Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Special Update: Chicago Teachers' Strike

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike yesterday for the first time in 25 years.
We all understand that the decision to pursue a work stoppage is not an easy one. However, we also know that it is sometimes the only remaining option to ensure a just outcome for both educators and students. The CTU members’ courage, determination and unity are an inspiration to all of us.

No one wants to strike, and no one strikes without cause. A strike is a last resort, but it forces policymakers to focus on the issues at hand. CTU’s members know that collective action sometimes is the only way to improve their schools, their communities and their students' education.

This strike comes on the heels of numerous steps that left CTU members feeling disrespected, including:
  • Unilateral decisions to strip teachers and paraprofessionals of an agreed-upon increase
  • Imposition of additional terms and conditions of employment
  • Increase in class sizes
  • Addition of a teacher evaluation system based solely on student test scores 

The strike comes only after long and intense negotiations failed to lead to an agreement that would give CTU members the tools they need to help all their students succeed. Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.

CTU members — the women and men who spend every day with Chicago's children — want to have their voice and experience respected and valued. They want to be treated as equal partners in making sure every student in Chicago succeeds. That has been the CTU's guiding philosophy throughout these negotiations, and it remains so on the picket lines.

The students, teachers and educational support staff — and the city of Chicago — deserve a school system that works for everyone. In the end, that is what this strike is all about.

You can show their solidarity with your colleagues in Chicago in a number of ways:
  • Wear red on Wednesday, Sept. 12 to show your support for the CTU and strong public schools in Chicago.
  • Send messages with letters or resolutions of support (with the subject line, “Letters or Resolutions of support for CTU from (union name, location)” to  ctscpress@gmail.com.
  • Take a photo wearing red and send it (with the subject line, “Solidarity with CTU pictures from (location)” to ctscpress@gmail.com and to photos@aft.org (copy us too at ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us).
  • Post expressions of support on the CTU’s Facebook page here: http://tinyurl.com/9h6vyur
  • Make a contribution to the Chicago Teachers Union Solidarity Fund here: http://tinyurl.com/9m24g4x
  • Keep up with the news on the CTU by visiting their website at www.ctunet.com.

Let’s stand together with our colleagues in Chicago!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Welcome Back, VIVA Project, Suggestion Box, Schedules

Welcome Back!  We at Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota are looking forward to another year of serving you and supporting your work.  This is the first of our Weekly Updates for the year, our quick look at union news.  Remember, when you have a question or idea, call us sooner than later.  You can connect with us at 763-421-9110 or ahem@anoka.k12.mnus. When in doubt, give us a shout.
VIVA Project Wants Your Ideas on Teacher Evaluation: From the MDE Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and ED MN President Tom Dooher: As part of Minnesota's bid to close the achievement gap, the Minnesota Department of Education is working to create a model teacher evaluation system. We want to hear from you about what makes a great teacher and how to measure that. MDE and Education Minnesota have once again partnered with VIVA Teachers to gather your ideas via the VIVA Minnesota Teachers Idea Exchange.
Getting involved is easy. Simply go to http://vivaMN.socialsphere.com, register and post your ideas in answer to our questions: What makes the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher? How would you measure whether a teacher is "good" or "great"?
Your ideas will become a key resource for the MDE Teacher Evaluation Work Group, and a group of you will be invited to discuss your recommendations with Gov. Dayton and both of us.  The site will be available 24 hours a day for the next two weeks. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to help shape the model teacher evaluation system for our state.
AHEM Suggestion Box: Have an idea for your union? Drop it in the suggestion box. Visit the AHEM home page at ahem.locals.educationminnesota.org for a place for your ideas. Scroll down and you’ll see an embedded Survey Monkey window you can use whenever inspiration hits. You can leave your ideas on topics such as Q-Comp, negotiations and contract issues, member rights, community connections, public policy, or add your own category. Leave your name so we can credit you or follow up, or send your idea anonymously if you prefer.

Good Question – Is my schedule right?: The most common questions we get the first weeks of school pertain to schedules.  Am I getting my duty free lunch? Do I have enough prep time? Is my travel time adequate? Do I have too many extra duties? These are all good questions  - the best way to answer them is for you to give us a call at 763-421-9110.  If you think you are short or long on time in a key area, please check with us. Remember, a call to us does not obligate you to anything, and we keep our discussion confidential.  We'll take a look and let you know what your options are.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Hours & Work, Pride, Who Are My Candidates?

Summer Hours: The AHEM office is open throughout the summer.  Our summer hours are Monday through Thursday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.  We can still be contacted at 763.421.9110 and ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us. 

Summer Work:  During the break, AHEM leaders will work on a number of infrastructure items for our organization. A big part of effort will include putting pieces in place for Q-Comp.  Next year we will finalize Q-Comp’s components, so this summer is the time we put the Steering Committee together and develop the timeline for items like hiring evaluators.  We are also adding two new negotiator positions to our bargaining team, one of which will focus on Special Education.  Over the summer we will set up the timeline for choosing those people this fall.  With the election coming up in November, we will also be supporting good education candidates.  If you are interested in helping with any of these efforts, let us know at ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us .

Pride:  You can be proud of the work you’ve done this year.  We’ve worked through challenging levies, bargaining, media scrutiny, and site level changes this year.  Through all that, we’ve seen increases in student achievement and strong public support for your efforts. Your tireless advocacy for your students and commitment to your craft shows in those results.  All of us at AHEM are honored to serve you and look forward to what we will do together next.

Good Question: Who Are My Candidates? Filing for office closed yesterday, so the field of legislative candidates is pretty much set for the fall.  To find out who’s running where, try this interactive map from MinnPost: http://tinyurl.com/8y5fnce.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Q-Comp Vote Results, Thank You's

Q-Comp Vote Results:  The unofficial results of this week’s Anoka-Hennepin Q-Comp vote is 89% yes, 11% no. Over 2000 of our members voted. That is above our 75% threshold for passage, so we have accepted Q-Comp for the 2013-2014 school year.  Thank you to all who helped create our proposal and had the one-on-one discussions that lead to its passage.  Now our opportunity is to make this plan not only work to fulfill requirements of the new teacher evaluation law, but to ensure it truly enhances our practice to the benefit of our students. 

Thank You’s: At the Teacher of the Year banquet a few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to some amazing educators. Each of them credited teams of colleagues for their success.  One of the very reasons they were singled out as great educators is that don’t let themselves be singled out when they are actually educating.

Our union works the same way. We have an amazing team at AHEM that deserves thanks.  To start off, we have a solid, smart officer team.  Vice President LeMoyne Corgard, Treasurer Scott Schaeffer, and Secretary John FitzSimons not only perform their duties well, but each of them have come up with innovations that move our union forward.  Our cadre leaders are of a similar high caliber.  Government Relations Chairs Val Holthus and Lindsay DenBleyker, Member Rights Chair Bill Davids, Membership Chair Carrie Butorac, Elections Chair Amanda Glover-Peterson, Settlement Action Chair John Chasteen, Lead Negotiator Paul Goupil, and Communications Chair LeeAnne Clauer have each brought their work to a new level this year.

On the front lines of the direct services we provide are our office staff Janie Hemmelgarn and Julie Seelhoff and field staffers David Kundin and Gary Christofferson.  Every day, they are here to provide daily support our members need and they do it with grace and expertise.

There are literally over a hundred more people I should thank, like those on our Executive Board who hashed out some of the toughest issues our organization has faced in decades.  Or our Representative Assembly members who provide the grassroots connection that keeps the organization on track.  Committee members, both on our standing groups like Labor Management, Member Rights, and our Negotiations Team and ad hoc groups like those that are working on Q-Comp and formulated our responses to policies on LGBT topics deserve thanks too for innovative efforts.  All of you who step up and represent teachers on district committees to ensure we have a real voice on the day to day professional concerns in our classrooms deserve our gratitude.

Finally, thanks to everyone who passes these emails along, stuffs the boxes, takes the questions, and provides the valuable insight of what is really happening at the site level.  Head building reps are the glue that hold AHEM together and we are lucky to have them working for all of us.

The worst part of writing a thank you note is the fear that you will leave someone out.  Know that all of you who have supported AHEM’s work are deeply appreciated.  The best part of this writing is to remember all we’ve accomplished together and be inspired by your work.  With a team like this, we have nothing but opportunity ahead of us.  I am incredibly grateful for all of you and can’t wait to see what we’ll do together next.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Q-Comp Voting, Leadership Opportunities, Legislative Outcomes

Q-Comp Vote Options:  The vote on Q-Comp will be held in buildings on May 30 or May 31. Each site will decide which day works best.  If you are not able to vote at your site, the AHEM office (3200 Main Street, Coon Rapids, 3rd floor of the Wells Fargo Bank building) will be open for voting from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm Friday May 25, Tuesday May 29, Wednesday May 30, and Thursday May 31.  Those on leave and at some remote sites will have a mail-in ballot sent to them by Monday, May 21.  If those options do not work for you, please let us know at ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us and we’ll work on a solution.

AHEM Leadership Opportunities:  At AHEM, spring is when we set our leadership positions for the coming year.  Here are the open positions: 
  • Governmental Relations Chair:  With Val Holthus’ election to Secretary, we have an opening on our cadre leader team.  The GR Chair oversees our political and election work at AHEM.  The position is appointed by the president and includes a stipend.
  • Executive Board:  This body meets monthly in between Representative Assembly meetings and acts in place of that group in making decisions for the organization.  It is made up of representatives from each cluster.  The group is elected if there is a contest and does not have a stipend.
  • Educational Issues Chair:  This is a new position.  The Ed Issues chair will oversee AHEM’s work on professional issues, like professional development, pedagogy, and evaluation.  This coming year, they would work on our ideas for the new teacher evaluation law for example.  The position is appointed by the president and includes a stipend.
If you are interested in any of these positions, please email us at ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us

Legislative Outcome Mostly Positive for Education: The final outcome was mostly positive for educators, students, K-12 schools, public colleges and universities, and union members. With your help, we were able to kill a proposed "Right to Work" constitutional amendment, turn back attacks on teacher seniority and collective bargaining, preserve educators’ access to competitive health insurance bids, ward off major changes to public pensions and block unproven education "reforms" imported from other states. In addition, the Legislature approved bonding for much-needed renovations and improvements at two-year colleges where Education Minnesota members teach, and lawmakers passed important changes that could give K-12 schools more revenue from school trust lands. Members made the difference – the contacts from educators throughout the session were effective.  For more specifics, check out http://tinyurl.com/buwkso5 for a list of outcomes by bill number. Want even more? Check out MinnPost’s nifty, intuitive bill explorer: http://tinyurl.com/7vvp4h3 .

Monday, May 7, 2012

Peer Evaluators, Meet & Confer, Health Insurance Rates, Veto

Q-Comp Peer Evaluators:  The most common questions we are hearing right now are about the Peer Evaluator positions.  Here are the key points:
  • It would take about 30 peer evaluators to cover our district. These would be new positions paid for entirely with Q-Comp funds from the state.
  • Those on PAS (which would be happen every three years) would be evaluated by their principal or supervisor instead – you won’t have to double up on observations.
  • We will to choose evaluators to cover as many different kinds of assignments as possible and provide the best match we can between participants and those observing them.
  • Evaluators need to be on continuing contract (except in ABE/ECFE where that system doesn’t yet exist), have a master’s degree, and have at least 7 years experience in education.
  • Evaluators are chosen by a team of five administrators (appointed by the district) and five educators (appointed by AHEM).
  • Evaluators can serve in that position up to 3 years, then need to return to their former assignment

Meet & Confer: Join your colleagues Thursday, May 17, 5:30-7:30 pm at the SDC. Here are the topics on the agenda:
  • Stability in buildings and grade levels: Stable buildings have better student achievement. Share with the school board what increases stability at a site, and what causes turmoil.
  • Teacher Evaluations: With the new teacher evaluation law on the way, we’ll share what kinds of feedback improves our practice.
  • Child Restraint Policy: Update on how the new child restraint policy is working.
  • Other Topics: As always, we leave time for individual topics or timely items that come up right before the event.
Would you like to speak to one of these topics? Have ideas you want us to include? Email AHEM at ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us

Governor Dayton Vetoes Anti-Seniority Bill: Yesterday Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed House File 1870, which would have required teachers to be laid off according to yet-to-be defined measures of “effectiveness” rather than seniority or other systems already negotiated in many school districts.  Your messages to the governor made the difference by bringing to life how this measure was bad for teachers and bad for kids. Please take a moment now to go to our Legislative Action Center and thank him for his support: http://tinyurl.com/cm3besc .

Health Insurance Rates Unchanged for Next Year:  Thank you for eating your leafy greens and getting some exercise – healthy choices by our members contributed to holding health insurance premiums flat for next year.  Watch your boxes for more specifics about rates and open enrollment from the district office (open enrollment is the time when you can change your insurance options, it will be May 29 – June 15 this year).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Q-Comp Election Dates, Scholarships, Legislative Screenings

Q-Comp Election Dates:  The dates for the vote on Q-Comp will be Wednesday, May 30 and Thursday May 29.  The vote will be held in buildings, with an option to come in to the AHEM office as well.  Each site will pick one of those days to ballot we will have results by June 1st.  As before, it will take 75% of those voting to pass Q-Comp and we would re-vote on Q-Comp every year of the program.

Scholarship Deadline Approaching:  The deadline MN AFL-CIO scholarships for high school seniors connected to union members is April 30th.  Visit mnaflcio.org/news/mn-afl-cio-scholarship-high-school-seniors for the form.  We need to sign off that you are a member, so give yourself a day or so to get it to us and for us to get it back to you.  Note – you’ll need to list the American Federation of Teachers as our international union and tell them our local number is 7007.

Call for Screeners for Legislative Races:  Education Minnesota will be interviewing legislative candidates for recommendation out of the AHEM office on April 30 and May 1 from 4:45 pm – 8:30 pm.  We focus on legislative districts 31, 35, 36, and 37 (all of which intersect our school district boundaries).  We are looking for members from all political parties and ideologies to participate. If you can help us get to know our candidates better, email us at ahem@anoka.k12.mn.us

Good Question:  What is my new legislative district?  Visit http://tinyurl.com/7u95f8z to find out your new legislative district.