December 1 2016 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: December 1, 2016
In case you missed our announcement earlier this week, FEA and DoDEA have finalized the agreement on the DODDS Transfer Program for SY 17-18. You can find the announcement and a link to the online application by going to www.feaonline.org/transfers.htm.
DoDEA has increased the funding level for this year's program by $500,000, which should fund 10 to 15 more transfers placements above last year's level. I continue to make the case to anyone and everyone at DoDEA that funding for the Transfer Program needs to increase well beyond the present level to have a meaningful and effective program.
EARLY NOTICE AWARD
A reminder: if you are planning to retire or otherwise separate from DODDS at the end of this school year, you are eligible for a $1,000 Early Notice Award if you submit your notice by this Monday, December 5. Check with your principal for information on how to turn in your notice.
There was apparently a bit of confusion about whether VSIP/VERA would be offered as part of the DODDS Transfer Program. There was a VSIP/VERA offering that was made to what DoDEA described as "non-educator positions", including some of our Stateside ESP members who are staffed at the District and above-school levels. That VSIP/VERA offering was concluded on November 28, the same day the DODDS Transfer Program announcement was made. As of right now, we are not aware of any plans by DoDEA to make VSIP or VERA available to any additional employees this school year, although there is a chance that VSIP/VERA could be offered to DDESS employees if the agency has another reduction in force this year.
FEA has shared input with DoDEA on proposed calendars for next school year for the overseas schools. We have urged DoDEA to make decisions quickly on the calendars as educators have already made plans for the coming summer break and have family and other commitments. We have asked that DoDEA return to the practice of setting multiple years well in advance so that employees can plan ahead. We will keep members posted.
OPM recently sent out notices to federal employees who have been receiving identity monitoring services through Winvale/CSID as a result of the initial OPM data breach discovered in 2015. That notice informed those individuals that their coverage with Winvale/CSID would end on December 1, 2016, but they were eligible to sign up for free coverage with ID Experts (MyIDCare), the company contracted to provide similar monitoring services after a second, much larger, data breach was uncovered. If you have been covered by the Winvale/CSID services, you must sign up with ID Experts (MYIDCare) yourself. You will not be automatically switched over to the new coverge. Get more information from OPM at this page.
FEA BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING
Your FEA BoD met recently in Washington DC to discuss the many issues facing our schools and our members. Among concerns discussed was the poor quality of the trainings DoDEA is providing, the continuing problems with HR and with pay, including problems with RAT reimbursement and pay for late departure/early return days. All of these have been shared repeatedly with DoDEA. We also talked about the many ongoing initiatives that create more work for our educators. FEA, at all levels, will continue to address these issues. We know that to create the best learning conditions for our students, we need to improve working conditions for our educators.
MA+ CASE FOR OVERSEAS EDUCATORS
After four years, 150 of the grievants in the overseas MA+ case have now apparently been paid in full with interest and TSP Lost Earnings. But at this rate, it will take another 2 or 3 years to pay all 330 in full. Your payments will most likely come in installments; so do not be alarmed if you think they are not paying enough. Once you begin to receive interest, that will indicate DoDDS thinks they have paid everything due. DoDDS will also have to adjust your "high three" if applicable for retirement purposes. You will continue to earn interest and TSP Lost Earnings until you are paid in full. Let Bill Freeman (BFreeman@nea.org) know if you change e-mail address. Please send Bill copies of any checks or LES's that reflect a change in your Pay Lane, Back Pay, or interest. Please understand that DoDDS/DoDEA will not withhold taxes on the interest. They should send you a 1099 INT the next year for filing taxes. If they neglect, you will still be responsible for reporting the interest as income. Just one more landmine DoDDS creates.
DoDDS/DoDEA will ultimately have to deliver "full audits" to Bill Freeman so that he can verify their calculations. Each will consist of thousands of pages of mostly encoded documents. We cannot tell any of you exactly how much DoDDS owes until Bill has the chance to verify the "full audits." That will take many years. Also, unfortunately, DoDEA has failed to amend their Regulations or Pay Lane application process. Anyone in the overseas bargaining unit who files for MA+ on their own today will still be denied any graduate credits they earned prior to their MA!
RETIRING OR RESIGNING MID-YEAR?
If you are in an overseas location represented by FEA and are planning to leave DoDEA during this year, do not forget to file AND ELEVATE a "Goodbye Grievance" before your last duty day. This important document was developed by Bill Freeman, our UniServ Attorney, to invoke and protect your rights while you are still a member of the bargaining unit. This is particularly important since DoDEA and DFAS continue to send former employees unsubstantiated debt letters. For more information, see our Pay Problems item on the FEA web site.
Remember that the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Open Season concludes on December 12. Visit OPM's Open Season page for more information and to make any adjustments/renewals necessary for your coverage and health savings account.
The FEA local in Okinawa (AEAO) has invited their NTE/Provisional members to be part of a group, getting together once a month to discuss items of concerns and answer the many questions new educators in our system have. Since most schools and areas no longer have a formal mentor program, this is a GREAT way to support new educators in DoDEA. While Okinawa has the advantage of having all schools in close proximity, there may be ways to make this concept work in your location as well. Please continue to share what is working for your local association so that we all benefit from great ideas like this.
BUILDING BRIDGES WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
We know as educators how important it is to reach out to parents and enlist them as partners in their child's education. As a local Association, it is equally important to reach out to your local community to build bridges and partnerships. Finding common interests and issues with groups like the local Spouses' Club, Chapel, PTA, or other organizations can be very beneficial to all. Stateside locals should consider reaching out to the NEA locals "outside the gate" as well. Coming up in March, Read Across America is a perfect opportunity to involve the community and to spotlight the great work going on in our schools.
WAY TO GO LEJEUNE!
And now, a perfect example of what the above item on building bridges is talking about:
Back in 2011, the Camp Lejeune community was hard hit when a tornado went through the area and damaged one of their base schools. The surrounding community stepped up and helped with donations of schools supplies and other necessities for the affected students and staff.
This fall, Hurricane Matthew rolled through the Carolina area, causing massive flooding and severe damage to nearby communities. Our FEA locals at Camp Lejeune, the Lejeune Education Association and Lejeune Education Support Association, took this as an opportunity to pay back one of the hardest hit local communities. They collected a truckload of school supplies and, with the help of the North Carolina Association of Educators, delivered them this week to help the affected students and staff in nearby Edgecombe County.
What a great way to say "thank you" and show support for the community outside the gate!
You can read about the efforts by LEA and LESA in this article from their local newspaper.
Way to go!!