Monday, December 22, 2014

Neshaminy teacher's letter to union, claiming NFT harassment

The teacher authorized the district to release the letter after his car was vandalized at the high school.

Neshaminy teacher's letter to union, claiming NFT harassment

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David Ferrara coaches outsidse linebackers for the high school's varsity football team.

Here is Neshaminy School Board President Ritchie Webb's note to the press about teacher David Ferrara, followed by the letter by the high school history teacher and assistant football coach. The union does not comment on internal matters, a spokesman said.

Webb's note

Yesterday the Neshaminy School Board was made aware of an incident at our high school where a teacher's automobile was vandalized. According to comments made by this teacher, David Ferrara, on Facebook, this act of vandalism occurred one day after he sent a letter to his fellow educators decrying certain actions of his union's leadership.  While we have no personal knowledge of the events that transpired to this point, we have obtained a copy of the letter sent by Mr. Ferrara to the rank and file members.  With his permission, we are now releasing this letter publicly.

We do not speak for Mr. Ferrara in this matter, and so we encourage you to direct any questions you may have to him.

In the meantime, we want to reassure our valued teachers as well as our parents that we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure a safe, productive work environment in Neshaminy.

David Ferrara's "Letter of Concern"

In the past four years the members of the NFT have been subjected to an endless barrage of tactics from our elected officials.  These elected officials have been surrounded by a small number of individuals who continually tell them what they want to hear.  This has led to the implementation of “terror and fear” tactics in our workplace.  Individuals have had damage   done to their personal property, they have received written threats, and incidents of bullying during the school day.  There is a significant amount of shunning led by none other than the elected president of the NFT.  Those who surround the leadership want to instigate confrontations or shun individuals who question the decisions made by five individuals.  Most would agree that these terror and fear tactics have no place in an organization that prides itself with professionalism.

What is our goal?  A fair contract?  Do the means justify the end goal?  My definition of professionalism includes open discussion of specific items in our contract debate.  For example “equal say”.  Currently our contract reads that the NFT has “equal say” in deciding issues raised by the administration that are meant to improve education in our district.  But how many NFT members really know what equal say has turned into under the current elected officials?  What it now means is veto over any initiative that is proposed by the district, or worse, members of the NFT that are not members of the inner circle of the elected NFT officials.  Is that really what this clause is about?

The school district has wanted to implement programs to help improve test scores in the past.    The NFT has said NO in the past because it changes what individual classroom teachers have done in the past.  This simple NO has ended any chance to run pilot programs or to update methods to deliver content or improve educational skills of our students K-12.  This has severely limited the effectiveness of our Curriculum and Instruction department that is made up of union members.  This does not sound a bit like professionalism or about caring for the academic enrichment of individual students.

The elected officials have openly insulted the members of our C&I department in the past and has had no educational reasons to halt many of the initiatives created by professional   educators in our schools.  Members who speak out to make changes in our delivery of content are ridiculed and so are those who support their ideas.  The ridicule originates with that same gang of individuals who have surrounded our elected officials.  NFT members are being punished by bullies in our schools who stand shoulder to shoulder with the elected officials.  An example is the “gang” of NFT members close to the elected officials that stay after school to   check which staff members are staying after school.  This is a clear indication that the elected union officials promote, support, and are willing to use terror and fear to stay in power.

We have concluded a nine day strike that was meant to bring the Neshaminy School Board back to the negotiating table in a more “friendly” manner toward our demands.  However, this again was another tactic that has back fired in the face of our leaders.  Calling for 24/7 negotiations during a strike is like putting the cart before the horse.  This strategy is used successfully when it is initiated before you go out on strike “the eleventh hour” if you will.  The call for binding arbitration, even if not part of Act 88, was trumped by the board invoking the connection to Act 88.  Once again, the board seemed to have the last say.   

Our NFT elected officials have had no successful strategies in four years to swing the negotiations in our favor.  The boycotting of back-to-school night was a public relations nightmare and made no favorable impact on the negotiations process.  Harassing individual members of our community by showing up at their homes in numbers also had no effect on negotiations or on the elections of members to the school board.  Creating a page length ad in the local paper attacking specific members of the school board had no positive outcome for our negotiations.  Yet members of our union still follow the ineffective ways of our elected officials.

A member of our union who has traditionally surrounded the NFT elected officials was quoted at Maple Point MS on Wednesday, January 18th stating: We are working to the strictest meaning of “working to the contract”.  If you encounter a member not following along you are to “confront or shun these individuals”.  This is definitely not professionalism in action.  It is a terror and fear tactic and I call on all professionals in our union to stand up and not allow for this attitude and   behavior to seep into our professional work place.  Most of all, I call on our elected officials to openly condemn the shunning just as they held a press conference to denounce what was perceived as attacks on teachers.  Anything less than a public condemnation of NFT members  who call for shunning of other NFT members will be construed as the elected officials endorsement of the open and public call to shun NFT members.

How about open discussions about what is going on?  What has working to the contract accomplished in the past in regards to negotiating a contract?  Clearly the answer is nothing.  So why do the same thing again expecting a different outcome?  This strategy is meant to keep the   current elected officials in control of all of us and to keep those surrounding the five “negotiators” “busy” thinking they are doing something productive to help.  I hoped that the   elected officials would stand up to those members who act in a seemingly unprofessional manner.  The past actions of the elected officials have clearly sent a message to all of us.  They   have no idea what they are doing so they have relied on terror and fear tactics that are promoted by themselves and a very small percentage of union members “the gang” to stay in charge.

I suppose this is how liberty dies.

Sincerely yours in Solidarity

Mr. David Ferrara



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About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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