Teacher negotiations get an angry comment, and Unionville principal announces retirement
● By J. Chambless
Scott Broomall, president of the Unionville Chadds Ford Education Association (seated, center), got a standing ovation by teachers after his comments to the school board.
Last Friday morning's press conference at the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District office got some backlash from teachers at Monday evening's meeting of the school board.
The Friday press conference, during which members of the district's negotiating team revealed the state of negotiations between the administration and teachers over a three-year contract, got a heated comment from Scott Broomall, the president of the Unionville Chadds Ford Education Association.
Before Broomall spoke, board member Gregg Lindner announced that teachers union is currently proposing a 5.01 percent increase in total compensation (salary plus benefits) each year over their next three-year contract, while the district is putting forward a 2.08 percent proposal each year over three years.
The district's guidelines, Lindner said, are arriving at a fair compensation and benefits package to keep recruiting top teachers, and making sure that the agreement doesn't force consideration of program cuts or raising class sizes.
“With an Act 1 limit on tax increases of 1.9 percent this year, we either need to limit these benefit expense increases, or limit wage increases,” he said. “We cannot afford both a wage increase and maintaining current benefits.”
During public comment at the school board meeting, Broomall said, "I was surprised when the district went public with three and a half months before our contract expires, and more importantly, decided to do it at 10:30 a.m. on a school day. After the press conference concluded, there were messages on my cell phone, there was a call from the office, interrupting my class, asking if I could take a phone call. I appreciate that reporters reached out to get our side of the story, but I am teaching during the day. I fault the board, because if they had given more thought to when they were doing the press conference, and truly cared about instruction in the classroom, maybe they would have held it at a different time.
"I've been through three [contract] negotiations," Broomall continued. "Being three percent apart with three-plus months to go is normal for negotiations. This maneuver by the district has done nothing more than make the process more contentious. I'm not sure what the ultimate goal of the board was in going public, but it certainly was not to work with us to reach a settlement. You have demonized us. You have been selective in the information you present, and you attack the very professionalism that makes this a premier school district.
"The proposal put forth by the teachers would cost the taxpayers about $125 more a year," Broomall said. "That's $10 a month. Thirty-four cents a day. That seems more than reasonable for a district of our caliber. No teacher is looking to fleece the hard-working taxpayer, but people move to this area because of the school district we have."
As Broomall took his seat, people seated around him stood and applauded. There was no further public comment.
Board member Kathleen Do responded by acknowledging the excellence of the teachers in the district. "I realize that we're heading into choppy waters," she said. "But I have full confidence that the district's negotiating team and teachers' negotiating team will work in the best interests of the schools, the taxpayers and the entire district to come to an equitable resolution."
At the beginning of the meeting, the board thanked several retiring teachers and staff members, including Unionville High School principal Paula Massanari, who announced her July retirement in a letter to parents last week. Sanville thanked Massanari for her service, and admitted he was surprised by her announcement. "I was shocked," he said. "I've been at this long enough that I get to know the signs that people are going to retire. I didn't get any of that. I went into your personnel file and looking at evaluations and your original application packet. There were words like professionalism, character, innate ability, passion, desire to make a difference, honesty. All of those traits that were there in your original employment packet are traits that I see today. You are not just leaving us -- you're leaving us better."
In other business, the board awarded a bid for five new 72-passenger school buses to Wolfington Body Company, at a net cost of $381,785. One bus, minus a trade-in, will be purchased in the current 2014-15 budget year, from available funds. The other four buses will be purchased out of the 2015-16 budget. The board also unanimously approved moving $1,056,580 from the general fund to the capital reserve fund, based on savings from a recent bond refinancing. The money will be used for renovations to Patton Middle School and Hillendale Elementary School in the coming years.
The board split on approval of a new contract with Ken Batchelor, the assistant to the superintendent. The contract, which will pay Batchelor $193,199 per year, represents an eight percent raise. Board member Keith Knauss addressed the issue, saying, "Two years ago, the district had one personnel director, and one assistant to the superintendent, Ken Batchelor. Ken then assumed many of the duties of the personnel director. Essentially, we collapsed two positions into one. The savings were large. He has been able to handle the duties, and his performance has been excellent. It's time he is rewarded for his extra efforts. I don't want to lose him, and I'm willing to pay to retain his services."
Board member Carolyn Daniels told the board, "I have known Ken, and he is hardworking, diligent, accessible and dedicated. My vote tonight is not a reflection of all that Ken brings to our district, but rather a reflection of the timing, and some of the terms of the proposed agreement, in light of the current teacher negotiations."
Daniels was the only dissenting vote on Batchelor's contract, which was approved.
During his report on legislation, board member Michael Rock said he had discovered House Bill 168, which seeks to remove the Keystone Exams as a high-school graduation requirement, and noted that the Pennsylvania School Board Association has formally endorsed the bill, saying that the tests don't accomplish their stated goals, hurt vulnerable students and increase dropout rates. The bill is also being supported by the nearby Tredyffrin-Easttown School District.
Rock also noted that another bill, House Bill 177, is seeking a review of the Pennsylvania Core Standards, and again, it is supported by the Pennsylvania School Board Association. "We still have to prepare for the Core Standards," Rock said, "but if we have to change in mid-stream, it may not be so nice."
Board member Jeff Hellrung countered that, "I don't claim these Keystone tests are the most important things, but they do cover three important areas. And as far as reviewing the new Pennsylvania standards, I would say that the standards are solid. There is nothing misleading about them. They will give the whole country a more solid level of academic skills. I would say to Pennsylvanians -- don't be scared of reasonable accountability. Stay the course."
For more information, and a schedule of upcoming meetings, visit www.ucfsd.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.