Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Two Monologues Do Not Make a Dialogue

WCASD School Board Meeting, Monday, September 24, 2012

I find it difficult to encapsulate last week’s School Board meeting.  There are so many layers of dismay and disbelief about the chain of events.  Walking into the building I was greeted by a few of my teacher friends who had just finished their rally and was given a hug by one of the policemen that I knew before I walked in the door.  I made my way through the hallways with my son’s former teacher who was asking me about his transition to high school.  The room was abuzz with activity. Administrators preparing for the meeting, taxpayers signing up for public comment, Fox news reporters, and another man setting up a video camera behind our school board directors so that he can record those brave enough to speak at the meeting.
This man was brought to our school district by one of our school board directors, the “WCASB VP” to be exact.  Were they creating a log of taxpayer issues and concerns so that they could find ways to understand them?  No, they were collecting footage to create political YouTube videos of themselves about “forced unionism” and their desire to bust teacher unions in Pennsylvania.

Here are the links to the two videos they created using two taxpayers in our district.

How can this be allowed? You may ask.  Surely there must be a policy against it.  Apparently not.  Mr. Murphy, the WCASB President, opened the meeting with a statement regarding Mrs. Adsett’s “Letter to the Editor” that was published in the Daily Local News.  He basically said that although she was using her title as “WCASB VP” her opinions expressed were hers alone and that she does not speak for the Board.

But then again, Mr. Murphy offered his own opinion in the DLN earlier in the day…
Would  this be considered to be the “official” opinion of the Board?  I don’t think so. Seems more of an individual opinion followed by stating the biographical fact that he is the school board president.  It’s all so confusing.

The School District sent out a meeting summary that pretty much covers all the official business.  Click here if you haven’t already seen it.

The only commentary to offer about the school business part of the meeting was for the approval of a salary adjustment for administrative staff and non-union employees to equate to the 1.7% Act 1 Index.  Mrs. Snook went into a lengthy diatribe about the military looking at salary cuts and how her son was in the military and would not receive the same relocation reimbursement as in the past.  Mrs. Adsett asked Dr. Moore, our business manager, to explain the budget deficit for the next couple of years. (0 next year, $11.6 million deficit in 14/15 (due to PSERS balloon payment), $5.3 million deficit in 15/16 (PSERS again), and a surplus of $1.9 million in 16/17).  Ed Coyle pointed out that the salary adjustment was a contractual obligation to “bring people up to market”.  Snook and Adsett voted against both agenda items, but they passed 7-2.

To begin the Committee Reports, Mrs. Snook tells us that the General Assembly only reconvened on September 24, so she does not have much to report at this time.  Charter/cyber reform legislation is on the table and Mrs. Tiernan will address that topic later in the meeting (referencing the Board’s letter to legislators).  

So with really nothing to report, Mrs. Snook continues, telling those in attendance we can expect many changes at the end of 2012, including paying more taxes, some of us up to  $4000 more.  While most in attendance realized Mrs. Snook was most likely referring to the "fiscal cliff" we face as Bush tax credits expire and sequestration looms, one notices many puzzled faces and hears whispers of “where did she get the $4000?” and  “is that true?”  As a service to you, we tried our best to come up with a source for the amount cited by Mrs. Snook.

Interestingly, a blog in the Wall Street Journal, a paper Mrs. Snook has been known to cite in the past, contains a calculator for readers to see just how much more we can expect to pay, pointing out the fact that, “Workers only are charged payroll taxes on the first $110,100 of income, so whether your income is $110,101 or $110 million the most your 2013 increase can be is $2,202.”

The $4000 continues to evade us in articles that list potential tax increases by state: http://taxfoundation.org/article/how-states-would-be-affected-extension-bush-tax-cuts-and-other-provisions
With neither resource nor salary example referenced, the “$4000” potential tax increase remains, in our minds, a big scary number thrown out to a large and emotional crowd.  
In mid-October, Mrs. Snook will be attending the PA School Boards Association Leadership Conference on behalf of WCASD.

Over the summer, Mrs. Tiernan spearheaded the writing of a letter to send to legislators to call for reforms and mandates to charter schools.  See letter here.  She explained the various issues and what needed to change and most board members seemed to be in agreement. Thank you to Sue Tiernan for not giving up when the other board members originally tried to blow you off!

And then, our favorite part, the public comments…

I sat a little to the left of a fringe group of Republican Committee People.  They were clad in red clothing (the teachers were as well although for very different reasons).  They were eagerly awaiting their time at the microphone to, as I overheard, “give it to them”.  Matt McKenzie was the first to go.  Waste begets more waste, he proclaimed.  He called for more reductions in expenses while improving services in the district.  A few others spoke in support of Mrs. Adsett as well as calling for the entire board to take a stand against unions.  However, not all those that spoke up were in favor of how Mrs. Adsett was conducting herself.  If you checked out the YouTube video, Donna Ross called for Mrs. Adsett’s resignation from the Board – much to the horror of the folks to my right.

A few teachers, who are also West Chester residents, spoke to ask for the members of the school board negotiations team to begin actually attending the sessions.  I also commented about it.  I just think it’s ridiculous that not only do we have to pay the attorney to go to the meeting, but then we have to pay him to debrief the school board negotiations team.  They could save the district a lot of money if they just went to listen for themselves. See my comment here.

A few parents spoke about the possible closing of an elementary school.  They didn’t want to see the loss of any neighborhood schools and the flexibility that comes with it.  Sean Carpenter encouraged them to attend the next P&F Meeting.

Dr. Rick Swalm paid a lovely tribute to our dear Mr. Jim Smith.  Thank you, Rick, for sharing this with us.  Jim Smith was part of our West Chester VOTE team.  When we were looking for someone with experience and knowledge to run for school board, he stepped up to the plate.  We will forever be changed for the better for knowing him.

The aftermath:

9/24/12:           West Chester Teachers Rally For New Contract – Fox News

West Chester Teachers Rally for a New Contract - Patch

9/25/12:           West Chester Area teachers rally for a contract Hundreds gather in West Goshen - DLN

9/27/12:            Heidi Adsett’s counterpart – Simon Campbell– sends an email to all teachers in our school district.  He had previously submitted a RTK (Right to Know) Request to the District to receive all teacher’s school email addresses.

He also submitted a RTK request at the beginning of the school year to get a copy of all PTO budgets.  They were trying to link the PTOs to funding West Chester VOTE.  Our Administrators spent a day gathering this information instead of tending to district business.


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