May 27, 2010

Although our salary and benefits are set for next year, we still have to negotiate the 2010-2011 calendar and teacher evaluations. Newly enacted state law mandates changes to teacher evaluations (this is part of Race to the Top) and our current contract language does not comply.

Your bargaining team met with Julie C yesterday afternoon. We presented a draft calendar we had compiled after the calendar committee met and your survey responses were tabulated. Administration had no proposed calendar, nor any stated position regarding our draft.

We did not even discuss evaluations, as again, administration had no proposal to present to us, nor any clear position on the issue.

The district is responsible to comply with state law, and evaluations is a topic that must be bargained — they can’t just impose something.

We will wait to hear from administration about these two issues before attempting to negotiate further. We will keep you informed about these issues throughout the spring and summer. We will also provide information about health insurance options as that information becomes available.


Rally for Our Schools

May 25, 2010

We had a great turn out from Parchment for Monday’s rally. Lots of honking horns told us there is community support for public education. Enjoy the photos (thanks Nicole). Note: click a thumbnail for larger view.

Year-end Update

May 23, 2010

There is a lot of information to give you, and I’ll try to keep this as brief, clear and well-organized as possible.

1. At the general membership meeting, I presented members with salary and insurance information. This includes the 3% that will be taken out under newly enacted legislation. If you would like a copy of the numbers, please ask your building rep.

2. Please try to attend all or part of the “enough is enough” rally Monday. Meet at the middle school to ride the bus (4:00) or drive downtown yourself. The rally is from 4:30 – 6:30 — and it’s going to be HOT.

3. If you want to help PEA make a name for itself in our community, the following are volunteer opportunities:

A. June 5, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 Help paint for the Kindleberger Festival. No experience necessary, supplies will be available, and it will be fun. There’s no need to reserve a spot — just come when you can and stay for as long as you can. The painting will be done at the bandshell.

B. July 7-11 Help serve Plainwell Ice Cream at the Kindleberger Festival. Contact Nicole Berish if you want a “shift” during those days.

C. July 10 (Saturday) Ride on a truck in the Kindleberger Festival Parade (line up starts at 9:30). Contact Carol B. or Liz Harkins if interested.

4. If you would like expert advice regarding retirement and the impact from the retirement “incentive” on your decision, Kim Foster from MEA Financial Services will be at the Parchment Community Library on Tuesday, June 1st from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Please contact Nicole Berish if you will be able to attend. Feel free to bring your spouse to assist you in the planning. (Kim will give a general overview of the “incentive” and also be available to answer individual questions.)

5. The year-end recognition luncheon is Thursday, June 17. Since 2009, this has been a mandatory part of our final work day. Show your support for fellow members being honored.

6. Screen and Recommend: The KCEA PAC committee would like your help. In mid to late June, they will screen the Democratic candidate for the 61st house district. He is running unopposed in the August primary, and a local MEA endorsement now will help him later in November. If you are a PAC contributor (or would like to be) and are willing to give a couple of hours, please send your name, home email and home phone information to Carol B.

Also, after the August 3 primary election, there will be screenings of candidates from both parties for the November election. These will be candidates for county, township and/or city boards, as well as state house and senate seats. It has been thought that it will be easier to screen candidates in late August before school resumes than after. Again, if you are willing to serve on a screening & recommending committee (S & R) please get contact info to Carol B.

7. Random Statistics:

42 Parchment employees qualify for the retirement incentive.

35% of PEA members donated to PAC

36% of PEA members attended the general membership meeting May 20th.

25% of PEA members serve as officers or chairpersons for the PEA.

Thanks for what you are doing for your students and colleagues.

May 2010 — Spring is Here and the End is Near

May 2, 2010

In Parchment, this time of year typically means two predictable events: the debate over snow days, and the issuing of layoff notices. Both of these events have now occurred.

Sadly, we will be losing three very dedicated, hard-working, committed colleagues. They join the ranks of other Michigan citizens looking for work. The cost to these colleagues is nearly incomprehensible, as they have to make tough decisions about their family finances and cope with the emotional strain of leaving the classrooms and students they have given so much of themselves to. The PEA family grieves with them and promises to do all we can to see them restored to our family of dedicated Parchment educators.

PEA membership is the lowest I have ever seen in 29 years of teaching here. I fear that we are still not at the bottom of the economic mess that has brought us to this point. That’s why your willingness to do a couple more things might help turn the tide.

The first is attending our general membership meeting on May 20. Here you will learn what PEA leaders are doing to protect your job, your earnings and your medical coverage. You will also have opportunity to ask questions pertaining to your job, your building, your assignment and the district. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to find out.

The second event is Monday, May 24. The county education associations are planning a rally along Westnedge that day. Each local is being asked to send at least 20% of its members to this event that will raise public awareness of the importance of fully funding public schools. For PEA, this means at least 20 of our members who can participate. Please email Carol B. if you can commit a couple hours of your time (at this very busy time of year). More specific details about where the PEA group will assemble will be determined.

Another event planned by the MEA is a rally in Lansing on June 24. As I get more information about this event, I will post it here. It would be great to have some PEA members join their colleagues from around the state to get the attention of our elected officials.

What else? We are all still waiting for Lansing to make up its mind about retirement changes. The state senate and house have passed legislation, but can’t agree on the differences between the two versions. The house version is better and has the MEA’s endorsement, but the senate is not being very receptive to changing their bill, which is decidedly NOT teacher friendly. The goal of getting something passed in time for potential retirees to make decisions is slipping slowly away, and the legislatures aren’t meeting again until Tuesday, May 4.

When something does get passed, it is quite likely that all of us will be paying more of a share towards our retirement pension account. Whether you are basic or mip, you will most likely see an increase in the amount withheld.

We do have another year on our two-year contract. For 2010-2011, we are to get a 2% increase on the base pay. The current base is $33,343. A 2% increase will make the base for next year $34,010. We also have to pay any insurance increases ourselves. This will probably result in a net LOSS to each of our bottom lines. Those of you who are still moving up on the step scales will receive the base increase plus the step. You will then have to calculate out the insurance cost increase, and factor in the retirement contribution increase (when Lansing figures it out). Those NOT on steps will see a much lower salary improvement and the same decreases already mentioned. If you have (or will this summer) completed a Master’s or the 30 hours beyond a Master’s, you will do these calculations on the new salary column. Use the multipliers in the contract to do your math. (A copy of the contract is on this site.)

As soon as the 2010-2011 insurance rates are announced, you will be able to do the math to figure out your bottom line. Because MESSA has been required, by law, to calculate premiums using a different method than in the past, small groups like ours are rated, based on our usage (instead of being pooled with other groups from this area). That means that MESSA costs are directly related to our costs, which in most cases we have little control over. We have changed to higher deductibles for office visits and prescriptions. We have continued to bear more and more of the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. There is not much “wiggle” room left in controlling health care costs, but your bargaining team will continue to explore every option available and present all your options to you.

So despite the overall gloomy tone of this posting, I do sincerely wish you all a great spring. Keep doing what you do best — meeting the emotional and intellectual needs of the kids in your classroom. Have a good summer. And be sure to put May 20 and May 24 on your calendar!