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UPDATE: Arbitrator Sides with NFT's 'Equal Voice' Doctrine in Grievance

The "district’s right to 'final say' is trumped by the NFT’s equal voice," NSB President Ritchie Webb says of the decision.

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.

John July 09, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Equally damaging to "equal say" is the "past practices" that gives the union its "final say". BOTH need to go. You can't run the district with them in place and the district CAN’T move forward. Especially since the NFT won't / can't be held accountable for their decisions. I don’t understand how the NFT thinks they need input on the scheduling of this NEEDED PSSA training!!! The NFT needs to get over themselves
clint orris July 09, 2012 at 10:40 PM
So, the board of education wants the teachers to do more pssa proctor training, but the district will also cut jobs and programs for the students to do pssa prep each day. the whole system is corrupt. I do blame the nft but I blame our extremely uneducated board. there should be a requirement for all board members to have completed bachelors degrees
John July 10, 2012 at 12:51 AM
The school board had nothing to do with this issue. This was between the high school principal Dr. McGee and the NFT president Louise Boyd (as of 2008 has a master equivilent) and Kerry Hammon (as of 2008 has a mater equivilent). Clint you speak of uneducated people here are two people without a real masters degree are telling the principal who is supposed to be able to run his school and HAS a docorate that he is "not playing fair" so, they hide behind the "past practices" clause again holding back his ability to try to improve this district.
John July 10, 2012 at 01:06 AM
The district did not cut any programs or jobs to "do pssa prep each day". This was a ONCE a year TRAINING for PSSA's done on a day that students were NOT in school. A day that this was appropriate to do on. The issue is Dr. McGee scheduled it for the morning (45 min session with 1-1/2 hour time given back to the teachers) and Hammon and Boyd didn't like that he made the decision without them.
former teacher July 10, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Here is how I see this issue: Imagine this you are a teacher. Your district has had many years of underperforming results on standardized tests, Your boss informs you that he wants you to schedule the staff for some additional related instruction on how they can hopefully help the student body perform better on these tests. The boss decides that instead of having a specific program on a particular day it is in his best judgment that he wants to replace that program with the one that deals with the testing issue. You and your coworkers refuse. The principal says that he is in charge and things will be done his way. Your staff files a grievance with the State based on Past Practice of what was normally done on that program day and the Equal Say clause in the contract. You go in front of an impartial Arbitrator, they hear both sides and award a Judgment to the Staff because of what was done in prior years. Incredible right? Supporting the NFT's position on issues like this is anyone's right. But anyone who does must drop any pretense of wanting what is best for the students. It is self interest from beginning to end.
Nicole Jenet (Editor) July 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM
The NFT has now responded to Ritchie Webb's claims in this article. What do you think of their remarks?
Marilyn Bishop July 10, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Neshaminy schools are all about what is best for the union, students be damned.
Denny July 11, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I would like to know who appointed this hack as an arbitrator?
former teacher July 11, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Denny, I think that it would be obvious at this point that Henry Kissinger would be unable to get the NFT to see reason and be amenable to any kind of compromise. Mother Theresa would tell Louise to go jump in the lake.
feasterville resident July 12, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Can't we for once, do what is in the best interest of the student? Pathetic......

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