October 12 2014 FEA Pacific Update


October 12, 2014


The larger part of September was taken up with Association training in Japan, Okinawa and Korea respectively followed by the Pacific Area Leadership Council. Here are some of the main activities/discussions in the last month.

September 5 - Meeting with Dr. Adrian Talley DoDEA Deputy Director/Associate Director for Education and Dr. Linda Curtis, Pacific Area Director (My Notes):

  • FEA expressed its continuing concern that the Pacific is the only Region where half time release for our three district Presidents has been denied.
  • A second and related concern is the denial of official leave for our Association FRSs & Officers to engage in training for representational duties.
  • A third issue for FEA is the persistent encroachment on teacher planning time. With the recent 21st Century initiative and management based collaboration strategies, it is difficult to find the time to implement these ideas. There is only so much time in a day.
  • Another encroachment into teacher planning time is management's new focus on bank time. Moves by management to mandate bank time are a concern. Bank time is and should continue to be a faculty driven decision.
  • We reflected our concern that the CSI/Advanced Ed process in DoDDS has become unnecessarily consuming. Hopefully the new District Accreditation process will be an improvement.
  • We discussed BAS testing for K-3. Many teachers feel that the time lost to classroom instruction and being out of the classroom outweighs the benefit of the data collected. A BAS survey has been sent out to the teachers. A related concern that continues to plague the schools is the lack of substitute coverage for the testing.
  • I made inquiries about the status of the 1 to 1 Laptop initiative that is in its third year in the Pacific. I took from our conversation that the initiative has reached its conclusion.
  • According to a MOU signed last year between FEA and DoDEA, PLT/PLCs would be voluntary. But the 21st Century training currently underway is not voluntary and PLTs/PLCs are embedded in this mandated program.
  • We are encouraged by Mr. Brady's desire to find a new way forward, but old strategies are still in place and have been slow to change in the field. Our hope is that we will continue to see increased collaboration between management and the Association to reach common goals.

September 11 - Human Resources (HR) Meeting: The HR Division has problems from the national level down. Mr. Brady has acknowledged this fact and has prioritized ‘getting it right.' Given that, these problems cannot be fixed overnight. I met with the new chief, Jeanne Scharch who is knowledgeable and dedicated to improving HR; those minutes were forwarded to the members. Please be patient and go through the chain of command to resolve problems. If you seem to be getting nowhere after a long period of time, bring your concerns first to your secretary, then principal. If they cannot resolve your concern take it to your FRS who will forward it up the chain as needed.

September 17- September 27 - Pacific Area FRS/FR Training: The leadership team of Executive Director HT Nguyen, FEA President Chuck McCarter, Michael Bauernfeind Pacific General Counsel and I visited Japan, Okinawa and Korea for the annual fall training for our FRS/FRs and their Executive Boards. These trainings are always held in conjunction with the NEATA and TEAK board meetings. We discussed dozens of topics related to representational duties and tried to tailor the training to the needs of each district encouraging open discussion. We believe the training went well.

September 22 -- Pacific Area Joint Consultations: While back in Okinawa for the training, we held the first official Pacific Area Joint Consultations. Attendees included Dr. Linda Curtis, Chas Kelker, Randy Ricks and Melanie Horton. The minutes were approved and sent out to the members on September 29th. Michael Bauernfeind Pacific General Counsel also had an opportunity to meet with the HR staff and the Labor Management Employee Relations Specialists (LMERS).

September 25 - Humphries Middle High School Visit: HMHS is the only secondary school in the Pacific that is part of the Staff Development Teacher pilot associated with the 21st Century training. There have been some concerns about how the addition of 3 to 4 hours per month can be accommodated with an already tight schedule. The FRS, faculty and principal have been working together to resolve this at the school level. I would like to thank the FRS and the faculty for being proactive and offering multiple solutions that respect teacher planning time. We hope an agreement will be arrived at soon. While at HMHS I was able to meet with about dozen members as well as the principal.

September 27-29: Pacific Area Leadership Council: The Pacific Area Leadership Council meets three times a year, once in each district. The council consists of the FEA Pacific Area Director, the three District Presidents, the Pacific General Counsel and the local Human and Civil Rights Coordinator (HCRC). We meet on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The member minutes from the meeting will be forthcoming.

October 1 - Okinawa District Advisory Council: The first Okinawa District Advisory Council of the SY was held at Lester Middle School. This body is, in effect, the district level SAC and consists of the Superintendent, military representatives and administrators from each school along with a school representative, usually a SAC member. The regional level is called the Area Advisory Committee. This committee meets twice a year and the FEA Area Director is a permanent member. The first AAC meeting is on November 18th and will be conducted via VTC.

October 5 - FEA Board of Directors Telephone Conference: Some of the topics covered:

  • Human Resources (HR) - This is a worldwide problem and management is trying to fix it.
  • Foreign Language Teachers; concern for local nationals (some are associate members). This will only affect the high schools where Carnegie units are the issue.
  • Concerns about coaches sleeping on the gym floor with students. This is prohibited according to an MOU signed between FEA and DoDDS.
  • Discussion of the Jump Start Training aka 21st Century schools; ongoing.
  • Issues with the German government over taxes; possibly related to contractors, not us.
  • Discussion of the half time release for District Presidents in Europe and the Pacific.

The Transfer Program: The Transfer Program is a major morale issue in DoDEA, especially for those teachers that may be in less than desirable locations or circumstances. In recent years, it has either been a disappointing program or absent altogether. We were excited to learn in September that Mr. Brady ‘heard us' when he was in the field and understands its value. He has stated that we will have a Transfer Program. Since that moment, members have had a slew of questions about how it will look. The short answer to that question is simple: We don't know. Until the Association and Mr. Brady sit down and negotiate the terms of the Transfer Program, everything else is speculation. Please be patient and wait for this to develop. The Association will advocate, as we have in the past, for all the members' interests.

A Word on Collaboration: Collaboration is the new buzzword coming from management as if it were a new idea. This is perplexing to many teachers. Collaboration is a major part of what we do; ask any principal and with few exceptions they will substantiate that fact. The implication that teachers are not currently engaged in collaborative activities every day is a little unsettling. Of more concern is the idea that teachers should be mandated to collaborate. ‘Mandated collaboration' is an oxymoron and will not produce positive results. Regardless of mandates, teachers will continue to have meaningful collaboration, on their own terms, as they always have because they care about their students and they have an intrinsic motivation to do so.

Commendation: I want to take a minute to acknowledge your local Presidents. For two years running they have been denied their half time release and had to be full-time classroom teachers as well as represent the needs of their district well into the fall. Being a District President is difficult enough WITH the half time release. Despite this hardship they have pushed themselves to the limit to represent the members. Hopefully, the half time release will be returned soon. I think I speak for all the members in thanking them for their service to the Association.

Randy Ricks
FEA Pacific Area Director
Lester Middle School, Okinawa