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August 15, 2013 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: August 15, 2013


1. HELLO

It seems best to begin this first President's Report of the new school year with a quick introduction. I am Chuck McCarter, the new president of FEA. I am an art, social studies and AVID teacher from Wiesbaden Middle School in Germany and I am extremely grateful to you all for electing me Association president. As always, we've got a lot of big issues before us, so let's get right to them.


2. FURLOUGHS

By now you surely know the good news that DoDEA will lose no school days to furloughs/sequestration cuts this August or September. Most other Department of Defense civilians have been furloughed for six days this fiscal year but -- thanks largely to the calls and emails of FEA members, parents and students, as well as a lot of efforts by FEA and NEA -- the Secretary of Defense recognized the harm that closing schools would do and granted a special exemption from furloughs to 10-month employees of DoDEA. This is a huge victory for the proponents of education, though it saddens me that closing the schools was ever considered as a way to alleviate the manufactured crisis of sequestration. Despite this victory, FEA members who work as ESPs in our Stateside schools have suffered the loss of six days to furloughs this summer. FEA-Stateside is pursuing legal action to compensate those members for this clear violation of their negotiated agreement.

We celebrate the cancellation of the remaining furlough days that had been scheduled for this fiscal year but we must remain on guard; sequestration has not been cancelled and the possibility remains that more furlough days -- or even more harmful cuts -- will be proposed for next year. Some possible cuts are discussed in the August FEA Journal newsletter (see item below). I'm expecting my time in office to be full of challenges such as this and ask all of you to continue doing everything possible to help us fight these wrongful decisions as they come.


3. BAS TESTING

The BAS testing remains a contentious issue. FEA has proposed to management that we continue the current pilot program (with the current supports left in place, including substitute teachers being provided during testing) so that we can work with DoDEA to gather information from the field on the program and its implementation. We remain in negotiations at this time and will of course keep members informed of any developments.


4. CONTRACT RENEGOTIATION

This summer, DoDEA requested that the FEA/DODDS Negotiated Agreement be reopened for bargaining. This would mark the first time the contract has been renegotiated since 1989, though it has been amended by numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and other addenda over the subsequent years. We will be seeking input from our members on many contract issues in the months ahead as we undertake this process. For now, please keep in mind (and remind your administrators, if necessary) that the existing FEA/DODDS contract remains in FULL FORCE AND EFFECT until a new agreement is finalized. The contract between FEA's Stateside Area and DDESS is also being renegotiated.


5. SAME SEX BENEFITS

A couple of deadlines bought about by the Supreme Court ruling this summer declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional: Federal employees who have legally married a same-sex spouse have until August 26, 2013, to make immediate changes to most benefit programs, such as registering their spouse, annuitants and family members for insurance programs, retirement pension benefits, and claims on the employee's flexible spending account. You can learn more about this process by going to this page on our Web site.

In addition, the Office of Personnel Management has set a deadline of June 26, 2015, for all federal retirees in same-sex marriages to elect survivor annuities for their spouses under CSRS and FERS. Learn more by going to this page


6. JOURNAL

The August 2013 FEA Journal was sent out last week. The issue was written and printed before the decision to cancel furlough days was announced, so please don't be confused if the newsletter talks about furloughs as something that might or might not happen -- they definitely are cancelled. If you haven't received your copy yet, you can read the Journal online.


7. ROAD TRIPS

I began my term as FEA President August 2 by attending a membership organizing session in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for local leaders at the Fort Knox Education Association. It was inspiring to see our association reps from Knox taking time out of their summers to think about membership recruitment and organizing. In September, I will be attending several local leadership trainings in Europe as well as the Europe Area Council Meeting, then returning to the U.S. to attend the FEA Stateside Area Council meeting. I will be visiting the Pacific later this school year for site visits and to attend the Pacific Leadership Council Meeting when it takes place in Okinawa. I hope to visit many of our schools in person during my time as Association president so I can hear directly from members about what is on your minds. I also encourage all members to write to me with their thoughts on any of the issues we are currently working on for you. (see item #9 below)


8. SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRESIDENT'S REPORT

The easiest way to stay informed about news and information affecting you as a DoDEA employee is to subscribe to this electronic newsletter. To do so, just go to this page on FEA's Web site. You will need your FEA membership number to sign up (the number is printed on your Association membership card and is also printed on the address panel of the FEA Journal that was recently mailed to each member). We typically send this e-newsletter out twice a month (on approximately the 1st and 15th of each month), with special updates and bulletins as necessary throughout the school year. The FEA Web site (www.feaonline.org) is another great informational resource available to you for news and information, including archived copies of this and other updates and great "start of the school year" resources to help you get off on the right foot.


9. DROP ME A LINE

The best way to reach me directly is by email. Association members are encouraged to send your thoughts and comments to me at this email address. Remember, however, that it is always best to bring any work-related issues first to your building rep/FRS in hopes of a quicker resolution through local channels. You can find contact information for other local leaders and your FEA UniServ attorney in the FEA Pocket Calendar.


10. GOOD ADVICE

Facebook is a great way to keep up with family and friends, but for legal and personnel advice, it is always best to go to the professionals. For HR advice, we recommend that you make your inquiry to your HR rep IN WRITING, and if you don't get a response, or if you feel the response is insufficient or questionable, then you can forward that to your FEA representatives for assistance.


I hope you have a great 2013-2014 school year and thank you for your support of FEA!