November 1, 2016 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: November 1, 2016
FEA and DoDEA officials met last week to discuss this year's DODDS transfer program. We hope to have all the particulars nailed down soon and will share details as soon as we have an agreement in place.
STAFFING SUBS AND VACANCIES
I continue to hear concerns from across the system that there are still classroom vacancies in our schools and about the critical shortage of subs. Classroom positions have been vacant for almost a quarter of the school year. ESL and LLI teachers, counselors and others have been pulled from their duties and their students in order to sub and classroom teachers have lost valuable planning time in order to cover classes yet no one seems to be accountable. FEA continues to raise this issue at every level.
DoDEA has completed a Program Monitoring of the FLES program but has not yet made a decision on its continuation. It is the Association's position that any inconsistencies found by the monitoring were the result of the lack of direction, training, and resources from DoDEA. FEA believes that the program needs to be supported with resources and training and that foreign language skills are vital to our students in the 21st century. FEA also opposes any reduction to school level staffing and direct student services especially in light of recent additional hiring above school level.
FEHB OPEN SEASON
Open Season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program runs from November 14 to December 12. This is your annual opportunity to make changes to the health, dental and vision insurance for yourself and your family. It is also the time of year when you can enroll or reenroll in a Flexible Spending Account under the FSAFEDS Program (you must reenroll each year you wish to participate; your enrollment does not automatically renew from year to year). Get information on Open Season from OPM by going to OPM's Open Season Page. In addition, our friends at the American Foreign Service Protective Association (AFSPA) have prepared some general information about this year's open season for FEA members. You can read that information here.
AMERICAN EDUCATION WEEK
American Education Week is coming up, November 14-18. I hope all FEA locals are planning to celebrate this valuable reminder of the importance of education and the people who make it possible: the school-level educators who work with students everyday. In addition, November 16 is designated as Education Support Professional Day, an opportunity to highlight a group of education professionals whose contributions are too often overlooked. You can find information and materials you can use to celebrate AEW and ESP day by going to this page.
HONORS FOR DODEA SCHOOLS
The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) announced that the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Americas' Bowley Elementary School at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the Mid-Atlantic District, has been named a 2016-2018 National PTA School of Excellence. Bowley ES is one among 173 schools and PTAs receiving this honor for their leadership and accomplishments nationwide in building strong, effective family-school partnerships. Congratulations to the faculty, staff and parents of Bowley ES!
DoDEA schools have been honored with Blue Ribbons, Green Ribbons and we have been recognized for our small achievement gap, our high graduation rates, our SAT scores and, most recently, for our students' outstanding performance on the NAEP science assessments. As I continue to say, much of the credit for all of these accomplishments and accolades goes to the people who work with students every day (the students, of course, deserve a lot of credit as well). Those of you who are in our schools and classrooms are the experts in our system. No matter what restructuring may occur above school level, our educators have always done an outstanding job. Thank you!
At the recent Stateside Area Council, it was clear that pay issues are a problem for all of our regions. Numerous members reported not being paid yet for early return days. As one teacher said to me recently, "I just wanted to teach; I did not know I would need to be an accountant as well." When will DoDEA devote the resources and training to prevent future problems and correct existing ones?!
As this update goes out, our members in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, as well as Cuba, are still dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Matthew both at their homes and at school. It's pretty hard to teach with an alligator swimming in the flood waters outside your school!
Last week, FEA received the sad news that Brenda Travis, former Area Director for the Pacific was killed in an automobile accident. Brenda was well known as a fierce advocate for members and members' rights.
On November 11, we honor the wartime service and sacrifice of men and women in the armed forces. Originally proclaimed Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I, it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to include American veterans of all wars. Our members know better than most the bravery and sacrifice of military personnel and their families. We honor our nation's veterans everyday, but especially on November 11. Let us never forget all these brave men and women have done for us, and continue to do for us. Thank you all! For classroom lessons about this important remembrance, go to NEA's Veterans Day info page.
November is Native American Month and Alaska Native Heritage Month. Estimates of the population of the Western Hemisphere prior to the arrival of Europeans range from 8 million to more than 100 million. Cultures were as varied as the stationary Mayas in the Yucatan and the nomadic Plains Indians in North America. Explore Native American culture with the following lessons, activities, and resources at NEA's info page.
OUTSTANDING DDESS LOCALS
I wanted to recognize and congratulate our local associations at Guam and Camp Lejeune for the outstanding meetings they recently held for their members. At Guam, member Joyce Gunderson gave a presentation on the EBIS system and shared information on Social Security, FERS and TSP for retirement. At Lejeune, the Lejeune Education Association and Lejeune Education Support Association held a joint meeting to present information on NEA Member Benefits programs and federal health insurance options. Lejeune member Ashley Melton, 2016 Lejeune Teacher of the Year, then led attendees on a discussion of "Why I Teach" in which they shared their reasons and motivations for working in education. Both meetings were great successes. You can find pictures from both on FEA's Facebook page (#fededassoc). Congratulations to these local associations for holding these great events! If your local association is doing something you'd like to brag about, please send it to FEA Communications Director Gary Hritz at email@example.com.
YOU MAY QUALIFY FOR STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
If you are a DoDEA employees who has made 120 payments on your Direct Loans since Oct. 1, 2007, while employed by DoDEA or another qualifying organization, the remaining balance that you owe may be forgiven. Only payments made under certain repayment plans may be counted toward the required 120 payments. You must not be in default on the loans that are forgiven.
The conditions and "if/then" variables that go into determining who is eligible, what kinds of loans are eligible, and what form the forgiveness would take, are too numerous to explain here. For complete information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, go to this page.
READ ACROSS AMERICA GRANT
FEA is applying to NEA for grant money to help fund Read Across America events for our members worldwide on NEA's Read Across America Day (Thursday, March 2, 2017). To bolster our grant application, we need specific projects from local associations who would like to request grant money. If your local has an idea for a great Read Across America event and you need help with funding your event idea, please send a message to FEA Communications Director Gary Hritz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include in your message a description of the event you'd like to hold -- including the numbers of students, Association members and members of the community you expect to participate in the event -- and an explanation of how much funding you are seeking and how the money will be spent. The number of Read Across America projects we'll be able to fund and the amount we're able to send to locals who are selected to receive funds will depend upon whether we are awarded grant funds by NEA and how much we receive. Please submit your funding request to Gary by November 15, 2016.
The 2017 Human and Civil Rights Awards nominations are open now until December 9th. We were very proud to have award recipients in Michael Priser and HT Nguyen in the 2016 awards. Check out the website to nominate someone or look at past winners. If you need more information, contact Anita Lang, NEA Director for FEA.