Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NFT to vote on Board's final offer

Last night the Board and NFT spoke for more than six (6) hours, mostly in face-to-face talks. This was perhaps the most productive negotiation session ever.

As discussions concluded, there were about a half dozen issues that the two sides remained apart on, including equal say and past practice. Towards the end of the meeting the Board confirmed its final offer, which is modeled after the Council Rock CBA.

As a part of this offer, fulltime teachers at the lower end of the salary matrix (Bachelors plus 12 credits) will receive no less than a $6,121 (14.38%) increase over the next year, while most max level teachers will see an $8,402 (8.76%) boost in their base pay.

Some teachers in the middle of the salary matrix will earn a significantly higher pay hike. There are more than 75 teachers who will receive an increase greater than $20,000.

The average increase for all teachers for the next 12 months will be 17.81%.

Under the current Neshaminy CBA, the maximum base salary is $95,923. Upon ratification of the “Council Rock” proposal, the new maximum base salary will jump to $104,325, and it will increase to $107,469 by the end of the 3-year contract.

Before departing last night, state mediator William Gross informed the Board that the NFT would bring the final offer before the rank and file teachers for a vote.

If the offer is approved by NFT membership, the Board will release the details of its proposal to the public for review and comment. The Board will then vote on the proposal at a public meeting.

If the offer is not approved by NFT membership, the Board will withdraw the “Council Rock” proposal.

Board President Ritchie Webb said, “The fate of these negotiations now rests solely with the NFT. The decision to end this impasse is in their hands. The Board has given the teachers a fair and generous contract proposal, and it all comes down to how union leaders present the offer to the rank and file.”

No further talks between the two sides are scheduled at this point.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Board Reviews NFT's Proposal Issues

Neshaminy Contract Negotiations Update
December 12, 2012

Tonight, for the 63rd time, the Board met with the NFT.

We discussed and reviewed the current 69 NFT issues in their most current revised format given to the Board at 10 pm last night (Tuesday) via email from the NFT President.

The parties met face-to-face for 1 hour, 10 minutes. Unfortunately Mr Gross, the Director of The Bureau of Mediation, was not in attendance and requested via phone that the parties reconvene next Tuesday, December 18th, when he will be in attendance for the 64th session.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Board addresses NFT issues including equal say, past practice

Tonight the board and the NFT met across the table for approximately an hour. The discussion centered around 69 open items, with equal say and past practice being among those items that the NFT presented to the board on November 26,2012.  The board provided a detailed written response to all 69 items.
The next meeting is scheduled for December 12, 2012.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Progress made but key obstacles remain

Last night’s negotiations between the School Board and Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) featured positive dialogue and important strides toward resolution of the 5-year contract impasse. However, Board President Ritchie Webb cautioned that two important issues remain at large.

“The NFT proposal for special education class size adds $2 million to our annual operating budget. Not only is that unaffordable, we also believe that the NFT plan violates State guidelines thus making it an unviable program.”

“The other area of significant difference involves contract language, specifically on such matters as equal say, status quo, and past practices. The Board remains committed to creating an environment that respects the work and professionalism of our teachers without hamstringing our administrators with prohibitive and counterproductive contract language.”

Mr. Webb elaborated on the importance of contract language by saying, “If our principals are to be held accountable for results, then there can be no doubt as to who holds ultimate decision-making authority within a school building. The Board will never agree to contract language that in any way hinders the authority of our administrators.”

The next scheduled meeting is Monday, November 26, 2012. Between now and then, the NFT is expected to review the Board’s objection to their special education plan, as well as reconsider their insistence of maintaining contract language that supports equal voice, status quo, and past practices.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Board rejects NFT counter; offers updated proposal

Meeting #58 Update

The parties met face to face under the Supervision of William Gross, Chief Mediator for the PA Bureau of Mediation.

The Board rejected the NFT counter offer to their Council Rock proposal. Mr Webb stated that the cost would be more than the Council Rock contract, and the language would hamper the ability of the administration to manage effectively.

The  Board presented the NFT a 43 page counter proposal and reserved the right to supplement the proposal with additional concerns at our next negotiation session on Monday, October 29, 2012.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Board releases NFT counter proposal

Board President Ritchie Webb issued the following statement in reaction to the NFT’s offer:

“While the Board will withhold its official response until this Wednesday’s negotiation session, I think it’s important to comment on the current situation.

When the Board proposed the Council Rock solution to the teachers’ union, we knew it would be a game changing idea because it allowed teachers to recover most of the compensation levels (without retro pay) missed over the past 4 years.  This was an expensive concession on the part of the Board but one we felt was necessary to ending this impasse.  In exchange for this concession, the District would still see net savings in areas such as health care, salary administration, and retirement perks/benefits.

Under the circumstances, we saw this as a true win-win opportunity.

In its counter proposal, the NFT did acknowledge their willingness to make several significant concessions to the salary matrix, retirement perks/benefits, and health care.  So in this sense, this is the closest the two sides have come since the last agreement expired.  However, that is not to say that we are on the verge of a settlement.

There are some issues in the NFT counter proposal that have significant financial impact, potentially adding millions of dollars to our annual operating budget.  These issues by themselves would render the NFT’s offer as unaffordable to the District.  Any reports that the NFT proposal is “cost neutral” to the Board’s Council Rock offer are inaccurate and misleading.

Beyond the finances, there are elements of the NFT proposal with respect to day-to-day operations that further the distance between our two sides.  The union kept what they liked about the CR contract and they added in what they wanted to protect from the expired Neshaminy CBA.  This best-of-both-worlds strategy actually does more to stifle Administration than it does to recognize the decision-making authority it should have.

I am encouraged by the dialogue that has occurred since the Board offered the Council Rock solution, however, the parties have not yet made sufficient progress for the NFT to begin thinking that they are close to a settlement. The Board will continue to help foster understanding of this District’s financial and educational situation as we strive to settle on a contract that is respectful to our teachers, empowering to our District, and affordable to our tax payers.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NFT counter offer is "unacceptable"

Negotiation Session #57
Tonight the Board met face to face with the NFT Negotiating Team for approximately half an hour.  It is apparent that the NFT has rejected the Boards' proposal based on Council Rock's recently signed contract.
However, the NFT's new proposal takes the Council Rock salaries, but added costs and language from their current 2002/2008 Neshaminy contract, making the proposal unacceptable. 
While the Board will conduct a thorough analysis of the cost and educational impact of this offer before issuing an official response, let me express my disappointment that union leaders never gave its members an opportunity to vote on the Boards, Council Rock contract proposal offer as is.  Instead of considering a good offer in tough, economic times, the union has taken the all too familiar path of asking for more than we can give.
The next scheduled meeting is October 24th.  The October 15th, meeting was cancelled by William Gross, Director of PA Bureau of Mediation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NFT response is forthcoming

Meeting #56 Update

The negotiation teams for the Neshaminy School District and the NFT met briefly tonight for a face-to-face discussion.

The NFT communicated that they are working to develop a comprehensive response to the board's Council Rock proposal.

The next scheduled bargaining session is this Thursday, October 4th.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More talks scheduled

Meeting No. 55
The School Board's negotiation committee met again this evening with the NFT negotiation team.
For the third session in a row, the parties engaged in a productive discussion concerning the terms of the Board's "Council Rock" proposal and how it relates to the Neshaminy School District.

Additional negotiation dates of October 2nd, 4th & 10th have been scheduled.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Last night's positive momentum continues

Meeting #54, September 20, 2012

The parties carried last night’s momentum forward by meeting at the table for a significant period of time to discuss the District’s “Council Rock Proposal.”  A number of the unanswered question posed last night by the NFT negotiation team were answered and new questions were posed.

In lieu of the bargaining session scheduled for the next Wednesday, and at the request of the mediator, representatives from each side will meet as needed to review relevant financial data.

The negotiation teams from both sides will reconvene next Thursday, September 27th.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Parties engage in "productive" talks

Meeting #53, September 19, 2012

The parties met across the table this evening for what both sides agree was a productive negotiation session.

The NFT negotiation team provided a number of additional question to the Board regarding its "Council Rock Proposal."

The Board answered a number of questions and requires additional time to provide appropriate responses for the remainder.

Negotiations resume tomorrow night.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Board release responses to NFT questions

The NFT is trying to spin our answers as incomplete and vague. Truth is our answers are extremely detailed and complete. Normally, the Board would sit face to face and review each question with union leaders. Since the state mediator has shown a preference to keep us separated the last few meetings, we reviewed details with him, item for item, then he took our answers and explanations to the NFT. A major part of our answers provided an index showing where we found the information, something we thought would be helpful. Taking all the documentation together, it makes sense. Without all the documents it does not, which is the root of the NFT’s spin.

The only question that we were vague on is what Council Rock’s CBA would cost Neshaminy Taxpayers. It would depend on when the contract was signed, what savings the district would realize from part year insurance change, and contributions to the healthcare plan. Another important issue is how many retirees would no longer be entitled to health care benefits going forward? I can assure you that the cost to Neshaminy Taxpayers will be far less that the $32 million the NFT is requesting in their current proposal. Why? Because Council Rock’s CBA does not include a retirement bonus of $27,500, free Rolls Royce healthcare now and in retirement, retro pay, etc.

Finally, the NFT had days to compile 44 questions; we had less that one to respond. If the NFT desires additional information, we will provide it. This offer is the closest we have come to resolving this impasse yet union leaders seem more concerned with banging the war drums. It sounds as though the NFT does not want this contract. Instead they appear to be choosing a path that paves the way for another strike while denying teachers a chance to vote on the Board’s offer.

Ritchie Webb
Neshaminy School Board President

Links to applicable documents:

Board responses to NFT 44 questions

Council Rock CBA

Powerpoint summary of Council Rock CBA highlights

NFT assumptions of Board offer

Arbitration items agreed to

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Board awaits NFT response

Meeting #52, September 13, 2012

The Board provided detailed, written answers with supporting documentation to the 44 questions given to them by the NFT at the last night's meeting.

The Board remains hopeful the rank and file will appreciate this latest offer of the Council Rock CBA as it provides our teachers with a generous contract, and its acceptance will spare our children from having to endure another possible strike.

The Board once again requested that union leaders allow their members to vote on the new proposal, to which there was no commitment.  The Board now awaits the NFT's decision.

The next negotiation session is September 19, 2012.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NFT seeks clarification on Board's offer

Meeting #51, September 12, 2012

The Board met with state mediators, John Cairns and William Gross, Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation for approximately two hours. Mr. Gross met separately with NFT and the Board; there was no face to face meeting. The NFT gave the Board via Mr. Gross a list of 44 questions regarding the Board's recent offer of Council Rock's contract.

The Board asked for time to review and answer the questions with the goal of completing by tomorrow night’s meeting. It is our hope that this will expedite the process, allowing the NFT to get this information to the rank and file for a vote and settlement.

The next meeting is tomorrow, September 13, 2012.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Board makes "game-changing" offer to NFT

Meeting #50

Tonight’s meeting was attended by William Gross, Director of the PA Bureau of Mediation along with state mediator John Cairns. The parties did not meet face to face, instead remaining in separate rooms while the mediators shuttled back and forth.

The Board presented to the NFT via Mr. Gross a new alternative proposal, a game changing offer to the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers. The Board has suggested using the Council Rock Collective Bargaining Agreement in its entirety as a framework for resolving this 4 year long impasse.

Council Rock is similar in size and economic scope to Neshaminy, but Council rock has consistently outperformed our district in key measures of success such as PSSA scores. We believe that offering a parity contract with a district that has superior results show our desires to invest in our teachers.

But with this commitment comes the expectation that our certified staff will join with administration in eliminating the stigma of status quo that has plagued our district. There is no room for complacency if we are going to return Neshaminy to academic excellence.

This offer is by far the best possible deal we can give to the NFT. I hope union leaders and our certified staff will give it careful consideration because this is a one-time offer. If not accepted, it comes off the table and we go back to square one.

Click here to see the Council Rock CBA

Friday, August 31, 2012

Board President calls for referendum to void CBA

Neshaminy School Board President Ritchie Webb issued the following statement in response to last night’s NFT press release which included information about a confidential meeting with a Bucks County judge earlier in the day:

“When I read the latest NFT press release, quite frankly I was shocked.

NFT leadership has shown no respect for our community, our students, or its own membership, and now they have disrespected a Bucks County court. Judge Baldi requested a meeting yesterday with the attorneys in his chambers without board members or union reps present, just the attorneys from both sides.

It is my understanding that anything said in Judge’s chambers is confidential and privileged information, and certainly is not to appear in a press release several hours after the meeting.

Once again the NFT has shot itself in the foot, and any assistance Judge Baldi could have given to these negotiations has been severely compromised, in our opinion, as a direct result of the NFT releasing these details.

NFT attorney Tom Jennings showed a total lack of discretion and respect for the court by publishing a private conversation occurring in Judge Baldi’s chambers.

This serves as a perfect example of what is wrong in Neshaminy. We have a rogue union who, in our estimation, is led by a rogue attorney, and an NFT president who shows no respect and will do and say anything, including using Judge Baldi to get what they want.

The answer to Neshaminy’s problems does not rest with a Bucks County Judge but rather in Harrisburg.

We are getting very close to an unsolvable impasse and I believe that a public referendum that would allow the taxpayers of Neshaminy to void the current contract is the only solution.

Out of respect for Judge Baldi and his court, I will not comment on what I was told had occurred in his chambers. I do want to emphasize that William Gross, the Director of Bureau of Mediation for our State, has attended our negotiation sessions previously and is welcomed by the Board to attend in the future.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Board to NFT: 15% H/C contributions will allow for salary and step increases

Negotiation Meeting #49, August 30, 2012

The Board incorporated the twelve items tentatively agreed to on August 29th into an updated proposal, a copy of which will be placed on the district's negotiations website in a few days.

The Board once again asked the NFT, through the mediator, to contribute fifteen percent towards their healthcare premium. This is the same amount that our custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, etc., pay towards healthcare. A fifteen percent healthcare premium contribution allows the district to offer both salary and step "educations credits" in the amount of $3.2 million, which the Board would be willing to do.

We hope the NFT leadership will consider the welfare of their members and work with the Board on this request.

The two parties never met face to face, but through the mediator.

The next meeting is September 06, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

Board President disappointed by Union Leader’s “waste of time” comment

Reacting to last night’s NFT press release in which Union President Louise Boyd referred to yesterday’s negotiations as a “waste of the NFT's time,” Ritchie Webb issued this brief statement:

“Considering that more was accomplished last night than in the previous four years, I believe Ms. Boyd has done a great disservice to our negotiations by derailing some important progress both sides achieved.

The twelve items agreed to from the Arbitrator’s award included some significant concessions by the Board, and for the very first time since talks began in 2008, we have a partial, tentative agreement over some key issues.

After these items were agreed to, the Board then decided to offer a new Rx proposal that was even more generous than what the NFT had originally requested. This was followed by the NFT modifying its offer for employee health care contributions.

Admittedly these are baby steps in what will be a long journey to a resolution, but I am baffled why Ms. Boyd would downplay what happened. Are union leaders so intent on building the case for a strike that they won’t acknowledge positive developments to their own rank and file?

Given Ms. Boyd’s inappropriate behavior at Tuesday’s public board meeting, and now her refusal to acknowledge last night’s accomplishments, I have to wonder why she even bothers showing up for negotiations.

For the sake of our students, parents and taxpayers, I hope union officials show up for tonight’s meeting with a more positive, can-do approach.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Some Progress but Still Far Apart

Negotiation Meeting #48, August 29, 2012
The Board submitted a new proposal regarding the twelve points from the Arbitrator's award. The Board is pleased to report that we did reach a tentative agreement on these items that was signed by both parties.

The Board proposed a new Rx plan, 5/25/30, which would lower the cost employees pay for their prescriptions. Our previous proposal was 5/30/50 plan.  The NFT had proposed 10/25/30.

The Board had previously agreed to a customized health plan that the NFT had chosen, which was contingent upon the NFT contributing 15% towards health care premiums. This would have been a major concession on the part of the Board, however it became a moot point when the NFT countered with an 8% contribution on ratification, and 8%, 8.5%, 9% in subsequent years, all fixed rates.

The NFT also made it known that their proposal for retro pay and retirement benefits has not changed.
The parties never met face-to-face, and remain very far apart on all financial issues.
The next meeting is August 30, 2012 6:00 pm.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Update from Meeting #47

The meeting began at 6:35pm

The Board and NFT met in separate rooms as the Mediator shuttled back and forth. The NFT submitted a rewritten proposal of the Arbitrator’s award regarding the twelve items both parties had previously agreed to. Unfortunately the wording was significantly different from the original arbitrator’s wording, and the Board was unable to agree.

At the suggestion of the Mediator, Mr. Cairns, the meeting ended at 8:00pm. He asked both sides to review past proposals for any common ground, and to return to the next negotiation session on August 29, 2012, with an open mind.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Board's Offer for More Sessions

The following email from Ritchie Webb to Louise Boyd, sent on Monday, August 13, 2012, extends the Board's offer for more frequent negotiations to the NFT with the provision that NFT attorney Tom Jennings be present at future sessions in his role as lead negotiator. This email was submitted to Judge Baldi during Tuesday's hearing (8/14/2012) to demonstrate the Board's willingness to continue negotiations in good faith.

Dear Ms. Boyd:

​​As you are very well aware there has been an extraordinary amount of energy expended by the NFT, including multiple court filings seeking more bargaining.  The idea of “more is better” is sometimes correct.  The District does not necessarily believe that to be the case in these negotiations because a settlement could take place quickly if the NFT had a sincere desire to address the District concerns.  However, in order to give NFT a major opportunity to deliver a settlement the District advises you as follows. Our Board and Negotiation Team has agreed to allow Mr. Sweet, it’s chief negotiator, effective immediately, to make himself available for every day, all day bargaining . The remainder of the Neshaminy Board negotiation team in this intensive bargaining process is committed to attending as many bargaining sessions as possible within the constraints placed on each of its members by jobs and other commitments.
                    You are assured that Mr. Sweet continues to have authority, subject to a final public vote by the Board, to reach a tentative agreement on behalf of the District. Mr. Sweet will be in constant contact with the District negotiating team, updating it on the progress of negotiations much as we do now, when a member is absent due to work, commitments or illness.  

                  The only condition the District places on starting this process is that the NFT commit to Mr. Jennings’ participation for the entire length of each bargaining session. With due respect to Mr. Gelman, who has replaced Mr. Jennings at numerous sessions, Mr. Jennings has been the chief negotiator for the NFT throughout the entire negotiations.  As we enter this critical phase of bargaining, the District believes his committed presence at all sessions is crucial to the success of the process.​
​The District has decided to accept the NFT’s request for intensive bargaining because it is attempting to create the best environment it can for a successful resolution to these negotiations.  The District can only assume, since the NFT is clamouring for these intensive bargaining sessions that it has proposals to make to address the District’s needs in these negotiations.
​Please confirm the NFT’s commitment to this process with the single condition noted above and have Mr. Jennings contact Mr. Sweet as soon as possible so that dates for bargaining can be scheduled immediately.  While it would be the District’s preference to have the Mediator in attendance at each session, Mr. Sweet is prepared to meet without the Mediator in the event he is not available.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Note of Thanks

I don't think I can ever find the words to properly thank our community for the unwavering support it has shown this Board throughout our negotiations with the NFT.  This afternoon's hearing at the Bucks County Courthouse is a perfect example of your commitment to Neshaminy.

Imagine my surprise as I'm walking to the courthouse, and I come upon a group of 18 residents who took time off from their jobs to participate in a rally of support, undaunted by the threat of severely inclement weather.  Most of these residents joined us in the courtroom, which made the judge's ruling in the Board's favor all the more gratifying.

Whether you attended today's rally, or come to school board meetings, or voice your opinion on social media pages, your support means more to us than you can possibly know.

On behalf of the entire School Board, I thank all of you!


Ritchie Webb

Thursday, August 9, 2012

NFT Creates "Toxic Atmosphere"

Meeting # 46, Neshaminy Contract Negotiations Update

The meeting began at 6:35pm.

The negotiation session went as expected. The NFT had no intention of negotiating in good faith, instead putting all their hope in a Bucks County judge to negotiate for them.

At the negotiating table, NFT Lead Negotiator, Tom Jennings, continued to create a toxic atmosphere that was not conducive to productive negotiations.  It is the Board's position that videotaping of the sessions would produce some results and eliminate the hostile atmosphere.

Before the meeting ended, the NFT requested updated employee numbers since we have layed off some certified staff and cut programs.  The NFT apparently feels entitled to any savings as a result of staff attrition.

We are disturbed by the NFT's lack of commitment to these negotiation sessions.  The Board already agreed to reschedule yesterday's meeting to today at the request of Mr. Jennings.  Tonight he requested for the second time to move a scheduled meeting, this time from August 15th to August 16th.  When asked for a reason why the change was needed, Mr. Jennings refused to answer.   It was only due to the strong encouragement of the Mediator that the Board agreed to accommodate this second request.

The next meeting will be held next Thursday, August 16, 2012. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

NFT Again Seeks Judge's Intervention

Earlier today we learned that the NFT filed a request with Judge Robert Baldi seeking his intervention in our contract impasse. While I am not surprised by this move, I am disappointed by the hypocrisy of union negotiators as they claim it is the School Board that is not negotiating in good faith.

The last proposal from the NFT would have cost us over $21 million in the first year alone! That increase is more than 12 times the taxing authority we are currently afforded under Act 1. Even if we raised taxes to the Act 1 limit, we would still fall short by nearly $20 million. We could slash every nonessential curriculum program in business, music and art, and still we wouldn’t have enough money.

As if the costs of the NFT offer aren’t daunting enough, the union doesn’t even want to acknowledge the staggering $100+ million jump in Neshaminy’s PSERS contributions** over the next 10 years.

Recent actions by the union negotiation team demonstrate they have no desire to help us achieve an affordable, sustainable contract. Lead negotiator, attorney Tom Jennings, has missed 4 of the last 5 negotiation sessions. And NFT President, Louise Boyd, admitted on Facebook that she arbitrarily skipped a recent session because she didn’t like how the meeting was progressing.

The NFT can complain all they want that the Board is being inflexible because when it comes to our students, we are inflexible. The bottom line here is simple and clear – we are trying to preserve, if not improve, our educational programs; the NFT’s contract demands will decimate them.

When you consider all the financial and educational concerns confronting Neshaminy, it’s quite obvious which side isn’t negotiating in good faith. The Board is trying to save a school district. The NFT is trying to protect the status quo.


Ritchie Webb

(**) Currently the State reimburses school districts for 50% of their PSERS contributions, however that contribution is subject to change or even elimination.

Monday, July 30, 2012

NFT's Failure to Compromise on Work Day Stalls Talks

Meeting #45, Neshaminy Contract Talks:

The NFT lead negotiator Tom Jennings was not present for the session, marking the fourth meeting out of the last five that he has not been in attendance.  His absence creates a hindrance to the negotiation process. 

Both sides met face to face for 20 minutes, and then met in separate rooms while the mediators shuttled back and forth.

The Board provided its latest offer in writing to the NFT, again proposing to agree as part of a contract to the twelve items that were part of the recent arbitrator's decision, and signed off by the NSD Board attorney, Chuck Sweet and the NFT attorney, Tom Jennings.

The point of contention which prevents progress is on one item; the language surrounding the length of the work day. The board proposed an 8 hour work day; the NFT wants to keep the current 7 hour work day. The arbitrator proposed a compromise of a 7 ½ hour work day.

In an effort to further negotiations, the Board agreed with the arbitrator for a 7 ½ hour work day. The NFT however refused to compromise. This issue remains unsettled, and prevents agreement on the list of twelve items.

The most distressing thing about this evening’s meeting is the NFT’s unwillingness to even try to negotiate. It’s like they just mailed it in tonight.

Perhaps this being done as a way of bettering their position as they seek a judge’s intervention, which is unfortunate because such a strategy helps neither side and is doomed to failure.

Despite all this, the NFT continues to seek an unaffordable contract that will hurl the district well beyond the financial limits of Act 1, which will in turn force the Board to slash student programs. Such an outcome violates this Board’s guiding principle of erring on the side of our kids, and therefore is not an option for us.

Once again the Board asked for a negotiation session on 9/6/2012. The NFT refused to respond to the mediator this evening, but said it would respond to the mediator in writing this week. 

Meeting #46 is scheduled for Wednesday, 8/8/2012.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Progress in Talks

NFT Lead Negotiator Tom Jennings was in attendance but NFT President Louise Boyd was not at the table.

The Board met face-to-face across the table from the NFT for about 40 minutes.

There is no progress to report at this time. The board proposed one additional negotiation date for September 6th and the NFT refused to agree, asking the board to put the request in writing to their attorney.  

The next meeting is July 30th at 6:00pm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NFT Ignores "Gut" Issues, Says NO to Souderton Type CBA

Meeting #43 did not begin until 7:00pm. At that time the arbitrator provided the board a written proposal from the NFT, which is essentially the same as their last offer.  The board estimates the cost of the NFT proposal to be $21,414,105.68, and did not address any of the previously communicated “gut” issues.  While the NFT lead negotiator Tom Jennings was in the building, the NFT chose to have their proposal delivered by the mediator. The two sides did not meet face to face.

The board asked the NFT for a response as promised on the Souderton Teacher Contract.  NFT responded by saying our answer is “no” to the Souderton Contract and to reference their written proposal.

The board feels it’s unfortunate that the NFT is unwilling to move and bargain to get a contract that is fair & affordable for the students &  taxpayers of Neshaminy School District.

Next scheduled bargaining session is Thursday July 26, 2012.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Common Sense Fails in yet Another Arbitration Award

Q: When is a “past practice” not considered a past practice?
A: When it involves the NFT and an Arbitrator.

For as long as anyone can remember, elementary music teachers participated in up to two evening choral concerts each year with their students. The District believed participation was an expectation of the teachers’ jobs especially since music teachers were given time during their work day to prepare students for these concerts.

During the 2010-2011 school year, in the midst of a NFT-mandated Work-to-Contract (WTC) action, one such music teacher advised Administration that she would not attend her school’s evening concert. Administration said that she was required to do so, and as a result the Union filed a grievance, saying that attendance was not mandatory because that would interfere with the right to "work to the contract." The NFT also insisted that if attendance is required that there must be additional compensation for teachers.

It should come as no surprise that the Arbitrator found in favor of the Union, even though he admitted he “recognized that the teachers herein spend considerable time preparing the students for the evening concerts and that it makes little sense those same teachers could then unilaterally decide to forgo the concert.” Yet he concluded that the teachers were not obligated to attend evening concerts unless they are paid an agreed upon stipend.

The District is appalled at the result of this arbitration decision, which along with several other recent awards are completely one-sided in favor of the NFT. Such union-centric decisions make it extremely difficult to put kids first, which remains our guiding principle.

Now more than ever, the Board is convinced that we must stay the course at the bargaining table in order to ensure that the District’s needs are met. We cannot rely upon arbitrators to help us with common sense decisions, so we will help ourselves by holding firm in negotiations and seeking the changes that are essential for the future of Neshaminy.

Click here to read the Arbitrator's award.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Board Identifies "Gut" Issues

Meeting #42 took place without NFT Chief Negotiator, Tom Jennings, who did not attend for the 3rd consecutive bargaining session.  The NFT offered no explanation as to Mr. Jennings' absence.

The NFT, through the mediator, requested negotiations be held every day in the month of August, including Saturdays and Sundays, starting at 10:00am. The board respectfully rejected the proposed meeting dates stating that board members are volunteers and receive no compensation, and they must work during the day to support their families.

The board did request at the July 5th session to meet on 8/8, 8/15, 8/29 and 8/30. These dates were agreed to by both parties, with starting times of 6:00 pm.

The board presented a list of 15 “gut“ issues, along with the board’s bottom line with respect to each issue.  Among these issues were retirement incentives, 15% healthcare contributions, and equal say.

The board indicated to the mediator with unmistakable emphasis that they would not move beyond the bottom line on any of the issues as expressed.

The two parties did not meet face to face and the mediator shuttled back and forth between the meeting rooms.

The board had previously presented the concept of using the Souderton School District’s recently settled teachers' contract as a model for consideration. Prior to tonight’s meeting the board forwarded an actual copy of the Souderton contract to the NFT. After lengthy consideration the NFT advised the board, through the mediator, that they were not prepared to respond tonight to either the “gut” issues or the Souderton contract. The NFT promised to do so at the July 18th meeting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Board Suggests Souderton CBA as a Path Forward

During last week's negotiation session, we told the NFT that the Board would like to base our new collective bargaining agreement with the teacher's union after one of the recently settled contracts from the surrounding districts.

After we reviewed several different CBA's for new ideas, and considering the PSSA test score success of those districts, the Board chose the Souderton school district agreement to be our model going forward.

If we have learned anything from the past 4 years, it's that our relationship with the teachers needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. So it only logical that we start with a new contract. The Souderton agreement allows both sides to adopt working guidelines that make sense.

Rather than renegotiating a CBA that doesn't work, we invite the NFT to join us in accepting one that will. The Souderton contract isn't perfect and it will require concessions by both sides.

The Board is committed to finding a new path forward, and we hope that the NFT will do the same beginning with Tuesday's talks.

SASD - SAEA Collective Bargaining Agreement 2012-2017 FINAL

Equal Voice Trumps Final Say

Earlier this year, the NFT filed a grievance (see attached) against the district, more specifically against NHS principal Rob McGee, over what the union claimed was a violation of our CBA.

At the heart of the matter was a March 2011 in-service day which Dr. McGee wanted to devote to state-mandated PSSA proctor training for our certified staff. Given our district’s precipitous drop in scores over the years, I don’t think I need to emphasize to you the importance of the training Dr. McGee wanted to provide.

Despite the need for training, the 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 Dr. McGee didn’t give them adequate notice that he wanted to use this day for PSSA proctor training. It is important to note that all the other NSD buildings were able to hold their PSSA proctor sessions, which took all of 45 minutes, during that in-service day. It was only the high school union reps who refused to accommodate their principal's training schedule.

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.

As you will see from page 4 testimony of former NFT official Kevin Knowles, the “equal voice” language was put into the CBA to ensure that “neither side would have veto power.”

While all of us agree that collaboration is important to the success of any organization, the role of authority and decision-making ability are equally essential. A ship isn’t run by committee; it has but one captain. Just like a ship, each school building has a principal who must be responsible for the day-to-day operations of that facility. If the principal doesn’t have ultimate authority in their building, how can we possibly hold them accountable for what goes on inside?

The NFT doesn’t care about that, and apparently neither did the arbitrator who found in favor of the NFT by stating on page 19 that Dr. McGee simply “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.

This ruling highlights why we can never allow the equal voice doctrine to find its way into a future CBA. More often than not, equal voice is used to paralyze our administrators while allowing the NFT to protect the status quo.

Arbitrator Award in Service Day 05232012

We will continue to keep the public advised of arbitration rulings in the future.
Ritchie Webb

Thursday, July 5, 2012

After NFT resubmits old offer, Webb suggests Souderton CBA

Meeting # 41 began at 6:15pm

Tom Jennings, the NFT chief negotiator, was not present for the second straight meeting.  Both sides met face to face for approximately  20 minutes before adjourning to separate rooms. The NFT presented their new proposal which was identical to their November 1, 2011 proposal which includes 80% retro pay, retirement perks/incentives, and a healthcare contribution rate equal to 8% of the current premium.  

Disappointed by the absence of any changes in their latest offer, Board President Ritchie Webb asked the NFT, via the mediator, to consider the recently settled Souderton Teacher's contract in its entirety.  Webb noted that Souderton is an excellent district which consistently ranks among the top scores in the state.  The NFT did not indicate if they would consider Mr. Webb's request however they did ask for a copy of the Souderton contract.

The Board Negotiation Team requested four additional negotiation dates in the month of August. After some discussion, the specific dates offered by the Board were August 8, 15, 29 and 30.  This is in addition to the four meeting dates already scheduled for July (July 10, 18, 26, 30).

The NFT will respond as to the offered dates at the next bargaining session on July 10, 2012.    

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Board pulls offer

The Neshaminy School Board announced that it has withdrawn its entire offer to the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers effective as of Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

In a letter to the NFT’s Attorney, Thomas Jennings, yesterday, School District Attorney, Charles Sweet, advised the NFT that the Board’s most recent proposal in collective bargaining was withdrawn “in its entirety” and that no offer or proposal remains on the table from the Board to the NFT as of this date.

Any new proposal from the Board to the NFT will be made at a future bargaining session.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Special guest mediator has little impact on negotiations

Meeting #39 between the Board and NFT started off with a surprise guest – at the direction of the Secretary of Labor as requested by Governor Corbett, the Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation, William Gross, joined mediator John Cairns for tonight’s session, which lasted a little less than three hours.

The first 30 minutes of the meeting had both sides in the same room with the mediators. Mr. Gross asked the Board why the neutral arbitrator’s award was rejected, to which attorney Chuck Sweet gave several explanations most notably that we could not afford it.

Sweet did note that both sides agreed to 12 items on the arbitrator’s award, and he was hoping both sides could confirm that this evening as a demonstration that there was some common ground.

Gross then turned to the NFT team and asked what was needed to prevent another strike, and their attorney, Tom Jennings, said that the Board needed to change its attitude. Jennings continued on a rant for approximately 15 minutes that included statements such as “the Board only cares about its wallet” and “negotiations are a joke.” Jennings insisted that both sides should be meeting in the middle but the Board has made no effort to do so, and all they do is spew venom.

The most telling comment from Mr. Jennings was “we are going to fix roofs that might leak in three years instead of paying teachers.” Jennings also went on to say that he anticipates the NFT will strike 4 or 5 times.

At this point, the sides split off into separate rooms, and both mediators moved back and forth into private discussions with each group. Much of the remaining 2-1/2 hours was spent with each side explaining its position to Mr. Gross.

Regrettably, very little negotiation took place.

Whether or not the NFT strikes next week is entirely up to them. The next negotiation session scheduled for June 12th will take place provided that the union is not on strike during that time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

NFT to strike on June 4th

Earlier today, Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) President, Louise Boyd, notified Superintendent Lou Muenker of the union’s intent to commit its second strike of this school year beginning on Monday, June 4th.

In reaction to this announcement, NSB President Ritchie Webb said, “I am outraged that teachers would cause potential disruption to our children’s school year and summer vacation. Once again the NFT has shown that whatever it is they are fighting for, it is not for the benefit of our children or their educational programs.”

Mr. Webb noted that the negotiation session for May 31st is still scheduled, however the Board will not negotiate with the union while it is actively engaged in a strike.

The Board President also questioned the logic and timing of the strike. “We have two dates scheduled for talks, and we’re open to having more meetings. I cannot understand why the NFT would enact such a militant action aimed at our kids and their parents when we’ve agreed to continue good-faith negotiations,” Webb said.

As the district begins preparation for a second teacher’s strike, Webb emphasized the need for Harrisburg to take action against the threat of labor actions that disrupt education. “Our children’s education should be everyone’s priority, and our situation should serve as a wake-up call to Harrisburg that anti-strike legislation is urgently needed.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Round of Talks Scheduled

The next negotiation session between representatives of the Board and NFT will be on Thursday, May 31st.

Tuesday, June 12th, has been set aside as a subsequent meeting date in the event the May 31st session yields meaningful progress.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Board Presses for More Negotiations

Despite its disappointment over the recent non-binding arbitration process, the Neshaminy School Board today contacted state-appointed mediator, John Cairns, to schedule further talks with the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT).

School Board President, Ritchie Webb, confirmed the Board's intention to continue pursuing a settlement with the teachers' union by saying, "There isn't a single Board member who doesn't want to get this thing [a new CBA] settled, but we have to keep our costs under control or else it will be the students who suffer." Webb added, "We are willing to continue talks as long as the NFT is."

Answering criticisms from NFT President, Louise Boyd, that the Board's recent rejection of an arbitrator's ruling was "vindictive," Mr. Webb noted, "The entire Board remains mystified why a supposedly neutral third party, who is an agent of the State, would issue a ruling that would force this district to exceed the State's Act 1 mandated inflationary limit; the process is broken."

Mr. Webb summarized his feelings by stating that teachers have taken the Board's stance personally when it really is all about the business of running a school district. "I sympathize with their frustration, but union leaders have yet to show how the District can afford their contract demands," said Webb.

When asked about a possible second labor strike this school year, Webb said, "I hope it doesn't come to that because ultimately it is the children who pay the price, but the Board remains committed to fiscal responsibility and educational results, and we are bolstered by the unwavering support of our community."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Board Releases Arbitrator's Report

The non-binding arbitration process has concluded, and below is the Arbitrator’s report which was issued last week. This report will be discussed during tonight’s public meeting.

NFT Arbitration Award 05022012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Update on Non Binding Arbitration Sessions

The School Board and NFT are currently engaged in the non binding arbitration process as is prescribed under Pennsylvania law.

Both parties have agreed on an arbitrator, selected from a list provided by the American Arbitration Association.

The hearings have started, and six additional dates in February and March have been scheduled. After both parties have submitted their issues to the arbitration panel, the public will be given the opportunity to submit written comment.

Your school board asks for your continued patience as we honor the arbitration process. The Board will provide the public with updates at the appropriate time as the process allows.

Thank you for your support.

Ritchie Webb

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 26th session cancelled

Mr. Cairns, Labor Mediator, Bureau of Mediation, PA Department of Labor and Industry, requested / recommended that we postpone our January 26, 2012 meeting. Instead he requested a mediated off-site, off record discussion on the process of Act 88 final best offer arbitration with one attorney from each party. The NFT and the District agreed to the postponement in order to move the Act 88 arbitration process forward.

Your school board wants to reassure the community that this next meeting is only to establish a process for moving forward through the state-mandated, non binding arbitration. We are still committed to transparency in keeping the public informed of our progress in negotiations. Please stay Tuned for further updates.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Board not interested in meeting for the sake of meeting

In reaction to a recent NFT press release which accuses the District of refusing to work towards a contract settlement, School Board President Ritchie Webb issued the following response:

  Dear Ms. Boyd:

  I have reviewed a copy of the press release issued by the NFT yesterday.  Let me start by noting that there is much that you state in that release with which we disagree concerning the facts.  There will be time to address those discrepancies in the future if necessary.  The main purpose of this letter is to focus on negotiations.  

  The District is pleased to hear, finally, that the NFT is prepared to “explore any and all ways to reach a fair contract” and that you are not “fussy” about how we get to a fair agreement. While those public statements are nice to hear, they are easy to make.  The proof will be in the actions the NFT takes.  So, the District’s bargaining team is prepared to meet on January 26, 2012 starting at 6:30 PM for a bargaining session.

  It is the District’s expectation that the NFT will start this session by presenting a complete written, comprehensive proposal that addresses all remaining open issues.  Such a proposal could (depending on its content) show the NFT’s sincere desire to address the District’s concerns and provide a basis for the Board, in conjunction with the Mediator, to consider meeting in some form of accelerated negotiation schedule.  The Board’s negotiation team, however, is not interested in meeting just for the sake of meeting.

  As both parties prepare to commence mandatory, nonbinding arbitration as is called for by Act 88, I take this opportunity to emphasize that these bargaining sessions can only be productive if the NFT shows a true, sincere effort to address the District’s needs.

  We look forward to your proposal on the 26th.


Ritchie Webb
Neshaminy Board of School Directors

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Webb comments on NFT failure to return to classrooms

A Letter to the Neshaminy Community

I'm sure you know by now that the NFT will not report to work on Tuesday, January 16th. I am greatly disappointed, but not surprised since the NFT leadership has shown no regard for the rule of law in the past. Why would we expect them now to honor Act 88, which requires the NFT to return to teaching?

Act 88 requires the NFT to allow 10 days for the Neshaminy School Board to respond to their request for binding arbitration; the act also requires that during that time no strike may occur. Once again, this rogue NFT leadership has shown total disregard for the law and our community, and they are poor examples for our children.

The NFT claims they did not propose binding arbitration, yet their spokesperson, Bob Schiers, clearly stated that the NFT requested arbitration in his interview, January 13, 2012, as printed by the Philadelphia Inquirer. In this article Mr. Schiers says that this is the first time the NFT has ever made such a proposal.

Even that statement by Mr. Schiers’ is inaccurate as is evident from another article dated October 28, 1993, in the Philadelphia Inquirer. That article quotes representatives of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers stating they wanted the school board to consider binding the results of a usually nonbinding arbitration process, known as fact-finding and follow its recommendations.

Obviously, this attempt at binding arbitration is an NFT ploy designed to mislead the public and the board, knowing full well that past experiences with arbitrators tend to favor the union.

Once again I will repeat the board’s willingness to negotiate as often as the Bureau of Mediation can schedule meetings. However, only after the teachers return to work.

I want to thank the Neshaminy community for its overwhelming support. I appreciate the hardship you are enduring while the teachers are on strike.

Thank you!

Ritchie Webb
Neshaminy School Board President

Friday, January 6, 2012

Teachers declare strike

The Nesaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) announced today that our teachers will be striking effective Monday, January 9th.

Please visit the school district website at for important updates.

We urge every member of our community to contact NFT Headquarters at 215-547-2001 and demand that teachers immediately end this job action aimed at our children, and return to the bargaining table ready to negotiate an affordable contract.