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Big Contract Change is No-Cost Union Victory

One of the biggest sources of frustration for the Tredyffrin Easttown teachers union is wiped away under new contract and it cost nothing to do.

It was a smoldering issue that could be seen flaring up at several Tredyffrin Easttown School Board Meetings over the past eight months as the board and union clashed over contract talks.

Included in the settlement ratified Monday by the Tredyffrin Easttown School Board is a provision that allows the president of the Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) union to speak at public school board meetings.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Well it's been a big point of contention because the current TEEA President is not a resident of the district. The board's rules require anyone wishing to speak during the comments period of school board meetings to live in the district.

Because of that Laura Whittaker, who is also a teacher at Conestoga High School, was never permitted to speak at the meetings. The board held firm on that posture during some of the most heated months of the just-completed contract talks. One of the more heated exchanges came in April when Whittaker attempted to speak at a board meeting regarding a proposal to demote teachers with PhD's as a way to save money on salaries.

The contract ratified Monday night includes a stipulation that TEEA Presidents will be allowed to speak at school board meetings, whether they reside in the district or not.

According to information provided by the school district, the provision is included as a Memorandum of Understanding in the new contract.  Union Presidents are elected for a one year term but can be elected to multiple terms.

Bob Byrne (Editor) October 17, 2012 at 01:37 PM
On Monday night both the union and board leadership commented on the fact that preparation for the next contract talks will begin in less than a year and that both sides will be back at the bargaining table in just 14 1/2 months. From talking to people on both sides of the the table it seems that talks which were acrimonious in June were at least civil by the the end of the summer. One of the big turning points seemed to be when publicly-elected members of the board started attending the negotiating sessions. That appears to have sent a positive signal to members of the union who had complained in public meetings throughout the spring and summer that no elected board members attended the negotiating sessions. The board president explained in at least two public meetings the rationale behind that. It was only after board members sat in the sessions that the talks were resolved. While I was not there and have no way to know what role that decision actually played, it certainly sent a positive message. Likewise this issue of not allowing the union president to speak at public school board meetings had been a very public point of contention during the talks. While the board was following policy, it was also sending (whether intended or not) a hard line message to the union and the public. For a board that does seem to work hard on transparency this agreement opens the door to further communication at no cost to the taxpayers. Seems like a win-win.
Lindsay at Flag Lady Gifts October 17, 2012 at 02:51 PM
It sounds like the school board made the right call in adding the "Memo of Understanding." The existing policy was presumably crafted to bar non-residents from speaking on school board/union issues that don't apply to them. However, if the TEEA President can't speak and represent the union constituents, how can the discussion possibly have been two-sided?? I hope that the negotiations are much less contentious next year and that the economic environment will favor all parties. Thanks for the update, Bob.
Keith Best October 17, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Gov. Scott Walker of WI. has proven that Collective Bargaining for public employees is a privilege and NOT a right, and has made budgeting for municipalities almost impossible. Wisconsin has saved over $1 Billion dollars.

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