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.