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The Playwickian

News

November 19, 2010

Exclusive:NFT, NSB respond to student concerns
The Playwickian Staff created a list of the top five questions students had regarding the contract negotiations. The answers provided by Neshaminy School Board member William O’Connor and the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers President Louise Boyd are published unedited as to clarify both views of the current contract disputes. 1.) What is the main issue that has kept the teachers union and the school board from making negotiations any sooner? Neshaminy School Board: The affordability of the teachers’ contract, specifically health care contributions, salary increases, retirement benefits and perks. Our teachers are among the most highly compensated in the State of Pennsylvania, and they contribute nothing towards their monthly health care premiums while most of us pay 25% - 50% or more. Upon retirement, Neshaminy teachers are given a one-time payment of $27,500 and they receive free health care until Medicare kicks in. We suggest that each Neshaminy student asks their parents if they receive such generous benefits, especially during these difficult economic times. Neshaminy Federation of Teachers: Neshaminy teachers have worked without a contract since July 2008. During that time, Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) members repeatedly called upon the School Board and district administrators to set education priorities, to inform its staff, and to determine ways to work collaboratively with teachers. Given clear direction by the School Board, NFT teachers and certified staff would be able to work within those parameters and determine the funding needed to achieve those goals. Instead, the School Board just says, “No, we can’t do this…No, we can’t afford that,” without any context as to the priorities needed for students in the District. As equal partners, NFT members need to know those priorities so we can negotiate fairly and ensure our students receive the great education they deserve. For 2-1/2 years, the District has kept teachers and members of the community in the dark about its priorities and budget, portraying teachers as greedy and not vital to student learning, and simplifying the differences at the negotiating table around health care costs and length of day. Our goal with the Work-to-Contract action was simply to show all of the ways—both in the classroom and outside it—that teachers and certified staff are essential to help students learn and succeed. We proved our point. We now hope that the School Board with come forth and prioritize, inform and collaborate with us because we stand ready to negotiate and reach a new contract with the School Board. 2.) How long are you willing to go on without coming to some sort of negotiation or agreement? Neshaminy School Board: If we don’t bring our labor costs under control, taxes will skyrocket and student programs will be cut. As a school board, we were elected to ensure that neither of those things happen, so we will continue to negotiate on behalf of tax payers and students for as long as it takes. Neshaminy Federation of Teachers: It’s in the best interest for all stakeholders— the School Board, teachers and certified staff, and most importantly our students and community—that we resolve this and reach an agreement soon. Two-and-a-half years is a long time. Recently NFT members voted overwhelmingly (93.5%) to end Work to the Contract and challenge the District and School Board to lay out education priorities in our district and work with us, in good faith, to reach a new contract. 3.) What is it that the teachers union wants in their new contract and what has the school board been willing to offer? Neshaminy School Board: The teachers’ union, the NFT, has asked for a deal that will raise their salaries an average of 35% over five years. And because that includes retroactive pay for the past couple of years they were without a contract, there would be an immediate cost to the community of more than $11 million. The State has set in place a 1.4% limit on tax increases which equates to around $1.6 million for next year, which would mean that Neshaminy would already be in the hole for $9.4 million that would have to be covered by either tax increases or program cuts. As a compromise, the Board has offered the NFT an average 3% raise with no retro pay. The NFT still refuses to contribute anything towards monthly health care costs; the Board has asked for a 17% contribution. And the teachers want to increase the $27,500 retirement perk to $30,000 while the Board wants to eliminate it completely. Neshaminy Federation of Teachers: NFT teachers and certified staff want a fair and equitable contract. It is the responsibility of the School Board to prioritize our district’s education goals and inform its staff. Once they have done that, they must collaborate with teachers and certified staff in our schools to achieve those goals for Neshaminy students. Those priorities have not yet been outlined for the teachers and certified staff. Until those goals are in place, and district administrators determine how we all work together to achieve those goals, we can’t agree to a contract that simply increases our health care up 17%, extends the work day and adds more days without any explanation or reason. 4.) Do you believe that there is any chance of the teachers going on strike during the 2010-2011 school year? Neshaminy School Board: That decision rests solely with the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers. Since contract negotiations are ongoing, we would hope that the NFT would honor their responsibilities without a strike or work-to-contract action. Neshaminy Federation of Teachers: Teachers voted to end Work to Contract and challenge the District and School Board to lay out education priorities in our district and work with us to reach a new contract. We proved our point that teachers and certified staff are essential to help students learn and succeed. We are ready and eager to go back to the negotiating table on Dec. 2 and work together to reach a new agreement. 5.) Since the teachers’ “Work-tocontract” policy has been considered a “working strike,” how would the passage of Pennsylvania legislation regarding a “No-strike” teachers’ policy affect both the situation for the students and the situation regarding contract negotiations as a whole? Neshaminy School Board: It is our belief that strike-free education would eliminate both strikes and WTC, but that remains to be seen. While the Board and the community would hail this as a good thing since students would no longer be caught in the middle, it won’t really put more pressure on the NFT to settle any sooner. So while strike-free education won’t end the impasse, it will level the playing the field a bit. Neshaminy Federation of Teachers: Work to Contract should not be considered a working strike. A strike is a work stoppage. Under Work to Contract, Neshaminy teachers and certified staff continued to work their contractual seven-hour work days. If there were any impressions that teachers were not performing to their usual routines, it only proves our point of how teachers and other certified staff go beyond the call of duty on a daily basis to provide what students need. Our goal with the Work-to-Contract action was simply to show all of the ways—both in the classroom and outside it—that teachers and certified staff are essential to help students learn and succeed. Any legislation has many facets and conditions. Specific legislative language would be needed to determine any effect it would have on any given situation or to the stakeholders involved.

Powder Puff hits gridiron
By Meaghan Breitkreutz News Editor One annual event seniors can take part in is the Powder Puff football game. This somewhat unconventional football game has two teams, Red Team and Blue Team, each entirely composed of Senior girls. For weeks, many of the female members of 2011’s senior class have been practicing on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s trying to get ready for the big game. Senior boys run the practice and help girls improve their skills. The Powder Puff game has been a long tradition at Neshaminy. It began in the mid-1980s with the football players and cheerleaders switching their roles. “The game is an annual event that truly brings members of the senior class together. It started in the '80s as a fun after school activity, and has grown in the past 20 years,” Co-Curricular Assistant Principal Tom Magdelinskas, said. “And the proceeds directly benefit local charities.” Jessica Krenzel is the adviser of the Powder Puff game and has set up the event with the help of Coach Cate Romano who attends the practices and directs the players. Senior girls will take the field on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at the Harry E. Franks Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth outside the football stadium for only $5.

High school musical announced
“This year Neshaminy High School is going to be putting on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Many of us grew up watching this movie and now we’re really excited to bring it to life with the talented students of Neshaminy.” director Hillary Rhydderch said. Rhydderch will be co-directing the musical with another Neshaminy teacher, Dr. Paul Croom. The musical is planned to run Feb. 9-12 in the Kloos Auditorium.

SKATE PARK: from page 1
they wanted to ensure that it was completed in a financially sound manner. Claiming that they themselves when they were young wish that they had a skate park to skate at. The skate park is the culmination of several years of fundraising activities by a large group of interested residents, involving several students who also contributed heavily to the design of the park. Now that it is built, several skaters have been enjoying the park and being healthy active skaters. The supervisors want to get kids out there and want them to have fun doing it. Instead of them playing video games or watching television, they can skate outside and hang out with their friends. So far the park seems to be packed with kids and seems to be a great success. “It is a smooth ground with a nice bowl. It has decent ledges and a quarter pipe,” senior Devin Ludlow said. “I would recommend it for beginners.”

We stand corrected!
In the October 29 article “Roadies get spooky, kooky,” we stated that the Roadies used to visit 11 elementary schools when the actually visit only four. Also we omitted the fact that the district now charges the Drama Club $750 for bus services to its own elementary schools. A price the club was unable to afford at this time.