Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NEA's Special Education Cadre comes to Oklahoma

On the 14th and 15th of August, the NEA's IDEA Cadre members were part of a special education staff development opportunity that included Harvard University Professor Dr. David Rose.

After Dr. Rose's presentation on the 14th, the Cadre members made up of NEA educators from across the United States, presented the latest in professional development to the teachers and support professionals in Norman.

The program was a cooperative effort between Norman Public Schools, the Professional Educators of Norman, the Oklahoma Education Association and the National Education Association.

Members of NEA's IDEA Cadre in the above photo are, from left to right: Judy Richards, Mary Binegar, Katherine Bishop, Ron Benner, Patti Ralabate, Rosemary King-Johnston, Patti Ralabate, Julie Moore, Sharon Schultz, Rosemary King-Johnston, Carole Walsh, and Ed Amundson.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Parental Help

As we start the new school year, this guide, from the National PTA, suggests ways in which parents can be help their child throughout the school year. (special thanks to Linda Nelson at ISEA)

School Guide 07-08
Top Ten Things Teachers Wish Parents Would Do:

1-Be involved. Parent involvement helps students learn, improves schools, and helps teachers work with you to help your children succeed.

2-Provide resources at home for learning. Utilize your local library, and have books and magazines available in your home. Read with your children each day.

3-Set a good example. Show your children by your own actions that you believe reading is both enjoyable and useful. Monitor television viewing and the use of videos and game systems.

4-Encourage students to do their best in school. Show your children that you believe education is important and that you want them to do their best.

5-Value education and seek a balance between schoolwork and outside activities. Emphasize your children's progress in developing the knowledge and skills they need to be successful both in school and in life.

6-Recognize factors that take a toll on students' classroom performance:
*Consider the possible negative effects of long hours at after-school jobs or in extracurricular activities. Work with your children to help them maintain a balance between school responsibilities and outside commitments.
*View drinking and excessive partying as serious matters. While most parents are concerned about drug abuse, many fail to recognize that alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, and common substances used as inhalants are more frequently abused than illegal drugs.

7-Support school rules and goals. Take care not to undermine school rules, discipline, or goals.

8-Use pressure positively. Encourage children to do their best, but don't pressure them by setting goals too high or by scheduling too many activities.

9-Call teachers early if you think there's a problem while there is still time to solve it. Don't wait for teachers to call you.

10-Accept your responsibility as parents. Don't expect the school and teachers to take over your obligations as parents. Teach children self-discipline and respect for others at home -- don't rely on teachers and schools to teach these basic behaviors and attitudes.

Thoughts and Prayers for Oklahomans

* For the Putnam City family for the tragedy at Putnam West.

* For all of those impacted by Tropical Storm Erin across our state.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Encouraging Mediocrity"...More on Merit Pay

"We should be rewarding success, not punishing it by encouraging mediocrity."-Speaker Cargill after a legislative hearing on the presentation of a merit pay system on August 21st.

Does this mean he believes Oklahoma teachers are mediocre?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You can't come in....More on Merit Pay

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the merit pay debate continued when the Speaker of the House held a press conference on the issue, but refused to allow OEA Vice-President Becky Felts to sit in the audience.

For years, when a conference has been held, non-members of the press have always been allowed to sit in on the conferences--so why the big secrecy? For more information on the conference check out our statement at http://www.okea.org/News/oeapr/081407pr.htm.

In response to the issue, OEA was asked to appear on Fox 25's morning news--which we did at 6:45am. After discussing the issue, Fox played a portion of it back to the Speaker where I'd responded to how insulting a blog entry was that said "To encourage people to perform their best, it helps to give them a reason to. When they know there’s a bonus or a bigger paycheck for a job well done, they’re more likely to go the extra mile. "

To say that we aren't motivated "to go the extra mile" is not only insulting and degrading, but shows a lack of understanding about the great Oklahoma teachers who are ranked 7th in the nation in teacher quality.

The Speaker stated on morning television that he was a teacher. (He taught economics at the college level as an adjunct professor.) I believe the 47,000 k-12 teachers in our state question whether the Speaker really understands what it's like to be in the classroom when he makes insinuations that we'd work harder if you dangled a carrot in front of our faces.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Back to School Events

Monday, August 13th-It is always great to get back and spend a little time with my colleagues in Stillwater. I taught 8th and 9th grade geography there before being elected to an officer in the OEA. Many of the teachers I've worked with over the years are still there. That is always a tribute to the commitment of our professionals no matter what district they are working for.

I enjoyed the back to school meeting and the opportunity to share the concerns of teachers regarding merit pay plans and extended school calendars. Teachers are extremely concerned about the direction this is taking us while avoiding the real issues of public education--lower class size, state of the art technology, updated textbooks and a quality living wage that would encourage more people to enter the teaching profession.

There are too many good friends in Stillwater for me to name them all, but I want them to know it was great seeing everyone.

Tuesday, August 14th--I traveled to Chelsea and met with President Debbie Hoskins and her membership. Chelsea is just north of Claremore and is really a pleasant drive. I got to meet a lot of great people in Chelsea and the local even signed up 5 new members during the program. Debbie does an outstanding job and I'm proud of the work she does.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back to School

Over the past few days, I've been attending back to school events for new teachers and general back to school events for all school employees. I'd like to share a few highlights with you during those events.

Wednesday, August 8th--I started the morning out in Norman at the new teacher hire meeting. Our local affiliate, the Professional Educators of Norman, PEN, held a breakfast and spent time getting to know the new teachers. Sandy Bahan, the past-president, spoke and introduced me. It was great getting to share the vision of the NEA/OEA-Great Public Schools for every child and the mission statement-to advocate for educational employees and to unite our members and the people of Oklahoma to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

PEN and the OEA were well received and we signed up many new members. I want to thank Norman Teresa Paine, President; Joan Abbott, Vice President; Kristina Crabtree, Treasurer; Sandy Bahan, Bargaining Contact; Twana Tate-Baker, secretary; Joy Garrett-Ferrales, Executive Committee Member and all of the building representatives and members who did a great job in representing their local affiliate.

After leaving Norman, I traveled to Yukon for the YPEA meeting and new hire presentation. OEA Director and Local President Alicia Priest spoke about the Association and then turned it over to me. I again shared the vision and mission statement with the new teachers and many of them signed up at the end of the presentation. It was another positive event due to the great work of our leaders in Yukon President Alicia Priest; Vice-President Maschielle Brakefield;
Treasurer Charlotte Lopp and Marti Brown; and Secretary Susan Wolff as well as a host of other building representatives and members who did a great job in representing YPEA.

On Thursday, August 9, I got to address the 2007-08 Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association Delegates as they began to plan and "gear up" for the new school year. Everyone is very concerned about the proposals for merit pay and the extended school day. They're very unified and would love to see a legislature "walk a mile" in their shoes.

The meeting also honored outgoing TCTA President Steve Stockley. Steve will be returning to his counseling position. Steve was an outstanding leader. Denzel Kesterson will be the new TCTA President and Denzel will do an outstanding job as well. Serving on Denzel's leadership team includes Patti Ferguson, 1st Vice-President; Katherine Holland, 2nd Vice-President; and Secretary Patricia Mott.

Friday found me at Putnam City for their PCTA annual meeting. After welcoming remarks and introductions by President Jan Sands, I had the chance to address the members concerns about merit pay and the extended school day. Putnam City members understand the importance of being politically involved, and led by Vice-President Eric Winkle, they raised nearly $7500 for the OEA Fund for Children and Public Education. This year's officers include Candy Chavez, Treasurer; Vicki Vaughan, Secretary; and members at-large include Wendi Tejada, Katherine Bishop, Kathryn Davis, Judy Berger, Jody Williams, and Vivian Rice.

After finishing up in Putnam City, I went to Moore for their back to school extravaganza. A number of teachers and support professionals made it for the free lunch and chance to visit with a number of vendors. Jill Dudley and her leadership team do a great job in Moore and it is always a pleasure to visit with them and all of the Moore ACT.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Merit Pay Problems in Texas

All we need is another level of bureaucracy in our government. Everyone should read this article about the largest merit pay plan in the country:

A couple of quotes from the article:
Critics of the $100 million merit bonus plan – the largest in the nation – said it's hard to know whether schools are any better for it yet.

"How effective can a merit pay system be ... where teachers have to think what is here today could be gone tomorrow?" Mr. Kouri said. "Essentially, folks are still doing the same things at schools, and sometimes they get money for it – sometimes they don't."

"Teachers here operate pretty much the same way they did before" the program, said Ms. Wise, academic coordinator at the school and a classroom teacher for 25 years. "Dangling that extra money out there didn't really make much difference in terms of classroom instruction."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teacher Essay on Merit Pay

Here is an interesting essay that was sent to me to look at--it's from a teacher in the trenches regarding merit pay. It sounds a lot like what the Oklahoma Education Association has been saying Oklahoma teachers want when it comes to this topic except that he teaches in New York City.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Ardmore New Teacher Luncheon

Today I drove to Ardmore to meet with the new hires in the district. The luncheon was held at the First Baptist Church. Our local members did an outstanding job making the new teachers feel right at home. After lunch, the local had a short presentation and then gave away a number of door prizes donated by local merchants. No one walked away empty handed.

The officers of the Association are Mary Mangham, President; Yvonne Judd, Vice-President; Patti Green Treasurer and Robin Gibbs, Secretary. All of the members in attendance represented the Association extremely well and I'm so proud of them. Ardmore is poised for a great school year and it's because of the team work in their local.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Broken Arrow New Teacher Luncheon

On Thursday afternoon, the Broken Arrow Education Association held a very successful new teacher luncheon for the new hires to the district. President Greer Nichols and his building representatives did an outstanding job putting the program and lunch together at the local Methodist Church.

Renae Smith took a number of quality photos, but for some reason I can't get them to download into the blog. (Sorry about that Renae. I'll keep trying to get them in.) The photos show a number of new teachers signing up for membership in the Association including Jason Maraviglia at Oliver Middle School, Mary Satterle at Childers Middle School and Johnnie Herring at Park Lane Elementary.

I want to welcome all the new hires to Broken Arrow and I look forward to seeing them actively involved in the Association. I also want to again thank all of the BAEA members who worked so hard to make this day a success--great job.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Attack

I want to alert you to another fundraising letter by the American Family Association that, at best, misrepresents positions taken by the NEA at the recent annual assembly. Not only does this letter ask for contributions to their cause, it is also conducting a poll for the support of vouchers.

As one of your representatives in Philadelphia, I would like to give you the true account of what did, and did not occur. NEA and our state affiliates are committed to great public schools for every child. Contrary to what the AFA says, the delegates to the Representative Assembly, not the executive committee, did accept a committee report from the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Committee to address the needs of students dealing with these issues. The committee’s recommendation did not include making sexual orientation training a requirement for earning a license to teach nor did it include any recommendation to teach kids to support same-sex marriages as stated in the fund-raising letter.

We know that it is extremely difficult for children to learn if they are being teased, bullied, or harassed. Schools should be “safe zones”--- places where students should feel safe and comfortable. A 2005 national survey, “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Teachers & Students,” illustrates a problematic chain reaction. According to the survey:

*Students who are harassed are more likely to miss classes. Missed classes can affect a student’s ability to learn.

*Two-thirds of teens say they have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted in the past year. The most common reason is physical appearance. The next most common reason for frequent harassment is sexual orientation.

*Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students are three times as likely as straight students to say they do not feel safe at school.

*Ninety percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students report being harassed or assaulted during the past year.

Our members should have the latest in up to date research in order to provide our students with a safe school. The Assembly did accept a recommendation for the NEA to support passage of federal hate crimes legislation in order to protect members and students from harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

If situations arise in classrooms, our members can ask the NEA for resources to address issues, not causes. Our members are concerned about the welfare of their students and want to ensure all students and parents are treated with respect. Our members encounter students that come from diverse backgrounds, and our goal is to provide the right of every child to learn in school environments that are free from intimidation or harassment.

We will not allow people to profit financially or divert us from the important issues that we face. Adequate funding for our schools, keeping the promise to get us to the regional average in salaries, discussions dealing with merit pay, increased school calendars with no additional compensation, a stable and well funded retirement system, affordable health insurance for our members and their families, and providing a great public school for every child are the issues at the forefront of OEA’s agenda.

Please let me know if you have heard anything in your local, your school district or your place of worship. I will be glad to address concerns individually or at a local meeting.

Thank you for the great work you are doing. I appreciate your commitment to the children of Oklahoma, our profession, and our Association.