New Year’s Resolutions

December 23, 2009

As we look to the start of 2010, and the rest of the school year, it’s a good time to review some professional tips and duties that can make our jobs a little smoother. Some of these suggestions are contractual obligations, others are simply good ideas for anyone in our line of work.

1. Know when your teaching certificate expires and how many credits you need between now and then.

2. Know who your building’s association rep. is and go to him/her first when you have a question.

3. Keep a log of all your parent contacts. Phone calls or emails to parents are a great way to communicate both positive and negative messages, and keeping track is an important factor in your evaluation and recording student progress.

4. Be careful what you post on your Facebook or MySpace site. Many teachers across the country (not in Parchment) have landed in hot water because of items posted. Be sure your “friends” don’t post inappropriate details about you (or a picture of you) that could also be accessed by a student or parent.

5. Remember that your classroom and/or office space technically belongs to the school district. Avoid keeping personal items where they could cause embarrassment. Never leave confidential office messages out where students or visitors could read them.

6. The same lack of privacy and security applies to your computer, shared server space and email. A good rule of thumb is that your computer files stored on district computer equipment are no more secure than paper files in an unlocked desk drawer. Email is not any more “private” than the things in your office mailbox. (It’s okay to conduct personal business from your school computer during unassigned time, but be aware that it is not private. It’s NOT okay to do political business from the school system, and is often a bad idea to do association communications this way.)

7. While it can be confusing, be aware of the requirements and contract provisions regarding use of sick leave, personal business leave, and funeral leave. Neither a sick day nor a personal business day typically requires explanation — but that doesn’t always stop principals (or others) from asking. If sick leave extends beyond three days in a row, the Family Medical Leave Act does require an explanation. Most sickness, however, is not FMLA covered — like a common cold or the flu. Also read your contract regarding the number of allowed days for funeral attendance and/or preparations. (A complete electronic copy of the contract is on this site.)

8. The Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act protects students and their personal educational records from public exposure. Never send an email with a student’s name in the subject line. Never leave IEPs or other confidential student records in a visible place. Post student grades with ID numbers rather than names.

9. Be sure to check the contract time lines for taking grad. classes and requesting tuition reimbursement. The request must be made before the start of class, and online classes have slightly different rules.

10. Don’t try to be a lone ranger! If your principal asks you to do something that seems unethical or violates the contract, obey first but ask questions as soon as possible. There are many gray areas in our contract, but something known as “past practice” governs those areas. If the administration decides to change something they’ve been doing for a long time, they have to give 30 day’s notice. We don’t work in isolation — teaming with other teachers and courses can enhance our students’ learning, and teaming with association members who have some experience can enhance our professional standing. Never be afraid of asking a “dumb” question — don’t we always tell our students that?

I hope you have a great 2010. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call or email or even leave a comment on this site. (Comments on this site are never posted publicly until after I read them and decide whether or not to publish them.)


Rumors or Truth?

December 2, 2009

A small school district like ours has many benefits that are known to us all. But a big shortcoming is the speed at which rumors travel. As you know, rumors are not reliable. This post is my attempt to bring you the truth as far as I can provide it.

One of our members has been accused of unprofessional behavior and is presently on paid leave. This member (who shall remain anonymous) has been represented by a building rep, myself, and our local MEA uniserve director. All of us are working to bring resolution to this matter.

Whenever any one of us is accused of misconduct there are certain processes that must be followed by the administration and by the association. Those processes are ongoing by both parties at this time. It is critical that we all do our part — association officials and members alike — to ensure that this member’s rights are protected. I am doing my part, and you can do yours by refusing to engage in speculation and the forwarding of rumors and hearsay.

Personal matters should remain private for the good of all concerned. Your local and state association take seriously your rights, and everything that we can and should do for this member has been and is being done. Keeping confidentiality is critical to ensuring that an accused member is not judged prematurely. I want you to know this: neither I nor anyone officially connected to this matter as an association official will reveal private and personal details. I would want this treatment and I’m sure you would as well.

The other rumors burning like wildfire through out district concern budget problems and possible mid-year cuts. There is a funding problem that will greatly impact our district, but no decisions have been made. What we DO know is that mid-year cuts will probably happen. What we do NOT know is where those cuts will occur.

The administration has a contractual duty to discuss any cuts that will affect association members with the President and chief bargainer before those cuts are finalized and announced. That said, the administration also has to have proposed cuts approved by the school board. Neither I nor the school board will knowingly “leak” information about cuts before the affected employees are contacted by their immediate supervisor. If you have heard a rumor from a “reliable” source, remember that any source willing to gossip about someone’s job may not be trustworthy! And again, if you were the one to be affected by a budget cut, you would much rather hear the bad news firsthand and not via the “grapevine.”

Here’s something that is not a rumor: we have a great contract, excellent association representation, strong leaders, and outstanding members. When I think of all the changes that have been mandated by the state, the federal government, and our own curriculum, and how superbly we have stepped up to these challenges, I can declare the truth that we have great teachers, counselors, librarians and social workers in our local membership. No one really knows how hard we work and how much we care about the education of our students like we do. No one comprehends the stress we’ve been working under for the last few years like we do. I know your dedication, your hard work, your integrity and your concerns. I’m doing all I can to ensure that we have the rights of our contract upheld. You can do your part by being sure you uphold the responsibilities in that same contract.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to send an email or add a comment to this site.