Monday, December 19, 2011

Holidays and Wishes

The holidays are a wonderful time to reflect on where we are and where we are going. The past year has been full of changes, disappointments, and rewards. As we look to the new year, let us remember we are educators. We care about all our students, regardless of their background, experience, support or lack thereof. We do our work with intent to provide the very best for Alaska's children and deserve to be acknowledged for our effort. Our priorities reflect our need to be certain the very youngest Alaskans are taken care of and to take be sure decision makers understand how important their actions are to our future as a state. During 2012 I intend to do everything I can and will ask all leaders to do the same to insist public education in Alaska be carefully safeguarded and protected.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Why It Makes Sense to Support President Obama

NEA-Alaska has a well-developed record of supporting candidates who support the concerns of our membership. We have a strong history of being truly bi-partisan in making decisions about issues, rather than  party affiliation. In 2012 we will go to the polls and decide the direction our nation will head. Will we maintain our ability to organize and bargain contracts? I hope so. Will we keep the fundamental middle class values we hold dear? I hope so. Last summer, delegates to the Representative Assembly voted to make an early recommendation to support the re-election of President Obama. This decision was based upon where all of the major candidates stood on our issues. While I don't agree with every policy and decision, the President supports unionism and our right to exist as a union. He supports making sure that all children receive a quality education and decent health care. He supports a strong and well-supported public education system for all. I have not seen or heard anything from his opposition that makes me believe they share my values and concerns. Please join me in supporting President Obama's campaign for re-election.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mission and Vision

Well over two years ago, the NEA-Alaska Board of Directors embarked on a journey to renew and revitalize our strategic plan. A diverse group of members, staff, and leaders worked diligently to develop new mission and vision statements that reflected our expectations for the state organization. The committee worked from their own perspectives and those of members across the state who were surveyed one-on-one to develop these statements. This was truly member driven action. In January of 2011, all Delegate Assembly delegates were given a copy of the two items for reflection. A presentation was made to explain the process, reasoning, and expectations. Throughout the process, all constituency groups of NEA-Alaska were represented and have had ample opportunity to give feedback. One change was proposed to the Mission statement in all that time. During the upcoming Delegate Assembly, 2012, we will ask the delegates to adopt the new Mission and Vision statements for the organization. I firmly believe this is the right direction and support passage with no hesitation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

American Education Week Coming Up!

American Education Week has been celebrated for 90 years in the United States. That's a long tradition of honoring the work of public school educators. Local Associations and our statewide NEA-Alaska take time to recognize the value of the work our members across the state do every day. They are responsible for making sure our children attend school in buildings that are safe, welcoming and provide a high quality learning environment. They connect with community members to help our society understand the importance of public education. Those who do not have direct contact with students help school district systems function properly in all ways, physically and intellectually. We encourage parents and community members to take time to say "Thank You" to school district employees. It is through their hard work and dedication that our students receive a fine education.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Event Success!

Over the weekend, a keynote address by well known educational historian and expert, Diane Ravitch, and fantastic training took place with over 150 members in attendance. There were workshops on technology and social networking, treasurers training, current trends in special education, bullying, brain research, and teacher evaluation and standards. The feedback has been extremely positive from those who participated. I want to thank our staff, management, and presenters who worked hard to pull it all together. They did a fantastic job!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization on the Move!

I have been asked to come to Washington, D.C. this week to help lobby for needed changes in the federal law that impacts every public school in America. Since the last reauthorization in 2003, educators have talked about needed changes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. You may remember that President George W. Bush termed the law "No Child Left Behind". It was a catchy term that took hold. Sadly, education professionals recognized that the provisions insisted we focus our schools on assessments. We fully agreed that high standards based on something we could measure was needed. One problem has been a requirement for teachers to be highly qualified in every subject they teach. This is difficult when teachers are assigned to teach classes for which they are not prepared or schedule changes happen due to student needs. Another issue is the concept of turnaround models for school change when not enough progress is being made. The difficulty of staffing a school in a small rural school is tough to begin with, and the added option of either closing a school (essentially closing the doors on a community) or changing the staff when it's already hard to find qualified and willing teachers, is almost impossible. I have meetings with Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich to talk about needed changes. They both understand many of our concerns and I look forward to speaking with them on the specifics of the bill and ammendments upon which they will make decisions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Alaska's Public Schools: Diverse and Wonderful

The next set of NEA-Alaska advertisements are being filmed in several locations around the state this week. The focus is on the widely diverse offerings available in our public schools. From charters to immersion programs to boarding schools, Alaska offers a tremendously wide array of offerings to meet the needs of our students. Focus on rigorous academics, preservation and celebration of indigenous cultures, arts curriculum, vocational and technical education are just some of what is available. I am very excited that the new ads will help the public understand all the fantastic variety offered in our state. The new ads are scheduled to begin airing statewide at the end of September. I hope they are appreciated and drive home the point that Alaska's public schools are fantastic, and those who work in them believe in the power of a public education!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Beginnings, New Concerns

The start of a new school year is exciting! There are so many things to think about and prepare for as we get underway. The tragic news this week of the plane crash near McGrath gives us pause. It makes us think about many things. First, we send heartfelt condolences to those grieving over the loss of two souls. The pilot and one teacher perished in the accident. The loss to their families, friends and communities will be felt for a very long time. I am also concerned about the young teaching couple and their children who were in the plane. They will survive and ultimately be ok physically, but I still worry about them. Will the community and children in the Anvik school be angry that they survived and another did not? Will they be able to help the community heal from such a tragedy? Will the school board of the Iditarod Area School District make sure their bills are taken care of? Their health insurance coverage does not officially kick in until September 1st. I hope we all check contract language to be sure staff members are covered from their first day on the job. This is important, especially if something happens during the beginning weeks of the year.

To everyone who works at a school, in a school district, attends school or has anything to do with a school in Alaska- Have a wonderful year and please let me know if I can help in any way!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Good Ideas Get Good Support Nationally

One of the best things about the NEA Representative Assembly is the debate and revision that leads to good ideas being supported. The NEA-Alaska Delegate Assembly voted in January to send an item to the RA. The language read: NEA work with other education organizations to create a national panel to systematically analyze current response to the increasing public attention and clamor for performance based and "value-added" teacher assessment. Unfortunately, the price tag for such a panel would have been a whopping $220,700. We worked closely with fellow delegates from Georgia and California to establish an ammendment that ended up passing. The revision does not take away the overall intent of the item, but reduces the cost to about $3,000. This was a good outcome for everyone and I hope will result in good information that can be shared.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three Big Issues in Chicago

This is an important summer. Three important decisions will be made by delegates to the 2011 NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago. The first is whether to make an early endorsement of Barack Obama for re-election as President of the United States. The second is approval of a policy to explain where we stand on educator evaluation. The third would implement a special dues assessment of ten dollars toward the NEA Crisis Fund. As always, NEA-Alaska delegates will discuss and decide how we feel about each issue. Each delegate will have an opportunity to listen and participate in the debate in our caucus meetings and on the floor of the Convention Center. While we often take a caucus position, delegates are free to choose for themselves and vote accordingly. Similar to our own Delegate Assembly setting direction for NEA-Alaska, the NEA Representative Assembly establishes the direction for NEA for the coming year. This year will be exciting and important. I look forward to working with our delegates again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


My daughter graduated from college on Sunday. It was a fantastic weekend of family, friends and LOTS of tradition! Throughout the entire experience I kept thinking about how important history is to our society.

I sat between my Dad and my husband for the ceremony. It was wonderful to hear my Dad talk of his own graduation from college, 63 years ago! His college experience had been interrupted by his service in the Army during World War II.

We remembered the weekend of my graduation also, and how much fun we had at a huge picnic put on by me and my friends for all our guests at a nearby park.

The traditions of my daughter's University are far older and more rich than those of the colleges I attended. The importance of assuring religious freedom for those who founded her school spoke to me and reminded me that the causes we fight for, even today, are so important to each individual. Tears fell and my pride in my child's accomplishment was overwhelming. The president of the University spoke of the education students received being crucial because of the emphasis in learning to think critically and question. That's really what we can learn from history. We can learn to look carefully and ask why and how so we move foward with better clarity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May and Away

As we think about summer plans and most of us prepare to be away from our jobs, it is a great time to think about commitment to our association. The work we do is not, as some like to say, volunteer. We are advocates for ourselves and for our fellow members. If "volunteer" means not getting paid, I guess most active members are volunteers, but I prefer to look at it in a different way. My belief is that those who provide service to the membership do it because they believe in the organization. I think they see it as an opportunity to make sure that an excellent public education is intimately tied to great educators. And when I say educators, I mean ALL who work in public education, not just those with direct student contact. If you are away from your job this summer, please consider the level of help you can provide to our association within the coming year. Can you spare time to help serve on a committee? Can you be a building representative who helps get information to and from the membership? Can you come to a meeting so you'll be fully informed? You don't have to be an expert because we can offer training to those who are willing to serve. Please consider this. Together we are stronger and can have greater impact than we already have. Enjoy the summer!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Loss of Two Educators

This week we have lost two educators and the pain is deep. First, we heard of a blow to the entire West High School family in Anchorage. Ten year veteran teacher, Dale Brabec, was enjoying his spare time at Bird Creek south of the city and an apparent accident took his life. My heart goes out to his young family, his students, and his colleagues. This morning I received word that Caroline Wolforth has passed on. Caroline was a longtime educator and proponent of alternative education programs. Her voice and hands were felt throughout the educational community for many years. She was a volunteer, she established many community-based programs, and was a strong advocate for children in Anchorage and Alaska. She shaped much of our thinking and action related to the work of community members and their impact on the lives of our students. She will be greatly missed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Winding Up and Winding Down in Juneau

The last days of the first session of the 27th Alaska State Legislature are upon us. The end date is April 17th at midnight and there is still much that has yet to be decided at this point. Late today, SB 84 (Senate Education) was given a Committee Substitute that looked little like the original bill. All reference to the Base Student Allocation (BSA)has been stripped out of the document. It now contains money for voc/tech (CTE)at about $11.5 million in total, tax credits for donations to intercollegiate activities, and $500,000 per year for a three year pilot in the Iditarod School District for a "theme based" program. Representative Les Gara tried to insert an increase to the BSA back into the bill. He, Rep. Guttenberg, and Rep. Doogan voted yes on the ammendment. All others voted no. They include Representatives Neuman, Costello, Edgmon, Thomas, Stoltz, Fairclough, Wilson and Joule. I wonder if these elected officials are considering the consequences for children in their school districts. Or, are they thinking more about pushing back at the Senate in a power battle?

Monday, April 11, 2011

First Ever Spring Leadership Academy!

Wow, what an exhilarating weekend of training and sharing! We offered four strands of training for members from across the state and the response was incredible! The new format and offerings are part of a new strategy to develop members as leaders. We offered something for everyone. There was training for emerging leaders, experienced local leaders, training for those interested in putting themselves into a greater role in a political sense, and a strand for those already in offices within the Association. We had two excellent keynote speakers, Armand Tiberio who heads up the NEA Pacific Region Office as Executive Director, and Paula Monroe from the NEA Executive Committee. Both speakers were inspiring and energetic. We all left the conference with real belief that "We Are One" and "We can get the job done!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We ARE one, we are EVERYWHERE, and we will NOT be stopped!

This week was inspirational. We stood side by side with leaders in our communities and talked about the impact laborers have had on middle class America. This was not just union members. These were board members, business leaders, leaders in our faith communities and ordinary citizens. We came together to show solidarity and unity. We came together to show decision makers that we believe in the ideals of the American dream. We believe our battles for equity are just and must be heeded if our society is to move forward. I thank all those who helped coordinate rallies, made signs, stood in the rain, honked the horns on their vehicles and everyone who supports our efforts. Outstanding rallies were held in Ketchikan, Juneau, Soldotna, Mat-Su, Fairbanks and Anchorage. We were there and we showed our unity with the communities in which we live and work to provide the very best to the children of Alaska!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Standing Together As One

Today's news highlights more attacks than ever on public schools and our nation's educators. Under the guise of budget cuts and other needs, those who believe unions are the problem with public education today are on the attack. They propose legislation that will gut our ability to organize education employees and protect the rights of our members. Ultimately, this harms our children because their teachers and other adults important to their success have to focus on survival rather than professional issues. We stand strong with our brothers and sisters in states across the country who are in deep battle to protect their rights. Members in Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Wisconsin and others have my full support!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A New Mission, A New Vision

Why we exist and where we are going are the focus of the new statements developed over the last eighteen months by the NEA-Alaska Strategic Planning Committee. This group thoroughly reviewed existing documents and whether they fit our current and future reality. The next steps are to get feedback and ideas from membership on goals and plans of action to move us toward realizing our vision and mission. Our UniServ directors and leaders will be asking for suggestions over the next few months. The NEA-Alaska Board of Directors will be developing goals and action plans at the upcoming retreat in June.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Annual Delegate Assembly This Week

It's the end of January and that can only mean one thing to activists in NEA-Alaska. It's DA week! Over four hundred members elected by locals across the state will converge on Anchorage and the Hotel Captain Cook to think, create, discuss, debate, and vote on our priorities for the next year. Up for a vote will be decisions on a new mission and vision for the organization and consideration of a renewal of a special dues assessment for our long range image campaign. This is always an exciting time for us and I look forward to meeting with so many members. We ARE the education leadership of Alaska and we're about to renew our committment to public education!