Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Did the EASD's Presentation of the Teachers' Contract Mislead the School Board?

Joe Kish was the Acting Superintendent in 2007 who negotiated the teachers' union
 contract and presented it to the school board, including newly-elected members, 
5 minutes before they were to vote on it.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Express-Times journalist Colin McEvoy reports in his five page investigative article that Easton school board members in 2007 may have been misled into approving an unsustainable teachers' contract that is crushing the district today. The EASD's new solicitor, Paul Blunt, alleges that when the contract was presented to the board, the board was led to

believe that they were approving a base raise of 4.96% per teacher annually, but that in actuality, the raise structure dictated a base rate that began at 7.9% and increased each year--this year, base raises are 9.8% per teacher (not including additional raises for seniority). The current average raise for teachers in the Easton Area School District is 12.7% annually. In addition, new teachers are guaranteed an additional $8,100 raise (on top of the base) if they finish their masters degrees (which we pay for 100%) and teachers that have over 5 years in the district get anywhere from $11,800 to $15,000 added to their salaries on top of their base.

Union head, Kevin Deely, in a rare moment of defense of Joe Kish--the acting superintendent who negotiated the deal--says that everything was spelled out clearly and available to board members to review before the vote. But it was already revealed in the Express-Times earlier this year, that new board members had just been elected, and were not handed the contract from the administration until 5 minutes before they were supposed to vote on it.

I have to ask--if it can be determined that the district was either deliberately or negligently misled by Kish, can the district sue him personally for reparations? The idea that this guy gets to retire fat and happy this year on our tax dollar is infuriating, being that this is just one of his many offenses (his alleged racial slurs of a former administrator leading to the current lawsuit, his never taking the 811 building off the market once the school board directed him to, his consistent defense of Sodexo who is being investigated for fraud in three other states, his belittling of resident taxpayers who have spoken up at board meetings...)

According to Paul Blunt, the teachers contract as is will cause the district to collapse financially within three years. This is not the teachers' fault, but when will we begin to hold the right people accountable?


Anonymous said...

I thought the first excuse was "we didn't read the contract". Now it's "we were tricked". Garbage!

noel jones said...

I wonder how these contracts are actually presented to the board...if anyone knows, please post, and post how you know. Are they given the entire language of the contract to read, or is it paraphrased for them?

Still, I can't imagine anyone voting on a teachers' contract with only 5 minutes to look at it! It was wrong for the administration to give it to them with no notice, and wrong of any board members who voted on it to do so without giving it a deep and thorough read.

This would seem to indicate an inordinate amount of trust in the administration that the board has been elected to monitor, in terms of spending. There seems to be a deeply flawed "old school Easton" agreement that "the board's job is to support the administration"--that's what Pat Fisher said at a school board meeting last year when she was still president--as if the board's job was not to represent the taxpaying public that elected them, but to support the administration in whatever they want to do.

Steve White said...

Governing Boards are nice in theory but, to be effective, they have to be vigilant without being hostile and they need to know that the administrators that run the day-to-day operation are trustworthy and are dealing with them in good faith. This contract resulted from Board members not being vigilant enough and administrators who saw the path of least resistance as playing down the actual cost of the contract.
I doubt there is much to be done legally. We will probably have to settle for what can be renegotiated. The situation is unlikely to improve without significant changes in both the Board and the Administrators.

noel jones said...

then it's a good thing that Joe Kish is retiring, that Pat Fisher is not running again and we have a whole slew of new candidates running.

by the way, the only board member that i know for certain refused to vote on that contract was Kerri Leonard-Ellison, who was a brand new board member at the time, and refused to vote on such an important contract with only 5 minutes to review it. she is running for re-election, so let's remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

does anyone know if any other board members refused to vote on the contract (or voted no)?

let's also remember that there are other board members who were not elected yet, when this contract was voted on.

noel jones said...

I found out that Jodi Hess is the only other board member that abstained from voting for the teachers' contract. Jodi Hess is also running for re-election. Here is a quote of Kerri Leonard-Ellison from the Express-Times about their first board meeting after being elected:

"We just received the budget as we sat down in our seats. In order to be fair to the taxpayers, it would have been nice to have a little more time to digest this."

Kerri Leonard-Ellison and Jodi Hess abstained during the vote--they both tried to postpone the contract vote because it came on the heels of a preliminary budget with an 11.6 percent tax hike (which later changed to a 10.37 percent hike when the final budget passed in 2008).

The vote for the contract was 6-0, with Hess and Leonard-Ellison abstaining. The yes votes were Pat Fisher, Pat Vulcano, Kerry Myers, Millie Mandarino, Pam Millen-Eustis and Randy Mahl (the last two are no longer on the board). Tim Reilly was absent, as he often is.

Before that vote, Leonard-Ellison made a motion to try and table the contract, and Hess seconded it. That failed 5-3, with Leonard-Ellison, Hess and Mahl voting in favor of it, and the others against it. In other words, Mahl voted in favor of tabling, but when that failed, he voted FOR the contract.

Thankfully, Mahl is no longer on the board, so we don't have to worry about him. We need board members with SPINES and Kerri Leonard-Ellison and Jodi Hess had spines from the beginning, and did not bow to administrative pressure to approve the contract that is now crushing our district, our teachers, and our taxpayers.

Please, everyone, let's not get lazy and subscribe to the easy "throw all the bastards out" attitude against incumbents which doesn't require anyone to actually THINK when things are going badly.

Here is the record of people currently on our school board:

Voted AGAINST the teachers contract:

Kerri Leonard-Ellison
Jodi Hess

Voted FOR the teachers' contract:

Kerry Myers (who is not running for re-election)

Pat Vulcano (who was re-elected last year because no one stepped forward to oppose him)

Pat Fisher (who is not running for re-election)

Millie Mandarino (Sandra Vulcano's cousin, who is running for re-election)


Tim Reilly


Jen Holzberger
Sarah Bilotti

For info on all the challengers in this election, check my previous post:


Anonymous said...

@Noel -

FYI - Jodi Hess's husband is a teacher in the district, and is under the teachers contract. She may also have abstained because of that perceived conflict of interest (though that never stopped other board members from voting).

Piaggio said...

Noel, Jodi Hess's husband, Greg, is not a teacher in the EASD. He is an administrator in charge of the elementary math program. He is also an assistant baseball coach, an assistant AD and the PA announcer at the Easton home football games. At one time, he was an elementary school teacher. As an adminstrator, he obviously is not a member of the EAEA bargaining unit.

Anonymous said...


Mr. Hess is and always has been working on the teacher contract. He coordinates the math specialists and performs some administrative duties, but he is part of the bargaining unit and was at the time of contract approval.

Jodi Hess often abstains from votes due to her husband's position in the district.

noel jones said...

Thanks for the info--we can at least give Jodi Hess credit for having the decency to abstain.

I guess that makes Kerri Leonard-Ellison the only person currently on the board who had the spine to vote no because of the contract itself?

I hope everyone takes that into account and makes sure to re-elect her.

Anonymous said...

She didn't vote against it, she abstained. There is a difference.

noel jones said...


Anonymous said...

What an email from Deely to Kish when combined with the Board minutes shows is that Kish and Bader, the business manager, the teacher's union prepared a wholly inaccurate presentation, which Bader presented to the Board. It also shows that Bader and Kish had agreed on what was going to be presented to the Board. Notably, the Board was purposely not given salary schedules that had been prepared.