Thursday, March 25, 2010

Err on the side of the kids

Those were the words of Board President Ritchie Webb Tuesday night as he addressed concerns about looming budget cuts which may result in job losses among other things. In response to NESPA President Mindy Anderson's statement that Support Staff alone should not have the burden of solving all of the districts' financial problems, Mr. Webb commented that "Nobody wants to see anyone lose their job, but given the choice between your kids' education, I have to err on the side of the kid."

Well said, Mr. Webb. And I must agree that is (or should be) our guiding principle throughout discussions of budget cuts for the upcoming school year. Yes, some difficult decisions will be made and nobody can guarantee that students won't feel the impact of those decisions. However our priority is to the students and the programs that improve their educational experience. All other considerations take a back seat and therefore move up to the front of the line when it comes to budget reductions.

A few thoughts about Tuesday's Board meeting . . .

It was good to see more and more parents in attendance. Rather than waiting for the last meeting in June which is way too late, these people are getting informed and involved now. I'm sure they didn't really appreciate all the rhetoric and posturing they heard on Tuesday night, but you've gotta be there to be in the game.

Speaking of posturing, there was one taxpayer who insisted on asking questions of the board and demanded answers. Nothing wrong with that. But when the answers are being given and you aren't even paying attention, but instead are talking to the people surrounding you, it tells me one thing - you aren't really interested in the answers. I, and probably most others, would appreciate if you just say what's on your mind rather than putting on a facade of objectivity by using a series of carefully worded, seemingly unanswerable questions. But if you insist on making your point through questions instead of statements, can you please at least have the decency to make eye contact when someone is answering you?

A few of the speakers Tuesday night actually suggested ideas on how to improve revenue or cut costs. Even if those ideas don't pan out, I really appreciate their taking the time to come up with those suggestions. Keep 'em coming.

I have always been impressed by the manner in which students, parents and staff of the Learning Center have defended their program, and Tuesday night was no exception. But when it comes to making a point using both logic and emotion, nobody has ever expressed themselves quite the way that parent Steve Young did. His speech was so moving that my words cannot do them justice, and I encourage you to watch the rebroadcast to witness his stirring comments for yourself.

And on a final note . . .

I had the pleasure of attending last night's High School Choir Spring Concert under the direction of Music Director, Hillary Rydderch. Hearing those wonderful voices and seeing those beautiful smiles serves as a welcome reminder of what matters most.

As Mr. Webb would say, I have to err on the side of the kid.

You can read the Courier Times recap of Tuesday night's meeting by clicking here.


Danielle said...

Well Mr. O'Connor nice once again putting someone down on your blog Iam sure the taxpayers love how you make comments about them on here but don't address them at the meeting. Like I said at the meeting I am here for the kids, my kids, my families kids and my friends kids thats why I chose to work for the district. So instead of being on blogs talking about people maybe we should all get together and get to the table and work these problems out instead of trying to spin things on here to make people mad. I want nothing more than to continue to work in this district and to have my children graduate from neshaminy and for them to have people that I trust and know being apart of their everyday lives. So lets move on from all the negative comments about people that have the right to give their opinon because they are taxpayers that voted for you to help them not bash them for speaking their minds. So lets all stop this and get things together! PLEASE!!

finance-101 said...

I give Webb, the board and the administration credit, as well as Paradise. They are EXPLORING every possibility on that "List". But here is the problem. I sense that there is growing pressure from certain community members who want no budget increase (no tax increase) regardless of the consequences.
I hope the board doesn't cave in to the "no tax increase" pressure.
For those who own a home, here is the bad news:

SAVING $200 in TAXES, could REDUCE your home value by $20,0000 to $40,000 maybe more.

Most home re-sales are people moving into Neshaminy, not within Neshaminy. Would you move into a district that doesn't have kindergarten or middle school sports ? As well as other attractive programs ? No !!!

Believe me, people from the outside are watching Neshaminy and we don't want our district to be a known as a low-tier educational district.

It's like owning a stock (our home) where the company (the school) has great employees (good teachers) but the perception of the company is bad (cutting school programs).
What happens ?
The Stock goes DOWN !!!

I hope the school board members keep our home values up.

William O'Connor said...

Danielle, first let me say that I actually appreciated your words on Tuesday night (no joke). You expressed a sentiment that we need to make Neshaminy a fun place to be again and it certainly isn't that way now. So I do applaud your desire to move things forward.

As far as making comments on my blog as opposed to saying them at the meeting, I believe that is the very purpose of the blog. We all have opinions about events and other people but I certainly wouldn't expect that an audience at a board meeting should have to listen to the world according to me. I post my thoughts here along with other relevant pieces of info and allow readers to decide whether or not they want to pay attention. These are just my own thoughts, not official board positions.

As far as the one person you feel I am putting down, I have no problem whatsoever that they may have a differing opinion. However it's a pet peeve of mine when someone asks a question but then doesn't pay attention to the answer. It just seems so disingenuous to me.

But so we're clear, please understand that I am not objecting to that person's opinion but rather the manner in which they ingored the response they demanded. You may not appreciate my doing that, and I certainly respect your feelings. The good news is that since I have put it on this blog instead of at a meeting, you can choose to ignore it.

acs said...

The person that was "harassing" the board Tuesday is a teacher in Pennsbury and was obviously trying to hide this fact. Her questions were answered quite effectively by paradise and webb. The unfortunatel part of this for her is the answers exposed Boyd and NFT as well as NESPA for making huge mistakes up front in negotiations.
Finance 101, This school district has gouged taxpayers for 20 years so you find me a taxpayer that wants to pay more now or feels it is arranted after years of incompetent boards in bed with the greedy unions. This board will not "cave" to no tax pressure they will do it because it is prudent and smart to drive budget to zero. Outsourcing Services it a must now since I have always said cut operating cost first before education.
However, everything on that list is fair game since the board needs to understand what they can trim without hurting education. This includes pools sports and yes some departments.
My feeling after listening to the speakers the other night is that the community firmly said please cut expenses before our programs. So the only prudent way to balance our budget is outsource. This is temporary of course since the greed driven NFT will still cost us 5M more every year than in budget if they dont pay 15-17% HC etc

abc123 said...

It pains me to say this but I agree with points made by you. I do not want you making these comments at board meetings as that is not your personal forum. Keep them here on your blog, that is where they belong. That woman the other night should not have hidden her identity as a teacher (another district) or disguised her intentions. She should have proudly said she is both a teacher and a taxpayer and stated her objections at how the board has mismanaged negotiations. I too do not think the board is negotiating fairly but that is my opinion and I should be (an am) clear about it. This is as close to a compliment you will ever get from me Mr. Oconnor so enjoy it. Thank you for publishing my comments without editing.

acs said...

William and csld, This board has been more than fair and has given NESPA every possible chance from the beginning when they told anderson she needed to make concessions since there was no money. The other night it was apparent again that after all this time the unions are still not listening and do not believe this. I hope they were listening to the community the other night.....I heard no speaker say our bus drivers should make lost more than any private bus child need her custodian to have district benefits and give teachers free HC and 6% raises They keep their heads in the sand at their own peril.

TFR1984 said...

I don't get people ..... if you don't like reading something then just don't read it ..... it's like the people who read Mullane's column and all they do is complain ..... did it ever occur to them to STOP READING IT if it bothers them ..... if they want something to read they should start reading the board's offer real quick or else they will have to start reading the employment ads in the paper

finance-101 said...

Back to finances.

To: ACS - We all are for lower taxes and savings. But here is a question for everyone.

Why is the same sized house with a similar lot $150,000 more in Council Rock and Central Bucks vs Middletown, Langhorne or Levittown ?

Stop Playing Games said...

I'm really scratching my head about this "err on the side of the kid" comment. For at least the last 10 years, this school board has been far more interested in satisfying the "no more taxes" crowd than providing quality programs for our kids. I understand trying to negotiate as much as possible with the teachers and other staff, but when you're talking about cutting all sorts of programs rather than raising taxes you're hardly "erring on the side of the kid". You're throwing the kids under the proverbial bus to avoid angry voters.

acs said...

101- It is very simple... the lower part of Middletown is an area that CR and CB do not have. It is lower rent housing, lower income housing, very old homes and is a lower income lower middleclass area. Upper Middletown is newer bigger homes, richer residents(lots of NSD teachers)CR and CB do not have an are that drags them down like lower Middletown does this district. Also it drags down test scores vis s vis CR and CB.

csld said...

ACS I dont know why you always ask me to explain Mindy Anderson to you ,like you I also think Mindy and Co(as Williams refers to them)should of took the first offer and ran with it and not looked back. Many of my coworkers and myself included wish we could just take that offer because these healthcare issues do not pertain to us and we do live in the real world and know that everyone these days pay for there healthcare.
I know I may get comments on this one but why are the tax payers paying for the TLC I am sorry but these kids should be the responiblity of the parents to pay that extra money for their kids if they can't deal with everyday school situations.I have seen many kids over the years go to Tawanka Learning Center because they could not behave in school and to tell you the truth they were happy to go because they said it was like a big party to go there. when I was a kid if you didnt behave in school you were your parents responiblity not the school district.
Danielle you know you dont have to read these comments and if I am not mistake was it not you who was dissing (as the kids say)the teachers how they were greedy in one of your first posts.Here I go running my mouth again as you would say.Am I mistaken to assume that you are a bus driver I only come to this assumtion because you said that you used to clean in the summer and lost that because of cuts which would mean you are not a custodian during the year.So if you are a bus driver it is stated in the bid that you will keep your job at 21 dollars an hour ,so if this is the case why would you be worried about losing your job when it is stated that you will be retained by first student.OH but wait you will have to pay 30 percent of your benefits.Lets see 30 percent vs 15 16 17 percent,Im thinking maybe our union did you and every member real injustice ,Instead of coming on here and scolding William maybe its time you call Mindy Anderson and scold her .

acs said...

Games, For the past 10 years the board has not focused on lower taxes they voted everytime to increase the budget. Get your facts right. This is the ONLY board to ever step up for the taxpayer that has been ripped off by former obrd memebers in bed with union and generally pro spending.

William O'Connor said...

SPG, until we get our budget deficit to within the State mandated Act 1 inflationary limit, we must consider any and all reductions, even if that does impact student programs. It isn't because we want to, it's because the law compels us to. My statement about erring on the side of kids is my commitment that cutting vital programs will be my absolute last choice. That doesn't mean some programs won't be cut. It's a statement of what I consider to be our top priority beyond complying with the law.

I'm not worried about angry voters as re-election is not my personal priority. What I am trying to do is help build a sustainable economic model within Neshaminy so that we can eventually start expanding our programs rather than cutting them.

Peter said...

Nothing but positive stuff to say as usual regarding your comments and I will be sure to be at the next board meeting to see what this is all about! I changed jobs and do not work Tuesday night anymore so I can't wait to jump into the "fray" so to speak.

Levittowner said...

Love the broad stroke that some paint us "Levittowners" with.
My children are gifted..they *raise* the scores not lower them. My husband and I have over twelve years of higher education between us. We live here because we love to travel and I stay at home with our children. From what I've read, our neighborhood is squarely in the "middle" middleclass.

finance-101 said...

ACS - I am trying to compare apples to apples. Same size houses in similar areas.

Are you telling me a house in Laurel Oaks, Lakeview Estates, Highland Gate, Maple Point, Swan Point........ is $150,000 less than a similar house in CR CB because 5 miles away there are lower income houses ??

No way.
There is another reason.

Also, the latest PSSA scores in Neshaminy were very strong. The elementary and middle schools scored the same or higher than CR.
The high schools were close.
Mr. O'Connor - Do you have that data ?

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

Maybe Mr. O can't say it just yet Stop Playing Games but pay attention to what's going on and you can figure out what he and Webb are saying. NESPA is going to pressure them to settling cheap instead of outsourcing but they won't do it because it means cutting student programs to make up the deficit. If the board outsources, the deficit is so much smaller that they won't have to cut much else to close the gap.
If other boards had their guts when contracts were being negotiated, we wouldn't be looking at a program cut list now.

KClarinet said...

We've seen cut lists nearly every year.

acs said...

Yes 101 I am saying that. Talk to any real estate agent and they will tell you lower middletown pulls all property values down. This is fact. NSD teat are up but it is still around 200 out of 500 SDs in PA.

C said...

Well Mr O Connor I see a school district in Savanah Ga. now has fired its teachers and administrators and gained 6 million dollars of fed funding for doing so now that is the third state to record the termination of high cost ineffective staff to try to gain control of current situations in 2010 alone, maybe you need to look to them for guidance in cost saving measures as far as the teachers go.
csld, just so you know its 20% co pay not 30% and the package they offer is better then NSD is offering making it less expensive for the First Student employee
William, what about F&E outsoucing we have heard nothing or has the administration pulled that to a back burner to save their own jobs you know without employees there is no need for adminstrators.

srodos said...

I need someone to explain in a rational,non- confrontational manner the theory behind the Neshaminy School District being in the transportation business.

News Flash said...

There is no rational reasoning SRODOS and you have raised the point that the union doesn't want you to. Job #1 is educating students. To do that we need teachers, administration, support staff and other employees however we don't have to overpay for them. You can make an argument to pay more for teachers because better teachers contribute to a better classroom (I'm sure acs will point out that higer pay in a collective bargaining situation is no guarantee of better teachers). Paying more for support laborers does not contribute to the classroom. Mrs Anderson made a speech at the last meeting that they've tied their fair share of sneakers. That's a cute story but it doesn't justify a roll royce benefits plan that's bankrupting this district.
We're not in the transportation business or the maintenance business, and as soon as this board figures that out we taxpayers will be better off, and in the long run so will the students.

csld said...

C... Thanks for the correction although this does not pretain to me I was just trying to make a point that the first offer seemed to be a better offer.From what I heard F&E will not be outsourced because the bids came in to high.