October 15 2008 FEA President's ReportTo: FEA Members and Local Leaders Worldwide
From: FEA President Michael Priser
Re: FEA President's Report
Date: October 15, 2008
NSPS -- The Defense Department has indicated that, at least for the time being, it will not attempt to impose its National Security Personnel System (NSPS) on DoDEA staff and other DoD employees represented by labor unions. This marks a significant change in the administration's position on NSPS. Just a few weeks ago it appeared that DoD would seek to impose so-called Pay for Performance on DDESS teachers (but not DDESS ESPs or DoDDS faculty). Now, following recent statements by DoD's NSPS program director, it appears that no FEA members are likely to be threatened by Pay for Performance or other aspects of NSPS in at least the near future. As a precaution, however, FEA will continue to prepare its lawsuit seeking to stop NSPS, in case an attempt is made at any time in the future to again threaten our members with this harmful personnel system.
INFORMATION ASSURANCE -- In an effort to make Outlook e-mail more secure, the Pentagon has begun an Information Assurance (IA) initiative. This initiative seeks to boost the security of electronic systems.. As part of the IA initiative, the Department of Defense requires all employees to complete IA awareness training. Information Assurance training is intended to inform employees of the technical and practical risks and responsibilities associated with their computing activities. We know that some staff in Europe had been told already to conduct their training on the IA initiative, but that directive has now been withdrawn while FEA and DoDEA Headquarters work out details of how the sessions are to be presented. Information on this implementation will be forthcoming
EXCENT Online -- FEA is very aware of major problems Special Education teachers are facing because of EXCENT Online. We greatly appreciate efforts by DoDEA Director Dr. Shirley Miles and the DoDEA Area Directors to provide extra duty pay and substitute time to help alleviate some of the problems. FEA continues to hear from our members about the lack of training, computer down-time, failure to transfer information, and other technical problems bought on by EXCENT. I will be raising these issues with management later this week at our monthly meeting. Meanwhile, please continue to work through your school's chain of command to get such problems fixed and keep FEA informed if those efforts are unsuccessful.
VERA -- We received word this week that VERA will be available this school year for educators in the Pacific. A similar announcement about VERA availability for Europe came out last week. Contact your building administrator for information on the VERA application process. FEA will send out more information as it becomes available.
ALMOST FAMOUS -- It's not quite People magazine, but you may have spotted three FEA members in the October 2008 issue of NEA Today. The magazine, which all FEA/NEA members receive as part of their membership, includes a story asking members from throughout NEA's state affiliates what issues were most important to them as the November general elections approach. FEA members David Pressley (Fort Campbell), Andre Elliott (Yokosuka, Japan) and Chuck McCarter (Wiesbaden, Germany) offered their opinions for the article. You can find them on pages 27 and 28 of the October NEA Today. Contact each of them directly for autographs!
TAX CREDIT RENEWED -- Congress has voted to maintain the tax deduction for educators who purchase instructional materials and classroom supplies. Under the law, passed as part of the recent Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, educators can take a deduction of up to $250 per year for qualified expenses, such as books, classroom supplies, computer equipment, etc., that are used in the classroom. You cannot be reimbursed by your employer for such purchases if you wish to deduct them from your taxes. The deduction is available regardless of whether you itemize your deductions using Schedule A on your taxes. This deduction, which has been in place the past several years, had expired after the 2007 tax year. NEA had been lobbying Congress very hard to renew the deduction. The National School Supply and Equipment Association estimates that educators spend an average of $1,752 of their own money annually on basic materials and supplies such as pencils, glue, scissors, etc.
100 PERCENT -- Congratulations to Johnny Whitley, FRS at Lester Middle School in Okinawa, and his fellow association leaders and members for achieving 100 percent FEA membership in their school building. What a fantastic accomplishment! Remember, if your school building reaches 100 percent membership at any point this school year, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org letting us know so we can recognize your achievement as well.
Many buildings have seen their potential memberships decline in recent years due to retirements and declining enrollment, yet we continue to hear that many of you are working harder than ever to recruit new members and boost membership in FEA. To all our leaders and members, and especially to those new members who just recently joined FEA: thank you so much for making FEA YOUR Professional Association!
HUMAN & CIVIL RIGHTS AWARD NOMINATIONS SOUGHT -- Every summer, during the NEA Representative Assembly, an awards dinner is held to recognize individuals and organizations for their work in promoting human and civil rights. NEA is currently seeking nominations for the 2009 awards. There are more than a dozen award categories. For information on the various awards and nomination forms with step-by-step instructions, go to NEA's Web site.
AMERICAN EDUCATION WEEK -- The 87th annual American Education Week is scheduled for November 16-22. Each day of the week is designated with a suggested activity, among them Educational Support Professionals (ESP) Day on Wednesday, November 19. NEA offers an online toolkit and other materials you can use to plan your celebration. For more info, go to www.nea.org/aew/
BOARD MEETING -- The FEA Board of Directors meets here in Washington DC next week, Oct. 20-24. Look for details on the issues affecting your location from your FEA Area Director, following the meeting.
TRAVELS -- I will be visiting our members at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, October 27-29. So far this school year I've visited schools and attended Area Council meetings in all three of FEA's geographic regions (Stateside, Europe and the Pacific). I am proud to say that FEA members are doing a fantastic job around the world, often in very trying circumstances, and our Building Representatives, FRS's, and Local Presidents are an outstanding group of leaders.
Have a great week!