Friday, September 30, 2011

Elementary Preparation/Collaboration Time Task Force

This negotiated Task Force met for the first time last evening.  We broke into groups of two to investigate what other districts are doing for preparation and/or collaboration time in elementary schools.  If you know an elementary teacher in another district, please send their contact information to me, so we can find as many options as possible to explore.

Middle School Issues Committee

I attended the Middle School Issues Committee yesterday afternoon.  There was a review of how collaboration time is being used.  It was impressive to me what the various schools are doing and how well it is working.  One idea that came up was to move the collaboration time from Friday morning to Wednesday afternoon as it was during the pilot.  I would be interested to hear what all middle school educators think about this topic.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rose Creek School Visit

Cindy Carroll and I spent lunch at Rose Creek Elementary today.  It was great to visit with the teachers, to listen to their concerns, and to answer questions.  I would like to visit at least one school a week.  If you want me to come to your school, just send me an e-mail, and we can work out a date and time.

Jordan Teacher of the Year

Kathy Bekkemellom, South Hills Middle, was named Jordan District Teacher of the Year at the School Board meeting last night.  Congratulations!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Education Nation Summary

The first section asked teachers about the baggage students bring to school.

The next portion was on technology use in the classroom.  One teacher said he is not high tech, but still uses innovative teaching methods including role-playing and simulations.  Another teacher used Skype to reach a girl who was in the hospital battling leukemia.

Melinda Gates was on talking about what makes a great teacher.  She said multiple measures need to be used including value-added, observations, specific behaviors like helping students who do not understand a concept.  She said we need to update the education system to the information age.  She commented, as many have, that education is necessary, because it is the great equalizer.

75% of teachers surveyed believe that higher salaries would help retain great teachers.  Others commented they would like more respect, support, or to not be the center of political reforms.

The next discussion was about professionalism, salaries, and evaluations.  Comparing teachers to other professions would elevate the teaching profession as a whole.  One teacher said we need to convince legislators we need higher salaries, because we do not work 9-5.  Evaluations should include value-added data, peer-to-peer observations, administrative observations, teachers giving back to the school, what students and parents think of the teachers.  "Just because we love our kids, doesn't mean we aren't professionals." 

Tenure does not mean you have a job for life.  Best person to evaluate is the person teaching across or down the hall.  "We need to get serious about peer evaluation."  Some concerned about this leading to a popularity contest.

Online educator talked about site-based management and not having to answer to a district office, though they do meet state standards.  Online essay winner talked about Superman and Wonder Woman being the students that come to school with the baggage from home.  "People in the classroom everyday know what students need."  "It is a shame we have to rely on philanthropy to fund education in areas across country."

Common Core State Standards help the future of education look more optimistic.  "Imperative that we are treated as professionals."  One wants performance pay based on evaluations.  Children within each classroom who differ, and we need digital tools to help with differentiation.

More funding for resources, collaboration, and excellent teachers make for a great school.  School reform needs parent and community involvement.  Senior teachers want to teach next to another great teacher.

Overall, the town hall was interesting.  My editorial comment is that the host, Brian Williams, needed to stop trying to be funny during his interim comments.  MSNBC will host additional programs throughout the week.

Friday, September 23, 2011

NBC’s “Education Nation” Summit

Live Teacher Town Hall on MSNBC.  Moderated by NBC News’ Brian Williams and facilitated by NBC News’ Chief Education Correspondent Reheema Ellis and MSNBC NewNation Anchor Tamryn Hall, this event will kick-off the Summit.  This event will be televised live on MSNBC Sunday, September 25 from 10 a.m. to noon and will stream live on Education Nation.

President Van Roekel’s “Window on Great Teaching” Session with NBC News Today Show Anchor Ann Curry on September 26.  This session will be streamed live starting on Monday, September 26 at 8:25 a.m. at Education Nation.  President Van Roekel will appear at 8:45 a.m.  The session will feature three classrooms around the country for a look at what effective teaching truly looks like.  Audience members will have the opportunity to go live into these classrooms and interact with the teachers and students. 

President Van Roekel media appearances and web presence.  Don’t miss President Van Roekel live interview on MSNBC’s NewsNation with Tamryn Hall on Monday, September 26 at 12:20 p.m.  Also, be sure to take a look at his Education Nation blog post on teacher quality at Education Nation.

Year Round Committee

The Year Round Committee met yesterday afternoon.  We discussed the problems with having a 3-track parent teacher conference last year.  The main concern was parking, but with scheduled conferences, parking did not turn out to be an issue.  We will be discussing conference dates for the 2012-2013 year at our next meeting.

Transitioning from year round to traditional was also discussed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Celebration - Successful JEA Member Blog

Rachelle Smith, first grade teacher at Herriman Elementary, has a successful blog (What the Teacher Wants), where she offers free tips and printables that align with the Common Core State Standards. She has over 3,000 followers and 15,000 hits a day!  Check it out.

I would love to hear from other JEA members about success in connection to their careers.

DAC - September 2011

The District Advisory Committee met last evening.  We discussed the results of the high school parent teacher conference survey from last spring.  DAC will be looking at options for restructuring HS PTC.

I am going to be on a committee to evaluate the transfer, placement, and hiring process.

The year round to traditional pay issues was discussed again.  Kyle Hansen, HR Director of Licensed Recruitment, is going to find out how many elementary teachers leave prior to the end of November in order to determine the cost of allowing teachers who move from a YR to a traditional schedule to stay on their 12-month YR pay schedule.

The law surrounding Legislative Supply Money states that "a teacher on salary schedule steps one through three teaching in grade . . .", which poses a problem since we have not had steps two of the last three years.  John Larsen in Accounting said the state distributes the money based on CACTUS, which shows years of service, not step placement, so the District will distribute the money based on years also.

If an issue is not being resolved by your SAC, and it is an issue being faced by most schools throughout the District, let me know so I can bring that issue to DAC.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meeting with Senator Aaron Osmond

Senator Aaron Osmond contacted me and wanted to meet so he could hear my thoughts on some proposed legislation he is considering.  He made it clear that these are ideas, that he wants input, and that he is malleable. 

We talked about his ideas, some of which are very different from most teachers.  He has asked me to put together a focus group of teachers who live in his area.  The boundaries are roughly from I-15 to the Oquirrh Mountains and from 7800 S. to 11800 S., but also includes Herriman, the Camp Williams area and a bit in to Utah County on the west side of Redwood Road (not Bluffdale or Riverton).  To see if you live in Senator Osmond's senate district, go to the Senate Map website and type in your address.

I would like to put a group of 10-15 teachers together to meet with Senator Osmond sometime the week of October 24 at 4:00.  Please let me know of your interest by responding on the blog, on Facebook, or by e-mail.

Legislative Council (AR) Meeting

Last evening was the monthly JEA Legislative Council meeting.  AR's were notified of a Death Benefit that will be withdrawn from your October paycheck.  Craig Peterson, a teacher and JEA member at Jordan Hills, passed away in August.  He was part of the JEA Death Benefit program.  All teachers enrolled in the program at the time of his passing will have $4 deducted from their October paycheck.  A check for almost $1700 was given to his widow and the deductions will replenish the account.

Several building concerns from elementary, particularly year round, schools were asked.  During the 2009-2010 negotiations, the 9 hours of pay for track on days planning was rolled into salary.  You are being paid, you just don't have to track your hours.  You are expected to put in the 9 hours over the 3-4 track change days.  Teachers who move rooms are still paid $100 when they track on.  If this is not happening, talk to your school secretary.

Options for holding PLCs were discussed.

There is no policy on the placement of students needing special services.  Some teachers have an overload of Resource, Speech, or ESL students.  One way some principals even in year round schools have handled this is to place all of those students first and then place all other students, distributing evenly those with special needs.

Class sizes in a grade can begin the year up to 5 different, i.e. one class of 20 and one class of 25.  Once school starts and students move in, they should go to the smaller class, but keeping siblings on the same track may mean that some classes have more than a 5 student differential.

Special service providers (Resource, Speech, Guidance, etc.) being part of duty rotations and committees was questioned.  This is done on a school by school basis at the principal's discretion.  One suggestion was that these faculty members take duty the first two and the last two weeks of the year when they are not servicing students.

The report cards for all grades have been finalized for this year.  K-5 have new Language Arts standards tied to the Common Core.  One AR pointed out that there is no Independent Reading.  Another school is doing Independent Reading for the Ken Garff Road to Success Program.  The "Language Components" should not be on the sixth grade report card, so the sixth grade teachers should mark N/A on all three terms for "Language Components".  The sixth grade Math standards changed to match the Common Core.  Other changes include more accurate descriptors of Social Studies and Science topics and Guided Reading Level benchmarks for each grading term.

We watched a video on the Early Years of NEA.  It pointed out how NEA was inclusive of women and minorities in the late 1800's, but then later laws prohibited that inclusion.

We review Sick, Personal, Alternative, and Bereavement Leave.  If you ever had a question about what qualifies, you can check the policy online or contact JEA.  We can help you through any of these leave benefits.

AR's reflected on their membership goals and made new ones for October.  Debbie Brown won the drawing for AR's who recruited the last 25 new members.

AR's were asked to set up a JEA e-mail list for members in their building and to provide me with contact information on one parent willing to serve on UEA's Parents for Neighborhood Schools.

I showed AR's the MyDeals app available for Android and iPhone.  You need your membership number for it to work.  If you cannot find your membership card, just let me know, and I will send it to you.

Thanks to all the AR's who attended the meeting. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thank You From Ogden

The following is a letter to all UEA members from Ogdan Education Association.

"We would like to thank all of our member friends around the state for their support in Ogden's fight to restore collective bargaining.   The news last week that we would be returning to collective bargaining, and that once again the Ogden Education Association (OEA) will be recognized as the exclusive bargaining representative for Ogden District educators, is a huge win for OEA members and highlights one of the major reasons to be a member of the Association.

"Without support from our members in other affiliates, we would not be back to the table.  If we were less than 50 percent in membership, there would still be no “talks.”  Dropping one’s membership only gives solace and support to those who would like to see our Association/Union go away.  Should that occur, there would be no one to represent your voice. 

"With what is coming in this year’s Legislative Session, it is imperative that we build UEA membership statewide.  The adage, "There is strength in numbers," has certainly been shown to work in Ogden.  It is important that we all unite in our efforts to bargain and communicate with our respective districts.

"We have seen the strength of the NEA and the UEA in the fight for public education across the nation and, specifically, here in Utah.  OEA leadership has worked diligently alongside UEA and NEA this summer, and the result was a huge win for Ogden members.   Now, let us show our unification as a state as we move into this new era of building relationships and communication.

"Thank you all, again, for your continued support of our teachers here in Ogden.  You can read the memo from our new Superintendent, Brad Smith, on our website at

"Yours in solidarity,
"Rick Palmer, Ogden/Weber UniServ Director"

School Board Meeting Summary

I appreciate the JEA members who attended the School Board Meeting last night.  West Jordan High was particularly well represented with six teachers there!

The Board approved bids for the Columbia playground, bus surveillance, and district-wide elevator maintenance contracts.

Also approved was the negotiated agreement ratified by JEA members last week.  Melanie Nixon, JEA member at Terra Linda, spoke to concerns about implementing policies that will further hurt teacher morale.  I spoke asking the Board for a plan to fund steps and lanes as part of a long-term and sustainable budget.

Other policies approved include changes to DP302 Substitute Teachers and DE502 Volunteer Services.  The Board also voted to implement Policy Governance.

New policy discussions on BP179 Advertising on School Buses and AS97 Management of Concussions and Traumatic Head Injuries due to new state laws.

You can follow my comments at School Board Meetings on the JEA Facebook Page.  You can also access proposed changes to policies at BoardDocs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

UniServ Council Meeting

The Jordan UniServ Council met this afternoon.  We approved the budget and contracts for the UniServ staff.  We also discussed membership activities and the upcoming transfer over to EFT for payment of dues.  The UniServ includes Jordan and Canyons Education Associations. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 UEA Excellence in Teaching Awards

Please nominate one of your JEA member colleagues for the Excellence in Teaching Award.  Deadline for nominations is Friday, September 23.

Council of Local Presidents

Today's Council of Local Presidents discussed the State School Board meeting from yesterday, the State Office of Education Educator Evaluation recommendations, legislative issues, the "How UEA is Perceived" poll data, and EFT transfer (E-Z Pay Dues).

We were also encouraged to attend the UEA Convention on October 20-21.  You will be receiving the program in the mail.  I also have New Educator Workshop flyers.  Let me know if you need those to give to student teachers or educators in their first three years of teaching.  See the UEA website for more information.

Friday, September 9, 2011

State Board of Education Meeting

I attended the State Board of Education Meeting today during the time they were discussing and voting on the proposed legislation about repealing the Orderly Termination Act, making teachers "at will" employees, and mandating performance pay.

They voted 9-3 to "support the concepts of moving human resources control to local school boards, changing the duration of a contract from perpetual to a time limit to be renewed (like every 3-5 years), and performance pay".  See Salt Lake Tribune article.

Kim Burningham (Bountiful) voted against stating that the legislation says local control, but then also says what the duration of contracts must be and that districts must implement performance pay.  He thought the bill was contradictory.

Larry Shumway, State Superintendent, said teachers would not be truly "at will" because they would have a contract for a specified length of time.  After that time, the district would not "renew" a teacher, but would "offer subsequent employment."

Carol Murphy (Midway) supported this because she believes the state will be forced into performance pay and wants them to be ahead of that.

Joel Coleman (West Valley) said it is harder to remove a teacher who is just not a good fit.

Laurel Brown (Murray), who voted against, said the data they have received is only anecdotal.  She wants empirical data on what needs to be changed.  She asked, "What is the problem we are trying to fix?" and "What are the positive outcomes?"  She also pointed out that this legislation would impact administrators and classified employees as well as teachers.

Ike Spencer (minority rep and principal at West Lake Junior High in Granite District) claims there is no way for him to get rid of teachers once they are no longer provisional.  Then he said it would take three years to fire a tenured teacher.

Leslie Castle (Salt Lake) claimed teachers fear being evaluated and feel entitled to their jobs.

Dixie Allen (Vernal, State Board Chairperson) said a "quality administrator can get rid of bad teachers."  She asked about the responsibility of administrators.  She asked Board members to consider where teachers are right now, what the legalities might be, taking away due process is wrong, and putting everything on the teacher is wrong.

Tami Pyfer (Logan) pointed out that the State Board can set provisions for consistency across the state and that the legislation allows for an opt out.

Martell Menlove, Deputy Superintendent, said this is not strictly "at will", just a limited length of employment expectation.  He said there would still need to be a process for firing a teacher including timelines and notifications.  There would not be a statewide performance pay, that that would be decided by each District.

Craig Coleman (Genola - South Jordan) supports giving authority to local boards, performance pay, and more professional development resources.

At this point, public comment was allowed.

Jim Johnson, Superintendents Association, said they need more details to form an opinion, but are concerned this is moving too fast, that all stakeholders need a chance to respond.

Kory Holdaway, UEA, speaking for Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh who is ill, said teachers are concerned that this was not a collaborative effort, that it suggests nothing about student improvement, and seems politically motivated.  Teachers are willing to support reforms when they are included.  Slow down and consider the current work being done on educator evaluation standards.  Kory then asked his own question. "Should it be easy to terminate teachers?"  He then stated that teachers are not afraid to be evaluated.

Jeff Leonard, Utah Support Employees Association, said this law is more harsh on classified employees, because they are not included in the five year contract, they are "at will". 

Pete, an Ogden parent, said this was a solution looking for a problem, that it will discourage new teachers, that in his experience "without cause" means "someone cheaper", that there is no data to support performance pay, that this will not improve schools, and it tells teachers they are the problem.

Derek Brown, House of Representatives District 49 (Salt Lake), said he applauded the Board for moving forward with local control since it is hard to terminate teachers.

Shirley, AFT, talked about her experience as a teacher and administrator.  She said poor teachers are still there because administrators don't do their jobs.  She said Utah educates more kids with less money and more of those kids go to college than other states, "Utah's teachers are glorious."

Tim Beagley (Charter School Board Member) said that charter schools would be exempt from this legislation.

Although the actual legislation may change, the concepts of leaving orderly termination to local  school boards, no expectation of perpetual employment ("at will"), and performance pay are on their way to the legislature with the support of the State Board of Education.

Jordan Education Foundation

The Jordan Education Foundation has a great new website!  On the left side is where the link for mini-grant applications will be.  Mini-grant applications can start on Monday, September 12 and the due date is Friday, October 7.  They have budgeted $65,000 for mini-grants.  Submit your application soon.

The Foundation has also decided to fund the "Leader in Me" program at 10 elementary schools this year.

October is going to be Jordan Education Foundation Donor Drive Month.  Look for more information on that coming later.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Executive Board Meeting

Last night the JEA Executive Board Meeting met.  The main topics of discussion were committee appointments and the JEA budget.  We also appointed Renee Sass, Oquirrh Hills, as the Special Certification representative due to the resignation of Karl McKenzie.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011-2012 Legislative Supply Money

I have received a couple of emails about Legislative Supply Money.  There was money allocated.  Elementary teachers on Steps 1-3 will receive $250.  Secondary teachers on Steps 1-3 will receive $200.  Elementary teachers on Steps 4+ will receive between $150-200, and secondary teachers on Steps 4+ will receive between $100-150.  These amounts are determined the first of December when the final allocation from the state comes to the District.

All schools will receive $100 per full time and $50 per part time teacher the end of September.  If you are Step 4+, I would recommend not spending more than $100 until the full amount is known.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Below is a message from UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh about legislation being proposed by the Utah State Board of Education which would repeal the Utah Orderly School Termination Act.  It would also require performance pay starting in 2014.

"This proposal essentially makes teachers and administrators “at will” employees. This means that you may be dismissed without cause. Needless to say, we are extremely concerned about this proposal.

"The UEA has been working for over 18 months on teacher/administrator standards and evaluation. This legislation does nothing to improve instruction because it is not tied to a valid and reliable evaluation system. In addition, it does nothing to protect or reward teachers but permits Districts to get rid of any teacher absent any accountability.

"EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, WE NEED TO INUNDATE OUR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS WITH EMAIL EXPRESSING OUR DISMAY AT THIS PROPOSED LEGISLATION! Our classified colleagues have begun their email campaign and the Public Education Coalition is in opposition to this as well.

"Right now, the Board is divided in their support of this bill. They need to hear from all of us. The link below will send you directly to the USOE website where you may email the Board members.

"I am asking you to send this to all your members ASAP with reminders throughout next week. We must stand strong on this issue. That means ALL members must be engaged in this fight! My thanks to you all."

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, M.A., NBCT
UEA President
2009 Utah Teacher of the Year

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Meeting with Superintendent Johnson

Laura Black and I met with Dr. Johnson this morning in our regular monthly scheduled meeting.  We discussed Itineris, pay issues going from year-round to traditional and traditional to year-round, and an exit survey.

Patsi expressed concern over politics in Utah.  She wonders why a small group of people elected as delegates have so much power at the conventions and leave the majority of contituents' voices out of the process.  She has noticed that many legislators have a particular issue and become representatives to change a law around one item or incident.  She recognizes that teachers need to be active in attending their caucuses and becoming delegates this March. 

JEA agrees.  We have been encouraging our members for years to go to their party caucus meetings to become delegates.  I know it is a long way off, but plan to attend your party caucus, usually a Tuesday night toward the end of March.