Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seeing Red

There was a new presence at tonight's NHS Back-to-School night. We had protesters, but I'm not referring to NFT members picketing on district property (although they were there, too). A group of a dozen or so Neshaminy parents demonstrated outside of the school grounds to protest what they believe are outrageous contract demands from the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers. Though their numbers were small, the group was committed to and enthusiastic about their support of the School Board's handling of contract negotiations with the teachers.

Now that back-to-school nights are over for this year, hopefully all future protests will be held at more appropriate events like school board meetings. But as for tonight's appearance of this new group, at least they obeyed the law and respected district property.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of attending Back-to-School night as a parent instead of as a board member. It was enjoyable saying hello to all those teachers I've known over the years as they were an important part of my children's lives. And I am especially pleased with the team my high schooler has for this year - not a weak one in the bunch. It reminds me of the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher . . . a good teacher educates a student, and a great teacher inspires them.


William O'Connor said...

The following comments submitted by Ivy League have been edited for content.

And by “a dozen or so” you really mean nine (at least that’s how many I counted).

And by, "peaceful" you mean yelling and screaming about the teachers.

Thanks for the spin.

It is interesting to see so many board members out and about the district for the back to school nights. Maybe the teachers' demonstration was really just a ruse to get the board into the schools.

Please tell me that the board is not wasting any $$$ and asking Sweet or Prophy to investigate the legality of the teachers demonstrating their First amendment rights.

At least we agree about the pleasure of seeing our kids' teaches. The difference is... I'm willing to give the teachers the benefit of the doubt. I would venture to say they want to negotiate...not acquiesce.

After all... they aren't spinning.

ssrudy said...

Even though there were only 9 of us at least we were standing up for what we believe in and not hiding behind the union. The facts are out there for everyone to see. I guess Ivy League is rich enough that he has money to give away, maybe he should pay for the Teachers Health Insurance if he agrees with them so much. Who knows he is probably a Teacher in the District.

William O'Connor said...

Notice to all readers - in the few hours since I posted this update, I have already edited 1 reader comment and completely rejected another. You know the rules of the road here ... no name-calling, personal attacks, etc. Even though this is an emotional topic, you don't have to react emotionally. If you want to start hurling insults, you should consider posting your thoughts on the Courier Times blog instead.

acs said...

(spell checked)


Dandaman said...

I think its kind of funny that out of a whole community only 9 people showed up tp protest the protest...what does that tell you?

They are protesting the "outrageous demands" made by teachers. The interesting thing about it is when asked they had no idea what the "demands" the teachers made. They just kept yelling about how much teachers make and health care. They have no idea what the teacher's brought to the table.

JS said...

It's amazing how much you can observe by just going on a nice evening walk.

I find it very telling that even though parking was expected to be a MASSIVE problem (the cars of parents of almost 3,000 students is a handful) the NFT members their to picket felt the right to take up parking spots on the grounds. (Apparently they had been told, just as they were on other nights, to not park on school grounds, but I guess following directions is just for students not teachers)

I also think it was a miscalculation (and I don't know if it happened at other BTS nights) to have the teachers who were actually in the building wearing their NFT shirts/buttons/etc. The NFT loves claiming that regardless of not having a new contract they can separate that out and focus on the kids. Well why can't you do that on Back To School Night? Let you fellow members outside do the "picketing" while inside it is about the students and education. Leave the union demonstration where it belongs, out of the class rooms.

I've already talked to a few teachers that felt extremely uneasy about being told to dress that way by NFT leadership. In fact one teacher had their fear about that realized when a parent spoke up.

As one period ended a parent told the teacher that their child already was raving about the class and them as a teacher. This parent then switched (with no malice, but a matter of fact attitude) to saying this: While I commend the impression on my "child" I couldn't help but notice your union shirt. My husband, who obviously is not here, is working two jobs and not making as much as the one job he was fired from this year, and I'm working myself, and we are barely making ends meet. If you and your colleagues get what you want and our taxes raise to the point where we can no longer stay in our home, what should I tell my "child" about how much that great teacher at school cares about them?

My friend said the only thing that they could. "I hope that doesn't happen, and that everything works out for everyone involved."

Maybe that parent wouldn't have spoken up if there was no NFT shirt, maybe they would have. We'll never know. If the teachers get the kind of contract they want, and one day that student's desk ends up empty, who wins then?

Newlyfast said...

The sign in the middle says "heathcare!" Ha! And they want the teachers to lose their benefits?! The irony of that is fantastic!

Joe-in-Bucks said...

As I drove up to NHS last night for back to school, I honked in support of the parents supporting the school board...thank you. I parked in back only to find a row of teachers quietly picketing. I politely ignored them as they tried to hand me some literature and went quietly into the school. I entered my daughters 1st period class at 6:50pm. The room was dark and the chairs were on the table. As the teacher strolled in at 6:59, I was a little upset to find out she was outside with the other teachers protesting while parents who worked all day and made a very special effort to get to the school early in hopes to meet with their childs teacher only to find a dark room.

While I understand they are protesting, I think all high school teachers should have been focusing on back to school and not other things.

To the Board...thank you for not giving in. I have been paying towards my benefits for almost 20 years. I dont know of any company that pays for employee benefits, at least not any more. I think you are being very generous to the teacher allowing them to pay only 15%, I pay over 25% and with my new job, I will be paying 40%. I think teachers are forgetting who pays their salary, the people in the community, not some big corporation..

CAROLR said...

I too agree with Ivy League in that it was great of school board members to actually visit the schools, something rarely seen actually the same can be said for some of our administrators.

If the board is so sure they are right about the legality of the teachers picketing then kindly ask them to leave. My guess is that the board isn't as confident as they seem, maybe the teachers have legal counsel too. Wouldn't want to look foolish.

Our parents certainly have a right to express themselves at back to school night but the comment made by the school board president Mr. Richie Webb in the Bucks County Courier Times was incredabily low. In case it was missedby anyone his reasoning that only about twelve parents showed up to protest the teachers was that many parents were probably worried about retaliation by the teachers on students. REALLY? Mr. Webb showed his true and hostile feeling toward our dedicated teachers. Same on him. I guess we know exactly what he thinks of teachers. Very Sad indeed.

Libertae said...

I thought there would be more parent protestors. Maybe the 5 or 6 regular contributors to this blog are not indicative of the views of the vast majority of those in the district. When I visited the taxpayers blog, there did not seem to be many postings. I'm not sure what is meant by the phrase "hiding behind the union". It looked to me like the teachers were standing in full view of everyone out in front of the schools; how is this "hiding"? They were "standing up for what they believe in", just like ssrudy was. I have always stated that I believed both parties were at fault in these negotiations, but now I'm not sure. The teachers said from the beginning that they would not negotiate the contract in public, so none of us know what they have offered in the negotiations. It is the board of school directors that have made public declarations and ultimatums ... stating directly that they would not negotiate.

Ivy League said...

sWilliam: I am not really sure why you needed to edit my comment, but I respect your judgement. I know that I quoted some of the epithets I heard being yelled AT the teachers FROM the convocation of ladies, but I used asterisks in place of actual letters.

At any rate, I was just wondering if anyone happened to notice the irony in the witty sign? My elementary-aged child was the first to notice around our house. You see...evidently her greedy NFT-blue- shirt- wearing teacher actually encourages her students to look for errors in spelling and grammar outside of the classroom ... that is, she encourages them when she isn't busy stealing their lunch money and eating their snacks or planning revenge on the class.

Rudy... I wish I could say I respect your decision to "stand up for what you believe in."

But I can't.

See... I went to Neshaminy and graduated... a long time ago. Anyway, I was this typical teenage boy who was just kind of going through the motions when it came to academics... after all, school was mainly the place I went to see my friends... if I had had a cell phone back them, I wouldn't have ever needed to even go. See... I cared more about sports and girls (not necessarily in that order) than grades... lucky for me, I managed to get A's and B's with little to no effort. I wasn't even really thinking about the future, nor did I even have a plan. I basically had a foregone conclusion...graduate from NHS (just like my pops) and break my back laboring away at a trade-to-be-determined later,( just like my pops).

Then the funnies thing happened... I had this AMAZING English teacher at Poquessing... who recognized something in me (aside from my devilish charm and wit), she saw talent and ability. Mrs. Daly grabbed hold of it and literally turned me on...and not just cause she was adorable... I mean she turned me into a genius! (Although she would never, ever take credit.) So I got a great deal on a great college and graduated with a great degree where I made a lot of great money, spoiled my parents with a lot of great stuff, eventually met a great gal, married her and built a great house to be filled up with three of the greatest kids in the world.

We could have settled anywhere... I insisted on Neshaminy. My only regret is that my kids never got to have Mrs. D.

So... Ruby... all of this greatness came crumbling down in a great tragedy when I lost my great job.. thus losing my great income. So... I don't have the money I used to have, but I still have the great kids... and they deserve a great education.

I think the only job greater than the one I lost is that of a teacher's.

So thanks for the compliment! But I am not a teacher... I'm just not great enough.

Mark said...

We should pull the latest offer from the table and find a legal means to institute a new contract. I am sure the community would stand behind that stance. I am interested to know if there is another workplace situation in this country were the employees run the show? Unions were established when they were needed to prevent child labor, to improve working conditions and to get a fair pay. These attributes are gone. Instead we have a Union that is a business in itself. They have high priced lobbyists, highly paid management teams and their main goal is not for their employees but to prosper financially. I just wish individual teacher has the right to opt out if they wanted to. Seems like our system is really messed up. We need change.

st319 said...

I too attended back to school night at the high school. I was annyoyed that the parents were made to park in the back because the teachers who were protesting took up all the spots in the front.

Out of courtesy to the parents, the protesting teachers should have parked in the back. But I'm not surprised. Rules don't seem to apply to them, so why should I expect courtesy.

And for those of you who doubt that the NFT protests on school grounds were illegal, just ask Dr. Muenker or a school board member if the NFT was notified of the legalities of their protest.

Don't let the small number of parent protesters fool you. There was second guessing if back to school night was the appropriate place to voice their objections. Those who organized it had to show up. Word around town is that another venue will be more appropriate.

So for those of you who have strong feelings about the NFT's back to school night actions and what they are asking for in their contract, I suggest you be at the next school board meeting. I'll be there!

Gabriel said...

I don't know if it's the readers on this blog or William's judicious editing, but I am thankful this blog is so much more civil than the Courier blog. It's getting downright nasty over there. I understand this is a controversial and emotional issue, but I don't understand why people must resort to insults when sharing their opinions.

IL, sounds like you have hero worship but that's ok. Even though you and I disagree over this contract, it's nice to read your story of how a teacher inspired you. And I agree with your statement that regardless of our individual financial situations, our children still deserve a good education. Let's face it, even if our teachers were making dirt poor money, there are many in this community who still wouldn't want to give them a dime.

Having said this, I still believe the expired contract is not economically viable for this area. The salaries don't bother me - I'll pay $100k/year for a teacher like IL's Mrs. Daly. The truly great ones should be compensated. So I'm ok with the Board's offer regarding the raise.

What I cannot support are the benefits afforded to our teachers. Free benefits, a retirement perk, free insurance until age 65. That's wonderful for the people who have those benefits, but terrible for us who have to subsidize it.

Both sides should adopt a 90-day cooling off period so the rhetoric can subside. They're not going to settle this dispute any time soon so why not at least let tensions die down.

Libertae said...

A 90 day cooling off period??? I think they've met twice in the last six months. These negotiations need to be resuscitated ... not cooled off!

acs said...

This is silly talk. The only way the board goes back totable it when boyd utters the following words "we will do what is right for the NSD budget and community and pay pur fair share for healthcare like all other districts" Period. Maybe before the board outsources Mndy and company and cuts more programs and closes another school and on and on and on....
Until then, hang in Ritchie and William you guys are real heros to the community.Not often we see people stand up for the right thing. The community is seeing more everyday just how much in the wrong Boyd and freinds are. Keep it up.

ssrudy said...

Mr. Webb is just making it known that this is how alot of parents feel about retaliation. I talk to parents everyday and they all feel the same. I went to the last board meeting and this was before I really understood what was going on and the teachers that I had helped in their classes and thought I had a good repore with totally ignored me when I said hello and wouldn't even make eye contact with me. How can you trust people who are one way in the school building and another way out in the real world.

Libertae said...

ACS - I agree the teachers need to make concessions; but the only place they will make these concessions is at the negotiating table. No matter what any of us say on these blogs, at school board meetings, or out in front of the schools, the contract must be ironed out at the bargaining table. If there are no negotiations, there will not be a settlement. Too bad we can't do like they do in private negotiations and lock both sides in a room until they come up with an agreement.

JS said...


Apparently the teachers were told by their union leadership to not park on school grounds if they were not teachers in the High School.

Apparently though this was not followed by many, and unlike the Elementary or Middle School nights the teachers involved with the picketing were also part of Back to School Night.

You have those teachers that felt the need to picket on a night that they were supposed to be focused on education, and then you have those forced to make a union statement of solidarity in the faces of their students parents. I really doubt that the NFT is as solid and unified as they want us to think.

Ivy League said...

Lib... I would venture to say the teachers would be in favor of a 'round the clock negotiations... I am not so sure about the board.

JS and ST... about the MASSIVE parking issue.

Way back on the first back to school night... I was rushing back from my parents' past our local middle school about an hour before the back to school night activities were scheduled to begin ... keep in mind this was the first night... when I could have sworn to God I thought I saw some of my other kids' teachers all walking down the street towards the middle school. I promptly forgot about it, got in the house and grabbed a quick shower and shave before the wife and I headed out to the night's events. When I got to the school and saw them with their signs... WHAM-O!!!! I knew why I thought I saw them; just another Scooby Doo mystery solved by yours truly

As soon as I read your parking comment I wanted to respond, but I decided to do a little further investigation... after all... I got nothing but time lately.

So.... I called this acquaintance of ours whose brother teaches in the District to inquire about the MASSIVE parking issue!

GUESS WHAT............

1. The visiting-picketing teachers emphatically did NOT park at the buildings they were picketing at. In fact they had anticipated a parking problem TWO WEEKS before any of the board members or administrators even knew about their plans which segues nicely into #2...

2. NOBODY told the teachers not to park in the lots because:
a. they didn't know about it
b. they didn't need to as it was a nonissue.

Think about it... why would they want to frustrate and annoy the very people they are appealing to?

I know what you are thinking..., "But I saw them! I saw them park, picket and present!" What you witnessed on your nightly constitutional was teachers who teach at the school standing side-by-side with their colleagues prior to entering and presenting. That's what I saw my kid's 1st period teacher.

Certainly none of you are suggesting the teachers who work at each school

Again, just another example of naysayers jumping to conclusions, making assumptions and spreading them around. So check it out, get the facts and then apologize for poking the fires.

Surely you are kidding right? For God's sake man... you are upset because the seats were up? That's done to help the janitors (remember...a bunch of them got the axe too). You're mad the room was dark? The District installed lights and sensors that automatically turn off after a certain period of time when there isn't any movement in the room. You are mad the teacher wasn't there to personally greet you? It's not a conference... call and schedule a meeting... like you would a doctor's appointment. You made an effort to be there? Big deal. It's your kid... you're supposed to make an effort! I am pretty sure the teachers moved their schedules around too.

Do us all a favor before you (and others for that matter) hit reply and tell us it's their job... go ask if the teachers HAVE to contractually be there on Back to school night or not. According to my friend's bro... THE TEACHERS GO VOLUNTARILY.

Never mind... I'll do it for you-

William... please tell us:

1. Where, if at all, it says the teachers MUST attend Back to School night.

2.) Please also tell us who, if anyone, directed the picketing teachers not to park on school property.

3.) Should teacher who are presenting in their schools be able to park on school property.

4.) What SPECIFIC state law/s prohibits teachers from picketing and exercising their first amendment right of assembly?

acs said...

My understanding (and the fact) is that Mr. Webb and the board have left the door wide open time and time again for Boyd to walk through. Maybe her membership should ask her why she is not doing that?
Certain people on this blog VERY PRO UNION AND TEACHER are trying to make this emotional. Believe me there is no emotion on the Union side it is 100% business and it is only about winning at our expense. When will you few stragglers learn this fact? When you can no longer afford to live here?

JS said...

Hey Ivy, I usually check my facts before making any comments, so you can scooby do what ever you want.

The teachers were directed by their own leadership (i.e. Louise Boyd, etc) that unless they were teachers involved with Back To School Night at that building that they should not park on said school grounds (This was asked and confirmed by at least a half dozen teachers in different buildings). The problem was, and I directly asked teachers (from different buildings) if they followed these directions. The ones I asked said they did (I'll have to take their words on that), but acknowledged that a good majority didn't and parked in the parking lot of the school they were at. Sorry no Scooby Snack for you on that one unless you want to get in a back and forth about which teacher is lying. Now which one could it be, the one admitting that teachers weren't following their own groups directions or the one saying their was no group direction and the figured out this good gesture on its own?

To address the point that most of those seen parking on the High School grounds were actually High School Teachers... Well I guess I can't confirm or deny all of those (except for again the admission of teachers saying they saw Elementary/Middle school teachers park on school grounds).

So apparently a good majority of teachers felt the need to ignore their own union direction (and an obvious arrogance to make the parents of their students trek longer to the schools) so what does that say about them?

Also you comment about whether or not the teachers HAVE to be at Back to School Night. Why have it if the teachers are not going to be there?

Along these lines be careful of what you want to propose, because it does not cast a favorable light if you claim that we only pay for what the teachers do during the contracted time (i.e. 188.5 days, 7 hours a day). If you want to claim that teachers don't HAVE to do anything outside of those 7 hours a day, fine, then we should pay them that way (I think that's not the case because any teacher who is above mediocre will tell you that they have to do work concerning school outside of those 7 hours, and I agree with them).

A years worth of hours comes to 1319 (a person working 5 days 40 hours a week will work 2080). If a teacher makes $60,000 a year that equates to $45 an hour. A regular worker would only get paid $28 an hour. If you take a teacher at the top of the pay scale making $90,000 their hourly rate is a wopping $68 an hour. If that person worked a normal 40 hour work week 52 weeks a year they would make $141,000.

So if you think that teachers should only be expected to do what the contract says, then maybe we should only pay them for what the contract says. With your logic it seems we are severely over paying for the things the HAVE to do.

Joe-in-Bucks said...

Ivy League..

Yes, I expect to come to an organized classroom...after all, I am paying thier salary. While it is not a conference, it is a group meeting and every meeting i have facilitated had an agenda and started on time. But that is my expectation.

I will not speak for William, but I think the concern is not the protesting, it is the location. The property they were picketing on is PRIVATE proterty owned by the Neshaminy school district.

KClarinet said...

"Certain people on this blog VERY PRO UNION AND TEACHER are trying to make this emotional."

And many of those who favor the board's position are not being emotional?

"My understanding (and the fact) is that Mr. Webb and the board have left the door wide open time and time again for Boyd to walk through."

If and only if she (and NFT) accept the board's 15-16-17% health care figure up front as a pre-condition. Not just the principle that teachers must pay some part of the premium, but that they must specifically accept a jump from 0% to 15% in the first year.

William O'Connor said...

I have your answers IL but not the time at the moment. Check back later today or tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

acs said...

KC, You restate my points very well very well. NSD teachers have received a FREE ride for years....15% is well below what people pay. You really need to get your facts straight. Not to be insulting buy KC I feel like I keep having to educate you. Please get a copy of the CBA and learn history of the NSD NFT and former board collusion to award an unparalleled contract to a very mediocre SD-Top earners and middle of the pack student performance. NFT out negotiated the board and taxpayers have been the victims ever since. 15% healthcare contribution is and should be the ticket to enter negotiations and I think it will continue to be. My take is let Boyd hold out til her "so-called loyal membership" throws her out when they haven't received raises for 2-3 years. The board has teh community behind them...the more people learn about this the angier they get. Kind of like Obamacare.....:)

KClarinet said...

It's too bad - educatedness seems to be defined by the degree to which one agrees with ACS's view of "history." Buy the view that "board collusion to award an unparalleled contract to a very mediocre SD-Top earners and middle of the pack student performance" and you're smart and informed. Take a different perspective and you're (I'm) uneducated, immature (I was told in an earlier exchange to "grow up") and a few other things that ACS has called me and anyone else expressing even moderate support for the NFT's basic position that take-it-or-leave-it and negotiation are mutually exclusive.

Levittowner said...

Teachers..please please urge your union rep to come to the table willing to accept the contribution percentage to healthcare. (if you are able to sway her, I admit I don't know much about the ins and outs of the union)

Although the actions at back to school night really bothered me, I hestitate to start standing up *against* the teachers. There are so many wonderful ones that have touched my children's lives and are dealing so well with cuts in staff and budget.

I can only speak for myself, but the language of the "taxpayer" group seems to go from angry to angrier (sort of a " you money grubbing selfish teachers" lean to it)I don't want to associate with that energy. I think it only leads to defensiveness and a real sense of sadness on the part of those wonderful teachers. Again, I'm not happy with what has transpired with back to school night and the potential of teachers "teaching to contract"

I hate this road we are starting down the "us" vs. "them"

I have been talking with teachers individually and speaking out by contacting the school board.

I guess my point is that don't assume people are all "behind" the teachers' demands just because we aren't wearing the red shirts of anger.

acs said...

Thanks KC. Not sure I ever said "grow up" to you however it does seem that you and the teachers have a very sheltered and yes "uneducated" view of the real world. What comforts me is 95% + of us have the right view of this situation. I understand how you and others would feel about that with your view of this.
But look at it this way people like you have gotten your way for 20 years just as the NFT has. The grown ups have shown up and party is over. I know this is always hard to take.

William O'Connor said...

Ok you two, cool it! This is an emotional issue, so let's not fight over what the motivations are or who is the adult here.

Libertae said...

I'm not sure if it's been done before, but has anyone considered what other local districts are paying their teachers and what percentage of health care those teachers are paying? I seem to recall seeing 8 to 10 % mentioned for healthcare contribution for some districts. This is in-line with what the district initially offered the Neshaminy teachers. Maybe this would be a "middle ground" to shoot for. I can see ACS's point about the district not doing anything; they must be saving a ton of money by not paying the teachers any pay increases over the last two years. But we also must consider that the teachers have continued to do their jobs (beyond what is stipulated in the contract) for the last two years; I don't think they will do so indefinitely.

4u2nv said...

Please find the actual Neshaminy teacher salaries at the following link:

A 6% raise will put most of my children's teachers salaries into the six figure category!!! I do not know of anyone in the past year who has received a salary increase...only lay-offs, forced salary/ hourly decreases and dissolved employer retirement contributions on top of the 401K landslide.

The timing of this contract negotiation could not be any worse. Allow the economy and our citizens to get back on their feet before you attempt to dig your hands deeper into our pockets. The lack of free-thinking on the part on the NFT is seriously disheartening.

acs said...

4, You make a good point. However the salaries are certainly concerning but add to that concern the following, if teachers get raises at 3-6% for next 4 years that goes into the pension calculation and over the next 4 years we will be taxed above and beyond our current school tax to the tune of 10% + annually to refund the state worker pensions including our teachers. These raises increase our tax liability that much more. So it is a double whammy to us, raises we cannot afford to give then compounding the pension cost since pensions are based on annual pay.
This is bad but nothing is as bad as our burden for NSD teachers' healthcare cost at an average of $22K per family that you and I pay 100% of.
As you probabaly know this has gone up 120% in last decade just has it has for each of us that pay for our own families since no one pays for us. This is the crux of the budget problem with 75% or more of our costs are for labor. It is no longer sustainable for teachers to get this free ride on our backs.

William O'Connor said...

IL, my answers to your questions below in CAPS:

1. Where, if at all, it says the teachers MUST attend Back to School night.

2.) Please also tell us who, if anyone, directed the picketing teachers not to park on school property.

3.) Should teacher who are presenting in their schools be able to park on school property.

4.) What SPECIFIC state law/s prohibits teachers from picketing and exercising their first amendment right of assembly?

Aside from this, I wanted to add that I personally witnessed picketing teachers parking on school grounds on two occasions - at Hoover and at Neshaminy High School. I know who these teachers are and can say with absolute certainty that they were not teachers at the school they were picketing at.

William O'Connor said...

IL, forgot to add one more thing regarding reasonable time, place and manner . . . since the school board provides forums for public speech such as school board meetings and public work sessions, those would be the reasonable time and place for protests (but still off school grounds).

Ivy League said...

Thanks William ... A few more questions if you would be so indulgent:
Was this Prophy's interpretation of the law or Counselor Sweet's? Were both lawyers consulted? If so... Were they in agreement?

I did some investigation myself, as I am confident the teachers did as well.... That's why I was looking for specific cases as the ones I read don't really apply; let's just say it's a stretch.

Finally... Perhaps the two teachers you witnessed parking at Hoover and NHS were parents of students at those buildings. I know I saw parents at the back to school nights I attended wearing proudly wearing their NFT attire; I cab only suppose they were teachers AND parents. Where should they have parked?

William O'Connor said...

The research was provided through Mr. Sweet, and Mr. Profy was copied on the opinion.

I didn't say I saw only two teachers, I witnessed picketing teachers parking on school grounds on two occasions. I knew many of the teachers (even said hello to a number of them), and I know they don't even live in the district. The one teacher I recognized who did live in the district doesn't have any kids. So none of those teachers could be there for back to school night as a parent or as a teacher of the school. To be clear, I don't know if some teachers parked off site or not. But there is no question that a good number of the teachers, especially at the high school, parked on school grounds and had no other business to being there other than their protest.

Str8 Shutr said...

I'm curious where you stand on the specific contract issues Ivy League. The teachers want an average 6% raise and the board offered 3%, teachers want to no charge for benefits and the board offered 15-17%, the teachers want to increase their retirement perk to $30k while the board wants to eliminate it completely.

I know there are other contract disagreements but let's just focus on these three. What would you say is what the teachers should get?

Eye on the Future said...

To all the negative influences on the blog,

I have a difficult time understanding why you are dead set against the teachers. Do you not care about the future youth of this area? I like to consider myself an educated but innocent bystander in this issue because it does directly involve me as far as my taxes go, but not because I am directly involved in the issue. I know from past history that the school board, backed by the elders of Flowers Mill, do not care for the future leaders of our society; why else would you subject the students to such ridiculous conditions which occurred with the renovations vs. constructing a new school. Now to see how cost effective our Board is with the corners they cut in the new building is almost vomit inducing. The new high school is a sham, congratulations you wasted countless millions of dollars on a building which is too small and will require modular classrooms in a few years.

My major issue with the majority of the public who post to this blog is that they do not have the foresight to address our future problems. The public is just as guilty as the board if they choose to not keep the teachers current salaries competitive or above surrounding school districts. Some of you who post feel it would be better to fire the teachers and replace them with the numerous young college graduates who are waiting in the wings to take their jobs, well not if the money isn’t there. Neshaminy starts teachers at a base salary around 42,000. Most districts in the immediate area are above that starting salary and some districts in the state are crossing the 50,000 mark.

Now let’s role play. You are a college graduate, you are offered a job at 42K and one at 50K where do you go? It’s a no-brainer right? Now how does that affect your children, well if Neshaminy has a job opening they may only get 3-5 applications for the position and districts with higher salaries, I will use Council Rock for this example, will receive 15-20 applications. The more people interested in working in our schools means we can be more selective, thus hire better qualified teachers. Think about the tough to staff positions, chemistry, physics, math; this only hurts the district in the long run if they cannot put the best possible candidates in front of the students.

I really want the public to have the vision to see problems and solutions as they are being presented. I find it hard to believe that the teachers are so naive to not offer some lower demands from their initial offer. It is the board who does not understand that you start at two ends and find a median; you do not just start with a median offer. I would offer to you Mr. O’Conner to answer one question. What is causing the two parties to cease the negotiating events? They both sound like they want to negotiate. If it helps I will purchase a pizza so you can talk it over with a nice slice of pizza.

p.s. - I love the misspelled poster on the front of the blog, really has a “no need for good teachers” ring to it. I think the teachers would settle for free "heathcare"

acs said...

Eye, You seem new to this and like so many others express idealistic views of the situation. You need to immerse yourself in facts if you want to lecture us all on this blog.
We are way past the platitudes about teachers deserving this or that.
NSD would be a competitive SD to work in for the next 10 years if the teachers got nothing more than the current contract offers. Please learn more then come back and tell all of us how we need to pay more in taxes for NSD teachers to be compensated better then they already are relative to the rest of the community. I am looking for the factual argument that convinces people of this. So far Boyd has not been able to articulate it so I assume you may have trouble using facts to defend what they have now or more importantly what they are demanding. Knock yourself out -write away and convince us of the errors of our thinking on this.

William O'Connor said...

EotF, you make some interesting points but a few clarifications are needed . . .

1) The board did not choose renovation over building a new high school - that was decided by a public referendum in May 2004. The people made that choice.

2) Here are the starting salaries of the schools in Bucks for 2009-2010 . . .
Pennridge $38755
Palisades $41250
Council Rock $42014
Bristol Twp $42091
Neshaminy $42552
Quakertown $43231
Central Bucks $44000
Pennsbury $45176
Centennial $45206
Bristol Boro $45468
New Hope $45820
Bensalem $46059
(Morrisville not available)

Based on your assumption of highest starting salary, recent grads would be flocking not to Council Rock or Neshaminy, but to districts like Bristol Boro and Bensalem. I don't think that is necessarily the case.

Will grads focus their efforts on the starting salary or will they look towards where the greatest growth opportunity is? Bristol Boro has a higher starting salary than Council Rock or Neshaminy, but their top salary is $93,465 as compared to CR's $101,533 or Neshaminy's $95,923. Keep in mind that Neshaminy has a more aggessive step program than other districts, so a teacher can achieve top salary more quickly than they can in other districts.

3) As to why negotiations haven't progressed, I guess that's open to some interpretation. Both sides have stated there is one key issue they will not negotiate on - for the board, it's no retro-pay (because we cannot afford to give that on top of a new contract without cutting programs); for the NFT, it's contributing to their healthcare premiums. During a negotiation session, the NFT president said something to the effect that paying for benefits is not on the table and it never was.

Speaking only for myself and not for the other board members, if the NFT won't put benefits on the table, there is no need for further discussion at this time. Our district cannot maintain financial viability under the current contract terms, and the cost of healthcare is the most significant factor in that issue.

Coming into negotiations with the intention of low-balling your offer so as to allow for middle ground seems like an awful waste of time to me. But if that's the argument, then the board should have come in with an offer of 0% increase and demands that teachers pay for 25% of their health benefits. But what does that matter because we eventually end up with our best offer anyway, and the NFT has still to make any concessions regarding their demands for a 6% average salary increase, free benefits, and a $30,000 retirement perk (up from the current $27,500). Can you honestly tell me we'd be in a different situation now if our original offer was 0%/25%?

4) The last thing I wanted to suggest that you have a little humility when commenting on the protesting parents from the other night. Yes, they had an embarrassing misspelling on their sign, but they were there to stand up for what they believed in and they obeyed the law and remained off property. It's easy to sit there and poke fun at them but that will hardly influence others to your way of thinking. Look at it another way . . .
You made a point in your comment about starting salaries which I didn't believe would be a factor, so I chose to respond with some facts about starting salaries in the area and applied my own logic to the situation. But that leaves the door open to you to disagree and come back for further dialogue. But what if I said something like "Eye, you need to do your homework and get the facts straight before you utter such nonsense"? Surely that would have served nothing other than to anger you, and there is no way you would even consider the points I tried to make.

One comment you made is true - there are people in our community (and this blog) who come off as sounding anti-teacher. But you weaken your own position when you go after parents who disagree with the NFT's demands. In essence you're behaving exactly as they do.

Thank you for posting, and I hope you will continue to share your opinion on this blog.

time4change said...

Dear Eye,

I have friends who have move to other states to get a teaching job after trying for years to get one hear in the public system(they had 4.0 masters science and had be teacher in private for a couple of years)I have another who has been long term sub. Neshaminy will always have a great big pool of people to pick teachers out of.
The problem I see is that people like myself are tired of pay more per student that other schools like council rock and not seeing any benefits for my children actually seeing programs being taken away or offered up like they mean nothing (eighth grade language) to keep the taxes down. Where is our money going what does council rock do soo different that neshaminy. I went and looked at a house 1/2 acre 2200 sq ft and taxes were 4200.00 even if I add the 1% to that it is less than mine in Levittown.
Now on to the reason why I will move if Neshaminy school district takes any more educational programs away or reduces them any more ie music,computer,languages(I can't believe we have made it mandatory for a language in elementary school. I can not beleive that the people who claim to teach because they love children. would allow the children, schools,community,and parents that work so hard for them(volunteers) suffer by not hearing their cry's of help . No one wants the teachers to lose their jobs but we have been asked to take on the burdens for our companies and have had to lose the previous gains in our salaries so now it is their turn and they have decide to act like a person that thinks they are entitled and that is the main problem. They have yet to be reasonable at this time.....

JS said...

First off I'll back William for the response that no one on here should just be saying 'No you're wrong, come back when you're right'. That's not what this blog is for and does not induce any meaningful discussion.

With that being said, EotF I think William documented how the starting salary in Neshaminy is well within the range of surrounding districts. The point to also note is exactly as he stated is that in Neshaminy you currently have the least amount of years to get to the top pay scale. Even if you don't take into account the yearly raise and only the steps, a first year teacher would in a mere 11 years have their salary increased almost 85% (that's an average of 7.75% a year JUST in steps, now imagine adding an additional 2.75% a year in COL raise and it is pretty drastic) Note: This was the previous contract, not what the new contract would be, I don't think exact step levels have even been talked about yet.

So from a salary stand point I don't think Neshaminy teachers are anywhere but at the top in the area (you can argue whether they are top or not, but that doesn't change that they are up there). The thing that pushes their contract over and above everyone else is their benefits (medical and retirement).

Free healthcare premiums cost the district an additional $2 million dollars this year. That's with no salary raises. Imagine what those costs together would do to the budget? No possible way for taxes to not be raises and if you count increased costs of maintenance and utilities it might not even be below ACT limits. So how would you feel saying that every year we'll have to cut an additional program just to support the contract the NFT wants? Eventually we won't have much to cut (and just wait until the pension fund crisis hits).

The fact is that even teachers WITH contracts have negotiated give backs to levels AT or below the current offer by the Board. Those teachers seem to care about more than themselves, why don't the NFT? I can't answer that one.

I concur that if the NFT really wants to "meet in the middle" then I urge the Board to rescind their current offer and go with a 0% raise (maybe .5%, better than nothing) and 25% contribution (on the most expensive health plan in the country, which is what the teachers chose). Then you can meet in the middle and I wonder what the middle might look like....

JS said...

I need to address something slightly off topic of the teachers contract.

I agree that the recently completed construction project appears to have been badly overseen with massive cuts compared to what we were expecting.

I also agree that the group CARE and the countless additional seniors it rounded up did vote down the referendum concerning a new High School.

Here is the problem. People assume that because the referendum question (essentially "Should we build a brand new building at X cost") failed that those who voted against it were for the renovation/construction plan. That's not the case. If you took a poll of the majority of the seniors who were rounded up and encouraged to vote down the referendum you would find out something interesting.

Most of them thought when they were voting "no" that they were voting against ANY new construction. (And the referendum was a Yes or No question, not an either/or) A good majority I have talked to about this were adamant that if they had know they were choosing either or then they would have gone with NEW CONSTRUCTION.

So yes you can blame the seniors for the most part on not getting a building because that was the question, but not that they chose renovation of new because that's not what they were asked.

acs said...

William, Please help here. I have tried hard but why do people still think there is a middle ground above what you and the board have offered? How many times adn different ways do you have to say this is IT to to the NFT for the community to understand that there is no more to be offered this time around. The middle is your best adn final offer. Please help people really truly believe this. They seem to be befuddled with this and in disbelief that this is as good as it gets for NFT.

William O'Connor said...

JS, as usual you are on the money. The community who voted against the new high school did so because a certain unnamed advocate of renovation publicly stated that a "good as new" renovation could be done for $35 million. Then as the referendum got closer, that number went up to $45 million, then $52 million, then its final resting place of "it won't go over $60 million."

In January of 2004, my wife and I pleaded with the new Board (who had months earlier derailed the previous Board's vote to proceed with a new school) to immediately commission a facilities study so the community could understand what the cost of renovation would actually be. The new Board ignored our requests till March when it was virtually impossible to get accurate numbers to the public in time for the referendum.

I even confronted the unnamed renovation advocate to inform him that his $60 million renovation plan, which was a rehash from a previous plan submitted by BASCO, lacked sufficient square footage to student ratio and would never be allowed by the State. This individual just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and gave me a little smirk. A few weeks later, the referendum was defeated.

If the public were given a chance to vote on this reconstruction realizing its costs would be comparable to new construction, they would have voted it down too. More importantly, I think more voters would have supported the origninal referendum if they understood the cost differential would be minimal at best, not to mention taking a year longer to complete.
Thanks for bringing up bad memories, JS. I need to go take a walk now.

KClarinet said...

Mr. O'Connor said:
"for the board, it's no retro-pay (because we cannot afford to give that on top of a new contract without cutting programs); for the NFT, it's contributing to their healthcare premiums."

I think, though, that in my understanding, these aren't the bottom-line sticking points. In the first place, retroactivity is normally nearly the last thing that gets settled in a negotiating process, and I've not heard anything from Louise Boyd in print about it one way or the other. I'm seriously interested to know if I've missed something along the way.

The position that, it seems to me, has raised all the fuss has been Mr. Webb's insistence in print that the current offer is the board's final one and that, in effect, no negotiation is possible. The NFT negotiators have always taken the position that a settlement needs to be negotiated at the table, not in the press or on a website.

"...if the NFT won't put benefits on the table, there is no need for further discussion at this time." Has NFT ever said in any public forum that their current offer is non-negotiable. We have only Mr. Webb's recounting that at the last negotiating session someone on the negotiating team said something "to the effect" (your words) that paying any share of the benefits cost was off the table. There's of course a lot of room in "to the effect" for misunderstanding or missing important contextual qualification of something like that. And if Mr. Webb was only relating what someone else on the Board's team said he or she heard, then the statement is not only paraphrased out of context, but second (or, when you repeat it here, third) hand to begin with. You've already said you weren't there and didn't hear the actual statement.

I'm not claiming such a statement wasn't made or that anyone's making anything up, only that for our purposes here I think we really don't know what exactly was said or what it meant. Before I'd invest any energy into accepting that the NFT position is irrevocably and forever that teachers will pay nothing toward health coverage, I'd want to know more about the statement or to hear it repeated somewhere else publicly and unequivocally by a member of the NFT negotiating team, preferably Louise Boyd herself.

Mr. O'Connor, I don't mean in any way to attack the sincerity of your view. I am genuinely interested to know - but can accept if you don't want to be pinned down publicly - whether your specific understanding is that the NFT is unwilling to consider any teacher share of benefit cost ever, or if it's simply that it won't accept the board's 15%-17% offer? And if the former, what that understanding is based on.

William O'Connor said...

I don't think it matters what you or I say ACS because ultimately people want this resolved and they assume there must be give and take on both sides no matter what the reality of the situation may be.

But for the sake of being repetitive, the board put together an offer we felt was as fair and affordable as possible, keeping in mind that the NFT's demands would vault us over the Act 1 limit (4.1% at the time) before any other budgeting was done. This would translate into educational programs being cut so we could make our budget, and that is simply not something this board was prepared to do.

We did not approach this process as let's go in low so we can meet in the middle. We came up with the best offer we could and that's what we went with. Now that the state-mandated budgetary limit for next year is 2.9%, the financial challenge is even greater. If this matter isn't settled soon, this may force us into cost savings strategies we would rather not have to deal with.

People need to remember that even without contractual increases going into this budget year (aside from our escalating healthcare costs), we still had to cut bus stops, and eliminate the midday K bus run, consolidate teaching schedules for art/music instructors. Can you imagine what we would have had to cut if the Board gave into the NFT's demands?

William O'Connor said...

KClarinet, my understanding is Louise Boyd of the NFT uttered words along the lines of "paying for benefits is not on the table, and they never were." I use the phrase "along the lines of" because I was not present in the room. I cannot quote someone I was not present to hear for myself, but I am comfortable relying on the recollection of my fellow board members who are part of the negotiation team who were there.

Instead of coming to me, I think the more appropriate course of action is to ask Louise Boyd if paying for benefits is off the table or not. If she says no, then insist she speaks publicly at the next board meeting and says just that - paying for benefits is a negotiable item. She doesn't even have to specify how much - just go on record that the NFT really is ready to negotiate this issue.

Don't you think such a statement would force us all back to the negotiation table immediately? And you won't even need teachers picketing to make it happen.

acs said...

Thanks William. Good Answer and it lays out the fundamental problem of affordability thatsome people do not seem understand because they seem to have no problem raising taxes to give teachers anything they want!
KC et al, in Aug and Sept Boyd refuse to open talks if healthcare contributions by teacherts were on the table as a stipulation to negotiations. You can accept this or not but it is fact.

Mr. and the whole board is holding firm. A unified board is a huge problem for boyd.

KClarinet said...

"...ask Louise Boyd if paying for benefits is off the table or not. If she says no, then insist she speaks publicly at the next board meeting and says just that - paying for benefits is a negotiable item...
Don't you think such a statement would force us all back to the negotiation table immediately?"

Well, that was essentially my question. Because either 15%-17% is negotiable or it isn't. If all it would take to get things rolling would be for the NFT to accept the principle of having teachers pay some share, then things might look dramatically different from "take 15%-17% or leave it."

Unfortunately, I have no contact or influence with Ms. Boyd. But I'm certain that some who do are among this blog's readers.

JS said...

William, sorry about drudging those up. I actually came across meeting minutes of you speaking up about this in my search for the exact wording of the referendum.

You know my views on the whole project as well (including the actual implementation of it) so I can understand it not being a fond memory.

I think you bring up a good point about what the NFTs demands would do to the budget. I think if the teachers don't budge that would be the route to go next. People respond to numbers. If you can say that this list of items would cost the district X number of dollars requiring Y increase in taxes that would hit home a resounding point.

I still think people think the district is currently saving money by not giving raises, when in reality because of premiums we are still spending more each year.

I really think that information would make a big impact (just like the numbers did in convincing people about the Renovation, even if they endedup proving false).

nostradamus said...

Mr. O'Connor said "If this matter isn't settled soon, this may force us into cost savings strategies we would rather not have to deal with."

My interpretation is he is referring to the outsourcing bids and their impact on the support workers. If the teachers do not agree to reduced benefits and contributions soon, and then the outsourcing bids come back showing millions in savings, you won't need my prediction to figure out what will happen to the support workers.

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

Wow more doom and gloom predicted by Nostradamus. Nothing personal but I liked you more when you were funny.

A favor William, could you re-post Nostradamus comments last school year when he predicted stuff like Pastor exploding in mid sentence and you trying to make a 911 call on your cell phone only to be stopped by Webb because technology wasn't permitted under board policy. That was Nostradamus at his very best, and we could use a laugh right around now.

Speaking of Pastor, did anyone notice him getting ripped in a letter in the Courier today? Ouch!

Sorry to be off topic but I'm getting a little tired of all this contract crap. I know it's a big deal but I need a change.

Thank you.

finance-101 said...

To JS:

You make some really good points about the HS Renovation.

There are many, many reasons why the renovation was a mistake but people don't realize how bad that decision was financially.

The renovation really cost Neshaminy about $150 million dollars. That takes into account the lost real estate value of all homes in the district. When a district builds a new high school, homes immediately appreciate $5,000 to $10,000. That is what happened in Central Bucks. Realtors that I have spoken to in Doylestown have said that when people move into that district,they want to move into the area that will send their child to CB South, not CB East or CB West. Educationally the 3 high schools are the same, but CB South has the new high school. Homes in the CB South region have gone way up and the residents in that region have been rewarded.

We have between 10 and 15 thousand homes in the Neshaminy district. That's a lot of lost real estate value.

O'Connor and Spitz fought hard for the new high school but the majority didn't listen. I don't think people realized at the time what they were voting for.

William O'Connor said...

Here you go Jersey (From March 2009): Nostradamus' most famous predictions . . .

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.

srodos said...

His comments were pretty funny.

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

My two favorites are

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

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

TFR1984 said...

No updated word on talk with the support staff? Many good people in that bunch and I don't want to see them lose their jobs to outsourcing, especially when their leader seems to be following in the misguided footsteps of the NFT. They unfortunately lack the protection that the certified staff has, and that makes them vulnerable.

When their jobs are gone, what will Ms. Anderson do? Does she think the NFT will lift a finger to help them? The NFT will quickly use them as martyrs to bolster their own cause, then dispense with them just as quickly when they no longer serve the purpose.

The support staff are hardworking, local people who really need these jobs. Please Mr. O'Connor, keep the negotiations going long enough to allow their leadership to come around before it is too late.

acs said...

TFR, I agree but there is no settlement coming anytime soon for the NFT contract therefore the support staff will be FORCED to accept the board's offer soon. I am sure they understand the board is seriously getting outside bids. There is no choice with the savings we need to find due to the NFT.
I have to believe Mindy realizes they have no power in this. Although apparently whe isn't speakking to her memebers(csld).Support staff can be replaced instantly for immediate cost savings. Unfortunatly we are stuck for LIFE with our teachers and their miguided union.