Conestoga High School Grad Offers Personal Experience of Seniority in T/E School District

The following comment was received from a Conestoga High School graduate in response to ‘Last In, First Out’ discussion on teacher seniority.  Some people would automatically assume that the more experienced teachers make the ‘better’ teachers.  I don’t know if his/her personal experience is typical . . . but it certainly offers another viewpoint. Comments?

CHS Grad, on February 22, 2010 at 6:53 AM

Seniority is also what allowed my history teachers throughout my years at Conestoga to be completely inept teachers, and the reason why I didn’t learn one thing about history during my years at high school. Not sure if I should name names here, but specifically I had a history teacher in 11th grade that literally did not do anything but show film strips, to which no one ever paid attention. The class was a joke, and the teacher didn’t care at all. He would have us grade each other’s tests, and then we would line up and enter our own grades into his grade book. Of course everyone gave themselves passing grades. Maybe he was a great teacher when he was younger, he seemed like a nice guy and everything, but he was milking the system that had absolutely no accountability.

Another teacher I had at Valley Forge would literally fall asleep in the middle of class in the middle of his sentences. I don’t think he even really graded our tests because people would just write nonsense in their fill in the blank tests and most of the time it would be graded as correct.

In my view, seniority represents a division between generations, where older workers hold onto their positions with a death-grip as they begin to slow down, milking the system for all its worth. All the while, young, motivated teachers are left out on the sidelines. THAT is the foundation of unions in this country.

Tredyffrin Easttown School District . . . Continuing Discussion on 2010-11 Budget

The posting, Understanding the Tredyffrin Easttown School District Budget Process has generated interesting comments.  Please take the time to read these thoughtful remarks from our local residents.  In my review of the Tredyffrin Easttown School District (TESD) budget, I admit that I very surprised to learn that 75% of our school district budget is allocation to teacher and administration salaries. 

In my attempt to understand the salary range of teachers, I found an interesting online site which details the salaries (2007-08) of the 195,000 Pennsylvania public school teachers and administrators. This link will now only allow you to review the range of TESD teacher and administration salaries but also allows a comparison of TESD salaries other school districts.  It is particularly interesting to review the salaries of Radnor, Upper Merion and Great Valley school districts as compared to Tredyffrin-Easttown.  There has been much discussion about the teacher unions, teacher salaries and benefits, pension plans, etc. I would like further research on the pension retirement programs.

Further Comments from Ray Clarke re Finance Committee Meeting

I have received further comments from Ray Clarke concerning the TESD Finance Committee Meeting last night which I’m glad to post.  Again, thank you Ray for keeping us in the loop!

Further Comments from Ray Clarke re TESD Finance Committee Meeting:

  • Much discussion of appealing assessments. Maybe they miss the point that the reason property owners are getting their assessments lowered is that “they are fed up and can’t take it any more”? 53% increase in school tax rate in the last 10 years – way above inflation.
  • In the last month, the 2010/11 “gap” increased from <$8 million to the current $9.2 million. A teacher benefit switch (next point) was one reason. The other was a realization of the impact of the teachers moving across (more longevity) and down (more credits) the salary matrix. (I may have switched Across and Down)
  • Big drivers of the current year benefit cost increase: Bad claims experience elsewhere in the group (that was lauded as such a great deal last year), and teachers switching from cheaper to more expensive plans. Note: Cost to TESD for a family plan $15,000, of which the employee pays $960.
  • There seemed to be little detail on ideas to close this year’s deficit – Overall the financial reporting is well-intentioned, but it sure is difficult to follow. The big problem, from what a business would be used to, is that there is no cycling of the budget by month, so it’s really hard to know how they are doing by looking at the reports. What’s presented depends on how much they decide to “encumber” (set aside for the remainder of the year). I’m sure that is driven by municipal accounting rules, but they could make it easier for us to know what’s going on!
  • Teachers did offer an early retirement deal: pay off senior teachers with $30,000 so that the schools can hire cheaper newer teachers. The admin thinks that would be a saving – but not in Year 1, I’d think, and at what cost to the program? Didn’t work for Circuit City, did it?
  • Eliminating FLES saves $378,000/year.
  • Example of flawed thinking: Claimed saving of $84,000 from closing the print shop, but this is just salary etc. savings, not net of the replacement cost for contracted printing!
  • Let’s not under-estimate the fights there will be over some proposed cuts – 7th and 8th grade program changes, athletic programs, club sports, ….
  • Another note: the request for exceptions to Act 1 to get the additional 3.7% increase is just that – a request, and based on very specific costs. May not be approved by the state (but I can’t imagine it won’t be)
  • And here’s something: if the exceptions are approved or denied, by March 19th the district has to submit a referendum question seeking voter approval, for inclusion on the primary ballot on May 18. So, an opportunity for debate!

In general, if citizens are interested, there is an opportunity to weigh in – will anyone take the trouble? You can help!

There’s much more to be understood with the Bond issue question – possibly financial engineering can provide some short term help?

The next Finance Committee meeting has the bond issue on the agenda (no time to discuss last night …..) and is set for 1/4/2010 (same as BOS), just before a special TESD board meeting to discuss the budget.

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Thanks again Ray for your comments.  Mike (of Berwyn) you sent in a comment which I posted.  As another person who attended last night’s meeting, what is your take on the meeting?  Any further comments in regards to Ray’s assessment of last night?