April 18 2018 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members and Leaders Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: April 18, 2018


We have learned that DoDEA headquarters has been working with the Pentagon on legislation that would combine DoDEA's Overseas and Stateside schools into a single entity. We have heard and reported on such a possibility in the past but management representatives had always assured FEA and its members that such a change was far down the road and would not impact compensation and benefits. Apparently, those were lies!

The reason for management wishing to make such a change appears to be, in essence, to make life easier on people at DoDEA headquarters by only having a single school system to deal with. Certainly, no one who looked at the quality of our two school systems (as exemplified most recently by our students' continuing outstanding performance on NAEP tests; see below) would think there is any need to mess with their success.

Recent history shows us that when DoDEA management decides to standardize things between Stateside and Overseas schools (think of conference days being cut in DODDS to align with Stateside, and the numbers of specialists in Stateside schools being reduced to match DODDS ratios), the result has been fewer services for students and families.

The legislation being pushed by DoDEA would give the Secretary of Defense unilateral power to decide things like salaries and working conditions for DoDEA employees: in other words, it would eradicate DoDEA employees' bargaining rights and create a system where employees are treated not as professionals, but as underlings expected to shut up and take orders issued by the non-educators at DoDEA Headquarters. This would be a disaster for the quality of education in our schools and turn DoDEA into a system unable to recruit and retain the outstanding educators it has always enjoyed. Remember NSPS? This is worse! DoDEA attempts to strip away our educators' rights and protections that other Federal employees currently enjoy! Rather than rewarding and recognizing our educators' successful and extraordinary achievements (again, see NAEP Results below), DoDEA proposes legislative changes that will adversely impact compensation, benefits, and working conditions.

FEA and other affected parties received no advance notice of this legislation's content or introduction and, obviously, no opportunity to offer input before it was put forth. DoDEA and the Pentagon are pushing to include these changes in the current year's National Defense Authorization Act, which means they could be adopted as early as this fall.

This legislation represents an existential threat to the quality of DoDEA schools. FEA and NEA will work to educate decision makers about this threat and we will let our members know what you can do to help.


DoDEA Director Tom Brady had initially declined the invitation from the FEA Director for DDESS to attend this week's FEA Stateside Area Council meeting Arlington, Virginia. Now, however, after informing FEA of his effort to have Congress gut his employees' rights and benefits (among other harmful changes to DDESS and DODDS he seeks), the DoDEA Director has indicated that he will attend the meeting's opening night dinner this Thursday (April 19).


FEA has heard from several members about concerns and difficulties they are experiencing as a result in the switch from TOPS to the Defense Travel System (DTS). Please continue to report these difficulties to your local or Area association representatives so they can bump them up the line to us. We are making DoDEA Headquarters aware of all problems reported to us.


Months after submitting questions to DoDEA about the PARCC, FEA and FEA-SR finally received responses which did not adequately address the concerns our members have voiced about the training for the PARCC, the disruption of schedules and instruction, and numerous other issues. This unwillingness to communicate with the Association and with educators is damaging to the quality of our schools and programs. Please continue to address your concerns through your FRS so that they can be brought to the attention of school administrators and elevated up the chain.

We have been notified that Math 7 and Math 8 will NOT be included in the testing as previously announced. This information does not seem to have made it to the field.


We have, however, also received confirmation from DoDEA that employees who have NOT signed the form provided by PARCC will not face any repercussions despite what they were told by some administrators. The Association has notified DoDEA that we consider this form to be null and void, whether signed or not and has filed an Association Grievance to cover those who have signed it. Please be aware that Ethics policies and rules still apply to any testing situation. It is clear that DoDEA educators take standardized testing very seriously and will follow procedures to the best of their abilities in spite of the poor communication and poor planning that have gone into this initiative.


On my recent trip to Europe, one of the most common concerns was lack of IT support and slow response time on service tickets. This is a continual frustration for educators who are trying to incorporate technology into their instruction and to provide students with the tools and skills they need. DoDEA needs to put a system in place, including on-site tech assistance, which will support the demands of today's technology and instruction.


Each year, Federal employees are able to provide feedback to their agency via the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). Every eligible employee will receive a survey sometime later this spring. Employees are allowed to complete the survey during the workday. The responses of individuals will remain confidential, will not be individually identifiable in any way in the reports, and will have no impact on any individual's employment. The Association encourages all employees to participate in this important survey and to be sure YOUR voice is heard.

If you are interested in seeing results from the 2017 FEVS, and supplementary reports using the FEVS data, you can click on the following link: FEVS Survey Results. DoDEA's 2017 rating was its lowest yet, ranking in the bottom 5% of the agencies included. Despite the Agency apparently being unwilling to use this data to make improvements in the working climate and culture of our system, it is very important that DoDEA management hears how its employees think it is performing.


The results of the 2017 NAEP tests have been released and once again, DoDEA is right at the top of the "Nation's Report Card." DoDEA eighth graders lead the nation in their scores in reading and DoDEA fourth graders are tied with students in Massachusetts for the top score in math. In addition, DoDEA's fourth graders scored second in the nation in reading and DoDEA's eighth grader tied for third in the nation in math. Our students' performance on this important assessment is just one of the indicators of the outstanding education our DoDEA schools have provided throughout our history. Congratulations to our students AND our educators for your continued success!


When I visit our schools, I am in awe of the great work I see our members do. Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11, is the perfect time to celebrate the great work you and your colleagues do every day. For art work, ideas on how to celebrate, and more information, go to: NEA's Teacher Appreciation Week page


As all of our schools are now in the fourth quarter, I hope you had a restful spring break, and wish you a smooth and successful final quarter of the year! As you continue to provide the best possible education for military connected students, FEA will continue to do everything possible to protect your rights and your ability to do the best for your students.