Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Live reporting - School Committee/Teacher contract

Mason - unfortunately there are no members of the School Committee present this evening. I do want to open this for discussion by the councilors and administration.

I did receive a letter from Mr Roy that I will read in to the record (a copy of the letter will be posted here shortly).

Whalen - a discussion early on during the budget process was that the Town would hold the line on COLA;s for this year. The economy is in trouble, with no end in sight. It was a difficult decision but a necessary one. It is concerning that with these smaller groups in the School Dept that they were getting increases. When the teacher contract came in, with word about the 1.5% increase, it was going to cost 525,000.

That the teachers are already well compensated and I don't fault them that. The raises were funded from a one time circuit breaker funding from the state. The raises are in perpetuity the funding is one time. Next year will be a problem.

McGann - how many teachers would it have saved?
Nutting - 8-10 depending upon the level and benefits involved.

McGann - every other bargaining unit got along without an increase. Yet the School Committee went and gave the 1% and .5% . The problem with getting overrides passed is there is no confidence in the numbers. The School Committee continues to find money.

Pfeffer - one of the questions was asked last time was how many teachers were on staff, how many retired, etc. 14 teachers lost their positions. Those that remain got the increase. One could hardly consider "what a strong and cordial relationship" exists.

Mason - if the Town Council doesn't support this, then they are against the schools and children. I can count a number of us who did a hands on approach for the last override and the overrides before that. We expect from every department and every elected board is fiscal prudence.

Whalen - I think it was not only imprudent to give out these raises at this time, it was completely unnecessary. I can not believe that the rank and file of the teachers are any different than the police and fire and other groups within the town. This has consequences on a number of levels

Zollo - my wife and I are supporters of the public schools. She and I have personally fought for overrides during my time. We wanted to adequate resources for the teachers and to provide support for the children. I do not see this as a power grab between the School Committee and the Town Council. We are in the worst recession in our life times. Our government is in the worst position to maintain services in these times. I like to pay for performance. We cannot do that all the time. The School Committee undercuts the entire Town position. You sow the seeds in the average persons mind that there will be found money. We have 1,000 more students and 100 less teachers. Real cuts have been made. You can analyze the numbers and see how it affects you. Perception is as important if not more so than reality. If the people do not trust you now, they will not trust you in the future.

Two more points
1 - eliminated positions and provided the raises. granting the raise eliminates 8-10 teachers that should not have been. The class sizes have been increasing. Overtime performance and effectiveness will decline. This particular act will undercut the policy making ability they have had.

2 - Unemployment has been 9% plus for some time. The public sector has been able to maintain positions with pay freezes. With this election coming up, this is the time to pay attention. The type of people you elect will

It is my hope that there can be more consensus between the School Committee and Town Council other than making statements.

Powderly - perception is reality. The decision by the School Committee has undermined the work that they have done. This goes against their stated quality. We were not able to get final numbers on the teachers laid off this past year. I struggle with the authority that the School Committee has, I respect the difference, but every dollar for one department is a dollar from another department. I made some decisions back in June on
public safety cuts. Had the information been available in June, I would have made a different decision. By bringing this discussion into a public forum does not make this divisive.

Kelly - I have been searching for the right word for this and it is disappointing. I know that they have the rights to do so. I am more upset because they have put us in an awkward position when we talk to the police and fire etc. If I had known this in June, my decision would have been different

Jones - As Powderly stated last week "COLAs equal layoffs". It is unfair to all the rest of the municipal employees working next to one who did get a raise.

Mason - reading the letter (copy posted to website here)

Addressing the 2.5% increase for the Tri-County teachers, that was an existing contract. To make a change to the Tri-County budget would have required a 75% or super majority.

"An informal agreement" not sure it warrants the attention provided to it.

Zollo - The agreement for an interest based bargaining discussion is that this was a "quid pro quo". There is likely to be disagreement about the IBB.

Nutting - Training for the IBB is scheduled for November
Powderly - we traded something concrete for something theoretical

Vallee - that 500,000 could have hired more teachers

Dennis Grillo - where is that if a board requests another board, that they snub. Who do they answer to?
Mason - the voters do that

Grillo - its too late
Mason - under the legal limits of the law, they are empowered to make those decision. The voters have the ultimate choice. We have about a 20% turn out for our local elections.
Grillo - every one of you had something to say, yet there was nobody here

Nutting - the vast majority of School Committee law is vested in the State and Chapter 70
Grillo - do we have bylaws here?
Nutting - you can supersede the State
Whalen - if you stay around, there is another avenue to pursue that I'll propose

Mason - due to the rights of the autonomy that they have they can do that. It is an example of two bodies that are not together.

McGann - the voters are watching this or will read it tomorrow. Somebody could have been here. Where is the heat going to fall? Right around this table.

Jones - the School Committee meets on Tuesday at 7:00 PM. They have phone numbers. You can make your comments known.

John Joel - candidate for School Committee, the kids in Franklin need more help, to that they have to be at the top of their ability. Unfortunately we have found in Franklin is that the pie is only so big. We'd like to do more but you can only do with what you have. You have to increase tax revenue. How can we improve our revenue and spend it effectively and efficiently. We need to be consistent and across the board. If I am elected to the School Committee, I will be here to listen and comment.

Zollo - we are for the students, we are for the teachers, we are disappointed that we were mislead a couple of months ago. We are struggling with this misinformation or changed information. We are talking about one particular action that the School Committee took.

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