Board Pres­i­dent Ritchie Webb: ‘Our fu­ture is look­ing very BRIGHW’ WIWH RAWIFIED WEACHERS CRNWRACW IN HAND

The Advance of Bucks County - - NEWTOWN AREA - By Jeff Werner

NESHAMINv – Ap­plause filled the meet­ing room as the Ne­shaminy School Board voted unan­i­mously, 9-0, on June 13 to rat­ify a con­tract with the Ne­shaminy Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers end­ing more than five years of la­bor un­rest in the dis­trict.

“Af­ter five years of frus­trat­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, I was start­ing to be­lieve the day would never hap­pen,” said board pres­i­dent Ritchie Webb.

The new con­tract, ac­cord­ing to Webb, makes “sig­nif­i­cant strides to re­turn em­pow­er­ment back to the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” but, more im­por­tantly, he added, “it will be af­ford­able” to the dis­trict.

“We have a con­tract based on rea­son and is fi­nan­cially doable,” said Webb. “I pre­dict if par­ents con­tinue to stand with us, at­tend meet­ings, get in­volved then noth­ing and no one can stop us from mak­ing Ne­shaminy achieve the goal of be­ing the best for our chil­dren while pro­tect­ing our se­niors and our tax­pay­ers from un­rea­son­able tax in­creases in the fu­ture.”

The pact, ef­fec­tive July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2015, con­tains no retroac­tive pay, said Webb. It also elim­i­nates nu­mer­ous clauses that com­pro­mised the de­ci­sion­mak­ing au­thor­ity of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing past prac­tice, MOrs and equal voice.

“This is a new be­gin­ning,” said Webb. “We have the abil­ity to re­turn con­trol of the dis­trict back to the ad­min­is­tra­tion, school board and tax­pay­ers. We have the abil­ity to take con­trol of our fi­nances. If we are pru­dent with our re­sources, we can re­tain and ex­pand our pro­grams and restore Ne­shaminy’s rep­u­ta­tion as one of the best school dis­tricts in Penn­syl­va­nia for our chil­dren.”

rn­der the new con­tract, the past prac­tice clause has been re­moved. It al­lowed the union to file what Webb termed “un­rea­son­able griev­ances” over work rules.

Equal voice has also been re­moved from the con­tract. Equal voice gave the union veto power to stop changes the ad­min­is­tra­tion was try­ing to put forth. “Teach­ers in­put will be needed and wel­comed, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion has fi­nal say,” said Webb.

The 201 Mem­o­ran­dums of rn­der­stand­ing – work rules never ap­proved by the school board and some of which Webb said were “detri­men­tal” to the dis­trict – have been re­moved. There were a few, how­ever, that have been in­cor­po­rated into the lan­guage of the con­tract, noted Webb.

Also un­der the new con­tract, be­gin­ning on June 29, 2015 long term sub­sti­tutes will no longer be guar­an­teed full-time po­si­tions. “We still want to look at our long term subs. We still think long term subs are cer­tainly an as­set. But that should not be the means for which we hire some­one,” said Webb. “We will still give them the courtesy of an in­ter­view, but they will not be hired just be­cause they are in the pool.”

The new con­tract also in­creases the work day from 7 to 7 ½ hours; in­creases the work year by one day, from 188 to 189 days; elim­i­nates the Mas­ter of Equiv­a­lency cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for new hires; and makes Back to School Night manda­tory.

Lan­guage re­gard­ing the Cost of Liv­ing Ad­just­ment (COLA) has also been re­moved. “It was some­thing we were al­ways con­cerned about be­cause sooner or later in­fla­tion would go berserk. We were for­tu­nate it did not hap­pen un­der the term of this con­tract.”

The con­tract also elim­i­nates the early re­tire­ment in­cen­tive of $27,000 for teach­ers with 10 years of ser­vice re­gard­less of age. “We had some ex­tremes where some­one 39 years of age re­tired and qual­i­fied for $27,500 as well as the free health­care. That was the ex­treme, but it was not un­com­mon for many of our cer­ti­fied staff to re­tire in their early 50s,” said Webb.

rn­der the old con­tract teach­ers re­ceived free health care. That will change un­der the new con­tract as teach­ers be­gin pay­ing a por­tion of the health care tab.

Free health care un­til age 65 af­ter 10 years of ser­vice for re­tiree, spouse and de­pen­dents has been re­moved for new peo­ple. “Those who are on it now, those who re­tired this past June re­tain that ben­e­fit, but there is a dif­fer­ent plan,” said Webb. “That change by it­self is a seven per­cent re­duc­tion.”

A clause in the pre­scrip­tion plan, which Webb termed “costly” to the dis­trict, has also been re­moved. It al­lowed an em­ployee, if there was no generic avail­able, to pay $5 for a name brand. “It was ex­pen­sive. That in and of it­self has a 27 per­cent sav­ings,” he said.

rn­der the new con­tract, upon rat­i­fi­ca­tion, Webb said teach­ers will pay 11 per­cent to­ward their health care for the re­main­der of June. Be­gin­ning July 1, they will pony up 14 per­cent of the pre­mium and 16 per­cent be­gin­ning July 1, 2014.

“Th­ese two items cost the dis­trict mil­lions over the years and the fact that they are not here will save the dis­trict money go­ing forth for many, many years,” said Webb.

Webb es­ti­mates the con­tract will boost the dis­trict’s bud­get by $9.8 mil­lion over the next two years, the bulk of which will pay to com­pen­sate teach­ers for ed­u­ca­tion cred­its they have ac­cu­mu­lated since the last con­tract.

But that cost in­crease will be coun­ter­bal­anced by a sav­ings of $12.3 mil­lion to $12.4 mil­lion in ev­ery­thing from health care sav­ings to the elim­i­na­tion of longevity pay, re­tire­ment age out and stipends and re­duc­tions in life in­sur­ance costs, spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and in other ar­eas.

The re­sult, said Webb, will be a net sav­ings to the dis­trict of $2.5 mil­lion. “But I be­lieve that fig­ure will be closer to $4 mil­lion,” he said.

“We were very for­tu­nate to get the union to work with us and take out a lot of th­ese perks,” added Webb. “Salary is not the is­sue. We pride our­selves on our teach­ers. We want them to have a good salary. But the bot­tom line was the perks. It was the side bar agree­ments that were hurt­ing us fi­nan­cially.”

Dur­ing board comment, Mark Shu­bin said with the new con­tract in hand, the dis­trict can now shift its fo­cus to a mod­ern­iza­tion of its cur­ricu­lum and build­ings, im­proved re­source uti­liza­tion and im­proved stu­dent achieve­ment and out­comes.

“Fi­nally we can turn the page on what can be char­ac­ter­ized as one the most chal­leng­ing con­tracts in our dis­trict’s his­tory. The fu­ture of Ne­shaminy is brighter and clearer than it has been in many years … we can com­pete and win against any dis­trict in Bucks given a chance.”

But with the new agree­ment, said Shu­bin, comes new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. “I would ask that you drop all pend­ing ar­bi­tra­tions against this dis­trict as a first step,” he told the NFT. “Fur­ther­more, we find a work­ing group to cre­ate the nec­es­sary on­go­ing dia­logue to en­sure we have a means of bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tions mov­ing for­ward. Let the heal­ing process be­gin and let us find a way to build new bridges for our com­mon goals.”

Added board mem­ber him hout­souradis, “This rat­i­fied con­tract will help this fi­nan­cially strug­gling dis­trict put our stu­dents and tax­pay- ers first. With that and fu­ture smart de­ci­sions this dis­trict will only get bet­ter.”

And board mem­ber Su­san Cum­mings said, “We can now fo­cus on the job of ed­u­cat­ing our chil­dren and run­ning the dis­trict with ev­ery­one fo­cused in the same di­rec­tion.”

While Webb said the new con­tract will not raise taxes, there’s some­thing more trou­bling on the hori­zon for Ne­shaminy “that could break the bank.”

In 2010-11, Ne­shaminy con­trib­uted 5.64 per­cent of its $75 mil­lion pay­roll to the Penn­syl­va­nia School Em­ploy­ees Re­tire­ment Sys­tem (PSERS). In 2013-14, with a pay­roll of $77 mil­lion, the dis­trict’s con­tri­bu­tion rate jumps to 16.93 per­cent, or $6.2 mil­lion. And in 2015, with a pay­roll of $77 mil­lion, the rate will hit 21.31 per­cent, or $7.9 mil­lion.

“That is hor­ren­dous. It is the only thing that scares me go­ing for­ward,” said Webb. “We’ve been for­tu­nate. We’ve put some money aside for it, but un­less it’s cor­rected, we’re in big trou­ble.”

THE NFT RE­SPONSE Lead­ers of the Ne­shaminy Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers said the school board’s 9-0 unan­i­mous vote to ap­prove the agree­ment “should bring a fresh start for NFT mem­bers, the school dis­trict and the com­mu­nity.

“Af­ter more than five years of dif­fi­cult and some­times di­vi­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions, we are thrilled to con­clude this process with an agree­ment that en­ables ev­ery­one on both sides to re­fo­cus and recom­mit our­selves to strength­en­ing our com­mu­nity as a place where ev­ery­one is proud to say I live and work and learn in Ne­shaminy,” said NFT Pres­i­dent Louise Boyd.

“We all agree that ed­u­cat­ing Ne­shaminy chil­dren is our most im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity,” she said. “For teach­ers, the stu­dents in our class­rooms are what sus­tained us through many tough cir­cum­stances.

“This agree­ment is a chance for ev­ery­one de­voted to the suc­cess of Ne­shaminy stu­dents — teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers — to come to­gether and make a fresh start on ful­fill­ing that mis­sion,” Boyd added. “Ev­ery­one worked hard to make sure we found so­lu­tions to is­sues raised by both sides so that we can now move for­ward to­gether.”

NFT lead­ers noted that it had been a week of events that sig­nify new be­gin­nings, in­clud­ing Ne­shaminy High School’s com­mence­ment ex­er­cises.

“Teach­ers are so proud of Ne­shaminy’s new­est grad­u­ates,” said NFT sice Pres­i­dent Anne Sch­midt. “We have watched many of them grow and achieve new things since they were in El­e­men­tary school. And just as they are com­menc­ing the next phase of their lives, it is time for our whole com­mu­nity to move ahead and be­gin a new chap­ter in the life of our school dis­trict.”

NFT mem­bers rat­i­fied the deal in an over­whelm­ing 487 to 21 vote on June 3. The new agree­ment runs through June 2015 and re­places the pre­vi­ous con­tract, which ex­pired at the end of June 2008. Many teach­ers ex­pressed their sat­is­fac­tion at hav­ing a new agree­ment in place.

“What ex­cites me most about a con­tract set­tle­ment is that the com­mu­nity, the teach­ers, and the board have the op­por­tu­nity to move for­ward and re­fo­cus our en­ergy 100 per­cent on the stu­dents and pro­grams,” said Cara DeLorenzo, who teaches Span­ish at Ne­shaminy High School. “My hope for our fu­ture is that pos­i­tive morale is re­stored and that we re­al­ize work­ing to­gether and re­spect­ing each other’s es­sen­tial roles in the dis­trict is the most pow­er­ful and ef­fec­tive way to reach our goals as a dis­trict.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.