Town Hall Meeting October 3rd

September 26, 2011

If you are available, here is an upcoming opportunity to see what some legislators are contemplating regarding school funding.

What: Discuss The Future of Education Funding in MI Town Hall
Where: Linden Grove Middle School, 4242 Arboretum Parkway, Kalamazoo
When: Monday, October 3rd, 7pm

Further Details: Democratic State Senator Bert Johnson is co-hosting this event with Mark Totten to discuss the impact and future of school funding in the district. Area superintendents, Senator Schuitmaker, Speaker Bolger, Representative McCann and Representative O’Brien have been invited to join the panel as well.


Politics — Unpleasant Reality

September 22, 2011

Most (probably ALL) of us decided to become teachers (or counselors, social workers, librarians, etc.) because we liked kids and loved our subject area. We wanted to change lives and make a difference. We didn’t think teaching would make us rich, but we hoped it would make us respected. After all, parents trusted us with their children and we did our best to reward that trust with well-educated, productive little citizens.

Now we are the focus of politicians who have made it clear that they see us differently. Since the 2010 election, legislators have passed (and Governor Snyder has signed) one law after another, radically affecting our pay, our health care benefits, our local control, our protections, our ability to focus on teaching, and even the specific content of what we teach.

Few of us (if any) enjoys politics that involves protesting, making phone calls to issue-deaf lawmakers, writing letters and talking to community members who have accepted the distortions about us that appear in the media.

However, the unpleasant reality is that big changes have come, and even bigger ones are on the horizon. The writing on the wall is that the current powers in Michigan will not stop until they have effectively neutered or dismantled the MEA and MESSA. And it can feel frustrating when you pay hundreds of dollars in dues money, only to feel powerless politically and vulnerable professionally.

Perhaps a good analogy comes from the classroom. No matter how carefully and thoroughly you might plan a lesson, when you finally assess your students’ learning, some of them simply have failed to learn the content. It isn’t because you didn’t do your best — you simply were fighting against factors outside of your control (poor attendance, lack of family support, below-grade-level skills, etc.). We wouldn’t think of blaming you for outcomes you couldn’t control. And we shouldn’t blame the MEA for failing to control a State Senate and House that is equally out of control.

If you truly feel that you aren’t getting your money’s worth for the dues you pay, please consider this: when MEA is gone, so will the following . . .


The rights in your contract

Your negotiated pay scale (replaced with whatever a given school board wants to pay)

Clear guidelines on where you work (and for how long)

A voice in setting the school-year calendar

And these are just a few of the things we often take for granted that would NOT be around today if MEA hadn’t been around in the past.

So ask yourself what have YOU done to turn the tide of anti-teacher sentiment in this state? How many phone calls have you made? How many letters have you sent? How many petitions have you signed? How many rallies have you attended? How much time or money have you given to MEA-PAC? How many positive public relations events have you attended? How many neighbors, relatives, parents and friends have you talked to about what Lansing is doing?

When you write that check to the PEA for your annual dues (yes, some day soon you will probably be writing checks instead of having payroll deductions) think about how together, the unified membership of the PEA and MEA can and will make a difference. We make a difference every day for our students. We can also make a difference in the politics of this state — but only if we are willing to face up to the challenge of this unpleasant reality.

For a place to start, click here or here. Thanks for letting me express my opinions. Feel free to comment if you share my views, and even if you don’t!



September 2, 2011

Our health care plan changed July 1st. For all of you on Choices 2, the monthly cost is $288.09. If you are having that taken out twice a month, it is $144.05 per check. Make sure they are taking the correct amount. The plan also has a $200/400 annual deductible, so if you met the previous 100/200, you’ll have to meet another 100/200 between July and December, and the 200/400 beginning in January. The co-pay is now $20 per office visit, and the prescription plan is called Saver Rx — the Messa website has a bit more information on the differences with that plan.

The 3% pension contribution that has been taken by the state since the beginning of last school year is still being taken. Other state employees have had theirs ruled as unconstitutional, but ours is still being taken while the issue works its way through the courts.

Your sick days and personal business days were added onto the last check of August, so the amount on the September 2 check should match that one, and this reflects your total leave days accrued.

Please remember to always check your pay stubs each pay period, because errors do happen.If you see something that looks wrong, contact Julie Chappie to inquire.

It was brought to our attention that elementary teachers lost two hours of work-day time due to the breakfast and evaluation meeting on Tuesday. We also heard that North’s principal gave two hours back on Thursday. If you feel you were shorted on work time, please let Tim S. or Carol B. know and we will contact administration for a remedy.

You will see the District publishing a “tentative” calendar that we have not approved or voted on. When we finally reach an agreement over the rest of the contract, you will have the chance to vote on the calendar too. The published one is probably close to what a final one will look like, but is not “official” until you vote.

Remember to mark your calendars for the next couple of opportunities to show your support for the kids of Parchment.

Sept 18 1-4 p.m. @ PHS, fundraiser for Kristin D. (PHS student) wheelchair lift.

Oct 14 5 p.m. @ PHS, Homecoming Parade (volunteers with pick-up trucks wanted!)

Wear your red shirt and show Parchment that its teachers deserve a settled contract because they are involved in the lives of the students.