February 1, 2013 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Michael Priser, FEA President
RE:FEA President's Report
DATE:February 1, 2013
POSSIBLE FURLOUGHS -- By now you probably know that the Pentagon has ordered DoDEA to plan for a possible furlough that would include ALL employees, including school-level educators and support staff. The Pentagon in anticipation of the increasingly likely sequestration cuts that would take effect this spring is mandating this action. Obviously, furloughing educators and shutting down schools would be a severe blow to our members and, more so, to the students you teach -- to say nothing of the stress and hardship it would place upon military families. The furloughs are by no means definite. As indicated in her memo to staff, the DoDEA Director will seek an exemption from the Pentagon for school staff so that classes could continue to run uninterrupted. And, there is always the chance Congress and the President will be able to avoid sequestration altogether. FEA and NEA will lobby extensively for DoDEA schools to remain open and for educators to be exempt from any furloughs if they do occur. Information on what you can do will be posted on the FEA Web site (www.feaonline.org) in the days ahead. Meanwhile, please keep in mind that furloughs are only a possibility at this point and both FEA and management will be working to avoid them.
VSIP/VERA -- Be on the lookout next week (probably Feb. 6 or 7) for an announcement from DoDEA Headquarters about VSIP/VERA availability. It is our understanding the Pentagon has approved over 500 VSIP slots for this year and that Excess employees will receive the first shot at them. The DoDEA announcement should contain more details about how a VSIP/VERA program will work and what the application procedure/timeline will look like.
UNFAIR -- We have heard reports of principals in Korea (and possibly elsewhere) imposing bogus deadlines on employees for making the decision whether to voluntarily declare themselves Excess before full details of the VSIP/VERA program are known. To expect anyone to make an informed decision about Excessing without a full picture is impossible. At FEA's request, DoDEA Headquarters has told principals in Korea not to impose any Excessing deadlines until complete information about the VSIP/VERA program is released. Our thanks go to DoDEA Headquarters for their action in this matter.
DoDEA HEADQUARTERS SPECIAL ED INTIATIVE A WASTE OF RESOURCES -- Currently DoDEAs regulations require written documentation on all meetings with parents (decision to assess/eligibility/IEP/changes in IEP). At all of the meetings the parents receive prior written notice and must sign the form, along with minutes that are also signed. Now, DoDEA Headquarters' staff has decided that they need to create an additional form (which they have labeled "Prior Written Notice") that they will task all special educators to use. It is a boilerplate, fill-in-the-blank form that is completed anytime services are proposed or refused. The form is NEVER signed by the parent. It is handed to them and placed in the student's compliance file. The fact that a written record that is signed is already required appears to be immaterial to DoDEA staff. Also, the fact that an unsigned form provides no legal protection for anyone was brushed aside by DoDEA legal staff. Despite the DoDEA Director talking about extreme measure to save money, DoDEA Headquarters will spend thousands of dollars to develop this form and training materials, and then spend travel money on ISS to go around and train staff on this additional work. A direct appeal to the director was rejected. DoDEA Headquarters says that everyone in the US is doing this, so we will do it. I seriously doubt that every system already has a comprehensive system ALREADY in place with forms that are prior written notices, that document all actions, and are signed by the parents. This new form creates more work, spends scarce training dollars, and has no safeguards to protect parents from manipulation of paperwork. Accountability needs to occur at all levels in this DoDEA system.
DoDEA GRADUATION PROPOSAL -- DoDEA Headquarters is proposing some major changes to the requirements for DoDEA high school students including mandating Algebra 2, requiring a "21st Century Capstone Project" and barring any waiver of requirements. You can take a look at the proposal on our website. FEA has also put together a questionnaire on the major changes. Please visit the following page on our site to view the proposed changes and respond to the questionnaire.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH -- February is Black History Month. The NEA Web site has a full list of materials, including lesson plans and activities you can use to incorporate this important observance into your classroom. Click here for that site.
READ ACROSS AMERICA -- This news comes from NEA: ‘We have the "green light" to let each and every NEA member -- including your members -- know that SmileMakers is for the first time the Official Seuss Store for NEA's Read Across America 2013. Your members can celebrate in style with over 100 Seuss products available for purchase online at The NEA Seuss Store. When your members use the promo code NEAMB, they will receive 20% off, plus Free Shipping with any order $25 or more. A percentage of the profits from Read Across America sales will be donated to benefit the NEA's literacy program.'
SPED ALTERNATIVE ASSESMENT DEADLINE EXTENDED -- At FEA's request, due to concerns about a shorter time for special education alternative assessments in this year's assessment calendar, DoDEA has agreed to extend the deadline for special education alternative assessments until April 19, 2013. We are grateful for management's flexibility in this matter.
TRAVEL -- I remain in Europe for the next week, with visits scheduled to Heidelberg, Schweinfurt, Bamberg, Vilseck, Netzaburg and Grafenwoehr. As always, I am extremely grateful to our members for coming out to share their thoughts and concerns with me during these visits. I also want to thank our incredibly hard-working FEA leaders throughout Europe for arranging these meetings for me, as well as for everything else you do throughout the year on behalf of your members.