Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On or off the table?

A quick show of hands, please . . . how many of you have been told by a Neshaminy teacher that they would be willing to contribute towards their monthly health care costs? I have heard from literally dozens of teachers over the months who have told me that they are willing. In fact, not one single teacher has told me they wouldn't kick in for their benefits. So why is it that NFT President Louise Boyd won't at least acknowledge that this issue is on the table for discussion? She doesn't have to negotiate a percent in public, just say that she is open to the idea. But she won't say that.

At the last meeting I tried to corner Ms. Boyd on the matter during her somewhat caustic speech to the Board. I asked her flat out if benefits contributions were on the table and she completely avoided the question. I thought maybe it was just me but even the reporter from The Advance, Joe Dynan, described the situation by saying she "sidestepped the question." Apparently Mr. Dynan questioned Ms. Boyd on the issue later in the evening and she said the offer to resume talks does not mean the union is willing to compromise on the health issue. You can read Joe Dynan's article in The Advance by clicking here.

This isn't intended as a Louise Boyd-bashing opportunity. As I said at the conclusion of the last meeting, I have a long-standing, respectful relationship with Louise and you have never heard me utter an unkind word about her. But I just cannot understand why she will not even indicate a willingness to open up to the single biggest obstacle in our negotiations. Virtually every issue involves money, and if we cannot get major concessions from the NFT on benefits, then there is no money available for us to negotiate anything else with. About the only thing we can discuss that doesn't involve money is random drug testing, and I hardly think that issue alone is worth the time and cost of having another round of talks.

As far as I am concerned, if employee contributions for benefits isn't on the table, then there is no reason to even have another negotiation session with the NFT.

If there are teachers out there reading this post who believe that contributing to benefits should be on the table, can you please tell that to your union leadership? Even if both sides agree that the subject is up for discussion, it will likely take us many, many months to make any progress in our negotiations. But none of that is possible unless the NFT takes the first step. And it doesn't have to happen at a public meeting. All it takes is for Louise Boyd to pick up the phone and give Ritchie Webb a call - just one quick call, and we can move on from this prolonged stalemate.

Until that happens, all any of us can do is wait. Just sit and wait.


Pianomom said...

I saw the meeting on tv William and for the life of me I do not understand your patience with Louise Boyd. She was rude to the whole board and very belittling to you. Who was she trying to win with that performance? Apparently she was playing to the teachers because she was a complete turn off to parents.

If that is the behavior our teachers expect and support in their leader then I have nothing left to say to them. That was a despicable act to one of the most respectable individuals to ever sit on our school board.

Then at the end of the meeting you William took the high road and apologized to the room. Will Louise show the same kind of class and do the same at the next meeting? I doubt it.

If this is what the board has been dealing with these past 2 years no wonder there has been no progress in negotiations.

acs said...

I cut and pasted from your other blog article but it applies here.

The BCCT summed up Louise's performance perfectly this morning. Clueless out of touch and offensive! William you were much too kind on Tuesday she splapped the students and taxpayers in the face as her crew gave her a standing ovation. Did you notice no one stood from NESPA.

May 6, 2010 8:37 AM

Jose said...

it seems to me that both the board and teachers are rigid in what they will offer. the problem for the teachers is they had such a great deal up to now that the public is expecting them to make big concessions. i don't think the teachers will ever agree to such drastic changes in one contract. the board may be able to move a little on their side but the teachers will have to make the big changes if this is ever going to be settled. pianomom was correct mr. o'connor that you were the bigger person last week.

Cyndie said...

It is hard to stand behind teachers that have such a rude and disrespectful reprensentative as Ms. Boyd. She is giving your organization a bad picture in the minds of parents. I urge you to make the rights choices for THE CHILDREN!!!!

silentmajority19053 said...

William, I have been a long time follower of your blog, but this will be my first post. I continue to appreciate the fact that you are the only individual on either side of the board/union division sharing reliable information and every Neshaminy taxpayer owes you a debt of gratitude. Having said that . . . . Can we all just agree at this point that:
1. Louise is disrespectful and therefore disrespected.
2. Mindy is unrealistic and therefore not to be taken seriously.
3. The union membership is out of touch and therefore needs a lesson in basic economic reality.

I propose these things be agreed upon because this impasse has reached the point where both parties involved in the negotiations have started to sound like a broken record. Even the posts on this blog, my last bastion of sanity, have lately become little more than a forum for scoring the same old political points over and over, and trying to come out ahead in the P.R. game. How did we all lose what should be our main focus - getting this settled.

This ongoing strategy of sticking to the same old talking points that we already all agree upon is taking us nowhere fast. All this spent energy and we are no closer to getting this settled than we were two years ago.

I am in no way suggesting the board give in to the union demands. However, I have reached the point where I no longer give a damn who is willing to say what about negotiations in public first or who offended who. Like everyone else, I WANT THIS DONE! If anyone thinks this endless political gamesmanship will bring the union knocking on our door to conceed, you are the one who is out of touch.

William, at this point another strategy is called for. The unions have to made to settle for less than they are asking for but the way the board has gone about it so far has accomplished nothing, if not made matters worse. I repeat, I am in firm support of the board's position, but zero progress to show for two years of organized effort reeks of ineffectiveness.

We all know this is about to get uglier William, and it is the families and the students who will be the ones to suffer. I would like to think the board is commited to breaking the impasse as opposed to veiwing this mess as nothing more than an opportunity to spin the coverage in the Courier to score more political points.

When I look at this board lately, I see nothing more than the captain of a sinking ship do nothing but complain about the boat manufacturer as the hull fills with water, dragging us all down to the murky depths. Patch the hole William, GET THIS DONE!!

Str8 Shutr said...

You wrote a very nice comment Silent but you are falling right into the union's trap. They want you to hate the tension. They want you to fear a strike. They want you to do all these things so that you will do exactly what you did - plead with the board to make concessions. But do you realize what you are asking William to do?
The teachers have a really expensive contract in place with insane benefits. The board is trying to fix that so that we comply with the state law on budgets and so we don't have to cut children's programs. The less money the board gets from the teachers in these negotiations means the more likely the board will have to cut your child's programs.
Before you go asking William and the others to change their strategy, ask yourself this - is it more important that we settle now and cut kid's programs, or are we better off holding out and saving kid's programs?

KClarinet said...

Str8 said:

"Before you go asking William and the others to change their strategy, ask yourself this - is it more important that we settle now and cut kid's programs, or are we better off holding out and saving kid's programs?"

But that's not the whole list of options. Just as likely is that the board holds out and it cuts kid's programs. And we'll be back in the same place next year - which is where I predict we'll be anyway, even if the board does everything it has proposed to cut costs and gets the teachers to agree to its terms (with apologies to Nostrodamos for usurping his role).

Str8 Shutr said...

Undoubtedly KC we will be revisiting those lists of 31 cuts simply because of the economy. Even with the district budget being flat, we go further in the red because of lost revenue from property reassessments. If the board can get these elusive concessions from the teachers and support staff, at least our deficits won't be as large. It's one thing to talk about charging students a fee for joining a club. It's a far worse thing to be cutting those activities, and that's what we want to avoid. This will also give taxpayers a much needed break from runaway tax increases.

silentmajority19053 said...

Ladies and gentlemen it comes down to a very simple division among the taxpayers which is obvious based on the comments on this blog. The vocal few that has had the pleasure of having their children receive a quality Neshaminy education during much more peaceful times and now has (understandably, due to a fixed income) no other concern than controlling taxes. The second group, the silent many, has school age children and two concerns; controlling taxes and ensuring the continued quality of a Neshaminy education.

Make no mistake, there is a small number of outspoken ideologues among the first group that couldn’t care less about the state of a Neshaminy education. The continued ramping up of the contract impasse (back to school night, blue shirts, the Wednesday congregation out front, anyone want to guess what the next two moves are??) will not affect them one iota. They would be glad to sit back and watch the NFT work to contract and god forbid strike for years on end if it would save them one dollar. Lip service about “cuts” aside, I am starting to think they enjoy the impasse because it gives them something to do.

The second group, those with school age children like me, will be the ones who are punished by the impasse. We all know this contract will eventually be settled, hopefully much more in favor of the taxpayer as opposed to the NFT, and hopefully sooner rather than later. So why in God’s name is the board not trying everything under the sun to reach that point before it escalates? To prove a point about so and so’s caustic public persona? So we can have the personal satisfaction of forcing so and so to be the first one to publicly say something is back on the table? Sounds like petty political posturing to me.

William, drag the NFT into a locked room and bolt the door if you have to, but end this soon. The 5% of the electorate that will cry foul will be drowned out by the 95% of the electorate that sees you are being the bigger man and finally, trying to get this done.

acs said...

I never like to say this William but you need to educate SilentMajority much better. They do not have this right by any means. Not their fault they are like many more who really do not understand the economic realities of NSD. They just do not get it. WE HAVE NO MONEY and THERE IS NO WAY TO GET MONEY SINCE ACT 1 PROHIBITS IT DUE TO TAX CAPS. NFT needs to concede big time or it will never end.

Levittowner said...

I too have children in the district and am frankly tired of the whole thing too. But..other than telling the teachers "take it or leave it and you're fired" I don't think we *can* do anything.

I have been closely following what is going on..and I really don't think Boyd has any intention of bringing true health care contributions to the table.

Without that concession, it just has to be a waiting game and the tension is building up. Parents feel it, kids feel it..the teachers who spend time volunteering for the children feel it.

I am truly saddened with how this whole thing is starting to look like it will turn out.

JS said...

Silent, you're right that there are two groups, but both are in the NFT.

The first are the teachers at the top step (and the retired teachers) who only have anything to lose by settling. They are usually also the power players in the union (even the retired ones) and they will exert influence as long as they can.

The second are the teachers stuck on step 10 and below. This group will continue to grow and to continue to lose money as this stalemate moves on. If you take into account some teachers in the steps 4-7 range might be loosing $14,000 next year alone by not signing, that group might get very vocal.

The teachers at the top are worried about paying $3,000 a year in medical and losing their $27,000 pay day. Those at the bottom are looking at losing multiple times that just so the older teachers get what they want.

Those Wednesday morning walk ins might turn into scenes from West Side Story if this continues too much longer.

Gabriel said...

Silent Majority, there are many ways of categorizing people and one of them can be good hearted people who believe that this situation could be settled if both parties locked themselves in a room long enough. While I admire your ideals, I do not honestly believe you fully understand the situation.

The reason no progress has been made isn't because the board's offer has been fair or unfair. The issue is that Louise Boyd and the NFT don't buy in to the board's premise for these negotiations. While she knows the economy isn't great, Ms. Boyd obviously feels that the board is sandbagging on the numbers. That is apparent based on her last speech when she sarcastically pondered where the money is. She probably thinks every budget year starts off with a huge deficit and then somehow magicaly it ends up with a relatively small gap by the time the final budget is voted on. She does not trust the board, she does not trust the business manager, she does not trust the process.

The teachers could have taken a huge step in showing their desire to resolving this by replacing Louise Boyd as president of the NFT, but I understand from others that she received a vote of confidence from them. So the signal being sent by the teachers is they believe in what she is doing and how she is doing it.

There is no incentive for the teachers to settle now because they will lose far more than they will gain. Locking them in a room for hours or even days will not change that. The only way the board can counter that is to remaind firm in their position, be patient, and endure the inconvenience of strikes, working to contract, etc.

There is nothing I or anyone can say that will make this situation easier on you or your children. All I can say is take a deep breath, and start considering alternative plans in the event of a strike. This is going to be a long journey for Neshaminy, and these are only the painful first steps.