There were no surprises at last night’s special school board meeting to approve a lead negotiator for negotiations with the West Chester Area Education Association. Well, maybe some people are surprised that there even was a meeting. Not only did the Board try to sneak the vote into the last board meeting, but they decided to hold the special meeting the day after a holiday (that was actually the observed holiday for most) without any notification to parents other than to place it on the District website. I learned of it from the DLN article WCASD shelves decision on hiring a negotiator. Even though Dr. Scanlon defended the Board’s closed door meeting about hiring a negotiator by stating that it was announced under the umbrella of “Other Business” to be discussed at the Executive Session of the Personnel Meeting, it still seems a little fishy. Nonetheless, there was a pretty good crowd there – about 75 people.
We all had a pretty good feeling that the Board had already made the decision to hire the negotiator and was only holding the meeting as a technicality. It didn’t stop people from voicing their opinions, asking questions, and providing comments for the Board. There were probably 30 people that came to the microphone to speak against hiring a negotiator. Only 2 public comments were from people that agreed with the decision. We just wanted answers and rationale and possibly just one of them to act like he or she was actually considering what we were saying.
Sean Carpenter was the first to speak to the public. He said that contract negotiations were the most important act as a Board. Mrs. Miller felt that not hiring a negotiator would be irresponsible. She said that Sultanik was routinely used by the District (maybe 5,6,7 times per year) – I’m sure there are invoices for that… She said that since the Board has no experience with negotiations that they need someone to give expertise. She was the first of many of the Board members to break down the cost of the last strike (more than $230,000). It all adds up to the same sum. And just like during the election, the Board members complained of “erroneous misinformation” being circulated, but they failed to point out anything specific. Sue Tiernan said that she believed that they needed a negotiator because no one on the current Board was capable of doing the negotiating. She said there were no interviews of potential negotiators and no discussions about it by the Board. Although, she thought there was a need for hiring someone, she was not in agreement for hiring Sultanik. Ed Coyle agreed that the new board wasn’t experienced enough to deal with negotiations especially since it needs to be done by January 5th. He said that it wasn’t a good practice for lawyers to represent themselves. So much for all the “experience with contracts” he claimed to have when he was campaigning. Maria Pimley felt that the 48-page contract was too difficult to evaluate and time consuming to get through. She was busy with work and her family, and it would take too much time out of her schedule. Mrs. Adsett thought it would be fiscally irresponsible. She said that the last contract caused a $4 million deficit (What??? Jim Davison went to the mic and responded that the District is actually paying teachers $200,000 less in total salaries than it was 4 years ago – she had no response). She claimed that school boards don’t cause strikes, unions do. Linda Raileanu talked extensively about how she is an advocate. I’m just not sure who she advocates for – the school district or her political party. She said that she always follows a process and will always seek outside expertise when she feels she can’t handle an issue. She said that it wasn’t a time for the new school board to be “skill-building” and that the contract negotiator must be experienced. Her skill set was in the healthcare industry not in contract negotiations. Vince Murphy claimed that hiring a negotiator was a standard practice in the District. Maureen Snook chose not to provide comment or explanation. Her silence spoke almost as loudly as her “yes” vote.
The vote was taken. 8-1 (Sue Tiernan was the only vote against). No surprises.
For more information, check out the article in today’s DLN by Eric Smith. West Chester Area School Board hires lead negotiator for contract