The Neshaminy Federation of Teachers filed a grievance against the district earlier this year over what the union claimed was a violation of their contract. An arbitrator found in favor of the union in this grievance.
According to Neshaminy School Board President Ritchie Webb, this grievance was filed more specifically against NHS principal Rob McGee over a March 2011 in-service day that McGee wanted to devote to state-mandated PSSA proctor training for certified staff.
However, union officials at the high school wanted to call upon a past practice of using this particular in-service day for other purposes since they believed McGee didn’t give them adequate notice that he wanted to use this day for PSSA proctor training.
Webb noted that all the other school district buildings held PSSA proctor sessions, which took about 45 minutes, during that in-service day.
"After hearing the NFT’s position, Dr. McGee decided that the training was absolutely essential and therefore decided that was how the in-service day was to be used. The NFT disagreed and filed a grievance saying that McGee failed in allowing the union an equal voice in the matter," Webb said. He added that a former NFT member testified that the "equal voice" language was put into the contract to ensure that "neither side would have veto power."
Webb explained that while the district believes that collaboration is an important part of success in an organization, "the role of authority and decision-making ability are equally essential."
Each building in the school district has a building principal who is "responsible for the day-to-day operations of that facility," Webb said.
"If the principal doesn’t have ultimate authority in their building, how can we possibly hold them accountable for what goes on inside?" He questioned.
According to Webb, the NFT "doesn't care about that" and neither did the arbitrator who found in favor of the union. In the report, which is attached to this article, states that McGee “pulled rank” rather than engage in a “marketplace of ideas” collaboration with the NFT.
"The way I interpret this decision is that the district’s right to “final say” is trumped by the NFT’s equal voice. I cannot imagine running a company this way, and I suspect this has much to do with why our district continues to struggle," Webb stated.
This ruling, Webb said, highlights why the district cannot allow the "equal voice" doctrine into a future contract.
"More often than not, equal voice is used to paralyze our administrators while allowing the NFT to protect the status quo," he said.
According to an NFT-issued press release, the district has in the past three or four years established a pattern of attacks against the union that have led to it file numerous grievances and unfair labor practice charges against the district.
The press release noted that the union has "prevailed in virtually all of the arbitrations and ULPs thus far," which the union says shows a "clear indication that the district does not care for the rule of law as it applies to our legally binding contract, nor does it care to work in unison with its staff to rectify the problems facing the school district."
"Being a businessman and not an educator, Mr. Webb thinks schools should be run like he runs his business. The job of educating students is not generating a product or providing a service - like his or other businesses do. It's far different," the union states in its press release.
The union went on to say that the board's "inflexibility" has left Neshaminy teachers without a new contract, despite four years of negotiations.
"This approach and their determined disregard for mutually agreed procedures is mind boggling. All it is doing is costing taxpayers untold dollars in legal fees while tearing the community apart at the seams. We are confident that Neshaminy residents share our belief that a system of checks and balances is healthy and that teachers need real voice to advocate effectively for what they and their students need in order to be successful," the union said.