Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Much Ado about Nothing

You may be wondering if they even have School Board meetings in the summer.  There wasn’t much on the agenda for the School Board since there were not any committee meetings to report on and the contract negotiations have been on hold since June 28th.  But according to Dr. Scanlon’s report, the District has been very busy.  There are major renovations going on at Westtown-Thornbury and Stetson, over 500 children participating in summer school, PSSA test results to be analyzed, goals and targets to be set for the upcoming school year, professional development for teachers and administrators, schedules to be made, staff to be hired, and maintenance to be performed to get the schools ready for the projected 11,815 students that will be entering the doors on September 4th.  With the exception of the lovely young 2012/13 Student Board Rep from East who introduced herself to the Board and Public, sadly, this was the first and last time children and education were mentioned during the meeting.

Most of the meeting was spent listening to residents complain about the teacher’s union.  Mrs. Adsett had written an opinion piece (See DLN Article) earlier in the month that focused on her issues with non-union teachers paying “fair share” fees to the Union since they are also represented by the Union in contract negotiations (there are 13 members out of 943 in our district).  They don’t pay the full amount that Union members do and they have no voting rights.  But, since they can’t negotiate their own contracts, the Union does it for them and protects their rights under the contract.  They don’t get the same personal liability insurance as the Union members do, but the PSEA would represent them if there was a contract violation.  Mrs. Adsett also writes about how she has a problem with the current contract provision that requires the District to have Union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.  The cost to the district is negligible because school business offices already deduct other items, such as voluntary contributions to retirement plans or to the United Way.  Her issue is that the PSEA contributes to political lobbying activities that may not be in line with what she believes. She feels it necessary to stand up for the First Amendment rights of these teachers.

A few like-minded individuals agreed with her rationale but not everyone.

Robin Kaliner eloquently spoke up. “Taking away this very convenient way for the unions to collect their dues may decrease the amount of money they are able to collect.  This is about decreasing the political power of unions, and is clear evidence of the political motivations that some members of this board have, motivations that appear to supersede what is best for our district where their responsibility actually lies.  We see it when you write anti-union editorials, when you speak out at your church in support of vouchers and EITC expansion to the detriment of public schools, and when you spend more than $3,300 on a newsletter that you’re not sure people are even reading (as an aside I hope the board recognizes the hypocrisy of the recent policies meant to stifle parent’s ability to speak out while allowing some of their own members to act in such a glaringly political manner). “

Mrs. Adsett was moved to respond after Robin left the podium. “Mr. Murphy speaks for the Board. Heidi Adsett speaks for Heidi Adsett.”  She went further to say that she doesn’t hate the teachers union but stands for the Constitution. It’s really almost laughable.  Actions speak louder than words.  Oh wait, speaking of her words, does anyone remember the robo-call that she sent out during the last election? (Election Day Call)

Vince Murphy, in his capacity to speak for the Board, assured us that the Board stands by the accused 18% salary increase asked for by the teacher’s union and feels that the initial offer made by the Board is fair.  He also made mention of a letter posted in the West Chester Patch from the Treasurer of the WCAEA (teacher’s union).  (See Patch Article.)

Alex Yanushefski stated:

“While the school board has characterized its proposal as fair and fiscally responsible, the details and an analysis present a different picture.  The school board proposal of deferred raises, less comprehensive medical plans, increased premium co-pays and contributions would actually REDUCE a teacher’s effective salary 33% over the life of the agreement.

Mr. Murphy said that he would like to see the data behind this statement and that the committee would like to understand where this is coming from.

Perhaps he should take Robin’s advice:

“If some of you want to put the union out of business then by all means go ahead, it won’t impact my life in the slightest.  What will impact me, and my children, is if you try to use this school district to achieve your political objectives by fighting for the things that serve your ideology, not that promote the educational excellence of West Chester.  I urge the board to get back to the negotiating table, refocus yourselves on the points that most matter to this district, and settle the contract; not one that will make the teachers rich or please the political party, but one that will promote the best interests of the children who attend our schools.”

Honestly, I appreciate and support the teachers but I could care less about hearing about the details of their  contract negotiations.  I don’t want a strike, but I don’t believe the teachers do either.  I think an unheard majority of the WCASD taxpayers feel the same. I'm, of course, speaking for myself.

 I urge our School Board to focus on children and education first.  Let’s get the contract settled so that we can hear about all of the wonderful, happy things going on in our District!  

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  1. Thank you for being committed to writing up the school board meetings and fighting for what is right in the WCASD. As a quick (and hopefully not defensive) comment, in Dana's blog, she ends with the words, "Honestly, I appreciate and support the teachers but I could care less about their contract. I don’t want a strike, but I don’t believe the teachers do either. I think an unheard majority of the WCASD taxpayers feel the same. I'm, of course, speaking for myself."

    I appreciate this - as I will soon be the parent of a child in the district - so I believe first and foremost that we need to focus on what is best for the district and for the kids. But currently, I am the wife of a teacher - and I DO care about the contract - which will directly affect our family/finances. I know in the midst of negotiations and political fanfare, it is easy to see people as villains or victims, good or bad, or simply numbers on a budget that a lot of people are attempting to balance. But teachers ARE people - they are overly scrutinized public servants doing the best job THEY can for the kids in the WCASD. I know my husband is passionate about teaching. If he wanted to do something to become rich - he'd have gone into a completely different profession. These teachers are here because they WANT to be and LOVE what they do.

    So they DO matter. :)

  2. "Honestly, I appreciate and support the teachers but I could care less about their contract."

    I'm a parent of a rising 3rd grader and a rising 1st grader. I don't want a strike. My kids don't want a strike. And I'm sure that neither the board nor the educators and union want a strike. But if there is a strike I will support it. The teachers union and the board must sit down and fairly negotiate. I foresee mediation being necessary.

    As an educator from another local district, I can't stress enough how important it is for our tax payers to care about the teachers' contract. As a tax payer, you are entrusting the district personnel to hire teachers that will educate our children. It's the contract that will keep the best teachers within our schools and that will help to recruit future stars.

    I urge all tax payers to pay attention to what both the board and the teachers are demanding in their proposals. I'd like to see a neutral report of those demands (not one that is one-sided and demeaning to the reader as emailed by the school board earlier this month.) We, as tax payers have the right to know, and we should want to know.

  3. I do care about the teachers and hope that they get a fair contract. I just think the school board should negotiate privately. I trust that the Union will do what is best for everyone involved. Unfortunately, I don't have the same faith in the school board. I don't need the school board to spend taxpayer dollars, district resources and the time of our administration to push trumped up information to the community under the false pretense of "transparency". That's baloney. They are just trying to make the Union look bad. I'm going to get my info from the teacher's website. At least I can trust that it is factual.