Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pork belly point of information

We’ve discovered that for the moment, Frosty’s is only offering the luscious maple bacon donut special on Thursdays.

We have, accordingly, reserved ours for pickup tomorrow AM.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Little local bites…..pork belly themed

The bad news first: we’re sad to note that Lilee’s Public Ale House has closed, and adding to our sorrow, so has Back Street Bistro, the ‘parent’ operation.  Both were great additions to the Brunswick dining scene, and served food that was well above average, and in many cases, distinguished. 

The owners had great restaurant pedigrees in their CV, and it showed in their offerings.  We remember having a crispy pork belly appetizer at the Bistro some months ago, and it was unbelievably good.

We thought both were doing well, but what do we know about financing and running a food business?  We just know how to get the wallet out after a good meal, but that’s not much by comparison.

We wish the owners well in their future endeavors, and hope we see them back on the local food scene in some form or other.

Now the good news.  We stopped by Frosty’s this morning to pick up an order we placed yesterday.  Given our schedules, this is about the only way we can assure ourselves of a fix of Frosty’s finest.  As we were making our transaction, we noticed an odd looking creation in the case, and asked what it was.

Answer: a maple bacon donut.  We headed out the door with our order plus a few more, including one of the maple bacon creations.

Let’s just say this – while it may not be for everybody, we’re pretty sure most will find it an addictive and overwhelming creation.  What’s not to like?  Melt in your mouth raised donut, an almost peanut butter like application of maple coating, and crunchy bacon chunks on top.  It is indescribably good. 

If you’re lucky enough to see one in the case the next time you stop by, do not pass it up.  Our hunch is that a cup of Wicked Joe’s ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ would be the perfect choice to go with it.

So the next time you wonder why pork bellies are such an important part of our commodities markets, just remember there are always new and creative ways to serve them up. 

As Emeril likes to say, ‘pork fat rules.’

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Serenity now,” Brunswick style

As you know, dogs are important to us here at Side.  Our faithful companions Boo-boo and Sweety-bitch are pictured on the right side of the page, and though both are functionally blind, they continue to provide us with the silly distractions and companionship that pet-lovers know all to well.  When they need to go out, we almost always say “c’mon kids,….”

Then there’s the ‘government watchdogs’ we’ve talked about frequently on these pages, and most recently pictured in this apropos image:

We suppose that to many in town, we’re considered a junkyard dog for the way we go after the ankles of the local ruling class and their chosen professionals.  “It’s in my nature,” as the scorpion told the turtle.

Recent events and a message from a dear friend have led us to another symbol to use in our efforts.  We give you “Serenity Dog,” an enlightened member of the canine species; one who has reached a higher level of doggie consciousness.  We’re confident that woof-woof guru stature has been reached, and deservedly so.

               Doggie buddha

How have we come to this point?  It shouldn’t take but a moment to make you sorry you asked.

Not too long ago, in this post, we told you of a kind offer from School Superintendent Perzanoski:

Why don’t we set up a time next week when Jeff Hipsher and I can meet with you to go over the material? I think that would be the best solution rather than going back and forth on e-mail. Jeff is available after school usually around 2:45p.m. I will tell you that the FTE is 235.73 and the teacher salary line in next year’s budget increased from$13,104,151 to $13,572,299 and that is a $468,148 and 3.57% increase over last year. Please let me know what day works for you. Paul.

In response, we stated that we would like to do so, with the conditions that 1) we be allowed to record the meeting, and 2) that at least one School Board member attend as well, preferably one that served on the committee that conducted contract negotiations.

We wanted to record the meeting because we were hoping to gather information, and one layman would find it difficult to listen, think, respond, take accurate notes, and otherwise participate fully with two professionals immersed in the subject matter.  Recording it would protect the others if we mis-represented any information gathered at the meeting.  Besides, all the important meetings are broadcast on Community TV, so a public record exists of what was said.  We believed the same should hold here, but were happy to record the audio only, rather than call for a full-blown video record.

We wanted a School Board member to attend to provide ‘member of the public’ balance to the paid professionals, and to confirm the information we were being given was consistent with what they had been told during the contract process.  If that puts us in the ‘trust but verify’ camp, so be it.

The response we got was as follows:

Good afternoon Mr. Schaeffer I’ve had a chance to review the series of e-mails between us and your request for additional staff attendance and the ability for you to tape the meeting. I’ve answered your questions and offered to meet to have a dialogue about the content of the contract. It is clear with your request that this meeting is more than just informational and will serve no useful purpose for the School Department. I respectfully withdraw the offer to meet with you but will offer you copies of the spreadsheet for each year of the contract that analyzes how many teachers are on each step, the cost and increase for each year. If you would like copies of the spreadsheets, please contact Business Manager Jim Oikle. Thanks, Paul.

Think of that what you will; we consider it our obligation to pass it along to you.  Since that response arrived, we have in fact obtained the referenced spreadsheets from Mr. Oikle, and we are posting them for you to examine and absorb.  Please excuse us; we looked for a way to merge them into a single file, but were unsuccessful.  So you’ll have to look at them one page at a time.

For a frame of reference, you might want to relook at this file:

Last but not least, you don’t want to forget what appeared in this memo:

We have not proofed the three spread sheets we were provided for accuracy in computation or agreement with the new contract posted a few weeks ago.  Hopefully our paid professionals check and recheck the data in cases like this.  So let’s proceed with what we discern from this data and the weeks of postings and emails that led up to this point.


- As we asserted, the dollar figures provided in ‘the memo’ could only be derived from specific head counts, with details of seniority steps, for each of the three years, combined with salary figures for the next 3 years, to the dollar.  The spread sheets made available to us prove that point.

- It seems clear that these figures were available BEFORE the vote to approve the contract on April 11th.  In other words, the School Board could have been given the salary tables for the new contract, and relevant assumptions, before voting on the proposal, instead of only ‘the memo,’ which we continue to maintain was a misrepresentation of the facts, and a very brief attempt at glossing over more complex and vital details.

- This simple fact makes delaying contract signing and posting for public consumption till the very end of May, when virtually all budget hearings and decisions were complete, look like a deliberate tactic to keep the details hidden from view until the short attention spans of the public had focused elsewhere.  And it makes the Superintendent’s statement in an email of April 19th, 8 days after the vote, that they had yet to complete the salary scales, seem deceptive.

- The figures in ‘the memo’ make two very critical assumptions.  First, that the staff head count covered by the contract would not change by even a smidgeon from the school year now ending (FY 12) through the third year of the new contract (FY 15).  Second, that not one of the 231.73 FTE staff covered by the contract would advance their educational achievement sufficient to move over one column or more in the salary schedule during the contract period. 

- You can make your own guess at how likely these assumptions are to bear out over the next three years.  We’ve decided any such assumptions are hokum on their face.  For one thing, if you go to this presentation by the Superintendent, you will see that he proposes the addition of 36 new staff in the coming years: 20 clinical/psychology staff; 5 instructional consultants; and 11 educators.  That’s without considering the impact of K-8 summer school he proposes!  We challenge you to name one School Board member who would dare oppose such staff growth, given the hundreds of sign posters around town who would demand that we ‘imagine and invest,’ and do it NOW!  And besides, if we don’t, your house will lose another 20% in value, says Sally Sellit.

- As to not changing educational attainment?  Do we suddenly think devoted teachers will not see the value in taking classes to increase their skill and income?  Compared to a basic BS degree, getting 15 added credits will raise your salary 1 ‘step’ per year, or nearly $1600.  Moving from that point to a Masters Degree will add another 1.4 ‘steps,’ another $2200.  Add 15 more credits, and you jump another .6 ‘steps,’ or $900 plus more.  Move up to the CAS column, and you get another full step on top of the rest.  And depending on your effort, it’s certainly possible a teacher could move two columns to the right during the 3 years of the contract.

- The specifics of the approved contract make ‘step increases’ significantly different from year to year.  In the first year of the new contract, a good many of the membership receive a two step salary increase, because of the elimination of the ‘zero step’ from year 14 to 15.  In the second year of the contract, step increases returned to the more typical pattern of a single step for most teachers.  In the third year, the zero step between steps 22 and 23 is eliminated, giving the top heavy teacher corps a two step increase as well.  Hence, stating “step (2%) plus blah, blah, blah” for each of the three years of the contract is wrong and a clear misrepresentation of fact.  (Remember, a single ‘step’ averages about 3.5% across the full salary range.)

- The statement that annual savings on School Department costs for health insurance in the second year of $117,000 is accepted without substantiation.  However, since the new policy carries forward from that point, there is no additional savings of $117,000 in year three.  Year two sets the new baseline, and that carries forward to year three.   Hence, at the very least, the dollar increase for year three is $409,588, vice the cited figure of $292,588.

- Independent of the highly unlikely assumptions, and the assertions that ‘step’ is 2% in each contract year, this last point makes it clear that summary effects on the budget were misrepresented.

- As an absolute minimum, School Board members should have been told what assumptions were made in generating the numbers they were given to take the vote, since they were presented with aggregate staff figures, rather than raises that could be viewed in terms of their consequences for individual teachers.

- Apparently the requirement to earn your Masters by year 8 of your teaching career was not adhered to very earnestly.  Out of the 46 plus FTE’s (full time equivalents) without a Masters, 35 are beyond year 8 in the salary scale.

- Given the unchanging total of 235.73 FTE’s for each contract year, we find the following average salaries: in FY12, $55,590; FY13, $57,576; FY14, 59,879; AND FY15, $61,616.  The new contract specifies 182.5 workdays per contract year, so these figures work out to $315, $328, and $338 a day respectively, compared to $304 a day in the school year just ended.  Those figures work out to an average salary in the $80,000 a year range when compared to 52 weeks of work.  Not too bad, especially when you throw in cadillac benefits.  And this doesn’t include stipends for various other duties, etc.

- We hope to have updated figures from the town shortly, but based on the data from a few years ago, we suspect these average figures for the teaching staff places them in the same pay range as department heads on our municipal staff.  We’ll update you as soon as we get the detailed figures. 

- Apparently each covered member will be paying an additional $500 annually towards their health coverage.  That’s not much in view of the 3 years of guaranteed raises, is it?

- It should be pretty apparent that we have a pretty top-heavy teaching staff, which undermines the challenges of retention and recruiting we hear year after year. In FY13, 36% of the teachers are at the top salary step; in FY14, 38%; and in FY15, 41%.  In FY13, they account for 42% of total salary dollars; FY14, 43%; and FY15, 46%.


- It’s clear to us that the teachers union calculated all the figures and the specifics of the contract proposal.  We’d sure like to know what the negotiating members of the School Board did on our behalf, what they presented, and what their response was to the teachers’ submission?

- On what basis were ‘negotiations’ conducted?  Ordinarily, we would expect the process to begin with expectations for individual salary increases in each of the 3 new contract years.  The data provided to us, and ‘the memo’ provided to the School Board to inform their contract vote, suggest negotiations were based on total budget cost to the Department for each contract year.  With very odd and unlikely assumptions to boot.  Call us cynical, but we could easily surmise that this was an intentional ploy to throw School Board negotiators off kilter, hoping they would eventually say ‘whatever, sounds good to us!’  All it would take to dissuade us of this view is input directly from someone who was involved correcting out view.  They will be given all the space they want here on our pages.

- Rich Ellis, the resident numerologist on the School Board, rose at a public hearing on May 31st to say he “fully understood the information he was presented” before voting on the contract.  Understanding the information is one thing; whether it makes any sense is another.  As always, Rich has an open invitation to correct and enlighten us on these pages.  As we’ve observed before, he seems to be an expert on what’s happening in every other school district within the sound of our voice; surely he can clear things up on this local matter, where he represents the public in good old Brunswick.  The burning question that comes to mind is whether he was referring only to ‘the memo,’ or whether he had the three spreadsheets in hand that we have provided here.  If the latter is true, how can he explain his privileged status in this matter, and why didn’t he object to the distorted characterization provided to his associates on the board?

- And as long as we’re directing comments in Rich’s direction, perhaps he can help us close out the question of the dollar savings for those 102 position cuts the super promised us.  You remember; on April 19, Mr. Perzanoski told us this:

I don’t believe we are required to complete research on your behalf. We thought it was a good idea to compile it and we are doing that when we have time. You’ll have it  when we are finished. Thanks, Paul.

As fate would have it, that was exactly two months ago, and we still have no answer.  Six weeks here, two months there; pretty soon, another year slips by, and next thing you know, one forgets about promises, commitments, and other things.  Rich, oh Rich?  Are you still there good buddy?

While we are able, you have our word that we will not forget.  We don’t bury bones in the back yard, but we still try our best to follow through on our questions that have been buried by others.

Ankle-biters need their fun too.

Planned Follow-up:

We will, in the next day or two, post a detailed analysis of the raises contained in the new contract, salary by salary by salary.  It will no doubt not interest many of you; but for those who want to see things to make up their own minds, you’ll have all the information you need, and we think you will find it eye-opening.

So until we get back to you on this subject, ‘woof-woof,’ keep your tail wagging, and please remember to do your business in your assigned outdoor location.

Serenity does have its obligations, you know.

For a few laughs, watch this serenity compilation:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

“The Most-Praised Generation” & Teachers Contracts

We were reading something yesterday when we came across a reference to an article from five years ago that talks about the consequences of unconditional praise and rewards in our culture.  It’s gotten to where (and this was five years ago!!) consultants are being hired by major companies to teach managers how to publicly praise and compliment employees for doing their jobs.  One firm even has a ‘celebrations assistant’ on staff, who among other things, dispenses 25 pounds of confetti a week, and as many as 500 balloons.

You can read the article here.  A passage or two to whet your interest:

Childhood in recent decades has been defined by such stroking -- by parents who see their job as building self-esteem, by soccer coaches who give every player a trophy, by schools that used to name one "student of the month" and these days name 40.

….some researchers suggest that inappropriate kudos are turning too many adults into narcissistic praise-junkies. The upshot: A lot of today's young adults feel insecure if they're not regularly complimented.

We well remember our own little angels’ school days in the last century, and ‘student of the month’ was one per grade.  And at the end of the year, there was ‘one student of the year.’

As we read and thought on the essay, we came to realize that the teachers contracts in our town follows the ‘you’re special – everyone gets a trophy’ model.  The best teachers get the same raises as the worst teachers, and vice versa.  All raises are absent any performance metrics; they’re based only on years on the job and post graduate credits, and that’s it.  You can see it in the salary tables.

And throw in the efforts of the HBS parents group that we talked about here:

The SCG Hospitality Committee organizes events showing appreciation for the work of the HBS staff. For the first day of school we had a welcome back to school breakfast buffet, and in November we had a soup luncheon for the HBS staff. We also organize teacher appreciation tokens. For example, in January teachers received a bag of mints with a tag that read “Thank you for your commit-mint to our children’s education.” Also in January, the staff enjoyed a “grab and go treat buffet” on the early release day, and after the February break, the Hospitality Committee dropped off six dozen Frosty’s twist donuts as a
welcome back from vacation surprise for the HBS staff!
Upcoming events include a potluck dinner during April’s parent-teacher conference time, and a teacher appreciation luncheon in May. Our goal is to share with the staff how much we admire and appreciate all they do to educate and nurture our children.

Throw in de rigueur public proclamations during budget sessions that Brunswick ‘has the best teachers’ and ‘excellent schools,’ even if the speakers couldn’t cite one iota of evidence to backup their claims.  Maybe next year, after reading this, they’ll bring confetti and balloons to the hearings.

Where we are on the contract analysis:

The more we contemplate the new three year contract, the more we come to understand the opportunities for getting lost in the details.  When you have 125 salary figures for each of three years, with notations for ‘adjustments’ on a portion of those figures, the possibilities for getting mired down are numerous.  And this is without considering additional ‘stipends’ etc.

We’ve come to understand there are at least three ways to characterize the approved contract.

The first is with generalizations such as this:  “In year 1, the teachers get a general increase of x% plus a step increase; in year 2, they get a general increase of y% plus a step increase; and in year 3, they get a general increase of z% plus a step increase.”  Based on what we’ve seen over the past decade or more, this method has been modestly effective, as the contracts have followed, more or less, a consistent pattern.

The second is the method used to tell the School Board what they were voting for on April 11th.  It (apparently) takes the total dollar increase for the covered membership in each year, and expresses it as a percentage of the base aggregate salary line.  For reasons not clear to us, the resulting figure was expressed as ‘step plus 1.57%, total 3.57%,’ leading to much confusion about the concept of steps in the contracts.

We don’t recall the contracts being characterized this way in the past, but we could have been asleep at the tiller.  We’re confused further, because it requires knowing precise staff composition for the next three years, and then applying that against the three detailed salary tables for FY13, 14, and 15 to get the ‘total dollars’ figure. 

Since we were told the tables needed to be computed after the contract was approved, and we don’t see how staff can be known to that detail for the next three years, we are perplexed by the precision displayed in these figures, and the Board’s willingness to approve the contract on this basis.

The third method is to pick teacher examples at various experience and educational attainment levels in the current school year, and ‘walk them through’ the three years of the new contract to see what happens to their salaries.  We’re busy pulling that together right now, and based on our first glimpse, it generates results significantly different than the first method.  The increases tend to be quite different than the other ways of stating things.

Stay tuned, and make sure you’ve got enough confetti, cupcakes, and balloons on hand.  We don’t want to risk anyone feeling under-appreciated and ordinary.

That would make them like the rest of us, and we can’t have that now, can we?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Maine Wire Op-ed: School Budget Intimidation

You can surf on over to The Maine Wire today, where you will find this commentary on the process of enacting school budgets.  An excerpt:

Never, ever talk about teachers’ contracts or explain any of the details. Be sure to approve a new contract before the budget proposal for the coming year is put before the public and elected officials for approval. Leverage inexperienced reporters and pliant media by giving them soft-soap details that downplay the scale of salary increases.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Town Council stiff-arms opposition; approves school and municipal budgets

This past Thursday night (31 May), the Town Council met to act on the various warrants associated with approving the School, Municipal, and County components of the overall town budget.

I don’t believe I can recall a council meeting with fewer attendees, and less stimulating content, yours truly excepted.  If one took this correspondent, the School Superintendent, and two school board members out of the mix, the only others (save one I didn’t recognize) were the usual town staff members. 

There was a brief cameo appearance by Senator Stan the Minority Man, who must have gotten wind that we were going to speak.  Otherwise, why would he subject himself to the annoying adulation of town officials?

If you crave excitement, you can watch the video of the meeting here.  In the unlikely event you do so, you will see your trusty correspondent deliver the remarks below. 

(Fair warning: there is a rather glaring reflection from our manly but ever so sparsely populated pate.  Next time we speak, we’ll have to visit the Cable 3 makeup chair and see if they can apply some anti-glare makeup. If they can’t, we’ll have to wear a ‘do-rag,’ or perhaps a baseball cap turned backwards, one of our most becoming looks.  We will not, repeat not invest in a special purpose hair helmet to be used only for on screen appearances.)

The remarks:

· School Matters: I don’t know how many of you have read my recent blog posts regarding the process for approving the new 3 year teachers contract. If you haven’t, my assertion is that the vote to approve the contract was made on the basis of false pretenses. The information provided to the board to inform their vote was materially and substantively incorrect, and the same figures were provided to the public, and you the council.

· The School Budget is 61% of the total Brunswick Budget. The teachers contract, I would guess, makes up at least half of the school budget total, making it the single largest item in the town budget, and nearly one-third of total town spending.

· Understating the contract terms, as I believe was done, and putting it before the Board for a vote of approval, is an abuse of public trust. It should not go unchallenged, and those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

· Since the contract was approved on a material misrepresentation of fact, it is incumbent upon the council to summarily reject the contract approval and the budget based on it.

· If you let things stand as they are, you will make this council party to the deceit, and exacerbate the pervasive public distrust of government, its elected officials, and those sometimes called public servants.

· Whatever else you may think about these matters, this behavior on the part of our officials is a disgrace, and if you fail to take appropriate action, you will tacitly endorse it.

· General Budget Matters: It seems to me that short of substantial application of reserved funds to counterbalance spending increases, we would have been looking at a property tax increase of at least 10% this year alone.

· It is also clear that the School Department is expecting to increase their tax demands upon the town very substantially in the coming years; the Superintendent has stated that the ‘starting point’ in the two years following the one about to begin is a $3.2 million problem, or another 10% tax increase there alone. We’ll have to pay the piper for the reserve application in this new budget, and the avoided 4% plus tax increase will pop up in our faces. As I read the CIP, we can expect at least a 10% property tax increase in the next few years for the projects contained there-in.

· Get out your whiteboard, and it’s pretty easy to show that we’re staring at a near term tax rate increase in the range of 30% above the current tax rate in just a very few years.

· I believe it is incumbent on the Council to compile and brief the public on the budget and tax increase outlook for at least the next five years, and it should be done immediately. Not doing so, under the current circumstances, is an abdication of your implicit obligation to inform the taxpaying public to the best of your ability, and raises concerns about not acting in good faith. Further, it will subject residents to challenging tax bill shocks year after year after year.

· If you feel you have no choice but to implement such draconian tax increases, the very least you could do is give those who pay them a clear indication of where things are heading. Especially in consideration of the elders among us who live on fixed and/or limited incomes.

· Thank you.

Our remarks elicited the usual non-response when delivered, but strangely enough, they did result in a comment or two a bit later into the meeting.

Our thanks to Councilor Dave Watson, who went so far as to ask whether there would be any response to our comments when the appropriate school budget warrant came up.  Watch the video from about time stamp 8:45 to 11:00 or so to see the exchange that took place.  You can move the little slider to watch this portion if you don’t want to just watch from the beginning all the way through the first 11 minutes of the meeting.

Here’s the essence of what followed Watson’s question.  Council Chair King said that if the School Superintendent or a School Board Member wanted to comment, they could, but that she herself was not prepared to respond to our statement or Watson’s question. 

While you can’t hear it on the replay, the Superintendent next indicated he was not prepared to speak on the issue.  Then School Board member Rich Ellis rose to say he fully understood the information he was presented to vote on, which does not address the assertion we made. 

He then added that he had surveyed teacher salaries in both Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, and concluded that Brunswick salaries are below the median, an observation that also does not address the points we made.  He labeled our comments “an accusation, but not what I experienced.”

(Note to Rich Ellis: how are you coming on the dollar savings estimate for the 102 position cuts in recent years? You seem to have mastered the information base in every other school district within 30 miles or so, while our own School Department staff doesn’t seem to have figured out how to come up with the number. Perhaps the answer is for us to add up the value of the lowest paid 102 ‘positions’ in the payroll summary from a few years back.)

If we had been quicker on our feet, we could have risen to respond to his thoughts by discussing the street ‘improvements’ in the First Parish Church area, which would have been just as germane to his comments as his were to ours, and a good deal more interesting over all.

So all in all, while Councilor Watson provided a brief moment of euphoria, it only took seconds more for harsh reality to snuff it out.  We fell for a head fake, and then got blocked out as usual.

Now that we think of it, perhaps we do have a future in town government.  We’re starting to distill things down to their essence, don’t you think?

Discussions on the teachers contract issue..

Here at Side, we like to keep you abreast of our discussions with town officials.  Below we offer the email exchange in which we are  pursuing an explanation of the once confidential memo on which the vote to approve the contract was based.  (Jeff Hipsher is the head of the Brunswick Teachers Association.)

Our outgoing message number 1:

Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 1:56 PM
To: William Thompson; Brenda Clough; Corinne Perreault; Matt Corey; Janet Connors; Jim Grant; Michelle Joyce; Michelle Small1; Richard Ellis; Town Council
Cc: John Eldridge; Paul Perzanoski; Jim Oikle; Jeff Hipsher; Matt Hongoltz-hetling
Subject: Revised figures

All:  Based on the figures in the new contract posted on the school web site today, I have updated the "forecast" I compiled earlier based on the figures announced to the public, applying them to the current contract in the typical pattern of all past contracts I have studied.

Those forecasts are shown in a gray background in the attached file.  (That’s the document that was posted here.)

I have appended the figures from the new contract for those same salary points, and they are shown in yellow highlight.

I have two conclusions from this brief effort: the characterization provided to the school board for the vote, and subsequently provided to the public and the council, remains a misrepresentation, if different in the specifics than I would have thought from public disclosures.

And, the historic "pattern" of prior contracts has been broken vis-a-vis public statements & characterizations.

While the figures have changed, my assertion that the School Board vote was based on false pretenses stands, unless someone can show me why it no longer applies.

Incoming response number 1, received the same day, from Superintendent Perzanoski:

Mr. Schaeffer the total increase in year one is $468,148 or a 3.57% increase; year two is $542,880 or a 3.99% increase; year three is $409,588 or a 2.9% increase which is what the Board voted on and passed. It includes a 85-15 % split in insurance in years two and three; the reduction in force language grouping change; removal of the master’s degree requirement; nurses placed on the salary scale; and a change in the retire/rehire sidebar based on the new state statute. Thanks, Paul.

Our outgoing response to the above:

To: Paul Perzanoski <>; Billy Thompson <>; Brenda Clough <>; Corrine Perreault <>; James Corey <>; Janet Connors <>; Jim Grant <>; Michele Joyce <>; Michelle Small <>; Richard Ellis <>; Town Council <>
Cc: Jim Oikle <>; John Eldridge <>; Jeff Hipsher <>; Matt Hongoltz-hetling <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 9:19 PM
Subject: Re: Revised figures

Mr. Superintendent:

Thanks for your response.  I have several objections to your offering; let me explain.

To begin with, it assumes staff make up for the next 3 years to the person can be known, which seems nigh on impossible. Second, in my years of following the contracts, they have consisted of step increases plus a uniform percentage increase to the table overall. 

The statement "step plus 1.57%, total 3.57%" clearly infers that 'step' is 2%, which it absolutely is not. Step ranges anywhere from 5% or so to more than 2% depending on one's spot in the salary table.  The same is true for the other year figures you cite.

I don't believe the dollar figures you quote for total annual salary increases could be computed without two things: a detailed map of the contract teacher corps showing where each individual lies on the salary scale by column and row, and detailed salary charts for the proposed contract for each of the three years. 

While it's been a good while since my graduate school days, this brings to mind what I remember as 'linear algebra,' involving mathematical operations (computations) with a number of "m x n" matrices.  In this case, the matrices have 5 columns and 24 rows.

While you may have the mapping of the teaching corps by row and column, your previous communications made it clear that the new salary matrices had to be calculated AFTER the approval of the contract.  I don't see how you could not have had the salary charts at the time of the vote, yet still have calculated and provided the total dollar numbers and percentage increases you quote.

Additionally, you are asking me to believe that unions negotiate on the basis of total, aggregate salary costs, rather than on the basis of salary increases for individuals, and that union members ratify the contract on that same basis.  Not for a second would I accept such an assertion.  In the same vein, I summarily reject the notion that someone could take $468,147 in total annual salary increase and reverse engineer the salary table to meet that target.

At any rate, the three sample cases I chose to analyze make it seem most improbable that the salary increases for each year are the percentages you cite, without assuming substantial changes in head count and salary distribution.

In conclusion, I reject your assertions, pending your response to my objections.  You are asking me to step on too many rocks to cross a very deep river, and I do not wish to take that path.

Perhaps you can offer an alternative explanation, or Rich Ellis can develop a plausible scenario.

I have an active, if not infallible mind, and the more I think about these things, the more holes I see in the narratives so far.  That said, you have my word that if I dived into the deep end of an empty pool, I will admit it publicly.  I'm not seeing that yet.

I look forward to your further elaboration on the subject.

Our next outgoing message: 

Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:32 AM
To: Paul Perzanoski; William Thompson; Brenda Clough; Corinne Perreault; Matt Corey; Janet Connors; Jim Grant; Michelle Joyce; Michelle Small1; Richard Ellis; Town Council
Cc: Jim Oikle; John Eldridge; Jeff Hipsher; Matt Hongoltz-hetling
Subject: Re: Revised figures

Mr. Superintendent:

The curse of an active mind has struck again.

Reviewing the contract, the salaries in the table for 12-13 appear unchanged from 11-12 salaries for steps 0 thru 14, and are each $1547 higher in steps 15 and up.  This applies to all columns.  The 'zero step' from year 14 to 15 was changed to a full step, thereby elevating all the salaries after year 14.  The step increase in 11-12 was $1547, so this dollar amount has not changed.

You cite a $468,148 total salary increase for this year, and say it is 3.57%, which infers that total salary in 11-12 is $13,113,389, and grows to $13,581,537.  This is all attributable to step increases, since there is no general or percentage elevation to the table figures.

For year 13-14, the entire salary table is elevated by 2.5%, and this increases steps to $1586.  You say the total salary increase is $542,880.  A 2.5% increase alone to a base of $13,581,537 would amount to $339,538.  Add step increases to that, which are higher than the year before, and I would expect a total increase significantly higher than you quote, probably in the range of $800,000, which would be nearly a 6% increase.

For year 14-15, the entire salary table is elevated by 0.2%, increasing steps to $1589.  Also, the 'zero step' from year 22 to 23 is changed to a full step.  At this point, the base would be in the range of $14,500,000 by my reckoning.  One would think the 0.2% 'general increase' coupled with the larger step increases would result in a total salary increase larger than the $468,148 figure you cite for year one, yet you show a smaller amount: $409,588.

As a side note, a $468,148 salary increase in year one suggests that you have roughly 300 full time equivalents covered by the contract; is this correct?

In summary, the more I reflect on the numbers you provided below, the more difficult it is for me to make sense out of them vis-a-vis the contract document that has been posted.  And I can not make sense out of the memo provided to the School Board for the vote on the contract. I just can't make them all 'hang together,' to use a 'precision' term.

I hope the quick assessment above is clear and follows accurately the base figures.  I continue to look forward to further clarifications from you.


Pem Schaeffer

Incoming response to the above from Superintendent Perzanoski:

Why don’t we set up a time next week when Jeff Hipsher and I can meet with you to go over the material? I think that would be the best solution rather than going back and forth on e-mail. Jeff is available after school usually around 2:45p.m. I will tell you that the FTE is 235.73 and the teacher salary line in next year’s budget increased from$13,104,151 to $13,572,299 and that is a $468,148 and 3.57% increase over last year. Please let me know what day works for you. Paul.


That’s where things stand at the moment in this discussion thread.  We did see the Superintendent at the budget meeting Thursday night, and told him we would be getting back to him on his kind offer to meet.

On a separate note, we did see an article in this week’s Forecaster that you can read here.

We found a passage or two of passing interest:

….Superintendent Paul Perzanoski expressed frustration with criticism, and issued an impassioned plea for residents to exercise patience…

and this one:

"This is probably the most uncomfortable community I have ever worked in.... When I got speaker after speaker coming to the podium all this year and all I hear is how horrible we are, because of the transition, it bothers the hell out of me."

No further comment needed or appropriate, we believe.