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The corruption in the S-VE school district had been exposed in the press. Encoded an article  in the July 22, issue of the Broader View Weekly:

I read with interest Mark Baustian’s guest commentary in the 7-8-2010 issue of this paper, where he was promoting reform regarding the teacher labor negotiations in the S-VE school district. As a former board member, I have some first hand experience of teacher negotiations and I am sad to say that the present method is so corrupt that there is no chance for reform.  (This piece is anti corruption and not anti union.)

    The present system enables many people who negotiate for the school district to benefit themselves or benefit their relatives when they negotiate a contract, which is bad for the students and the taxpayers. My first hand experience of the present, corrupt, system came over a few weeks in the spring of 2003 when the teacher’s labor contract came up for renewal. I was one of the people who was supposed to represent the employer, which is the S-VE school district, in the negotiations.  The teacher’s union was the other party with seven representatives who put forward their agenda of less work for more pay and benefits.

     The problem was with the seven negotiators who were supposed to represent the interests of the employer, basically the students and the taxpayers. I thought that we were supposed to ensure that the contract is such that the kids get an education and that the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck. We failed miserably in that. The way the negotiators were selected could ONLY result in failure, in my opinion. Why?  Most of the seven negotiators that were supposed to protect the best interest of the school district, had so many conflicts of interests that I felt that there was 13 negotiators FOR the teacher’s union and one for the school district. As we shall see, even that ratio was too much so that in the end the ratio was 13-0.

    Below are some of my observations of the conflicts of interest on the seven people who were supposed to negotiate for the school district. . The leader for the employer was superintendent Tom Bailey. He was a former teacher and his sympathies were with them. His family was also part of the same gold-plated health insurance that the teacher’s union had, so his proposal was that all present participants should get taxpayer paid health insurance with no premium. The district was also to pay 100% of the premiums for all retired teachers and their families.

    Dave McNamara was part of the bloated school bureaucracy. He had in the past represented the teacher’s union in labor negotiations. It seemed to me that he forgot that he was supposed to be on the other side now. His wife was a nurse in the district, and nurses are members of the teacher’s union.

    Mrs. Truman was the principal in the elementary school. She was, as all of the school bureaucracy, part of the health plan. She had a daughter who taught in our district.

   Paul Zoltowski was the principal in the high school. His wife was a teacher in the district. 

   The last three negotiators for the district were members of the school board. James Loomis is a perennial member of the board. He was part of the brouhaha that erupted after it was apparent that school assets had been converted for his re-election to the board. The school district was never reimbursed for that. Loomis also stated in a workshop that he would never vote to fire an incompetent teacher. He has kept that promise. Our district has been on the list of worst schools in NY State twice in the past 8 years. Only about the worst 200 schools out of 4000 schools in the state are relegated there.

    Board member Denise Price did such a good job for the teachers union, that the union spent money to advertise for her re-election in The Ithaca Journal when she was up for election the next time. That happened three years later, and when the ad was running, she was again representing the district in labor negotiations with the teachers.  The ad was, in my opinion a very good investment for the teachers’ union.

     I felt that there were 13 negotiators for the teacher’s union and lil’ old me for the district. But that did not last long. The negotiators for the teachers never showed any animosity toward me, but the aforementioned people who were supposed to represent the best interests of the district could not tolerate that someone made them look bad by actually trying to improve education and cut waste. Whistleblowers cannot be tolerated in a corrupt system so my side told me that they had unanimously decided that I had to go.                  So what kind of contract did we get under the present system?

    It was decided that the teacher’s would get the usual full years salary for half a years work. But on top of that there was to be PAID leaves under some conditions as follows:

Sick leave                                  12 days.

Sick leave reserve              120 days

Personal leave                           2 days

Funeral/bereavement leave             5 days

Sabbatical leave                 6 months (yes, fully paid)

Parental leave                            12 weeks

  During all of the paid leaves the district had to get a substitute; so the district pays double for the work. The workday was shortened one hour in the elementary school, so the district had to add an extra bus run to get the kids home. The shortening of the school day took place even that the district had the previous year landed itself on the before mentioned worst of the worst schools list. Thus educating the kids was not a priority. 

    I was opposed to having the local taxpayers not only having to pay for the education of the students but also the education of the teachers. The district had in place a system where the taxpayers must pay for the tuition for teachers who are formally unqualified or who want to study further. The taxpayer’s have, according to superintendent Bailey, even paid for a doctorate degree.  The teachers whose education we had paid for were able to leave as soon as they received their diploma. Let’s face it. Most families have a difficult time saving to pay for college for their own children. Shouldn’t we hire teachers who already have the skills to teach our children?

     I made a motion at the Nov. 26, 2002 school board meeting, which would have prevented actual corruption or even perceived impropriety.  The relevant part of my motion read: “ Resolved, that persons who represent the school district in labor negotiations may not: personally receive financial gain, nor have a close family member who would gain from negotiations.”   No much to ask, but even this attempt to reform was voted down by my fellow board members. It seems to me, that the teacher’s union had an iron grip on board members Donna Mistler, Denise Price, Martin Stangle, Jim Loomis, Fred Vanderburgh and Helen Riker.

     The corruption could also be stopped if our new superintendent is less tolerant of corruption than his two predecessors. If not, the board could stop it at any time by insisting that professional negotiators (that have nothing to gain) from selling out represent the district.