BEN HUNTER – FEA-SR General Counsel

Benchmark Advance — Mixed Messages form the Districts on use of New ELA Materials — The new K-5 ELA materials, Benchmark Advance are not being well received by educators or students. The literature is very basic and not very engaging for young readers. Training for teachers has not been sufficient. Materials arrived late leaving very little time for educators to unbox and investigate the materials. Adding to the poor implementation and training in stateside schools educators are getting mixed messages on just how to implement this new ELA program. In the Mid Atlantic, educators have been asked to use the Benchmark Advance materials as a tool or resource to teach the standards. However, in the Southeast educators have been told to implement this program with fidelity. Teachers should use only Benchmark Advance; use every assignment, every page, and every worksheet! This archaic practice, use with fidelity, limits how teachers can differentiate to meet all students’ needs.

In a recent meeting with Dr. Linda Curtis, Principal Deputy Director and Associate Director for Academics and Mr. Michael Kline, Chief of Teaching and Learning at DoDEA Headquarters FEA SR shared our concerns about the mixed messages from administration in the field. Both Dr. Curtis and Mr. Kline told us that the new ELA materials should be used as a tool and a resource to teach the CCRCL standards. Why does the administration in the Southeast district seem to lack an understanding that these new Benchmark Advance materials are a tool? How can any teacher be expected to use Benchmark Advance with total fidelity during its first year of implementation? If using materials to fidelity fails to meet the needs of students then teachers in the Southeast should have the ability to modify and adjust to meet those needs.

FEA SR is hopeful that DoDEA headquarters and Dr. Judy Minor, Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Americas will clarify expectations on how Benchmark advance is to be used. We would like to see all DoDEA educators able to use these new materials in a way that is professional and meets the needs of all students.

VERA VSIP — VERA VSIP applications are due to Americas HR by February 1. If you are interested in VERA VSIP you should apply. If it is offered you may decline the offer. Once you accept an offer it is irrevocable. FEA SR is meeting with Human Resources on how positions will be declared excess. Per Article 22 of the MLA, “When vacant positions within the bargaining unit are to be filled through RIF’s procedures, the FEA SR Area Director will be provided notice of the vacant positions being used for that purpose.” If a RIF occurs the agency must follow RIF procedure in Article 23 of the MLA.

Red for Respect — Now more than ever educators need to continue wearing RED for RESPECT. We will show our solidarity by wearing RED. All educators deserve RESPECT. We are the heart of our schools. We make a difference in students’ lives every day. Please keep sending me pictures of our members showing their RED!

NEA Women’s and Minority Leadership Conference — Lahoma Hendrix, Sean Hall and David Presley are local Association leaders who recently attended the Women’s and Minority Leadership Conference for FEA SR. These leaders will bring back information, training and innovation to our locals gleaned from this wonderful opportunity.

Know Your Rights — MLA – Article 23 Reduction in Force
Section 1 Definition – A Reduction in Force (RIF) is the systematic way of making organizational changes that provides retention preference on the basis of tenure, veteran preference, length of service and performance. Definitions of terms in this article are as provided for in 5 C.F.R. 351.203. A RIF occurs whenever a competing employee is released from his/her competitive level by furlough for more than thirty (30) days, separation, demotion, or reassignment requiring displacement is required because of:
a Lack of work;
b Shortage of funds;
c Insufficient personnel ceilings;
d Reorganization;
e The exercise of reemployment or restoration rights;
f The reclassification of an employee’s position due to the erosion of duties when such action will take effect after the formal announcement of a RIF in the competitive area and the RIF will take effect within one-hundred and eighty (180) days; or
g Transfer of function

Section 2 Exclusions – Actions excluded from RIF procedures are as provided for in 5 C.F.R. 351.202.

Section 3 Notification to Association – When it is determined that there is a need for a RIF, the Agency agrees to notify the Association of pending RIF actions as early as possible, but not less than ninety (90) calendar days prior to the scheduled effective date of the RIF. Such notice shall normally include the following information:
a Reasons for the RIF;
b Number and types of employees to be affected. It is understood that the above information may change during the ninety (90) calendars day period. (More on RIF procedure is located in Article 23 of the MLA.)

MLA Certified -The MLA remains in full force and effect until a new agreement is legally implemented. An update about the status of contract bargaining can be found at feaonline.org.