Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simon says

In today’s Courier Times is a guest opinion from Pennsbury’s Simon Campbell who takes aim at Ritchie Webb and the Neshaminy School Board for being “tough but nice” in our teacher contract negotiations. I’m sure Louise Boyd would like a moment for rebuttal.

Mr. Campbell’s whole gig is based on his anti-union stance, and he feels we in Neshaminy just aren’t as tough as he is. While I respect Campbell’s views and his activism, I’m disappointed by his Michael Moore-like if you don’t believe as I do then you are wrong mentality.

Since Day 1, the Neshaminy Board has made it clear that our focus was on funding our children’s education in a way that won’t unfairly burden our tax payers. Our stand isn’t based on being anti-union, but it does pit us against the NFT and a burdensome, unaffordable contract. This very fact should put us on the same side of the field as Campbell, but he doesn’t see it that way.

All of us on the board have opinions about unions, certainly about Neshaminy’s if not all public unions. But that doesn’t mean that argument necessarily must be front and center in our philosophy when it comes to negotiating a new teacher’s contract. It’s perfectly ok for us to be focused first and foremost on our children’s education. It’s also perfectly ok that we don’t go around using tough anti-union speak all the time like Campbell does. It doesn’t mean that we are any less committed to our cause than Simon is to his.

Towards the end of his rant, Campbell questions if we are “scared of being labeled anti-union” as if that should be important to everyone. Hate to break the news to you Simon, but I don’t care if people think I’m anti-union or not. My primary concern is for the children of the Neshaminy School District. And I’ve never relied on nasty, hateful rhetoric to make my point. I prefer to stay on message using facts. But if anger and tough talk work for you, then go for it.

What Mr. Campbell fails to see is what we have accomplished in Neshaminy as a board, and perhaps he could learn a few lessons. Case in point: Immediately upon becoming board president a few years ago, Ritchie Webb’s very first action was to contact the minority board members (Bill Spitz and me) to bury the political hatchet and get us all focused on what really mattered to our students, parents and tax payers. Webb didn’t have to do that because he already had a solid board majority. He could have just ignored us but he didn’t. Instead Ritchie Webb saw the value in a board united, and the rest of us were more than willing to comply. No barging in on secret meetings, no in-fighting amongst board members.

Can you imagine Simon Campbell accomplishing anything like that?

But all this still leaves me mystified why Campbell would even bother to vent against the Neshaminy School Board. We shouldn’t even be a blip on his radar. Maybe the answer is found in the second sentence of this morning’s diatribe where he makes reference to the “editorial kudos” we’ve been getting. Is that it, Simon? Are you bothered by the positive press we are getting, and think maybe it’s taking the focus away from you? Are you upset that when people in this state talk about a board standing up to a union contract, the first word they utter is Neshaminy and not Pennsbury?

I sincerely wish Mr. Campbell and the entire Pennsbury Board well in their contract negotiations. I would prefer that this be a time that school boards across Pennsylvania would use this moment to come together in our common struggles rather than find opportunities to divide us. It’s unfortunate that Simon Campbell has chosen to do the latter.

But don’t worry yourself over what’s happening over here in Neshaminy, Simon. We’re getting along just fine without you.


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