FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: June 5, 2019
A WELL-EARNED RETIREMENT
By now, you will no doubt have heard that our Executive Director/General Counsel HT Nguyen has made the decision to retire at the end of this year. HT has given over half of his life to FEA, serving the Association and our members for 35 years. I simply cannot say enough about his integrity, his dedication, his vast knowledge and his amazing skills. It has been a joy and an honor for me to serve beside such an outstanding leader. While the departure of any great leader is a loss for an organization, I have no doubt that FEA will select a worthy successor and that the Association will continue its long history of strong advocating for our members.
I just returned recently from a great trip to the Pacific. I was able to visit numerous schools in Japan, Korea and Okinawa as well as attending several local meetings. It is always such a pleasure to get to speak with our teachers and to hear first-hand about their successes and the problems they face. Lately, it seems more and more the successes are in spite of DoDEA and the challenges result from decisions made by people too far removed from the realities of the classroom. But, even in the face of today's challenges, educators I spoke with were determined to continue to provide the best possible education for military connected students.
This trip was made even more special by the presence of NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia with us in Korea and Okinawa. Lily spoke to groups in Seoul and Camp Humphreys as well as two separate and well-attended events in Okinawa. As a child from a military family, Lily understands the unique challenges faced by military families and the importance of our schools in providing a stable and supportive educational environment. She is also aware of the outstanding record of our schools, both stateside and overseas. Her addresses to our members were heartfelt, touching, and showed NEA's commitment to support our members and FEA. We truly appreciate her making the long trip to the Pacific and spending time with our members.
Lily wrote about her experience on her blog, "Lily's Blackboard". Go here to read Lily's post about her visit to the Pacific.
In addition to Lily, FEA Executive Director/General Counsel HT Nguyen, NEA Director for FEA Anita Lang, and Pacific Area Director Melanie Horton also visited schools in Korea and Okinawa with us. It was a great chance for your FEA leadership to speak with members. Many, many thanks to all who helped with our travel and meeting arrangements, who picked us up, and who made our trip so pleasant and productive. Thanks too, to the members who took time to speak with us and showed up for membership meetings after the duty day. Speaking directly with members gives me the first-hand information to advocate more effectively for ALL our members. This was my last official trip as FEA President and it was a great one. Thank you!
THE FIGHT CONTINUES
FEA-Stateside Region continues to fight the illegal implementation of a bogus contract on Stateside educators, with support and assistance from the FEA DC office and NEA's Government Relations staff. Stateside members have been doing a great job (outside the duty day, of course) helping to spread the word to their elected representatives. Through unified action, Association members are educating policy/decision-makers regularly about the harm being done to DoDEA schools by management's anti-student and anti-employee actions. Sadly, terrible treatment of employees is becoming increasingly common across the federal government. We've mentioned previously how the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services both imposed negative contracts upon their workers with the aide of the White-House-appointed Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) -- the same FSIP that overstepped its jurisdiction in the process of imposing management's dictates on FEA-Stateside members. Just this week, the FSIP imposed a contract on employees at the Social Security Administration that grants management of that agency virtually everything it wants, including near elimination of time for union officials to represent bargaining unit members and severe restrictions on teleworking and other employee gains. These attacks on workers are not limited to our members and DoDEA schools: they are systemic throughout the federal government. The damage will take a long time to repair and none of us can do it alone.
As I have traveled around and spoken to members and leaders across our system, many educators have expressed concerns about the growing micromanagement of our classrooms by DoDEA. I certainly heard concerns about this on my recent trip to the Pacific as I have in other areas. While we understand that DoDEA is a standards-based system, teaching to standards does NOT mean standardized instruction. Educators need to be able to be responsive to students and to teach to the "teachable moment," rather than following an arbitrary schedule, pacing guide, instructional formula or one-size-fits all facilities guide. It is particularly distressing when so many of these decisions seem to be made by people completely out of touch with the realities of our schools! FEA will continue to advocate for the professional educators in our schools to be supported in their professional judgment of what works best in their classrooms.
If you have not completed the FEDView survey yet, please take time to do so. This is your best chance to voice your opinion on your working conditions and the current state of DoDEA. Please let your voice be heard! Look for the survey notice sent to your DoDEA email from EDVV@opm.gov or USASurvey@opm.gov. Responses are confidential.
OPM's FEDView survey is a useful tool and we highly encourage participation. But FEA also wants to collect our own data on members' opinions so we have created a survey of our own. In addition to gauging attitudes about working conditions and management practices, the survey also asks members to share their opinions and suggestions about FEA's operations, so that we can improve our services. Unlike DoDEA management, we can promise that FEA does want to hear what our members say (both positive and negative) and we will use your input to improve the Association for the betterment of its members. We will share our members' feedback about DoDEA with management, as well (while maintaining members' confidentiality, of course). Unfortunately, we can't promise that DoDEA management will take any constructive criticism to heart. In fact, that seems nearly impossible to even wish for from the present management. But we will continue to let those at DoDEA HQ know the truth about what's happening in their schools, even when they don't want to hear it. And we recognize the need to hear what you think about FEA's services and priorities, so we can improve ourselves wherever necessary in order to continue meeting our members' needs.
OVERSEAS BARGAINING TEAM
FEA has announced the members of our bargaining team for a new Overseas negotiated agreement. Bargaining a contract is a difficult process under any conditions, but the anti-worker environment we are currently in makes the process especially daunting. Even worse, DoDEA's illegal demands that bargaining get started this month, in violation of the current Negotiated Agreement, prevents Overseas educators from participating in the initial round of bargaining because those educators are not on duty. Our thanks to the committed Association members who enthusiastically volunteered to step into this situation and be a part of the Overseas negotiations team. You can learn who they are and read more about the process by going to this page on the FEA Web site.
It is hard to believe that this is my last regularly scheduled update of school year 2018-2019, and my last as FEA President. I would like to thank all FEA members for the honor and privilege of serving as Association President these past six years. I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to see the outstanding work done by our members around the world, both stateside and overseas. It has been an amazing experience, and even in the frustrating times, I always knew we are on the side of right. This is not a one-person job, and I cannot list all of the countless people who have helped me, but I do thank you all and hope you will step up to help Brian Chance as he steps into this very demanding role.
To those of you who, like me, are retiring or otherwise leaving DoDEA: thank you for a job very well done and may you find happiness in all your future endeavors.
To those who will be returning next school year: have a safe, relaxing and fun summer break. There will be much to deal with next school year, with assaults coming at our members from every side. Whether those attacks come from DoDEA leaders who don't respect or care about educators, or from elected officials who demonize and target federal employees, it will be more important than ever to stand together, stay united, and speak with one voice. Working together with our NEA family, there is strength in our unity and solidarity.
Please DO stay informed this summer, checking our website and following us on Facebook, as the forces working against us move quickly and do not rest over the summer! But, whatever else you do, I hope you can use the summer to recharge and relax and, as you do every year, come back ready to provide an outstanding education to the students we love to serve.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you again, and have a great summer!