May 1 2009 FEA President's ReportTo: FEA Members and Local Leaders Worldwide
From: Michael Priser, FEA President
Re: FEA President's Report
Date: May 1, 2009
PROPOSED STAFFING CUTS FROM DODEA HQ -- DoDEA Headquarters has released a directive which would impose severe and significant cuts in education.
The directive from Dr. Miles states her intention to balloon middle school class sizes from the current standard PTR of 16:1 to a new standard of 25:1 -- that's an increase of over 50 percent in the average class size, which is of course would be much larger than 25 students because positions such as counselors, nurses and school psychs are also factored into the PTR. DoDEA estimates about 350 middle school educators would be eliminated as a result of this new PTR formula. That's 350 fewer people teaching our kids!!
Second, Dr. Miles wants to eliminate instructional aides for Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) classes. Dr. Miles is trying to disguise these cuts by also announcing a lowering of the PTR in FDK classes from the current ration to a new ratio of 18:1. The bad news is that kindergarten classes will no longer have a dedicated aide for that class. Dr. Miles has stated that with multiple kindergaten classes in a single school might be allotted one aide that could be shared among the classes. How this would be allocated has not been disclosed.
So, what does the future of DoDEA look like? Dr. Miles adds 95 kindergarten educators, but she cuts over 200 paraprofessionals from kindergarten classrooms. She also cuts 350 middle school teaching slots. She cuts over a dozen positions for educators serving at-risk students. As she misinforms the public that DoDEA test scores are "stagnating" and that she cares about the lower quartile, her educational policies will significantly and adversely affect all children. Why the extreme cuts?
Dr. Miles continues to add above-classroom-level manager and administrative positions. She is adding 159 new "Resource Managers" to schools with 250 or more students. These above-the-classroom-level slots will assist principals with tasks such as "facilities management" and "supervisory & financial duties." They will not provide any direct service to children. Does Dr. Miles believe that the current school administrative staff, supply clerks, and other personnel assigned to the school office cannot do these jobs without taking services away from students? (It is interesting to note that Dr. Miles continues to assign new work on the plates of educators, and never once proposes removing mandates or assigning more staff, yet she feels her administrative level positions need additional help in managing the facility and budget.)
It should go without saying that FEA is vehemently opposed to Dr. Miles' plans, as is everyone with a concern for maintaining the high quality of our schools. FEA is fighting this misguided effort by informing the public about these proposed changes and how they will hurt the quality of education our schools offer. I, personally, was shocked when I learned of these proposed changes, particularly because I've spent the past week at ACDE (Advisory Committee for Dependents Education) meetings alongside Dr. Miles and she never publicly mentioned these changes to the group before releasing her plans to her staff. Worse yet, Dr. Miles spoke to a group of teachers in the Kaiserslautern District and referenced the additional kindergarten teachers and resource managers and never once disclosed that her plan to fund this was on the backs of middle school students. It seems to me she could have gathered a lot of valuable input about her planned changes from the ACDE members as well as the educators in the field who deliver the program. Could it be that such input does not interest her?
Also, it should be noted that the ACDE teams visiting the schools in Europe heard, without exception, glowing reports from all stakeholders -- especially students -- about how great the schools are and how the teachers are "passionate" about making sure students learn. One elementary school student remarked, when asked how to improve his school, "We need to put a big fence around the school and make sure that no teacher is allowed to leave--ever." I only hope that this feedback is heard in Arlington.
CONTACTING FEA -- FEA no longer has access to the FEA/Admin or FEA/Legal email addresses on DoDEA Outlook mail. This mean's any messages you tried sending to FEA at either of those addresses in the past 2 weeks never made it to us.
Similarly, FEA UniServ attorneys who had been on the Outlook system (Michael Bauernfeind in the Pacific, Jan and Bill Freeman and Sequitta Banks in Europe) have also lost access to their DoDEA email accounts, and have not received any messages sent to their Outlook addresses in the past 2 weeks.
Below is a list of replacement emails for those attorneys and the FEA Washington staff. If you sent any FEA staffer a message in the past 2 weeks via DoDEA Outlook email, please send your message again to the appropriate address below.
FEAAdmin@nea.org (for messages sent to Connie Shanaghan, Barbara Wright, Gary Hritz or Nereyda Jones at the FEA/Admin address on Outlook)
FEALegal@nea.org (for messages sent to H.T. Nguyen, Richard Tarr, or Patricia Weil at the FEA/Legal address on Outlook)
FEAPresident@nea.org (for messages sent to FEA President Michael Priser at his DoDEA Outlook address)
JFreeman@nea.org (for messages sent to Europe UniServ Attorney Jan Freeman at her DoDEA Outlook address)
BFreeman@nea.org (for messages sent to Europe UniServ Attorney Bill Freeman at his DoDEA Outlook address)
Sequitta.Banks@verizon.net (for messages sent to Europe UniServ Attorney Sequitta Banks at her DoDEA Outlook address)
firstname.lastname@example.org (for messages sent to Pacific UniServ Attorney Michael Bauernfeind at his DoDEA Outlook address)
The contact email for FEA Stateside UniServ Attorney Dorothy Lee remains email@example.com
EXCENT -- I continue to get reports about problems with EXCENT. Continue to let your chain of command know of these problems along with Lorie Sebestyen and Jeff Friedler in HQ's. (Copy FEA in your email messages.) HQ's believes that most of the problems with EXCENT in the Pacific have been fixed, so please alert us if there is something that we are not aware of. Thanks for your hard work during this difficult and extremely frustrating time.
ATTENTION DoDDS COACHES SEEKING TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT -- Any DoDDS coach seeking reimbursement for travel expenses under Association Grievance 08-08 should now send their claim information to the new FEALegal@nea.org email address. If you had previously send your information to the FEA/Legal address on DoDEA Outlook email, you will need to resend your information using the new email address. If you are a coach in the FEA DoDDS bargaining unit and believe you are owed for travel expenses that were not reimbursed, you still have time to send your information in. Because of the email problems, FEA has extended the deadline for submitting claim information to May 15, 2009.
All coaches in FEA's bargaining unit are urged to read the legal notice and, if applicable, fill out and return the questionnaire available here by the May 15 deadline.
HEALTH INSURANCE REIMBURSEMENTS IN THE PACIFIC -- I want to thank FEA Pacific UniServ Attorney Michael Bauernfeind for putting together the following information specifically for this update:
Throughout the Pacific members have received dunning notices from military hospitals and clinics. After investigating, it appears that these military facilities provided medical treatment and then failed to bill the member's health insurance carrier. For this reason there was no payment for the medical treatment. Neither the carrier nor the member were at fault. The military facilities simply failed to request payment.
Problems quickly ensued when the members requested reimbursement from the carriers. The insurance carriers refused to pay because the submissions were well beyond the one year time limit. In some cases the members were facing un-reimbursed medical costs of several thousands of dollars going back two or three years.
The FEA legal team in the Pacific urged members to respond to debt notices by invoking rights under the Debt Collection Act, requesting a stay in collection, requesting copies of all communication between the military facilities and the insurance carriers and requesting a hearing. Once all of the information was obtained, the FEA made demand on the military to waive collection. Assistant Pacific UNISERV Gayle Parker has been involved with case workups on over 50 individual members at this point. Most have been successfully resolved.
We are concerned about those educators who have retired. What will happen when these former members receive a debt notice from 121st General Hospital in Korea, Yokota Hospital in Japan or Lester Navy Hospital on Okinawa? The best advice is for the retired members to contact FEA Pacific General Counsel Michael Bauernfeind by email -- firstname.lastname@example.org. Under the law retirement annuities can be garnished to offset a valid debt. For this reason it is best to contact the FEA for some guidance and assistance.
FEA SURVEY -- The FEA Membership Survey is in its final testing stages and should be ready to "go live" by around May 15. The survey will be accessible to FEA members via our Web site (www.feaonline.org) and will include questions on topics such as Excent, Gradespeed, SIP, Technology, and FEA operations, among others. Once online, we will make the survey available for at least one month, in order to give as many members as possible an opportunity to submit their opinions. More information will be forthcoming in my May 15 update, as well as the FEA Journal newsletter that will be mailed out toward the middle of the month.
FLU INFORMATION -- The H1N1 Flu virus (popularly known as the "swine flu") is a major concern for everyone, but especially for those of us who work so closely with children. NEA's Health Information Network has assembled a wealth of information to help you and your students minimize your exposure.
STILL TRAVELING -- I am still in Europe for another day or so. Next week I'll be traveling to the Pacific, where I'll attend meetings and visit with members in Japan, Korea and Okinawa. I'll return to Washington DC on May 18. I want to thank the many association members and leaders here in Germany who have made my visits over the past 2 weeks so enjoyable. I also want to thank my fellow participants on the Advisory Council for Dependents Education (ACDE), who I have been meeting with the past week, for their hard work and commitment to ensuring that DoDEA schools remain the best in the world.
SPECIAL WEEK -- Next week, May 3-9, is Teacher Appreciation Week. Included in that week are National Teacher Day on May 5 and National School Nurses Day on May 6. On behalf of FEA, I want to recognize and congratulate all our school-level staff for their hard work throughout the year to make sure DoDEA students continue to receive a world-class education. Please know that you are appreciated ALL YEAR LONG by the students and parents you serve, and especially by those of us who are proud to serve you in FEA.
RETRO PAY -- Finally, some positive news for DoDDS educators: Your pay check this week should include your retroactive pay adjustment to bring you up to date on the pay you are due for school year 2008-2009. This adjustment, based on the new pay schedules finalized in early April, is the result of an FEA legal victory. Prior to that victory, you would not have been paid on the new salary schedule until next year.
Have a great weekend!