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December 14, 2016, FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members and Leaders Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: December 14, 2016

TRANSFER PROGRAM

All FEA members applying for the DODDS Transfer Program are encouraged to read Connie Shanaghan's Tips for Transfers, available through FEA's Web site at www.feaonline.org.

Members reported several issues to FEA with the online transfer application. We informed DoDEA of those problems and have been told by management the problems are now fixed. If anyone continues to have problems with the online application, please contact Connie Shanaghan immediately at cshanaghan@nea.org.

The deadline to submit your transfer application remains December 19.

For the last and most complete transfer program info, go to this page.


VACANCIES

In order to have the best Transfer Program possible, given the current limited budget, we need to ensure all possible vacancies are reported. Please work with your FRS to check the vacancy list when it is posted and report to us (cshanaghan@nea.org) any missing vacancies that you can confirm should be on the list.


LEGISLATION

We reported last week that DoDEA informed FEA there is a legislative proposal being floated that would seek to combine DDESS and DODDS into a single school system. We had expected to hold a teleconference with DoDEA this week to learn more details but it now appears that call will take place sometime over the holiday break. We will update members after the break on this issue, as we know it is of the utmost concern to everyone.


CALENDAR

FEA is aware that the late release of calendar information for next year is causing our members concern as they look to make summer travel plans for themselves and their families. We continue to press DoDEA for information on next year's calendar and will let members know as soon as we receive any information.


SUBS AND VACANT POSITIONS

I have been sending concerns to DoDEA HQ about this issue since September. We have continued to raise this issue at the District and Area levels as well as HQ, yet somehow, DoDEA still has not acknowledged the problem nor have they provided any plan to address it. Please continue to elevate your concerns up the FEA and DoDEA chains of command. DoDEA must take action to address this issue, which is negatively impacting students.


TSP CATCH UP?

Thanks to Judi Nicolay, Brussels E/HS, for this information from DLA. You are eligible to make catch-up contributions if you are age 50 or older (or if you will become age 50 during the calendar year for which you are making this election), and you are already contributing the maximum to your TSP. You will need to enter your election between 12/11/16-12/24/16 to be effective 12/25/2016. This is the beginning of the 2017 TSP year.


CHECKING DATES

As 2016 comes to an end, this is a good time to check the dates on important documents like drivers' licenses, passports, ID card, etc. It is much easier to renew those things before they expire rather than discovering after the fact that they are no longer valid! If you are traveling for the holidays, it is also a good idea to have copies of those important documents in case they are lost or stolen on your travels.


NEW YEARS RESOLUTION

If you have not already done so, please make it your New Year's Resolution to sign up for our Updates from the DC office. Don't wait to have someone else forward them to you. Your home email address is best. To sign up, go to www.feaonline.org/listserv.htm


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

This is the last President's Report scheduled before the holiday break (barring any urgent news). On behalf of the entire FEA staff here in Washington, I want to wish all FEA members a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for a bright and happy New Year. We know 2017 will continue to bring changes and challenges, but hopefully also rewards and opportunities.


LETTER TO SANTA

Now, keeping with a tradition started years ago by former FEA Europe Area Director Mary Margaret McGowan, I present my annual letter to Santa on behalf of FEA and its members:

Dear Santa,

I am not sure I even know where to begin this year! I have tried very hard to be a good boy and hope you will read my letter.

DoDEA educators have also been very good this year too and continue to work hard and to do their very best for our students around the world. They provide a caring, supportive, and educationally challenging environment for students to grow, learn and succeed. DoDEA is often singled out for national recognition and this year is no different - we recently received more accolades about our NAEP scores!

But our educators need help, Santa. We can't do it alone. We need support from DoDEA, but we are just not getting enough. As I continue to say, "Educators' working conditions are kids' learning conditions." In many of our schools, even this late in the school year, we still have vacant positions. We are also so short on substitute teachers that educators are being called upon to fill in for each other, or in some cases they are told, "don't get sick, we don't have anyone to cover your class!" After the Christmas rush, would you be willing to lend us your elves to help sub?

High on our list of Christmas wishes is always high-quality, relevant professional development. We need training that gives us the knowledge and skills we need to help students. We have been getting training recently, but it is not what we need. It is really like getting socks for Christmas! No, it is worse…it is like getting UGLY socks that do not FIT for Christmas! The training is just not what we know we need! And as you know better than anyone, one size does NOT fit all! We need training in our subject areas that includes the curriculum and materials we will be using with our students. Thanks to a NEA grant, and with help from DoDEA, we did get training for some of our music teachers, but all our teachers, our ESP professionals, our nurses, ET's, counselors, Information Specialists…we all want differentiated training that fits what we do every day. And we need the components of the curriculum programs to be user friendly and working!

Speaking of things that don't fit, Santa, our overseas educators still need a larger transfer program. Our educators need real career mobility and the chance to move, grow professionally and share their knowledge. For those who apply for transfers and for our excessed teachers this year, please bring them good placements…and for those who retire this year, bring them long, happy retirements free from debt letters!

Oh yes, Santa, those debt letters are STILL a problem after all these years…I know it is hard to believe. Please put DFAS and all those involved in sending those illegal and erroneous letters high on your Naughty list. Add to that those who are dragging their feet in paying teachers what they are owed. Nothing but coal in those stockings! Even better, how about delivering some debt letters to THEM?!

We really need an accurate pay system. No one should have to worry every time they open their LES that some unknown, unsubstantiated debt will suddenly appear. And when we have pay problems, Santa, we need people in place who can fix it. Some of our educators won't have much money for Christmas shopping because they still have not been paid for their RAT travel or others have not been paid for Late Departure and Early Return days they worked! It is really hard to do your best with students when you have to worry about things like this.

We also need HR support from a system that is responsive and accountable for serving the educators who serve our students. Educators who are dreaming of retirement would really love access to good retirement briefings and support as well.

Every year, we ask for time Santa and this Christmas is no different. This year, SOME of our schools got some time for collaboration, but too many did not. And, unfortunately, much of that time is being filled with "check the box" kind of activities that keep us from the real collaboration we need. In spite of promises of "no new initiatives", people at various levels of DoDEA still keep thinking of more things for teachers to do every day…usually it involves more forms and paperwork to fill out!

Along with time, one of our biggest needs is reliable technology. While there have been some improvements, we still need more reliable networks and we certainly need more computers in many of our schools if we are truly to be "21st Century Schools."

For years we have been asking for a less burdensome, more meaningful School Improvement and Accreditation Process. DoDEA has been working on this, but now some Districts are starting to add more and more requirements and paperwork to this already burdensome process.

Some DoDEA schools and districts have great administrators, but unfortunately, too many do not! Some, like the Grinch, have hearts that are more than "two sizes too small!" Santa, if you PM me, I will be glad to give you some of their names for your Naughty list! We need administrators at every level who appreciate and support the people in our system who work with students every day.

Our list could go on and on, Santa, but what we really want is to be supported in the work we do with students. All of our educators and ESP's work really hard every single day, trying to do the best for our students. I hope you will be especially good to them this year. And, please don't forget our small but dedicated FEA staff and our UniServ attorneys as well -- they work hard every day, serving our members. Please make sure their stockings are overflowing with good things…Also, don't forget our wonderful colleagues in the NEA who work to support great public schools for ALL students.

Santa, as the years go by, travel and jet lag get harder for me, so I know your round the world trips can't be easy. Fly safely… I will leave some milk & cookies out for you and treats for the reindeer under the little tree in the FEA office!

Merry Christmas!

Chuck