TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Brian Chance, FEA President
RE: FEA President’s Report
DATE: May 1, 2020
As you know, the DoDEA Director has now announced all schools (except possibly those in Korea) are now closed to students for the remainder of the year. As we also all know, this definitely does not mean that school is over or that the work of educating students has diminished in any way. It is sad to realize most of us won’t be seeing our students in person again this year. Some students we will never see in person again. I’m sure that sadness if shared by our students also (well, at least most of them). This has been the most difficult school year I can recall in my time with DoDEA and the situation grows more challenging by the day. Thank you for all you are doing to maintain those bonds of togetherness among your students and your communities. When these students think back on the craziness of the 19-20 school year, they will remember the educators who kept things together for them when so much seemed to be falling apart.
DoDEA this week published its interpretation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the expanded family and medical leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), enacted on March 18.
According to the guidance issued by DoDEA, the EPSLA provides all federal employees up to two weeks (80 hours) emergency paid sick leave if they are unable to work — including being unable to work from home or an alternate work site — because they are subject to a Federal, State or local quarantine or isolation order; have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. Employees would be paid at two-thirds their normal rate of pay if they take the leave to care for an individual subject to a quarantine order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, or to care for his or her child whose school or child care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
The leave provisions are said to be in effect from April 1 to December 31, 2020. The emergency paid sick leave is in addition to current accrued leave amounts an employee may have earned (i.e., sick leave, annual leave, educator leave, LWOP) and may be used by an employee prior to using their accrued leave.
You can read the full guidance memo issued by DoDEA at this page
DoDEA this week announced changes to grading policies that were enacted without consultation or collaboration with the Association. The changes guarantee minimum amounts of credit to students on all assignments, regardless the quality of work submitted, and mandated that if a student’s fourth quarter grade is lower than their third quarter grade, that fourth quarter grade will be thrown out in favor of the third quarter grade. DoDEA said in announcing these changes it was doing so to prevent digital fatigue among students. The Association and its members share such concerns for our students. However, management’s policy does nothing to reduce the digital fatigue being experienced by its employees. Instead, it guarantees a significant amount of the hard work being put in by educators will be ignored by any student who is already happy enough with the grade received in the third quarter. DoDEA should recognized the hard-working educators, many of whom have children of their own at home who could use more of their parents’ time. DoDEA should combat digital fatigue by working with employees to reduce the demands placed on students, families AND educators.
FEA is keenly aware of and is frequently reminding DoDEA about the astronomical levels of uncertainty, frustration and anxiety among employees in Overseas locations due to the extended travel ban on military-connected individuals. In its defense, the Agency often shares our frustrations, as it is no more able to dictate Pentagon policy on the travel issue than we are. FEA will continue raising these issues and urging the Pentagon to take Overseas educators’ situations into consideration as it makes decisions on travel.
FEA is looking for stories from our members about their experiences during the COVID shutdowns. Share your story by going to this site. We will not publish or share your response without first asking you for permission.
As reported recently in our Overseas Bargaining Update #7 DoDEA is asking the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) to take jurisdiction over negotiations of a new contract for Overseas Bargaining Unit members. DoDEA appears to be expecting the FSIP to impose all or most of management’s harmful contract terms as part of a final contract.
This week, FEA submitted written briefs to the FSIP, arguing against the Panel taking jurisdiction of the negotiation process. If the panel agrees with us, it would presumably force DoDEA back to the bargaining table and, we hope, the Agency would commit to meaningful bargaining toward a new contract. FEA has already filed an Association Grievance accusing DoDEA of engaging in Bad Faith Bargaining, in part because the Agency has refused to negotiate on a number of bargainable subjects, citing potentially illegal restrictions imposed on agencies by a trio of White House Executive Orders from 2018. That Association Grievance would be resolved independently of the FSIP and any action it takes.
If the FSIP does not agree with FEA’s request to reject jurisdiction, the Panel could take control of the process and, after hearing from both FEA and DoDEA about the merits of their respective Overseas contract proposals, could impose contract terms on both sides.
A decision by the FSIP on whether to assert jurisdiction over the Overseas contract negotiations is likely to come sometime in May. As we have done throughout the negotiation process, we will keep members informed as new developments occur.
DoDEA served notice this week of its intent to reopen for renegotiation the Master Labor Agreement covering Education Support Professionals in DoDEA Americas schools. Given DoDEA’s ongoing attempt to illegally and unilaterally implement a new contract on the certified unit in Stateside schools and its current efforts to impose an incredibly harmful contract on Overseas educators, it is hard to imagine the Agency is interested in anything that could be viewed as being positive for the ESP unit. Regardless of management’s intent, FEA-SR views this development as an opportunity to strengthen protections and to provide more equitable pay and benefits for our ESP members.
The SY 19-20 salary schedules for Overseas bargaining unit members were released earlier this week. The AVERAGE rate of increase (across all pay lanes and pay steps) for each schedule were as follows:
• Classroom teachers — 3.22 percent
• Speech Pathologists — 3.10 percent
• Guidance Counselors — 2.68 percent
• School Psychologists — 3.05 percent
Thanks to a legal victory by FEA, Overseas educators will receive the retroactive salary adjustment due to them sometime in the coming weeks.
Read FEA’s release on the Overseas salary schedules and find links to the new Overseas salary amounts at this page
DoDEA has updated its Authorized Departure information page to include additional answers to frequently asked questions submitted to them by FEA and through DoDEA’s COVID 19 Help Desk. The posted information includes guidance issued since the DOD travel ban was extended to June 30. Most of the updated information can be found under the “FAQ” tab on DoDEA’s Authorized Departures Info Page. Answers are posted to common questions about the impact the Authorized Departure option could have on issues such as transportation, LQA, RAT and retirement.
DoDEA has advised that questions concerning the Authorized Departure option should be submitted through management to the HQ DoDEA COVID-19 Helpdesk at email: COVID19@dodea.edu or phone: 703-438-1075
The NEA building in Washington DC, which houses FEA’s Washington DC office, remains closed, as does much of Washington DC, due to pandemic concerns. As a result, the FEA staff continue to work from their homes and will do so at least until May 15; longer if NEA extends its shutdown. Because of this situation, the FEA staff has been unable to manually count the ballots for the three Area offices elected to the FEA Board of Directors this year. The staff continue to search for a way to conclude this election count as quickly as possible without risking anyone’s health or safety.
The NEA BOD has voted to switch the format for this summer’s NEA RA to virtual and thus FEA will follow with a change to virtual due to the ongoing need for social distancing and the difficulties of travel caused by COVID-19. In doing so, we are following the lead of NEA, who recently decided to hold this summer’s Representative Assembly online rather than the usual in-person meeting. FEA is figuring out exactly how and when our online session will take place and we will be sending out additional information to members via e-mail in the weeks ahead. We appreciate our members’ understanding of the need to change the meeting format and your patience as we work our way through this new meeting model.
For those who did not see it, I wanted to call attention to a very moving tribute written by Jamie Sellers, the current FEA Pacific Area Director, in honor of his predecessor Melanie Horton, who passed away this spring after battling cancer. It can be found at this page. I knew Melanie for many years and will always remember her as a champion for the members she represented. On behalf of all of FEA, I want to extend my sympathies and condolences to Melanie’s family and friends. Information on where to send condolences can be found in Jamie’s message, via the link above.
Has there ever been a better time to celebrate our teachers and school nurses than right now, when they — along with all our school-based employees who continue to make DoDEA schools work — are pulling off miracles daily to help our students and military families maintain some semblance of normalcy and community despite the many COVID-related challenges worldwide? This coming Tuesday, May 5, is National Teacher Day — a part of Teacher Appreciation Week May 3-9 — and Wednesday, May 6, is National School Nurses Day. FEA is honored to represent our members every day, and that pride has risen to new levels in the past few weeks. I wish you all a fantastic Teacher Appreciation Week, a glorious National Teacher Day and a very well-earned National School Nurses Day. Thank you ALL for everything you do every moment of every day for students and their families!