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January 15 2016 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: January 15, 2016

TRANSFER PROGRAM

The start of the DODDS transfer program has been delayed until January 26, with the deadline to amend applications now extended until 5pm EST on Friday, January 22.

Due to the extremely small number of vacancies reported so far, FEA requested that the Transfer Program be delayed in order to ensure all vacancies are reported and that all vacancies resulting from VSIP/VERA acceptances be posted to the vacancy list as well. In order to make the process as transparent as possible, we believe that a complete listing of current vacancies should be available to applicants. After much discussion, DoDEA agreed to delay the start until Tuesday Jan 26, with the deadline to amend applications open until Friday Jan 22. FEA has requested that an updated vacancy list be posted ASAP.

It is our hope that this delay will allow time for additional vacancies to be processed. Also, please remember, backfill vacancies will be used and will create additional openings.

FEA's "Transfer Guru", Connie Shanaghan, will be at the Transfer Program through the entire process. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will also be at the table for the process.


VSIP/VERA

As of the writing of this update on January 14, DoDEA Headquarters was close to the limit it had set of 50 VSIP/VERA offers for non-excessed educators. The initial offers began going out last week and additional offers were being sent as the initial offers were declined. That process will continue until 50 non-excess offers are accepted, which should be anytime now. So, if you are a non-excessed educator and are still hoping to receive an offer of VSIP or VERA, you may still have a very small chance but that window is closing rapidly (or may even be shut by the time this update gets sent out). By the way, if you were declared excessed this year and applied for VSIP/VERA but you have not received an offer, you should immediately inform Connie Shanaghan at cshanaghan@nea.org.


OVERSEAS SCHOOL YEAR CALENDAR

The Association sent proposals and asked for bargaining on the calendar for next school year for overseas schools in early October of last year. It was not until December when DoDEA responded and sent us their proposals. Luckily, we were able to make a number of changes in management's proposal and DoDEA has now issued the calendar. The Association recognizes that this is very late notice for those who are impacted by the late departure and early return dates. Management, in its January 7 memo to employees about the late departure/early return situation, outlined procedures employees can follow to be excused from those training dates for acceptable reasons, such as travel plans they had already finalized. The memo also stipulates that those employees will receive time during the duty day to view the training videos and review materials they would miss at the trainings. Of course, any member who feels management is not following those guidelines fairly should immediately alert their FRS.

We have also received questions as to why overseas teachers will be returning to work on Tuesday instead of the usual Wednesday. Monday January 2 will be a Federal Holiday and therefore the winter break is one day longer than usual. In order to offset that, we return on Tuesday for the contractual 190 days.

In the past, DoDEA announced the SY Calendars five years at a time. The Association has requested that we set calendars through 2020 as soon as possible so that educators can plan ahead.


PAY ISSUES

Our last issue of the FEA Journal had an important article by UniServ Attorney Bill Freeman concerning pay problems. If you have not read it, it is available at www.feaonline.org.

As a related note, if you are planning to leave the FEA (Overseas) Bargaining Unit before the end of the school year, be sure to file and elevate a Goodbye Grievance before your last duty day in order to protect your rights. Be sure to give yourself adequate time not just to file, but to elevate the grievance while you are still on duty. Please see your building FRS for a copy of these forms.


RAND STUDY

The Association was informed Monday that a Pentagon committee is reviewing/considering the draft report of the latest RAND Study of our DDESS schools. While we do not believe that this latest reviewing process poses any additional threat to our DDESS schools, FEA will again reach out to our NEA contacts as well as use all of our other avenues and allies to make sure Pentagon and government officials know that military and DoD dependents are best served by our DDESS schools. Our schools' history of excellent support and education of our students makes that clear.


EDUCATOR TAX DEDUCTION

Among other major legislative victories for NEA and educators in 2015 (the replacement of the burdensome No Child Left Behind law being the ultimate example), a tax law passed late in the year finally made the Educator Tax Deduction permanent. Previously, the deduction had to be renewed by Congress each year (and some years they didn't do so). Not only is the deduction now permanent, it has been indexed to the rate of inflation, so that it will not lose its value over time, AND it will also cover professional development expenses. Very good news for educators as we start working on our 2015 taxes!


BAS

From the beginning, the implementation of the BAS in our elementary schools has been problematic. Teachers have clearly said the testing takes too much instructional time and that there are alternatives that would give the necessary data and inform instruction with less time taken from instruction. Over 39% of respondents to the DoDEA BAS survey said they felt the testing negatively impacted instructional time. Over 50% said they would use a different assessment if given the choice. Further, over 36% felt the spring testing was of "limited value" in informing instruction.

Given that data, as well as extensive feedback from our members, the Association proposed limiting the spring testing to the Instructional Level. This would lessen the time required for the spring assessment but would still give data points to show growth as well as give the data needed to place students in groups for the following year, etc. HQ has rejected this proposal. In spite of significant feedback about the problems associated with the BAS as well as the increased demands on instructional and planning time for CCRSM, DoDEA refuses to make any adjustments to this implementation. This is sadly typical of decisions made by those who have not been in a classroom in years. When will DoDEA learn to listen to those who do the work?


SURVEYS

You may see several surveys in the coming weeks. The US Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) will be conducting the 2016 Merit Principles Survey. This is a Government-wide survey of Federal civilian employees that measures the health of Federal merit systems and progress in achieving a workplace free of prohibited personnel practices. This survey focuses on merit system principles and HR policy and practice. Results are reported to the President and Congress and shared with Federal policy-makers and decision-makers. Participants will be selected at random and the survey is completely voluntary and anonymous.

DoDEA is also conducting a Literacy Organization Capacity Inventory from the National Center for Literacy Education in preparation for the transition to the new CCR ELA standards. This survey is also completely voluntary and anonymous. It is the Association's hope that DoDEA will actually listen to the voice of practitioners in the field and use feedback from this survey to provide the needed support and training for the new standards.


VISIT TO QUANTICO

Shortly before the Winter Break, I was lucky enough to visit our schools at Quantico. I want to thank Ms. Helen Balilo, Assistant District Superintendent, for a tour of the new Crossroads ES. It was a great day and I had a good visit at the MS/HS as well as Crossroads. Many thanks to Quantico Education Association President Luis Rios who helped facilitate my visit and especially to those members who took time from their busy days to talk with me or to meet after school.


60 YEARS OF FEA

Those of you who've seen the December FEA Journal know that 2016 marks FEA's 60th anniversary. Throughout the year, we'll be celebrating the occasion by periodically highlighting some of the issues and stories, big and small, we've dealt with through the years. This one, from the September 1969 Journal (back when we were known as the Overseas Education Association, or OEA), shows how even such seemingly basic rights as wearing facial hair were things the Association has had to fight to win and protect for its members over the years:

"Thanks to immediate action by OEA officials, a high school teacher in Germany has been allowed to wear a beard if he wishes.
"After being dressed down at length by the base commanding officer for appearing bearded at the local Officers' Club, the teacher was upset enough to voice his complaints to his OEA-NEA [building representative].
"Information soon passed to the Area Chairman who, in turn, contacted Roger Stephon, OEA Executive Secretary.
"After a few phone calls, Stephon reports, the commanding officer was told by higher headquarters that he had over-extended himself in his authority over a civilian employee.
"The teachers now may grow beards and are permitted to go into the Officers Club."

Just goes to show that so many of the rights and privileges we don't even think about should never be taken for granted.


NEA's READ ACROSS AMERICA

This annual celebration of reading is one of the best ways to involve your community and parents in your school. Plan now to use this day to promote a lifelong love of reading as well as a positive image for your school. For information and ideas to help you plan your reading celebration, go to NEA's Read Across America page. In addition, FEA encourages its members to use NEA's customizable article/press release -- available (along with other promotional materials) at this page -- or the sample release FEA has made available to download at feaonline.org to let your local media know about your Read Across America events. Local newspapers usually require some lead time for articles so don't wait till the last minute. And don't forget to send pics of your events to us at fea@feaonline.org. Our FEA members always make this a GLOBAL event!