Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 1st Deadlines, Seniority, Taxes, Leg Districts

March 1st Deadlines: This Thursday marks the deadline for a number of requests in our district.  Remember the March 1 deadline if you:
  • Intend to retire at the end of this school year or any time next school year
  • Plan to take the early retirement option just negotiated this past round of bargaining
  • Request a voluntary contract reduction
  • Request to return to your entitlement after a voluntary contract reduction
  • Return from a leave of absence
  • Request to take one of a number of types of leaves of absence in our contract
  • Request a job share assignment
  • Return to our bargaining unit from a position outside of our group
Whenever you plan to make a big change to your employment status, double check the deadlines in your contract.

Governor Dayton Needs to Hear From You About Seniority: The bill targeting teacher seniority in layoffs, House File 1870, passed the Senate yesterday on a mostly party-line vote, 36-26. The Senate version differs from what the House passed, so the bill now goes back to the House. If the House concurs with the Senate’s changes, the bill will go to Gov. Mark Dayton; otherwise, it will go to conference committee.

Urge Gov. Dayton to reject HF 1870. It goes too far in eliminating seniority and undermining work already under way in locals to create fair, effective teacher evaluations. To send a message to the governor, visit http://tinyurl.com/7vlqhdf at lunch or outside the duty day.  There you can use prepared points, modify them, or write your own story. Please take five minutes today to protect your rights.

Dues and Taxes:  The best way to find how much you paid in dues last year for tax purposes is to check your online pay records – the year to date calculation on your last statement of 2011 will be most accurate.  If you want to cross reference our dues chart, visit  http://tinyurl.com/6px93tq.

Good Question: What is my new legislative district? To find your new legislative district visit http://tinyurl.com/7u95f8z.  Want to get really wonky and see where the incumbent legislators fell? Visit http://tinyurl.com/7czsq8v.

Monday, February 27, 2012

2011 Dues

2011 Calendar Year Dues Paid
Below is the breakdown of AHEM dues and fair share fees for the 2011 calendar year.  These figures are based on employment for the full calendar period.  Dues paying members:  If you requested the $10 Political Fund refund and/or $5 Education Minnesota Foundation refund, you must subtract that amount from the total below.  Dues may or may not be tax deductible. AHEM recommends that you verify your total dues paid in the YTD section from your last payroll check in December. 
Contracted FTE
Fair Share
FTE .76 - 1.0
FTE .51 - .75
FTE .26 - .50
FTE .25 earning $1,690 and over

Monday, February 13, 2012

AHEM Statement to the School Board on the Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy

Chair Heidemann, Members of the Board, Superintendent Carlson:  My name is Julie Blaha. I am the president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota and I’m here to present our organization’s position on the proposed policy.

AHEM’s governing body voted last Monday to support the adoption of the Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy with some small clarifications. We are glad to see the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy go.  While we maintain that a replacement policy is not essential, this new policy seems to fit with what we know works for students.

For changes, we suggest:

  • In the fourth paragraph, adding a word so it reads “Teachers, administrators, and educational support staff…” 
  • In the fifth paragraph, substitute the word “relevant” for the phrase “of significance.”
  • Modify the final paragraph to make it clear that the terms may apply to students’ families, not just students.  That would make categories like “veteran” and “family leave” status more logical.  In that same paragraph, changing “marital status” to “family status” and “public assistance” to “economic status” would make those categories more parallel to the others.

We appreciated the chance to meet with board members Heidemann, Sullivan, and Wenzel last Thursday to discuss how we understand this policy.  We are on the same page on a number of ideas:

  • We were glad we agree that the statement about following district approved policy is not meant to hinder innovation or creativity in our lessons.
  • We understand that the board still values the importance of discussing controversial topics to build students’ ability to understand, analyze, and respect multiple viewpoints. 
  • If there is concern about how a teacher deals with an issue in their classroom, we understand that it will be handled on a case by case basis at the building level, not with time-consuming procedures and paperwork at the district level.
  • We appreciated hearing that board members respect our professional judgment when it comes to determining which topics we include in our instruction.

The question now is what effect will this policy have?

This could be just another 228 words buried under 154 other policies that govern what happens in our schools. 

Or it could be the first paragraphs of a new chapter in our district. One where everyone feels more safe and welcome at school.  A chapter where it is clear that every student, staff member, and family is valued for who they are. One full of rigorous conversations between professionals about how to improve our school climate.   We look forward to writing this chapter with you.

We urge you to approve the Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy and invite you to meet with teachers regularly to ensure a successful implementation.

Thank you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Special Update - Rolling Stone Article


You may have seen the Rolling Stone article about our district this weekend.  (Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/6nzrpw9)

It is a difficult read.  The description of the suicides in our district is heartbreaking.  The description of our district’s response is not flattering.

It is a challenge to respond to an article like this. On one hand, these are stories that need to be told.  If we are going to address the challenges our LGBT students face, we need to take a hard look at what has happened in our district.  It has never been more clear that we must continue to take these issues seriously and keeping working toward providing our students with a safe and welcoming environment in our schools.

On the other hand, any teacher in our district will see that there is a fair amount of melodrama in the story.  The article shows only the worst of our community.  Though the public’s response has not focused on teachers, some of the magazine’s depictions of educators will not match what you know to be true of your colleagues.

I wish all of my comments to the reporter were included in the article.  I told her how every educator I know takes quick, significant action whenever they see bullying.  I told her how teachers have been leading the effort to make sure each of our students knows they are valuable part of our community.

I told her our community had been unfairly characterized by people who focused on the opinions of a small, fringe group - the same group that was the focus of the article.  I also told her that we were making real progress this year and that the atmosphere was changing for the better.

As you read the article, remember, there is fact and fiction in every story.  Let’s take what is true and learn from it to make our schools better.  Let’s take the fiction and make sure it never becomes fact.

Thank you for the work you do.  I am honored to be your colleague,

-Julie Blaha
AHEM President

Friday, February 3, 2012

Precinct Caucuses, Meet & Confer, Policy, Wordle

Precinct Caucuses:  Minnesota will begin its political convention season on Tuesday, February 7.  Major political parties will hold caucuses to take polls on candidates, do party business, and discuss issues.  This is a great opportunity to tell our neighbors what is really going on in our schools.  Teachers generally make up a good percentage of attendees, so join your colleagues in your neighborhood on Tuesday.  For links to finding your caucus location, general info, and sample resolutions you may want to introduce, visit http://tinyurl.com/6vm62ub .

Meet & Confer:  Over 150 educators and five of the six school board members attended Meet & Confer Wednesday to discuss Special Education caseload and the Kindergarten expansion.  Your colleagues who took to the microphone were outstanding.  They clearly laid out the issues underlying increasing and inconsistent workloads in Special Ed, as well as concrete solutions to begin alleviating the problem. They also expressed how much we value all day every day kindergarten programs, the vital importance of using licensed specialists at that level, and the need to expand the program to all schools. We are compiling the ideas for the school board - if you would like to add a thought you’ve had since the event, our survey is still open at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MeetConfer2112.

Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy: You still have time to give your feedback on the new proposal to replace the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy.  Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RespectfulEnvironmentPolicy to both see the full draft and tell us what you think our position should be. We will be discussing our next steps at our Representative Assembly on Monday.

Good Question:  How did you make the word clouds for Meet & Confer?  A number of people asked how we made the graphics we used to illustrate our survey responses.  We used “Wordle”, a free online application at www.wordle.net.  It’s a fun way to illustrate the most common words in a text.  Not surprisingly, the largest words in our clouds were “students”.