Saturday, January 29, 2011

Announcement

All,

After much consideration, I have chosen not to run for re-election to the Neshaminy School Board.

I truly appreciate the support and encouragement you have given me throughout the past three years. I will continue to work diligently over the remaining ten months of my term to serve the students, parents and tax payers of the Neshaminy community.

Sincerely,

William O'Connor
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Initial budget shows $11.2 million gap

Don't panic yet. It's early in the process, and the Board will work with district administration to find ways of reducing the gap. Our goal is to get the budget increase down to or below the Act 1 inflationary limit while protecting all of our vital student programs.


Proposed Preliminary Budget 01112011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Talks rescheduled

Today's negotiation session has been rescheduled to next Wednesday, February 2nd.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Civility, MEQ's, and testing the waters

These are the themes of today's Courier Times editorial page. First comes an interesting Courier editorial entitled Let's give it a try in which the Ed board states, "Parents call for a time out when kids lose the ability to reason. Therapists likewise advocate timeouts as a means of restoring order when tempers flare . . . And so let us suggest a cooling off - and a renewed effort by negotiators on both sides to work in an amicable way toward an agreement that both sides can live with. Folks on the sidelines, including those who attend meetings, can help foster a new spirit of cooperation and respect by softening their approach as well."

Further down the same page Feasterville resident Robert Lanhan wants to let them (teachers) test the waters elsewhere if they do not think the community is not treating them fairly.
And finally, one page over is a guest opinion from Louise Boyd defending that a certified master's program is nationally recognized, in which she states that "Neshaminy students are the beneficiaries of improved instruction by teachers who are adapting the latest practices and the most up-to-date knowledge to their classrooms."

It's not a bad idea if we can dial down the angry rhetoric a notch, but we cannot lose sight of the financial reality we find ourselves in. And any positive, feel-good emotions we can bring to the negotiations can only last as long as progress is made. Remember, it is three years of an impasse that has brought about community frustration, not the other way around.

In the meantime all eyes look ahead to this Thursday's meeting between Ritchie Webb and Louise Boyd. Let us all take a breath and cross our fingers, and hope for the best. But both sides should keep one important thing in mind . . . renewed public anger is just one bad negotiation session away.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

New meeting, new format

The following statement was posted on the Board's negotiation website . . .

After having separate meetings with the state mediator, both the Board and NFT have agreed to another negotiation session on Thursday, January 27th. In an effort to facilitate open dialogue, each side will be represented only by their respective president and attorney along with the mediator.

Hopefully this smaller group exercise will allow Mr. Webb and Ms. Boyd an opportunity to speak freely and kick start the negotiations into a positive direction.
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Neshaminy looks to trim tax hike

From an article appearing in today's Courier Times . . .

Closing a projected $11.2 million budget deficit strictly with a tax increase of roughly 10 percent would require $403 more in 2011-12 from the average Neshaminy School District property owner.

However, before residents get too alarmed, school board President Ritchie Webb said a tax increase that high is very unlikely. He said hiking taxes by the projected rate would require voter approval in a referendum and it's highly doubtful the matter would get that far.

Instead, school board members and others will look at all possible ways to close the deficit without a huge tax hike before a final budget is passed sometime prior to June 30, Webb said.
The district's 2011-12 proposed preliminary budget is available online at
www.neshaminy.org.

The $11.2 million figure represents 14.6 mills of property taxes, or $403 for a resident with a property assessed at the school district average of $27,626.

"The state's Act 1 limitations would make it impossible for us to raise taxes that high, even if we wanted to," said Webb. "This is the worst economy we've had in 75 years, so we'll look at everything short of hurting our children to balance this budget and get this thing down."

One thing that could change the numbers before a final budget is passed is if the school board and teachers reach agreement on a new contract.

Teachers have been working under a contract that expired June 30, 2008, and their salaries have been frozen since that date, said Webb. The proposed preliminary budget has teacher salaries remaining where they are but also includes a $1.9 million increase in health insurance costs for all employees.

You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Neshaminy faces $11.2 million deficit

From today's Courier Times . . .

The deficit would double if the district agrees to retroactive pay sought by the teachers union in its latest contract offer, according to the school board president.

Neshaminy School District faces an $11.2 million deficit, according to an outline of the 2011-12 proposed preliminary budget presented to the school board Tuesday. Board President Ritchie Webb said the proposal includes about $11.2 million more in expenditures than in revenues.

"The bottom line is that the projected expenditures are roughly $10 million above the current year's budget," he added during the board's work session.

Expenditures are projected to total about $166 million, according to Webb.

The board will reveal the entire proposed preliminary budget to the public Wednesday.
Webb said because it is so early in the process, it remains to be seen how the board will attempt to balance the budget.


"There are a lot of 'ifs' at the moment," he added. "We are not sure about how much we will get in reimbursements from the state."

Because of Act 1, which limits how much a school district can raise taxes each year, Webb said a lot of factors have to be projected far in advance so the actual bottom line is difficult to pinpoint.

"Last year, we balanced the budget by using roughly $2 million in federal stimulus money," he added. "Obviously that money is gone, so basically we are starting this year in the hole by $2 million. We are going to have to take a hard look at everything, including using some of our reserve funds."

The 2010-11 budget included a $7.3 million deficit.


According to Webb, the $11.2 million budget gap would balloon to more than $22 million if the district agreed to the retroactive pay sought by the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers in the union's latest contract offer.

"At this point in time, this makes agreeing to retro pay almost impossible," he added.
NFT President Louise Boyd declined to comment on this story Wednesday.
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

NHS students recognized in FBLA challenge

In December, Neshaminy High School's FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) Club competed in the 2010 Region 12 FBLA Competition at Bucks County Community College. Neshaminy High School's FBLA Club is proud to announce the names of 22 students who won or placed in various business and computer application events. This competition was attended by numerous Bucks County high schools.

On April 4, 5 and 6, Neshaminy will attend the FBLA State Competition at the Hershey Lodge, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Business, Computer and Information Technology Department will be attending with 18 of the regional winners. We wish them success as they compete at the state level. State winners will have the opportunity to compete at the National level, in Florida this summer. FBLA is a nationally recognized organization that promotes business leadership in high schools across the United States.

1st Place Winners
Scott Crisenbery - Database Design & Applications; Ashna Patel and Shradha Patel - Desktop Publishing; Ashka Patel, Evan Pascucci and Ryan Rabea - Entrepreneurship; Ryan Craig - Networking Concepts; Yashmeet Kaur – Public Speaking

2nd Place Winners
Allie Berue and Priyanka Patel - Business Ethics; Brittany Jones and Srinidhi Rajput - Global Business; John Thomas - Word Processing 1

3rd Place Winners
Kara Weiner - Computer Applications; Alyssa D’lorio - Job Interview; Aiden Coleman - Marketing

4th Place Winners
Lindsay Hyndman - Accounting II; Rebecca Johnson - Help Desk

5th Place Winners
Nick Maher - Accounting 1; Keri Morozin and Steve Spadaccino - Desktop Publishing; Matthew Sweetser - Sports Management

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Union PR campaign doesn't change Neshaminy's reality

Here are some excerpts from Ritchie Webb's guest opinion appearing in today's Courier Times . . .

After more than two years of failed strategies, the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers recently sought to improve its image with the help of a public relations expert. The NFT changed the conversation away from contractual issues and told the public its only priority was the good of our children's education, and that it wanted civility with the school board as we worked toward a middle ground in the ongoing impasse. But as was demonstrated by last Tuesday's negotiation meeting, there is no middle ground with the NFT. There never was.

The board's negotiation team headed into Tuesday's talks expecting to discuss health care, and we fully anticipated the NFT was open to the idea. After all, union President Louise Boyd told the editors of this very newspaper in a face-to-face meeting that the union was now willing to discuss health care. It took only about 20 minutes for us to learn that the NFT had no intentions of talking about this issue, and the negotiation session quickly fell apart.

Though this most recent development is disappointing, it is not surprising as NFT leadership has a history of saying one thing but doing another. Case in point is the NFT's insistence that it wants civility in our negotiations, yet dealing with them has been anything but civil when you consider the work-to-contract action perpetrated against our students. And let's not forget the full page advertisement from the NFT in which union President Louise Boyd said Neshaminy school boards have been lying for 35 years without offering a single shred of proof. Yes, there is civility at its finest.

To read the rest of Mr. Webb's letter, click here.
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Monday, January 3, 2011