February 17 2016 FEA Pacific Update


17 February 2016

Collaboration: Association calls to have structured collaboration held in abeyance, so that discussions at the national level may occur, have been ignored. These discussions should be held in order to come up with a system-wide approach. Management is redefining irony by wanting teachers to collaborate while refusing to collaborate with educators and the Association. Administrators in the field have been given a vague mandate that there "must be a minimum of 45 minutes each week." Here in the Pacific, each DSO is developing its own implementation plan. All involve release time. We are hopeful that Management will adopt early release time at all schools next SY. This is the right approach to achieve full teacher buy-in and the genuine collaboration that will follow.

Pay Problems: Despite repeated discussions with the District and Area offices, we still have educators who have not been paid for their EDCs (Extra-Duty Contract) from SY 14-15. We also have educators who have not been paid for the early return days from August 2015. As we approach the end of this SY and the impending late release and early return for SY 16-17, this is a worry. Once again, we will be taking names to the Area Office of those who have not been paid. A very short survey will be sent out this week to determine who is still unpaid. Please take the required 30 seconds to respond to the survey if you among those affected.

RAT Problems: No, not the furry ones. Return Agreement Travel (RAT) has been an annual problem for years, but it appears to have worsened this SY. As teachers are applying for their orders for the upcoming RAT, some are still trying to get paid for their summer 2015 RAT. Sometimes teacher mistakes are causing the delays, but not uniformly and always. Principals are the assigned ‘gatekeepers' and should be reviewing every teacher's RAT claim carefully. Even so, DFAS continues to be DFAS. Included in the aforementioned survey is a question on RAT. If you have not been paid for summer 2015 RAT, please respond to the survey.

IT Issues: Technology issues continue to plague our schools this year. The PAC IT Division has worked all year to resolve glitches, but it is a game of whack-a-mole. As soon as one problem is resolved, another one pops up. Outlook is frequently functioning at a substandard level and some of the problems ultimately harm our ability to deliver curriculum. IT has informed us that the Wi-Fi at each school should be fully upgraded by the end of the school year. That's a step forward.

Computers: Increasingly, DoDEA is pushing forward with initiatives that are more reliant on technology. Meanwhile, large numbers of desktop computers will be DRMO'd and not replaced. The overall number of computers in the schools will be reduced to a 1 to 2 ratio across DoDEA. This is perplexing as we move to the PARCC annual testing and other programs dependent upon computers.

Medical Billing: Okinawa has been the epicenter of a radical change in third party billing procedures at Navy medical facilities. The Navy refuses to bill FEHB insurance carriers for medical treatment. Each civilian is on their own. A town hall meeting, arranged by the local Association, was held last fall. The USNH at Okinawa stated that they will be initiating a pilot program that will allow educators to go online to get information on billing as opposed to waiting for the highly unreliable snail mail. This program has recently been made available. In the bigger picture, a ULP has been filed against the DoD through the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Jonathan Woodson. The FLRA (Federal Labor Relations Authority) reached out to DoDEA HQ seeking resolution while taking affidavits of individual educator cases. Secretary Woodson responded that this might be something we could discuss and requested FEA to submit proposals. FEA, barring a return to Hospital billing insurance companies, provided workable proposals to improve the current service. At this sitting we have not received a response to our proposals.

Uniform Grading: For a while, we have noted that some schools are pushing for a uniform grading system. This appears to be coming by way of CSI and the College and Career Readiness initiative. The Negotiated Agreement clearly states that the grading policy is left up to the educator. HQ's vision is in conflict with the Contract. If this is occurring at your school, contact your FRS and copy your local President. Please refer to Article 51 Section 1 of the Contract for clarification.

Substitutes: Substitute coverage continues to be chronic in some locations particularly in the Japan District. We do not know when this long-standing concern will be resolved, but the Association has suggested that educator time given to substituting should be tracked. We have constructed a form for that purpose and sent it to your local President. We have filed an Association Grievance on this matter seeking extra pay for sub coverage time. Ideally, we would like to see HQ address this issue to assure that the system works as designed. We know the causes of the problem, but after two years of difficulties little has been done to fix it.

Common Core Implementation: The quality and effectiveness of CCRM training continues to cause concern. We have given input frequently, but Management continues to reside on a river in Africa called De Nile. We will be conducting another survey soon and hope that Management will give it some credence.

Teacher Workday: Teacher Workdays are for teachers to accomplish work related to their position. For most, that involves grading and doing report cards, but not for all. Specialists who do not have grading responsibilities have different responsibilities. Teacher Workdays are not for Management directed or initiated training. To say that training is voluntary when it is necessary is disingenuous. Protect the Workday. If you are directed or encouraged to participate in training, please contact your FRS.

UniServ Transition: Soon, our long-time UniServ (attorney) Michael Bauernfeind will retire. Our incoming UniServ will be Ben Hunter. Ben has been with FEA for several years now working at the National office. He has been working cases in both Europe and DDESS. Starting in June he will be the Pacific Area Attorney. For transitional purposes, Michael Bauernfeind will continue to work with us on a half-time basis for one year. In the fall, Ben and Michael will do the training together. Stephanie Trotter will continue as our Assistant UniServ and will probably be picking up additional duties.

HCRC Program: Each District has a Human Civil Rights Coordinator (HCRC). The HCRC is a voting member of the Pacific Area Leadership Council (PAL) when meetings are held in their respective districts. The PAL has been looking at ways to strengthen the HCR Program over the last year. Towards that end, the three HCRCs came together for a weekend in December. Michael Johnson, HCRC in Japan has taken the lead and put together a HCRC Handbook. The focus is on guidance and an effort towards unity and continuity. An important objective of the HCR Program is building leadership capacity in our organization. Last week, the HCRC from Okinawa, Pete Soto, hosted a VTC meeting with the other two districts. For more information about your HCR Program, please contact your FRS.

NEA Foundation Award: The NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the Association. All affiliate awardees receive expenses-paid travel to The NEA Foundation's Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in Washington, DC and more. Applications for the national awards are judged according to five criteria: 1) Professional Practice 2) Advocacy for the Association 3) Community Engagement 4) Leadership in Professional Development 5) Attention to Diversity. For details, please contact your Local President.

Angst Check: We were told that initiatives that weren't working would be removed from our plates. Mr. Brady said that we were doing too much and we were an organization in ‘angst.' Can you think of one thing that has been removed from your plate? That may be hard. Can you think of a few things that have been added to your plate? That should be easy. How is your angst of late?

Randy Ricks
FEA Pacific Area Director