Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teachers gather round the flagpole

If there is one positive thing about today's Fox 29 News report, it is that they did not refer to our school district as being in "Neshaminy, PA" . . .

Neshaminy in the News

Today's Courier Times carries an article about Dr. Muenker's letter to the teachers encouraging them to decorate their classrooms and to write letters of recommendation. The story doesn't contain any new information, but I'm sure the comments in the blog underneath the article will be interesting.

And just in case you didn't catch Fox 29 News last night, they filed this report on our contract situation . . .

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Volunteers step in to dress up grade school

From an article in Sunday's Courier Times . . .

PTO members helped decorate bulletin boards during a labor dispute.

Volunteers have stepped in to pick up the slack after a union labor dispute with the Neshaminy School District prompted teachers to work to the letter of their contract to show how much extra they usually do.

In the hallways of Lower Southampton Elementary School last week, members of the school's Parent Teacher Organization spent hours decorating 24 bulletin boards outside each classroom. The task is usually done by the teachers, but bulletin boards have remained bare since the work-to-contract action was put into effect by the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers at the end of the last school year.

"We just thought it was extremely necessary, especially in an elementary school," said PTO President Marlaena Potts. "We wanted the school to look like it always did for the start of classes. It was depressing to see nothing up on the walls."

The organization took action, Potts said, when she heard rumors that hallway bulletin board decorations would be one of the elements affected by the work-to-contract. "Normally, the PTO just decorates the bulletin board at the front of the school, while the teachers take care of the ones outside the classrooms," Potts said. "We heard there was a chance they were not going to be done, so we decided to do it ourselves."

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Superintendent asks teachers to decorate rooms, write letters

Earlier this week, Neshaminy Superintendent Lou Muenker sent a letter to all teachers welcoming them to the new school year and encouraging them to ignore the Work to Contract action as it applies to the decoration of classrooms and the writing of letters of recommendation.

The Neshaminy School Board has chosen to release this letter so that the public is aware the District is doing everything possible to ensure a productive school year for our students.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The NFT's counter offer; Sweet relief

The School Board posted the following statement on their Negotiation Website . . .

At last night's negotiation session, the NFT delivered a verbal counter offer which included concessions in some areas but not to employee health care contributions. The Board will await the written proposal to review and analyze. Another negotiation session has been scheduled for September 23rd.

I cannot comment on the counter offer until such time it is given to the Board in writing so we can conduct a proper analysis.

Our new Courier Times beat reporter, Christian Menno, attended his first Board meeting on Tuesday, and he wrote this article which appeared in yesterday's newspaper. Nice to have you aboard Christian. Welcome to the freak show :-)

A few words about our labor attorney before I sign off . . . I've received numerous emails and Facebook comments from citizens who feel Charles Sweet is not counseling the Board properly regarding a legal challenge to the NFT's work-to-contract action. While I understand that you may disagree with Mr. Sweet, I don't get why some of you criticize him for his opinion that no judge will grant an injunction against WTC. When you go in for a risky operation, a good surgeon will alert you to the odds of success/failure but they ultimately leave the decision to the patient. It's the same thing in this case. Sweet's opinion is that a legal challenge to WTC will fail, and now it is up to the Board to determine its next course of action.

If you think that we should ask for a court injunction against WTC, then your beef is with the School Board, not the attorney.

I've got to disappear for a few days so I won't be around the Blog or Facebook much. If you submit a comment, please be patient in waiting for it to appear.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Board waits to hear from teachers

Here are a few excerpts from today's Courier Times article about last week's negotiation session . . .

The Neshaminy school board negotiation team was expecting a counter proposal from the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers at last week's meeting. It never came. School board officials said they are hoping the counteroffer is presented at the next session of talks scheduled for Wednesday night.

The union informed the board that the work-to-contract action - which has teachers working to the letter of their contract to show how much extra they do that's not required - will continue into the new school year, the statement said. The action has been in effect since the end of last school year.

At tonight's regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. at Maple Point Middle School, the board's labor attorney, Chuck Sweet, will be available to answer legal questions from residents during public comment.

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

NFT: No counter proposal yet, WTC to continue

The following statement was posted to the Board's Negotiation website earlier today . . .

The negotiation teams from both the Board and NFT met this past Wednesday night for 2-1/2 hours with continued focus on questions surrounding health care costs. The NFT made a special request that information they obtain from our insurance carrier not be shared with the Board, which had been the practice up until now. Although the Board negotiation team found this request to be unusual since shared information is one of the desired outcomes of negotiations, it agreed to the NFT request in an effort to facilitate the process.

The Board negotiation team did ask if the Work to Contract (WTC) action would be discontinued since negotiations are ongoing, and the NFT negotiator replied that WTC would continue into the new school year. The long-anticipated NFT counter proposal was not delivered as expected.

The Board is hopeful that a counter proposal will be brought forth at the next negotiation session set up for this coming Wednesday, August 25th.

Waiting another week for (hopefully) a counter proposal was the least frustrating part of this update for me. The request for withholding of information from the Board is insulting and unreasonable. Previously the NFT asked for permission to speak directly with our insurance carrier, which we agreed to. We even put that in writing so there could be no doubt of our willingness to share information openly. Now all of a sudden, the NFT wants information they obtain to be held back from the Board. Doesn't seem like "good faith" negotiations to me.

Even more frustrating is that despite the fact we agreed to the NFT's request for secrecy and that our negotiations continue, the WTC action will carry into the new school year. It's a shame that despite the encouragement from our parents for teachers to stop WTC, our children will continue to be pawns in the middle of this battle.

Hopefully next Wednesday's negotiation session will bring some real progress and a serious counter proposal from the NFT. Until then, feel free to chime in with your comments on the situation (remembering the blog rule about civility, please).

Late bus back to being late

In case you didn't hear the good news, District Admin reversed its earlier decision regarding the late bus schedule, which is now back to 5pm.

Thank you to all administrators for reconsidering this decision.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Update regarding next negotiation session

As you are aware, there is another negotiation session between the NFT and the School Board's negotiation team on Wednesday evening. Due to vacations and other scheduling conflicts, some of our school board members will be out of town through the weekend. We wanted to alert you that we will not be issuing statements/comments after the Wednesday session until we have been able to review any developments with the entire Board. Chances are this means the earliest you will receive a statement/comment from the Board is early next week.

We hope you'll agree that the Neshaminy Board has been dedicated to transparency throughout these negotiations, and you understand that this delay in notification is only necessary so that the full Board can be apprised of the negotiation session prior to it becoming public knowledge.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Talks continue

The following update was just posted to the School Board's Contract Negotiation website . . .

The Negotiating Team and the NFT met for for approximately three hours Thursday the 12th of August. The negotiations mainly centered around health care issues. The state mediator is assisting both parties in making progress.

A continuation meeting is scheduled for the 18th of August.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Striking a balance

Some excerpts from today's Courier Times article concerning teacher strikes . . .

Without the prospect of layoffs, teacher unions have little reason to ratchet down their excessive demands.

We have seen this superciliousness demonstrated in recent teachers contract negotiations in Bucks County. Despite high unemployment and a lousy economy, the union continues to demand automatic pay hikes and little or no increase in health insurance premiums that are a fraction of what private sector workers pay. Incredibly, some school boards have caved in to the union without putting up much of a fight. In too many cases, contract negotiations are give and take - the school board gives and the union takes.

Pennsylvania law unfairly tilts the balance in favor of teachers. They can strike repeatedly with little or no loss of wages and cannot be laid off unless there is a decline in enrollment or a change in educational programs.

There is no reason why school boards on this side of the river shouldn't have the same tools to manage their districts. The teachers unions certainly are not shy about using the threat of a strike to get what they want. What taxpayers want and need is for teacher unions to accept reality. If the rest of us are having a bad year or two, then teachers should have to suffer a little too.

You can read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Neshaminy achieves AYP

This just in . . . The Neshaminy School District achieved AYP status for the 2009-2010 school year! It will take some time to receive and digest the individual school scores, and I will pass that information along when it becomes available.