School Board member tells public – it’s none of their business

a commentary by Craig Masters
Nancy Rumfelt stepped to the podium at the Wednesday meeting of the Thompson School District Board of Education and the standing room crowd of teachers was dead quiet. The main item on the agenda was the approval of the new contract with the Thompson Education Association and Rumfelt was there to speak on behalf of taxpayers and the lack of public input before the agreement was finalized. Her request was not out of order, she simply asked the Board to give the public additional time to review the hundreds of pages of the agreement that obligate how public money be spent. In the end, one board member presented a motion to postpone their vote for two weeks – but not one other member would even second the motion and the agreement / union contract / memo of understanding or whatever you want to call it was approved by the Board.

Two others also addressed the issue of lack of time for review of this most important agreement, but not one disagreed with the concept that quality teachers deserve raises as their value increases. The new agreement is roughly 250 pages and was released for public review only one day before the scheduled Board vote. Worse still is the fact that details of the compensation package were not included in the information released for public review. So why the rush to release the terms of this agreement and bind the taxpayers to it with a Board vote before the compensation details are even made available to the people who pay the bills?

The opinion of the majority of the Board and the teachers present was very clear; it is none of the public’s business how much these public employees receive! One member of the Board, who said she was a city employee, even stated it wasn’t anyone’s business but her’s (and her boss’s) if, or how much of a raise she gets. Wow! She wants the public to be forced at the point of gun to pay her salary or lose their homes – but she thinks it is none of our business? And the teachers in that room applauded her idiotic comment.

As insulting to taxpayers as that comment was, that episode was not even the high point of arrogance for the meeting and the new TEA agreement with the district. In what could only be labeled as a transparent attempt by the superintendent and his ‘cabinet’ to buy the loyalty of the TEA (the teachers’ union) and weaken the control of the elected Board, the taxpayers are forced to pay the salary of the union’s president whose primary job it is to negotiate for the union members’ interests – not the interests of those who pay the bills. Why Rumfelt and the other speakers didn’t draw this point out is perhaps due to the fact that they hadn’t yet had time to completely review the compensation package. Clearly at least one board member recognized the conflict of interest in the union’s president being paid by the public instead of the union members.

For those who will point out the terms that call for the union to reimburse the district for “up to” about half of the president’s salary – please don’t embarrass yourself and your profession by pretending the district, paying the salary of a replacement teacher while the union president is too busy to teach, isn’t related to the ‘salary’ of your association’s president. The fact is that the public is forced to pay twice for most of the union president’s wages and benefits.

It was embarrassing enough when the TEA president tried to underhandedly correct Rumfelt and the other speakers by stating the “association” wasn’t a “union.” But it was actually insulting when a teacher in the audience commented (out of order) that they were the public too and thus implying that “the public” was represented in the negotiations. Let’s pray to God she isn’t an economics teacher.

I found myself crying for the future of our children as four little girls presented a request for a more understandable dress code.

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3 Responses to School Board member tells public – it’s none of their business

  1. NancyR says:

    Thank you Craig for reporting on what happened at this BOE meeting – the Loveland Reporter Herald REFUSES to report the truth to the citizens here in Loveland.

    I would have loved to talk about the Union President’s salary but citizens are given 3 minutes PERIOD for input while the district employees, union reps and teachers are given unfettered access to the board during these meetings.

    FYI – the union president Laurie Shearer with salary and benefits makes $90,114 and for the current year the union reimbursed the district $17,840. For the next year the amount is $20,000 but the union only pay IF RAISES are given which did happen. How much?? Who knows since details of the compensation package have not been made public.

    Taxpayers deserve better, teachers deserve better and most important our kids deserve better.

  2. NancyR says:

    What follows is the email that I sent to all of the BOE members, Ron Cabrera and Steve Towne of the district and also forwarded to the Reporter Herald on May 17th.
    ___________________________________________________________________________
    Jeff Stahla – Managing Editor
    Shelly Widhalm – Reporter

    Below is the email that I sent to the BOE this morning and contains information that was missing from the story printed in today’s paper.

    The TEA is not going to share in cost of the benefits for the TEA president – only a portion of the salary which the reimbursement is capped at $30,000 cash which does not happen until year eleven of the agreement. The remaining $15,000 to be “paid” is not with actual cash and comes from monies already budgeted for salaries that were set aside for professional development.

    Another key fact missing from the story is that the TEA will only share in the cost of the TEA president’s salary if raises are given that year. As an example in FY2012-2013 the cash payment from TEA is $20,000 and if raises given to teachers is 1% then the district will spend approx. $450,000 for additional salaries plus approx in $73,125 in additional PERA costs. Does this really sound like a great deal for the students, district or taxpayers?

    In Liberty,

    Nancy Rumfelt
    Director, Liberty Watch
    ——————————————————————————————————-
    From: Nancy Rumfelt [mailto:nyrumfelt@comcast.net]
    Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:51 AM
    To: ‘olsonsh@thompson.k12.co.us’; ‘janice.marchman@thompsonschools.org’; ‘denise.montagu@thompsonschools.org’; ‘lola.johnson@thompsonschools.org’; ‘bob.kerrigan@thompsonschools.org’; ‘shermanl@thompson.k12.co.us’; ‘youngl@thompson.k12.co.us’; ‘cabrerar@thompson.k12.co.us’; ‘Steve Towne’
    Subject: BOE supports Teachers and Union first and Students are LAST

    The Board of Education meeting last night for me proved beyond doubt that our students are not the focus nor are the number one priority for the Board or for the district.

    Starting with the introduction of the new principals the theme heard was; happy to be part of the district, looking forward to continuing professional development, working with staff and absent was any mention of working with the students, improving students education or expanding student’s learning opportunities.

    When reading the MOU there are pages of mandates and dictates from the union that focus on obtaining vast amounts of professional development time, planning time, paid time for participation in local, state and national union activities and so forth. The MOU creates numerous committees that firmly entrench the union in all levels of management of the district and requires union approval of almost every decision the district, BOE and principals make.

    I know personally know that there are many talented and caring teachers here in TSD but the Teacher’s union seems to care more about protecting those with seniority rather than focus on making sure the BEST teachers are retained!

    The TEA President Laurie Shearer made it clear last night that who she represents are the teachers and I would like to know who is representing the students?

    Where is the focus on developing our kids? Where is the focus on ensuring kids have what is needed to learn?

    Approximately 80% of the budget goes to salaries and benefits and the remaining 20% is for building operations, administrative support, early retirement and lastly classroom technology, textbooks, student support and advanced learning opportunities.

    There is a self-serving belief that the more teachers are paid, the better education our children receive with no evidence to support this claim. Our children receive a quality education when quality teachers are employed based on results and not years of service and when schools purchase and provide the best curriculum that teaches students how to read, write, analyze, perform math and most important critical thinking.

    The fact that far too many students are graduating from TSD with grades of A’s and B’s and then must enroll in remedial reading and math classes in college is damning evidence that the district is not providing a solid education for our children and believing that paying employees more will change this is nonsense.
    During the MLO tax increase fight transparency was THE issue for many in the community and I had high hopes that the district and BOE and received the message.

    I WAS WRONG.

    The district continues to play games, withhold facts from the taxpayer, hold our kids as hostage until we agree to “pay the price” and puts the needs and demands of the teachers as priority instead our children.

    The compensation proposal which was also part of agenda item 5.2 was voted on with no details provided to the public and certainly no public discussion. The only discussion surrounding raises came from Bob Kerrigan who pointed out that the TEA will only share in the cost of the TEA president’s salary if raises are given that year.

    What kind of deal is this for the taxpayer’s who foot the bill? How is this not a breach of your fiduciary responsibility? How is this not blackmail?

    Where is the transparency?

    The taxpayer is being forced to pay the salary and benefits of the union president whose job is to negotiate for higher salaries and benefits, paid professional development time, materials and seminars and planning time. In essence the president’s job is to negotiate against the taxpayers who pay for all items in the contract!
    The wage freeze is clearly lifted in the new contract and so my guess is that the compensation proposal is all about raises for the teachers at the expense of our kids. Advanced placement classes, textbooks, busing, new fees all so union members and district staff can have a raise, not share in the full cost of PERA or the cost of their health insurance.

    The .9% increase in PERA is paid by the taxpayers.
    The $720,000 increase in health insurance premiums for employees is paid by the taxpayers.
    The raises (for which no public details are available) for employees are paid by the taxpayers.
    Cuts to textbooks and advanced classes are “paid” for by the students.
    Cuts to curriculum are “paid” for by the students.
    Cuts to busing are paid for by the drivers and by the students.

    The budget documents show that 47 FTE’s will be cut and that 13 FTE’s will be added and currently there are 75 open positions posted within the district. So is there really going to be a reduction in force? What exactly are the teachers and district staff sacrificing?

    How many in our community are doing without because they lost their job? Took a pay cut? Closed their business? Must pay more for their health insurance? Are making sacrifices so that their children can play sports, play music, have tutoring or attend college?

    When taxpayers attempt to participate they are demonized and ridiculed because they dare to ask questions about how their money is being spent and if spending more on a salaries is the right choice. There is this attitude that teachers know what is best for our children and that they are the only ones sacrificing for the benefit of our kids.

    I found Leslie Young’s remarks last night to be rude and insulting to the parents/taxpayers who I encouraged to attend the meeting and get involved. The lack of respect for us was further evidenced by BOE President Sharon Olson’s lack of leadership when she would not bring order to the meeting and allowed the teachers and staff present to clap and yell in response to Ms. Young’s statement that the BOE supports teachers.

    Ms. Young your statement was an insult to all of the students who you were elected to represent and ensure they are provided a quality education with the dollars available.

    As I stated last night, I will be working on starting a petition to require that going forward all union negotiation be open to the public so that the public has an opportunity to know what they are being obligated to pay for.

    The #1 priority for the district and for the Board is the education of our children followed by a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers who FOOT THE BILL and last night all with the exception of Bob Kerrigan failed miserably to represent our kids as elected to do.

    In Liberty,
    Nancy Rumfelt
    Director, Liberty Watch
    http://www.libertywatch.info

  3. Gordon A says:

    Well stated Nancy. it is a shame that our students come in a very far second to the unions and second class teachers. I personally know of a teacher in KY that did very little to get her degree as her mother did all the work as a retired teacher. She can’t spell or do the math needed to teach but she now has tenure and cannot be fired for being unqualified.
    Unions are scared and will do anything to get money and far too many teachers seem to be ignorant of the real world and what is going on around them.
    Keep up the good work. I wish you well and Gods speed in your endevour to rectify the situation. Education is the answer.

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