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December 15 2015 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: December 15, 2015

COLLABORATION

Over objections from FEA, DoDEA recently began requiring a 45-minute "collaboration" period once a week in elementary schools, with a likelihood that middle and high schools would be subject to the same requirement next school year. While the idea of true collaboration is valuable, DoDEA's policy of taking up valuable prep time -- or even lunch time, in some cases -- for a management-directed period of collaboration is not a productive use of anyone's time. Ironically, since we believe this move by management violates the negotiated agreement, it also represents the exact opposite of collaboration by management with the Association. We have requested that management hold this collaboration requirement in abeyance until it can be properly bargained. If that request is not successful, FEA will pursue appropriate legal action, including filing an Association Grievance, if necessary.


PAY FREEZE SETTLEMENT

On a more positive note, FEA and DoDEA recently completed an agreement over the payments owed to many current and former DoDDS employees whose pay and benefits were illegally frozen by management for the first half of 2014. You'll recall FEA won a lawsuit last spring over this issue. Under the agreement, management agrees to pay back pay with interest by the end of May 2016 to all those who were in the FEA DODDS bargaining unit between January 1 and July 31, 2014, and had their pay and benefits illegally frozen for that period. Additional details about this settlement are included in the December issue of the FEA Journal newsletter, which is now in the mail to members and posted to the FEA Web site at www.feaonline.org.


EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS

On December 10, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), marking an end to the era of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law and its overemphasis on standardized testing, particularly as a tool used for punishment. Although DoDEA schools are not directly impacted by the new law (since DOD schools are not subject to Department of Education policies), we will undoubtedly feel its effects as ESSA brings a reemphasis on local control of education, de-coupling standardized tests from high-stakes decisions about schools, and hopefully giving educators nationwide a stronger voice in the policymaking process -- all of which would be welcome changes in DoDEA. You can learn more about ESSA by going to this site.


TRANSFER DEADLINE

The deadline for applying to the SY 16-17 DODDS Transfer Program is 5 p.m. (local time) this Friday, December 18. If you've not done so already, FEA members are highly encouraged to read Connie Shanaghan's Tips for Transfers, available at feaonline.org.


VERA/VSIP

DODDS has not yet announced when the VERA/VSIP offers will be made. Educators will have three days to decide whether to accept or decline an offer. If the offers happen to go out during the holiday break, the three days would start when educators return to school. A decision has not yet been shared by DODEA management on whether VERA/VSIP will be offered for Stateside schools this year.


LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN

Since DoDEA and DFAS continue to mess up employees' pay and threaten them with debt collection claims that are often erroneous or outright fabricated, FEA UniServ Attorney Bill Freeman has been appointed by the FEA Board to head up a letter-writing effort to call attention to the issue. Members (and anyone else) are encouraged to use the guidance provided by Bill to write to members of Congress, officials at the Pentagon, and DoDEA Director Tom Brady in an effort to finally get some resolution to these problems. Be sure to only view the information and to write when on your own time, using your own computer, and away from government property. You can find guidance from Bill Freeman by going to this page.


OPM CYBERSECURITY UPDATE

The Office of Personnel Management released the following update last week. You can read the full text of OPM's release by going to OPM's site.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), has concluded the initial mailing of letters to roughly 93% of individuals whose Social Security Number and other personal information was stolen in the cyber incident relating to background investigation records. Additional letters will be mailed as individuals contact the verification center or if we can obtain better addresses for letters returned to sender through the postal service.

The letters, examples of which can be found at www.opm.gov/cybersecurity, detail information on credit monitoring and identity theft protection services and insurance the U.S. Government is providing at no cost to the impacted individuals and their dependent minor children (under the age of 18 as of July 1, 2015) for a period of three years. Individuals can reach the verification center by going to www.opm.gov/cybersecurity and navigating to the "Verify If You Were Impacted" section. After contacting the verification center, people will receive a letter stating whether or not our records indicate that their Social Security Number was compromised in the intrusion. Due to security and privacy protections, this process may take a few weeks.

People who receive a letter should confirm that the letter matches those displayed on the OPM website. The letter should direct them to OPM's cybersecurity page at the address listed above. Any email that asks for personal information, or any version of the letter that does not direct individuals to OPM's cyber security website, should be considered fraudulent, and reported to local law enforcement, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS

This is my last scheduled update of 2015. I'd like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and best wishes for a fantastic 2016. Before signing off, I wanted to share with you my letter to Santa this year. I'm sure many of you have the same items on your wish lists.

Dear Santa,

Where has the time gone? Like any DoDEA educator, time is one thing I never have enough of! I wrote to you my first year here in Washington, but last year I was so busy I never had a chance to write! This year, though, I am making it a priority…along with all the other priorities! Santa, I really have tried to be a good boy this year, but at times it has been very, very tough.

As part of my job, I have traveled around a lot this year, so I thought maybe I could help a little with your "Naughty and Nice" lists. Our DoDEA educators have been really good this year, Santa, and they want the best for their students. As I visited schools, I see them working magic in their schools, often working under difficult circumstances, with reduced budgets, and never-ending demands. In spite of all of that, they continue to deliver a great education for all our students around the world.

Our teachers are really happy that we are going to have a Transfer Program this year, but Santa, it really is too small. Can you put a LARGER version of the Transfer Program on our list for NEXT year? That would make our educators REALLY happy! 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 long, happy retirements free from debt letters!

Most of all, our teachers need time, Santa. Even though DoDEA has talked about "narrowing the focus," it sure does not feel like that in our schools. Everyone above the classroom level seems to have a great new idea of what teachers should be doing so there continue to be new initiatives. Of course, nothing ever seems to be taken off our plates! Our educators really need uninterrupted planning time! And how about some relief from meaningless meetings, one size fits all training, forced collaboration, collecting data for data's sake, and the endless demands of AdvancEd?

Along with time, one of our biggest needs is reliable technology. Students and teachers never seem to know from day to day what technology will work and what won't We hear about being a "21st Century School System" but too often the technology is not there to support that vision. Many of our schools, especially MS's seem to need more computers since the implementation of the new computer ratios. Can you put some of those under our trees?

Santa, you know better than anyone that "one size does NOT fit all" and how upset some people get when that gift does not fit or is not what they need. Our elementary teachers have been trying to implement new math standards, and it has NOT been easy. Can you bring our ES teachers some practical training based on what they need to do in the classroom? The math materials they have been given have been especially hard to use and are very time consuming, so they also need some resources and materials that are well organized and easy to use. Those would make lots of teachers very happy and our students would certainly benefit. And educators who don't teach math want professional development opportunities related to their fields as well, so can you add that to the list?

For years we have been asking for a less burdensome, more meaningful School Improvement and Accreditation Process. Can you make sure the new District Accreditation Plan DoDEA is working on will fit that bill?

Some of our schools and districts have great administrators, but unfortunately, some do not. We all know it is a difficult job, but too many of them seem to be meaner than Scrooge. Please make sure all of our administrators understand that teachers' working conditions are students learning conditions. They need to have good communications skills, to understand how to lead collaboratively, and they need to appreciate the work educators do in their schools.

Our school system is shrinking, but we seem to have even more "above school level" people in our system. Unfortunately, many of them have forgotten what it is like in the classroom. They think they remember, but they don't. Santa, would you let someone who hasn't been in a toy factory in years tell your elves how to do their work? Or let someone who has never driven a sleigh tell YOU how to do it? And they don't even want to listen to us! It would be great if those people could all spend a few weeks in a school, actually teaching again, to refresh their memories…call it a working vacation! It would help them remember that their job is to support the work that teachers and others do in our schools.

For your Naughty list, DFAS and all those involved in sending illegal and erroneous Debt Letters should be at the top of the list. Add to that those who are dragging their feet in paying teachers what they are owed. Nothing but coal in those stockings!

Santa, all of 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 I have to mention our small but mighty FEA staff and our UniServ attorneys as well -- they work hard every day, serving our members. Please make sure their stockings are overflowing with good things. Santa, I KNOW those round the world trips are hard! And you do it all in one night! Fly safely… I will leave some milk & cookies out for you under the little tree in the FEA office!

Merry Christmas!

Chuck