Our 2011 Challenge

As we look forward to the rest of the current school year, there are several unresolved issues all of us should be aware of. Please read through the list and check the external links to be fully informed on your current status and the future in Michigan.

  • We have an approved contract for this year, and in March some of you will see pay increases.
  • The administration wants to remove everything in our current contract that is now (by law) made “prohibited subjects of bargaining” — including evaluation language, layoff/recall language, and transfer language, just to name a few. Some of the language they plan to remove is not prohibited and/or simply restates the current tenure law. We feel that keeping some language (that conforms to law) brings clarity to a new situation that is confusing.
  • We are still waiting for the administration to get on the same page regarding evaluations. What you have been told is critical (in their observations of your work and in your final rating) is different, depending on which principal you work for. If you teach in more than one building, you probably already have seen this.
  • The PEA needs your involvement, more critically than ever before. The top four elected officers of the association also form its bargaining team. This “doubling up” creates a great deal of stress on these individuals, which leads to burn out. We need members to step up and take on leadership roles (from President on down) or join the bargaining team. The more of us involved, the stronger an association we’ll have.
  • Negotiating next year’s contract will be the highest priority of the association. Step increases and “lane changes” (for earning advanced degrees) are no longer automatic. These have to be negotiated. And who knows what MESSA will have in store? Unless bargained otherwise, the contract spells out the maximum our district will pay towards our insurance. The state caps their contribution at 80%. If rates go up (and they always do) we’ll have to take a hard look at what we can afford and (perhaps) what other insurance providers can do for us.
  • November could be very interesting for two reasons: we may not have a contract in place (like this year) and there is an election. PEA member involvement will make a difference in both areas. (There is no way to know for sure, but our red shirt fiasco came right before the school board made some concessions to their entrenched position. Coincidence? Perhaps. Pressure? Maybe.)

For now, your best approach in the classroom is to continue doing your best. Add one more thing to that: documentation. Keep a log of your parent contacts (e-mail or phone). Keep copies of pre-tests, formative assessments and final (summative) assessments (keep the actual tests and the test data, to prove that there is student growth happening). Keep a record of any additional training you have taken. Keep copies of lesson plans used to differentiate instruction. No matter how you are observed and rated, have the “proof” needed to show that you are focused on your goals and on student learning.

To get an interesting perspective on what has happened (and will continue to happen) in this state, check out the articles below.

Cyber School Failure (from the NY Times)

Overview of Michigan’s education “reforms” (from Mother Jones)

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