Friday, December 20, 2013

Bargaining Update – Moving to Mediation

Six months of bargaining between the AHEM negotiations team and the district representatives have produced so little progress that we believe it is now time to request state mediation.

We expect this step will unfortunately move talks behind closed doors, but we believe it will also accelerate our progress toward a fair and competitive settlement that will allow our educators to once again give their undivided attention to teaching and learning.

Our meeting Wednesday evening finally convinced us that we needed to try something new. It was the twelfth contract bargaining session and we made no significant progress. The current district offer is virtually unchanged from their first offer.

The district continues to insist that almost all the new money on the salary schedule come from a decrease in the value of health insurance benefits. In addition, the district has yet to respond to a number of our proposals, including extending parental leave to mothers.

More specifically, on Wednesday the district team claimed there is no real difference between the Choice Select and Elect/Essential health insurance plans. They repeated their proposal to change from 100 percent single coverage to a flat dollar amount that would need to be renegotiated each round of contract bargaining.

They also did not move from their last salary schedule increase offer of Steps 1-11: zero percent the first year and 1 percent the second; Career Steps: 1.25 percent the first year and 1.55 percent the second; and the addition of "Step 11.5" to add a year between step 11 and Career 1. (For more details, visit

As you can see, we need the help of the Bureau of Mediation Services. We anticipate the mediator will follow standard practice and close sessions to the public, but we will continue to provide you with as many details as possible during mediation.

Your input and participation has been invaluable to us. We cannot exaggerate the importance of the support we felt when hundreds of our colleagues gave up their nights to attend bargaining sessions.

We are honored to work on your behalf for a contract you deserve for the great work you do, and that helps you educate your students effectively. 

We wish you a rejuvenating break and will keep you posted,

Your AHEM Negotiations Team: Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, Jay, Tom, Val, and Julie

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bargaining, Work to Rule, Work Out Event, BTYR, Thank You

Bargaining: We have our 12th bargaining session this coming Wednesday, December 18th, 4:45 pm, Erling Johnson Room D at the ESC.. We are hoping for a district response to a number of language items, and the key discussion will be over health insurance and our overall compensation package.  We hope you can be there in red to hear the discussion for yourself first hand. We have had over two hundred different members attend these sessions and that support and feedback has been invaluable to our negotiations team.  To catch up on the details, visit   Hope to see you Wednesday!

District Wide Work to Rule:  We are almost six months beyond the date to renew our contract. Sites have engaged in a variety of work actions to draw attention to the air of instability and uncertainty an unsettled contract causes in our schools. Our governing body, the Representative Assembly which is made of up members from each site, decided that if we have not made significant progress in negotiations by mid January, we would urge all of our members to begin "working to rule" on Tuesday, January 21st. We would withdraw our unpaid work and only be at school during our duty day or for activities for which we are paid. We wouldn't take on new projects and change how we structure our day to get things done between the bells.  Though this is a difficult action, we need to end the uncertainty and instability an unsettled contract causes in our schools.

Let's Work Out – Sharing the Extra Work We Do with Our Community: Too many members of our neighbors are unaware of the scale of the unpaid, voluntary work teachers do for their students.  We invite you and your "homework" to come to Brunswick Zone in Blaine on January 15th.  On this anniversary of what used to be a legislatively mandated settlement deadline, we will invite our local residents and the media to see just what teachers really do by taking the work we normally do at home or after hours out into the community.  Meet us at the bowling alley whenever your duty day ends with the work you normally take home to do.  We'll provide the pizza and pop, you'll provide a real look at the real lives of teachers.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: On Saturday, the city of Anoka was proclaimed a Yellow Ribbon City for their work supporting military connected families. AHEM is proud to be part of this effort and special thanks go out to Daryl Hathaway for leading the city team, Renee Blue for chairing the education subcommittee, and Amanda Herman for serving on the steering committee. Congratulations to the entire Anoka Yellow Ribbon team for efforts. More info here:

Holiday Thank You:  This season when the light fades is a good time to look inward and take stock of the blessings in our lives.  All of us at AHEM are deeply fortunate to support one of the most amazing groups of educators anywhere.  We have the joy of celebrating your successes, defending your boldness, and supporting the bright future you work to create for your students.  Thank you for all you do for your students, schools, union, and entire community.  Have a safe and rejuvenating winter break!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bargaining Session #12, Conversations on Safe Schools Bill, Minimum Wage, & Teacher Quality

Bargaining Session #12: Join us Wednesday, December 4th, 4:45 pm, Erling Johnson Room D. Member presence at these sessions has been invaluable, we hope you can attend to see bargaining first hand and support a fair, competitive settlement. See you in red on Wednesday!

Safe and Supportive Schools Bill Call to Action: The effort to pass the anti-bullying bill that came so very close last legislative session is kicking off this week. Join a coalition of over 80 education and youth organizations (view the list at Sunday, December 8 at South High School (3131 19th Avenue South in Minneapolis) at 2:00pm. With your support, Minnesota can go from having one of the weakest anti-bullying laws in the country to one of the strongest.

Town Hall Meeting on Raising the Minimum Wage with Sen. John Hoffman: Low wage workers perform many important jobs in our community. They staff our restaurants, clean our hotels and workplaces, and work at many other service, retail, manufacturing and healthcare related jobs. As educators, we see the link between fair wages and for parents and their students academic achievement. Share your perspective with a key local legislator on Tuesday, December 10th, 6:30-7:30pm, Coon Rapids Civic Center (1155 Robinson Drive, Coon Rapids).

Community Conversation on Teacher Quality: Education Minnesota leaders are hosting statewide conversations to improve teacher preparation, recruitment and diversity. Parents, educators, students, advocates, community leaders -- anyone interested in the future of Minnesota public education -- are invited to attend.  Join the discussion Thursday, December 12th, 6:30-8:30 pm at Park Center IB World High School (7300 Brooklyn Boulevard in Brooklyn Park). For more information visit:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Site Level Actions, Next Bargaining Session, Superintendent Search, Teacher of the Year, Applause

Work to Rule & Other Site Level Actions: You may have heard that some sites have decided to do some form of work to rule or other actions to show unity and resolve for a fair, competitive contract settlement. About seven sites are now doing an action where they walk in together at the beginning of the duty day and walk out at the end. Some are doing a once a week work to rule action where they drop voluntary duties on that day. Other sites are doing activities like sharing pictures of their site in red, having a "party in the parking lot" on Wednesdays, door prize drawings for those who attend a bargaining session, and more.  Visit our Facebook page to see pics from around the district:

As a democratic, member driven organization, know that you have the power to create the kind of activities that fit your site.  Of course, we will continue to ramp up district wide actions, but you are not limited to those. Want to do something where you are? Talk to your colleagues and building representatives and we will help provide the infrastructure to make it happen.

Next Bargaining Session: Our next bargaining session is Thursday, November 21st, 4:45 pm at the ESC (the exact room is still being determined). As always, you are welcome to see the process first hand and discuss it with your negotiators afterward.

Superintendent Search Survey: We've heard a number of members say they didn't realize the superintendent search survey was something they can fill out too. If you'd like to give input on what you want to see in our next superintendent, visit

Teacher of the Year: You have until Friday to nominate someone for Teacher of the Year.  The form is very simple and whether or not the nominee chooses to participate in the process, they will appreciate the pat on the back from a colleague. Take (literally) five minutes to fill out the form at and make a colleague's day.

It's time to give each other an APPLAUSE for the outstanding efforts we see each day. Take a moment to recognize a teacher/member who makes a difference. We'll draw five members to receive a $25 gift card and let all of those mentioned know their great work has been noticed.  Look for APPLAUSE forms coming soon in your P.O. Box.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bargaining, Veterans Day, School Board Election, Calendar Survey

Bargaining Update:  We did see clear evidence of a response to our wearing red and statement to the school board. We still have a lot of work to do, but your efforts are having a positive effect. Check for the details and keep up Red for Ed on Wednesdays.

Veterans Day:
On Monday, we honor the contribution of our military veterans. We want to thank all of our colleagues who not only serve our students as educators, but serve(d) our country in the armed forces. One way we as AHEM members support our troops is to support the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program that supports military connected students and families. If you are a Vet or have military dependents within our school district, please contact the Anoka Beyond the Yellow Ribbon team at with questions or concerns.

School Board Election Results: Congratulations to incumbents Jeff Simon & Bill Harvey and newcomer William Fields on their election to the Anoka-Hennepin school board on Tuesday. To see the specific results of this or any of the other races held Tuesday, visit

Calendar Survey Questions on Staff Planning Days: We heard a number of concerns about the first two questions on the District Calendar Committee Survey. They ask whether you would support using staff planning days for staff development and/or collaborative team time. There are those that believe teachers would be in favor of moving away from the current practice of not using that time for anything other than independently directed work time for teachers, and others who believe that teachers are very against changing the use of that time. We need you to settle that argument by completing the survey and telling us what you think. Here is that link: use of that time. We need you to settle that argument by completing the survey and telling us what you think. Here is that link:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Calendar Survey, Bargaining Session Wednesday, Teacher of the Year

Calendar Survey: The process has begun to set next year's calendar. Please respond to the survey you heard about in an email from Hattie Leary a couple days ago. You'll see questions on issues ranging from when you'd like to see breaks to whether you want your some of your staff planning/grading days to be used for staff development or collaboration instead. The calendar committee, which has representation from a number of groups including AHEM, will use your responses to build a proposal the school board will vote on in January. We can better represent your interests if you give your feedback – so fill out the survey today! Here's the link:

Tomorrow's Bargaining Session: We meet with the district for the tenth time tomorrow. Join us Wednesday, November 6th, 4:45 pm, at the AHEM Office (3200 Main Street, Suite 360, Coon Rapids – top of the Wells Fargo Bank Building in the Riverdale Shopping Area). You're attendance helps all of us stay focused on what matters – hope to see you there! For an update on where we are, you can always visit

Red for Ed on Wednesdays: This movement is growing. We are wearing Red for Public Education on Wednesdays to show unity around our bargaining, but it's more than that.  Red for Ed is a national movement to support the students and professionals in public schools. So, dig out that favorite red shirt, scarf, and/or your AHEM button and join movement every Wednesday.

Teacher of the Year: Take a moment to honor a valued colleague.  Anyone can nominate an educator for Education Minnesota's Teacher of the Year program. Our district has had a number of nominees honored through this program, and we'd love to see more. Not only will nominating a colleague give them a lift, you'll feel good about it too. Visit here for the short online nomination form:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday's Successful School Board Meeting

Thank you to the approximately 250 members who packed the school board meeting in red last night!  The over capacity crowd sent a strong message that we are engaged and united behind a fair, competitive, and affordable settlement. You can see pictures at our Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota Facebook page ( and visit for the statement our negotiators shared with the school board.

Next opportunities to show your support include wearing Red on Wednesdays and attending our next bargaining session Wednesday, November 6th, 4:45 pm, at the AHEM office. 

Thank you again and let's keep up the momentum!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bargaining, School Board Meeting, Buttons

Wednesday's Bargaining Session: Wednesday's bargaining session yielded no real progress. The district presented "an alternate economic offer". They changed their salary schedule improvement by just fractions of a percent while adding a new step in between Step 11 and Career 1. The district team admitted that any increase in one part of the offer came from a decrease somewhere else. In summary, we have had three economic offers from the district that are effectively the same value as our last settlement, despite an improvement in district finances. For details visit

We Need You at Monday's School Board Meeting: To avoid getting bogged down, we are delivering a message to the school board that it's time for a fair, competitive settlement. We need you behind us, both figuratively and literally, to get the process moving in the right direction. Please join us at the school board meeting:

  • Monday, October 28th,
  • 6:30 pm – about 7:00 pm
  • Sandburg Educational Center  
  • Wear Red
The meeting starts with about 20 minutes of student recognition where we can help celebrate students' accomplishments, then moves to an open forum.  AHEM negotiators will address the board and your presence in red as we speak will make an impact. See you Monday!

Good Question: Can I wear an AHEM button at school? Yes! Wearing buttons or t-shirts is not a problem. If a student asks why you are wearing it, you can simply say something like "AHEM is my union" and get back to the important work you do preparing students for a bright future.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bargaining – We Need Your Support

Now that major proposals are all on the table, it's time to ramp up.  To show the district that we are serious about a fair, competitive settlement, we need your help:

Red on Wednesday! Show support for the process and your negotiations team by wearing red this Wednesday. Nothing gets the word out that we are together than a visible show of support. Digging out that red sweater is more than fashion, it's a show of unity and resolve.

Bargaining Session Wednesday: Join us this Wednesday, October 23rd, 4:45 pm, Erling Johnson Room A at the ESC (due to increasing turnout by AHEM members, we've moved to a larger room). It's the district's turn to respond on a number of issues, including the economic offer. Come hear their positions for yourself and show them very directly that you are watching and engaged.

School Board Meeting on Monday: We plan to extend an invitation to school board members to join us at the table at the Monday, October 28th board meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 pm with an open forum early on the agenda. There, AHEM Negotiators will make a statement to engage the school board more fully in the process. Your attendance in red during that part of the meeting will make a strong statement.

By supporting one or more of these shows of togetherness, you will be directly supporting a fair, competitive settlement. We need you – see you in red!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bargaining, Meet & Confer, School Board Elections, Veterans Day

Bargaining: We met for session #8 this past Wednesday.  Virtually everything is now on the table, so it's time to really get down to business.  The details of the session can be found here:  Our next two sessions will be Wednesday, October 23rd,  4:45 – 6:45 pm, at the ESC and Wednesday, November 6th, 4:45 – 6:45 pm, AHEM Office 

Meet & Confer: You are invited to discuss the following topics with our school board this Wednesday:
  • Traveling Teachers' Issues
  • Special Needs of Students Regarding Clustering
  • Media Specialists Perspective on the Book "Eleanor & Park"
  • Open Forum (where you can bring issues not listed here)
Wear red and meet us Wednesday, October 9th, 6:00 pm in the Ehrling Johnson Rooms at the ESC. Support your colleagues and educate our board about key issues in our classrooms. 

School Board Election Forum: Half of our district's school board seats are up for election this November 5th. Meet the candidates at the League of Women Voters forum on Tuesday, October 8th at 6:30 at the Sandburg building in Anoka.  All the candidates have agreed to participate: 
  • District 3 (Champlin, Dayton and parts of Coon Rapids): Bill Harvey and Grace Baltich
  • District 4 (Ham Lake, Nowthen, and parts of Andover and Ramsey): Janelle Kirkeide, William Fields and Paul Meunier.
  • District 6 (parts of Coon Rapids and Andover): Jeff Simon

Veterans Day: Getting ready to celebrate Veterans Day with your students? Visit NEA's lesson plan area at for some good ideas. Honoring Veterans Day is another way to show military connected families that we support them.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bargaining, Red on Wednesday, Voter Registration, Teacher of the Year, Eleanor & Park Response

Next Bargaining Session Wednesday, October 2nd, 4:45 pm, AHEM Office: Our next session will include our proposal on class size and caseload issues and a response to the district's last economic offer. Hope to see you there!

Red for Ed on Wednesdays: Remember to wear red on Wednesdays to show your support for our bargaining process and public education in general!

Online Voter Registration: You can finally register to vote in Minnesota online!  If you need to update  your voter registration or register to vote for the first time, all you need to do is fill out an very short form at . Want to double check that your registered so you can vote this November 5th? You can do that there as well.

Teacher of the Year: Teacher of the Year nominations open October 1st.  It takes just a few minutes to nominate a colleague. Even if your nominee chooses not to go on with the process, your compliment will mean a lot to an educator who is doing great work for students.  Here are the details:

Good Question:
Where can I find AHEM's statement on the Eleanor & Park book issue? If we make statements on behalf of AHEM to the school board or public, we post them on the Weekly Update page.  Here's the link to our statement we read at Monday's School Board meeting supporting our Media Specialists:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Statement to the A-H School Board on Eleanor & Park Book Selection

Chair Heidemann, members of the board, and Superintendent Carlson:

My name is Julie Blaha and I am president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, our local teachers union.

At the public work session of September 9th, members of this board questioned the judgment of our high school media specialists. Specifically, the board members criticized the choice of “Eleanor & Park” for the summer community reading program called, Rock the Book, which for our high school students.

Those comments by members of this board were reported by the local paper. National Public Radio has subsequently reported the story on its website.

Our library media specialists were shocked to see their work disparaged.

They followed every policy set by this board.

They went above and beyond their required duties to encourage students to read.

They recommended a book that has been widely praised for its high quality and relevance to teens.

And most bewildering of all, was that a board that prides itself on collaboration, would make snap judgments (like declaring the book age inapporiopriate in the paper before completing the book challenge process) without talking with media specialists themselves, or even reading the book.

If the board members had read the book, they would know that it’s a story about two students who fall in love, make the right choices and beat the odds. They rise above bullies, poverty and domestic abuse.

To ignore that is to ignore a powerful, positive message for every teen who ever felt awkward or isolated in high school. As Linda Holmes wrote for N-P-R, focusing only on the profanity of bullies and abusers, “makes the act of telling a story about rising above misery a miserable thing.”

A deeper concern in our community is that the reaction by the board harkens back to issues surrounding LGBT bullying in our district.

About four years ago, we came to you concerned that district policies created a chilling atmosphere regarding LGBT issues in our classrooms. Some of you questioned, or flat out dismissed, our assertion that teachers were unsure if they would be supported for standing up for LGBT students. Some of you wondered what kinds of specific school board actions could cause that kind of atmosphere.

Well, this is the kind of thing we were talking about.

Knee jerk reactions to complaints cause a chilling effect that stifles creativity, innovation and student engagement.

We need to know that our school board can stand up for us when we exercise good professional judgment. At minimum, we need to know that you will at least talk with us before making decisions.

If you won’t stand up for us, it is harder for us to stand up for our students.

Before you make any further decisions on this topic, I hope you will talk with the professionals working directly with our students.

Beyond that, it is clear that we need further discussion on how we as professionals use our judgment. We look forward to working with you so that you can understand the work we do.

Julie Blaha
President, Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota

Friday, September 20, 2013

Negotiations, CAT, Part Timers & Q-Comp, Book Controversy, Schedules

Negotiations: We held our 7th bargaining session on Wednesday. Over 80 members joined us to see the process first hand, continuing the trend of increasing attendance each time. Basically, things moved around, but little moved forward. For more info, visit

Contract Action Team (CAT): The next CAT meeting is Wednesday, September 25th, 4:45 pm at the AHEM Office. This group helps take action to achieve a fair contract settlement – they plan things from the root beer float tailgating before the last bargaining session to messages that help members understand complicated contract issues. Hope you can join the team!

Book Selection Controversy: You may have heard some controversy regarding the choice of the book "Eleanor & Park" for the high school "Rock the Book" summer reading program.  We at AHEM proudly stand by the professional judgement of our librarians. Here is an eloquent commentary that describes some of the many reasons we trust our colleagues in this matter: 

Part Timers and Q-Comp: We are getting a lot of questions and concerns about how part time members work with Q-Comp, particularly regarding pro-ration of incentives and workload. We have heard many valid points and will be discussing them at our Q-Comp Steering Committee meeting next week. If you are a part timer and want to weigh in, email us at

Good Question: Is my schedule right? This is a good time of the year to deal with schedule issues. If you have a concern that you may not be getting the right time for lunch, prep, travel, duties, etc. please call the office at 763.421.9110 and ask for David. He'll check out your situation and make sure we nip any errors in the bud.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bargaining, Red for Ed, Mini-Grants, Q-Comp Funds

Welcome to the first Weekly Update of the year. We'll be sending these out regularly to keep you apprised of the latest news in our union.

Bargaining and Tailgating: Our next bargaining session is Wednesday, September 18th, at the ESC in room 118.  You are invited to meet us in the parking lot that is along Ferry Street for a little tailgating beforehand.  We'll bring root beer floats at 4:00 pm to touch base before the 4:45 pm bargaining session. Stop by if you can for a little camaraderie or meet us inside for the bargaining session.

Comparison of AHEM and District Proposals: To see a side by side comparison of what the district and AHEM have proposed so far in bargaining, visit . It's a good way to get up to speed on where we are so far and be ready for our next session Wednesday, September 18th.

Wear Red for Ed:
We are tapping into this national movement to show support for public education and educators during bargaining.  As a show of unity as we negotiate and support for public schools, please wear red on Wednesdays. Not only is it our local union's color, it's one that those who are standing up for our schools all across the U.S. are sharing.

Mini-Grants for Your Classroom:
The Kappa chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, a national honor society for women educators, is again offering a mini grant of $300 for this school year.  These funds are available to a teacher in the district who would use them for enriching curriculum, providing specialized learning opportunities, or improving classroom materials.   To apply, simply write a short paragraph explaining how this grant would be used to improve student learning or increase teacher effectiveness and send to:  Marcia Johnson via email at  Applications must be recieved by September 27th and the grant will be presented at their October meeting.  The recipient will be asked to write a short paragraph at the end of the year to state how these funds made a difference.

Good Question: Did the district provide all the funds for Q-Comp? In our superintendent's back to school message, when he mentioned the funds for Q-Comp, some people understood that he was saying they came from our district's regular budget. He didn't intend his comments to come across that way. Q-Comp funds come in part from a separate grant from the state and in part from a separate local levy that school boards can assess without a referendum. Just as the funding is separate, we also consider Q-Comp separate from bargaining. We do not include Q-Comp in our financial offer or the costing of our compensation package.