FEA Pacific Area Report February 2015
February 17, 2015
1. NEA REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY: NEA's Annual Meeting takes place during the final week of June and/or the first week of July. The 2015 Annual Meeting will take place in Orlando, Florida with over 9,000 teachers in attendance. The RA is the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world and I would encourage members to experience it at least once in their career. There's nothing like it. Ask your FRS for details.
2. FEA ELECTIONS: Timelines for local elections will be coming out soon in our respective districts. Please consider running for a board position on TEAK, NEATA or AEAO and/or the RA mentioned above. But the most important position you may consider is at the school level, the FRS. I think we all know that this is not an easy job but it is meaningful and rewarding. Consider stepping up to represent the interests of your students, your school and your teachers. If you're not ready for that, consider becoming an FR to be involved and assist the FRS. Most importantly, please VOTE; let's get the participation rate out of the 30% range. Thank you.
3. EXCESS, TRANSFER, VSIP/VERA: On January 5th some of our teachers received a less than pleasant surprise, an excess notice. We knew this was coming but the circumstances in which it came were distressing. The excess document specifically stated that if you choose an in-complex placement, that decision was irrevocable. The Transfer Program and the VERA/VSIP Programs had not yet been announced. We made a request that the excess paperwork deadline be delayed until members were provided with the paperwork associated with the other two programs. The Association felt that teachers were being asked to make decisions without having all of the information. We were told that the directive came from HQ. Our FEA President spoke to DoDEA HQ and the brakes were applied and the excess deadline was extended. But what was upsetting about this was the seeming indifference to teachers. When we are making decisions about the course of our lives, we should have all the information to make informed decisions.
4. AREA CONSULTATIONS: On January 15th we had our fourth "Area JCC." Many issues under discussion continue to be unresolved. We do have a concern that while these items are under discussion, their implementation is going forward. Due to schedule conflicts the February meeting has been cancelled and the March meeting will be rescheduled for March 12th.
5. HR TEAM: Everyone agrees that HR is broken. Towards that end, the Booz Allen Hamilton Management Consulting firm has been hired by DoDEA. They will examine the problems we are having with our Human Resources Division and make recommendations. On January 13th the FEA Board of Directors was given an opportunity to talk to a team from Booz Allen Hamilton. We gave them an earful. We didn't just discuss the problems but rather what we consider the root of the problems. We also offered the history of DoDDS and the recent cuts that have really hobbled HR and demoralized these employees. We pointed out that other agencies were part of the problem as well, DFAS and DLA specifically. Most importantly, we gave recommendations. The Booz Allen Hamilton team came out to the Pacific later that week and interviewed all of the stakeholders from the Area Director to school secretaries. We are hopeful but the proof is in the pudding.
6. BOARD OF DIRECTORS: The FEA Board of Directors meets face to face twice a year in November at the NEA building in Washington DC and the RA Convention every June. In addition to these two annual meetings, we hold several teleconferences throughout the SY. Our most recent TELCON was on January 25th.
7. PAL MEETING: The Pacific Area Leadership Council met last weekend, February 7-9 in Okinawa. Members include the three District Presidents, the Area Director, the UNISERV and the hosting district's HCRC Representative. The UNISERV met with us electronically for our mid-year meeting. Our next PAL Meeting will be in May in conjunction with Joint Labor Management Training and FRS Training in Tokyo. The February PAL member minutes will be forthcoming.
8. ADVANCEd ACCREDITATION: Recently all of the CSI Chairs from each school, ISSs, Administrators and your District Presidents attended two days of training on the new District Accreditation model coming our way. The trainings were led by Dr. Talley from DoDEA HQ and AdvancEd Representatives. This is not the AdvancEd we've been used to; it appears to be more flexible and relevant. But then we're back to that pudding. (see number 8)
9. BACKGROUND CHECKS: This week, FEA and Management signed off on an MOU governing the implementation of background check investigations for bargaining unit members. The background checks are a federal mandate being implemented by DoDEA. (Go to feaonline.org for more details.)
TOPICS OF INTEREST/CONCERN
10. JOINT COOPERATION COMMITTEES (JCC): In the Negotiated Agreement Article 4, Section 3B addresses the topic of Joint Cooperation Committees (JCC) and states, "Committee meetings at the school level shall be held by mutual agreement, but not less than monthly, by request of either party." The purpose of these monthly meetings is to discuss and resolve issues at the school level. Not every concern is a JCC item. Many can be resolved between teachers and their principal. If not, the FRS may be called upon to represent the member's interests or seek answers to questions from our legal team. But some items, especially those affecting working conditions of teachers may be brought to the formal forum of the JCC if they cannot be resolved informally. It is the wish of both Management and the Association that school level issues be resolved at the school level. Sometimes this is not possible and the FRS and principal may reach an impasse or the topic at hand may simply be out of their control. At this point, either party may elect to elevate the issue to the District level. If you have questions about the JCC process, please talk to your FRS.
11. FIDELITY OF IMPLEMENTATION: There is a lot of talk about fidelity of implementation in DoDEA. In short, this is the delivery of something in the way in which it was designed to be delivered. Should the same concept apply to initiatives from HQ? In our view, this has been a longstanding problem in DoDEA. Initiatives that come from HQ may start with good intentions but what we have seen time and again is that as they filter down to the school level much is lost in translation. Teachers' frustration is heightened by the frequent lack of support that comes with these initiatives coupled with the fact that local leaders embellish these programs with more requirements. We are encouraged by the recent training in the Pacific on accreditation which was led by Dr. Talley. We appreciate DoDEA HQ working in the field and subsequently gaining a better understanding of local conditions and hearing from all of the stakeholders. Now that he is gone we hope that fidelity of implementation remains.
12. COLLABORATION: We hear a lot about the need for collaboration these days. Most teachers have been engaged in various forms of collaboration from day one of their careers. What exactly is collaboration? Is it something that should be implemented or is it an intrinsic activity? Management seems to believe that they alone understand what collaboration is and they have quantified it. Collaboration is something that requires people meeting at least four hours per month with guidance. Teachers are supposed to accomplish this new task sometime during an already full day. Management's idea to use the teachers' prep time or their personal time after the duty day is not agreeable to most teachers or the Association. For many teachers, the sad thing about this artificial construct is that it's not about quality time but rather doing the time.
13. CHILD ABUSE CHARGES: Child abuse allegations are on the increase. There is hypersensitivity in our world today that is typically unwarranted but is a reality. Recently, I saw an ICE complaint that a teacher had placed their hand on a child's shoulder. As teachers, we need to always be cognizant that innocent actions may be misinterpreted. Most teachers never imagine being placed in this circumstance until it happens to them. In the vast majority of these cases, all charges have been found to be unsubstantiated and the teachers are returned to the classroom. But at what cost? The teacher is traumatized and left with a sense of shame by the event. Innocence is no longer relevant with the public humiliation that leaves a cloud of suspicion over this teacher for years to come. It is unfortunate, but we must be mindful of our actions at all times.
14. ADMIN SURVEYS: We are approaching that time of year when your FRS will ask you to participate in administrative evaluations. It is critical that we view this as an opportunity to provide constructive criticism and/or positive feedback. If these surveys are not approached in a respectful manner, they will be dismissed and subsequently ineffective. Be reflective and objective and make sure you participate.
15. COMMON CORE: Last month, the AEAO President represented the Association in Washington for a week's training on the coming roll out of the Math Common Core Standards in SY 15-16. The Common Core Standards are a paradigm shift and we need to be prepared for this change. Mr. Brady has promised real professional development to start with the two day early return in August. The training, led by professionals, should occur through the school year. More details will be forthcoming.
16. HIRING OF COUNSELORS, SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS & PSYCHOLOGISTS: Because these positions are on a different pay scale than teachers, they require an announcement. Subsequently, filling these positions is problematic when they are vacated at the end of the SY or during the summer. In the future, these positions will be advertised on USA jobs during recess periods. More information on the process will be provided by HR at a later date.
17. NEATA BOARD MEETING: On Saturday February 21st, I will be attending the NEATA Board Meeting in Tokyo.
18. SASEBO SCHOOLS: The NEATA President and I will be arriving in Sasebo Sunday afternoon to have dinner with local leaders. On Monday and Tuesday, February 23-24, we'll visit the three schools on Sasebo: Darby ES, E.J. King HS and Sasebo ES. We will also take this opportunity to have a general membership meeting and provide training for our local leaders.
19. NEA LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: As the representative from the Pacific Area, I will be attending the 2015 National Leadership Summit in Anaheim, CA. The meetings start on Friday February 27th and will run through the weekend ending on March 1st. The keynote speaker will be Sir Ken Robinson.
20. UNISERV MEETINGS: After the leadership conference I will be spending several days with our UNISERV, Michael Bauernfeind to discuss a variety of topics to include the transition associated with Michael's eventual retirement, review of PAL records and litigation matters.
21. AREA CONSULTATIONS: Dr. Curtis and I will meet on March 12th for Area Consultations.
22. TRANSFER ROUNDS: There have been hundreds of questions, several site issues as well as delays. The actual beginning of the transfer rounds will probably be delayed due to the slow pace of completing the VERA/VSIP process. When a revised start date for the rounds is determined, President Chuck McCarter will send out a message. I will be going to Washington DC to participate in the process and represent the Pacific.
Thank you everyone.
FEA Pacific Area Director