Tuesday, June 15, 2010

EASD: School Board Votes No On Job Cuts

Posted by: Noel Jones

Today's must-read: Colin McEvoy reports in the Express Times that the school board reversed its decision last night to cut 72 teaching positions, plus several computer technology coordinators, literacy coaches and crisis counselors, among others.

This is after having received permission from the state to cut the jobs, as revealed at the last EASD budget workshop.

So far it has gone like this:

1. The administration asked the school board to vote on cutting a total of 84 jobs.
2. The school board voted 5-3 in favor of requesting permission from the state.
3. The administration then wrote the state to get permission, as it is illegal to cut teachers' job based on financial need in the district--it must be for alignment and improving education.
4. The state granted permission.
5. The administration brought it back for a vote by the school board last night, who then voted no, 5-3.

Now for those who were upset about the teachers cut, this is bound to be good news, but I worry for the effect that this yo-yo of a process is having on the community. We had people literally weeping aloud in the auditorium a couple of meetings ago. Teachers' and students' schedules and futures have been hanging in the balance. And the EASD administration and the teachers union have still not made it to the table to discuss a wage freeze to keep us from dipping into an already dangerously low reserve, with a state pension crisis looming in the next few years.

I respect the fact that this is our democracy in action and am very encouraged to see hundreds of citizens in the community show up at public meetings and make themselves heard. But it's time for the administration and the union to finally come together and propose side-by-side sacrifice in the form of a wage-freeze, to renegotiate the contract that can save the community millions without any teachers losing their jobs, and without depleting our reserve fund or laying a heavier burden on already struggling taxpayers. Taxpayers will be absorbing a 2.35 percent tax hike as it is.

What do you think? I'd like to hear from people on all sides of this issue--how has this process affected your life in the last three months? Teachers? Taxpayers? Administrators? School board members? Post your comments here!


Anonymous said...

you expect a UNION to concede to a wage freeze? what color is the sky on your planet?
they need to settle this in a way that everyone understands, w/ a football game or a wrestling match, because that's all easton is good at.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I've been unusually quiet on this topic since the beginning but it has always been my feeling that all parties are best served by bilaterally agreeing to cut/freeze their own salary packages during this nationl crisis of capital.

Although it distrubs me to see so little movement on either side towards this goal I resist lashing out at the union because I have memories of concessions made (over and over) by unions nationwide - especially auto workers and other industrial processes - who made these good-will concessions in exchange for the promise of retaining jobs, only to see the companies close up and relocate overseas a few years (or months) later.

I'm not saying I side with the union in this case - just that I understand the fears of give backs, although it is much less likely you can relocate a public school job overseas.

My other question is how is it possible that every time there is a major vote on something that effects everyone in the school community, Pat Vulcano miraculously manages to miss the meeting? Is someone trying to avoid having their decisions questioned at election time?



Anonymous said...

“Pol. 006 -A Board member who neglects or refuses to attend two (2) successive regular meetings of the Board, unless detained by sickness or prevented by necessary absence from the district, or if in attendance at any meeting neglects or refuses to act in his/her official capacity as a school director, may be removed from his/her office, with prior notice, on the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining members of the Board”
A public speaker criticize Pat Volcano for missing months of workshops and meeting. Since he has been using illness as the excuse no board members have ever brought up removing him from the board.
If he is in fact too ill to attend he should step down.

Carinne said...

After last night’s school board meeting it is clear that 5 board members are passionate enough about Easton’s students, to execute one last vote of hope. All who voted “no” did so to offer the administration and union a “last chance” to do something right and unselfish, together. This includes taking a wage freeze and looking to cut out “waste and garbage” from the budget, before the teachers. Kerry Myers casted the final vote of “no” with his conditions clearly stated. If someone from the administration and/ or teachers union does not step forward soon with a solution of where to save the money (that does not involve dangerously taking out of the reserve) to save the teachers, he will vote “yes” in the future to these job cuts. Kerry Myers (and Pat Fischer) should be respected for not thinking that taking money out of the reserve is an option. The risk of the lack of these funds eventually falling on the backs of taxpayers is too great a risk. Seniors, low income families and individuals should never be put at risk of losing their homes over this mess. Thank goodness most board members seem to understand this.
When the teachers were pleading for the “no” votes, all that could be heard were statements about how the students could not afford to lose their valuable programs. Immediately after the “no” votes won, all that could be heard outside of the auditorium was the union saying they could not afford to lose their valuable contract. Many teachers have been rumored to want to reject their raise, for the sake of education, and the sake of saving their coworkers. Two publicly said so at this meeting. Kevin Deeley was quick to point out they don’t have the power to do so. As always, the administration was guilty of not mentioning giving up their raises either. Mr. Deeley did share some interesting alternatives that would save some money, but stated the administration shot down every idea. The finger pointing and childish “I am not going to help, because you are not going to help” attitude was in full swing. Board member Sarah Bilotti made clear that she supports raises for both teachers and administrators and does not want to see a freeze. She was eager to want to tell the teachers they were losing their jobs out of “respect”. Although I agree that many teachers deserve their raises, I feel much stronger that many should not be let go. If wage freezes are a way of saving the programs and staff then it should be done, as it is being done elsewhere. Yes, it should start at the top and the superintendent should be the first to set the example. Yet the fair actions that should happen often do not in this world, and to be whining about it as an adult is pathetic. It seems likely at this point that the individuals capable of changing things will continue to bicker at the cost of the students, and programs. Even so, I was happy that 5 board members offered this last chance. It will make them, and the community, confident that every opportunity was offered to better this situation. If 70 + teachers are out of work soon, it will be clear the two groups that allowed it to happen.

Anonymous said...

I'm disgusted, but not shocked. The board did not just vote last month to ask the state for permission, they voted to pass a budget. One month later, they reversed themselves. One month! If neither side has gone to the table at this late stage, why vote this down now? I'm in general agreement with the sentiment that negotiations and an agreement that preserves the lion's share of the teachers is good for the community, but this is about more than just the particulars. This board, the same one who's President "didn't know" what she voted on when she voted for the contract, has just reversed itself in one month's time. Useless is the word that comes to mind for them. At least two members actual proposal to deal with all of this is simply to take the entire shortfall out of the reserve funds, and leave things alone for another year. Can this group do anything to make itself look worse? They keep surprising me with new ways.

David Caines said...

I'm of mixed opinion about this mess. I assume a strike was threatened and the board gave in. I still have to argue that an outside influence is mandatory here.What never fails to freeze mt brain is that in the heart of this darkness, all involved seem to want to go on as if there is no problem.
Dennis, I almost always support the union, they are the sole reason we stiil have a middle class, but not here.
What is obvious is that despite all of the money being poured into the WW, we are still looking at turning out third and fourth class citizens. Education is everything. And we have failed, are failing, and hope to continue to fail. Someone should sue, someone should take this mess to court over the multitude of breaches of law involved here. Some parent who is sick of being shagged around. Pick a law, there's a bunch, and sue. Maybe you'll get enough out of it to move back to the real America, and buy your children an education.
Sue, Sue, Sue...

noel jones said...

Anon 4:17--thanks for doing and sharing the research...

Anonymous said...

Curiously absent in all this is discussion of administrative cuts. Do we really need a principal for each and every grade? My high school had 1 principal and 1 assistant principal. I say remove half of the administration and keep the teachers!

noel jones said...

Anon 9:45--great point--please post this sentiment in the most recent post on the EASD (the one with the image of a gavel) so readers don't miss this continuing thread...