Thursday, October 29, 2009

Remember to Vote on Tuesday

The absolute worst thing you can do is convince yourself that your own vote doesn't matter. With the percentage of registered voter turnout expected somewhere in the mid teens, every single vote counts! Don't leave the future of your school board to chance.

For anyone who votes at Maple Point, I will be standing outside of the polling area all day so please stop by and say hello.

See you on Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First meeting of ad hoc committee held

To consolidate or not to consolidate, that is the question. And that's the purpose behind the board's Ad Hoc Facilities Committee which held its first meeting last night in the board room at Maple Point. This initial meeting lasted barely more than an hour as we discussed the guidelines and resources we would use moving forward.

Neshaminy's elementary and middle schools are underutilized in terms of space, and our committee is tasked with examining data and other considerations (of which there are plenty) in order to make recommendations to the board which could include possible closure of one or more buildings. The Ad Hoc committee could also conclude that such closures are not feasible at this time, so residents should not hit the panic button just yet.

Last night's meeting was attended by myself and fellow board member Joe Blasch (Rick Eccles was absent), and district staff Jacqueline Rattigan and Paul Minotti. We were also joined last night by our business manager, Joe Paradise. There were three members of the public who were also in attendance, and we greatly appreciated their input.

We are working on a schedule for future meetings so please check back periodically for further updates.

Feds investigating claims against district

From today's front page headlines . . .

Federal officials are investigating three separate discrimination claims against the Neshaminy School District: one for alleged bias against female athletes; a second involving alleged discrimination against a student with disabilities; and a third alleging sexual harassment of a student, officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

Citing litigation issues, Superintendent Lou Muenker said he was unable to comment on the cases.
The first complaint, filed in August 2008, alleges the district discriminated against female athletes in regards to equipment, supplies, game schedules, practice times, locker rooms and assignment and compensation of coaches, according to Jim Bradshaw of the U.S. Department of Education's press office.

Several parents in the district have received letters asking to interview their children as possible witnesses.

The federal office received a complaint in May of this year alleging the district had denied a student with disabilities a free appropriate public education with respect to the evaluation, placement and discipline of the student, Bradshaw said.

A third case was opened in September after a complainant accused the district of subjecting a student to a sexually hostile environment and failing to address the harassment, officials said.

The investigations don't mean Neshaminy is automatically guilty of any wrongdoing, according to the Office of Civil Rights' Web Site.

Click here to read this article in its entirety.

Schools take extra precaution against spread of H1N1

Also in this morning's Courier Times . . .

Students with a fever, glassy eyes, sore throat and runny nose should not be sent to school, officials said.

Higher than normal absentee rates at two Neshaminy elementary schools and the increasing threat of the contagious H1N1 virus have prompted officials to post "preventive" messages on the schools' respective Web pages.

There's no indication that the virus, more commonly known as the swine flu, is responsible for the increased absentee rate at Oliver Heckman and Herbert Hoover elementary schools, Neshaminy Superintendent Louis Muenker said Tuesday.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Seniors ask about teacher talks

This update courtesy of the Courier Times . . .

During a forum with more than 30 residents, [Neshaminy School Board president] Webb explained the board’s position and answered questions at the Villages of Flowers Mill in Langhorne. Union President Louise Boyd was also invited to the event, but declined since the union’s policy is not to negotiate in public. She didn’t comment further.

“(Teachers are) great people, who are dedicated to the students and the community,” said Webb. “But if we can’t get them to work with the board, we’ll face even tougher decisions next budget.”

Several residents said they didn’t understand why the board’s offer’s still on the table if the educators already turned it down. Other residents said the teachers are being reasonable. A woman who did not want to give her name said, especially in this economy, the teachers need to contribute to their health insurance premiums.

You can read the complete article by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Residents frustrated over teacher protests

From the pages of today's Courier Times . . .

Some called the union's actions intimidating. Union President Louise Boyd said the events were not disruptive. Even though it's been a few weeks since Neshaminy teachers picketed the district's back to school nights, people are still talking about it. During Tuesday night's school board meeting, several residents, many of them parents, expressed their frustration and disappointment in the union's protest.

Boyd also addressed board President Ritchie Webb, saying, "We stand together and (we are) ready for real negotiations." Webb responded that if she was sincere, he was willing to try to set up a meeting.

The board claims the union's proposal remains unchanged, with a request for a total 6 percent annual salary hike, including steps, and a requirement for no change to the medical insurance package, said Webb. Boyd has denied those claims, but she hasn't revealed the union's offer.

Since I am 4,000 miles away and 6 hours ahead, I'll let you guys tell me what happened at the meeting.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Keep an eye on things for me

I'm heading out of the country on business in a couple days and therefore won't be at the October 13th board meeting.

Take good notes. Let me know what I miss.

Auf wiedersehen!

Show faith in teachers

That's the theme of a letter in this morning's Courier Times. The author of the letter said she was "appalled by Neshaminy school board President Ritchie Webb's comments that parents probably are afraid that Neshaminy teachers will retaliate against their kids if they protest recent picketing by teachers." She goes on to say that "Neshaminy teachers have shown good faith by working for more than a year without a contract" and that we should show the same good faith in them.

You can read the letter in its entirety by clicking here.

Fair or not, there is a perception by some parents that speaking out publicly against the NFT's position will lead to retaliation against their children in school. I have received more than a dozen emails from parents in this community saying exactly that. Those parents have asked my opinion if I believe teachers will retaliate, and I have responded that although some retaliation is possible simply because there are always people in any profession that lack professionalism, my belief is the vast majority of Neshaminy teachers will not hold your opinions against your students. Remember, I speak from experience in this matter.

I've been pretty clear about my feelings regarding this contract situation - I admire and respect our teachers, but I do not agree with their contractual demands. But while making my opinions known, I've avoided using insulting phrases like calling them "greedy teachers" or suggesting that they don't deserve the compensation they are receiving. The teachers may not have liked or agreed with what I said, but they have respected my views just as I have respected, but not agreed with, theirs.

When I went to the NHS back-to-school night last week and I saw many of the teachers I have known for years, there was no shortage of handshakes or hugs. And I've not seen any sort of teacher retaliation against my high schooler. From my own perspective, this matter has been handled completely professionally.

So here's a little advice to anyone who wishes to speak out about the contract situation. Regardless of your opinion, no matter who you support, make your statements respectful and void of unnecessary and insulting comments. Stick to the facts as you see them and don't react emotionally. Your opinion matters, and you should feel free to voice your beliefs to the board and the teachers without fear of retaliation.

It's just like your parents always told you . . . treat others with respect, and they'll treat you the same way in return.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Students adjust to new home

From today's Courier Times . . .

The former Tawanka Learning Center moved into a renovated portion of the high school this year.

Even though the Tawanka Learning Center has a different home and a new name, students and staff said the Neshaminy School District's alternative program still has got plenty of TLC.

Now just The Learning Center, the school moved from an elementary building on Brownsville Road in Lower Southampton to a renovated portion of the high school that otherwise would've been demolished.

"This is a great community," said senior Julian Santos, 18. "I liked the other building better because we could do more there, but the teachers make it seem like it's still Tawanka."

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