Saturday, June 2, 2012

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.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Poppycock,

    It's too bad that Superintendent has indicated that it bothers the hell out him that people are saying horrible things about him.

    Well, it bothers me that our local school system's financial affairs are so opaque that no voter is able to cast an informed vote in the upcoming election.

    Young people with children in the school system are apprehensive over the what the future holds in store for their children. Seniors are terrified that retirements savings are running out long before they ever could have imagined.

    Lots of frightened people, many of whom will become increasingly angry.

    These are not the ingredients for a docile, humble electorate.

    Who knows where the tipping point is? I don't know where it is, but I do know that opaque budgeting and forecasting will only serve to accelerate the race to the tipping point.

    All the best,