Residents argue for teacher pay hikes at UCF Board meeting

UHS principal appointed; retirees, Citadel Heart of Learning nominee honored

By Karen Cresta, Correspondent, The Times

UCFLogoWebPOCOPSON – After the new principal for Unionville High School (UHS), Jim Conley, was appointed, applauded and approved for a salary of $142,290, and the six retirees and a nominee for the Citadel Heart of Learning honored, residents stepped up to the microphone at the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District (UCF) Board of Education meeting on Monday night at Pocopson Elementary.  For more than 20 minutes, residents spoke with passion to inform the board why teachers deserve pay increases and better benefits.

The board heard from seven residents with the common theme that they moved within the school district’s borders specifically for the excellent schools and the teachers who make the schools exemplary.

A recent graduate of UHS stated that without the efforts of teachers who create the culture of excellence and help students push pass efficient to advanced, many would not get into excellent colleges and universities.

Several residents echoed the same sentiments that it was time to give back to the teachers and added that they would be willing to take the tax increase because retaining excellent teachers – as the greatest asset in the district – was worth it.

Residents stated that it was time to reward the teachers with competitive salaries and attractive benefits to retain them and not to lose them to other school districts such as Kennett.  They pleaded with the board to come to the table with a better package for them.  They expressed concern over being rated ninth and tenth for teacher salaries’ rankings out of 13 top rated school districts.

Last week, the board voted in favor – a five to four vote – to include a 2.01% weighted average millage tax increase for the preliminary budget approval.  This was modified from a 2.50% scenario originally presented at the May 4 public hearing. A resident who pleaded with all the board members whom voted in favor (Keith Knauss, Jeff Hellrung, Carolyn Daniels, Steven Simonson, and Robert Sage)  of the lower increase to please reconsider and thanked the four members whom favored a slightly higher tax rate (Kathleen Do, Michael Rock, Gregg Lindner, and Victor Dupuis).

Do responded to the public’s comments by saying, “I just wanted to say that I have heard you tonight and in regard to the issues. As I said earlier, we have a long way to go with a teacher contract but I think it is really important to understand that all of this really comes down to the budget.”

Do expressed her deep disappointment with the board’s 5-4 vote of the proposed final budget that allows for almost no exceptions or flexibility moving forward with the teacher contract.

Do urged all to be involved in the process and to let the board know how they feel.  She mentioned that only one resident was in attendance at the May 4 budget hearing and that the next talks about the budget will be in June.

“We make decisions about the budget and often times we don’t hear from you.   It’s through the budget process you can make a difference,” she added.

Knauss told the audience, “We started off with the contract talks with two numbers, 4.6% and 2.1%. 4.6% is the increase in payroll the education association is asking for each year for three years…4.6, another 4.6 and another 4.6.  2.1% is the increase the board is offering and is representative of the world everyone else is living in.”

“We’re living in a two percent world. The difference between 2% and 4% might seem small but I can assure you we’re talking about the difference of millions of dollars,” Knauss added.

Knauss also mentioned that the current compensation package is attractive and that the district has no problem attracting good teachers and the 2.1% increase is fair to the teachers and taxpayers.

Rock received a round of applause when he stated, “I don’t live in a 2% world.  I don’t think you want to live in a 2% world.  We are one of the richest school districts in the country. We didn’t get great by being cheap and we don’t stay great by being cheap.”

“I was appalled at the vote at the last meeting. It took a lot of very hard work and a long time to make Unionville Chadds-Ford School District one of the great school districts in the country.  It’s real easy to break it,” Rock added as a closing comment.

Lindner also voiced his disappointment with the vote but reminded everyone that there is another vote in June and was hoping for a different outlook.  He also reminded all that a teacher’s contract negotiations update from the meeting held on May 7 and the one scheduled on May 26 will be posted on the district website in approximately one week.

The Proposed Final General Fund Budget is available for public examination in the district office and on the district web site at  Adoption of the 2015-2016 Final General Fund Budget and levying of real estate taxes to support the budget, is scheduled for June 15, during the regular monthly board meeting at 7:30 p.m., in the district office’s public conference room.

The appointment of the new Principal Conley at UHS and his salary was approved by the board, effective July 1, when he replaces the retiring Paula Massanari.  He thanked Paula for her years of wisdom, leadership, and friendship and also thanked his best friend and wife, Michelle, and their three boys for their constant support.  Conley previously was an English teacher and currently serves as one of the two assistant principals at UHS; Rudy Reif is the other.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity. I promise you I will work tirelessly for the students and the staff and the families of Unionville High School and continue the level of excellence as a hallmark of who we are as a school,” Conley said.

Betsy Ballard, Family Consumer Science teacher, presented the Magna Award to the school board that she and Kim Hisler recently were awarded as one of five first place winners for their garden project at Patton Middle School.

The board also honored upcoming retiring teachers, Marcia Blumenthal, Susan Davis, Sally Greenwood, Judy Small, Bryan Treadway and bus driver, Donna Matson.

Kelli Kahn, a kindergarten teacher at Pocopson Elementary, was honored with a touching video of accolades from students and colleagues for the Citadel Heart of Learning nomination.  This is a second nomination for Kahn (and a second nomination has only happened one other time in the 14 year history of the award). The award was developed to recognize and thank outstanding teachers throughout Chester County.

The Wellness Committee Report was presented with a mission “to empower each student to succeed in life and contribute to society.”  The board goal on student health began this initiative in September 2014, and the committee was formed to “identify best practices related to improving student health.”

The recommendations to promote student wellness include providing training and education, promoting connectedness, enhancing the concussion response program, and examining practices that impact student wellness.  The board will be discussing the budgetary implications of approximately $66,800 in June.

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  1. Patton MS Complacency says:

    Can’t agree more with Barb and Karen. It’s like the teacher union is living in a bubble. Has anyone in a leadership position in the union seen the “real” employment numbers? Remember, this district is largely funded by residential taxes rather than commercial. The teachers should be dancing in the streets with the pension and benefits they receive – try replicating that in the private sector.

    Additionally, our experience with the teaching quality at Patton was just horrendous at times. There are a number of teachers there who do no more than just go through the motions. One teacher continually shows videos and points students to online videos for instruction. Tell me, how does that teaching method deserve a raise – or for the matter – justify even staying employed?

    The union needs to get in better touch with the community and make sure it is delivering the quality of services from top-to-bottom from within their membership. The real world would have someone like Reagan fire them all and have them re-apply for their positions based on merit.

  2. Barb says:

    Most citizens don’t live in a 2% world. Many have lost employment and if working again make no where near what they did before. Healthcare costs are sky rocketing and this adds further stress to already stretched budgets.

    16 weeks off a year makes a job teaching extra special. 2% is fair. No one who works outside government receives pensions, so although teachers deserve every penny they get, so do many others who don’t get near the pay, benefits, vacation time and pensions that teachers get.

  3. Karen says:

    Yes, some of us in the district live in a 2% world. Some of us would even be grateful for a 2% raise. We are having to get along with no raises and cuts in our benefits.

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