Tredyffrin Easttown Teachers Email Campaign

Below is the email being distributed by Tredyffrin Easttown teachers in regards to Monday’s school board meeting.  Having made the decision to include this email on Community Matters, I offer my opinion.  Although I think it is extremely important for parents (taxpayers) to come to Monday night and offer opinion in the process, I do not support the tone of this email.  If I were a TESD parent, I would feel that I ‘better come out and support the teachers (programs) or else’ — what I mean is, I’d feel that my child’s school career (grades) could be resting on whether or not I supported the teachers. But we also should not lose sight of what this ‘exception’ could mean to the district stakeholders in the way of a tax increase.  I think we could be facing a tax increase of nearly 7% from TESD if the Act 1 exception is approved. 

A friend suggested that if the following letter had originated from a parent to other parents (rather than from the teachers) I probably would feel differently . . . I think she’s right. For me, I perceive this type of campaign as a ‘conflict of interest’ on the part of the teachers. I don’t want to see Monday night’s School Board meeting pitting T/E parents against  taxpayers without children in the district. 

_______________________________________________________ 

As a result of an email from Debra A. Ciamacca, I have removed the email campaign letter from my blog.  For the record, the email that was forwarded to me from a T/E parent, did not contain a signature of the writer nor was there any Confidentiality statement included on what I received.

_____________________________________________

First of all, let me say that you were not authorized to print an email from me to the teachers in this District. If you read the entire email, you will see that there is a Confidentiality agreement at the bottom.

I am asking you to remove this email from your blog immediately. . . .

Debra A. Ciamacca
President, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association

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20 Responses

  1. Perhaps the unnamed teacher honestly sees this budget crisis as a case of good vs evil, but as I see it, her reference to Burke is misdirected, and the suggestion that budget cuts will result in evil is hyperbolic, to say the least.

    In reality, this is a case of balancing what is reasonable and fair to teachers, students and taxpayers. It requires that everyone consider the perspectives of all involved. And there is no satisfactory solution if all are to keep their jobs, programs and hard-earned dollars.

    Something has to give.

    I don’t envy School Board members. right now. They are faced with irreconcilable interest groups. If teachers aren’t willing to contribute anything to the district’s financial mess, parents with children in the schools don’t want any program cuts, and the 70% of taxpayers with no children in the schools are only willling to pay so much in addition to their current school tax obligations, an unpopular decision will have to be made by SB members.

    And a stop-gap solution this year will not deal with the looming jump in pension contributions the District will be required for years to come.

    No, a tax increase is inevitable. It is a question of how much and for what.

    In my opinion, attendance at Monday night’s school board meeting is a must for those who care – whether you plan to wear red or not.

  2. The board meeting will be noisy and scripted. The board will also surely vote in favor of exceptions — because otherwise they will pre-empt their options. That vote will not obligate them to request the exceptions. The teachers will absolutely turn out in large numbers and will create chaos for parents. Wendy Prothero is the secretary of the TEEA. As is posted elsewhere, the TEEA leadership is about PSEA goals. And SB members are absolutely under a guillotine ax == as the very people who will be targeting this meeting have unfettered access to their kids every single school day.

    But that is not to say that making cuts is the right outcome either. I have posted before that TESD’s taxes are based on property values, not income. What will hopefully come from this is a recognition that a higher percentage of income earners have kids in schools than property owners. We had 80/20 t-shirts more than 10 years ago at board meetings — reminding board members that 80% of taxpayers had no kids in schools.

    And if you go to the meeting, don’t leave after they take the vote like most people do. Stay to learn about the process of running a district with 6,000 students, 500 employees, and thousands of taxpayers with sometimes vague but always intense suggestions. (That sounds wrong — but it follows the notion that “those with all the answers rarely have all the information.” ) This is a major fork in the road — and while we cannot have the back of board members who have 3rd graders or 11th graders who have to see TEEA leadership every day, we can try to show the TEEA that they CAN be part of the solution if they will understand and accept that their salary/benefits and pension ARE part of the problem. Too many TESD residents have lost jobs without any opportunity to save them — the teachers do have an opportunity to be active in saving them (making them more affordable). Check out their views on e-learning on their website.

  3. I was told by a teacher that the union’s primary goal right now is to save jobs…so I would take everything they say with a grain of salt. They have lost the ability to evaluate T/E’s financial situation objectively. I don’t appreciate the “bullying” tone of their email and the quote referencing “evil” is tasteless. I hope the School Board has the guts to keep the tax rate low despite the lobbying from the teacher’s union. I’m sure things are not as bad as what the teacher’s say in their email campaign…if anything, their email has caused me to question the validity of their statements. Maybe those of us who think taxes should remain low should start an email campaign of our own. And I don’t buy the statement that we pay some of the lowest taxes. I have yet to see any facts to back up that statement. School Board – keep the tax increase under 2.9% and show that you represent the taxpayers and not the teachers.

  4. The TEEA (Tredyffrin Easttown Educational Association) website and their monthly newsletter can be found at: http://teeacher.org/ I found it very informational; I’d suggest that all readers take the time to review before Monday’s TESD meeting. Their December newsletter can be found on leftside of their website – just click on ‘Testifier’.

  5. First of all, let me say that you were not authorized to print an email from me to the teachers in this District. If you read the entire email, you will see that there is a Confidentiality agreement at the bottom.

    I am asking you to remove this email from your blog immediately.

    Secondly, to insinuate that teachers would hold grades over the heads of parents or children is so utterly defamatory I don’t know where to begin. Personally, as a former Marine Corps officer who served her country HONORABLY for five years, I would NEVER use grades to hurt children or parents. I have taught for TEN years in this school district as a teacher….and I do not appreciate having my reputation or the reputation of the other teachers in this district dragged through the mud.

    As far as a “conflict of interest”….it is NOT a conflict of interest to stand up for the educational program and the children of this District.

    Debra A. Ciamacca
    President, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association

    • Debra
      No where is there any reference to holding grades over kids heads, nor any reputation assaulted. You need thicker skin if you are going to lead in a time of uncertainly. You need to follow the entire thread in this blog, not just from your email on (and never was it clear that the email came from you) I would be happy to share with you the countless times my own children brought home messages sent directly and indirectly by teachers with issues they wanted to address to the board. I can share about the threats of unfair labor practice against me in my role as a parent, about the “Go for the Contract” buttons worn by elementary teachers who told the class that my 2nd grade child could explain it to them. As a TESD 10 year teacher, referencing your military HONOR is unrelated to the role that the union plays in its potential disrupting of the district if you try to approach one side (parents). . These last 10 years have been relatively peaceful because the economy was relatively stable. PSERS is hurting because people tried to appease rather than deal with realities. The multiplier got increased to 2.5% without any public input during times of appreciation in investments. Our teachers individually are fabulous and appreciated, but collectively you have an opportunitiy to be part of a solution. Your comments on the TEEA website about e-learning are an example of the failure of a collective mentality. Auto workers, steel industry, manufacturing — many contracts collectively bargained were ultimately managed through outsourcing. “Keep a good job, lose a great one” was a phrase I have used through several negotiations. Maybe you can find someone who was once a TE bus driver and ask them how the PSEA supported them.
      I know you work hard and all teachers believe that of each other — but the economy has greatly affected the cost of living, and holding fast to notions of “more” is not going to work. Why not Demand to Bargain a greater sharing of the 28% health care increases (along with the increases associated with single employees now becoming family and the costs that go with that) in order to spare the district the pain of having to identify which programs and positions will be reduced/eliminated? Because 70+% of our residents do not have students in the district — and you can incite parents, or you can incite taxpayers. Or you can work to make it all better for the greatest number and the greatest good. Good luck!

    • Debra…

      Your a bit off base here on a number of levels. First, your military service, as distinguished as it may be, is irrelevant to the discussion. The upper case treatment of the word honorably is duly noted. For the record, CT Alexander is a marine as well, and that service is irrelevant insofar as his actions as TTRC chair are concerned. There you have it – the Fairness Doctrine in action!

      Re: Pattye’s comment about a conflict of interest, that was articulated from the stand point of parents. Whether you personally or any individual teacher would engage in that sort of behavior, that is not the issue. A good example are members of the BOS soliciting funds from persons and business that have or may have business with the township. There can be an appearance of a conflict. Essentially, your response, along with your reference to your military service, is nothing more than an attempt to put up a strawman.

      Re: the email, you really have yourself to blame for that. If you don’t want something to be public, don’t put it in writing. As Frank Rizzo said – don’t write a letter. And if you get a letter, don’t throw it away.

      Simply put, there is NO expectation of privacy in email. To the extent there could be such an expectation, that was lost when you sent the directive to your 500 members of the TESA rank and file. You are either naive or your trust in your members is misplaced if you thought your email, either entirely or portions thereof, wouldn’t make it in the public sphere. If you had a confidentiality statement in place, then that is between you and your union members. To extent there were any real limitations, they didn’t extend to Pattye, this blog, or anybody else (like me) who received the email.

      And in a moment, you are about to find out the practical effect of that.

      I’m a lawyer, I know what I am talking about here. I believe your husband Rich is a lawyer too. Ask him…

      Ironically, you put your own fingerprints on the email in your blog comment. You have the same affliction as Bob Lamina and CT Alexander. They cannot help themselves either (re: their letters to the editor). As a union president, you are a political figure. You may not want to acknowledge that fact, but you are. And in that regard, you need to exercise discipline and discretion. It’s ironic for me to so that because that is not always emblematic of my actions. For me, when I advise others, in this case, it is entirely about doing as I say, not as I do! :)

      With regard to the tax issue, I don’t expect you to totally understand. You live in Phoenixville. And, I think you had at least one child go to non-public school. The dynamics of private and Catholic schools are very different. In the public education system, and TESD in particular, the fact that taxes will need to be raised is not nearly as important as how we got in this mess. Simply put, it is because the union and the board have not worked well together. For the most part, the board has caved into the union and further, did not act pursuant to a strategic plan. The TESD Board, like the BOS, had an over-reliance on property tax transfer revenue.

      OK..Let’s get to the substance of the union’s argument – and how it is being framed. Your email directive makes clear that this is a battle. The technique is clever, but quite transparent. The deal is, for the union to succeed, it must frame the issue as what our kids will lose…not by what the union members will lose. In a very true sense, if programs are not cut, teachers keep their job. The union however, cannot lead with a plea to keep jobs. That is too self-serving. Far better to back-door it from the perspective of the kids. With one kid out of the system and another with 3.5 years to go, I don’t want to see core educational programs cut. I do think there is fat in there that could be made more efficient. There is definitely fat on the admin side of things. The deal is, there is probably going to be a tax increase, but it should come with a certain amount of cuts. The union however, frames it as any cut being bad. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that 50% of the deficit is attributed to compensation and benefits for teachers. At a time when most are tightening their belts, the opposite is the case for your union. That said, you call to bring attention to the 9.2 million deficit as solely affecting educational programs is intellectually dishonest. Unless of course, your pay raises and fringe benefits somehow improve the education the kids receive…

      A good example is the parent who does not properly discipline the child. Whether good or bad, the child gets a cookie. When the cookie is gone (tax revenue), the child (teacher union) cries, and the parent (school board) cannot deal with the bad behavior. Unfortunately for the parent, it is entirely their fault for encouraging and reinforcing the very scenario he/she is bothered by….

      The Monday meeting is largely procedural. All it does is put the measure on the ballot. I guarantee you, the measure will get defeated. From my perspective, the issue is not about funding. Rather, the issue is the process, or the lack thereof. And all of that stems from the dysfunction that exists with the union and the school board – both individually and in how they interact.

      Note to the board, if you vote for in favor of the tax increase under these circumstances, you might as well go get a burial plot for your political career. Motel, Mahoney, Bruce and Bookstaber – your up in 2011. If you have so much as a tinge of desire to get re-elected, you better vote no. As it stands now, the whole process is tainted. If you vote yes, you will simply add fuel to the argument that you are truly in the back pocket of the union.

      Lastly, here is what I received: By the way, love the Burke quote. That is priceless. By all means, if you want to take ME on over the email, I welcome that debate.

      —————————————————————–
      This Monday’s School Board meeting is REALLY important! The Board is voting on whether to ask for exceptions so they can raise taxes more than the 2.9% allowed under Act 1. IF THEY DON’T VOTE FOR THESE EXCEPTIONS THERE WILL BE MASSIVE SPENDING CUTS.

      We need to get parents to come to the next Board meeting to support the educational program. We need to get the “silent majority” of TE parents (who are probably unaware that there is a budget crisis) to come out and support our schools.

      Here is what I am asking you to do:

      1. Think of a “salt of the earth” parent. A parent who has asked you “if you ever need something, call me.” A parent you can count on.

      2. Give them a call and ask them to please come to the School Board meeting on Monday January 25th at 7:30 at Conestoga High School. Please use the following “talking points.”

      -There is a $9.2 million budget deficit.

      -The School Board is looking at possible program cuts to balance the budget.

      -We need parents who support our schools to attend the Board meeting and SHOW their support.

      -Can you make it?

      -If they say they can come, ask them to please wear something RED to show support for the schools.

      3. If you get a parent who can attend the meeting, please send a reply to this email. Wendy Prothero will be keeping a list of parents who are expected to attend. This list will help us in the future to mobilize supportive parents.

      If each teacher makes ONE CALL we can get 500 supportive parents to stand up for our educational program and we can drown out the critics who want to slash our schools. YOU can make a difference.

      As Edmund Burke said,
      “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

      Please help do something for your students and for yourselves. Let’s keep TE a great school district!!!!!! Make a call!!!!!!
      —————————————————————–

  6. TEMom
    Here are the facts that demonstrate our relative tax burden regionally —

    A house that has a fair market value (sells for) $500,000 would be assessed as follows: (fair market value x CLR%) State Tax Equalization ratios

    TE, Great Valley, Unionville — $265,000
    Radnor – $306,500
    Lower Merion, Upper Merion $270,000
    Council Rock, Central Bucks – $48,500

    Knowing these assessed values on our $500,000 purchase house, (make it new construction for the sake of understanding how the assessed value is reached), school taxes on this house based on this fair assessment would be as follows:

    TE – 17.47 mills – $4,629.55
    GV – 18.22 mills $4,828.30
    Radnor – 20.2731 mills $6,213.71
    Lower Merion 21.4015 mills $5,778.41
    West Chester 17.85 mills $4,730.25 plus EIT
    Council Rock 107.96 mills $5,236.06 plus EIT
    Upper Merion 15.24 mills $4,114.80

    Check out the website http://www.schooldigger.com to compare test rates too.

    It’s not about what we pay though — it’s about what we get and what we can afford. That’s the decision that has to be made — and teachers who want to keep their jobs safe can certainly contribute to the solution, not just the cost structure.

    • Note that the TE to GV gap is closing fast. Let’s assume that TE increases 6.63%, GV 2.9%. Millages go to 18.63 (TE) and 18.75 (GV). $32 difference. In the following year the 6-16% increase built into moving one year down the TEEA salary matrix takes effect, presaging another large tax increase.

      Note my previous comment: residents in GV chose GV over TE for the same reasons that TE residents chose TE over GE – the quality of the schools.

  7. Well, so now we know who authored the email, which was distributed by residents around the school district unattributed and with no restrictions.

    Why would the teachers want to keep their lobbying activities hidden from public scrutiny and discussion? Are they not advocating on behalf of our children?

    Andrea makes a couple of important points. 1) The Board meeting will be highly scripted. Public comment is isolated from the Board discussion of the issues. 2) There is no chance whatsoever that the Board will vote against applying for exceptions. Remember, the district is not required to use them if they are granted (but of course there is also no chance that the tax will end up being lower than the Act 1 amount).

    So I advise leaving the occasion to those wearing red and
    fighting “evil”, and attend the Finance Committee meeting on February 8th, where – if the Administration comes up more than a token list of options – the real meat of the discussion will occur.

  8. I respect Ms. Ciamacca’s voice in representing the union position and defending against those who do not wholly support it. For many who teach, it is not just a job or even just a profession – it is 24-7 commitment. For some, it is a labor of love.

    And teachers probably resent the fact that some taxpayers don’t fully appreciate the benefits of a T/E education – benefits shared by the whole community.

    But there is a limit , and unfortunately, tough times and the huge increases in teacher comp costs (especially for benefits few in the community receive themselves) have intersected.

    In defensive mode, Ms. Ciamacca may be overestimating the power of free speech on this blog. No chatter here will awaken and inflame people who have not been engaged.

    The same residents who attended the BOS meetings to oppose tax increases – which would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the proposed school tax increases – will show up on Monday to tell the School Board to make due.

    These people don’t know or even care what sacrifices are involved in “making due”. Most probably don’t have children in the schools and don’t consider the effect of reduced educational services on them.

    And the legions in red will be at the SB meeting as well – supporting any and all tax increases that support their children’s educational futures.

    But a solution to the huge hole in he budget should probably lie somewhere in between.

    My question: What can every faction do to help?r They are our schools…..

  9. Just to be clear, I have now heard from a number of TESD parents (some have left comments on this blog, others have emailed me privately). Many, many parents received the email which I posted. No one knew who authored the email. In fact, in most cases they assumed that it was the teacher who sent it to them. It was only after reading that I had removed it and posted the comment from Debra Ciamacca did the parents know who penned the letter.

    I would never judge Ms. Ciamacca’s character nor that of any teacher, many of my friends are teachers and I applaud their dedication to this district and our children. I simply believe that the school district stakeholders have a right to all information so that they can draw their own conclusions. What is that saying, ‘knowledge is power’?

    No doubt about it these are difficult times, many in this country are personally facing economic crisis. We just need to realize that some of those people live right here in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District and may not be able to support the kind of tax increase that an Act 1 exception may suggest.

  10. She burned you Pattye…
    You’re backpedaling now, but your comment did say that teachers would use grades against parents and student. Your comment-
    “I’d feel that my child’s school career (grades) could be resting on whether or
    not I supported the teachers.”

    It is ashame that I know teachers read this blog and others and your comments are exactly what get them so enraged since they think a whole community believes this and then people bash them for not wanting to be part of the answer-why would they since there in defense mode because of the attacks. There are a lot of lies and half-truths being written on this blog making he teachers the enemy, which they’re not!

    • No…Pattye said that a parent could feel pressure to make an outward gesture of support. It’s much the same as members of the BOS soliciting donations for the fire companies. If you are a business or person who has or may transact business with the township, you may feel pressure.

      Let’s not add words to Pattye’s post that weren’t there.

  11. I don’t think Pattye got burned…she was just saying what a lot of parents are thinking…that parents are obligated to support the teachers, not because they believe in the cause, but because it is these teachers that come into contact with their children every day and they don’t want their children looked at differently. We all know it is true. And even before Pattye posted the union’s email on her blog, I know for a fact that it was being circulated by teachers and their “go-to” parents. If the union president did not want the email made public, then she should not have asked her followers to send parents “talking points”. Thank you, Pattye, for bringing this “behind the scenes” lobbying to the surface. I just hope the teachers’ union email campaign was not done on school time when the teachers should have been teaching our kids and not using taxpayer resources to lobby for their jobs. Keep up the good work, Pattye.

  12. ‘I just hope the teachers’ union email campaign was not done on school time when the teachers should have been teaching our kids and not using taxpayer resources to lobby for their jobs. ”

    Seriously-thanks for the low blow! Just to clarify, we do not have access to our home emails from schools because they are blocked and no union business is done through district email or time. The email from the union was sent to our home emails and therefore, any email sent to parents was sent from our home. And people are shocked when teachers feel attacked? It make be shocking to believe, teachers uphold their professional responsibilties. Parents are constantly yelling at us and we don’t punish the kids-frankly, that makes us feel bad for the kid.

  13. To the T/E Teacher who authored the previous post,

    It may very well be true that the email campaign originated on the teacher’s home email accounts on their own time, i won’t argue that point. But be very sure that there is discussion in the schools about this topic. If fact it is occurring fairly regularly in some classrooms by some teachers directed toward the students… Yes, some teachers have used the classroom as a forum to have kids encourage their parents to attend the meetings, others have taken to making their UNION case toward 6th, 7th & 8th graders!!!

    So, to the T/E Teacher who authored the previous post, save your indignation, or direct it toward your coworkers who are crossing the line by bringing this into the classroom on a regular basis. It is clear that not all of your coworkers share your level of judgement or uphold their professional responsibilities as well as you.

  14. To T/E Teacher as well

    In my 3 terms on the school board, I repeatedly experienced “messages” sent to me through my children, directly and indirectly. In my earliest years on the school board, I had a 2nd grader who came home in tears because he was targeted by the teacher as the one who could explain to his classmates the wearing of “GO FOR THE CONTRACT” buttons by the teachers. When I questioned her behavior, I was threatened with an unfair labor practice. A close friend who was also a teacher shared with me the rant my name generated in the faculty lounge. Nice experience for an unpaid volunteer position. In the same way not all parents are your “go to parents”, not all teachers are “go to ” teachers. The collective mentality is what cripples your case. It’s truly a “low blow” that you think any criticism of a teacher is criticism of all teachers.

    Pattye posted the email send “confidentially” by Deb C to teachers — who apparently cut and pasted it and sent it to parents. The teachers are the ones who breached her confidentiality.

    There is a lot of heat right now instead of light shining on our educaitonal excellence. The teachers would serve themselves well by looking for ways to help solve the problem rather than try to incite an albeit invested but minority population of parents in this district. 70+% do not have children in schools, and while their property values are definitely reliant on the quality of schools, their ability to own their property is based on their ability to pay their taxes — so it’s kind of moot what a house is worth if you are going to lose it OR if you never intended to move anyway. Perhaps if more of us studied the outcome in 1929 — when America lost jobs where people actually did something — we could understand what is happening now. Then again, nowadays — many of our jobs — especially those collectively bargained — have been outsourced.
    Teachers went to school and earned grades. They applied to college and could not grieve if they did not get in. Did you complain that people going to “better schools” got an unfair advantage. Because complaining that teachers working in other districts is about the same thing. If there is a district you would prefer to work in, how about trying to work there? Probably a long line ahead of you. There is a long line behind you waiting for your job here too.

    It’s time to stop defending a position and start looking for common ground.

    • >>
      It’s time to stop defending a position and start looking for common ground.
      <<

      Its also time to stop living in the past. Looks like the board heard the public tonight. Still, that won't be enough. About half the board needs to go.

      Ciamacca and the TEEA lost round one tonight… Need to keep the pressure on.

      Like I said earlier Andrea – it's our turf…

  15. >> It’s time to stop defending a position and start looking for common ground. >>

    The line was directed at the teachers John — not the citizens. My comments to them advised them that their approach would fail.

    Living in the past? You mean when you were on the BOS….or when I was on the SB for 3 terms?

    Taxes are our turf John — but Union Leadership is not. Read what you stated and what you wanted to “sink in.” It was your call for Ciamacca to resign. That’s what I said was not our turf.

    While you were apparently there to watch the school board, the Township gave St. Davids their money back…. so I’m not sure who “won” tonight. But if you think half the board needs to go — you better have some staying power because you have to live with the LORK while you talk someone into running (successfully?) for the SB.

    All this and we have the lowest taxes in 4 school districts comparable quality.

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