Sunday, February 28, 2010

The 10th Board member?

After two days of frustrating plane rides and 42 hours without sleep, I thought nothing could stop me from going straight to bed when I arrived home today. But after reading today’s Courier interview with incumbent Frank Farry, I had to delay the appointment with my pillow so I could reflect on why our State Representative is commenting on things over which he has no influence. Or did you all elect him to the school board while I was gone?

Let me be more direct – Why is Frank Farry interfering in our negotiations? Why is he even meeting with education special interest groups instead of fixing what's wrong with education funding?

According to Mr. Farry, he told our support staff union they need to "concede some" … SOME? Well Mr. Farry, what education programs shall we cut to make up for “some” of those concessions? Right now there is a $7.3 million deficit for next school year's budget. Even if the support union agreed to EVERYTHING the board offered that would only reduce expenses by $1 million. For every operational expense we don't reduce, that's another program that gets cut. What should we cut . . . sports? choir? after-school clubs? AE classes? I have asked that NESPA President Mindy Anderson answer these very same questions. Perhaps she and Mr. Farry can put their heads together and come up with the magic bullet.

Later in the interview, Farry says he’s concerned about what could happen if the District “privatizes” transportation services but he offers nothing to substantiate his fears. Why would he even be concerned that we would take these services back in-house? Do you think outsourcing will fail, Mr. Farry? Is it because it would cost too much ... even more than what we pay now? Don’t think so. Is it because the vendor’s drivers would be too dangerous? Not likely since First Student anticipates employing over 90% of our current drivers. So what is it you are basing your fears on?

Consider this: 86% of PA school districts outsource their transportation services. In Neshaminy’s case, following suit will save us an average of $3 million every year that will be used to maintain our education programs. Council Rock uses First Student and was happy enough with their service that they just renewed their contract. Sounds pretty successful to me. When your baseless gut feelings can stand up to that, let me know.

If you want to help us Mr. Farry, how about taking a leadership role in reforming state worker’s healthcare and retirement benefits? It’s a shame that you feel powerless to do anything about that, according to your own words in today’s article. I’m no political expert, but if you want to earn re-election this year, you might want to drop that whole “freshman legislator” tag and kick it into second gear.

When Farry opposed a Republican budget last July that would have cut education spending, I gave him a mention on this blog and I even wrote him an email thanking him for splitting with his party. That’s what he should be doing – take care of business in Harrisburg to the benefit of his constituents back here. But when he injects himself into local issues like this, he’s crossed a line.

Call me cynical, but I don’t like when election-year politicians start taking interest in things they shouldn’t be involved in. Why is Frank Farry even meeting with NESPA? The Board never asked him to intervene, and he certainly has no right to speak on our behalf. Even with good intentions, Frank Farry should have refrained from discussing contract issues with NESPA. But he didn’t, and that makes me question why?

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11 comments:

Str8 Shutr said...

I expect that Farry is doing what all politicians do and that is to get campaign donations. I question what it is he promised the education unions in return. I would also like to question if Farry requested the meetings or if the unions did. Either way they should not have taken place.

DIana said...

Perhaps since Mr Farry feels he has no power in Harrisburg he's trying his hand closer to home where, after the November election, he'll be spending a lot more of his time.

William O'Connor said...

Just to be clear on this post, I'm not trying to spark a political debate between candidates. I just want to see our Harrisburg representatives take care of business in Harrisburg and leave school board stuff to us local folk.

Jose said...

thank you for calling farry out on this mr. o'conner. maybe he will keep his nose out of the negotiations. it is very inappropriate for him to be speaking with the unions at the time you are negotiating with them.

News Flash said...

I have complete confidence that nobody is going to stop this board from finally doing what's needed. Not the unions, not Frank Farry, not nothing. My compliments to you William, and to Richie Webb and the other board members.

acs said...

William, Thanks for taking a hard stance here. This guy is useless and needs to stay out of this especially if he knows no facts and is trying to influence people. Don't let political hacks impact a strong board.

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

When I first read this I was wondering why it bothered you so much Mr. O. It sounded like Farry was being pretty supportive of the board's position. But then I thought about something you wrote: why did Farry meet with NESPA? Did they just bump into each other at WaWa's? Obviously one of them went out of their way to set up a meeting with the other. And just like you questioned, why do this during an election year? I could take a guess what the ulterior motives for such a meeting were but I know you don't approve of such things. Let's just leave it that you've given me something to think about now, and to think about again in November.

sam said...

MR. O'Connor,You also should keep politics out of our SCHOOLS. Sounds like you are campaigning for the person running against Mr. Farry in the fall election. Keep in mind the VOTERS have removed those from the Board with political ties and agendas. Do the job you were elected to do and not run a campaign from the BOARD and or your Blog under the cover of being a concerned Board member.

William O'Connor said...

Dear Sam, I do keep the politics out of the school district business, and I am pleased to say that over the past year or so our entire board has done a good job with that as well. So fear not.

I am trying to do the job I was elected to do. My problem is with your guy getting involved in our business. Since you are in his camp, perhaps you can tell me why he and representatives from NESPA met. Doesn't that seem a little odd to you? Or is that kind of politics OK because it's your guy?

This is my blog and I'm free to say anything I choose. My preference is to stay away from overtly politically biased comments (both myself and those of my readers) but I also am a fan of free speech and try not to censor people. It's not an easy balance but I do the best I can. If it's not to your liking, you always have the freedom not to return.

Here's the bottom line, Sam. We've got a little $7+ million deficit in next year's budget, and we have to figure out a way to improve our children's education without killing our taxpayers. Not an easy trick. Like it or not, we have to restructure our labor agreements ASAP or possibly look to outsourcing. It's a delicate situation with a lot at stake. So I just assume that negotiations be left to the school board and its negotiating team. Any outside interference only serves to make the situation worse, and when that happens I AM going to say something about it.

And just so you don't think this is all partisan crap, have you bothered to search my blog and notice the props I've given to GOP lawmakers like Sam Rohrer and Glen Grell?

So just to summarize things for you Sam:
1) I am doing the job I was elected to do, and I am confident I'm doing a damn fine job of it
2) If anyone, ANYONE, interferes in our labor negotiations (and don't think I haven't heard about some people doing just that) I am going to out them BIG TIME regardless of which party they are registered to.

Thanks for stopping by.

acs said...

William, Great response. You and the board need to really push back hard on Farry. In my opinion his behavior with the union is somewhat unethical and it makes you wonder what is old Frank saying to your GOP peers on the board about his obvious PRO UNION position??? This is nuts.
I would tell Webb to kick this guy in the arse...maybe another letter to the editor.

C said...

First Mr Farry got the firefighters and EMS people, now he wants the school support union people, next the teachers union all big blocks of voters. Remember he gets a bigger cut of the state pension then school employees, and he doesn't pay for his benefits so who better to protect the system then one who will benefit from it.