May 22 FEA President's Report

To: FEA Members and Local Leaders Worldwide
From: Michael Priser, FEA President
Re: FEA President's Report
Date: May 22, 2009

STRAIGHT TALK WANTED -- No matter how it tries to confuse the issue, DoDEA headquarters is unable to avoid the fact that it plans massive cuts to middle school staffing that will see class sizes increase dramatically. Now, DoDEA is selectively interpreting the facts (and, in one case, outright denying its own information) in an attempt to quell the outrage over its planned changes for middle schools and kindergarten classes.

In the May 13 letter she sent to all DoDEA employees, Dr. Miles does an admirable job talking up her plans to alter full-day-kindergarten staffing. She highlights the new 18:1 PTR she is proposing (which on its own would be a very positive step) but relegates to a separate paragraph the fact that kindergarten classes would no longer have dedicated full-time aides. And nowhere does she acknowledge that those aides are crucial to helping ensure a safe and productive environment for kindergarteners.

Similarly, when trying to justify her proposed changes to middle schools, Dr. Miles continues to use some rather tortured logic in her efforts to explain how increasing the PTR from 16:1 to 25:1 will result in only a small increase in the "real" class sizes. Nowhere in her letter, by the way, does Dr. Miles deny the 354 teaching cuts that were outlined in her earlier memo on the subject.

In response to an email FEA sent seeking clarification on the issue, DoDEA Headquarters has said that they "do not know where the number 354 in lost staff came from but certainly not from DoDEA." This denial is puzzling, since Headquarters itself sent to administrators worldwide the message detailing those 354 middle school cuts. Unfortunately this denial of their own data does not provide clarity, but attempts to obscure the fact that Dr. Miles is planning to increase class sizes in the middle schools worldwide. Dr. Miles has also yet to disclose the full impact on kindergarten classrooms, has not addressed the safety of children, nor has she provided any data to justify her decision to cut aides from classrooms.

In her May 13 memo, Dr. Miles says she welcomes "honest, professional, and productive discussion of these issues." Such discussion cannot begin, however, so long as DoDEA continues to deny its own data and refuses to provide clear and logical explanations for its decision making.

WHAT CAN I DO -- Visit FEA's Save Our Schools Page to learn more about these proposed staffing cuts and the true affect they will have on DoDEA students.

DSO ORGANIZING -- FEA has filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) requesting an election be held to determine whether above-school level employees desire to create a bargaining unit with FEA as their exclusive representative. At this time, the FLRA is reviewing our petition.

In a more recent development, management has begun speeding up the timeline in the process to convert the DSO and Area office positions into NSPS positions. As part of this process, they are forcing people to apply for their own jobs.

FEA is contacting the Pentagon for a determination as to whether DoDEA's actions constitute a violation of the Deputy Secretary of Defense's order to freeze further NSPS conversions. FEA will also be taking further legal actions in this matter. There will be more information forthcoming in the next update.

DoDEA HQs RETRO LEGAL TACTICS -- DoDEA Headquarters is reverting back to the failed tactics of the 1990s to avoid paying employees fairly and in a timely manner. After years of legal action and intense negotiations made necessary by poor DoDEA management practices in the 90s, FEA was successful in putting into place procedures that allowed for timely and fair payments to teachers when errors were made in their pay. Not only did this benefit the employee, it saved DoDEA Headquarters time and money in resolving disputes.

Recently, however, this system has been breaking down, due to questionable decisions by DoDEA management, even for cases in which FEA's extensive audits clearly show that the employees are owed money by Headquarters. Headquarters attempted to have these cases dismissed. When that was unsuccessful, Headquarters asked to revert back to a longer and more expensive process to arbitrate these cases. DoDEA employees have asked to have the arbitration hearing conducted overseas (instead of in Arlington) which will now require the otherwise unnecessary step of Headquarters staff flying to Europe for hearings. While FEA is confident that our members will eventually be compensated in full (and correctly), we feel the direction that DoDEA Headquarters is taking is dilatory and excessive use of government funds. Educational employees, who are legitimately owed money, deserve better treatment.

SURVEY REMINDER -- FEA members are urged to go to complete our membership survey. You will need your membership ID number to access the survey (Use of the numbers restricts access to only FEA members. No effort will be made to identify how any individual member responds to any question.) Your feedback is very important. Please complete the survey as soon as you can. Allow about 10-15 minutes to complete the entire survey. Thanks again for providing us with your feedback!

Have a great holiday weekend!