AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NESHAMINY SCHOOL COMMUNITY “NESHAMINY SCHOOL BOARD: STOP FAILING OUR STUDENTS” For nearly

three years, the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) has continuously pressed the Neshaminy School Board to negotiate a fair and equitable contract. As all the stakeholders in this grueling process know, it has not been pretty. In fact, at times it has been downright nasty. This past December, the NFT publicly called on the District for a return to civility among all those concerned about students and learning in Neshaminy’s public schools – regardless of the ongoing contract negotiations between the NFT and the school district. At that point in time, NFT President Louise Boyd stated that, despite the fact the certified staff of the NFT has worked three years without a contract, they were subjected to nasty rhetoric on a daily basis. Most of it came from board members and a small faction of anti-union zealots. Fortunately, Boyd’s words did not fall entirely on deaf ears. Since then, some of the District’s rhetoric has toned down. So has some of the divisive public rhetoric, save for a few self-serving members of the public who remain bent on continuing their personal attacks and character assassinations as opposed to offering constructive dialog and workable solutions. Remarkably, the Bucks County Courier Times, who we believe fomented much of the past rhetoric, took a close look at its editorial stance and called for a new era of civility and compromise from ALL stakeholders in this dispute. We applaud that effort and we hope it continues. All of which brings us to the most critical element in this equation – the students of Neshaminy. The failure of the Neshaminy School Board to resolve these contract issues through collective bargaining means the educational process continues to suffer. The NFT has continuously advocated for educational collaboration. In December, Boyd challenged the school board directors and administrators to focus on finding common ground with teachers across the bargaining table. She challenged school officials to “recommit themselves to working together with classroom educators to set policies and priorities that will guarantee students continue to receive the quality education they and their parents have come to expect from the Neshaminy School District.

“For those who will point to our recent Work To Contract action as an example of our not caring about our students, I submit the exact opposite is true,” Boyd said. “Work To Contract was absolutely necessary for us to clearly and effectively demonstrate that we do far more than ‘work just a few hours a day,’ as our detractors falsely accuse. Work To Contract demonstrated that we work tirelessly for our students and this school district. You will never hear an NFT member gloat or brag about taking such a harsh stance against this district. But understand this, our Work To Contract effort demonstrated our solidarity and proved that we do far more good for our students than a handful of anti-union, anti-teacher dissenters would have the public believe.” Unfortunately, the District failed to collaborate on educational priorities. The Neshaminy School District Cabinet recently completed a long-awaited plan concerning its educational priorities. The plan, which did NOT include recent input from certified staff, despite the NFT’s repeated requests to do so, was presented to the Board on January 24, 2011. Not surprisingly, the plan was void of details and specifics surrounding the educational process. Why? Because this board can’t establish educational priorities without critical input from the certified staff. In the past, the NFT was a welcome part of this process. Today, because of the board and administration’s bitterness towards unsettled contract issues, they are playing a game of “educational chicken” with Neshaminy students. In the past, the NFT worked closely with the District to develop highly detailed plans – plans that served as a roadmap to making our district one of the most effective school districts in the Commonwealth - outlining specific educational priorities for the students of Neshaminy. By freezing teachers out of this process, the District has once again failed our students. In January, Cabinet members outlined their vision of educational priorities. After almost three months of developing said plan, it is still nearly void of specifics. It lacks clarity. It lacks measurable goals and objectives. Worst of all, it lacks vision and understanding that educational priorities are a shared responsibility between the district and the certified staff. It’s tragic they’ve wasted so much time by freezing the NFT out of the process. Unfortunately, it’s the students who will suffer thanks to the District’s punitive approach to developing educational priorities. As Boyd has stated in the past, “A recent Rutgers University study concluded school districts hoping to achieve improvement ‘must develop strong cultures of collaboration that inform approaches to planning and decision making’.” Such collaborations, Saul A. Rubenstine and John E. McCarthy wrote, “must cross a wide spectrum of areas, including curriculum, teacher development and evaluation, instructional methods, as well as hiring decisions by school boards and superintendents.” “What we saw in the District plan is anything but comprehensive,” Boyd said. “The District needs to understand they can’t go at it alone. We need to work

together. The way to make it happen is at the bargaining table. We again challenge the District to put our children first and negotiate a fair contract.”