September 1 2018 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: September 1, 2018
START OF SY 18-19
Recently I was able to visit 12 schools in Germany and speak with dozens of members both individually and in local meetings. As always, our educators are excited to begin a new school year, and already hard at work preparing to provide the best possible education for the military connected students in their care. Many thanks to all the local leaders who helped facilitate my travel and meetings with members, and to all the members who took time from a VERY busy week to speak with me or attend local meetings. I will be back in Europe in September for FRS Trainings before traveling on to the Pacific.
WHAT'S WORKING, WHAT'S NOT
Even after 38 years in DoDEA, I am always impressed by the hours beyond the duty day our educators put in to get ready for the school year, many working in their classrooms even before their first official duty day. It is clear that they are determined to provide the best possible experience for their students on that all-important first day. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the support they need is simply not there. In spite of promises that this year would be better, IT problems plagued educators all week, hindering their efforts to be prepared for students. Email was down, Home and Common drives were inaccessible, computers were not imaged or ready, printers were not connected or ready, and the list goes on.
In some cases -- thankfully, few -- schools were still being renovated, hadn't been cleaned and were far from ready for students.
In many cases, the so-called training provided this week was not adequate as well. While many ES teachers told me that the FOSS training offered at the end of last school year was excellent, the trainings offered this week all too often did NOT meet the needs of teachers. ES teachers praised the FOSS sessions as a hands-on blend of theory, standards, curriculum, and good practice. The Association has consistently advocated for this blend of standards and curriculum, theory and best practice, in professional development. Sadly, once again, the ELA trainings for secondary teachers were repetitive of strategies they already use, and the ES training, once again, like the disastrous Dana Center math training, was all theory with no connection at all to the materials and curriculum that teachers will use to teach the standards. In some cases, the materials were just being delivered to classrooms while teachers were in training. That left teachers to unpack the materials and prepare them for students, once again, at the VERY LAST MINUTE!
Issues like the ones above impact not only educators, but students as well. FEA will continue to bring these issues to DoDEA. As I continue to say, "Educators' working conditions are students' learning conditions." If DoDEA wants to be a world class school system, they must address issues like these.
With DoDEA's push for collaboration, it is particularly ironic that DoDEA HQ is unwilling to collaborate at all with the Association. DoDEA has reverted to the "shared decision making model." They make a decision, then at some later date, sometimes after it has gone to the field, they share it with the Association....without the valuable input we could provide from practitioners in the field.
A sad example of the "shared decision making" I mentioned is the recent notification to the Association that DoDEA intends to terminate the FLES Program at the end of this school year. The Association was not included in this decision and has serious concerns about how it was reached and its impact on staff and students. It was just last school year, in an effort to improve consistency in the program, that DoDEA convened a task force, brought in teachers, and created new teaching units, etc. Now, without giving educators a chance to implement these changes, DoDEA has pulled the rug out from under the program. As a global school system, we should be encouraging foreign language proficiency and multi-cultural education at an early age. This seems to be another decision, made at the Mark Center, which should have been made with input from educators who work with students every day, as well as from the students and their families who've benefitted from the FLES program.
Once again, a number of our DoDEA schools are being singled out for honors. This time we have four schools in the FEA Bargaining Unit selected as National PTA Schools of Excellence. Congratulations to Grafenwoehr ES, Netzaberg ES, Robinson Barracks ES, and Vogelweh ES! A strong partnership with parents is a key to success for any school, and these four schools are great examples of that partnership.
Along with Executive Director/General Counsel HT Nguyen, I will be heading to Europe next week for the annual fall FRS trainings, etc. Trainings will be held in Kaiserslautern, Vilseck, Brussels and Lakenheath. We will then continue on to the Pacific trainings in Korea, Okinawa and Japan. While we will be sharing information with local leaders, it is even more important to have a chance to hear from leaders and members in our schools about the challenges they are facing.
Labor Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the struggles, successes and hopes for a better future for America's working people - including federal workers and public school employees! It is also a great time for a break after those very busy first weeks of school!