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NFT: Norwalk students deserve better

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — As condemnations fly Friday on Facebook, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers has released a statement regarding its complaint against the Board of Education.

NFT President Mary Yordon announced Thursday that she has filed a Freedom of Information complaint against the BoE because of actions taken by the BoE Finance Committee, led by Bryan Meek. Many comments on the Facebook group Norwalk Parents for Education decry the move.

The NFT statement:

“The students we love deserve elected school officials willing to make better choices that won’t result in lost educational opportunities or cuts to school services they depend on. These budget challenges affect all of us — but Norwalk’s children will pay the ultimate price for the Board’s inflexibility, lack of negotiations and rule-breaking.

“Our students aren’t the only ones who will be hurt — and the Board knows that. They acknowledged as much back in April when it was admitted that teachers would lose access to current medical benefits under their proposed health insurance changes. That is why good faith, in-person negotiations are essential — not on Facebook or in the press — that lead to understanding and resolution of difficulties.

“To be clear, our member teachers have not refused the Board’s proposed health insurance changes.

“The families whose students we educate need to know that other school employees are considering the proposed insurance changes in the context of union contract talks. They also need to know that teachers are so far the only ones with whom the board has refused to negotiate.

“In a good faith effort to be part of the solution, in April we made an offer with reasonable terms when asked by the Board to consider the switch. The Board could have participated in a negotiation process, but instead they refused our proposal, never offered a counter or an additional meeting — and instead chose to dictate the terms. In an attempt to seek a mutual settlement that protects our students’ educational opportunities, we reached out again in mid-May but were met again by the board’s refusal.

“The new approach of the Board of Education is one where rules and proper procedure do not apply to them. They want to dictate outcomes inflexibly — but rules and process do matter. They have continually broken the terms of our contract, violated collective bargaining rules and demonstrated a general lack of respect — all while blaming Norwalk’s teachers for their financial mismanagement.

“Un-noticed, secret meetings and surprise announcements that shut out the public they are supposed to serve are just the latest tactics.

“Rather than making untrue assertions about our member teachers, the Board should properly reflect on its own behavior and make better choices that put our students’ education first.”

Facebook comments include one from Drew Todd, a longtime active parent.

“The BOE tried to negotiate in good faith and the NFT didn’t even respond to requests to continue negotiations. They are playing very old Union cards and and [sic] unfortunately they children will end up loosing. [sic] All we can do as concerned reasonable parents is to continue to keep the pressure on them and hope some in-reasonable [sic] people or attorneys that just like to hear themselves speak get a clue and realize what is truly happening all because of something that was as simple as 2+2.”

Former BoE member Steve Colarossi continues his commentary in favor of the NFT complaint.

“Does nobody want to appreciate that when a BOE Committee is considering serious cuts to important programs, they have a moral (and legal) obligation to give the public notice and a meaningful opportunity to speak” Colarossi asked. “…FOIA is clear- an agenda must give actual notice of specific actions being considered. The Finance Committee violated that provision. Say what you will about whether the meeting provision is necessary, but hiding information from the public is wrong- particularly when it’s being hidden solely to suppress public outcry over misplaced priorities.”

11 comments

Sarah Waters June 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm

I really want to know, what is significantly different about the plan, and not in favor of the teachers? And what is better about the plan. If Mary Yordon values Freedom of Information, perhaps she can answer that? All I have heard of is 93% (I think that is the figure) same doctors, 7 % not on the plan, though they could be petitioned to join. I think it would be helpful if the public could have those details as well.

Debora Goldstein June 16, 2017 at 5:33 pm

@Sarah Waters,

I debunked the 93% figure on a prior story (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/06/yordon-nft-is-willing-to-negotiate/), in a respectful exchange with Mike Barbis, who is also on the BOE. The 93% figure is a useless datum, unfortunately. Here is what I said:

You’re right. You DON’T get my point. You are assuming this sentence is true “If the doctor you have been using under the current insurance plan is in the 2.0 network, you can continue going to that doctor and the new insurance plan would still cover.”

That is not how group insurance works. Doctors contract with each plan separately. The terms of their engagement, reimbursements, etc can be, and is, different with Plan A vs Plan B.

If a doctor is maintaining their service levels with a sufficient number of patients under Plan B, they can choose to stop accepting new patients under Plan B, even if they are still accepting new patients under Plan A. (A hypothetical scenario, Plan A give a pediatrician $200 for an office visit, and Plan B gives them $75–That’s a scenario where a doctor, as long as they have a sufficient number of patients under Plan B might stop accepting new patients). That doctor still shows up in the directory of Plan B because they are still currently seeing Plan B patients, but when NEW patients in Plan B go to make an appointment, they are told they cannot go to that doctor.

This is extremely common with specialists.

The point is that when the patient moves from Plan A, under the care of Dr. X, to Plan B, they are now a NEW PATIENT to Dr. X under Plan B.

There is nothing Plan A or Plan B can do to compel a Doctor to accept a new patient under those circumstances. It is up to the doctor, and often they are nice about it–but sometimes their business margins don’t permit them to take the losses, especially if a whole batch of patients under their care moves over at the same time. (In the example above, if twelve patients moved over, he’d be taking a loss over 50% for twelve patients at the same time).

I was once forced to change group plans, and not only was my doctor not in the new plan’s directory, but all TWELVE specialists listed in the new plan in my service territory weren’t accepting new patients. I had to go to another city for care.
If I were the Board, I would not be using that statistic of 93% same doctors as an indicator that there is likely to be little disruption in the continuity of care for the union members. The more realistic you are about what you are asking of them, the more likely everyone is to come to an understanding.

Money is money, but health care is life. If someone is looking at a shortened life span, or the difference between walking and a wheelchair, they aren’t going to care how much you (or they) saved on premiums.

Lastly, while we are putting facts out there, as far as I can tell the NFT is being disingenuous about the Board’s ability to negotiate at this time.

In the comment board on that same story, a BOE member (Mr. Meek, I believe) said: “Our ability to negotiate was hamstrung when a labor complaint was filed against us…”

If a labor complaint prevents negotiating on a contract (and I don’t know if that is a legal restraint or a strategic choice), then the NFT shouldn’t be surprised that there has been radio silence with the teachers on this issue since the complaint was filed.

Isabelle Hargrove June 16, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Mr. Copper, bravo! Hopefully, you will have a bright future in public service. Norwalk needs you, badly…

Nora K King June 16, 2017 at 11:17 pm

Deb – I am no sure I understand your post. It seemed verbose and not to the point. None of us have great health insurance. It is a crime! Why are unions entitled to it when the rest of us don’t have it?

At the end of the day – I want to educate our children. If that means that teachers have to have the same insurance than the rest of it so be it. CT is a work at will state.

Debora Goldstein June 17, 2017 at 8:35 am

Nora,

I was responding to the previous poster, who made a very good point. She wants to know why we aren’t being informed about the actual benefits of the two plans to judge whether they really are comparable. I have been repeatedly pointing out that the 93% factoid the BOE put out there is not helpful in this regard. The previous poster is correct in pointing out that this is the only thing put out there to help us judge the point.

This argument is a classic example of the old saw: the teachers are being asked which they’d like better–a knock on the head or a punch in the gut. The fact that the rest of us have been accepting a punch in the gut for years in the private sector means there is something wrong with the system.

It is short-sighted to continue to try to fix the problem of an overflowing bathtub by mopping up the spill, instead of shutting off the tap.

Here is what I see: If the teachers hypothetically accept the move to 2.0 to “help us” fix the budget issue of raising insurance costs this year, where do we go when the insurance companies raise premiumsby double digits (again) next year and the year after that?

Mike Barbis June 17, 2017 at 8:54 am

Deb
I’m still waiting to get a written explanation from our insurance consultant but the fact is that the 90% figure is stated in the NFT contract with the BOE … why would they bother putting this in the contract if it was a meaningless number?

Debora Goldstein June 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Mike,

I can’t speak to what’s in the contract. I haven’t read it, nor did I negotiate it. I can only tell you that relying on it as a measure of the ability to translate smoothly from one plan to another is ill-advised.

You all can negotiate on how much pain the teachers should absorb, or whether the financial incentives are appropriate for those levels of pain, but if you aren’t accurate about how much pain you are inflicting, neither of those other discussions is going to yield a good result. Just sayin’.

Steve Colarossi June 17, 2017 at 2:40 pm

If contracts don’t matter, who decides which contract we change the next time there’s a shortfall?
Do we ask Nora King what she is frustrated about and change that? That appears to be the logic she’s applied to this situation.
But then again, maybe we could accept that contracts represent legal obligations and a budget should be premised around honoring commitments (like to kindergarten students who should have aides in their classrooms).
And then we should question why the BOE’s finance committee cancelled most of its meetings for 2017 & never thought to insist upon being provided non-academic cut to evaluate.

anna russo June 17, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Bottom line – if the cc can legally change the insurance – then just do it. Save as much money is the bottom line. This should not have any impact on how the teachers do their jobs and provide the best education to the children of Norwalk.

If the teachers don’t like it, they can quit and go on Obamacare (LOL).

Patrick mcAuliffe June 19, 2017 at 6:48 pm

I for one am tiring of the war of words in the public forum. The only way to get this done is to pressure both sides to sit in a room and work it out. Whatever mechanism that is available to referee it, put in place, get it done. Otherwise, for shame. It’s time for the mayor, local elected officials and voting parents of children to pressure both sides to hammer this out and get a deal done. I personally don’t care who was right or who was wrong at this point, put all of that aside for the Labor Relations Board etc. This impasse is intolerable and it’s time to sit down for the good of our children. Hopefully each side will be slightly displeased with the outcome.

Danny June 20, 2017 at 9:49 am

The headline says: NFT: Norwalk students deserve better.

I couldn’t agree more. I wish we had teachers who weren’t greedy and focused harder on teaching our students and improving our overall scores. It would be nice to boast that our school system is just as incredible as the “W” surrounding towns.

Here’s my headline: Norwalk taxpayers deserve humble and appreciative teachers.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.