September 1 2017 FEA President's Report
Now that all of our schools are in session, I hope that the year is off to a good start for all of our members.
Already this year, I am hearing of schools with positions that have not been filled and insufficient numbers of subs. FRS's and Building Reps, please check with your Admin if you still have vacant positions to find out what the status of the hiring for those positions is. Also, please ask about the current sub list for your school to see if it is filled and sufficient subs are available. If there are issues with staffing or subs, please JCC the issues and elevate it quickly to your Division Reps/Local or Country Presidents.
In response to objections raised by FEA and the public, management has delayed its decision to eliminate substitute coverage during the BAS administration until after mid October. Subs will remain available for this fall's BAS administration, but not any future testing cycles. While this is a temporary relief, it is not a complete one and it is certainly not a sound decision by management, plus it is further complicating the shortage of subs mentioned above. Cutting the use of subs will harm the quality of the assessment results themselves as well as cost every student in the affected classrooms several days of lost classroom learning time. The decision to conduct the BAS this year under two completely different environments (once with sub coverage and once without, leaving classroom teachers to simultaneously teach their full classes while attempting to individually administer the BAS) will result in assessment results that are flawed. It'll be an "apples and oranges" comparison. It's another bad decision being made by someone who hasn't been in the classroom for years, if ever, and FEA will continue to fight for permanent availability of subs during the BAS.
Last spring, when a budget standoff delayed the issuing of summer travel orders, DoDEA management had threatened not to reimburse any employee who had booked their RAT travel prior to receiving their orders. Now, however, we have heard from several people who have been reimbursed for RAT even though they purchased before receiving those orders. FEA urges all overseas bargaining unit members to apply for RAT reimbursement ASAP, even if you were previously told you would not be reimbursed, and to contact FEA at firstname.lastname@example.org if your reimbursement is denied due to the timing of your purchase. You can read FEA's legal update on this issue at this page.
Once again, DoDEA has demonstrated they are not interested in resolving pay problems. DoDEA has stated their intention to appeal a recent Arbitrator's Decision in favor of the Association and the grievants, causing further delay in resolving these cases. As the Arbitrator noted, "...over the period of 23 years, the Agency has continued to engage in improper pay practices and steadfastly has failed and/or refused to correct the underlying problems..." While DoDEA officials SAY they want to pay employees correctly and want to resolve pay problems quickly, that is clearly NOT the case.
STATUS OF DODDS CONTRACT BARGAINING
FEA and management have been meeting in order to negotiate ground rules for the bargaining of a new contract for overseas schools. We are currently in mediation on those ground rules. Until a replacement contract is in place, the existing negotiated agreement between FEA and DODDS/DoDEA remains in full force and effect. Looking ahead to the actual bargaining of a new contract, FEA is still asking any member who has an issue/concern they'd like to see addressed in the new contract, or any Active member of the Association who is interested in being a part of the contract negotiation team for FEA, to let us know by filling out our survey at this page.
STATESIDE MLA BARGAINING
The FEA-SR bargaining team met with management for contract mediation on June 26 and on August 24-25. At the conclusion of the last mediation session, there remained a number of open issues. FEA-SR and the agency have agreed to meet again for further mediation for 3 days in October. Until there is a new agreement, the current MLA remains in full force and effect.
I will be on the road for the month of September, so please forgive any delay in responding to your email. One of the most important parts of my job is to speak with members face to face and to hear about the concerns and issues that impact our schools. My first stop will be the UK for FRS training at Lakenheath. From there I will go on to Belgium and Germany for FRS Training and the European Area Council meeting. After the EAC I will travel to the Pacific for FRS Trainings in Korea, Okinawa, and Japan and wind up the trip by attending the Pacific Area Leadership meeting in Tokyo. Check with local leaders about specific events or local visits.
We are especially pleased that Becky Pringle, NEA Vice President, will be our featured speak at "Association Evening" in Kaiserslautern on Sept 13th. The event is open to all FEA members and will be held at the Fritz-Walter Kaiserslautern Stadium beginning at 16:30. Visits by our NEA leaders give members a great opportunity to hear directly from our national leadership and also serve to inform NEA about the unique issues and concerns faced by our members around the world.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend an NEA Racial Justice training. In 2015 the NEA RA made combating Institutional Racism an Association priority. This is inherent in our mission and values statements and is evident in NEA's budget. Recent events have made that work even more vital. While DoDEA schools have been praised for our small achievement gap and our inclusivity, we still need to work to ensure that ALL our students and ALL of our employees have the conditions and support they need to succeed. FEA will work to bring more information and training to our members on this important topic.
Looking ahead, Open Season this year for the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program will be from November 13 to December 11. This is the time for those enrolled in these plans to change plans or coverage options (between self-only, self plus one, or family, for example). Retirees who have been continuously enrolled can also make changes at this time. This Open Season also applies to the separate Federal Dental and Vision Insurance programs.
FEA always advises members to keep copies of their Leave and Earnings Statements and all other payroll records. Unfortunately, given the widespread and almost-always bogus payroll deductions and pay problems DoDEA employees are subject to, there is a good chance you will need those records at some point. In addition, FEA has posted a group of salary organizers you can use to help keep tabs on your pay, taxes, vacation earned, etc. You can find those organizers at this page. Special thanks to FEA members Larry Tjeltveit at SHAPE Elementary for creating the DODDS organizer and Mary-Lorraine L. Cox at Bowley Elementary School for creating the DDESS organizer in Excel format.
Our hearts go out to our "NEA Family" in Texas and Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Harvey. NEA and the NEA Foundation have created the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. In addition, NEA Member Benefits' partners are offering special assistance to members in need and NEA has compiled a list of resources for members affected by Harvey. Please visit www.nea.org/harvey to donate to NEA's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund as well as for more information and other resources related to the hurricane and relief efforts.