Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Bills Signed into Law

Governor Herbert has signed more bills into law, and some of them are not good.  He signed SB 59 substitute - Grading Schools (see Tribune article).  Schools will start receiving letter grades in 2012.

In addition, he signed HB 183 substitute - District Leave Policies.  This will hurt local associations where the district pays part of the release time president's salary.  This will not impact JEA.

HB 301 - School District Property Tax Revisions combines some of the local levies which provides less transparency but more flexibility in where the money can be spent.  This also allows districts one year, 2012, to raise local levies without a truth in taxation hearing.

SB 256 second substitute - Educator Evaluations was also signed.  This bill requires yearly evaluations of all teachers.  It also requires a study to be done on how to include student learning gains and parent, student, and community satisfaction in evaluations.

SB 38 - K-3 Reading Amendments modified the bill from last year on mid-year testing.

HB 87 - School Finance Amendments increases the amount of the voted leeway that can be raised by local school boards.

SB 73 first substitute - This bill forbids districts from using Last Hired First Fired policies for Reduction in Force or layoffs only.

It will be interesting to see how the evaluation bill works in some of our larger schools.

Superintendent Finalists Named

The three finalists for Jordan District Superintendent were announced.  They are Gregory Hudnall, associate superintendent of student services for Provo School District; Samuel Ray, principal of Provo High; and Patrice Johnson, associate superintendent of schools for Clark County School District in Las Vegas.  An open house to meet the candidates will be Thursday, April 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ASB Auditorium.  The Board expects to announce the new superintendent on April 19.

See Tribune article and the Jordan District website for additional information.  I found pictures of two of the candidates on their current work websites:  Samuel Ray at Provo High and Patrice Johnson of Clark County School District.

The following is from Karen Gorringe, Elementary Teacher on the Superintdent Search Committee.

"Dr. Greg Hudnall is currently associate superintendent of Provo City School District. He is very dynamic, and I felt like applauding after his interview. He is very inspiring and wants the challenge of making Jordan District the best. He started his interview by stating, 'I get up early each morning and can't wait to get to work.' He loves public education. In addition to that, he gets the legislative thing. He understands how and why we are struggling. He put in place a 10 and 20-year plan for Provo District to plan for the future. What a concept.

Dr. Patrice 'Patsy' Johnson is currently associate superintendent of the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada. Very dynamic lady. She wants to move here, because she states that she understands that our people are the most valuable resource. I also think she is very competitive and wants to make us the best in the country. However, she is proven, as well, the things that she has been able to accomplish in Vegas are great.

Dr. Sam Ray is currently principal at Provo High School. He is a Huntsman Award Winner as Principal. The reason? He knows how to keep kids in school and make more of what they are getting out of school. He has a program that he brought to his school that takes students international to projects. Very similar to senior projects only better with a humanitarian effort. In addition, he has a good working relationship with legislators. He also has done lots of research on our district and knows many strengths and how to fix weaknesses. Biggest thing, he will be in the schools. He is a people person."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Governor Signs More Bills

Governor Herbert signed the Education funding bill, which covers growth for the first time in three years.

He also signed SB 65 - Online Education, which will allow students to take online credits and the money would be sent to those online providers.  This bill has some fiscal problems that still need to be worked out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Retirement Dates

I wanted to reinforce what the District has posted on the Current Blog about retirement dates.  If you are going to retire, you must give 30 days notice or have a $500 fine withheld from your final paycheck.  See Current Blog for more information.

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Bills Signed by the Governor

Governor Herbert signed HB 199 - Advertisements on School Buses.  This bill will allow districts to sell advertising space on school buses and use the money in their transportation budgets.  This can free up money currently used on transportation in the Maintenance and Operations budget to go toward other items, or this money could be used to keep some hazardous bus routes.

HB 152 First Substitute - Community Council Amendments hurts teachers who wish to serve on their SCC.  If you live and teach in Jordan District, you are not allowed to serve as a parent on your own children's SCC.  You could serve as a teacher member on your work location SCC.

SB 115 - School Performance Reporting requires the State Board of Education to publich UPASS scores and whether a school has met AYP on their website.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Senate 10 Race

I have spent much of the last three days calling the Senate 10 candidates and asking education related questions of them. Actions often speak louder than words, and the voting records for Merlynn Newbold and Ken Ivory show that neither one voted with the UEA position more than 30% of the time.

Ed Loomis seemed open to working with JEA/UEA. Aaron Osmond wants to learn from JEA/UEA. Pat Malan admitted he did not know enough about education issues, so he may be willing to learn from JEA/UEA. From visiting with the candidates to date, it seems Ed Loomis and Aaron Osmond would be good for public education.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bluffdale School Visit

I had a good visit with the teachers at Bluffdale Elementary today during lunch.  I enjoy meeting members and talking about current issues.  Several teachers committed to contacting Governor Herbert about vetoing SB 59, SB 73, and SB 256. 

Governor Signs Some Education Bills

The governor recently signed HB 98 - Capital Outlay Funding Modifications.  This bill allows school districts with fewer than 2500 students to use capital funds for maintenance and operations.  This is good for those small districts that have lots of money sitting in their capital fund, because they have no need for new buildings, and not as much money on an ongoing basis in their maintenance and operation fund.

The governor also signed SB 206 - Labor Organization Provisions in Teacher Contracts.  This bill says that teachers can drop their Association membership and stop having payroll deduction of dues at any time by writing to the District.  Because this is current practice, whether that notification be in writing to JEA or JSD, this does not affect what we already do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Request from Lily Eskelsen

This is a personal request to all NEA/UEA/JEA members from NEA VP Lily Eskelsen.  See Ruel Eskelsen's obituary.

"My Dear, Dear Friends,

"The outpouring of love and kindness overwhelms me and my family. You did not know that my gentle Ruel suffered depression to the point that finally he could not think through the pain. I found him when it was too late when I came home from work on Friday. It has taken me these days with my son, Jeremy, and my sisters and brothers and our Mom to work through what happened. There are, of course, no answers when there is the darkness of mental illness. Ruel did not decide to end his life. The mental illness took my sweet husband away.

"I have had so many of you ask what you can do. I woke up at 3am this morning thinking of a way that only you can help. I need you to write a letter.

"Our second son, Jared, is in prison for theft. We adopted Jared when he was only 4 and he was already being treated for conduct disorders. Jared is not violent, but throughout his life his has acted out of anger for the abandonment, neglect and abuse he suffered in this early years. He steals. But I have always known him to be kind and generous and he was very, very close to his father. He called us twice a week just to hear a friendly voice, and he loved talking to Ruel about the latest book he was reading. He was hysterical when I had to tell him that his father was gone.

"Jared is not allowed to go to the memorial service on Saturday in Salt Lake City. He has not reached a level where he is allowed such a privilege. I am not angry. I want you to know that the Utah Education Association made personal appeals to the Governor and that the NEA made personal appeals to Senator Hatch and Congressman Matheson. I want you to know that the Governor, the Senator and the Congressman all put aside partisanship and generously tried whatever they could do to help. I am grateful to them all for the attempt. But the law could not be put aside, and I accept that.

"But you know that my friend, Dennis, is always asking us: When someone says, 'no', what can we do without anyone’s permission? In this case, we can show Jared that he is not alone. Not really. I am asking anyone with a pen and a piece of paper to write my little boy a short note telling him that they know he loved his Dad and that his Dad loved him. He loved going to his basketball games and he loved taking him camping and finding constellations of stars, all of us lying on the trampoline looking up at the night sky from the backyard, and he loved cooking dinner for him, even the time it upset Jared that he was making a ham stir fry and Jared cried because he thought he was cooking a 'hamster' fry.

"I write to Jared three times a week. Imagine if he got thousands of letters, all reminding him that he is loved. Jared may not receive any cards with glitter, glue or objects taped on. A simple card or better yet, a note, would make him feel the love that he will not be able to feel personally on Saturday. We are having the service video-taped, and I promised him that when he is out, our family will all sit together and watch it with him so that we can laugh and cry and hug. This is a great comfort to him.

"When his birth mother died he was 3, his foster family did not take him to the funeral. He talked about that when he was older. For a long time, he thought it meant she wasn’t really dead and that we were hiding it from him. It will be so hard for him to miss this service, and he understands that there are consequences for the action that put him in jail. He takes responsibility for that and does not blame anyone but himself. But this pain is bad enough. I don’t think I could bear it without all the arms that have held me in these last days. He has no one to hold him while his brother and I prepare things here. I wanted him to feel arms holding him, and now I want to do the next best thing. I want each of you to hold him in your love for me and for Ruel, and he will feel it as each letter comes in.

"Will you do this for me?

"You can reach him at:
Jared Eskelsen
Inmate #42555. Offender #141478
Utah State Prison
P. O. Box 250
Draper, Utah 84020

"Be sure that if you send a card, it has no glitter or glue. Please do this kind thing to bring some peace to a child who has had precious little peace in his life. And please pass this on to any other person who might help.

"I love you all,
Lily Eskelsen"

Monday, March 21, 2011

"We Are One" Rally

The "We Are One" Rally will be held Saturday, April 2 from 11:00 to 1:00 at the Utah State Capitol.  UEA and other labor unions are sponsoring the event in commemoration of the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. 

Lily Eskelsen's Husband Passed Away

Ruel Eskelsen's obituary is included here.

"Ruel J. Eskelsen was born June 18, 1954, in Durango, Colorado, to Quinn and Ruth Eskelsen of Brigham City. He died in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 2011. He lived a life full of love. He was a devoted husband to his wife of 38 years, Lily Eskelsen, and a generous and kind father to their two sons.

"Ruel loved books and jazz and hiking everywhere, but especially in our national parks. He earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Utah and received his master's degree in Library Science from Emporia State University in Kansas. He was proud to be a veteran of the U.S. Army and was an active member of the Unitarian Church.

"He is survived by his wife, Lily, their sons, Jeremy (Mike Hargreaves) Eskelsen and Jared Eskelsen, his father, Quinn M. Eskelsen, his brothers, David (Carla) Eskelsen, Doug Eskelsen, his sister, Amy (Don Standing) Eskelsen, and his grandchildren Quentin Smith and Nikita Eskelsen. There will be a celebration of the life of Ruel J. Eskelsen on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. at the First Unitarian Church, 596 South 1300 East, Salt Lake City, Utah. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the teacher scholarship fund endowed by Ruel and Lily, "Maestros Para Los NiƱos", made payable to the University of Utah."

Sympathy cards may also be sent to Lily and Ruel’s chidren:

Jeremy Eskelsen
Mark Hargreaves
2906 Ash Point Dr
Eagle Mountain, UT 84005

Jared Eskelsen
Inmate #42555
Utah State Prison
PO Box 250
Draper, UT 84020

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Legislative Council (AR) Meeting

We had a great meeting last night!  We reviewed what happened at the legislature, see UEA Under the Dome for a summary.  We heard speeches from candidates for JEA and UEA offices. 

NEA State Director:  Sue Dickey, Robin Frodge (recommended by AR's)
Jordan UniServ Representative to UEA Board of Directors:  Kevin Ball, Melissa Brown
Middle School Representative to JEA Executive Board:  Lauren Flygare
High School representative to JEA Executive Board:  Debbie Brown, Jack Duffy

JEA ballots are due Thursday, March 24 at 5:00.  UEA Elections will open April 8.

Japan Relief through NEA

On March 11, Japan was hit with one of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history, soon followed by a massive tsunami. As all of us have seen in the news, the death and destruction have been enormous. During this time of crisis, NEA is working with Education International (EI) to establish a Solidarity Fund that will assist our colleagues at the Japan Teachers Union (JTU).

EI reports that the prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima have suffered great damage. In addition to the immediate humanitarian needs around shelter and medical care, there will be longer-term needs around rebuilding communities and schools.

NEA is participating in the EI Solidarity Fund, which support education union members who are negatively impacted by natural and man-made disasters.

To donate, checks should be made out to the National Education Association, with “Japan Earthquake Solidarity Fund” in the memo line.

Checks can be mailed to:
Japan Earthquake Solidarity Fund
National Education Association
1201 16th Street NW, Suite 614
Washington DC 20036

All donations will be directed to EI to provide assistance in Japan. Thank you, in advance, for your generosity and good will.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Educator Day on the Hill Thanks!

I want to say thanks to all those who attended Educator Day on the Hill.  You were instrumental in helping legislators see the need to fund new student growth.  You also helped prevent some bills from passing that would have further hurt public education.

Teachers who attended, to my knowledge.  If I left you out, let me know, and I'll add your name to the list.
  • Pat Raymond, Valley
  • Margaret Pratt, Bingham
  • Michelle Jorgensen, Mountain Shadows
  • Robin Frodge, West Jordan High (twice)
  • Andria Robb, West Jordan High
  • Jack Duffy, West Jordan High
  • Jim Jaramillo, West Jordan High
  • Melinda Mansouri, Bingham
  • Marva Bennett, Bingham
  • Mallory Meyer, Sunset Ridge
  • Jannifer Young, Elk Ridge
  • Ginnie Raiser, Mountain Shadows
  • Karen Brown, Bluffdale
  • Debbie Atwood, Falcon Ridge
  • Vivan Gubler, Rosamond
  • Linda White, Rosamond
  • Susan Tolman, Jordan Hills
More pictures from the March 4 Educator Day on the Hill.

 From left to right:  Melinda Mansouri, Linda White, Debbie Atwood, Marva Bennett, Ginnie Raiser, and Karen Brown talking to Representative Merlynn Newbold.  In the upper right corner, Mallory Meyer, Jannifer Young, and I are talking to Representative Susan Duckworth.

The March 4 group:  Jannifer Young, Jennifer Boehme, Debbie Atwood, Mallory Meyer, Karen Brown, Vivian Gubler, Ginnie Raiser, Robin Frodge, Melinda Mansouri, and Linda White.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Salt Lake Tribune Articles Today

Some good news!  Senator Chris Buttars retires.  We need to find a strong, education friendly candidate from the West Jordan/South Jordan/Herriman area to run for his Senate seat.

Enrollment Growth Funded was the highlight of the legislative session.  The article also addresses the many policy bills that hurt teachers.

Lowest Bidder is a letter to the editor on SB 73 - Teacher Tenure.  We need to encourage the governor to veto this bill.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Joint Negotiated Committee

One of the issues brought to the Joint Negotiated Committee was the lack of attendance at High School  Parent Teacher Conferences.  Working together, JEA and JSD Administration designed surveys for educators and parents about ideas for changing the format of High School Parent Teacher Conferences.  If you teach in or have your own children attending a Jordan District High School, please go to the Jordan District website to take the survey.

Day Eight at the Legislature

Yesterday a bill was passed that will have long-term, unintended, and maybe some intended consequences.  The legislature passed SB 73 Substitute - Public School Teacher Tenure Modifications (H. Stephenson).  The bill says, "A school district may not utilize a last-hired, first-fired layoff policy when terminating school district employees.  A school district may consider the following factors when terminating a school district employee:  the results of an employee's performance evaluation; and a school's personnel needs."  See Salt Lake Tribune article for more.

Representative Joel Briscoe tried to amend the bill to be less harsh, but his amendment failed.  This bill is waiting for Governor Herbert's signature. 

JEA will work with career employee members who are being laid off without the District considering evaluation or school need.  The bill does not have an effective date, so it will most likely go into effect July 1, 2011.

I will post a summary of the legislature where you can find information about the bills that passed and the impact those bills will have on your daily work and career.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day Seven at the Legislature - Educator Day on the Hill

We had a good turnout for Educator Day on the Hill with 10 teachers.  In total, there were 45 teachers from around the state lobbying on your behalf.  As a group we were able to talk with many legislators.

We started by talking to Representative Jim Bird, pictured with Robin Frodge of West Jordan High, and thanking him for being a great supporter of public education. 
Then Representative Merlynn Newbold, pictured talking to Melinda Mansouri of Bingham High, spent quite a bit of time talking to several teachers.  Melinda was well prepared to ask questions about specific bills.  We asked many questions about Rep. Newbold's HB 313 - Charter School Funding.  She does not see why we view the bill as bad for education.  Go to my prior post about this bill to learn more.

Several of the teachers from Jordan live in Draper and Sandy and are represented by Representative Greg Hughes, seen with Karen Brown (left) of Bluffdale and Vivian Gubler of Rosamond.  They asked him about HB 313 - Charter School Funding.  His children attend charter schools, and he became defensive as the teachers asked more questions.  He said, "You are demonizing parents and children who attend charter schools," then he walked away.  It was a surprising interaction.

Ginny Raiser, a literacy coach, talked to her representative, Ken Ivory.  He listened intently and asked her some questions.  He is willing to meet with her after the session and have more dialogue.  This is a positive step.

Another friendly legislator we were able to talk to is Representative Joel Briscoe, pictured with Linda White of Rosamond.  He is a UniServ Director for Davis Education Association, so he does all he can to influence his colleagues on the hill to understand education issues and support UEA.

Congressman Jim Matheson was in town and spoke to us for a few minutes mid-morning.  You can see Mallory Meyer of Sunset Ridge, Debbie Atwood of Falcon Ridge, and Karen Brown in the background.  A question was asked about AYP and NCLB and how there are a lot of other factors besides the teacher.  He gave an example of the same teacher having 18 students who all come from stable homes or having 34 students with issues at home and how the test results would be different despite the teacher being the same.  He understands the variables we face in the classroom.

He said there is a positive relationship between teachers and the communities where they teach, and that relationship needs to be used at the legislature.

He was asked about the issues in Wisconsin.  He said there are 140+ items in the huge bill their governor has proposed in addition to the collective bargaining that haven't even come to the attention of the public.

Rep. Matheson emphasized the importance of attending caucus meetings to become county and state delegates.  He believes the majority of people in Utah are centrist in their views, but they don't participate.  Usually the extremists on both sides are the ones involved in the process of caucuses, become delegates, and select the candidates to go on the ballot.

NCLB should have been reauthorized in 2007, but it hasn't been yet.  He said that there is still a lack of clarity with new members of Congress.  Until they get their feet on the ground, nothing happens.  The budget is taking a lot of time right now.

His final thoughts were on curriculum.  He doesn't think the legislature should be making currciulum.  Parents may see the idea that students learn civics and character education as good, but if presented with the idea that the legislature is legislating curriculum, they would not like that.

We then went to the Senate to see if anyone would come talk to us.  The Senators do not come out of the chamber as readily as House members.  Since four in our group live in Senator Howard Stephenson's area, they put all of their names on the request, and we were summoned into the Senate office.  Senator Stephenson was very cordial.  He would like data on students being asked to leave charter schools.  He admitted that some teachers in charter schools are not certified, a different story than what we heard from Rep. Newbold and Rep. Hughes.  He admitted that some have higher test scores and some do not. 

Sen. Stephenson made an interesting point.  He said that when there is scarcity (lottery to enter a charter school), people tend to think it is better, because it is scare.  He said that is not necessarily true.  He still supports HB313 - Charter School Funding, but he was civil.  He had to cut our conversation off to make an amendment on a bill coming to the Senate floor.  It was to make the Association Leave bill harsher. The bill would have allowed up to 10 days per person to take days of leave for Association business and be paid.  He amended the bill to 0 days, and it passed out of the Senate.

After lunch, we listened in on the House for a while, but no education related bills came up.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Legislature Today

HB 301 - School District Property Tax Revisions by Representative Merlynn Newbold passed out of the House on a 39-31 vote with 5 absent.  This bill appears to be a companion to HB 313 - Charter School Funding Amendments.  See Utah Gravy Train blog for how the two are connected and how harmful they will be to public schools if passed. 

Please visit UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh's blog to see what is happening from her perspective.  Also, Under the Dome gives an overview of many of the 110 education related bills that are being followed by UEA.  Stay informed and active.  We only have 5 days of the legislative session to go!

Charter School Funding Bills

Please see the blog at UtahGravyTrain on Parents for Choice bills being run by Representative Merlynn Newbold.  The blog looks at the long-term impact of the two bills, HB 301 and HB 313.  Please contact your legislators and encourage them to vote against both of these bills. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meeting with Interim Superintendent Stoddard

I had my monthly meeting with Dave Stoddard this morning.  We talked about some policies to consider at our next joint negotiated meeting.  I also brought up the problems with going from year-round to traditional and traditional to year-round, which we both expect to happen over the next few years.  Currently, there are five candidates for the superintendent position.  Dave said he expects more applications to come in during the last week before the due date.  Dave also mentioned again that the School Board is making PLC's a priority.