Friday, September 25, 2009

Elementary Back To School Night

Back To School night activities were held for the District's elementary schools on Thursday September 24. Despite being given notice that picketing is not permitted on school property, once again members of the NFT violated the law by picketing at the entrances to our school buildings. On a night that is meant to foster positive parent-teacher relationships, instead many parents were forced to "walk the gauntlet" through dozens of staff members wearing picket signs and handing out literature. The NFT's proclaimed concerns about "fair" negotiating ring hollow in light of their insistence on breaking the law in order to publicize their views.

The District's final Back to School Night activities for the year will be held next Wednesday, September 30 at Neshaminy High School. Once again the Board asks the NFT to respect State law and refrain from picketing on school property.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Support Union Update

The next negotiating session with the support union (NESPA) will take place on October 22.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Support Union Update

The negotiating session with the support union (NESPA) scheduled for September 17 has been postponed; it will be rescheduled in the near future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Middle School Back To School Night

Neshaminy School District hosted its annual Back To School activities at its three middle schools on September 17, where parents attend "classes" hosted by their students' teachers. The NFT took this opportunity to hand out literature to arriving parents, proudly providing instructions on "how to negotiate a fair contract" and accusing the District of "failing to understand the basics of negotiating". A copy of the NFT's handout appears at the bottom of this post.

The Board's position from the beginning has been that many of the major provisions of the expired contract cannot continue to be supported by residents. Neshaminy remains the only district in Bucks County where teachers pay nothing toward their health care premiums, incur only generic co-pays for brand-name drugs, receive a large lump-sum cash payment at retirement along with a free health benefits package until age 65, and receive salary credit for enrolling in non-Masters Degree courses. In addition, Neshaminy teachers work fewer contract hours and have fewer steps before reaching the top of the salary scale than any other district. On top of all this, they are asking for annual 6-7 percent salary increases. It is important to note that none of these provisions do anything to improve educational programs for students in Neshaminy.

Unfortunately, the NFT has thus far indicated no willingness to address any of these issues, and with regard to health care coverage has explicitly stated that "paying for health care premiums is non-negotiable, and has been from day one". In this light, their accusation that the District is not bargaining in good faith and is unwilling to compromise rings very hollow.

As stated before on multiple occasions, the Board believes it has presented a fair contract proposal from the start of negotiations in January 2008, offering an average annual salary increase in excess of 3 percent while simply asking the NFT to negotiate contract terms that are similar to what every other District in Bucks County has. Since negotiations began, the nation has experienced its worst economic downturn in 75 years, many local residents have lost their jobs, and residents have seen their retirement nest eggs cut in half. In addition, District-funded teacher pension costs are expected to soar, and State aid to school districts is under severe stress as Pennsylvania deals with its own budget shortfalls. Despite all this, the Board has left virtually all of its proposals intact, and even offered to provide a more comprehensive health plan than its initial proposal.

We continue to hope that the NFT will recognize that "business as usual" is over in Neshaminy. The Board remains receptive to alternative ideas that address the above-mentioned issues, but we cannot expect residents to continue to fund salary and benefit provisions that are so far out of line with what everyone else offers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Support Staff Negotiations

The Board and Neshaminy Educational Support Professional Association (NESPA) met at a negotiating session on Aug 26, 2009; the prior contract expired on July 1, 2009. The discussion focused primarily on health benefits. Another meeting is scheduled for September 17, 2009.

Administrative Support and Confidential Secretaries Agreements

The Board unanimously approved new contracts with the Neshaminy Administrative Support Association (NASA) and the District's Confidential Secretaries at a public meeting held on August 25, 2009. The new contracts, which cover 13 administrative support members and 8 secretaries, are three-year agreements that run through June 30, 2012. Both contracts are similar to the prior agreement reached with the District's Administrators Association (NSDAA), entailing annual raises of three percent, base health coverage under Blue Cross PC 20/30/70, employee contributions to medical and drug premiums of 15%, 16% and 17% over three years, and elimination of retirement incentive programs. The Board thanks both NASA and the Confidential Secretaries for their willingness to work with the Board's negotiators to help address the very difficult financial circumstances faced by the District.