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August 30 2014 FEA Pacific Report

August 30, 2014

Welcome Back Everyone,

I hope your transition back into the classrooms last week was relatively smooth. As the old Chinese proverb goes, "May you live in uninteresting times."

Three days after the election I was off and running. Here's a summary:

April 28: Meeting with DoDEA Director Tom Brady, Dr. Linda Curtis DoDDS Area Director, AEAO President, Melanie Horton & Randy Ricks FEA Pacific Area Director Elect
We shared some of our concerns about the current state of affairs in DoDEA. Briefly, they included the following:

  • DoDEA HQ: DoDEA HQ has become increasingly dysfunctional.
  • DoDEA Personnel Offices: HR has become increasingly ineffective.
  • Pre-Decisional Involvement: It has been largely ignored by administration in DoDEA.
  • Initiatives: New initiatives have been excessive and harmful.
  • Career and Technical Education (Vocational Ed): Many of these programs have been eliminated over the years. CTE needs to be revived in DoDEA.
  • Professional Development Coaches: Announced at a time of serious budget cuts this shocked teachers and reinforced the idea that HQ is out of touch.
  • ISS Positions: We feel that these positions are not a good use of our resources.
  • Administration at the School Level: There has been a significant increase of schools with strained relationships between staff and administrators.

Mr. Brady heard many of the same things that we discussed with him wherever he went. I feel that Mr. Brady listened and his recent 100 Day report indicates that he has a good understanding of what ails DoDEA. We are starting to see some positive changes. Given that, we still have a lot of challenges ahead. Fixing our system will take time and we will not agree on everything that management does, but I believe Mr. Brady will bring much needed stability to DoDEA.

May 4: FEA Board of Directors Telephone Conference

  • We are starting to see gradual improvement w/ cooperation at the HQ level.
  • AdvancEd is a priority issue for FEA.
  • MOUs signed on Culinary Arts and Health/Science Adoption & others (FEA website).
  • Time & Attendance Cards: FEA rejects this change but it's coming from DoD, not DoDEA and they are moving forward with it.
  • Training for counselors is coming. We are hoping that is better than the last training.
  • Common Core is here. Just like in the USA, we anticipate some issues.
  • The closure of Fort Knox/Campbell schools has resulted in 80 people with no positions.
  • Ongoing lawsuit against the DoDEA salary freeze (details in FEA Journal).
  • Contract negotiations: We are still bargaining the conditions of the negotiations.
  • Half-time release for Presidents taken away in the Pacific only.
  • DDESS has negotiated a new Contract but it is still with a mediator.
  • Denial of official time for union officials: There has been an assault on long-standing practices and contractual agreements.

May 17-19: Pacific Area Leadership Council (minutes forwarded to the membership)

June 28-July 1: FEA Board of Directors/Annual Membership Meetings in Denver, CO

  • A recommendation to FEA to use electronic voting: The determination -- Department of Labor concerns that could get us in hot water; rejected.
  • Gather election guidelines for all districts to see if we can improve the process.
  • Common core is coming and we are worried about potential negative impact.
  • Schoolology -- This is the new ‘Blackboard. FEA was not represented at this training. It is not a mandatory tool but will impact the Virtual School educators.
  • Administrators in the secondary schools continue to push for the use of common planning periods for the purpose of CSI, administration generated collaboration or other training. The parties have taken different positions regarding the implementation of the Seven Period Day, but FEA's stance is that preparation periods should not be used for training. Previous arbitrations have supported this stand.
  • Also in the secondary schools, the seminar period has been questioned and there have been moves throughout the Pacific to eliminate block scheduling and bring back the seven period day. We believe it is about financial concerns, not educational.
  • We have seen a reduction in Professional Development days and an increase in CSI days.
  • Online resources for schools have been cut by HQ; a direct impact on our students.
  • A new graduation policy has come out; details forthcoming.
  • We have experienced many recertification issues with HR.
  • FEA's position on the district ISS positions: It is a poor use of resources.
  • BAS has been time-consuming and disruptive. Many elementary teachers question its worth weighed against the loss of instructional time. More recently, FEA was able to offer input; the jury is still out.
  • There was ET and IS training during a teacher workday. FEA is concerned that this was even allowed. Training is not appropriate during a workday.
  • We have seen a pattern of APL days being denied. With few exceptions, APL days should not be denied.
  • DoD directive on time and attendance cards: DoD is trying to bring us in line with other federal agencies w/o recognizing our unique character that makes this impractical.
  • Although there has been many wins for same-sex couples in DoD, Germany does not recognize these couples. They are denied mutual SOFA status.
  • Membership processing continues to have some difficulties. It was recommended that we establish a Membership position over a larger area than the district.
  • NEA Minority Leadership Training and Women's Leadership Training will be conducted Friday, October 24 -- Sunday, October 26, 2014 in Miami, Florida.
  • Excess placement was an improvement over the previous SY.
  • VERA & VSIP process was drawn out and messy. There were quite a few rescinded offers. There were over 230 offers, 180 accepted.
  • Concern: Local hires not getting benefits with advertised moves during the school year.
  • Reminder: Furlough/Sequestration; it's not over yet. We had an 18 month reprieve.

July 1: Mr. Brady speaks to the Members at the FEA Annual Meeting:
Much of what Mr. Brady spoke of was a preview of his 100 day report.

  • He said that he is in DoDEA for "the long haul."
  • DoDEA is well resourced organization.
  • We are an organization in the midst of change, especially in Europe.
  • He wants to stop rumors by providing the facts which will allow us to make decisions based on the facts.
  • We are an educational organization that is exhausted. There are too many initiatives; this will change.
  • The DoDEA budget over the next seven years is 4.2 billion.
  • All military construction is on target.
  • One of our heavy lifts; we need to upgrade our standards.
  • He will have a College & Career Ready focus.
  • The failure of initiatives comes from their rapid implementation. We need to look at scope, sequence, assessment tools and input and take our time to do it right.
  • Mr. Brady intends to go through each program/initiative to see what student achievement was accomplished. If it's ineffective; get rid of it.
  • CSP (Community Strategic Plan): We will focus on two instead of the current five.
  • HQ needs reorganization. There has been a lack of communication.
  • Transfer Program: The last time we had one it cost 4.2 million but he sees the value in it.
  • Administrators and teachers alike need to be held accountable.
  • Sports in schools: How we administer them is the issue. We do have limited funds.
  • PDI (Pre-Decisional Involvement): Mr. Brady supports it but made the point that involvement does not mean co-management.
  • ECP (Educator Career Program) Process: This is broken and we need to fix it. He is also looking at utilizing the Administrator Academy approach.
  • HRs (Human Resources): The people at HR are frustrated too. The system is broken and we need to seek help to fix it. We are going to fix it.
  • AdvancEd: We have to have some form of accreditation. Instead of doing this at the school level we are going to look at doing it at the district level.
  • Professional Development: We have a bear of a time selling this to DoD.
  • Mr. Brady is not a proponent of the 1 to 1 laptop initiative.
  • He is a Read 180 fan.
  • We can't get everything done right away We will need to prioritize.
  • We may look at redistricting at a later time.
  • One thing Mr. Brady is confident about is a plan to reorganize HQ. It will be a measured approach.
  • A concern that some principals are not reporting instances of violence in the schools.
  • PII (Personally Identifiable Information): Perhaps we are overdoing this.
  • Half-time release for District Presidents; he is looking at this.
  • Coming: A task force to look at scope and sequence. The ISSs will help the teachers.

August 1: The term for the new FEA Pacific Area Director begins.

August 28: Meeting with DoDDS Pacific Area Director Dr. Linda Curtis:

  • Shared College, Career Ready eBook (see attached).
  • Status of 21st Century Schools; this is still in place.
  • Professional Development Coaches: They are now called Staff Development Teachers. There will be some changes in how this program is structured.
  • Discussion of Hiring Procedures over the summer; problematic w/o employee access to DoDDS Outlook.
  • Scheduling Monthly Consultation Meetings.
  • We have new Smart Boards to replace older ones.
  • Procurement: There is funding for Art, Music, sports uniforms and classroom furniture.
  • Progress is being made with improving services in the Area HR.
  • Accreditation at district level; no information yet.
  • Joint Labor Management Training: This was cancelled due to conflicts.
  • Half-time release for Presidents and official time; ongoing concern.

Randy Ricks
FEA Pacific Area Director
Lester Middle School, Okinawa