Friday, September 18, 2009

A tutorial on fairness

*** Updated at 2:50pm ***
Click here to read the official School Board response

It was Back To School night at Neshaminy’s middle schools yesterday, and parents were greeted by picketing teachers who ventured onto school grounds to hand out literature explaining their position in the ongoing contract negotiations.

The lit piece (click on the image to enlarge it) was called a free 60-second course on how to negotiate a “fair” contract and it told a story of how the district isn’t negotiating fairly while the NFT helplessly waits for us to come around in our thinking.

Of course I find this piece of literature to be just a tad one-sided, so I’ve prepared a supplemental tutorial entitled Sounds fair to me . . .

We are in a jobless recovery with record unemployment, but the NFT is demanding what amounts to an annual average 6% - 7% raise. We offered them in excess of 3%. Sounds fair to me.

We are in the midst of a national debate on health care as millions of Americans have no insurance at all. Those who have insurance through their employer contribute minimally 25% - 35% or more to the monthly costs, but the NFT insists that teachers contribute nothing towards their top tier coverage. We asked for contributions of 15% - 17%. Sounds fair to me.

As taxpayers are about to be burdened (again) with
funding the shortfall in the State workers pension plan (which covers the teachers), the NFT says that isn’t enough and believes each teacher is entitled to retirement perks like a $30,000 payout and free health insurance until Medicare kicks in. We think that’s excessive and have said there should be no extra retirement perks at all. Sounds fair to me.

The NFT complains that this is a “teachers lose on all points” negotiation, but what about the last two contracts where the taxpayers lost on all points? Sounds fair to me.

Unfortunately for the teachers, the NFT isn’t interpreting public reaction correctly. They confuse the public’s desire for settlement of this dispute as partial support for their demands, and apparently they think picketing on school grounds will put more pressure on the Board to back down. That kind of thinking is as out of touch with reality as is the continued demand for free benefits, and that’s what the NFT doesn’t seem to get.



Susan said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more!

Susan said...

Perhaps parents and students should hand out literature that says: "My parents pay for part of their health insurance; how about YOU?"

Pianomom said...

I have supported our teachers on this blog and in public but last night was the last straw for me. How dare they invade school grounds and shove that propoganda in my face. Do teachers really think this is going to get them public support?

Many teachers at Maple Point know me, and I know they read this blog. Guess what - you just lost one of your biggest supporters. Your union has made numerous mistakes throughout and this ranks as the biggest. You guys really blew it this time!

Jake said...

If anyone knows where you can get pins made up quick and cheap the board should hand them out at the high school night. The pins should say "3,285 days overpaying for free teacher benefits"

platypus said...

Isn't it funny how the union criticizes the board for negotiating in public but they have no hesitation in promoting their agenda to the public by handing out leaflets on school grounds or wearing stickers on their shirts during the school day. Hypocrites!!

Gabriel said...

I won't engage in teacher bashing or smart comments, but I find myself agreeing with Pianomom. Teachers have a right to picket outside the grounds but once they moved the fight onto the property, they crossed a line. Not a smart move at all, and certainly not worthy of the profession.

KClarinet said...

I don't want to argue very much with what you've said except for your point that"but what about the last two contracts where the taxpayers lost on all points?"

I'm not at all sure that the taxpayers lost "on all points" in the last two contracts or that teachers failed to give anything up to get what was finally agreed to. And I don't believe taxpayers have been shortchanged or failed to get their money's worth.

In any case, it's too late to go back and renegotiate those contracts now, Mr. O'Connor, even if your suggestion that they were unfair is true. The contract that needs to be negotiated should have taken effect last school year and needs to deal with today's problems and needs (on both sides), not those of 7 or 13 years ago. Few people currently involved have a very good idea of what the conditions were then on which to base a judgment about what constituted a "fair" agreement in what was a completely different economic, educational and political climate.

It's been repeated here enough to be mantra - no one should be surprised that the teachers would resist going backward. The solution most likely to succeed would be one in which both sides "win" something. Setting a goal that forces a "zero-sum" result - one must "lose" for the other to "win" - may make the eventual "winner" feel good, but the hidden costs of the "victory" may leave it a little hollow at the end.

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

Whoever came up with this idea is about as effective as a Brad Lidge 9th inning relief appearance.

KClarinet said...

It's funny how questionable tactics so easily get equated with (or confounded with) basic positions. I agree that it was a foolish tactic to picket in that way, one that was bound to do exactly what seems to be happening.

But keep in mind, those who say the teachers' picketing on school property lost their support, that the the tactic, however clumsy and pointless, didn't signal any change of position and it didn't reduce their quality as teachers (although it certainly makes their grasp of strategy questionable). If you supported the teachers or held a neutral position, your reasons, I should think, were based on the respective positions of the teachers and the board.

Stupid and inflammatory tactics notwithstanding, the positions have not, as far as I know, changed on either side.

acs said...

KC, Not sure where you are coming from but our teacher are compensated better then almost all in PA and surely 90% + of US. The offer the board has made is much more than fair and taxpayers who REMEMBER the board is in place to represent should have to not give one penny more NOW after the outrage of a 6 year contract. Please go educate yourself on the facts and also on how to negotiate. At some point you make your best and final. The board did it the right way the happen to make their best offer first. No one can argue it is generous and most now argue it is much too generous. I predict if the NFT persists people will start to demand the offer is withdrawn. Teachers need to remember 70% of twp have no kids in school. We can hold out forever.

Also you must take into acct in 2012 we are going to get hit with tax increase we cna do nothing about to cover teacher pension refunding.....could be 10% in 2012 for that alone. Buckle up for fight.

William thanks for the post and the lit most of us did not see it.
NFT has made a huge miscalculation and should accept the board offer tomorrow before it gets worse.

uponfurtherreview said...

That is one way of looking at negotiations kclarinet but here is how I see it ..... Remember that old western The Magnificent Seven ..... The bad guy was stealing all the food and all the women from this poor Mexican town ..... When Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen ride into town with their six guns, then the bad guy wants to negotiate but his idea of the negotiation is ..... Ok I'll take only half of their food and only half of their women ..... In your book that is fair negotiation because he is trying to reach a middle ground but to the rest of us there is nothing to negotiate.

JS said...

KC, I really have to disagree with you.

Yes we can take into account the previous contract and that the taxpayers overpaid in some aspects (as in that contract had perks that no other district has ever gotten). You are right how ever that this new contract must be "fair". Both to the teachers and to the taxpayers.

With that being said I must highlight something ACS pointed out. Usually both groups go with an initial offer and negotiate towards the middle. At some point one side will give a "Best and Final Offer". In this case the Board decided to go with that offer. This is the limit they feel the taxpayers can go to.

Instead of starting at 1 and the NFT at 10 and both meeting at 5, the board started at "5". Why should they now be responsible to give more because they decided to not haggle and give the offer they feel the taxpayers could support (financially).

What you are saying is that the Board should withdraw their current offer, make a new offer of 0% raise and 20% health premiums and then in good faith "negotiate" back up to this current offer.

Now that would really be productive wouldn't it.

Hazeleyes said...

Long time reader but first time poster here. I want the school board and the teachers to negotiate and settle this but it is not that simple. As others have said in the past they made a huge mistake not coming into negotiations with the expectation of paying for benefits. Now they have made matters worse by coming onto school property. I don't think teachers understand that we love them but not their negotiations.

I think the board could have handled some things better but I can't say they have really made any mistakes. The union keeps making bad mistakes and that is why people are reacting like this.

You seem confused by our reactions KClarinet. I am speaking to you as a mom and a pto parent - I don't really want to be dragged into this and I certainly don't want my child dragged into this. I expect that both parties will continue to meet until they get a deal done. But when push comes to shove I will side with the board. Last night, the teachers pushed and shoved this community.

csld said...

It is a shame what happened last night.But I happened to know a few teachers who did not want to wear their shirt or picket but had to.Rumour has it that this will happen again on other open house nights.The bad part for support staff is that we were suppose to meet again with the board last night and we all wonder if it was put off another time because the board knew that the teachers were going to picket.

Levittowner said...

I want to first stress that I have utmost respect for my children’s teachers. I have regularly been impressed with their dedication and willingness to help the students. I love our teachers! I’m at a loss as to what the teachers were trying to accomplish at the back to school night I attended .I was looking forward to getting a taste of the year my children would have and looking forward to meeting their teachers. Instead, I had to walk through a throng of blue-shirts, some of whom had signs. I had a flyer thrust at me at the front door. I felt ambushed by the union and felt I was being pressured to support the union in order to support the teachers. I don’t support the union’s demands, but I love the teachers.

scrubb said...

Wearing their pins and buttons is not the problem, standing at the school entrances is.

Brad Lidge references, the Magnificent Seven. You guys are way out of control :->

TFR1984 said...

What were they thinking?

neshaminy4ever said...

Who told the NFT they have the right to define what is fair for everyone else? You want fair? How about the teachers pay for my benefits?

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

Why hasn't abc123 jumped in here to defend the teachers? Oh yes I forgot he has been banned - ha ha ha ha! Bet he's ready to explode and he has no one to listen. Ha ha ha ha ha!

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

I'm not finished yet - ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha! Ok i'm good.

Ivy League said...

There's just no pleasing you people...

Susan... we all pay taxes.

Pianomom... how did they invade the schools? They work there. They stood in a quiet line and handed out papers to parents who wanted them. I know because I took one, the lady in front of me didn't take one when she was POLITELY asked by a teacher if she wanted one.

Jake... this Board can't afford buttons, they are bankrupt, but I am sure they know where to get them "quick and on the cheap"... they can just contact the construction company who built the high school.

Platypus... that wasn't negotiating in public. For MONTHS the public has moaned, "Well if the teachers are so confident how come they don't say anything?" When they finally give out information from their point-of-view 20 of you jump down their throats. How are they hypocrites? They show strength, determination and unity.

Gabriel... you have me totally confused.

For the rest of you... I am too tired of this to continue, but let me say this

CSLD... I don't think anyone was there who didn't want to be there, then again, I don't think any of them actually wanted to be there at all.

From my point of view... My kids have terrific teachers and I enjoyed the presentation from their teachers.

Would it have been better if they just cancelled it?

Libertae said...

As an addendum to my previous post: If the Union categorically refuses to negotiate some form of contribution to their health care premiums, then they share in the responsibility for the current stalemate. My question would be is that merely their initial bargaining position.

csld said...

I don't think the teachers got the response from the parents that they were hoping for.From what I heard from a few of the parents it was a very uncomfortable situation. In fact at my school their were a few parents that were yelling at the teachers.

acs said...

As I have stated here many many times there is virtually zero support for teachers this time. As Mr. Webb said in the BCCT online edition posted today,
Webb said the union's leadership is taking its members in the wrong direction.

"I can't believe they're so out of touch with people who have been laid off and are struggling to pay their taxes," said Webb. "The teachers haven't lost anything. I think our teachers are wonderful people, but they live a sheltered life, to a certain degree. Their version of us being unfair is not giving them what they want."

No more talks have been scheduled, but the board's willing to sit down with the union at any time, any place, Webb said. However, the educators must be prepared to make some sacrifices, including contributing to their health benefits, he added.

"Hopefully, we can get everybody back to the table," said Webb. "We value their service, but we just can't afford to pay more."

Teachers foolishly remember 1980 which was a totally different was a time when all American workers got everything for free including retirement...remember when there was no 401K, there was no copay, no healthcare contribution for all....they are trying to hopelessly hang on to a past that does not exist at their peril.

Attention Teachers TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT is the only answer forthcoming from the Board and have gouged us for too long and now you want more than the board is offering....only one of 2 have the ultimate in gall and GREED or you are all simply out of your minds....if this is teacher bashing I will tell there is a entire community sufffering in overtaxation and loss of wealth like never before ready and willing to bash away...bring in on Louise!

William your retorts are right and Mr. Webb said it perfectly Stay firm and DO NOT BUDGE ON YOUR OFFER there is no reason to move AT all this offergives the more than 100% of the rest of the community are getting...DO NOT EVER FORGET THIS.....this is the best and final we are all beihnd this ground breaking outstanding board... ....time for teachers to giveback....the other night NSD teacher humiliated themsleves and taught our kids lesson 101...GREED IS GOOD and teacher coul dgive a crap that your dads and moms lost jobs and aregoing broke paying for yours and all of my helathcare IAM ANSD TEACHER,,,I AM BETTER than all of shut up and PAY UP...
Sorry I had an extra cup of coffee and I am extra PISSED OFF after boyd's firm slap in the community's face and the gall of the teachers standing behind her....

Levittowner said...

Ivy League,
Yes..the teachers work there.
But I don' children don't and this night was about the *children*. (or so I and many parents thought)

They could have passed them out outside the school board meeting.
Oh...that's right..if they did that they might actually have someone openly disagree with them.

Easy to push your papers in front of people who are more than likely not going to make a fuss.

Libertae said...

My initial post got lost in the mail, so I will try to remember what I wrote. Negotiating teacher contracts is a fact of life in Pennsylvania. Yes, there are immense extenuating circumstances facing all of us these days, but that does not give the district the right to impose a contract on the teachers without negotiating. The district essentially began negotiations with their "final offer". Actually, their offer became worse, ruling out retroactivity and increasing the percentage of health care premiums to be paid by the teachers. This to me does not seem to be negotiating. If the district came out with their best and final offer first, then that just seems like poor negotiating strategy. Essentially nothing has been accomplished since "negotiations" began one year and nine months ago. The teachers have been working without a contract for over a year. I think they have the right to stage an informational picket. As far as the role of the union in all this, see my previous "addendum" post.

Jeanne said...

Totally inappropriate !!

Hi-jacking Back-to-school night was not a good strategy. If they really felt they had to make a showing they should have been at the curb not blocking the doors.

Teachers, you really need a reality check. Talk to your students, how many of their parents are laid-off or have been or are still holding their breath that it may happen to them any day. When I commented to some of the teachers about being some of the highest paid educators in PA or refusing their litature and saying, "Yes, I believe you should contribute to your health care benefit." They seemed shocked...
Here's $1.25, go buy a newspaper, find out what is happening in the real world.

Teachers are paid well and have excellent benefits they should take what is being offered. If not, the offer should go backwards!! (and while the board is at it take away the free retiree healthcare, that's insane anyway.)
I'm also tired of hearing about them working without a contract. The fact is, if they would have tried to negotiate a year ago they would have ended up with much less then what is on the table now. If they would have tried this during the worst of the economic downturn they would have been run out of town. The economy is starting a slow recovery, let us taxpayers regain our equalibrium.

Teachers: Take the offer and move on.

Ivy League said...

Hey Levittowner... the night was NOT about the children... children were not supposed to be there. They did not perform, they were not individual conferences, the kids were not impacted AT ALL.

I defy you to tell me how the children were impacted in even the slightest way.

The night was about the curriculum and the programs... no kids were impacted. AND THEY DID NOT BLOCK THE DOORS. Teachers are NOT stupid and they would not have done anything that would have jeopardized their position.

I know parents from every middle school and I was at my kids' middle school. I called my friends at the other schools and asked if they were "blocked by teachers". Guess what... NOT ONE DOOR WAS BLOCKED BY A TEACHER... so get your story straight and stop spreading LIES.

From what I saw and what my friends saw... there was a lot of good cheer from most of the parents. In fact, some parents, who are also unionized, were concerned they would be crossing a picket line, I heard many parents saying things like, "Good Luck" or "We are with you" and "This Board is by far the worst this District has ever seen". I personally lost my job over a year ago and I was thrilled to see my kids second grade teacher and had a nice chat with her.

Why would they do it at a Board meeting? Have you been to school board meetings? They are largely attended by SENIOR CITIZENS, right-wing Grinches who work for inferior companies and people without kids in school. I think the teachers were reaching out to PARENTS who have a vested interest in the schools and are usually too busy to attend Board meetings. Unlike the board and its NONSUPERintendent, the teachers are not capitulating to the seniors and the Grinch. I thought it was their attempt to reach out to the moms and dads of the district.

The teachers seem willing to negotiate, the board seems willing to move backwards. Yet, you all call the Board heroic and the teachers greedy. Certainly the handout was from the teachers' perspective, but it seems pretty factual to me.

PS... William, you certainly seem out for blood now... could it have anything to do with your new found ability to vote on these matters?

KClarinet said...

ACS shouted:
"Attention Teachers TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT is the only answer forthcoming from the Board and have gouged us for too long and now you want more than the board is offering....only one of 2 have the ultimate in gall and GREED or you are all simply out of your minds...."

It's rhetoric like this that makes so much hard to discuss today (maybe it always was this way). Because teachers simply don't want to accept a pay cut, they are either greedy megalomaniacs or clinically insane.
Way back at one point near the beginning of all this I remember, I think, that the budget that many here and at board meetings called astronomical would have meant a $500/year increase in school taxes on an "average" property. That, of course is a little over $40 a month or a little less than $10 a week. Yet, teachers who are not volunteering to accept a pay cut (if they accept the board's last best and current offer) that, depending on their place on the salary schedule is as much as 4 times that, are either GREEDY or mentally ILL (to adopt ASC's style).

There is a really inexpensive solution to the whole problem - close all the schools. If you don't want to pay taxes, don't look for services, certainly not quality ones.

There is much about the way the NFT has handled this that I think ranges from the unfortunate to the stupid, but it doesn't rise to pathological greed. They are defending one side of what should have been but never became a rational discussion (shouting is rarely a productive discussion technique). Both sides have at this point painted themselves into corners and the only way out, as it was in 1980 (since ACS brought it up), may be to have legal intervention from outside the district settle the issues, although I'm not sure a county judge would have the same jurisdiction or authority under current law that Isaac Garb assumed in February of 1981 after 13 weeks.

Levittowner said...

There *were* students there;they had student guides as well as students visiting their teachers to say hi.

And when I wrote, " for the children" well..duh...I didn't mean the children were all there. I meant the focus was to be the students and the year ahead. Or maybe I didn't get the memo that it was a union rally.

While you saw as you wrote "good cheer" there were many that didn't see it that way.

As far as spreading lies..I never said they blocked doors.

You can be glad the union was there, but I can be upset they were. I think the UNION is working very hard at straining parent/teacher/student relations and it's a shame.
Like I said, I love the teachers, but already one parent (you) is saying that parents should agree with the union's riduculous demands and tactics or they don't support the teachers.

We can disagree, but don't go around calling me a liar just because you were challenged.

William O'Connor said...

The following comments from ACS have been edited for content

Thank god people with the view of ivy league are so in the minority, they are invisible in the district.... If you heard a parent support the teachers they were no doubt saying in front of the teacher like you trying to get little Susie and Ivy jr. an A.
You seem to be intelligent based on your ability to put thoughts together. It is a shame like the teachers you need a reality check.

William O'Connor said...

Notice to all readers:

When posting comments on this blog, please refrain from personal attacks and insults. You can voice your frustration with a group such as the board or the teachers, but you should not be taking on specific individuals, not even other readers.

I have given some latitude on this until now since I try not to censor people's opinions, but the tenor on this thread is starting to get a little too personal.

We can have a spirited debate without getting nasty. I appreciate your cooperation.

Thank you.

William O'Connor said...

Ivy League, what "new found" ability to vote are you talking about? I have always had the ability to vote on the contract. There was a time I could not participate in negotiations or executive sessions, but that rule changed last year.

If you're wondering why this post was uncharacteristically aggressive for me, I must admit to being extremely angry and disappointed in the teachers going onto school property to hand out their literature. If they want to stand at the driveway entrances with their signs and lit, that is ok by me. I wouldn't support the board handing out its own literature on BTS night, and I don't support what the teachers did last week. I hope they re-think their strategy for this week's BTS nights.

Blume said...

As usual you make a compelling argument Mr. O'Connor, and your frustration is understandable. Yet I prefer you remain calm during times like this. There is enough anxiety in the community over the contract, and we depend on cooler heads to prevail.
Keep up the great work!

acs said...

William I thought I was rather tame didn't seem like you edited my Ivy post at all.

William O'Connor said...

ACS, I removed one sentence and eliminated an adjective. I'll consider that effective editing on my part since you didn't notice a difference :-)

JS said...

Libertae, why would the Board not take out retroactivity? If they had left it in then the teachers could hold out longer, then sign a new contract, receive their retroactive pay, but not have had to pay health premiums for all that time.

Seems like a logical and prudent step on the Board's part to ensure the teachers don't try to play the system.

I guess that's bad form though. (not in the real world though)

KClarinet said...

Here's a question for anyone who actually knows (please don't guess):

Are the teachers now working without a contract or are they working under a defacto extension of the old contract?

William O'Connor said...

The contract has expired but under law the old terms remain until a new agreement is negotiated. Does that answer your question?

KClarinet said...

So, then, is the district still obligated to pay the retirement package from the old contract to 2008 retirees (including the cash incentive and the medical insurance)?

William O'Connor said...

Yes, as I understand it.

acs said...

Must have been a senior moment...good editing....still makes the point and sorry if I said something out of line but for the life of me I can't remember. Ivy and I are 180 degrees apart so it could have been just about anything. I will stay in line from now on as I don't want to suffer ABC123 fate of forced silence.

JS said...

So any teachers close to retirement have all the incentive in the world to not sign a new contract and keep holding out until they can retire.

For the most of them they are fairly maxed out on the step scale so their pension numbers won't change much.

I guarantee that as time goes on the younger teachers will start becoming more and more vocal because they are the ones who will be paying the price, not the older teachers.

mamasaid said...

The sight of having teachers standing “in front of,” but essentially blocking the doors came off as confrontational and antagonistic. Yes, I know they weren’t actually blocking the doors, but you weren’t getting into the building without walking past and through crowds of them, handing out their propaganda. Yes, I know they were smiling and polite, so as not to be considered militant, I suppose, but parents were visibly uncomfortable at least, and many parents were steaming mad. (I don’t know what middle school certain posters attend, but “NOT ONE DOOR WAS BLOCKED BY A TEACHER” and “good cheer from most of the parents” seems quite a stretch from what I observed and experienced.)

Unfortunately for the teachers, the flyer they were handing out probably makes some valid points, though they surely apply to both sides. I would love to be a fly on the wall at those “negotiation” meetings! But their strategy is seriously questionable—their presence and stance did not come off in the spirit of gaining support, but more like bullying. And parents are really the only group left that they have a hope of supporting them!

When surrounded by their union support, they get caught up in all that solidarity. But in the morning they’re a teacher in my child’s school. It’s impossible to keep the two separate for me—if a teacher is out picketing one day, my respect and faith will be eroded, no matter how much I like and support them and teachers in general. And is picketing the parents respectful? How can the deterioration of the parent-teacher relationship not have an impact in the classroom? How can that not be about the kids?

I teach my children that life is not fair, and that things don’t always go their way. I teach them about personal responsibility and that their actions have consequences. I teach my children that the world does not revolve around them, and sometimes we need to act on behalf of the greater good, and that understanding this is a sign of maturity. Maybe they could pass the message along to teachers.

Libertae said...

JS - the comment about retroactivity was just an example of the Board moving "backwards" in its offer. I think retroactivity is standard practice in most negotiations. But of course the Board is free to negotiate any contract it can get the teachers to sign.
I wonder how things stand in terms of total compensation when comparing the current Board offer with the old contract. This to me seems a more logical thing to be debating than just percentage pay increases and health care contributions. Can the Board show that even with teacher contributions, the board will be increasing the teachers total compensation by a certain percentage, or at least keeping it even with the old contract? Perhaps stating the argument as such would be more palatable (or understandable)to the teachers.

Ivy League said...

Levittowner, I apologize, I was not clear enough. I understand why you thought I was directing the comment solely to you; rest assured I meant to direct the "blocking the door" part to other bloggers. Again, I am sorry... I have no problem admitting when I have made a mistaken or mis-blogged.

I just can't understand what all the fuss is about. I really would like to know what people think the teacher should have done?

We complained they were quiet. We complained they said nothing to us. They bypass the negativity of the blogs and the Courier and school board meetings and appeal directly to the stakeholders who care the most... and people flip out!

What do you want them to do??? Take it lying down and ask for more? They have proven themselves to be beyond professional these last (almost) two years while they have been bashed in the court of pubic opinion.

I see it like this, when the economy was BOOMING the teachers were making a modest 2.75% increase and enjoying healthcare with a low premium.... they were not enjoying FREE healthcare. They did not ask for more and we sure as hell as a community didn't reward them. They did not get profit-sharing opportunities or stock options,... we never said, "Hey.... let's give them a raise!"

Now they are STARTING at a negotiations point which reflects they keep what they earn, but as a community we want them to suffer because others are suffering.

They have a target on their back and we take all of our collective hostilities out on them.

I have a lot of respect for the lessons mamasaid has taught her children... but I think she left out a vital one, to stand up for what you believe in, even in the face of adversity.

As Howard Cossell said:
“What's right isn't always popular. What's popular isn't always right.”

As far as the newer teachers... I think they have figured out that any raise they would have gotten (oh that's right, Sweetums took it away) would have been eaten up by the low low low % the board is asking the teachers to pay in insurance premiums.

As for the ones closer to retirement, I would venture to say they care a great deal about leaving the financial fate of their profession where they got it to be.

As for ACS... don't you go assuming ANYTHING about my kids. How dare you? If that's really how you think... well then it explains a great deal about you.

To begin, I have gone to great lengths to protect my anonymity; I have never mentioned my kids schools or teachers by name. Secondly... they are pretty smart kids, probably has something to do with the amount of reading we did with them and the culture we exposed them to long before they entered school combined with the outstanding education they have received from their teachers.

Does all that go away because they came to Back to School night?

I truly don't understand William why you are so upset. You said it would have been okay if they stood at one place, just not where they did? Seriously? What's the difference? What kind of crazy logic is that? What it have been okay if the ink they used was blue instead of red... after all, red is a hostile color.

The fact is... I kinda understand why you guys feel the way you do. After all, the board and certain members of the community spent a lot of time making it seem like the union and the teachers were separate entities; Webb even said as much (if you read between the lines) at meetings.

So when the teachers, the people our kids spend more waking hours with than us, proved the board and those members of the community wrong by standing up for themselves OVERWHELMINGLY proving that they were WITH their all felt smacked in the face. You smacked back... but at the wrong people. The heat should be turned up on this board and its lawyer who are playing a chess game with our kids futures.

Seriously people, who do you think cares more about the education of the Neshaminy students? The teachers? The school board? Charlie Sweet? The Grinch? Who?

KClarinet said...

To Libertae:
With the board's current "offer" on the table the teachers, by my rough figuring, will lose about $400 to $2,000 a year, depending on their place in the salary scale. I'm probably not precisely accurate - the 3% salary increase in the board's offer is an average - impact on individual steps of the scale depend on how the 3% is distributed. But in any case, teachers will lose actual take-home salary under the board's current offer.

By the way, to J.S., you're probably right about the teachers who are close to retirement being least affected by a continued stalemate, but that range I mentioned affects the salary schedule inversely - the smallest pay loss occurs at the top because 3% represents a larger raise up there (assuming the 3% is applied across the board) while the 15% (in the first year) of insurance premium is constant for everyone. The salary raise eats up more of the insurance premium the higher you go on the schedule grid. So in that way, the senior teachers may have *less* incentive than the younger ones *to hold out* - that $2,000 loss (or whatever it actually works out to be) for a new teacher is a much larger percentage than the $400 is for someone at the top step with a Masters + 40 credits (or even a Ph.D or D.Ed.).

KClarinet said...

IvyLeague said:

"Seriously people, who do you think cares more about the education of the Neshaminy students? The teachers? The school board? Charlie Sweet? The Grinch? Who?"

And. while I'm at it, at no point in the discussion or the shouting over the past year do I remember the students' education being a major point at issue. It's been all about money and property taxes from the first.

Even Mr. O'Connor, whose views and approach I respect even when we disagree, talks in his posting about "the last two contracts where the *taxpayers* [my emphasis] lost on all points?"

The overarching issue that should transcend all the rest of the actions of the school board, the administrators and the instructional and support staffs should be maximization of students' learning. That one issue ought to govern any other discussion, including (among all others) how to negotiate a new teachers' contract. Trouble is, most taxpayers don't have kids in school and their only real exposure to the district comes with their annual tax bill.

Right now, unfortunately, emotions are surging like hormones in a 16-year-old, and rational discussion is very hard to come by. Angst-ridden reaction tends to be the mode-du-jour.

It's interesting how far people's emotions take them in these contract conflicts. One small example:

Something that got a lot of attention among the teachers in 1980 was a comment published in the Courier by then superintendent Joseph Ferderbar, until then (and later again) universally respected among the entire Neshaminy education community, that (paraphrasing) "Sometimes I think I'm the only one in Neshaminy who cares about education." It was a silly statement, the negative effects of which he eventually overcame. But a 13 week strike can raise frustration levels on all sides to incredible heights. I think something similar is happening now. It's taken longer because neither the NFT nor the board has legally any way to bring matters to a head, at least not without completely destroying the system.

acs said...

KC, Everyone in the private sector has lost wages due to healthcare increases since we all pay. When I say we all it is literally 85% of wrokers. The average HC annual increase in cost has been 9%+ for the last 10 years. Since annual raises have averaged 2-4% it is not a good situation. So while i would like all of us to get what teachers and othe public workers get I do not see that happening and since private sector workers have so much more out of pocket cost than 30 years age they can no longer "carry" public workers.

mamasaid said...

“Standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of adversity,” though an admirable trait in theory, doesn’t mean that what you’re standing up for is right. It CAN be both unpopular AND wrong.

And to be clear, I’m not saying that there is no cause for complaints. The negotiation process should be much more productive, but I think the blame goes both ways. We have great teachers, but there is a whole different context now than when the last contract was negotiated. It is what it is, and needs to be considered as a whole.

I most especially take issue with the method the teachers chose, to stand up for their cause. I wonder whose idea it was, and what the teachers were told the expected outcome would be. As far as I’m concerned, they could have hit me over the head with a 2x4 at BTS night and made the same impact. Was that the intended outcome? What should they have done, you ask? If they were truly reaching out to parents, there are networks already in place, such as the parent groups, who LOVE their teachers, and want all of this to be over with. Those are the people who already support teachers, and are most likely to fight for them. Approaching parents respectfully would have potentially gained teachers even more support, at least for the negotiation process itself. As it is, the conflict is on a whole different course now, with parent support dropping left and right.

JS said...

Ivy League, I think you're idea of modest compensation is a little off.

First, 2.75% was the base raise, anyone moving from one step to another made at least an additional 2.2% or at most 11.9%. That means unless they were at the top step the lowest raise any teacher received was 4.75% (and the most was a whopping 14.65%!)

This was a 7 year contract. Assume a teacher was at step 4 when it was signed. They would have made roughly $39,000 a year in 2001. Their salary for 2007-2008 was $72,488 at the top step (Bachelors). In 7 years their salary had gone up 85%. Somehow your logic of them only getting a modest 2.75% raise doesn't seem very accurate does it?

Next you love to claim that they weren't receiving FREE health care. Oh that's right they had to pay copays. When people refer to FREE health care they are referring to PREMIUMS, which they truly did get for free. Though they did have copays they had some of the smallest most people have ever seen. FREE PREMIUMS, yes they did have that.

I will also remind you that teachers were also reimbursed for any approved graduate courses even if not applied towards a degree. That means that the teachers were paid back the tuition money AND then given a raise if the credits put them in a different step category. Doesn't that seem like the District was paying twice?

Also any teacher who retired the last 8 years (7 of contract, 1 of extension) is getting free premiums until 65 and a $27,000 pay out.

You claim that the teachers are starting at a point where they get to keep what they earn. From what I gather their proposal is an average of 6% (including steps) with a base raise somewhere around 3%. That means they actually want MORE. Also they don't take into account the rising cost of health premiums. Most Blue Cross Blue Shield Personal Choice premiums have gone up close to 60% this past year. That is a 60% increase that the teachers just want the District to pay all the while giving them a raise.

The claim that we are jumping all over the teachers for speaking out when we've clamored about them not saying anything is also skewed. Besides criticizing the Boards negotiating, did they tell us anything? We've heard for almost a year that what the teacher's proposal is referred to in the papers is "not accurate". Well there wasn't any clarification of that.

And Ivy League, back in 2001 they effectively were given a raise when they were thrown a bone (a 25% increase) to stay quiet as the state legislators raised their own pensions 50%. When our taxes sky rocket in 3 years to pay for their retirement, what will we do then? I say we can look ahead and keep costs down now so that jump isn't quite so bad.

The bottom line is that while every other districts teachers are giving something back from contracts that aren't even expired, Neshaminy's sit and ask for more (oh yeah, that whole increasing the pay out to $30k wouldn't be more. Also disregard that whole 60% increase in premiums cost, that doesn't count either). North Penn is currently with out a contract and they are haggling with their district between a 0-1% increase and a 1-2% increase. They also already pay towards health premiums. Hatboro Horsham is even trying to institute some sort of pay for performance instead of guaranteed steps. No such thing has ever been suggested by this Board.

Finally I have a way for the negotiating to begin. People say that the Board giving their "Best and Final" offer first left the teachers no where to go. Fine, the Board should take back their offer and give a .5% raise and 20% premium contribution. That way the teachers can "negotiate". Just pray it gets back to the offer currently on the table.

acs said...

JS, On behalf of all sensible citizens and bloggers I want to thank you for taking the time to summarize the situation for everyone. It is a superb representation of the facts. Frankly I have done this in the past here, i.e. addressing point by point a certain blogger's mis- statements concerning the past and present contract and misinterpretations of what teachers do and do not get. I suggest EVERYONE get the little blue book-the CBA from the 2002 contract. I spells out just how much the teachers got and it will make your hair stand on end. I am not saying this to attack anyone. We have to deal in reality not fantasy. The Union is insisting on fantasy. A working world that simply no longer exists.

William, My impression of your comments concerning the teacher is that if they pushed you to this point they are really in big trouble with this board as I see you as one of the more intelligent and reasonable of the 9!!

KClarinet said...


Your points may well be valid and would certainly be part of any back-and-forth discussion among the principal participants. But the board's expectation seems to be that the teachers should volunteer for this wage loss before the negotiating process even starts, as a pre-condition for any negotiating to take place. Those 85% of workers you refer to didn't volunteer and the remaining 15% (exclusive of Neshaminy teachers) are presumably not lining up to join them and make it 100% either.

And what makes the situation here a standoff is that neither side can really do much to force the other into submission.

And I wonder if anyone has done any serious calculation of who is losing more in the standoff, especially as it continues into the foreseeable future. I would have expected such a calculation to have been among the first things done on both sides, but the longer this goes on, the less convinced I am that such calculations exist. We just trade slogans about fair contracts and fair tax levels and seem unable to get past them.

KClarinet said...

To Mr. O'Connor

(as an aside)These long discussions make me wish the window for typing a new comment were near the bottom of the comment stream instead of at the top. When responding to a specific comment, it's hard to keep scrolling up and down to re-read the original to make sure I'm really responding to what was written. I know you don't control the format, but if Google ever polls you for suggestions... :-)

I guess I could just keep two separate browser windows open, one to the input window and the other scrolled to the post I'm responding to. Is anyone using a browser with a split screen option?

acs said...

KC, Can you just step back and look at the bigger picture for 1 min. For example why did the UAW give back on their keep jobs that is why. If they had done it earlier we likely wouldn't have the non-union competition we have in US car manufacturing and they wouldn't have lost the 10s of thousands of jobs they did lose.
So our board sent the first salvo in the last budget. Due to labor cost as a result of unions not giving back we need to lay off personnel for the first time in history. Also the board is now being forced to look outside for support services to help cover the NFT contract cost.
Ok so why do you think unions for public employees don't need to give back....are taxpayers they have endless resources to support public workers in a lifestyle(high healthcare cost, no retirement, no job for life, no non-merit increases) they havent had for years. Really come on KC think about it. I know if you do you have to admit this is just common sense and that is why parents are outrageed at last weeks NFT actions.
As the board knows the only answer is give backs from the contracts that were poorly negotiated on behlf of the community by an incompetent board. They were not entitled then they are not now. Therefore a give back is totally in order as the starting point. Would Boyd like to have 10% less teachers in NSD??

William O'Connor said...

ACS, I've remained calm and respectful (as everyone should) during these negotiations because I don't want to allow this contract to derail the positive things the teachers do for our students. Unfortunately I temporarily lost that calm when the NFT marched up onto school grounds to hand out their literature. I know Ivy League is scratching his head over why this bothers me so much, but it does. And judging by the comments of others, it bothered a lot of people. I've regained my sense of level-headedness but that too could be temporary depending on what happens at this Thursday's elementary back-to-school night.

KClarinet - Those settings are controlled by Blogger and I don't know if I can reverse the chronology of reader posts. Even if I could, not sure if I would want to ... I'm a top-down kind of guy.

KClarinet said...

ACS, you're misreading my point. It isn't that I think the NFT shouldn't give back. It really has nothing to do with what I think about any of it. You can cite all the reasons why they should do this or shouldn't expect that. The bottom line is that nothing seems to be happening and with no ability on the NFT's side to call a meaningful strike nor an ability on the school district's (board's) side to lock teachers out or replace them so long as nothing illegal is done or even legally abrogate the current contract as extended from the lapsed one so long as the teachers also honor it, it's difficult to see that any movement is likely to occur anytime soon.

You can cite all the reasons why the teachers should be willing to take a pay cut, and others (myself among them) can argue another side. The fact is they aren't (and human nature would suggest they are unlikely to) volunteer to take less money, especially since there is no indication staff cuts or anything else the board has considered in order to cut costs wouldn't have been done anyway. So far as I know, the NFT leadership was not approached with a deal offering not to close NMS or lay off teachers as the 9th grade moved to the HS. We're laying off personnel, at least ostensibly, because they are not needed, which would be the case with or without a contract settlement favorable to the board. We're looking outside the district for support services because we think (at our eventual peril, in my opinion) we can get them at less expense that way. We would, I am convinced even if you aren't, that we would be thinking about this (as we have in the past) even if the NFT had totally capitulated and accepted the board's last, best offer.

If the board thinks it can educate Neshaminy's students with 10% fewer teachers than it now has, it will make that decision with or without Louise Boyd's blessing. In fact i have little doubt the board would cut 10% if it thought that many teachers were expendable even if it got what it wants in a contract. That's within a school board's purview and to the extent those jobs were really unnecessary, they'd probably be correct in doing it. Would the board consider doing it only to spite Louise Boyd and the NFT leadership? I hope not!

Again, what's important at this point isn't what I think (or you think) public unions or the NFT or anyone else should do. It certainly has nothing to do with my looking at a bigger picture or having to admit anything. I'm not on either negotiating committee. If a resolution to the impasse is wanted, then it appears there will have to be some give from each end.

Even if any (or probably all) of us disagree with some part of the result.

Newbie said...

I was very torn about this situation to begin with and both sides on this blog have made some excellent points. I find myself more confused than before because you all have given me so much to think about.
I am curious about you all think about this scenario: If the board went back to its original offer of 3% raises and a reduced cost insurance plan to which the teachers would contribute between 10-12% (even for the retired employees) BUT would leave the $28,000 retirement perk in place - do you think the teachers would accept that? Do you think the public would accept that?
I'm not arguing whether or not what the teachers should be getting but am trying to come up with an alternative that makes this contract more cost effective for the district but still gives the union some face to walk away with.
I don't know as much about all this as many of you do so I hope my idea doesn't sound ignorant.

srodos said...

The current contract is a mess. They did not write it correctly so that the $28,000 retirement incentive ended a day before the contract terminated. What was created was not an incentive but a $28,000 check to tide you over until you receive the first retirement check. How can you categorize this an incentive? My recollection is that in order to negotiate you need conference,discussion and compromise. It appears that neither side is engaging in these three items. I believe the public should be informed as to the reasons why this contract may continue indefinitely.

News Flash said...

$28,000 to tide you over? That sounds like a retirement perk to me. I don't have it in my contract at work. Anyone else? Usually when those are offered they are done as a one time incentive to get older, higher paid people to retire and make room for younger, less expensive employees. You do make a good point that that benefit should be set to expire one day before the end of the contract (if that's legal).
Richie Webb has already told us why those things haven't happened. It's no secret. The board has made a couple of offers and the NFT has soundly rejected them. Apparently the NFT has said paying for insurance is off the table, which pretty much kills off any chance for negotiation. I've also heard that the board won't give retroactive pay and that's huge issue for the union.

Blume said...

We've gotten away from the theme of this particular blog entry-the teachers standing by doors at back to school night. Most seem to think it crossed a line while a few saw nothing wrong with it. I'm curious what you think about it Mr. Rodos.
A question for everyone else-do you think the teachers will do it again at this Thursday's back to school nights for the Elementary schools?

acs said...

KC, Peace. Your point is made but hopefully not correct. I personally believe the community opinion does matter to the board and will impact the outcome. So therefore it does matter what the preponderance of taxpayers and parents of students think whether they arr for or against the teacher's demands.
William has often made it quite clear hear and at meetings just how much the public view matters and how important it is to come to the meetings and express your opinions. Unlike previous boards oblivious to the community this board listens and in not operating in a bubble thanks to Messrs. Webb, O'Conner, Spitz et all

KClarinet said...


I don't think it sounds ignorant, and apparently neither did the board at the beginning of the process.

Whether or not either side would at this point be interested isn't something anyone here can answer. The fact is that the board has made the specific insurance premium percentages (15%-17% over three years) a pre-condition for negotiation that it has said consistently is non-negotiable, so your idea and anything else involving an insurance premium share under 15% is apparently a non-starter.

Who knows (I say, I suspect, naively) what would happen if the board simply left its current proposal on the table but let the NFT know that it now considers the insurance premium figures negotiable.

Str8 Shutr said...

That may not be such a bad idea Newbie, KClarinet. If the board revisits old ground maybe they'll see a change in the NFT response. Then again maybe not.
To answer Blume's question, I don't know if the teachers will do it again. What I want to know is why when I asked one of my son's teachers about his progress they told me this wasn't the proper time and place for such a discussion. So apparently me going to school on back to school night is not the right time for a discussion about my child but it is the right time for dozens of teachers to stand outside and tell me about their gripes. Does that mean I can go to a negotiation meeting and THAT will be the RIGHT time to talk about my child?

KClarinet said...

To News Flash:

I don't mean this in any way rhetorically or belligerently. I'm honestly curious. Where have you heard that paying any part of the insurance premium has been declared off the table by NFT? Or that lack of retroactivity is keeping them away? I don't doubt that you heard it somewhere. It's just that, given the tight-lipped approach Louise Boyd has taken about anything beyond the NFT's initial proposal, it's hard for me to believe she or anyone on the negotiating committtee itself said it. Or did one of them say something somewhere? What she has said is that they won't negotiate in the Courier or, by implication, the other public media. And Ms. Boyd is the official spokesperson for the NFT - no one else's suggestions or musings really count for much, if anything, officially.

Speaking of retroactivity, it's a little hard to see how anything could be retroactive if everything isn't. And that would include, I'd think, back payments for any (eventually) agreed upon insurance premiums the district has been paying since July of last year. I'm not sure how hard the NFT would fight for that. I guess it would depend on what a final settlement looks like.

News Flash said...

KClarinet, I would never take your question in a bad way. You are always civil on this blog.
William posted a link to the official board update, and in the second paragraph in that update it says the union stated that paying for benefits is non negotiable.

I heard about retroactive pay from a friend whose mother knows a teacher. Not exactly a direct line into the negotiation table so I can't guarantee its accuracy.

News Flash said...

It's in the 3rd paragraph. Sorry!

acs said...

The only real HOT BUTTON in contract for taxpayers is non-participatory healthcare for teachers. The board, I am certain in no way will move from that postition since NSD is not really consistent with surrounding district and most in State in this reagard. Most SDs pay something.
Not sure what Boyd would want in return that is as valuable as that so settlement in short term..get comfortable keep your powder dry for will be a multi year wait.

KClarinet said...

Not to press a detail too hard, but it seems crucial.

Mr. O'Connor, do you know where the quote News Flash refers to came from? I'd be really interested to know what the context was, who is being quoted and whether the quotation on the Board's site is a paraphrase or an exact quote.

Thanks in advance.

William O'Connor said...

KClarinet - As I understand it, this position was reaffirmed by the NFT during one of the last two negotiation sessions. This is what was reported to me by members of the Board's negotiation team; I am not on that team and do not attend the negotiations, so I cannot honestly say exactly who said what.

MrReader said...

Str8 Shutr,

Back to School Night is an opportunity for teachers to overview the curriculum for us, not for individual parent conferences. This is something that is preached by administration. This is common at most BSNs around.

srodos said...

Since you asked, I do not see anything illegal with handing out the informational material at Back to School Night. It seems from the postings that they did not interfere with anyone's ability to enter the building. Parents were free to take the material or not.
You may not approve of the evening that it occurred but these nights get a higher turnout of residents than the Board meetings.

KClarinet said...

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'd be able to take that quotation more seriously if I knew more about it - who said it and what the context was.

ssrudy said...

I think we need to educate other parents with some true figures. I have had enough with these teachers taking advantage of our kindness and sticking their hands in our pockets. I really use to respect and like these teachers now they make me sick. If parents really new how much they make and less time they work the parents would be really surprised.