Friday, August 20, 2010

"Oh-oh, take the money and run..." (EASD Refuses to Take Back Teachers with New Fed $$)

"Hurry, they're gaining on us, but we're almost to the sand!"

Posted by: Noel Jones

Remember the months-long budget crisis debate resulting in a stand-off between the Easton Area School District administrators and the teachers union, that ended up causing 72 teachers to lose their jobs earlier this year?

Well, the federal government came to the rescue with emergency funds to help school districts state-wide retain their teachers for the sake of student performance--better late than never, right?

No way, say the administrators, including Asst. Superintendent Joe Kish, who negotiated the teachers contract that was the bone of contention in the school board meetings leading up to the firings. Instead of coming to the table with the union
to discuss giving up pay raises on both sides--at the request of resident taxpayers who attended the school board meetings regularly throughout the process--instead of compromising in solidarity with taxpayers suffering through a recession, the EASD Principal, Susan McGinley, Business Manager, Marie Guidry, Joe Kish and the other administrators gave themselves a raise, and fired 84 staff, including 72 teachers. Now that the federal government has awarded the state of PA $387.8 million in emergency funding, they are sticking to their guns and heading for the hills. They have no plans to hire back the teachers. So instead taxpayers are paying for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits, and sending our high school into its fourth year in Corrective Action II under No Child Left Behind with 72 fewer teachers, while giving our administrators a raise. The administrators are not returning phone calls. Maybe if they don't answer the public, we will just go away?

If this seems to defy all logic and decency, there's a good reason for it. As pointed out in The Morning Call's article by Christopher Baxter:

"A reversal would have also been a de facto admission that the district cut programs and teachers solely for financial reasons, a tack barred by the decades-old state School Code. A Morning Call story in June found many districts in financial straits, including Easton, have been able to circumvent the law."

Express Times Colin McEvoy also covered the story.

Now--despite how angry residents and teachers may be about all this, one very important question worth debating remains: should the school district be using the money to hire back the teachers, or saving it to fend off the looming pension crisis and prevent a large tax increase next year?


Anonymous said...

It was nioe to see Mayor Panto at the press conference and support the return of teachers. His comment was precious -- "without teachers the walls of the school would crumble."

I was fortunate to have him as a teacher at Shawnee, now the middle school. He was a fantastic teacher who was dedicated, energetic and related the subject matter very well.

Anonymous said...

I for one will remember this come time to vote and will be voting out every current board member. Not one of them deserves to keep their positions. The members have made the school district a national embarrassment. I believe we should stop spending on sports complexes and focus on education.

Anonymous said...

Here is the problem...the money is a ONE TIME DEAL! That means, if they hire back the teachers, they will have to sustain them throughout the years without the federal monies. This district does a lot of really stupid things, but I wouldn't be so quick to jump on rehiring the teachers. With the current teachers contract, those federal funds will only hire them back but the taxpayers will be left with the burden of sustaining their contracts. The money would be better spent in ensuring that they can continue to operate in the future without having to hit the tax payers with huge increases every year.

Anonymous said...

True, but no one knows what next year will bring. If the money isn't there then there will have to be layoffs -- but I can think of a lot of other places to cut. Also, I read that the district is self-insured for unemployment therefore all of those teachers are still costing the district 50% of their salary.

noel jones said...

Anon 7:27--not so fast. The vow to remember all this come election time is important and I applaud you for that, but let's not get lazy and forget to do our homework--3 board members did not vote for the firings or the administrator raises--please remember their names and DO re-elect them if you agree with them come election time:

Jen Holzberger
Jodi Hess
Kerri Leonard-Ellison

These three fought HARD all the way through the process and were outnumbered--so don't throw the babies out with the bathwater. The others voted for the cuts and the raises, with the exception of Pat Vulcano, who was mysteriously absent for all of the tough votes due to "illness" and yet was present at Democratic Committee meetings before and after the last few school board meetings.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that people think they might rehire any teachers. To do so would be admitting they were cut for financial reasons. Ain't going to happen. And the previous poster was correct. The money is a one time thing. What happens if future years? Stop pushing off dealing with the problem. And anyone who thinks the additional teachers were going to pull the high school out of CA are delusional. That will continue as long as the current socio-economic demographics hold.

The board's unforgivable sin this year was granting any increase in pay to the administration. Any one who has followed the machinations of this body for the last 5 years knows who was behind this. However, they keep getting elected, in some cases they run unopposed. Wake up folks.