on the participants for differences of opinion on the contract.
The state may yet solve the healthcare problem.

acs said...

I have complete respect for those who are willing to stand up and call out those that are so severely out of line with the intent to injure the other party. In this case teachers vs the entire community. Those that are paid by the school district are obviously bias in this discussion and have no real credibility. The board is willing to call out the teachers for their irresponsible behavior ans so should the responsible memeber of the community.

JS said...

Don't just assume that by not paying raises that the board is saving money.

Because the teachers are still not paying anything towards their benefits NSD still paid an additional $1.8 million more for salaries and benefits for teachers this year. That's just the increase of the premium cost of Medical and Prescription. Next year it could be $3 million or $4 who knows how much BCBS will raise the rates.

Unless the school board finds some loophole in the law, I think their hands are tied. Honestly the teachers have no real incentive to settle, particularly if Medical Premiums do rise substantially. A 40-60% increase in premium cost isn't worth a 3% salary raise. They'll just wait it out.

Honestly I think that the Board has every right to pull the current offer and resubmit something different that is more representative of the current economic environment. 10% unemployment. Part of you benefits is the mere fact of having a job (that with tenure is almost all but guaranteed).

I will also bluntly say that Teacher you are insane if you chastise the board for merely restating their offer. What has the Union done? Pretty much nothing except "not entirely accurate". Negotiations are two way streets.

sk.langhorne said...

I am a parent who supports what our teachers do but it is difficult for me to back them in this instance. Please encourage your leaders to accept the board's offer. I don't believe you will get a better offer and the longer you wait the more anger you will hear. You do a great job for our students. Please get back to doing what you do best.

acs said...

JS, You are correct I beleive. Here it the other variable the NFT may be waiting for: Election! The board changes dramatically in November. Frank K., Eccles, Balash, leave. If the right people do not win you may end up with the usual teacher schills and spineless board members in a dominate postion. The NFT is likely waiting for that since it can't get worse fore them only better. They certainly didn't plan on having a real leader like Webb as President so they might as well stall to see if it all changes in thier favor.

neshaminy4ever said...

Koziol has been strong during these negotiations but I won't be sorry to see him go because he wants to cut too much. Blash will be missed because he had a good blend of concern for education and taxes, and he was no pushover. I hope Spitz is back on the board because he, O'Connor and Webb form a strong combination. Cummings is ok but she needs to be stronger. Don't really care much for the others.
I agree ACS that the NFT is waiting for the election. Their position can't get much worse than it is now. I don't think it will really help them much at all but they don't have much choice.

News Flash said...

Say what you will. The election won't matter. This impasse will last for years.

acs said...

I do think you may be correct. I believe a strike or work action will not solve it for the NFT. I would be interested, as a leading board member, to hear WILLIAM'S opinion on this. What are the pros and cons of going without a contract. Several districts end up doing this. If you are inclined to do this homework assignment can you do it from both sides, i.e. pros and cons for teachers and for the taxpayers.

William O'Connor said...

From a strictly-cost perspective, not having an agreement will cost more than if the teachers accepted the board's proposal, but it is much less than if we agreed to the teachers proposal. The most recent estimate I have seen suggests that not having an agreement as opposed to accepting the Board's offer will cost approximately $2.4 million next year.

To learn more about the specific costs of the various offers on the table, you should go to the Board's updated Negotiation blog at http://nsdboard.blogspot.com/

Teacher said...

You don't know who I am ACS so your assumption is wrong. I am exactly what my alias says - a teacher. Nothing more, nothing less.

I came across the wrong way in my previous comment and I would like to set the record straight. You are correct in saying that our negotiators could have come to the meeting with a different proposal. I am not defending that. I was just stating my belief that the Board should have changed something in their proposal. It didn't have to be about the salary or benefits either. Just something different to start off a new discussion.

I do stand by my comments about Koziol. Regardless of how you perceive the situation, an important part of negotiations is diplomacy. If one side already feels trapped in a corner, the worst thing you can do is to start hurling insults. I do not approve of Koziol's comments just as I did not appreciate LB singling out Board members in her address to the public. It isn't that either person is wrong in their feelings. The point is you can never let those angry feelings out without driving a wedge further between the two sides.

You and I may disagree over many things but we may not be as far apart as you think. I can only speak for myself but I am confident there are others out there.

JS said...

Ok Teacher. I'm going to give you a shot to give me your reasoning on this whole issue.

!!! I am asking this person in good faith to offer us up some insight so do not attack them for what they may or may not say. Thank you!!!

Most of the public (that is all the non-teacher tax payers) feels that while they understand that no one wants to give up salary or benefits, why should they have to foot the bill (i.e. higher taxes) just so the teachers can avoid just that?

I understand that the current proposal by the NFT is not intended to be a "final" offer. That's what negotiations are for. With that being said the offer put forth by the Board has been stated that it is the highest that can be offered. Even with that said most likely taxes will have to be raised to pay for it.

The current offer by the Board is still rather lucrative when compared to many of the situations facing the taxpayers of Neshaminy. Why should they have to pay more money out of their pocket to give someone else better pay and benefits (even maybe a job in general) that they themselves don't have?

Here is the bottom line. The offered contract is more appropriately in line with similar surrounding districts, and they've been at that level for several years. There are several dozen of your former colleagues out there (i.e. the recently fired ones) who would probably take a position under the offered contract stipulations with out a second thought.

If those in surrounding districts have taken an offer like this, if those in your profession looking for jobs would take an offer like this, and if those who will be paying for it would take an offer like this.... Why shouldn't the NFT take an offer like this?

acs said...

I agree with the prior comments and "teacher" I respect your views.
Let's step back for a moment and look at the larger issue. Now that all private sector employees have 401k accts and NOT defined benefit plans and most are now NOT matched by companies; Now that all private sector employees pay for health care at a rate on average, average mind you, of 26%; now that all private sector employees if not laid off are getting no raise vs non-merit step increases contracted to teachers. How can we expect taxpayers to fund all of this extravegance that private sector workers no longer have and will never get back(including our kids? How can average people carry these public workers any longer. It is the soft tyranny of the radical liberal left that supports something for nothin mentality and union gouging that destroyed American industry. Our new radical liberal Pres seems more than OK with 60% combined tax rates and that is where we are headed. Ok enough of the macro view. NSD teachers and their representatives in the NFT are profoundly greedy. WHY because they can be....teacher unions get what has been guaranteed by state laws. Believe me LB et al care nada about kids or teachers. That is in the NFT lesson plan....it's all about the money and ONLY the money and DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, think they have any other agenda but THE MONEY.

Teacher said...

I was ok with the key points of the Board's original offer including graduated benefits contribution of 10%, 11% and 12%. Since I am young I was ok with giving up the retirement payout but would liked for negotiations to grandfather in some of the older teachers. If the Board was willing to do that then I would have conceded to their salary offer. I would also have asked for removal of random drug testing as I see that as an invasion of privacy (except for bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and nurses).

No doubt some of you will think I am asking for too much but you might also agree that if our starting counter offer included these details our negotiations would be heading in a more positive direction.

Even though I disagree with our leadership in this aspect, I don't want you to think that I do not appreciate what the union does for me. Contrary to what you believe, it isn't always about the money. The union supports us when the district places unreasonable demands upon us such as when we want to stand firm in how behavioral issues are handled with problem students, but the district just wants the problem to go away because they don't want to deal with angry parents.

Some of you are being unfair in your attacks on LB. It is true that in her role she must negotiate on our behalf, and that makes her greedy in your book. However it is not right to say she does not care about the students. You don't really know her or see her interactions with students on a daily basis to make that judgement.

I thank you for giving me a chance to explain myself without hurling insults. I hope our negotiations can proceed in the same spirit of cooperation and civility.

csld said...

Teacher can you tell me why you feel that a random drug test is an invasion of your privacy but not for the bus drivers ,cafeteria workers or nurses

Teacher said...

Just my opinion that those positions have a direct impact on a child's physical well-being. Being impared while driving a 10 ton vehicle, or preparing food, or dispensing medicine can cause immediate, physical harm to a student.

csld said...

Teacher I agree that these people would be of harm to the student if they were impaired but I also think that a teacher impaired would also be of equally harmful.I am all for random drug test no matter what your postion is the district.

abc123 said...

Instead of worrying about your beloved blog William O'Connor, why don't you and your fellow board members start negotiating in good faith, which is something you have yet to do.
Stop the bully tactics, stop trying to play to the newspapers. Start negotiating.

acs said...

I would have no interest in knowing anything about LB. The union leader is the face of the teachers and that is all I need to know.
I would suggest that she has lost all credibility in the community for sure with the laughable proposal she continues to defend. Obviously from your remarks the rank and file has concerns as well.
The board acted in total secrecy last time. This time Mr. Webb and the board have done exactly the right thing. Remember transparency is the new word of the day. The community did what it should in demanding it and the board was responsive to the need to let taxpayers know exactly how incredibly good the board offer was and how outrageous the NFT demands were on behalf of a small special interest group. The sense of entitlement displayed in a time of economic hardship was appalling to residents. I think teachers need to think long and hard before continuing to pursue any comprimise with the board. The offer it the offer what is confusing about that. In 2002 the NFT got everything they wanted and more. Now it is taxpayers turn.

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

Yes abc123, you are soooooo right. The evil school board has not negotiated in good faith while the unsuspecting teachers union tries their very hardest to break this stalemate. O'Connor and his evil henchmen have launched a diabolical plan indeed.

Get real.

William O'Connor said...

Sorry to disagree with you abc123 but the board has negotiated in good faith. We have not played to the newspapers as you have accused, but we absolutely have been trying to keep the public informed as best we can. After all, they are paying the bill. And let's not forget that the last time the public was kept in the dark about negotiations, we ended up with the most expensive contract in Neshaminy history.

In case you haven't noticed, the public support for the Board's position has been enthusiastic. Even parents with school aged children - people who appreciate what teachers do - are behind us. Perhaps you should take note of this.

As far as this "beloved" blog is concerned, if it bothers you that much, feel free not to come back.

Have a nice day.

Pianomom said...

I know many teachers who faithfully read your blog William, and they appreciate your fairness as a board member too. Don't let the angry words of one person get to you.
I haven't posted comments in a while but wanted to share my opinion that I truly admire our teachers. While you have my support for what you do in the classroom, I encourage you to influence your union leaders to rethink their strategy. Even if negotiations are supposed to be about reaching a middle ground, I think it's time you came closer to the Board's side of the middle.

neshaminy101 said...

abc123 is real smart to insult maybe the most reasonable board member of all. What he fails to understand is that all the board members agree on this and they don't agree on anything. This isn't just the militant members like Koziol spouting off. You have some very reasonable people on this board aside from O'Connor (Cummings, Blasch, Spitz) and all of them think their offer is fair. Me thinks its time the union comes up with plan b cause plan a ain't working.