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March 1 2013 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Michael Priser, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: March 1, 2013

FURLOUGHS -- As we approach the sequestration deadline, it appears more and more likely that the Department of Defense will be furloughing employees for up to 22 days between April 23 and the end of September. The Pentagon has until March 15 to decide if DoDEA schools or any other agencies are to be considered "critical" services, and thus exempt from furloughs. FEA and NEA will continue to lobby Congress, the White House, the Pentagon and anyone else we think of, hoping to convince them that furloughing classroom faculty and staff for even a single day is an incredibly ill-advised and harmful idea. Now, more than ever, we need people to make their voices heard in this fight. Go to this page on our Web site and encourage others to do so (but only do so while off duty, off government property and while not using government computers or other equipment). We must not give up this fight to protect our students and their families from this completely avoidable and unnecessary debacle.

LET'S HEAR YOUR STORY -- The Federal Workers Alliance (FWA), of which FEA is a founding member, has created a message board to gather federal employees' stories about how the sequester and potential furloughs will affect them and their workplaces. The hope is to use these stories to further raise awareness and concern about these very harmful cuts. Please consider sharing your story about how the furloughs and other budget cuts would negatively impact you, your students and the military families on your base. You can access the message board at this location.

VSIP/VERA -- Remember, the deadline to apply for VSIP/VERA is this coming Wednesday, March 6. Management in all three Areas of DoDEA has sent out details of the VSIP/VERA program and the Excess Placement program. Copies of the information are also available on FEA's Web site. At that same page, you will find FEA's break down of the Excess Placement procedure as well as a flow chart we have prepared to help explain how the process will work. It's a lot of information to take in so I urge you to visit the above Web page and study the documents thoroughly so you can make an informed decision by March 6.

RAT TRAVEL -- Several members have asked whether the likely sequestration cuts will affect RAT travel this summer, and we have heard of some people being denied travel orders for RAT that would begin after March 27 of this year. DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald has issued a memo (available here) to address this issue. In it, she explains that the funding for RAT travel will not be cut by sequestration. However, because the Department of Defense is currently operating under a continuing resolution that will expire on March 27, DoDEA and other DOD agencies are not allowed to access the funds set aside for RAT until either a new continuing resolution or a permanent authorization is passed by Congress, allowing for expenditures after March 27. In other words, to paraphrase the DoDEA Director, the money for RAT is there, they just can't get to it (unless your RAT travel is to take place before March 27). So, in addition to the sequestration and possible furloughs, we can add the possibility of a political fight over a continuing resolution to take us beyond March 27 as another thing we can all look forward to. Sigh! Please see the memo referenced above for a more complete explanation.

21st CENTURY SCHOOLS NON-NEGOTIABLES -- DoDEA is seeking input on 21st Century School building designs, even though a document (currently in draft form) sent with their request for input says most aspects of those designs will be non-negotiable. These are the new schools that will have open concept classrooms attached to centralized hubs, neighboring classrooms with retractable walls, a common teacher workspace area, and furniture that cannot be utilized as a personal workspace. The 16 "non-negotiable" aspects of design cited by DoDEA will massively influence how educators are able to instruct students in classrooms, libraries, multi-purpose rooms and gymnasiums, as well as influence how educators are able to display students' work and consult with their colleagues. If DoDEA truly wants input from educators, they would be wise to remove the "non-negotiable" designations and let building-level employees truly influence how the next generation of schools will look and function. FEA would like to hear your input on these "non-negotiable" items. You can read the list here and send your feedback to FEAPresident@nea.org

READ ACROSS AMERICA -- It's here! March 1 is Read Across America Day, NEA's Annual Celebration of Dr. Seuss and the importance of reading to and with children. If you are still looking for ideas on how to celebrate, go to www.nea.org/readacross.

FEA ELECTION INFO -- The February FEA Journal has been mailed out to members and is posted online. This special election issue contains biographies of all the candidates running for five at-large offices on the FEA Board of Directors, as well as information on a proposed amendment to the FEA Constitution that would combine two of the existing offices (Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer) into one new office (Vice President/Secretary-Treasurer). Voting for these offices and on the proposed amendment will take place during March and April. Ballots will be mailed to each FEA Active member on March 8. Your ballot must be returned to FEA in time to arrive by April 22 in order for it to be counted. See the election issue of the FEA Journal for additional information, including what to do if your ballot does not arrive in a timely manner.

SCIENCE TEACHER ACADEMY -- The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has an exciting learning opportunity available to middle and high school science teachers in their second through fifth year of teaching. NSTA offers comprehensive professional development fellowships for such teachers to participate in the New Science Teacher Academy, a yearlong professional development and mentoring program at no cost to teachers. The goal of the program is to use mentoring and other professional development resources to support science teachers during the often challenging, initial teaching years and to help them stay in the profession. The application deadline is August 1, 2013. More information about the program is available here.

WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH -- March is Women's History Month. The theme for this year's celebration is "Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics." Find lesson plans and ideas you can use in the classroom here.

LEGAL ACTION -- At the request of FEA, NEA is filing a "Friend of the Court" brief in the case U.S. v. Windsor. The brief focuses on ways the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in the 1990s, inflicts economic harms on both federal and non-federal employees. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case. You can read the amicus brief here.

SAFE TRAVELS -- Spring break is not too far away. Whether you have travel plans or will be sticking close to home this year, it pays to be aware and be cautious. The following information has been put out by the U.S. State Department: "The Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution to update information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness." The complete message can be found here.