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September 15, 2011 FEA President's Report

To: FEA Members and Local Leaders Worldwide
From: Michael Priser, FEA President
Re: FEA President's Report
Date: September 15, 2011

ATTENDANCE POLICY AND MOU -- I am including the full text of an update our office sent out last week on the new DoDEA Attendance Policy and MOU, just to make sure everyone sees it. The text of that update is below.

First, however, I want to clarify some information about this new policy in light of some questions that have arisen: FEA worked cooperatively with management about when excessive absences would be referred to the Student Support Team. The new policy does NOT mandate an automatic referral after 5 or 7 days of absences. After an excessive amount of absences, the school administrator will review the impact and must take into consideration "unique circumstances such as illness, participation in extracurricular activities or extended leave." It was acknowledged that a student who needed to go home to the United States due to the loss of a grandparent would not in and of itself constitute a referral. But extended absences that negatively impact a student's academics would constitute a referral to the SST. Please refer directly to the wording on pages 9 and 10 of the policy posted on our website.

Now, here is the full update we sent out last week on the new attendance policy:

Dear FEA Members,

Educators in schools have been asking for an attendance policy that stresses that parents have a responsibility to have their students in school and that extended absences should not be occurring without strong medical reasons. The regulation and accompanying MOU on attendance can be found on the FEA website (www.feaonline.org/mous.htm). FEA worked hard to ensure that absences (especially extended absences for recreational trips) are reduced or eliminated, that absences not create additional duties that would distract teachers from educating their students (let teachers teach!), that the regulation work within the existing structure (no more new committees), and that parents assume responsibility for monitoring the work of their children when extended absences are needed.

  • Reducing absences. The new regulation states that "all students are required to attend 180 instructional days." It defines excused absences for medical reasons, bereavement, religious holidays, emergencies or very unique circumstances. There are significant consequences for unexcused absences including loss of credit.
  • Not distracting teachers from educating students--let teachers teach! Principals must follow key steps before approving extended absences. Family vacations should not be approved. Principals must meet with the parent to discuss the impact of extended leave on the student prior to granting approval. When students are gone, they must follow the course syllabus or outline to complete the work. The attendance policy MOU indicates that additional work will not be required under this regulation and that ASPEN must be fully functioning. The monitoring of attendance is done by the administration reviewing the record created by ASPEN. Principals will contact the parents of students who have an unexcused absence.
  • No new committees. Schools do not need to create another layer of committees. Only students who have excessive absences that affect their academic achievement are referred to the school's student support team (SST). Excessive absences, in and of themselves, do not constitute an SST referral. There are times that students with a one-time medical event may be out for consecutive days, but continue to maintain academic progress. They would not be referred to the SST.
  • Parental responsibility. The number of excused extended absences should decrease under this regulation. Parents are to be informed that attendance is a requirement, not a suggestion. Principal must contact parents for unexcused absences and meet with parents prior to approving extended absences. Extended absences that would have a negative impact on a child's academics should not be approved. Not only are students required to follow the syllabus or class outline when absent, the parent must review and sign the written work prior to the child's return.

If there is a conflict between the contract and this regulation, the contract prevails. Please refer to the MOU and regulation at our website at www.feaonline.org/mous.htm

THREAT OF DDESS CLOSURES -- As I reported in my first President's Report this school year, the threat of closing some or all DDESS schools is among many ideas being considered by the congressional "Supercommittee" that will make its budget-cutting recommendations later this year. FEA has posted information our members and local associations can use to spread the word about this threat to our schools and the accompanying damage closing DDESS schools would do to the local public school systems that would be required to take on our students. To see these materials, go to www.feaonline.org/sos/.

Note: Do not attempt to view these materials while on government time and do not use government equipment (computers, copiers, e-mail accounts, etc.) to view or distribute these materials.

The threat to our DDESS schools is very real. Because the Supercommittee could make its recommendations as soon as late November, we must act quickly to educate others about the damage closing DDESS schools would cause. Please visit www.feaonline.org/sos/ and view these materials to find out what you can do.

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH -- National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15. NEA has information and resources you can use in your classroom available at http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/hispanic-heritage-month.html

TRAVEL -- Lots of activities going on this month. For the past week, FEA Executive Director/General Counsel H.T. Nguyen and I have been attending trainings and school visits in Europe. I am now heading to Asia, where I'll attending meetings in Japan and Okinawa and make school visits at Killan ES, Lester MS and Kinser ES before attending the ACDE (Advisory Council on Dependents Education) meeting in Yokosuka on September 22 and 23 and then heading back to the states for a CSP meeting at DoDEA Headquarters September 26-29. HT will be staying in Europe a few more days to attend the Europe Area Council meeting and then travel to Okinawa for their FRS training next week before heading to the FEA Stateside Area Council meeting in Peachtree City September 23 and 24.