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February 15 2013 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Michael Priser, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: February 15, 2013

FURLOUGHS -- The news about possible furloughs for DoDEA educators has not improved in the two weeks since my last update. Congress appears to be no closer to a deal that would avoid sequestration cuts, and so the threat of as many as 22 furlough days for DoDEA between late April and the end of September remains. FEA, with much support from NEA, is lobbying hard for Congress and/or the Pentagon to realize the harm furloughs would do to our students and to exempt school-level educators from this furlough threat. We have been in touch with the White House, the Secretary of Defense's office (as well as other offices within the Pentagon), key members of Congress, and the media to raise awareness of this threat. Furthermore, FEA's legal department has been conducting research and is prepared to file a lawsuit over this issue when and if it becomes necessary.

DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald has also asked the Pentagon to exempt school level employees from the furlough. FEA considers any other option to be unacceptable because of the serious and possibly irreparable damages to our children's education. This does a great disservice to our military families who serve around the world.

To find out what you can do to help spread the word about this situation, visit our Web site at www.feaonline.org (make sure you are not on duty, on government property or using government equipment when you do so).

BAN ON REMOVABLE STORAGE DEVICES -- DoDEA, as ordered by the Pentagon, is implementing a ban on all unapproved removable storage devices, such as USB hard drives, memory sticks, thumb drives, smartphones, MP3 players, etc. The ban is to take effect no later than February 25. This order comes directly from the very top ranks of the Pentagon in response to ongoing threats of cyber attacks throughout DoD's computer networks. In addition to not being able to use personal storage devices, DoDEA employees will also be required to use a DoD Common Access Card (CAC) to logon to any computer or Web site. FEA has shared our members' concerns about the difficulties this policy will create, especially given the unreasonably short notice before implementation. DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald has given broad authority to school administrators to assist employees in mitigating the impact of this policy. In its memo to employees explaining the ban, DoDEA listed some acceptable alternatives that can be used for data storage, such as re-writable CDs and network storage. FEA has asked DoDEA to be sure training on the use of these mediums will be available to anyone who requires it. Meanwhile, your building principal should work with employees to ensure you have time to transfer any necessary data from your own personal storage devices to an approved device. Principals should also be helping anyone who does not currently have a CAC card get one by February 25. Let your principal know of any difficulties you face with meeting this deadline and inform FEA if you are unable to resolve those problems within your local chain of command.

VSIP/EXCESS PLACEMENTS -- FEA has worked extensively with DoDEA to ensure the VSIP/VERA program and the placement of Excess employees will be conducted this year in a fair and compassionate manner. We had a productive meeting this week with DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald to make sure employees' teaching categories and location preferences would be considered in any Excess placements. We expect details of both the VSIP/VERA and Excess placement programs to be finalized and sent out to DoDEA employees very soon.

Apparently, there has been some confusion over whether VSIP was offered and then withdrawn by DoDEA. It appears that DoDEA Headquarters never "officially" released the notice of VSIP, but the Area prematurely released a draft working memo with DoDEA's plans. FEA had serious concerns with how VSIP and Excess placements were to be conducted under those draft plans from DoDEA. Those were explained in my February 6 message. FEA received hundreds of e-mails from members about this issue, providing us with valuable information on how DoDEA's proposals would have negatively impacted schools. We shared that information with DoDEA headquarters staff and I am glad to say DoDEA has listened to you. FEA is encouraged by management's flexibility and willingness to listen to the concerns of school-level personnel as we work toward finalizing details of how the VSIP and Excess programs will look. Our hope is the finished products, while far from ideal (we'd much prefer a full and proper transfer program, of course), will at least be a big improvement over the draft version that was making the rounds last week.

Another major concern was that educators, especially in the Pacific, were being pressured by administrators to decide whether to voluntary declare themselves excessed before they had complete information about the VSIP and Excess placement processes. We continue to stress to management that the following three things must be in place and publicly shared, with adequate time for employees to learn the details of each, before any deadlines regarding VSIP or Excessing can be imposed:

  1. Manning documents must be made available in all schools -- what we have heard from the field is these documents presently are available only in a limited number of buildings, although more schools seem to be receiving them this week.
  2. Details of the VSIP program must be finalized and made public.
  3. Details of the Excess placement process must be finalized and made public.

Only when the all of the above information is available to employees can they be expected to make an informed decision about whether to seek VSIP or declare themselves Excess. Again, the Association has had numerous meetings with Ms. Fitzgerald and her Human Resource staff and we expect an announcement very soon.

BENEFITS FOR SAME-SEX PARTNERS -- As you know, FEA has been working with the Department of Defense for some time on the issue of expanding full benefits to the same-sex partners of DoDEA personnel. A recent memorandum from the Secretary of Defense outlined expansion of those benefits for the partners of armed services personnel, but did not include details of providing those same benefits to the partners of DoD civilian employees. FEA immediately contacted the Pentagon about this, urging the office of the Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness to quickly release information for civilian employees. We are told a memo will be issued later this year to cover this topic.

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS -- We continue to seek your input on DoDEA's proposed changes to the high school graduation requirements. Go to this page to read DoDEA's proposal and link to a survey where you can tell us your opinions.

READ ACROSS AMERICA -- The annual reading celebration takes place on Friday, March 1, this year. Go to www.nea.org/readacross to find out more and get ideas for how to celebrate.

I hope you all have a safe and relaxing President's Day weekend.