December 13 2017 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: December 13, 2017


This Friday, December 15, is the deadline to apply for the SY 18-19 transfer program. You can access the online transfer application and find other information, including Connie Shanaghan's Tips for Transfers, by going to FEA's Transfer Information page. Those who submit applications by December 15 will still have until January 9, 2018, to amend or even withdraw their application. Make sure you don't miss the December 15 deadline if you are even remotely interested in this year's transfer program.


If you've already submitted an application online, FEA urges you to revisit the application site and confirm that your application is in the system. Do so well before the December 15 deadline so you can resubmit your application, if necessary.


We have been alerted to various problems teachers are having when they attempt to apply to the transfer program. If you are unable to submit your application, please contact Connie Shanaghan immediately as the deadline is this Friday.

Nearly two weeks ago, FEA alerted its members to a problem with the online transfer database that was preventing applicants from changing to A+ from other transfer groups. If anyone is still unable to amend their application to Group A+, please notify Connie. Also, please be aware that when applicants upgrade from one transfer group to Group A+, their location and categories are deleted and will need to be reentered.


As an addendum to the Tips for Transfers she released a few weeks ago, Connie Shanaghan has posted a new list of answers to common questions she has received about this year's transfer program. You can find that Q&A document by going to our Transfer Information page.


DoDEA Headquarters is to releases the vacancy list for the transfer program this Friday, December 15. FRSs are reminded to confirm that all known vacancies at your schools are included on that transfer list. Any discrepancies should be reported to Connie Shanaghan at this email.


Last week, Congress passed a temporary measure that will keep the federal government funded until December 22. What will happen after that date is anybody's guess at this time. FEA and NEA have been reminding lawmakers on Capitol Hill and decision makers at the Pentagon of the importance of our DoDEA schools and the need to keep both faculty and support staff on the job, even if a shutdown occurs.


Though some of us will not get snow this winter, we share other annual changes. These lessons, activities, and other resources will help develop an understanding of the mechanisms that bring about seasonal change and how animals have adapted to them. For resources, go to this page.


As 2017 comes to an end, this is a good time to check the dates on important documents like drivers' licenses, passports, ID card, etc. It is much easier to renew those things before they expire rather than discovering after the fact that they are no longer valid! If you are traveling for the holidays, it is also a good idea to have copies of those important documents in case they are lost or stolen on your travels.


This is the last President's Report scheduled before the holiday break (barring any urgent news). On behalf of the entire FEA staff here in Washington, I want to wish all FEA members a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for a bright, happy and healthy New Year. We know 2018 will continue to bring changes and challenges, but hopefully also rewards and opportunities.


Now, keeping with a tradition started years ago by former FEA Europe Area Director Mary Margaret McGowan, I will share my annual letter to Santa on behalf of FEA and its members:

Dear Santa,

As I sit down to write this year, I am not even sure where to begin. What a crazy year it has been! In times like these, maybe it is best to start off with what we CAN be thankful for. In my job, I am lucky enough to represent some of the best educators in the world. Our DoDEA educators do their very best for our students around the world, so I hope you'll be very good to them this year. They provide a caring, supportive, and educationally challenging environment for students to grow, learn and succeed. Because of their work, DoDEA is often singled out for national recognition and this year is no different -- we recently had three more schools recognized as "Blue Ribbon Schools!"

In DoDEA, we do understand that we have a lot to be thankful for...most of our schools are in good repair and we have resources that many school systems lack. Our students come from families with jobs, home, and medical care. So, we do know we have many advantages that some schools in America don't have. But our students also face many unique and serious challenges as well; deployment of parents to dangerous locations, frequent moves, distance from family, new surroundings and the list goes on. Our educators are there for them. And, as educators, we are always striving to be better, so there ARE some things we still need. Some of these things may not fit "under the tree" but I hope you will be able to help us out anyway.

Santa, once again there is talk of a government shutdown. As federal workers, our members would be impacted by that, but so would our students! Please drop off some "Common Sense" as you fly over Washington DC, so that our legislators will understand they have to work together to resolve these issues!

Bad ideas just seem to come back again and again. This year there are, once again, people who think it is a good idea to transfer our Stateside schools to the local school systems. Put those people high on your "Naughty" list with nothing but lumps of coal in their stockings. Our DoDEA educators know the unique needs of military connected kids and work hard every day to support and educate them in an environment focused on their needs.

As I often say, "You can't put students FIRST if you put teachers LAST!" And by teachers, I mean ALL our educators, and ESP's. I know how busy you are, Santa, and there were some things on our wish lists from past years that we are still hoping for. Maybe this will be our lucky year!

Many of our schools still have vacancies and need para-educators and substitute teachers. These hardworking individuals are getting more difficult to find in some of our communities. And it is really hard to run a school without them! And when teachers and ESP's do get sick, or have to take leave, the students still need those services, so subs are vital to our schools.

But speaking of subs, Santa, here's another one for your "Naughty" list! Unfortunately, this year it seems we are dealing with a lot of "Scrooge-like" behavior from DoDEA. Someone at DoDEA has decided it is a good idea for our K-3 teachers to give the BAS assessment without a sub in the classroom. This means testing one student in the same room with 18 or more young students working on their own. Does that sound like a good idea to you, Santa?! This is going to be particularly hard in January when our Kindergarten teachers will have to do this, since some of those classrooms are still without a permanent paraprofessional!

Another unfortunate example of "Scrooge-like" behavior is DoDEA's proposal to reduce the number of Parent-Teacher conference days. These face-to-face meetings are the best opportunity to discuss ways for parents and teachers to work together to support students. Reducing those opportunities is a terrible idea!

We are also still waiting on better, more relevant Professional Development. We need training that gives us the knowledge and skills we need to help students, not training on things we already do in our classrooms! One of the biggest problems is that no one asks educators what we need for training! Our teachers, our ESP professionals, our nurses, ET's, counselors, Information Specialists…we all want differentiated training that fits what we do every day, not canned presentations from contractors who don't know our teachers or our schools.

Santa, our overseas educators still need a larger transfer program. The opportunity to move is a great tool for recruitment and retention of high quality teachers and for the morale of our workforce, even though DoDEA HQ does not seem to understand that. For those who apply for transfers and for our excessed teachers this year, please bring them good placements…and for those who retire this year, bring them healthy, happy retirements free from debt letters!

Oh, yes, Santa, it's true...those pay problems and debt letters continue! And it is not just our overseas teachers, our stateside educators are having pay problems too. Please put DFAS and all those involved in sending those illegal and erroneous letters high on your "Naughty" list. And still other educators are waiting years for money that is owed to them! DoDEA says they want to fix these issues, but they never devote the staff or resources necessary to fix these complicated problems so the problems continue to grow.

We are also still hoping for an HR support system that is responsive and accountable for serving the educators who serve our students. Many of these HR position are still vacant so the support for our educators is simply not there. And educators who have spent their careers in DoDEA and are now dreaming of retirement would really love access to good retirement briefings and support as well.

One of our biggest needs continues to be reliable technology. While there have been some improvements, we still need more reliable networks and we certainly need more access to appropriate software, especially at the ES level. And the recent "gift" of Windows 10 has definitely complicated things! Also, in many areas, we don't have sufficient AT's to support our technology so there are not enough "boots on the ground" to resolve issues in a timely manner. Are any of your Elves IT experts?!

Our list could go on and on, Santa, but what we really want is to have our voices heard in decisions that impact our students and our schools. We want to be supported in the work we do with students. All our educators and ESP's work really hard every single day, trying to do the best for our students. I hope you will be especially good to them this year. And, please don't forget our small but devoted FEA staff and our UniServ attorneys as well -- they work hard every day, supporting our members when, very often, DoDEA does not. Please make sure you fill their wish lists. Also, certainly don't forget our wonderful colleagues in the NEA who work hard to ensure a great public school for every student.

Santa, I know your "round the world" trips can't be easy. Fly safely… We will leave some cookies out for you and treats for the reindeer under the little tree in the FEA office!

Merry Christmas!