Editor's note: The following letter was submitted to Patch by Feasterville resident and Neshaminy parent/taxpayer Stephen Pirritano.
This coming January 2, 2013 the NFT leadership will meet with membership to discuss the board's final offer. Originally as reported this meeting was also supposed to have been a vote on that final offer as per the indication from the State Mediator to Mr. Webb. Ms. Boyd although has walked away from that statement as per recent article(s) and as well denied that she ever indicated to the State Mediator that she committed to bring the offer to a vote. She has also commented that all options are on the table for her membership to consider including a strike vote.
Recently the NFT Outreach Committee has published another letter stating their concerns for the students of Neshaminy as well as outlining some of the issues they have with the board's final offer. Additionally there has been a NFT e-mail sent to all NFT members from Ms. Anne Schmidt an NFT Leadership member indicating those specific items. Some of the language used is in a terminology not normally recognized in most work places so I have broken down the issues and provided a brief description.
1. Class Size Limits
Currently Class size is directed and controlled by NFT Contract language. The Board proposal reassigns that as an Administrative requirement just as other Bucks County School Districts including Council Rock.
The Board I understand has also proposed that they would agree to make class size a Board Policy which would required any change to be done at public meetings allowing both the public as well as the NFT a chance to voice there concerns over such changes. The NFT wants you to think that they are the only one that you should trust on this issue. These are the same people that enacted not 1 but 2 WTC actions against our children and performed two strike actions.
Let's remember the NFT's job is not to advocate for your children it is too advocate for the members, it is the Board that advocates for our children as well as the schools, the parents and the taxpayers. Board members are parents also and have children in our schools. Who do you trust?
2. Preference Forms
Currently NFT members can request that they be assigned to what ever job description they meet the qualifications for. Those assignments are based on seniority. The Board has elected to allow the Administration to decide where best to assign those employees to meet the demands of the District instead of their own personal preferences. That doesn't mean an employee request will not be met or considered, it just means needs of the District will be addressed as a first priority, and the Administration will make those judgments.
3. Public criticism of an Employee
Currently there is language that Board members will not publically criticize a NFT member or organization. Why I would not support any type of public flogging or intentional embarrassment of an employee; for our elected board members to not be able to inform the public of a particular situation when they feel it is in the best interests to do so, is not something I would consider a best practice for public transparency. To have a system where employed staff is somehow beyond criticism I would think is one of the reasons we have the conditions that exist in Neshaminy. Were it is generally felt there is a severe lack of responsibility and accountability.
4. Provide safe and healthful working conditions for employees
There is no doubt that we want to maintain a safe working environment for all including our staff as well as the students. What the Board's intention is that they not be able to use it for meaningless grievance filings. Allow a reasonable amount of time to be given for the District to address the issues.
5. Eliminate Long Term Per Diem Pool
Current language gives the NFT rights to new hire positions instead of the District being able to hire the best possible candidate regardless of their past associations. I think most would feel as I do that this current language does not promote what we would consider a Best Practice. I want our District to be able to consider the best possible applicant for any open position.
6. Opt Out (medical ins)
Current language allows the NFT to double dip on Medical Opt Out Payments and at a percentage rate of 37.5%. New language would allow only the employee to opt out at a rate of $100.00 dollars per month for a calendar year total of $1200.00. This is identical to what Council Rock Staff is permitted and I think very reasonable. The NFT wants a 25% rate opt out and Ms. Schmidt states in her e-mail to employees that the Board wants it eliminated, which is a mis-representation of the Board's Offer. Based on current medical plans a 25% opt out payment could be approx $5000.00.
7. Past Practice
The continuation of "Past Practice" will doom this District to maintaining policies of which some date back top the 70's as well as prevent the Board and Administration to promote change within the District.
For us to go forward and improve the delivery of education and student outcomes we need a more flexible District. Elimination of "Past Practice" accomplishes that goal. The NFT wants to maintain all "Past Practices". Council Rock has no such clause to continue Past Practice but they do have a continuance of " Letter of Intent" then they go to specifically identify which LOI they are maintaining in the contract. THEY DO NOT CONTINUE HISTORICAL PAST PRACTICES as we do in Neshaminy.
8. Excused Days / Personal Day
Current language allows for excessive abuse as well as just excessive days. The language that is in the Board's Final Offer is exactly what Council Rock Teachers have and is in line with the majority of Bucks County School District language.
9. Grade Change Made by Administrator
No student grade will changed without teacher involvement. The Board wants to eliminate grievance procedure as remedy. The Board proposals in the future is to develop a Board Policy regarding student grade changes. The NFT wants to maintain the right to file a grievance if they do not agree with the Administrators decision to modify a student grade. I see no reason why the Building Administrator or the Central Administration should not be able to have oversight when a grading issue arises that cannot reach a suitable agreement between teacher, student & parent. Again Council Rock does not allow staff to grievance Administrative decisions regarding grading.
10. Life Insurance / Longevity
This is actually 2 issues, Longevity payments are eliminated! We will not longer be paying a bonus for staff to stay employed. They will have to earn salary increases thru seniority, education credits or co-curricular assignments. Again this is identical to Council Rock.
Life Insurance, personally I would not offer any Life Insurance but this is what Council Rock Offers their staff $35000.00 total. Old payout was 2x last recorded yearly salary the NFT proposes 1.5x last yearly salary. (EX) salary is a combined aggregate, so if the salary scale was $98,000.00 plus any Co- curricular, stipends, Lead teacher or Department head assignments and we do have some teacher that earn such a yearly salary of $118,000.00+. Then their Life Insurance award would be $236,000.00 under current contract terms.
11. Administrators voluntarily moving to bargaining unit positions
Current policies allow those prior NFT members that have chosen to accept Administrative positions to be allowed to go back to NFT positions with their seniority intact and bump lower employed staff. The Board promotes elimination of this level of employment opportunity. I agree that this maintains somewhat a guarantee of employment for some while others that may have excellent employment history as well as excellent employment performance to lose their positions. I support once you elect to leave your bargaining unit that you also forfeit that position. That is the Board's position and identical to Council Rock.
12. Guidance Counselors performing non-counseling duties
The NFT maintains as does current language that a School Administrators cannot direct staff employed as guidance counselors to perform any other duty. While no one is suggesting that we would ask them to clean bathrooms or sweep floors there are instances in the schools were staff temporary re-assignment may be required to meet unforeseen occurrences. While everyone acknowledges that a Counselors job is important and needed, the Principal may have an emergency or some other circumstance that they may need coverage for and if a staff member is not engaged in scheduled appointments or direct interaction with a student, parent or guardian it is ridiculous and fiscally wasteful that the particular staff cannot be asked to help out.
13. Equal Voice
Equal voice is not mentioned in Ms. Schmidt's e-mail to members but the NFT Leadership has maintained that they will not conceded it. While they did remove those particulars words from there last proposal to the Board, they replaced them with language that gives them the same exact right. Equal Voice in committee has led to grievance filings and created circumstances in the schools that has allowed the NFT to direct policy that benefit their interest primarily. It has also created situations where Administrators failed to enact policies do to threats of grievance actions by the NFT. No other School District in the County as well in the State have this contractual right as the NFT. And as voiced by every current member of the Board, they will not have it in any new CBA.
Well there you have it, these are the issues the NFT leadership has stated is preventing them from allowing their members to accept the Board's Final Offer.
While the NFT fights to maintain Equal Voice for their Union, Ms. Boyd and her gang continues to promote denying it too their members in a vote on the Board's Offer.
This Community thru its elected representatives has offered a contract on pare and in equal to Teachers that have a proven tract record of producing results recognized as a premier District not only in the County or the State, but also in the top 1000 School Districts in the entire United States to the NFT.
Somehow what is good enough for that standard appears not to be good enough for Ms. Boyd's NFT. As I have spoken before, I am willing to compromise and accept this level of salary, benefits and job security to end this impasse. But if rejected by this Union and or its membership I will never again! I will only accept then a proposal that brings accountability, responsibility into the classroom through merit. A "MERIT" proposal must then be what the NFT really wants!