Union Clarifies ‘No’ Vote on Contract Agreement

by Jake Speicher, West Chester Patch, October 18, 2013

West Chester Education Association explains why it voted down last month’s tentative agreement by 90 percent.

An audible sigh of relief was released last month throughout the West Chester Area School District as it appeared that the school board and the teachers union had come to a tentative contract agreement after nearly three years of negotiations.

All that seemed left to do was for the union to hold a vote, and the contract would be approved.

It wasn’t.

The union voted it down, and not by a small margin, over 90 percent of the education association showed up for the vote, and they voted down the contract proposal by a resounding 86 percent.

So, if a tentative agreement was made, what happened?

“It’s really a matter of semantics,” said West Chester Education Association President Debbie Fell. “There was a contract proposed by the fact-finder, and anytime I take a proposal to the membership for a vote it can technically be called ‘tentative.’”

Fact-finding is the process where a state appointed mediator steps in and tries to come up with a proposal that fits both side’s demands.

“This is the first time the district has ever gone to a fact finder,” Fell said. “We still haven’t had a face to face negotiation with the school board.”

The school board has hired a professional negotiator to handle the contract negotiations.

The union claims that they have only met with the negotiator Jeff Sultanik, and not with a single member of the school board.

Sultanik was also involved in the 2003 contract negotiations for the West Chester School District. Those negotiations resulted in the district’s first ever strike.

The union claims that Sultanik has charged the district over $100,000 so far for his negotiation services.

“We have nine school board members that have yet to show up for a negotiation session,” said West Chester teacher and member of the negotiation team Chris Bruno. “We have people who are running for office on their negotiation abilities who haven’t done any negotiating. They’ve just wasted taxpayer dollars.”…

read more at West Chester Patch

Disappointed with board’s actions in West Chester school talks

Excerpts from letter in Daily Local News, 10/10/13

Like most people who care about our West Chester schools, I am disappointed that the long, long negotiations process has not yet produced an agreement between the school board and the teachers’ union. I’m sure we all hoped the recent fact-finder’s report would spur an agreement, but it did not. In the simplest of terms, that report leaned much too heavily toward the school board’s extreme positions and would leave most teachers in a deteriorated economic state over the term of a contract. From the beginning, the school board’s proposals have been draconian, to say the least; and that has not changed with recent modifications. Appearances suggest that some of the board members are even engaged in a campaign of union-busting, which is hardly the way to inspire collegial negotiations and a fair, reasonable contract….

A couple years ago, the WCASD paid a total of $64 million in teachers’ salaries. This year that number is projected to be about $60 million. That may look good on a budget line-item, but it suggests a policy that does not treat teachers, the heart and soul of any school district, very well. Clearly the resources are there to propose a contract which is more reasonable and more fair to the teachers without giving away the store.

Which brings me to the final point. Maybe it is time to take a second look at the board members who are up for re-election next month. Maybe it is time to cast votes for their challengers, all of whom promise to work diligently for reason and fairness in a new teachers’ contract. I hope voters will at least take a look at the alternatives and what they have to say. And then, of course, they must actually vote. The WCASD really needs some help right now from cooler heads on the board who will abandon union-busting and strive for more professional relations with and treatment of their teachers while at the same time protecting the legitimate interests of the taxpayers….

Mike Hancock, West Chester

read the whole letter at Daily Local News

School board silencing public comments

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Letter in the Daily Local News 6/26/13

The present state of affairs in the West Chester community reminds me of an earlier period in American history in which tyranny flourished and common sense was thrown to the wind along with elected officials’ obligation to those who elected them.

The majority of the school board members have used their power to curtail public comment, to bully school employees and students via e-mail communication, to grossly misrepresent the district’s state of financial health and the negotiating process with the teacher union, to use tax dollars to pay a lawyer an obscene amount of money to negotiate contracts, to falsely present to be an advocate of public education while working to advance charter school legislation and voucher programs, to continue to associate with extreme groups who represent their agenda, to brazenly campaign in a 55-plus adult community for the purpose of planting the seeds of generation warfare, to refuse to adopt a ward-based election system like neighboring districts have. In short, this school board has done everything it could possibly do to confound the democratic process.

If this list sounds slightly familiar, it should. This list is very much like the list of grievances found in the Declaration of Independence. How ironic that at the Rustin High School graduation a school board member asked that the graduating seniors do their summer homework and read both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It is ironic for two reasons. First, it is ironic because the students in the West Chester Area School District have read the Declaration of Independence in eighth grade and spent their senior year studying both documents in their American government class. Wouldn’t you think that a school board member would know the curriculum in the district they are supposed to represent?

The second reason her statement is ironic is because the catalog of abuses that the Declaration contains and necessitated our break from England were the result of pompous, out-of-touch windbags with little regard for those they were supposed to represent. If reading the Declaration aids in the realization that we in the WCASD have been hoodwinked by ideologues intent on furthering some party ideology rather than educating out children, then I second the assignment.

The patriots of years past saw the inevitability of destruction in the path of British policies toward “the colonies.” They pledged their lives, their liberty, and their sacred honor to bring an end to the tyranny of England. Because of their heroics, we can also stand up to tyranny. The difference is that today we can use the ballot box. I, for one, look forward to the day when we send them packing and return to the business of educating our children.

Greyson W. Smith
West Chester

What do the recent benchmarks really tell us about local property values & education in West Chester?

from Better Direction for West Chester

Recent high school rankings and school district data show favorable results on the surface. While it’s nice to be ranked well in the state or nation, it is much more important how we are viewed and ranked locally. Unfortunately, upon closer examination and comparison to neighboring school districts, the results underscore an opportunity for improvement. …

keep reading at Better Direction for West Chester

Some issues with primary election articles

Letter, Daily Local News, 5/17/13

The article “Board hopefuls represent competing camps in primary,” printed in the May 13 Daily Local News, deals with a vital race in the May 21 primary but has some issues, as they say.

The print article says that the “Better Directions” slate of Ricky Swalm, Joyce Chester, Robin Kaliner, and Chris McCune “were endorsed by the Democratic committee, though they are all registered Republicans.”

There were two errors there: the Democratic committee does not “endorse” Republicans (and vice versa) and one of those four is a Democrat.

The online edition (under the title “8 West Chester school board hopefuls represent 2 slates“) changed that quote to:

“Chester, the only registered Democrat is endorsed by the Democratic committee. Though Swalm, Kaliner and McCune are registered Republicans, they received a recommendation from the committee, but cannot be fully endorsed.”

That is a lot better, but a candidate cannot be partly endorsed. The proper term, used by the Dem committee, is “supported.”

For further confusion, the bipartisan group just described and the other four candidates, representing the current board majority (with one substitution for an outgoing board member), are all cross-filed in the primary, meaning that all eight will appear on both ballots on May 21.

Why is this such a mess? Because the whole system of electing school boards is faulty in Pennsylvania–one of only three states to put board candidates on primary ballots. Such a vital community resource as public education should not be part of the business-as-usual political process.

State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) and state representative Dan Truitt (R-156) have both filed bills to remove school board elections from the primary ballot. Rather, candidates would get on the November ballot by filing petitions over the summer, with a required number of signatures.

One of the benefits would be to give Independents–20% of the electorate, who currently have virtually zero chance of getting on a school board in our state–a chance to serve.

Finally, the print edition headline’s term “camps” suggests that electing school boards is a military or political maneuver. Rather it should be a chance for voters to mull over a diversity of candidates’ backgrounds and positions on education and our communities’ ability to support education for the common good.

West Chester

Vouchers are already here, under another name

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 1/24/12

I’ve been thinking about charter schools and school vouchers for a long time.

Many have said that vouchers are the slippery slope to privatization of the public schools, from which charter schools are already draining funds. I share the same fear. But the more I learn, the less simple it seems.

Let’s remember that charters are public schools too, in the sense that they are paid for by the taxpayer, are accountable for student performance through the statewide PSSA tests, and are subject to public and media scrutiny through PA Right To Know laws….

read more at Politics: A View from West Chester

Board’s action betrays trust of voters

Letter, Daily Local News, 1/11/12

It was with great dismay that I read the article on page 2 of the Jan. 3 edition regarding the employment of Jeffrey T. Sultanik as the negotiator for the West Chester Area School District. I view this decision as a substantial abrogation of public trust and betrayal of those financially conscious voters who put them in office.

Why, after running on platforms of business savvy and negotiation skills, would those newly elected school board officials waste what amounted to almost a quarter of a million dollars (approximately $70,000 for Mr. Sultanik and $150,000 for the PR firm that he brings with him) to do the job that they were hired to do at no additional cost to the taxpayers?

What adds insult to injury is that, as stated in the article, no other candidates were considered or interviewed, nor do all of the board members have any experience, personal or professional, with Mr. Sultanik.

There were no bids. There was no search. They just decided to throw away $250,000 of the taxpayers’ money.

By the way, that number is what his services cost the district in 2002. I’m sure that the cost has risen in the intervening 10 years. At $200 an hour, I’m sure that Mr. Sultanik is very appreciative of the bounty that the WCASB has dropped in his lap and has already started his billable hours.

If this is their first decision, how can we trust them to run a district that educates our children in a first-rate manner?

West Chester

2011 General Election Candidates Page

If Candidate Names are red, click them to reach the candidates’ campaign websites.

Ward 2
Cassandra L. Jones
Cassandra L. Jones, Borough Council Member
Ward 4
Jordan C. Norley
Jordan C. Norley
Ward 6
Stephen A. Shinn
Stephen A. Shinn

Kathleen M. Cozzone
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone

KATHI COZZONE has represented her constituents tirelessly since elected Commissioner in 2007. In early 2011, she was elected the first Democrat to serve as Vice Chair of the County Commissioners.

Susan L. Bayne
Susan L. Bayne, Borough Council Member

SUSAN BAYNE is a long-time resident of Chester County. She has served on the West Chester Borough Council for the past eight years, including two years as Council President. Susan works full time for Siemens Medical Solutions USA as a buyer in the Health Services Procurement department.

Fredda Lewis MaddoxFacebook
Fredda Maddox

FREDDA LEWIS MADDOX is from Birmingham Township and has a wide range of experience making her ideally suited for the bench. Fredda has been a PA State Trooper, served in the PA Attorney General’s office and spent over ten years with the Philadelphia Public Defender’s Office. She has a law degree from Widener University, a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from West Chester University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Edinboro University.

Thomas H. PurlResumé
Tom Purl

TOM PURL is from Downing- town. After retiring from a distin- guished military career, Tom finished Widener law school in 27 months (just over two years). Tom has extensive trial experience in various areas of law, including almost ten years with the Philadelphia Defender’s Office, juvenile division. Tom will bring his leadership and legal experience to serving on the bench.

Samuel C. Stretton
Samuel C. Stretton


SAM STRETTON has been a trial attorney for over 35 years, handling cases in Philadelphia, Chester County and throughout Pennsylvania. Sam has tried over 300 homicide cases and many more appeals. He is currently handling the appeal of the Barnes Foundation move. Sam has been listed as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since 2005. Sam has degrees from Penn State University and the Dickinson College of Law.

Alexander Patrick Caton
Alexander Patrick Caton


ALEX CATON is a graduate of Virginia Tech and has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. Alex is resides in West Bradford Township and is working on his PhD.

Russell W. Phifer • Facebook
Russell W. Phifer


RUSS PHIFER is from London Grove Township and runs his own environmental health and safety consulting business. He has lived in Chester County his whole life and has extensive real estate experience in many Pennsylvania counties. Russ has over 30 years of serving the people and businesses of Chester County. He has assessed and performed title searches on hundreds of properties in Chester County.

A. Wayne Burton
West Chester VOTE (Voters Open To Education)FacebookClick to Download a Specimen Ballot PDF to take to your poll
West Chester VOTE Write-In Candidates

West Chester VOTE Write-In Candidates

Daniel E. Tyman
Daniel E. Tyman


DANIEL TYMAN is a lifelong resident of Chester County from Pocopson Township. Daniel received his Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, in Political Science from West Chester University and his Juris Doctor from the Temple University Beasley School of Law where he also served as President of the Student Bar Association. Daniel is also a licensed Pennsylvania attorney. He is committed to working full-time and bringing his experience, both legal and managerial, to the Register of Wills office and providing Chester County residents with the best and most cost-efficient services possible.

David N. Wecht • Facebook
David N. Wecht


DAVID WECHT was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County since 2003. He has an undergraduate and law degree from Yale University.

Kathryn Boockvar • Facebook
Kathryn Boockvar


KATHRYN BOOCKVAR is an attorney from Bucks County. She has devoted her practice for the past 17 years to working for people and non-profit organizations. The Pennsylvania Bar Association gave her a rating of “Recommended” and she was named a legal Rising Star three times. She’s been backed by a wide variety of organizations and unions.

Partisan Politics & Public Education Don’t Mix!

Voters Open to Education (WestChesterVOTE.org)

Dear Parents & Taxpayers:

Election day (Tuesday, November 8, 2011) is nearing, and as you can imagine, the crazy accusations have begun. But we remain strong and steady with our important message:

We must kick partisan politics out of public education because any agenda other than a firm and independent commitment to our schools, our kids, and our community is an agenda we simply cannot afford. Indiscriminate cost cutting applied across the board ruins our great schools, weakens property values, and hurts our local economy.

We invite you to see our nonpartisan candidates in action next week. See for yourself how committed they are to upholding our high educational standards in a fiscally responsible way.

Tuesday, November 1, 7:00-8:00 pm – Daily Local News Debate/Forum
Community Media Lab
250 North Bradford Avenue

Wednesday, November 2, 7:00-8:00 pm – PTOC Debate
East High School
450 Ellis Lane

Tuesday, November 8, 7:00 am – 8:00 pm
Protect your investment in your family and home:

We look forward to seeing you! But if you can’t make these events, visit www.westchesterVOTE.org and watch our video of the candidates in action!

Attached is a simple step-by-step guide to writing in our winning candidates.

West Chester VOTE Write-In Candidates

West Chester VOTE Write-In Candidates

And please, download our specimen ballot and take it in to the polls with you! It is that easy!

Most Sincerely,

The Parents & Taxpayers of West Chester VOTE
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E-mail us with any questions: info@westchesterVOTE.org