Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New DEED Commissioner Michael Hanley

Newly appointed Commissioner Mike Hanley came into the NEA-Alaska Anchorage office for a visit last week. We discussed numerous priority issues such as what to do with/about the HSGQE, education funding, rigor in school programs and coursework, working together, the concerns members have had with certification, the importance of recognizing National Board Certification of teachers, and others. Commissioner Hanley also consented to coming to our Spring Leadership Academy in April to speak to members. He will be making a gradual transition from principal of an elementary school in Anchorage to working full time in Juneau. He intends to be living in the capital city and on the job completely by February. His big concern right now is making sure the students and staff of his school are taken care of and there is a smooth transfer to new leadership. I found Mr. Hanley to be professional, caring and a very good listener. He even jotted down my request that the Department stop using the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage since we are participants in boycotting of the property due to the continued lack of willingness on the part of management to settle the contract with their staff.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


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Saturday, October 30, 2010

We DO NOT use Member Dues for Political Action

Let's get one thing clear. NEA-Alaska DOES NOT use even one penny of dues payments from our members in political activity. Our Political Action Committee for Education (PACE) is a completely separate account and no dues money is EVER used for political action of any kind. The money used for communication in the political arena are collected outside of membership dues. I have had a few inquiries lately about this and want to make sure there is no doubt about this.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Professional Development Focus of Fall Event

Regionally appropriate offerings in the areas of bargaining and rights is the current direction we are heading with former offerings in our annual Fall Event. With this shift in how we deliver advocacy training, we were able this year to offer more in Professional Development for our members. Cultural competency, issues of importance in the area of education reform as reflected in bargaining, special education and the law, and other offerings took place over the weekend. This was the largest Fall Event we've ever held in the number of participants. Some sessions were overflowing the capacity of the meeting rooms in which they were held. I'm looking forward to reading the evaluations to get more response from those who attended. College credit was offered at the very reasonable cost of just $69!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How are decisions made?

Sadly, we can't please everyone. The best we can hope for is to make informed decisions and be earnest in our efforts. So often I am asked about decisions and why they are made. I am a homework person and I do everything I can to find out all the related information about a topic before coming to a conclusion. Many decisions are made along with other leaders and our staff in consultation. There are many inquiring about the PACE decision to support Lisa Murkowski for the U.S. Senate. This was a carefully discussed and thougthtful decision and was not made in haste. I have been responding to members who have concerns about this decision. They have every right to question the decision and I am doing my best to help them understand the process that was used.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Nation Rally in Washington D.C.

Today I was overwhelmed by the impact of the One Nation rally and march on the mall in Washington D.C. So many were there expressing concern over the need for Americans to have jobs, a place to live, food, health care, and opportunity. It was a non-denominational event, and it was a non-partisan event. This was a huge outpouring of concern and emotion about the state of so many in our country as they struggle to survive. I feel honored to have represented Alaska and NEA-Alaska members at this moment in our history.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Representing Our Membership

Much has been said lately about the decisions of the NEA-Alaska PACE. This is the committee that decides which candidates for office we will be supporting as an organization. It would probably be impossible for everyone to agree on every race, but we use a democratic process. The group consists of the entire Board of Directors, including officers and at-large members. Additionally, we elect one committee member for each of the regional directors. The current total of the committee is 61. Every member has a voice and every member can run for a seat on the board or PACE. I routinely encourage those who express disappointment in our decisions to get involved and make their wishes known. This is how we arrive at good decisions and it is how we get real representation.

This weekend I am in Juneau and Fairbanks. On Tuesday I head for Washington, D.C. to represent NEA-Alaska at meetings of our national organization.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Wow! Much has been stated in the last twelve hours via Facebook regarding the actions taken by the NEA-Alaska PACE. First, here are the facts about how the PACE decisions are made and who makes them. The committee consists of the entire board of directors and officers, along with one additional member elected per regional director at our statewide annual meeting. So, the board members and officers have been elected by all members who choose to participate in our elections. The delegates to the annual meeting from each region vote for the members who will represent them in the additional seats on the committee. This is a democratic process. Leadership of NEA-Alaska does not decide who these representatives are in isolation. The process is completely transparent.

In June 2010, the NEA-Alaska PACE selected and approved recommendation of Lisa Murkowski for U.S. Senate. The vote taken for this action was a 2/3 majority of PACE and we forwarded the recommendation to NEA. As of last Friday evening, we still had this recommendation. Yesterday, during the PACE meeting, the committee again chose to endorse Lisa Murkowski, again with 2/3 or more of the group approving. Again, transparent and elected representatives of the membership made the decision.

Why do I support the decision of the committee? I believe the two most important issues at the federal level for educators are the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, and the Government Pension Offset/Windfall Elimination Provision affecting Social Security benefits for our members. Senator Murkowski has been working on finding solutions to problems in NCLB since she went to Washington. She has been extremely receptive to ideas and suggestions we have presented. She has made sure decisionmakers understand what Alaska's needs are by bringing three Secretaries of Education to our state. She signed on immediately as a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal GPO/WEP and has not wavered in her support. I don't always agree with her decisions and votes, but I think about the impact on a daily basis that these two issues have for us. Those who think differently are entitled to their opinions. I will be voting for Senator Lisa Murkowski on November 2nd because she believes in the issues I care most deeply about.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Moving Forward

Many new changes are on our horizon. A dedicated and knowledgeable group of leaders, members, and staff has been meeting as an ad hoc committee to work on our organizational technology needs. We have been making specific recommendations and requests to improve our ability to communicate with each other and with our membership. Some examples of the work are improvements to the NEA-Alaska website, a plan to pilot response devices at upcoming meetings, use of technology to provide our board with information, and development of new formats for member engagement. Watch for these and many more changes in the near future!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Primary Election Results

Thanks so much to all who played a part in making sure Ballot Measure 1 was defeated! This was one of the top four priorities from the 2010 Delegate Assembly and our management team helped make sure the word got out through staff and members across the state. A special thank you to those who participated in phone banking!

We still wait for the absentee and questioned ballots to be counted and the election certified. NEA-Alaska recommended Senator Lisa Murkowski in the primary and we hope for a positive outcome once all is known.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How Nice When Politicians Get It!

On Monday I'll be joining U.S. Senator Mark Begich in announcing two pieces of legislation that will help public education in Alaska. The first will make the i3 grants a permanent mechanism for funding innovative educational plans. The second will provide added support for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) programs and focus on assistance to educators in related fields. I applaud the Senator's efforts in this area and appreciate his work to improve public schools in ways that make sense.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Huge Contributions, Tragic Loss

Former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens was among the five who perished in a tragic plane crash this week. Regardless of political differences, no one can dispute the huge contributions made by "Uncle Ted" to Alaska and to America. It surprised me to learn that Senator Stevens was instrumental in the creation of Title IX and the equity it provided. I was the beneficiary of Title IX's provisions as a student athlete. As a member of the University of Oregon women's golf team from 1974 to 1978, I was afforded opportunities no women previously were allowed. In today's world my daughter has no doubt about being a part of her college crew team. This is but one of the many ideas and priorities the Senator cared about. His presence and influence in Alaska and our nation will be missed greatly.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Let's Be Sure All Students Are Ready for the New Year!

Ah, there's nothing like new clothes and school supplies. It's the signal of the beginning of a new year at school. It's exciting for educators, support staff, parents and students. It's the promise of things to come. It's new learning, new friendships, and new horizons. Sometimes I worry that all the newness isn't so wonderful for our neediest youth. We know who they are. They are the ones who don't have anything new. They are the ones who come to us without the support systems in place that are needed for success. I noticed an ad on television the last couple of years where community organizations offer to help with start of the year essentials like coats and backpacks. This year I plan to see what I can do to help with this effort. Maybe we can initiate efforts like this in every community to be sure that EVERY student starts the year off with something new.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Higher Education and Career Readiness

Refreshing is the way I would describe the newly created task force on higher education and career readiness. The bill passed by the Alaska State Legislature this year established a group that had a specific agenda to be completed. We are to make recommendations as to needs in our state to set a direction for our students. The goal is to be sure that every student leaves high school ready to pursue whatever further training or work they desire, without needing remediation or fundamental skill development. I am encouraged by the intent of the group and the individuals who are participating. It's a group with knowledge and expertise. I admire them and am honored to be working among them. I'll keep you posted on what specific recommendations are being discussed. So far, we have only talked about current reality and haven't had deep dialogue regarding where we need to go.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Education Reform

Where is public education headed? This is a huge question and one that requires thinking about a variety of topics.

When I read about the "failure" of our schools I think about the very narrow definition based upon standardized testing and assessment. I submit that public schools in America, and specifically in Alaska, are NOT failing. American public schools today are faced with artificially set standards based upon the ideas of non-educators and expectations that are unrealistic.

How many Americans realize that Asian countries are currently revamping their educational systems to be more like ours? We represent the most creative, innovative, and inventive nation on earth. Why are we trying to be like countries who are now understanding that we have led the way to the future?

Do we have work to do in public education? Yes. Do we have schools that need improvement? Yes. We also have an obligation to include the community interests in what we teach and what programs we offer to our children. This is a big job and it will take all of us to work together if we are going to transform public schools.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

National Teacher Day

Teachers are trustworthy individuals who give of themselves every day of the school year. Today we honor their work by saying "Thank You" for the investment they make in our children. Teaching is much more than imparting specific knowledge and curriculum into our kids. Teaching is a commitment to providing a model of behavior and living honorably through respect and truth. Those who believe an education can be organized on a business methodology or that a person can learn to be a teacher in just a few short weeks are mistaken. Skilled practitioners take years to perfect their craft. The experience of a seasoned teacher cannot be replicated except through duplication of time and energy. There are no shortcuts to good teaching. I am awestruck every time I walk into the classroom of a professional educator who is bringing a love of learning and knowledge to the students who sit before them. Thank You to each and every teacher who taught me, my family members, my daughter. We are all better because of you!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Legislative Wrap-Up

The second year of Alaska's 26th Legislative Session ended last week. It was a good session in some respects such as education forward funding and money allocated for schools in high need for replacement. We continue to be frustrated at the ability of one legislator, the chair of any given committee, to prevent a bill from moving. There have been two such "roadblocks" in the last session. Representative Kurt Olson, chair of House Labor and Commerce, refused to allow HB 30 out of his committee. Senator Bert Stedman, Co-chair of Senate Finance, refused to allow SB 23 out of his committee. This lack of action is unacceptable and we will redouble our efforts in the coming year to move forward in our quest to return all public employees to a reliable defined benefit retirement.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Leadership

This year's Spring Leadership Conference was energizing! Members from across the state and presenters from across the country converged on the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage to learn and share. The majority of sectionals were offerings that had not been part of our training events in the past. New ways to look at bargaining and the role of local presidents were explored, as well as communications, organizational analysis skills, and minority leadership training were all included in the weekend. During a lunchtime presentation on Saturday, I tried my best to explain the alphabet soup and acronyms that are coming at us on a daily basis. It included such terms as ESEA, I3, RTTT, SIG, challenge schools, the four change models, and more. There is so much to keep track of and so much confusion that we felt it would be a good idea to help members try to make some sense of what's out there. I hope it was helpful.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Respect for Our Elders

We lost a greatly respected elder earlier this month. Merritt Olson will be remembered for his commitment to education in Alaska by all those who knew him, or knew of him. I can still recall meeting him for the first time. He was on the ASPIB board. He told me it was very important that I pay attention to what was happening in Juneau because it would impact my life in many ways. He was right and I have appreciated his willingness to share his perspective with me over and over again. Those who didn't have the chance to meet him or know who he was, must take time to understand what he meant to public education. Merritt's work to help establish a solid retirement for Alaska's educators was paramount in our ability to retire from public service with dignity. His efforts make it much more clear that we MUST win the battle to return all public employees to a defined benefit retirement. We must make our needs known and do everything we can to convince policymakers of the importance of a solid and reliable retirement to Alaska's future. Not only is it crucial to us, but it honors the work of our elders who pushed so hard to make sure we were taken care of into the future. Merritt will be missed by the entire NEA-Alaska family.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cat in the Hat Going to the Dogs!

Hugh Neff, veteran Iditarod and Yukon Quest musher, is headed for Nome and carrying a piece of Americana with him. NEA-Alaska has partnered with Hugh to promote literacy and the importance of reading in our Read Across Alaska project. When Hugh and the team, including leaders Annie and Watson, reach Nome they will hand the book over to Nome Education Association President Todd Hindman. The book is a gift to the children of Nome and we hope it will excite them into reading throughout the year. This is the first time we've had a statewide project plan in place and next year we hope to expand the effort.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Voting Has Begun

Members of NEA-Alaska can easily click on the voting button on the front page of our website, log in, and vote in regional and statewide elections. If a member needs their member identification number, all they need to do is call one of our regional offices in Juneau, Anchorage or Fairbanks and ask for the number. It just takes a few seconds. The new electronic voting system usage began last year and is continuing in this election cycle. It is easy to log in and vote. Members can even print out a receipt showing that they voted. A large number of local associations are using the new system also. NEA-Alaska Board members and Local Presidents will receive weekly updates on the percentage of members who have voted in each region during the entire thirty day voting cycle.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Juneau Open House

On Tuesday, February 16th, NEA-Alaska showcased our new office building in Juneau by inviting many of our friends, neighbors, legislators, members and the community to stop in and see our new digs. Everyone had a great time visiting, eating and touring our brand new building. It is exciting to think that we have the best spot in Juneau and that our board will have ample space to meet. The members of the Juneau Education Association stopped in to see where they'll be able to hold meetings and training offerings. The staff did a great job of giving tours and serving as gracious hosts for the event.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Anti Free Speech, Not Anti Corruption

The nerve of those outside our state who wish to determine what we can and cannot do is astonishing! Delegates to this year's annual meeting of NEA-Alaska voted to take a firm stand on the initiative that will appear on the primary ballot in August. The item is titled "Anti- Corruption" but is really an attempt to limit the ability of Alaskans to speak their minds. It will block individuals as well as organizations from political activity. This language has been peddled around the country and funded by a millionaire in New York. If this person has so much money to put into this type of effort, perhaps he would be willing to spend some of that wealth in helping our students! I stand ready to make suggestions as to how we can improve public education in our state and country.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

54th Delegate Assembly Underway

Tonight was the opening session of the 2010 Delegate Assembly. Speeches, televison ads, and nominations for statewide officers to be elected this year all took place, and it was an exciting evening! One of the nicest parts of DA is the chance to renew friendships from all over the state. I just wish there were more hours in a day so I could have the time to visit with everyone! Tomorrow it's on to caucus meetings, critical issues and committee work. Awards, words from a true friend of educators in the state legislature, acceptance speeches, a candidate forum, and a great social event with music and dancing for all take place tomorrow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Democracy at It's Finest

In the coming week we will gather leaders from across Alaska to set our direction for the next year. NEA and it's state affiliates, like NEA-Alaska, maintain one of the most democratic systems of decision making in the world. We insist on the principle of one person, one vote as we work to achieve our goals. Delegates to our annual meeting must be elected by the membership. They come from communities that are small and remote, and they come from towns on the road system. We hold a special opportunity for those who can only meet face to face this one time, called PARSA (Policy Assembly for Rural and Small Associations). Delegates to the annual meeting determine internal priorities and external priorities. This will be an exciting and VERY busy week for NEA-Alaska and I look forward to watching real democracy in action!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2010 Year of the Educator

I am declaring 2010 the Year of the Educator! This is the time for us to make sure our views are known and the public understands the need to insist that Alaska's schools are our highest priority. Who is the voice for making this happen? NEA-Alaska! We're positioning ourselves to have greater impact than ever in the upcoming legislative session. Want to know what's going on? Subscribe to the LCS message and get the latest delivered to your email account. We will also be posting updates on new twitter and facebook pages.