TESD and TEEA — are there ANY grownups in the room? Grievances TOO?

I posted this on Community Matters.  I include it again here as I am able to include links to the files I reference.  http://www.schoolspending.info/

I did 3 teacher contracts and the PSEA was absent from the table in the final one. (6 years — numbers for the first 3 years, parameters about finances to establish the pay for the final 3 years — ratified based on trust).  There have been complaints on this blog and elsewhere that the board has given things away over the years, but perhaps now we can get to the root of it – labor peace comes at varying prices.   And it’s important to understand that all the power in this relationship belongs to the PSEA with the support of the courts.

You are correct that this grievance is simply a PSEA enforcement method.  We need to remember the earlier “successful”  TEEA grievance about “online learning” – a student-centered initiative quickly annihilated by the PSEA to “protect jobs.”  And prevent the transfer of work by “bargaining unit members” to others.  (pdf of the order available)   As the outcome, our students cannot take coursework online from another institution or source for credit – our teachers want the right to be paid to teach those online courses.    The decision is outlined in the pdf I have provided to Pattye.

Under the existing contract, our teachers have a 7 hour and 35 minute contract day,  including 30 minutes for lunch. The contract language is as follows:

“Except on the parent conference days, the Employee scheduled work

day shall be a continuous period of seven (7) hours and thirty-five (35) minutes

for secondary (5-12) Employees, which is 2,275 minutes per week. For elementary

Employees, the work day shall be scheduled within the parameters

identified in Section 4.10 and will be 2,275 minutes per week. Each Professional

Employee shall have a thirty (30) minute duty free lunch each day.”

As to union membership business, the district also subsidizes a good deal of the time that any union business takes place during work time:

The Employer agrees to allow the Bargaining Agent thirty (30) paid

days for union business during the contract year. The TEEA will reimburse the

Employer for the cost of substitutes for the total number of days over twelve

(12). If four (4) or more union members will be out for union business on the

same day, at least thirty (30) days notice to the Director of Personnel is required.

Additional district days may be used to assist the Employer with Employer/

Employee initiatives which may from time to time benefit the Employer

and its Employees. These days will be determined at the discretion of the Superintendent

of Schools or his/her designee after consulta-tion with the TEEA.

The Association president shall not receive any non-instructional duties

(Note from the hyphen in  “consulta-tion” above that these terms are typically annually carried over and never renegotiated….so the board does NOT use all their “weapons” in negotiation.  )

TE Teacher on this blog has explained that the elementary teachers (and middle school) have no part in this grievance happening now, because only the high school teachers had traditionally been scheduled to teach 5 periods per day.  In a 6-day cycle with an 8 period day, the high school teachers taught 30 out of 48 periods.

To avoid making cuts to the program while improving the efficiency of our tax dollars, the board changed the teaching schedule AT THE HIGH SCHOOL to 36 out of 48 periods.  The grievance is about “change in working conditions”…..which they claim needs to be negotiated.

As part of their negotiated “work day” of 7:35 minutes (30 minutes for lunch included), teachers also receive the following  time off from teaching:

4.091 Individual Preparation Period

A “preparation period” is defined as the time during the work day when a member of the Bargaining Unit shall be released from instruction or student contact and be free from other responsibilities, including meetings, except for teacher initiated meetings, in order that such time may be used for teacher-directed preparation for instruction. Each full time Bargaining Unit member shall receive an average of two hundred twenty-five minutes per week of preparation time within a range of two hundred to two hundred fifty minutes per week in any particular week and a minimum of one preparation period per day. Each preparation period shall consist of a minimum of 30-minute blocks of time at each level. Other released time beyond two hundred twenty-five minutes per week may be used at the District’s discretion for additional preparation time and/or non-teaching assignments (NTA).

Memory Check/ Reminder: Then Union President Debra C. claimed that the teachers were willing to give back their “end of school year days” at a savings to the district.  (In other words, they were willing to not work and not get paid).  They would not, however, put that in writing or negotiate it.

SO — this is just tit for tat.  And the reason I am commenting here is because IN MY OPINION, the notion that the board should be willing to take a strike is misguided.  There is NOTHING to be achieved by that.  The teachers do not lose one dime of pay.  NOT ONE DIME.  The disruption to lives of students, families and employees (if the schools are closed, the other employees not protected by the teacher laws may in fact lose pay — bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, maintenance) is significant.  It’s why the website STOP TEACHER STRIKES is so focused on ending this process.  NO ONE is served by it — and it’s a nasty experience on all sides.   It’s a stretch to point it out here, but in some more militant districts in PA, teachers who have ignored the “work to contract” rules have experienced personal attacks.

As has been pointed out here before, the bulk of the negotiating team for the teachers comes from the high school.  One of the members is a step 16 PhD who would probably fall under the demotion scenario.  The PSEA sits back and threatens the district and taxpayers with every strategy under the sun, and files grievances with their staff lawyers that require time to defend and respond with “paid by the hour” solicitor time.  This community ran and supported teachers when faced with two budget cutting strategies — demotion and class size.  Why?  Because the only true struggle in this is about power.  And the PSEA has it all.  The teachers can say the district doesn’t care about them — and the PSEA reinforces that perspective with a focus on what the board ‘will do to them’ with benefits and pay — when in fact the board cannot do anything with either of those issues without a change to the contract.  This is not by any means a “us vs. them” mentality – except during negotiations when the PSEA playbook is in full force.

SO — it’s a shame that this all happens.  But I stand in the background sadly knowing that being “all in” even if it means a strike is absolutely hollow.  A strike not only serves no purpose — it’s just a disruption without a reward.  Teachers lose NO PAY.  And kids lose throughout — as typically the PSEA orders teachers after a strike or in contemplation of a strike to “work to the contract”.  While I’m not sure our teachers would ever do that, the process typically involves teachers refusing to do anything that is not written into their contract.  If they strike, teachers are ordered back to work in a short time period so that the district can complete a full legal school year. Teachers are  “annually compensated.”  Once they “work to the contract” they walk out of the building at the end of the 7:35 day.  They do no work at home.  They won’t write recommendations.  They won’t do anything not specifically articulated in the contract.  And folks – these are PROFESSIONALS….but they do things in negotiations that belie that.

Standing up to the teachers union is a waste of energy, as we have no power to enforce.  Look — we scheduled the high school teachers to teach more time in their work day, and we have exposed ourselves to a $3M grab.   Now here’s the irony:  the ruling that they are annually compensated pretty much flies in the face of the fact that they are grieving now for over $3M because they (high school teachers)  were asked to teach 20% more in a work week — during the time they were already contracted and paid to be there.

I apologize for this incredibly and even unfortunately long post.  I have one other comment to make:  the board’s statement that they are not at the table because of the threat of Unfair Labor practices is not false.  It’s not likely, but I was threatened with one during a negotiation because I had talked to a teacher about a detention my son with a broken ankle had gotten for getting out of his chair during class.  My sister is an attorney and we handled it privately.  It was never filed and I think the TEEA and I reached an amicable view of how we would proceed.  But side note:  I sent that child to private school the following year.  So it was not without cost to me.

This is not a pleasant time.  This is a war.  PSEA provides a negotiator, and the TESD has hired one.  I wish the board would remove the 3 administrators from the negotiations, as I believe it damages the “working together” our people need to do after this is over.  Like FTW, I wish the TEEA rank and file would understand the fact that they have all the power on the side of the union – and the district really is at the mercy of this process.

There is one clause in the teacher’s contract no one ever seems to remember:

4.06 COMMITMENT TO ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

Tredyffrin/Easttown Education Association and the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District agree that the continuation of the high professional and ethical standards that exist in the District is of utmost importance. They further agree that the maintenance of discipline and high academic standards is an important aspect of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. Therefore, both the District and the Association will strive for the perpetuation of these practices and standards.

This economy is dreadful, and I’m not an economist, but I do not in any way think it is rebounding.  Houses are selling because the prices have gotten so low and mortgage rates are also so low.  For the first time in my memory, my school taxes will be well over 1% of my property’s value.   My family is not in an industry with any kind of pension, so we are tasked with trying to save money to be able to retire someday.  My teacher friends have heard me say this too many times:  To have a pension equal to 75% of your highest salary (free of Pennsylvania taxes) is something few people working can even understand.  Retiring with $100,000 salary means $75,000 a year for life in pension.   With estimated earnings today of 3% on an annuity (good luck finding even that), you would need to have saved $2.5 million dollars to generate that pension.   Any clue how much you would have to put away each year to do that!  So you can complain all you want about “not making big bucks” during your career,  but you are – it’s just that so much of what you make is being saved elsewhere by taxpayers on your behalf.   Two married teachers would have to save $5M to have the kind of pension income that a TYPICAL and average teacher will generate at the age of 55 – after 30 years of teaching.  Stay until 65 and you will have 100% pension  ).   That’s why things have to change for the next generation.  Federal pensions are nowhere near that kind of generous nowadays – but they didn’t have to bargain the change.

This is the deal we all have struck.  But it’s not something we can afford any longer.    I left the school board after 3 terms because I didn’t have the energy to deal with the demands of parents and teachers, along with taxpayers.  We had people wearing 80/20 shirts to meetings and complaining that AP courses should not be offered – as we were subsidizing college costs.  We had parents suggesting we should have one gifted elementary school so that their gifted children should be able to have the same level of attention that special education children had.   We had post-Columbine families that were convinced Conestoga was super-sized and threatening. We had a local landowner telling the world we were going to take his property from him (when in fact, we didn’t want it…the state required additional acreage for the high school).   I was extremely heartened by the final contract I did with the teachers because it reflected the truth that TE teachers care about TE – and we were able to fix some of the step issues and incorporate health care costs into our salary increases.  But after I left, so did the senior TEEA people – and in came the PSEA.   Every contract since then has been done by a PSEA negotiator at the center of the talks.

Good luck to us all.  If anyone has any questions for me, I’d be happy to answer them. I have a blog at https://schoolspending.wordpress.com/   that I stopped using when Pattye’s wonderful effort here at Community Matters became so useful and helpful.  I don’t like to clog up her conversations, but none of my answers are short or simple.   I don’t come to meetings because the current board quite honestly has heard enough from me.  I don’t blame them.

I said it before – good luck to us all.  This is NOT going to be fun.  And that makes me sad.  But we are not alone.  We see things here, but you only need to go on StopTeacherStrikes.org to see the magnitude of the negotiating problems.  And I’m not sure they even keep that up to date, because fighting the PSEA is rather futile.

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