The on-going contract impasse was a prominent topic at Tuesday's Neshaminy School Board meeting thanks to the Maple Point Middle School auditorium being filled with teachers wearing Neshaminy Federation of Teachers [NFT] navy blue shirts.
The teachers at the meeting marched up the driveway to the school holding signs reading "Negotiate NOW!;" "Only fools attack schools;" "Neshaminy deserves better, let’s work together;" "What’s the ETA on the CBA?"
As the school board members filed into the auditorium, the teachers stood up, held their signs in the air and began chanting "Negotiate."
This public display by the teachers came one day after NFT members authorized the union leadership to potentially call a strike or work-to-contract at a later date.
Marian Reed, a member of the NFT negotiating team and an 18-year Neshaminy teacher, said that the board's "take-it-or-leave-it approach" is not going to solve the problems. She also said that certified staff in Neshaminy "has had enough" and are "tired of the disrespect" for their profession and the personal attacks.
"It's not just about the money," she said to the board. "It's about professional development, inclusion in the educational process, respect from the board and administration and a shared long-term commitment to educational excellence."
Gail Donahue, Langhorne resident and teacher at Neshaminy High School, said that there has been "no willingness for compromise from the board."
"This is not about teachers and it is not about the professionalism, it's about the money and it's about the cost to the district," Middletown Township resident Larry Pastor said.
"The union leadership is what has lost them respect in the community," Pastor said.
"This union leader has had a three-year assault on our community," he continued as teachers in the audience shouted and drowned him out.
Board President Ritchie Webb said he would have to ask for adjornment and discontinue the meeting if the teachers wouldn't quiet down and let people speak during their allotted three-minutes for public comment.
"I commend the board board on the job that they are doing and standing firm," Levittown resident Mary Anne Bender said.
"But please put the hostilities aside and negotiate ," she said. "I’m not saying give the teachers what they want, but negotiate. And hopefully their union leadership will do the same and put the hostilities aside and think about the children; that’s why we’re all here."
Several teachers in the NFT voiced concern about the Neshaminy Citizens Contract Advisory Committee. Webb said that the members on the committee, which were selected by the board, requested that their identities not be revealed in fear of retaliation against their children.
Board member William O'Connor, who skyped into the meeting from Seattle, said that he doesn't personally agree with the secrecy of the committee members and that he believes in transparency.
Maple Point Middle School Teacher Deborah Miltro told the board that they have "outsourced" their elected positions by organizing the "super secret counsel." She questioned how a non-elected and hand-picked person could be objective.
"As a teacher I have the right to know. As a tax payer, I have the right to know who is doing the work of the board," Miltro said of knowing who was on the committee.