September 30, 2013 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: September 30, 2013
As I write this update late on Monday, September 30, it appears that, barring some last minute development, the federal government will be shut down starting tomorrow, October 1. DoDEA schools have been declared "excepted" activities, meaning they will continue to operate as normal.
WILL I BE PAID DURING THE SHUTDOWN?
For as long as the government shutdown lasts, "excepted" employees (including DoDEA faculty and staff), will not receive pay for the hours they work starting October 1 and through the shutdown period. Nor will you receive LQA, Post Allowance or other government payments for that time worked. It is expected that DFAS will keep a sufficient number of employees on "excepted" status to issue pay checks on the next scheduled pay date of October 11, but (unless Congress ends the shutdown by approving appropriations in time to affect that paycheck) those checks will only cover days worked prior to the government shutdown on October 1. If the shutdown lasts beyond the present pay period, no further pay checks will be issued until the shutdown ends and appropriations are approved to cover the pay and allowances owed to you.
DoDEA has stated that faculty/staff and other excepted employees will receive pay and allowances retroactively for hours worked during the shutdown once Congress again approves funding for government operations. Unfortunately, no one knows how long this will take (the last government shutdown, in 1995-96, lasted a total of 28 days). This is a tremendous hardship for FEA members and we will be working with DoDEA and DFAS to see that affected employees receive the pay and allowances owed to them as quickly as possible once Congress ends the shutdown.
HOW DOES THE SHUTDOWN AFFECT LEAVE TIME?
A September 28 email from DoDEA to all staff states, "there is no provision for paid time off during a shutdown." This means that all paid time off, including annual, sick, court, military leave, or bone marrow/organ donor leave, as well as all compensatory time off, including religious compensatory time off, must be cancelled during the shutdown period. This is because such paid time off would create a debt to the federal government that is not authorized under DoDEA's "excepted" status. According to DoDEA, if an "excepted" employee must take such leave or compensatory time during the government shutdown, that employee will essentially be considered furloughed for that time and will receive no retroactive pay for that time once the shutdown has ended. For more information on leave and special situations, such as LWOP, during the shutdown period, DoDEA advises employees to see the OPM SHUTDOWN FURLOUGH GUIDANCE document available at DoDEA's Web site, http://www.dodea.edu/shutdown/resources.cfm
HOW DOES THE SHUTDOWN AFFECT FEA?
The FEA Washington office will be open as usual throughout any shutdown because our staff is employed by the Association, not the federal government. Your FEA UniServ Attorney/General Counsel will also be available as usual. You can direct any issues or concerns you have throughout the shutdown to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
On September 12, DoDEA informed us that they were unilaterally imposing implementation of the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) reading assessment in DODDS schools. FEA considers this move by management to be a significant violation of labor law, as FEA and DoDEA have a signed MOU from 2011 (when BAS was introduced as a pilot program) that states DoDEA must bargain the BAS issue to completion if it wishes to fully implement the assessment. We have filed an Association Grievance over this aspect of the implementation.
Even more serious than its illegal implementation is the negative impact the BAS mandate will have upon student learning. DODDS will require K-3 teachers to spend an estimated six days each school year conducting the one-on-one assessments. That's six days of classroom learning gone. This is particularly disturbing when you consider we just narrowly missed losing five school days to furloughs. Now, DODDS wants to use those days and more to conduct a single assessment.
Management has refused to listen to input from FEA and our members on this BAS issue. We have repeatedly stressed that other options, such as the DRA or Reading Streets, are readily available. These other options can provide assessment data just as useful and necessary as that provided by the BAS in a fraction of the time and expense. DoDEA's decision to willfully ignore our concerns and force the BAS upon DODDS schools led FEA to file a waste, fraud and abuse complaint with the DOD Inspector General's office. We are hopeful the IG's office will look into this matter and hold DoDEA/DODDS accountable for its actions.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE AFFECTED BY BAS
As mentioned above, FEA has filed an Association Grievance over the illegal implementation of the BAS. Unfortunately, it will take time for that grievance to be decided. Meanwhile, FEA put out a legal update last week (available at this page) containing information about how affected members should log the time they are directed to spend on the BAS. If you are affected by BAS in any way, please be sure to read that update and log your activities as requeste (a sample form you can use to log your time is available through the link above).
Congratulations to FEA attorneys H.T. Nguyen, Richard Tarr and Benjamin Hunter for prevailing in a recent case of an FEA member wrongfully removed from the classroom in Germany. The arbitrator in the case fully reinstated the teacher in question and granted full back pay and interest. It's just another reminder that FEA's legal staff is second to none and will continue to work to protect employees' right to due process.
Congratulations and a very big THANK YOU to the faculties and local leaders at Lakenheath High School, Hohenfels Elementary School, and Brussels Elementary/High School. All three schools have reported having 100 percent FEA membership for the current school year. FEA is proud and honored to have the support of every single bargaining unit member at these schools. If your school is at 100 percent membership, please let us know so we can recognize you in this update. Send word to FEA Communications Director Gary Hritz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again to everyone at Brussels E/HS, Hohenfels ES, and Lakenheath HS!
Thanks to FEA Europe Area Director Alex Veto for sharing the following information in his recent update: "The attached memo (available at this link) provides information about the Department of Defense (DoD) registry for employees who may have been exposed to high and/or unsafe levels of radiation as a result of the earthquake that occurred in Japan in March 2011. Additionally, the memo also provides guidance to employees for submitting claims if they have been injured as a result of exposure to hazardous conditions. Please see the attached memo (linked above) for additional information."
BLUE RIBBON SCHOOLS
Three DoDEA schools have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as National Blue Ribbon Schools. The three are Seoul American Middle School in Korea, Lakenheath Middle School in England, and Kingsolver Elementary School at Fort Knox, KY. All three were recognized as "Exemplary High Performing" schools. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program annually recognizes approximately 300 public and private schools throughout the U.S. and DoDEA that are performing at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in student achievement levels. These are three examples of the great work going on in schools across DoDEA. Congratulations to the students, faculties and staffs of these three schools for this very well earned recognition.
THANK YOU I just returned from the FEA Stateside Area Council Meeting in Peachtree City, GA. Prior to that, I had spent nearly two weeks in Europe, attending FRS trainings and conducting school visits and local meetings in Germany and the UK. At the same time, FEA Executive Director/General Counsel was attending similar trainings in Japan, Okinawa and Korea. For us, the value of hearing from and meeting face-to-face with members and Association leaders at these events is beyond measure. On behalf of both H.T. and myself, thank you very much to everyone who attended, hosted and helped to make arrangements for these meetings and school visits.
My recent visits to Europe and the Stateside Area Council reminded me, once again, that in spite of budget cuts, threats of furlough, and government shut downs, DoDEA teachers continue to provide a world class education for students around the world….thanks for all you do!