Management Plan to Increase Secondary PTR Would Harm Student Learning

posted January 4, 2019

DoDEA Director Tom Brady has sent a message to employees, informing them of management's intentions to change staffing standards. While specifics of those changes are not detailed, Mr. Brady specifically says the changes would result in some secondary class sizes being increased.

Despite Mr. Brady trying to undersell the damage by citing some classes in secondary schools with fewer than 10 students, we all know that such classes are an anomaly and are most likely the result of classes elsewhere having higher than normal enrollments. The answer is to reexamine class offerings and schedule effectively to eliminate extremely large or small classes, not use the few exceptionally small classes as an excuse to increase the Pupil-Teacher Ratio across all secondary schools.

Any cut to school-level staffing that will result in an increase to class sizes is a disservice to DoDEA students and military families. The fact that the DoDEA budget is apparently not being reduced this year makes such cuts unnecessary. If Mr. Brady wants to find increased efficiencies within his agency's budget, he should begin by cutting the hundreds of above-school-level positions and other unnecessary ‘experts' he has added to the DoDEA payroll in recent years. There is fat to be cut from the DoDEA budget but none of it is at the classroom level. Any increase in class size, at any grade level, results in diminished education services to students. Period!

FEA is scheduled to meet with DoDEA HQ officials next week and will ask for more details on these proposed staffing changes, including how many staff are likely to be excessed and from what locations/positions. Should we be unable to dissuade management from this negative path, we will push for the use of VERA/VSIP or other incentives, as well as following the reduction of force requirements in our negotiated agreements, to minimize any negative impacts upon our members.

Below is the message the DoDEA Director sent to all DoDEA Staff on January 4, 2019:

Dear DoDEA Employees,

As many of you are aware, there has been a great deal of discussion about potential cuts to the DoDEA budget. Fortunately, at this time, it appears that an anticipated cut to the FY 2020 budget - which would have had significant impacts on our resources - will not happen.

As we look to the future and how we can continue to best serve our military-connected student population, it is important that we make investments in our organization to sustain and improve critical infrastructure and education programs that directly support student achievement. College and Career Ready curriculum and the DoDEA Comprehensive Assessment System are two examples of programs that are essential to continue improving student achievement and remain among state-level leaders in education.

After examining staffing and class sizes across DoDEA, there are opportunities to gain efficiencies and better align staffing through a minimal increase to class sizes at the secondary grade level. At current levels, there are instances of high school classes with 10 or fewer students. Appropriate staffing adjustments will result in class sizes that are still below the national average and make resources available for areas like improving technology in our schools.

These adjustments, combined with planned school closures in the Seoul community and discontinuation of the pilot Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) program, will result in a number of excess employees at the end of the current school year, as we have seen in past years.

As always, we will use a variety of workforce shaping tools to manage and identify vacancies that excessed employees can fill, including Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA), Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) and Early Notice Incentives (ENI). Our human resources team is preparing these announcements for both educators and specified support personnel.

It is vitally important we use our resources to the fullest, always with an eye on taking care of our employees while achieving our vision: Excellence in education for every student, every day, everywhere. Thank you for what you do, every day, to support our military-connected students and their families.

Thomas Brady