Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays, Policy Meeting, Calendar

Year End Reflection: I’d like to take a moment to end 2011 by thanking you all for what you do.  Over the past year, we passed big levies, considered Q-Comp, settled a contract, dealt with a state shutdown, raised test scores, and weathered considerable media attention - all while supporting our students better than ever. That’s quite an accomplishment. On behalf of all of us in the AHEM office, we are honored to have the opportunity to help you in your work.  We hope you’ll take this coming break to recharge, reconnect with the people closest to you, and relax.  You deserve it.  Happy holidays!

Meet January 4th to Respond to Policy Changes:  Proposed changes to district polices, particularly the changes to the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, have gotten plenty of attention over the past couple of weeks.  Many of you checked out the changes at and and gave us your feedback at (the survey is still open).  Early responses indicate that most teachers can find things in the policies that make sense and feel other parts need work.  We invite you to meet on January 4, 4:45 pm, at the AHEM office to help put together our union’s response.  No reporters or TV cameras will be allowed – just educators coming together to ensure district policies support our work and students.

Calendar proposal:  The school board will vote on the proposed calendar for 2012-2013 (below) in early January.  AHEM members were part of the committee that put together the proposal. Balancing teacher, community, and district interests with a myriad of testing dates and other mandates was a challenge.  Thanks to all who responded to our request for feedback.  While we weren’t able to accommodate suggestions like two full weeks for winter break, we were able to protect things like having a full day of planning at the end of each trimester and adding a half day of elementary conferences the second half of the year.

2012-13 Calendar Key Dates for Grades 1 through 12

  • July 4: School District closed
  • Aug 21 – 23: New Teacher Orientation
  • Aug 27 – Aug 31: Workshop Week. Elementary: 3 planning days, 1 building staff development, 1 day  ½  collaboration & goal setting and ½ district staff developmentSecondary: 2 planning days, 1 day ½  collaboration and  ½ planning, 1 day building staff development, 1 day district staff development
  • September 3: Labor Day, School District closed
  • September 4: First Day of School
  • October 8: Elementary ½ Collaboration and ½ Conferences, no elementary students
  • October 17: Staff Development, no students
  • October 18 – 19: Education Minnesota Professional Conference, no school
  • November 21: Conference conversion day, no students
  • November 22 – 23: Thanksgiving break, School District closed
  • November 30: End of Trimester I
  • December 3: Staff Planning Grading, no students
  • December 24 – January 1: Winter break, no school
  • December 24 & 25: School District closed
  • January 1: School District closed
  • January 2: School resumes
  • January 21: Martin Luther King’s Birthday, no school
  • February 18: President’s Day, School District closed
  • February 19: Elementary ½ Staff Development and ½ Conferences, Secondary Staff Development, no students
  • March 7: End of Trimester II
  • March 8: Staff Planning Grading, no students
  • March 11 – 15: Spring break, no school
  • March 15: School District closed
  • March 18: School resumes
  • March 29: School District closed
  • May 27: Memorial Day, School District closed
  • June 6: End of Trimester III
  • June 7: Staff Planning Grading, no students

Friday, December 9, 2011

Proposed Changes to Neutrality Polices and Harassment, Violence and Discrimination Policy

Proposed Changes to Neutrality Polices and Harassment, Violence and Discrimination Policy: Wednesday evening, the school board agenda was posted and it includes proposed changes to the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy (SOCP), the Religious Activities Policy, and the Harassment, Violence and Discrimination Policy (HVDP).  Board members say this is an attempt to clarify these policies for staff like us.

To view the specific proposal of changes to the SOCP and Religious Activities policy, visit ; to view the HVDP changes, visit 

In short, the changes include changing the SOCP and Religious Activities Policy to a Controversial Topics Policy similar to ones used in Wayzata and some other districts.  The focus of the policy would shift from being neutral about sexual orientation and religion to being unbiased about controversial topics.  In the HVDP, significant changes include adding protections for gender nonconforming behavior, perceived membership in a protected class, and association or advocacy for those who are LGBT.

Your Ideas:  The school board will need to hear from those of us who will be working with these policies every day.  They may set up opportunities for public comment, but until then, let’s start the discussion ourselves.  As a union, we plan set up a time for educators to come together and talk about the proposals – we will figure out the exact date(s) next week.  We have set up a survey for you to leave comments at as well. We will use this feedback to decide our next steps and will share the main ideas with the school board.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Next Year’s Calendar, Meet & Confer, If a Reporter Calls

Calendar Committee:  A committee of staff, administrators, and parents puts together a district calendar proposal each year.  The school board has the final say on the calendar and makes the decision in January or February.  To help the teacher representatives on the committee, we’d like some feedback as we work to balance testing dates, holidays, and state statutes to create an effective schedule.  To share your ideas, visit

Meet & Confer:  Thank you to all who attended and special thanks to those who spoke at Wednesday’s Meet & Confer with the school board.  Speakers Kristin Weidlein, Betsy Quist, Kim Thole, Alecia Pankratz, Doug Bakkum, Ann Erickson, Jay Wilkins and emcee LeMoyne Corgard set a productive and engaging tone.  School Board members Marci Anderson and John Hoffman believed the meeting would be helpful to them in making decisions for our district.

Good Question:  Can the union help if I am contacted by the media? It could happen to any of us – a reporter calls about something unflattering a parent or student told them, true or untrue. The district Communications Department handles media calls about its staff, and we can help too.  If you are contacted by a reporter, let your supervisor know right away and give us a call at 763-421-9110.  On the weekends, you can call my cell at 763-438-3527.  We’ll be happy to assist you during what can be a stressful experience.  We can also walk you through the legalities of talking to press about your work when you want to use the media to help support your students or profession.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meet & Confer

Meet and Confer:  Now that we have a couple months under our belt, it is a good time to alert school board members about new changes in our district and their effect on our work. The earlier they hear our perspective, the better their decisions will be as board members.

On Wednesday, November 30th, 5:30-7:30 pm join us at the Staff Development Center (Erling Johnson rooms) to meet with members of the school board to discuss:

  • Changes to Conferences: What worked and what can improved about this year’s conference structure is the focus as we are beginning the calendar setting process for next year.
  • Staff Development: Using our experiences during workshop week and staff development days so far this year, we’ll share our ideas on district training.
  • Restraint Policy: Share your experiences with Minnesota’s interpretation of new special education requirements around student restraint and how they are impacting your daily work.
  • Substitute Policies: After working with the 80 substitute per day limit for about a year, we’ll describe how that is working in our schools and our ideas for prioritizing the sub allocation.
  • Open Forum: We will set aside time for other topics that members would like share, including opportunities to share both positive developments and concerns not on this list.

If you are interested in speaking, email us at and we’ll put you on the agenda and give any help you’d like. Whether you would like to prepare a statement, share comments as they come to you during the discussion, or just listen – we hope to see you Wednesday!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Levy Wrap-Up

Congratulations to everyone on winning two out of three levy questions on Tuesday! In this economic environment, passing a levy renewal, and even tax increase, is a strong community endorsement of all of our work across the district. As we talked with local residents, we heard accolades for educators over and over. "I support our teachers" was a common comment, even from those who said they were voting no.  It was also clear that our residents have increased understanding of the inadequacy of state school funding. We can be happy that our future looks more stable and we will be able to improve technology for our students. We can also be happy that our community has a better feel for what is happening in our classrooms and appreciates our work with students.

398 Votes: When an election is close, like the 398 vote margin on question 2, the importance of campaigning is crystal clear. Every little bit counted so huge thanks to all of you who helped get the word out. Together, we sent out over 2000 personalized postcards, called about 10,000 residents, ran almost 100 phone bank shifts, and sent out over 12,000 fliers. Other groups stepped up to help us as well, particularly the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Working America, Education Minnesota's Political Action Fund, America Votes, and TakeAction Minnesota.  Efforts at the district (particularly the Communications Department),  and building level were very effective.  Even though they weren't aimed at saying "yes", those efforts built the strong base of understanding essential to any campaign. Special thanks on our end go out to AHEM Governmental Relations chairs Val Holthus and Lindsay DenBleyker and Education Minnesota staffers Emily Peterson and Janie Hemmelgarn for pulling this whole plan together.

Good Question: When does the technology levy start? These taxes will start to be collected during the 2012 calendar year, and available to the district for the 2012-2013 school year.