Voice The Nebraska State Education Association ď ś January 2012
January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 1
Opening Bell Upcoming Assignments Feb. 10-11, 2012 Intergenerational Mentoring Program n What: The eighth round in the NSEA-Retired affilate’s nationally-known program kicks off at NSEA Headquarters in February. n Details: Retired members pair with and mentor college and university students who are studying to enter the profession. Details on Page 22. Feb. 19 Filing Deadline for NSEA Offices n What: Nearly three dozen seats on NSEA district boards of directors are open, as are six seats on the NSEA Board of Directors. n Details: How to file, when voting takes place are on Page 13. June 19-21 NSEA Leadership Institute n What: Dates for the 25th installment of this event are now set. The program enhances leadership skills and broadens knowledge about the Association. n Details: Call your UniServ director at 1-800-742-0047.
On the Cover: the
This is the second digital-only issue of The Voice, and like the first, it is chock-full of news and information that we hope you will find both informative and entertaining. The digital edition provides every feature the Did this issue of The Voice print version of The Voice offers, including news arrive in the wrong and features, money-saving offers, tips and guide- e-mail in-box? Would lines for educators, as well as personal columns you prefer we from NSEA elected and management leaders. send to a different For the rest of the school year, we will continue location? Go to the on a monthly schedule that mixes print and digital NSEA website and editions. At the moment, the March and May edi- look for the icon tions are set to be digital-only versions. February in this box. Click on the icon to and April are scheduled as print publications, and provide your preferred e-mail address. That site is at: will also be available online. www.nsea.org The conversion to some digital editions is the result of budget cuts enacted by the NSEA Board of Directors in October. The goal is to continue to meet the needs of members while reducing expenditures in a strategic manner.
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Fulbright Fellowship Offers Foreign Study, Work The Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship, a part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, will begin in academic year 2012-13. The Fellowship will allow fellows to serve in placements in foreign government ministries or institutions and gain handson public sector experience carrying out an academic research or study project. Fellowships will be offered in Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Thailand and Tunisia. U.S. Embassies, Fulbright Commissions and host governments will coordinate appropriate professional placements for candidates in public policy areas. Candidates must be in receipt of a master’s or J.D. degree or be currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Applicants must also have at least two years of work experience in public policy-related fields. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 1. Assignments will begin in Summer/Fall 2012. To see the application, go to: http://us.fulbrightonline.org/applynow.html
From the moment they met in the lounge at Bellevue’s Mission Middle School, Trish Swoboda and Lori Ballinger were friends. No one could foretell how close their friendship would become. For more, turn to
VOICE Nebraska State Education Association 605 S. 14th Street Lincoln, NE 68508-2742 · www.nsea.org (402) 475-7611 · (800) 742-0047
Volume 65, No. 5 ISSN Number: 1085-0783 USPS Number: 000-369
Great Public Schools For Every Child Page 2 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
Executive Director Assoc. Executive Director Director of Public Affairs Assistant Comm. Director
Craig R. Christiansen Neal Clayburn Karen Kilgarin Al Koontz
NSEA BOARD OF DIRECTORS President Nancy Fulton, Wilber-Clatonia Vice President Leann Widhalm, Norfolk NEA Director John Heineman, Lincoln NEA Director Jenni Absalon, Lincoln
Official publication of the Nebraska State Education Association, Suite 200, 605 South 14th Street, Lincoln, NE 685082742. Periodical postage paid at Lincoln, NE, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: send address changes to The Voice, NSEA, 605 S. 14th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508-2742.
Published and mailed 6 times yearly according to this schedule: September, October, November, February, April and August. Published online in December, January, March and May. Payment of annual NSEA membership dues entitles Nebraska educators to receive The Voice. Total cost of producing 10 monthly issues of The Voice each year is about $4.84 per member. Advertising rates of The Voice are available from the assistant communications director. All advertisements and advertisers are screened prior to publication. Appearance of an advertisement in The Voice does not necessarily imply NSEA endorsement of either the product being advertised or the views being expressed.
From the President
NSEA President Nancy Fulton
While Janus may have been a mythical king, there is nothing fabricated about the need for your involvement in efforts to secure great public schools for all Nebraska children.
During my more than 30 years as an elementary teacher, I would start the year in January by talking about resolutions and why adults and youngsters alike make such promises to themselves at the start of the New Year. I would emphasize that a New Year’s resolution is really a goal that someone sets out to accomplish during the coming year. We would then brainstorm what might be some good and reasonable goals for third graders. For several days, I would have my students write a goal for themselves at the beginning of each day, and then reflect at the end of that day on whether they achieved that goal. New Year’s resolutions date back to the Romans, where mythical king Janus, the god of beginnings and entrances, was depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head, and one on the back. That gave Janus the ability to look forward and backward at the same time. At the end of the year, the Romans imagined that he could look back on past events while also looking forward into the New Year. Today, almost all of us resolve to make some kind of change at the New Year. You’ve probably seen some of the items on my annual list in other places: lose weight; exercise more; manage my time more wisely. I also resolve (every year) to keep our home’s dining room table looking more like a place for meals and less like an over-crowded desk. This year, 2012, will be different, I promise! Your NSEA Resolutions Your professional organization, too, must make New Year’s resolutions. Each year, NSEA staff and the NSEA Board of Directors set goals for the association. Those goals typically revolve around membership, bargaining intentions and legislative aspirations. The 2012 session of the Nebraska Legislative began on Wednesday, Jan. 4, and while the staff and leadership of NSEA will be at the forefront working on the Legislative Agenda (see Page 11), there are many ways you can help your association meet those goals. Consider that you can become an activist by: n Signing up to receive NSEA text messages at: http://nsea.org/text.htm
n Becoming a cyber-lobbyist by providing NSEA with your non-school email to receive our regular Legislative Updates. To do so, contact NSEA’s Cathy Schapmann at 1-800742-0047, or at email@example.com. n Making contact with your state senator or Gov. Dave Heineman via telephone, letter or email. Build a positive, local relationship with your senator and encourage investment in Nebraska’s public school students. n Volunteering to become a member NSEA’s Government Relations Committee and become a grassroots leader in working to support public policy and legislation that benefits children, preK-16 public education, and public school employees. n Inviting a senator or policymaker to spend time in your school for a day to experience the daily activities of your school. Show them your school’s successes. Let them meet the qualified and caring education employees in your building. Provide them with insight on how things actually operate inside your school as programs are being cut and class sizes are getting larger. n By getting involved in electing pro-education state and national leaders who understand that schools continue to do more with less. Nebraska’s student population continues to grow, and budget cuts mean fewer teachers – yet those teachers work tirelessly to meet new assessment requirements and standards; work tirelessly to close the achievement gap; and work tirelessly with an increased number of poverty-stricken and English language learners. Good Outcomes NSEA, as an organization, has firmly resolved to work toward good outcomes for public schools in the New Year. While Janus may have been a mythical king, there is nothing fabricated about the need for your involvement in efforts to secure great public schools for all Nebraska children. Your help is all-important in recruiting, electing and working with local, state and national leaders so that they understand the value of public education as we as educators do. Will you commit to making one more resolution? January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 3
Page 4 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
Certificated Employees Not Required to Declare Intentions Before March 15th Letters of intent distributed by school districts at this time of year are a serious matter and PK-12 educators need to be aware of their rights, according to NSEA Director of Member Rights Trish Guinan. On or after March 15 each year, Nebraska school districts are allowed to require certificated employees – teachers, counselors, speech pathologists, psychologists and others – to sign binding letters of intent and/or individual contracts. Those letters, in essence, signify whether the teacher intends to return for employment with that district for the following school year. In recent years, however, teachers have been asked to declare their intentions earlier and earlier, according to Guinan. In past years, some school administrators have distributed the letters as early as mid-January, but the early distribution date seems to be moving up every year. This year, in fact, employees in one Nebraska district received letters of intent on Dec. 1, with a request that employees respond within 10 days. “It’s been a problem for the past few years in some locations,” Guinan said. “But a school district cannot require teachers to make a commitment before March 15.” On the other hand, failure to sign and return the letter by stated deadlines that fall on March 15 or later is a serious threat to your employment. Nebraska State Statute 79-829, which addresses permanent certificated employees and contracts, says, in part, “the certificated employee shall not be required to sig-
As a member of NSEA, you can receive money-saving discounts on everything from hotel rooms, to restaurants, vacation packages and retail purchases. Here’s how to make the most of this exclusive membership benefit. Q. What is the NSEA Membership Access Card? A. It’s your Association membership card. It entitles you to all the benefits of membership and also gives you the ability to save cash at locations worldwide. Q. What discounts will I receive? A. Your card saves you up to 50 percent on purchases you make every day – at restaurants, hotels, retail stores, golf courses, theme parks and everywhere in between. With discounts at 250,000 retail locations, you’ll save wherever you are – or wherever you plan to be! Members who use the card frequently report that they recoup many times their Association dues investment. Q. How do I activate my card? A. Follow these three easy steps: n Click on the image of the mem-
nify such acceptance prior to March 15 of each year.” Guinan offered this advice: If administrators distribute such a letter/contract prior to March 15, and ask for its return prior to that date, a local association representative should fax a copy to Guinan or their assigned UniServ director at the NSEA (1-402-475-2630). In the meantime, an appropriate response to the letter by teachers is “I don’t know yet” or “I’m not sure.” If the letter is distributed on or after March 15, or asks for a return after that date, it’s important to sign the letter and turn it in by the due date. If you have more questions, call your NSEA UniServ director, or Guinan, toll-free, at 1-800-742-0047.
Delivery of NSEA’s 2012 personalized membership cards has been delayed. Your current NSEA Membership card, 10-digit ID number and Access discounts and benefits remain valid and can be used until you receive your new, personalized card in the next few weeks. The company that makes the NSEA membership cards was sold and the resulting freeze in production during the transition caused the delay. NSEA is working with the firm to produce and mail the cards as quickly as is possible.
bership card at nsea.org. n Once there, look for another pic-
ture of your card and enter your NSEA ID number (on the front of your card above your name) in the box provided. n Create your personal account by following the registration instructions. Be sure to sign up to receive e-mail updates of special deals and benefits. Be aware though, that some school districts will filter out these messages, so sign up using your personal e-mail address. Q. How do I get my discount? A. Most merchants require that you present your card at the time of purchase. Some may require a coupon that you print from the website. Check individual merchant pages for details. Q. How do I search for savings? A. To find participating merchants, enter the city or ZIP code where you live – or the city to which you will be traveling – in the box marked “find discounts” near the top of your screen. To refine the search, use the pull down “select your category” menu and click on “Find.” Q. What if I lose my card? A. Call NSEA at 1-800-742-0047. January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 5
A happy outlook: Trish Swoboda, left, reacts with mock disdain after Lori Ballinger planted a kiss on Swoboda’s cheek during a visit to Swoboda’s classroom. Swoboda donated a kidney to Ballinger in June. “My children and husband think she’s a hero,” said Ballinger. “I do, too — but don’t tell her that; she’ll say I’m getting all mushy and girly on her.”
When Bellevue Teacher Lori Ballinger Needed a Kidney Transplant, She Found a Donor Close at Hand When Trish Swoboda and Lori Ballinger met five years ago during a potluck in the Bellevue Mission Middle School teachers’ lounge, it was a case of instant friendship. Another teacher had asked Ballinger whether it was true that she was an assistant football coach. Yes, said Ballinger. The other teacher said she didn’t know of any female football coaches. That’s when Swoboda stepped forward. In her Wood River hometown a female football coach was not uncommon. Ballinger knew that fact, and the two struck up a conversation. They soon became fast friends. Since that first meeting, they have shared much. As NSEA members, they’ve worked through difficult building level personnel issues that drew their friendship even closer. Away from Page 6 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
school, the Ballinger and Swoboda families enjoy spending time together. Their friendship moved to a rarified level last summer, however, when Swoboda sealed the relationship with a most personal gift to Ballinger – a kidney. A bout with lupus had so damaged Ballinger’s kidneys that transplant was her only option. Swoboda immediately offered herself as a donor. She could only think about her friend’s children growing up motherless. “I knew that if I made the decision to get tested (for compatibility), I wasn’t going to bail out,” said Swoboda, a grades 7-8 art teacher and Bellevue Education Association vice president. Swoboda registered third in line, behind Ballinger’s father and husband – “it got quite competitive between them,” said
Ballinger. But compatibility factors, including universally-compatible O positive blood type, gave Swoboda the deciding edge. “It would have been one thing if the donor was someone I knew,” said Ballinger. “But to be someone in the same school building, and to be a good friend…”
“They all had to make sure I could meet the mental, physical and financial burdens of a transplant,” she said. “They want to give kidneys to those who can be the most successful in keeping them healthy.”
No Complaints Swoboda received a call from the surgeon’s The Side Effect office at noon on the last day of school. They The United Network for asked her to provide two Organ Sharing website indidates that might work for cates 277 Nebraskans curthe transplant, and June 14 rently await a kidney transwas selected. By the time plant. Twenty have waited Ballinger heard from the five years or more. surgeon, Swoboda had alThe National Kidney ready shared the date. According to the National Foundation says 87,000 Ballinger shared it with Kidney Foundation: Americans need a kidney colleagues at a building inn 26 million Americans (1 in transplant. Every two hours, service meeting the next 9 adults) have chronic kidney one dies. The list keeps day. disease. Most don’t know it. growing: every five min“I told them ‘some of n 20 million Americans are utes, someone’s kidneys you know that I need a at risk for kidney disease. Most fail. Against that backdrop, kidney. Trish has volundon’t know it. Ballinger is fortunate. teered,’” said Ballinger. n Early detection and proper She had her first bout “No one knew how to retreatment can slow or prevent with lupus 15 years ago. act.” the progress of kidney disease. While the cause is unclear, They might have been n Those at increased risk inlupus symptoms can be in shock. Said Swoboda: clude African Americans, Latinos, brought on by stress. Wom“People didn’t know she Asians, Native Americans and en, and particularly women was in need, or was sick. the elderly. of color, are most vulnerable She didn’t look sick, and n Risk factors include: high (see sidebar). she’s not a whiney girl. So blood pressure, diabetes or havWhen she closed her no one knew.” ing a first degree relative with science classroom in May those factors. 2010, Ballinger was in good Never a Doubt n 382,000 Americans depend health. Doctors had been The surgery was peron dialysis for survival. working with her to adjust formed at the University of n To learn more, go to the her meds, and she was temNebraska Medical Center. website at: porarily prescription free. On Day 2, doctors reduced www.kidney.org “I felt great for about Ballinger’s painkillers to two months, until my legs Tylenol. Even so, she was swelled up,” she said. A up and walking. checkup revealed decreased “They told me she was kidney function, a nasty luputting on makeup the secpus side effect. ond day. I told them to ‘get Because of her medicaher down here,’” laughed tion sensitivity, her course Swoboda. of treatment turned to cheTransplant surgery is a motherapy. As Ballinger debit tougher on the donor scribes it, the chemo is “like than on the recipient; Balla re-booting of your kidney inger was hospitalized for function.” Treatments started in three days. Swoboda was hospiJuly and went through January, but talized for four, and it was six weeks didn’t do the job. Doctors told her a before she was cleared to walk up stairs. transplant was the best option. But there was more ahead for Ballinger. As Four months were spent prepping and testsometimes occurs, doctors had inadvertently ing Ballinger, as well as testing donors. In addicut a large lymph vessel during surgery. Fluid tion to monthly blood tests, also on Ballinger’s had surrounded and was stressing her new kidchecklist was transplant clearance from an interney. A second surgery in early August patched nist, a rheumatologist and an OBGYN. Needed her up. Once again, her pain medication was dental work had to be completed. She met with limited to Tylenol. a nutritionist, psychologist, pharmacist, with fiMeanwhile, the coming school year was on nancial counselors and social workers. Ballinger’s mind. She had moved from her Mis-
All About Kidneys
The Facts About Lupus While it is more common than leukemia or multiple sclerosis, lupus seldom reaches the front page. Without early diagnosis, lupus can be deadly. Consider these facts, from Molly’s Fund, an organization that seeks to educate about lupus, and to spur work toward a cure: n Lupus is a widespread and chronic autoimmune disease that, for reasons unknown, causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues and organs, including the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood and skin. n Up to 1.5 million Americans are afflicted by lupus. n Symptoms include fever; fatigue; loss of appetite; rashes; hair loss; swollen glands; sensitivity to light; chest, muscle and joint pain; and ulcers in the mouth or nose. n Treatments include steroids, painkillers, and immune-suppressants, as well as behavior and diet changes. In March 2011, Benlysta became the first FDAapproved lupus drug treatment in more than 50 years. n Ninety percent of those afflicted are women; 80 percent are between the ages of 15 and 45. More than 16,000 Americans are diagnosed with lupus each year. n People of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians. n Living a full life with lupus is possible, but doing so relies heavily on early diagnosis and consistent treatment.
January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 7
sion Middle School science room to Logan Fontenelle Middle School to teach history. She had not yet unpacked, much less written plans for a substitute. With the help of former student, Ballinger readied her room on a Sunday, and was teaching when classes convened on Monday, Aug. 15, “because I’m German, and that’s the way I do it.” It had been just two weeks since the second surgery.
Ballinger feels better physically, though she says she’s not yet 100 percent. At weekly checkups, doctors still tinker with her anti-rejection medication and say they are pleased with the outcome. But doctors should have had no doubt that would be the case. Like good friends do, Ballinger and Swoboda were confident of the outcome. “We never thought it would not work,” said Swoboda.
Ballinger: ‘It Was Sweet of Them to Try’ Some Students Offered to Donate a Kidney The June transplant wasn’t Lori Ballinger’s first brush with mortality. Her first encounter changed her career path. “The first time I had a near-death scare, I quit my job, went back to school full-time and became a teacher,” she said. In December 2003, she was a branch manager at an Edward Jones office. She was losing weight, was tired and eventually became so sick she went to the Emergency Room. Her liver was shutting down in reaction to an arthritis medication. She spent a week in the hospital, was taken off her meds and began to feel better. The next summer, her boss went into business for himself, and Ballinger was offered a job at another branch. She opted to change careers. Five quarters at Peru State College earned her a teaching certificate and endorsements in middle school English, history and science. Her latest scare gave her prime teaching moments in her science classroom. It helped that her science students were studying the excretory and urinary systems at the time she was in final pre-transplant testing. “I was able to explain exactly how things work and what happens when the system doesn’t work,” she said. She has always been an advocate for organ donation, and has made it a part of her teaching. Last year, she was able to answer questions in detail. “I had a lot of kids wanting to talk to their parents and sign up to be donors,” she said. “Several of my former students tried to sign up to donate a kidney to me, but you have to be 19 in the State of Nebraska. “But it was sweet of them to try.” Page 8 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
Forever linked: Lori Ballinger, left, and Trish Swoboda were good friends before Swoboda gave the gift of a kidney.
‘That’s Why Middle Schoolers Laugh’
After learning she gave a kidney to a friend, some of Trish Swoboda’s students called her a “real life superhero.” She may not wear a superhero’s cape, but Swoboda said becoming an organ donor has made her a better person. “I appreciate life and health more,” she said. “I make it a point to do more on the weekends. I don’t stay at home as much, and I exercise more and eat less
– I want to get out and enjoy my family and life as much as possible.” Her classroom perspective has broadened. “I listen more and speak less,” she said. “I try to live in the moment, and not focus on the next step or phase in the lesson. Middle schoolers live this way all the time. That’s why they laugh so much.”
State Board of Education OKs Framework for Evaluation of Teachers, Principals When he started his teaching career in the mid-1970s, Jay Sears recalls that some teacher evaluation methods were simple checklists that included these items: n Wore a tie today. n Classroom was orderly and quiet. n Classroom was neat and clean. “Those methods really didn’t evaluate the teaching that was going on in the classroom,” said Sears, NSEA’s director of Instructional Advocacy. In most school districts, said Sears, the teacher evaluation process has moved far beyond the 1970s model, though antiquated methods remain in use in some places. Even those holdouts, however, should be encouraged to update methods after the Nebraska State Board of Education in November voted 8-0 to adopt the Teacher and Principal Performance Framework. The frameworks are part good practice, part response to pressures to come up with a statewide plan or face federal imposition of No Child Left Behind measures. The framework for teachers is aimed at classroom teachers, those cerdefine, but are not meant to encompass every detail of, Eftificated staff members with students in a classroom every fective Practice. Sears urged Nebraska educators to embrace day. the frameworks. Most states have already developed and adopted their “If teachers look at these practices, they will see what own evaluation systems, said Sears. Nebraska’s frameworks, they do every day. In the broad statements, maybe not so in the works since early 2011, took the best practices from much; but looking at the example indicators, teachers will other states; from renowned educator Charlotte Danielson’s see themselves. They’ll see the work they’re already doing,” work; and from the 2010 Interstate Teacher Assessment he said. and Support Con“If you went into sortium (InTASC); Defining ‘Foundational Knowledge’ the classroom of a among other sourcThe first of seven “effective practices” in the newly adopted Nebraska Performance good teacher, you es. A dozen NSEA members served Framework for Teachers addresses Foundational Knowledge, which is described as “the would see these inon the committees teacher demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of content, pedagogy, students, and dicators,” he said. The framework that developed the standards needed to provide each student with effective opportunities for learning, develfor principals inframeworks for opment, and achievement.” According to the Example Indicators for Foundational Knowledge, the effective teacher: cludes eight Effecteachers and prinn Possesses a strong command of the content and related instructional strategies in tive Practices. As cipals. the discipline(s) he or she teaches. with the teacher Focused on the n Understands research-based instructional approaches, strategies, assessments, and frameworks, NeK-12 classroom interventions. braska school diseducator, the framen Understands the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development of students, tricts may adopt work for teachers how they learn, and how they differ. or ignore the State lists seven Effecn Understands the effect of cultural and societal influences on learning for each student. Board’s princitive Practices. Each n Understands how national, state, and local standards impact teaching. pal effectiveness practice is comn Understands the components of an effective curriculum. posed of a broad n Accepts responsibility for the growth of student learning, development, and achievement. language. In fact, statement, supportTo see the entire set of frameworks for teachers and principals, go to the Nebraska Sears said, many ed by a subset of Department of Education website and look for the ‘Teacher Principal Performance Frame- of the state’s school districts already indicators – state- works.’ That website is at: have similar or ments that better www.education.ne.gov/ January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 9
more robust evaluation standards in place. In every case, however, effective evaluation is important to modeling good education practice. “If you don’t have some way to observe, evaluate and improve, your program is not moving forward,” Sears said. Sears said school boards or administrators may approach local association leaders about reviewing or considering adoption of the frameworks. If that happens, says Sears, “get involved in the process.” Sears said his office at NSEA would be pleased to work with local associations in those discussions. Sears said NSEA, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the Nebraska Association of School Boards and more than two dozen other education stakeholder groups will now begin to look at the next steps – development of a support system for the frameworks. That discussion will be facilitated by the Nebraska Department of Education staff. NSEA Member Participants NSEA members who participated
Page 10 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
New Statewide Accountability Plan Includes Student Growth Component Implementation to Start with 2012-13 School Year Nebraska school districts will soon be part of a statewide accountability program after the State Board of Education approved implementation of the Nebraska Performance Accountability System. In fact, test scores and other data gathered from the current school year will form the basis for the first school ratings in next November’s State of the Schools Report. However, it will take several years of data gathering before the program is completely operational. The state board’s 7-0 approval of the system in December included the goahead to begin the program with the 2012-13 school year. The program will include test scores, high school graduation rates and student academic growth. The growth aspect calls for tracking performance of students from year-to-year. Early plans call for the top-scoring schools to be recognized as “honor” schools. Those schools that rank at or near the bottom would receive “priority” designation. Consequences for struggling schools have not yet been set, but could include intervention, financial aid or, without long-term progress, sanctions, including loss of accreditation. in development of the frameworks included: n Tiffanny Heese, Winnebago n Cindy Serfass, Westside District 66 n Mary Schlieder, Norris
n Amy Kelly, Hastings n Linda Freye, Lincoln n Diana Casey, Omaha n Trish Guinan, NSEA n Jay Sears, NSEA
Strong Schools and Strong Communities Build a Strong Economy The squeeze is on. Students and educators are caught in the middle. On one hand, school district budgets are buttoned down by spending lids and levy caps. On the other hand, state aid to schools has flatlined, and a growing number of school districts aren’t receiving any state aid at all. The result: program cuts, larger class sizes, fewer opportunities for students, colleagues leaving the profession. What’s an educator to do? The best way to make a difference is to contact a state senator and the governor’s office. A member’s call to a state senator or the governor’s office can be a game-changer when an education-related issue is about to be decided. Meanwhile, NSEA members can be sure that the Association’s leadership will work tirelessly during the 2012 session of the Nebraska Legislature to ensure that state aid numbers do not regress – and that’s a real possibility given the climate at the State Capitol. The NSEA Board of Directors in December adopted a Legislative Agenda (see sidebar) that is strong on support for adequate school funding. Though funding will be front and center, there will be many education-related issues for members to watch. They include: Funding NSEA’s Legislative Agenda is based on the broad message of “strong schools, strong communities, and a strong economy.” A strong school results in strong communities, which foster a strong economy. NSEA’s objective for the 60-day session targets preservation of the state’s investment in public education. Gov. Dave Heineman and the Nebraska Legislature flat-lined state aid to K-12 public schools at $880 million for 2011-12 and 2012-13. That is $70 million less than schools received in 2010-11, thanks largely to federal stabilization funding accepted by the governor and Legislature. Further, it is $130 million less than the state aid formula called for to meet
Talking to the senator:These Lincoln-area educators spoke with Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery in November at an NSEA Capitol District Legislative Dinner. Seated, from left, are: Gail Swiggert,Waverly; Sen. Avery; Pat Etherton and Marcia Benner, Lincoln. Standing, from left, are Susan Stake and Mike Cobelens, Waverly; NSEA Associate Executive Director Neal Clayburn, John Heineman and Dave Hellerich, all of Lincoln.
NSEA’s 2012 NSEA Legislative Agenda The NSEA Board of Directors approved the following as the Association’s agenda for the 2012 session of the Nebraska Legislature: NSEA’s legislative goals for the 2012 session of the Nebraska Legislature include preserving the state’s investment in P-16 public education to ensure strong schools, strong communities and a strong economy. To that end, NSEA will work to ensure: state funding that supports quality education for every student; prudent management and funding of the school employees’ retirement plan; and the protection of collective bargaining rights. Education funding cuts will hurt students, staff, schools, colleges and our economy. It is in the best interest of all Nebraskans to keep schools fully staffed. Maintaining a rich curriculum and appropriate class size will help raise student achievement and ensure our state’s educational and economic competitiveness. NSEA will also work to promote and protect programs that will enhance Nebraska’s ability to recruit and retain quality teachers, higher education faculty and education support professionals.
needs of public schools in 2008-09. “NSEA needs members to tell the Governor and state senators why it is so important to support our public K-12 schools with at least the $880 million in resources provided in the budget for 2012-13,” said NSEA President Nancy Fulton. “Anything less will mean large class sizes, further reduced opportunity for Nebraska children, and even more
job cuts at Nebraska schools – cuts of jobs that contribute to the economy in every corner of the state.” Retirement, Bargaining An additional NSEA objective is to ensure fiscally prudent management of the state school employees’ retirement plan continues; preservation of the retirement plan; and continued protection January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 11
of collective bargaining rights. Mark Your Calendar NSEA’s annual Legislative Dinner is set for Monday, Jan. 30, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Lincoln. NSEA members from across the state attend and talk to their state senators about education issues. Last year’s dinner drew 40 of the Legislature’s 49 senators. For details, contact Cathy Schapmann at 1-800-742-0047, or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
$410 Million Less! State Aid Levels are Far Less Than Projected by Formula While state policymakers consider the repeal of the state’s corporate income tax – which would cost the state $155 million in tax revenue – state aid to public schools is projected to be $410 million less than estimated prior to passage of LB235 in the 2011 session. LB235 modified the state aid to schools formula in order to reduce the state aid investment for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 budget years. Under the current budget, state aid to schools is flatlined at $880 million each year. No increase. Worse yet: new projections show that the severe cost constraints contained in LB235 could reduce the budgeted state aid amount of $880 million for 2012-13 to $829 million – a loss of $51 million. If that happens, Nebraska schools in 2012-13 will receive about $10 million less in state aid than they received four years earlier in 2008-09! Prior to LB235’s modifications, the needs-based state aid to education formula showed an estimated need amount of $971 million for FY2011-12 and $1.06 billion for FY2012-13. “Tinkering with the state aid formula doesn’t change the need for our students or schools,” said NSEA President Nancy Fulton. To ensure every child receives a quality education, policymakers must fully fund an aid to education formula that truly reflects need: Appropriate class size; books and supplies and technology for students; a safe learning environment; quality before- and afterschool programs; professional development for qualified, caring and committed teachers and support professionals. Contact the governor and your state senator. Encourage them to increase the state’s investment in public schools to meet the original estimated need of $971 million. Share experiences and tell policymakers of the difference that resources make in the life of a child. “That would be good for our kids, good for our communities, and good for the economy,” said Fulton.
Follow the Legislature It’s so very easy to be in the know! Here’s how: n NSEA text message alerts: To sign up for the text messaging service, provide the requested information at this website: http://www.nsea.org/text.htm Or e-mail your first and last name and cell number to: email@example.com n Read The Voice: NSEA’s monthly magazine keeps members on top of the latest legislative happenings. n E-Updates: Add your name to NSEA’s e-mail list to receive regular legislative updates. You can also become one of NSEA’s cyberlobbyists. E-mail Cathy Schapmann at: firstname.lastname@example.org n On the Web: Follow the progress of bills on the Nebraska Legislature’s website at: http://www.leg.ne.gov Page 12 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
Will You Serve Your Association? Leadership is important to the health and future of your professional Association. Will you take a leadership role in determining NSEA’s future? Starting March 7, NSEA will hold elections for nearly three dozen district offices, along with several slots on NSEA’s Board of Directors. Those elected will assume leadership roles in determining the future of NSEA. The filing deadline for those ofdelivery of the digital edition of The fices is Sunday, Feb. 19. Voting will Voice. Nominations will be posted to take place from Wednesday, March 7, the NSEA website within 24 hours of through midnight on Friday, March 23. being filed. Note that NSEA’s Minority InvolveAs a step in the onment Plan encourages line filing process, all minorities to seek ofcandidates will have an fice. The plan says “It opportunity to provide shall be the goal of the Want to vote in the NSEA a 50-word statement Association to seek about their candidacy. minority representa- elections in early Voters will be able tion on governing and March? The online voting process to access that stateappointive bodies at requires that you ment during balloting. least equal to the per- have a valid e-mail It may be easiest for centage of minority address on file candidates to type the membership for that with the NSEA. If statement in a Word or appropriate level.” you want to proother text document beTo file for office: vide NSEA with your address, or fore beginning the proGo to the NSEA web- update your e-mail address, go to site and click on the the NSEA website at nsea.org and cess, and then pasting ‘2012 District Elec- look for the icon in this box. Click the statement into the tions’ link. Select your on the link and follow instructions appropriate box during the filing process. district, and then se- to update your information. If you do not have Inlect the office you are ternet, mail your name, interested in seeking. address, local association name and All persons seeking to file as a candidate 50-word statement to: NSEA Elections, will need their 10-digit NSEA member605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508ship identification number. Your num2742. Be sure to state which office you ber can be found on your NSEA Access seek. membership card; above your name on In all cases, the deadline for filing for the mailing label of The Voice; or above office is Sunday, Feb. 19. The NSEA your name on the e-mail that announced
Want to Vote?
NSEA’s Political Action Committee is supported by voluntary donations collected with NSEA membership dues. Support for the election of recommended candidates is provided by an annual contribution of $15 from each NSEA member. An NSEA member may request a refund of those contributions for the current membership year. Members may
also direct that the $15 contribution be used only for non-partisan issues. Refund requests must be in writing to NSEA President Nancy Fulton. Each letter must be individually composed, and contain an original signature of the member. Photocopied, computer copies or e-mail messages are not accepted. Each letter must indicate whether all or part of the contribution is to be refund-
website is at: www.nsea.org The vacancies:
Sandhills District Vacancies: District treasurer; district secretary; three spots on the district executive committee; one seat on the NSEA Board of Directors. Tri-Valley District Vacancies: District president; district vice president; district secretary; two executive committee seats from the East sub-district and one from the Central sub-district. Elkhorn District Vacancies: District treasurer; district secretary; five seats on the district executive committee, including three seats for two-year terms and two seats for one-year terms; and one position on the NSEA Board of Directors. Capitol District Vacancies: District treasurer; district secretary; two seats on the District Executive Committee, one for four years and one for a oneyear term; and one seat on the NSEA Board of Directors. Metro District Vacancies: District treasurer; district secretary; five seats on the executive committee (all even-numbered sub-districts); and two seats on the NSEA Board of Directors, one a three-year term and the other a one-year term. Higher Ed District Vacancies: District president; district secretary; and one seat on the NSEA Board of Directors. Panhandle District Vacancies: District president; district secretary; two executive committee positions, one in Sub-District I, and the other in Sub-District IV.
ed, or whether the entire contribution is designated for non-partisan statewide ballot issues. Requests must be postmarked no later than Feb. 15, 2012. Refunds will be returned after that date. Send your request to NSEA President Nancy Fulton, Suite 200, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508. The toll-free number is 1-800742-0047. January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 13
Hanging out with the President: NSEA member and Omaha teacher Maddie Fennell poses for a snapshot with NEA President Dennis Van Roekel following the Washington, D.C., unveiling of NEA’s Performance Assessment program. Fennell chaired the commission that developed the plan.
NEA Action Agenda to Strengthen Profession, Improve Student Learning Plan Seeks Performance Assessment of Prospective Teachers, Expanding Role in Evaluation, Leadership
increase the quality of teacher candidates before they reach the classroom; to make sure that teachers remain at the top of their game throughout their careers; and to improve student learning by improving the teaching profession. “It’s about the kids,” Van Roekel said. “NEA aims to ensure that every student has a qualified, caring and effective An independent commission has put forth a new action teacher. NEA will support a stronger profession of teaching. agenda that will guide the National Education Association’s “We have to ensure that teachers’ exgoal of transforming the teaching propertise isn’t confined to the classroom. fession and accelerating student learn“We must make it clear to the Teachers should have more opportuniing. public, in both our words and acties to strengthen their skills and knowlNEA President Dennis Van Roekel edge and inform policy decisions that unveiled the plan in Washington, D.C., tions, that student learning is at affect the classroom.” in December. Omaha teacher Maddie the center of everything we do.” — Maddie Fennell, Chair, Fennell, Nebraska’s 2007 Teacher Fennell chaired the commission. Incorporating proven best practices of the Year and a member of NSEA’s NEA Commission from thousands of leading teachers Board of Directors, was on hand for the on Effective Teaching around the country, and with input from announcement. the Commission on Effective Teachers “This agenda takes up some key recomand Teaching, Van Roekel detailed three major strategies mendations of the commission and addresses long-neglected that result from the commission. The strategies will seek to problems that have inhibited effective teaching,” said Fennell, Page 14 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
a fourth-grade teacher at Miller Park Elementary in Omaha. “It’s a crucial step toward more effective teaching and student learning and encouraging the union to meet those needs.” Fennell said the commission created “a mosaic; a vision of change that can be realized from the smallest school district to our largest urban areas.” But at the core is student achievement, she said. “We must make it clear to the public, in both our words and actions, that student learning is at the center of everything we do,” said Fennell. Three principles guide the commission’s vision: student learning; teacher responsibility for that learning; and effective teachers sharing in responsibility for teacher selection, evaluation and dismissal. “We envision a teaching profession that embraces collective accountability for student learning balanced with collaborative autonomy that allows educators to do what is best for students,” she said. That involves educators working with educators in the development of skills, knowledge and best practice to independently apply that knowledge in the classroom. “We share responsibility for student outcomes and collectively, our professional choices and judgment are honored,” she said. “As education professionals, this improves both our professional status and the quality of public education.” Said Van Roekel: “I am committing NEA’s strength and resources to making all these changes,” said Van Roekel. “Five years from now, we want people to look at NEA as a major catalyst for bringing about the kind of education all Americans want, all teachers can deliver, and all children deserve.”
Transforming Teaching Components The NEA plan to transform teaching has three major components: Raising the Bar for Entry No one knows what kinds of jobs our students may be competing for in the decades to come. The only certainty is that, in order to prepare the coming generations of students, “All teachers must be effective — period,” Van Roekel said. The first step, he said, must be to strengthen and maintain strong and uniform standards for those preparing for the education profession, both at the postsecondary-admissions and pre-service stages. For example,Van Roekel said that every teacher candidate should have one full year of residency under the supervision of a master teacher before earning a full license. He also said that every teacher candidate should pass a rigorous classroom-based performance assessment at the end of his or her candidacy. The NEA will urge broad expansion of the Teacher Performance Assessment now being piloted in states across the country to ensure that no one enters the teaching profession without first demonstrating classroom proficiency through clinical practice. Teachers Ensuring Teacher Quality Raising the bar will help ensure that only qualified and capable teachers enter the profession, he said. But as with any intellectually challenging profession, educators must make sure that their skills stay sharp. To that end, he called for advancing a tiered system of achievement for career teachers. Based on the commission’s recommendations,Van Roekel called for a new career path that has different compensation and responsibilities for novice, professional and master teachers. It makes sense, he said, for more advanced teachers to take on the challenges of the most difficult-to-serve students. Union Leadership to Transform the Profession As America’s largest education organization,Van Roekel said, it is NEA’s responsibility to move the field of education toward greater excellence. He urged that teachers take on leadership roles. The absence of practicing teachers at the policy table has led to inadequate and poorly designed policies. Teacher leadership, he said, needs to be more than a handshake agreement between a given principal and teacher. It must be integrated into the structure of school leadership to leverage teachers’ on-the-ground expertise. “When great teachers become great leaders, students reap the benefits,” Van Roekel said. In addition to working with teacher preparation providers to power new high-quality residency programs in the next few years and working to advance peer assistance and review around the nation,Van Roekel pledged that NEA’s training network will train 1,000 accomplished teachers for leadership roles across the country. He said the plan will also provide support and training for high-quality teachers to serve as mentors and faculty in teacher preparation programs, strengthening clinical practice to ensure that candidates receive the practical preparation they need.
Want to tap your hidden leadership skills? Then consider applying for admission to NSEA Leadership Institute, scheduled for June 19-21 at NSEA’s Lincoln Headquarters. About 30 NSEA member participants will be selected, on a first-come, first-served basis, to make the trip to Lincoln to improve their leadership skills and to gain a better understanding of NSEA’s role in promoting and preserving public education. At the Institute, you’ll spend three days honing leadership skills and building an understanding of the Association. All Higher Education, ESP and K-12 members are eligible to attend. Minority members are especially encouraged to
apply. The program begins Tuesday, June 19, and will conclude with a graduation luncheon on Thursday, June 21. Participants must attend all sessions. NSEA provides lodging and meals. The Leadership Institute Committee is now seeking nominees. All nominees will receive a letter, an application, and a timeline to respond during April. Application responses will be accepted on a first-come, first served basis. Space is limited. For details, contact NSEA at 1-800-742-0047 and ask for Kristen Sedlacek, Leadership Institute coordinator. January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 15
Robots and more: Papillion-LaVista teacher Renae Kelly is considering retirement, yet has invested time and money in renewing her National Board Certification for another 10 years. She is pictured with members of a Golden Hills Elementary School robotics class.
NSEA Members Among 6,200 to Earn National Certification
During the White House announcement, Thorpe referred to two recent studies showing that 55 percent of all board certified teachers work in high-need schools (according to the National Center Nebraska now has about 100 Renae Kelly earned her National Board for Education Statistics) and to a National NBPTS-certified teachers. NSEA Certification – the “gold standard” for members who earned first-time, Research Council report that found stu10-year certification in Decemteaching excellence – in 2002. dents who were taught by board certified ber were: Now, even as she contemplates possible teachers show higher gains on achieveJohn Becker, Millard. retirement, she has renewed her certificament tests than those taught by other Christina Cryer, Millard. tion for another 10 years. Kelly was one of teachers. Kirsten Ehrke, Millard. 10 NSEA members to earn National Board Kelly’s certification is good for 10 Elizabeth Gomez, Millard. Certification from the National Board for years – through 2022, should she decide Christine Kaldahl, Millard. Professional Teaching Standards in Deto stay in the classroom. Deborah Kruse, Westside. cember. A White House event heralded A voluntary assessment program deWendy Oldenburg, Omaha. the newest class of 6,200 board certified signed to develop, retain and recognize Michael Pollock, Papillion-LaVista. teachers, which brings to nearly 100,000 accomplished teachers, and to embed onMichelle Whitman, Fremont. the total number of board certified teachers going school improvement in schools nain the U.S. tionwide, National Board Certification is “National board certification is synonyachieved through performance-based asmous with great teaching,” said Ronald Thorpe, president sessment and testing that takes one to three years to complete. and CEO of the NBPTS. “While our nation is focused on While state teacher credentialing programs set the basic the need for the highest quality teachers, board certification requirements to teach in each state, National Board Certified truly is the gold standard.” Teachers must demonstrate advanced teaching knowledge, Though Kelly may soon retire from her post as an elskills and practices. Completion of the NBPTS certification ementary teacher at Papillion-LaVista, she envisions continprocess signifies that teachers have developed and demued work in education. onstrated the skills required of an accomplished education “I am on a mission to instill STEM (science, technology, professional. By completing the certification renewal proengineering, math) education in all educators and students cess, these accomplished teachers show that they continue as we move forward in the next generation of learning,” she to meet the nation’s highest teaching standards. said. “We need to find a way to get America back on top For more details, visit: with creative inspiration and productivity.” www.nbpts.org/2011NBCTs Page 16 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
Professional Development Awards Available for NSEA Members Educators seeking advanced degrees can have some of the costs of those degrees covered by a scholarship through the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska Professional Development Fund. The competitive scholarships are awarded three times each year, and the next deadline, for the spring term, is Saturday, Feb 4. All applications must be made through the NSEA website. Applicants will receive an e-mail confirming receipt of the application (if you do not receive an e-mail, call NSEA). Scholarships may be used to pursue an advanced degree, seek additional teaching endorsements or to take course work for certification requirements. Stipends may cover up to 50 percent of the cost of a single, three-hour college course. Each applicant may apply for scholarship dollars for no more than three hours of course work. Books and supplies are not covered. To apply, NSEA members must complete the application form on the NSEA website. The form will be posted on the
NSEA website through the Saturday, Feb. 4, deadline. Scholarship winners will be notified in March. The goal is to award stipends to the largest number of members from each of NSEAâ€™s seven governance districts. To be eligible, NSEA members must be covered by either single or family Blue Cross/Blue Shield health care. Previous applicants, successful or not, may re-apply. However, applicants may be scholarship recipients in only two of the three scholarship cycles during a school year. Winners must provide evidence of completion of course work at an accredited post-secondary institution before they receive the scholarship funds. All courses must be taken for credit. Since 1986, 4,593 NSEA members have shared more than $587,500 in scholarship dollars, thanks to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. The scholarship program does not affect Blue Cross and Blue Shield premiums. To apply, go to the NSEA website at: www.nsea.org For details, contact Sally Bodtke at 1-800-742-0047 or via e-mail at: email@example.com
January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 17
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NEA Member Benefits
Snookie’s Snippets Signs of hearing loss can be subtle and emerge slowly, or they can be more noticeable and come on suddenly. Enroll in the NEA Hearing Care Program and receive a free hearing screening for yourself and members of your family at a local provider’s office. The plan includes: n No enrollment fee. n Discounts of 30-70 percent on many brands Krumbiegel of top hearing aids. n A two-year warranty included at no additional charge with each Hear In America hearing aid. n Free lifetime hearing aid cleaning and check-up service. n Three years’ worth of free hearing aid batteries. Five Tips for Safe Online Shopping n Buy from a reputable company: Google and Bing search engines are helpful, as is checking with the BBB. n Protect yourself: Use a secure browser that encrypts, or scrambles, your personal information. Most emails aren’t encrypted, so never e-mail credit card or other information. n Pay with plastic: Credit card purchases are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Debit cards take money directly from your checking account; once it’s gone, it’s gone. NEA Member Benefits’ credit cards offer “virtual” cards which have temporary numbers that link to members’ accounts, but change after each online purchase. n Keep a paper trail: Print out a dated copy of the seller’s terms & conditions, the product warranty, an item description, company information, receipts, e-mails between you and the seller, and notes from phone conversations for your records. n Know your rights: Orders made by mail, phone or online must be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, then within 30 days. If your item isn’t shipped on time, you may cancel the order and demand a full refund. You may reject defective or misrepresented items at any time. Snookie Krumbiegel is Nebraska’s NEA Member Benefits representative.
Six Tips for Improving Your Credit Rating, Getting the Best Deals Staying on top of your finances, and particularly your credit history, is the key to getting the best deals when it comes to securing a mortgage, a car loan, or even a new credit card! Follow the tips below to improve your credit profile and your financial opportunities: Obtain your credit report annually. By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. Once you receive a report, review it to make sure all the information is correct. Call toll-free, 1-877322-8228, to order your report, and then monitor it regularly. Or go online to: www.annualcreditreport.com Challenge any incorrect or outdated information on your credit report. Contact the reporting credit bureau (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and advise them of errors. The bureau then must contact the creditor that reported the incorrect information. If the creditor doesn’t respond within 30 days, the bureau must remove the item and send you a corrected report. Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fact sheet, “Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself,” at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre13.shtm Take steps to avoid identity theft. When someone else uses credit in your name, your credit profile can be seriously damaged. You may want to consider NEA ID Theft Protection, available for as little as $19.95 per year. Click on the Every-
day Living tab, and look under “Discounts” at this website: www.neamb.com Manage your personal credit profile easily with these steps: n Develop a realistic budget and pay your bills promptly. n Contact your creditors right away if you’re having trouble making payments on time. n If you miss a payment, develop a repayment plan and do what you can to stay current. n Consider automatic payment from your bank account to ensure timely payments. n Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit card bill. n Take advantage of online resources to learn about how to improve your credit. Develop a strong relationship with your bank. Make sure your banker knows you and understands your personal situation. Seek guidance from reputable sources. If you seek help to repair your credit, make sure it comes from a legitimate source and is free or at a reasonable cost. Beware of credit repair or high-fee loan advance scams. Learn how to choose a reputable credit counselor at or seek assistance from NEA’s partner, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, at: www.debtadvice.org/nea To learn about credit and your home financing options, call the NEA Home Financing Program at 1-866-327-6385 and speak with a home mortgage consultant. Remember, the benefits of the NEA Home Financing Program are extended to parents and adult children of NEA members.
January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 19
This past year wasn’t only rough for the economy, it was a disaster or near-disaster for many Nebraskans who found themselves missing payments on homes, cards and credit cards. If you’re one of those Nebraskans, or if you live from paycheck to paycheck, perhaps you can use the money management tips listed here. NEA Member Benefits has teamed with the National
I open my bills the day they arrive. This may seem like common sense, but everyday people walk into one of our Agencies with grocery bags filled with unopened bills. Ignoring the problem won’t change anything, but facing the facts and developing a plan will.
I review my monthly creditor statement thoroughly. Consumers not only need to be aware of the amount they owe and payment due date, but should check their statement for unauthorized charges which could indicate ID theft, rate changes, credit limit changes, and any additional fees that might have been added on. Contact the issuer immediately if you observe anything out of the ordinary on your statement, or if the terms have changed.
I pay my bills on time. Late fees can be in the $40 range, and one late payment can ding your credit score by as much as 100 points. If you’re a procrastinator, travel, or are just unorganized, set up automatic bill paying to make sure you’re never late.
I record each check I write, along with any ATM withdrawals. Over-limit and Insufficient Funds fees can be as high as credit card late fees. Even if your financial institution allows you to exceed your balance, you’ll pay a hefty price for that courtesy. Record all transactions, and know where you stand at all times.
I do not max out my credit card limits. Utilizing all of your available credit will likely backfire on you. Creditors like to see people responsibly manage their credit by using only 30 percent or less of what’s available. Maxing out your cards could indicate that you’re in financial distress, and move you over into the risk category in the creditor’s eyes. That could equal higher rates and lower credit lines moving forward.
I track my spending and know where my money goes. You are relinquishing control of your financial future unless you have a keen awareness of your spending habits. Many people feel that having a budget would restrict them, but in reality a spending plan frees you to use your hard earned money exactly as you deem best. Track your spending for 30 days, Page Page20 20 nn The The NSEA NSEA Voice Voice nn January January 2012 2012
Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) to provide both free and very affordable financial tools and services to NEA members and their families. Either call the dedicated toll-free NEA member line at 1-866-479-6322, or visit the special Web page for NEA members at: www.neamb.com/debtadvice In the meantime, start by adopting the NFCC’s Ten Commandments of Personal Financial Health. organizing the results by category. Once you see your spending in black and white, it will put you in the financial driver’s seat where you belong.
I have at least one month’s income earmarked for emergencies. Unanticipated expenses have been known to wreck the best of budgets. Without a rainy day fund, when the emergency arises, you have to either pay for it by charging, often adding to an already burdensome debt load, or grab cash from another area, thus neglecting that payment. Start by putting 10 percent of each paycheck into an emergency account. At the end of a year, you’ll have a little more than one month’s income stashed away, which will be a welcome safety net.
I have three to six month’s income saved in the event I lose my job. Job losses have affected almost every employment sector, thus no one is immune from the pink slip. The time to prepare is now. Without a paycheck, cash is indeed king. Accumulating this much money can seem like a daunting task. However, no one has ever regretted having significant savings to fall back on during hard times. Recognize that you’re on a slippery slope if this element is not a part of your overall financial picture.
I have an annual insurance check-up. No one should be over-insured or under-insured. The way to avoid this is to review your policies once each year with your insurance agent. Make sure that you understand exactly what is covered and what isn’t, as the last thing you need in an emergency is a bad surprise. If you don’t understand the lingo, ask for further explanation. Inquire about ways to save on your overall insurance costs without sacrificing coverage.
I have a well-thought-out plan for tomorrow, and am executing it. People have short-term and long-term goals, and we need to plan for each. An example of a short-term goal is a summer vacation. Long-terms goals are things such as a college education for your children and your retirement. Such financial realities cannot be ignored, nor will they take care of themselves.
If You Hope to Attend NEA Representative Assembly, File Your Intentions Soon It may look months away on the calendar, but NEA’s 2012 Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C., June 30-July 5, will be here before you know it. More than 100 NSEA elected delegates will be among nearly 10,000 NEA members who will gather at RA, where they will debate issues and set the national Association’s policy. All active members are eligible to serve as a delegate. In addition, there are provisions for student members and retirees to serve. NSEA’s larger local associations — those with 76 members or more — will hold internal elections to select RA delegates. In all other cases, those who wish to be considered must qualify through one of the categories listed below and must file their intent to seek election as a delegate through the NSEA website at: www.nsea.org All persons seeking to file as a candidate will need their NSEA membership identification number in order to file. That individualized number can be found on each member’s NSEA Access membership card; above the member’s name on The Voice mailing label; or above the member’s name in the e-mail that delivered the digital issue of The Voice. In all cases, nominations will be posted to the NSEA website within 24 hours of being filed. If you do not see your name on the website list by March 7, contact NSEA immediately. When filing online, delegate candidates have the option of completing a 50-word statement that can be reviewed by voters. Except for NSEA-Retired, the deadline for filing is Sunday, Feb. 19. Questions? Contact NSEA’s Patty Schroer at: firstname.lastname@example.org Here are the categories: At-Large Delegates Any active NSEA member is eligible to place his or her name on the statewide, At-Large Delegate ballot by filing through the NSEA website. Those elected as statewide delegates will be reimbursed for transportation, lodging and meal expenses. Depending on several factors, four to five delegate slots will be available to At-Large candidates.
An idea. A video camera. Energy efficiency. Combine the three, and what do you have? A competition among schools to create an ingenious, 30-second message about energy efficiency. Nebraska Public Power District, along with its wholesale partner utilities, sponsors the contest, “It’s Easy Bein’ Green!” The contest gives students an opportunity to learn about conserving energy; to build awareness about energy-wasting habits; and to promote energy-saving alternatives – all by writing and starring in their own 30-second television
After receipt of the nomination information, potential delegates will receive details about the 2012 RA. District At-Large RA Cluster Delegates Local associations with fewer than 76 members have been grouped in clusters in each of NSEA’s seven governance districts for the purpose of electing delegates. There are approximately 10 openings for Cluster Delegates from the Capitol, Elkhorn and Tri-Valley districts; eight from Metro District; seven from the Sandhills District; three from the Panhandle District; and four from the Higher Ed District. Cluster delegates fund their own Representative Assembly costs. Members interested in being a Cluster Delegate to RA must complete the online filing process by the Feb. 19 deadline. SEAN Delegates Members of Nebraska’s student association (SEAN) elect their NEA representatives to the RA by statewide balloting. SEAN members wishing to be considered as delegates must complete the online filing process by the Feb. 19 deadline. NSEA-Retired Delegates Members of Nebraska’s retired affiliate (NSEA-Retired) elect their NEA representatives to the RA by statewide balloting. Four delegates will be elected. Two delegates will be elected at large; one delegate will be elected by the combined retired membership of Capitol, Elkhorn, Panhandle, Sandhills and TriValley Districts; and one delegate will be elected by the retired membership of the Metro District. An individual filing as a district delegate may also file for the at-large delegate position. Active members of NSEA-Retired wishing to be considered as candidates must complete the form on the NSEA website no later than the Feb. 4, 2012, deadline. More details can also be found in the NSEA-Retired newsletter, The Advocate, which will arrive in early January. Also required: a biography of no more than 50 words.
commercial. The last competition saw more than 40 videos submitted, with Norfolk Junior High taking top honors, followed by the Doniphan-Trumbull Public Schools. Energy efficiency and conservation are important parts of NPPD’s strategy to meet growing energy needs. The contest is open to Nebraska junior and senior high school students in communities served by NPPD and its utility partners. Entries must be submitted by a school sponsor, exactly 27 seconds in length, and should focus on creative and unique energy-saving ideas
for the home, school, farm, or business. Entries must be submitted by March 2, 2012. Qualifying entries will be posted online. A panel of energy industry experts will select the top three winners. The video with the most YouTube views will receive special recognition. The winning schools and students may be featured in NPPD news releases, social media websites and through other NPPD publicity outlets. Selected commercials will also be considered for professional production and possible statewide placement. For details, go to: www.nppd.com/videochallenge January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 21
Dykstra will Receive NEA Foundation Citation To be Feted at D.C. Awards Gala
Honors ahead: Millard teacher Matt Dykstra will be honored in Washington, D.C., in February. His family includes wife Tonya and daughters, from left, Maya, Kora and Tesa.
Matthew Dykstra, a K-5 Physical Education educator at Ezra Millard Elementary in Millard, is a recipient of the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for public educators. Dykstra is one of 35 awardees who will be honored at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 10, 2012. Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the gala attracts more than 850 of the nation’s leaders from public education, philanthropy and the private sector. As part of the honor, Dykstra’s school will receive a $650 award. Dykstra became Nebraska’s nominee for the honor when he received NSEA’s Teaching Excellence Award at the Association’s 2010 Delegate Assembly. From the 35 state awardees, five finalists will receive a $10,000 cash award. One will be named the nation’s top educator and receive another $25,000. The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, the Horace Mann Companies, California Casualty, and the Pearson Foundation.
Active Locals Participate in External Governance It’s a fact: a strong local association adds to the strength of the state association, and a strong state association, in turn, bolsters the local association. But what traits make for a strong local association? This series will review the traits of what the NSEA and the NEA call a “Full Capacity Local Association.” The series will allow current leaders, future leaders and members to measure the current strengths, as well as opportunities for gaining full capacity, with the local association. This month’s item looks at a core local membership service: external governance. Duane Obermier has served NSEA members as a UniServ director in northeast Nebraska for nearly 5 years. He taught English and journalism at Grand Island Senior High School for more than 30 years, and served as president of NSEA for seven years. That backPage 22 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
ground gives him excellent perspective on external governance and the need for active participation in the Association’s governance process. Obermier said that effective local associations are involved in the governance process at all levels. “Full capacity locals send representatives to district meetings, to NSEA Obermier Delegate Assembly, and they nominate members to attend NEA’s annual Representative Assembly,” said Obermier. “They also actively recommend members to the NSEA president for appointment to NSEA committees.” Obermier advised that an effective
full-capacity local association should exhibit these external governance traits: n Sends an elected delegate or cluster delegate to NSEA Delegate Assembly each year. n Recommends members for appointments to NSEA committees. n Sends representatives to the district’s meetings and leadership trainings. n Nominates members for NEA’s annual Representative Assembly. n Sends members to all NSEA conferences, UniServ meetings and NEA and NSEA regional conferences and trainings. Does your local meet these recommendations? NSEA has available for use by local associations a complete assessment survey. It will help determine whether a local meets these and other ‘full capacity local’ benchmarks. Have questions? Contact your NSEA UniServ director at 1-800-742-0047.
If Your Plans Include Early Retirement, Consider Insurance Educators who wish to retire early and maintain access to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska health insurance coverage (until eligible for Medicare) must be aware of three conditions that must be met under the Educator’s Health Alliance (EHA) retiree direct bill program for retired school employees. The EHA has mandated these eligibility requirements in order to keep the plan viable: Participation in the EHA plan for the five years immediately prior to retirement. This means that someone who was eligible for the EHA Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan prior to retirement, but chose not to participate in the EHA plan, is not eligible for direct bill health insurance through the EHA plan. There are special rules for employees and retirees from school districts that have recently joined the EHA program. At retirement, the member must select the direct bill early retirement option, and not the available COBRA coverage. Individuals electing COBRA, at early retirement and after Aug. 31, 2004, do not have the option of enrolling in this program at the end of COBRA coverage. A minimum eligibility age of 50. Educators must also be an NSEA Special Services member in order to continue in the plan. Each applicant should review options carefully to see what program may
Is retirement in the near future for you? Then it may be the right time to attend a Pre-retirement Planning Seminar provided by the staff of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System (NPERS). NPERS manages the collection and distribution of your retirement dollars. For nearly 25 years, NPERS staff has hosted a series of seminars across the state to acquaint plan members with details about their retirement plan options. Plan members and their spouses, age 50 and over, may attend. Each eligible school employee is entitled to receive leave, with pay, to attend up to two NPERS retirement seminars during their career. According to state law, “...leave with pay shall mean a day off paid by the employer and shall not mean vacation, sick, personal, or compensatory time.” Plan members may choose to attend a seminar more than twice, but any leave beyond the two allowed seminars will be at the plan member’s expense and at the discretion of the employer. For more details, go to the NPERS website at: www.npers.ne.gov
The seminars will be held in these communities and on these dates: Feb. 29: Lincoln March 1: Lincoln March 2: Lincoln March 6, 7, 9: Omaha March 14: Grand Island March 15: Kearney March 21: Norfolk March 22: S. Sioux City March 28:Valentine March 29: North Platte April 10: Kearney April 11: Grand Island April 18, 19: Scottsbluff April 24: Omaha April 25: Lincoln May 2: Norfolk May 3: Columbus May 9: Lincoln May 16: Kearney May 17: Norfolk May 22: Omaha June 6: Lincoln June 7: Omaha June 13: North Platte June 14, 20: Lincoln June 21: Omaha June 27: Grand Island
work best in their circumstances. The EHA plan for school employees covers more than 70,000 Nebraskans, and is governed by a 12-member board that includes six NSEA representatives, and three representatives each from the Nebraska Council of School Adminis-
trators and the Nebraska Association of School Boards. For details, call NSEA from Lincoln at 402-475-7611, or from elsewhere at 1-800-742-0047, or click on ‘Retirement Info’ at the EHA website at: www.ehaplan.org
Your NSEA Membership Includes Excellent Liability Coverage! Every member of NSEA is covered by the Educator’s Liability (EEL) Insurance policy purchased by the National Education Association. In general, the EEL policy provides coverage for members arising out of their educational employment activities. Those activities are generally defined as duties performed pursuant to the express or implied terms of their employment or at the express request of the member’s supervisor acting within the supervisor’s school employment.
In addition to defending civil matters, the EEL insurance provides reimbursement for bail bonds in employmentrelated criminal matters and reimbursement for personal property damages caused by an assault at school or while performing school duties. Further, the EEL insurance provides reimbursement in criminal matters arising out of educational employment activities if the member is found not guilty. The specific terms and coverage provided by the EEL insurance policy are governed by the insurance company. For additional information, contact your NSEA UniServ director, who will be happy to provide you with additional details. Reach your UniServ director at 1-800-742-0047. January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 23
BCBS Q&A By Kurt Genrich EHA Plan Advocate Rates for the Educator’s Health Alliance (EHA) plan this year have again proven themselves to be lower than the comparable national rates. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that for families nationwide, health insurance premiums were increased by 9 percent, which is significantly higher than the 3 percent increase that occurred in 2010. According to Drew Altman, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s chief executive, “the open question is whether that’s a one-time spike or the start of a period of higher increases.” There is a concern over the nature of these increases, as many feel that the current recession has helped curb individual health care spending, and that the sudden spike in rates is cause for alarm. While the recent spike is certainly unpleasant, it is still preferable to the double digit rate increases that occurred earlier this decade. From 2001 to 2011, premium rates increased by 113 percent nationwide, and recent rate increases have been lower due to problems with the current economy. Despite the economic uncertainty, premium rates for the EHA plans were not increased in September 2011 – the rates for the current school year are exactly what they were for the 201011 school year. Furthermore, EHA rates are guaranteed to not increase by more than 4 percent for the 2012-13
Education Coordinator Bright Lights, a 25 year children’s summer non profit organization. 5 plus yrs education exp. Leadership, organizational & networking skills. Administrative experience, teaching certificate, & nonprofit experience helpful. Updated info on Benefits and job description: www.brightlights.org Apply online: email@example.com
Page 24 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
plan year. The EHA history of rate increases has been stellar when compared to the national average, with a total premium rate increase of only 79 percent for the 2001 to 2011 time frame. While national insurance rates seem to be uncertain, the EHA has been able to deliver stable rate increases over the past decade. Even when examining other school districts in the Midwest, the EHA plan compares favorably. In Kansas, the Topeka School District has a family rate with an $800 deductible at $1,764 per month. Compare this to EHA’s family rate of $1,281/month for our $800 deductible option, and you can see the value of the EHA’s plan and
large membership. According to an article published in The Des Moines Register, Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield is planning to increase rates by 9.4 percent for its teacher’s group, which is compounded by a 27 percent premium increase over the past two years. If you liken the two, the EHA plan has seen a zero percent increase this year, and only increased rates by 12.3 percent for the prior two years – and that helps EHA plan members in these tough financial times. The Educators Health Alliance has named Kurt Genrich to serve as the EHA Plan advocate. Genrich will work with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska plan participants to answer questions and promote the plan. The EHA Board is comprised of six NSEA representatives and three each from the Nebraska Association of School Boards and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. NSEA Associate Executive Director Neal Clayburn is chair of the EHA Board of Directors. Call Genrich at 1-866-465-1342; on his cell phone at 402-217-2042; or e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Executive Director
I wrestle every January, as does much of America, proposed time duration of the resolution and its signifiwith the dilemma of New Year’s resolutions. It is an cance, but most resolutions are lucky to last a year. old custom about what changes should be made in The effects of any support we can give to our local our personal lives, work or relationships. Some take schools may last for generations. The offer to mentor resolutions very seriously and carefully ponder and an individual student or share special expertise with a write down their intentions as a kind of contract with teacher or her class (or with the entire school), giving themselves. Others think about making resolutions a financial contribution for special equipment or mafor change, but never quite get around to specifically terials, or simply being a volunteer at our local school articulating a plan. The result is that New Year’s are all great examples of a New Year’s resolution that resolutions are often the object of humor or derision makes a difference for others. and, sometimes, regret in the realization that another What issues should get our renewed commitment at year will pass without any real attempt at improvethe beginning of the New Year? What really makes a ment. difference in the quality of life in our communities? The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they Good parenting and special attention to the youngest are almost never big enough. members of our communities, They fail, not because they are including health, constructive too difficult or long-term, but play, and safe homes, streets because they are too immediate, and playgrounds are not just the too private, and too focused on responsibility of parents. These the individual. Most resolutions are critical components — with do not involve the community, the local school — in the edufamily, friends, club or other socation and development of our cial institutions. These groups children. And they are the percould provide support and enfect objects of resolutions that couragement to reach goals that matter. are far beyond our personal vanities. Instead, resolutions usuFor Us...or Others? ally focus on such individualist So, are we serious enough concerns as how many times to about our resolutions to make go to the gym, how many calosuch a contract? The point is ries to cut, how to quit smokthat, if we are committed to the ing, or how often to review our support of public education, safe high school French. Important, communities, and a head start strategic decisions that promise for our children, why do we keep Promises that matter take time. NSEA Exsignificant change in our lives ecutive Director Craig R. Christiansen with his making resolutions such as eatinvolve much more than focus- children, Erich and Kecia (and birthday wishes) ing good carbs or spending more ing on just ourselves. in 1974. Wishes and resolutions to act are signifi- time with the dog? cantly different things. Resolutions that matter can Strategic, Long Term make a difference for our comSo, what are the social institutions that make the munities and the futures of our children. Consider being most long-term difference to the quality of life? Whata mentor or volunteering in your local school. Become ever else our lists contain, they undoubtedly include active in your community or neighborhood association public schools. How can we talk about improving the to make our public spaces safe and clean. Volunteer to quality of life without talking about a renewed commitbe a Big Brother or Big Sister. Actively support politiment to our local schools? cal candidates or elected officials that support educaResolutions that count are strategic. They span time, tion and child welfare. sometimes generations. No one makes New Year’s So, what will our resolutions be this year? Are they resolutions that are intended for just one day. Some just for us...or do they involve others? This year — even argue that there is a direct correlation between the make resolutions count.
January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 25
Annual Lobby Day, Visit by Teddy Roosevelt are on the Schedule This 147th issue of the NSEA-Retired Corner marks the beginning of a new year — 2012. Remember all the emotion and commotion that abounded when 1999 gave way to 2000? No such worry this time, but it is the time to mark your calendars for three events of significant value to NSEARetired members. Read more details of each event in the upcoming January print issue of the NSEA-Retired Advocate magazine, or see the digital version at: www.nsea.org/members/retired/ newsletter NSEA-Retired Elections Members have an opportunity to elect one Metro District director to the NSEA-Retired Board of Directors; 14 delegates to the NSEA Delegate Assembly in April; and four delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C., in late June. Nominate yourself by filling out the forms at: www.nsea.org/members/retired You have the choice of clicking on the box and sending the forms directly to NSEA by e-mail, or you can click on the box to download printed copies and send them to NSEA through the U.S. Mail. Either way, the forms are due on or before Feb. 4, 2012. Use your personal computer or visit your nearest library or Educational Service Unit. NSEA-Retired Lobby Day On Feb. 7, this most important work begins at 8:30 a.m. at NSEA Headquarters, in Lincoln, followed by the Issues Awareness Training at 9 a.m. After visiting state senators and discussing with them the critical issues facing our profession, lunch will be at the Governor’s Mansion. There is no registration fee for members; $10 fee for guests. We ask that, for head count purposes, you register your intentions at: Page 26 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
Black Feted with Freedom Award
The Nebraska English Language Arts Council, an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), has awarded the 2011 NCTE/SLATE Affiliate Intellectual Freedom Award to Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska Newsletter Editor Tom Black. Black, who also edits the NSEA-Retired Corner in The Voice, was recognized for his promotion of academic freedom through his longtime volunteer position as news editor of the AFCON newsletter, Sentinel. The NCTE/SLATE Intellectual Freedom Award honors individuals, groups, or institutions that merit recognition for advancing the cause of intellectual freedom. SLATE (Support for the Learning and Teaching of English) is an NCTE Standing Committee on social and political concerns. It seeks to influence public attitudes and policy decisions affecting the teaching of English language arts at all levels. SLATE sets no policy, but seeks to implement and publicize the policies Black adopted by NCTE. Black was honored at NCTE’s annual convention in Chicago.
Mentors Needed! Sign Up Now
The latest round of NSEA-Retired’s Intergenerational Mentoring program is set for liftoff at NSEA Headquarters next month. The program pairs retired educator-mentors with college and university education majors as the students work toward a career in education. These comments came from student participants over the past couple of years: “Thank you so very much for traveling to Hastings for graduation. It was truly such an honor to know that you care that much!” “You have been an amazing mentor, so fret not: you will be hearing from me long into the future.” “Life gives you unexpected gifts when you are open to them.You have been such an unexpected gift and I am so grateful for our friendship.” Training for this latest round of mentoring will take place at the NSEA Headquarters on Friday afternoon, Feb. 10, and will continue Saturday through the lunch hour. Participants must be in attendance both days. There will be a housing and gas stipend for participants who live outside Lincoln, and all meals are provided. Students from colleges and universities across the state will be in need of mentors. For details, contact NSEA UniServ Director Maureen Nickels at 1-800-7420047, or at: email@example.com www.nsea.org/members/retired You may also call or e-mail Rebecca Smith at 1-800-742-0047 or: firstname.lastname@example.org Registration deadline is Feb. 3, 2012. Annual Meeting, Spring Confab Save the date: April 19, 2012. There is an evening social event the night before. It all begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Boys Town Conference Center. Scheduled are artist Matthew Placzek; Darrel Draper as Theodore Roosevelt,
the Roughrider President; breakout sessions on iPads, digital photobooks, raising honeybees, spring gardening and antique appraisal. There is no cost to members; the cost for guests is $10. The agenda will be posted on or about March 26 at: www.nsea.org/members/retired Online registration begins at that time, or call or e-mail Rebecca Smith at 1-800-742-0047 or: email@example.com — Tom Black, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Award Honors Former NEA, NSEA Leaders Good teachers are always in learning mode. NSEA makes learning easier with an award from the Belz/Lynch/ Krause Educational Grant Fund. The 2012 application deadline for those funds is near. The Belz/Lynch/Krause dollars are awarded for projects related to improving a local association; developBelz Lynch Krause ment of instructional materials; or for staff development for individuals of a local association. Eligible are any NSEA member; group of NSEA members; or any NSEA local association. The application must include an abstract of the project, not to exceed four typed pages, including the following information: need; how the project will address the need to relate to professional growth goals; project description; timeline; a budget statement; and method of evaluating the project’s success. Applications must be postmarked by Saturday, Feb. 4. Recipients will be notified in March. A letter describing and evaluating the project shall be submitted to the NSEA Scholarship and Grants Committee within three months of project completion. The grants are named for John Lynch, NSEA’s executive director from 1959 to 1974; Paul Belz, executive director from 1974-84; and Helen Krause, a former NSEA president, and the first Nebraskan to serve on NEA’s Executive Committee. For details, or for an application form, visit the NSEA website and look for the link on the home page. The form will be posted through Feb. 4. The website is at: www.nsea.org For details, contact Sally Bodtke at 1-800-742-0047 or via e-mail at: email@example.com
National Education Association a Founding Member of P21 The 21st Century Skills Map for World Languages demonstrates ways to fuse the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation) with world languages curricula. The map was released by representatives from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The National Education Association is a founding member of P21. The briefing featured fourth-grade students and teachers from Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School in Fairfax County, VA, demonstrating a Mandarin Chinese lesson in-
The Effect of Nebraska’s Truancy Law
The Nebraska Legislature tightened truancy laws two years ago, and the effort has already started to have an effect. According to numbers tracked by the Nebraska Department of Education, truancy numbers are down — which means that more kids are in school each day. Here are the numbers, which show the number and percentage of how many of Nebraska’s K-12 children missed 10 or more days, 15 or more days or 20 or more days each of the past two school years. 2009-10 283,397 Enrolled 10 Days: 82,278, 29.03 percent. 15 Days: 40,643, 14.34 percent. 20 Days: 21,980, 7.76 percent. 2010-11 285,837 Enrolled 10 Days: 74,836, 26.18 percent. 15 Days: 35,121, 12.29 percent. 20 Days: 18,100, 6.33 percent.
fused with 21st century skills. The core subject map provides educator-created examples of how world languages can be fused with 21st Century Skills classroom learning to create engaging learning experiences that promote 21st century knowledge and skills acquisition. In addition to aligning teaching and learning to the demands of today’s world, the map cites specific student outcomes and provides project examples for novice, intermediate and advanced speaking levels. The 21st Century Skills Map for the World Languages is the sixth in a series of core content maps designed for educators, administrators and policymakers. All of the Partnership’s resources are freely available at: www.P21.org P21 is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. January 2012 n The NSEA Voice n Page 27
Professional Growth Funds Available Fund for Teachers Grants will enrich the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities. But the grants are only good if teachers apply! Eligible applicants may seek up to $5,000 as an individual or up to $10,000 as a team of two or more eligible applicants. FFT awards almost every type of professional development imaginable, with few exceptions. Upon the award, grant recipients will receive 90 percent of their grant award. The remaining 10 percent will be reimbursed upon completion of post-fellowship obligations. Eligibility requirements include: n Teach in a Pre-K through 12th grade classroom. n A full-time teacher spending at least 50 percent of the time in the classroom or classroom-like setting. n Minimum of three years classroom teaching experience. The application deadline is Jan. 27. For details, or to apply online, go to: www.fundforteachers .org
Speaking of Teaching “Our schools did not make children obese, underprivileged, disrespectful or bullies. I work with the hand that I am dealt and try to make it better.”
—Danielle Kovach, New Jersey Teacher of the Year
Mailed By: The Nebraska State Education Association Suite 200, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508-2742
Family of Teachers
Look at all the teachers! The Skiles family had a series of careers in education sparked by Grandfather Melvin Skiles, who served 13 years on the Alma, NE, Board of Education. Pictured, seated, from left, are: Kevin Hadduck, who has taught for 25 years and is a professor of literature at McPherson College in McPherson, KS; Linda Skiles-Hadduck, who taught in Virginia and Texas; Duane Skiles, who taught elementary physical education for 32 years at North Platte; Denise Wright Skiles, who taught in the elementary level at North Platte and has been a substitute for 15 years; Melissa Beck, in her third year as an elementary physical education teacher at Bennington. Standing, from left, are: Rachel Beck, in her eighth year as an English teacher at Omaha North High; Abby Skiles, a University of Nebraska-Omaha student who studied education; Matthew Skiles, a teacher in Lincoln; Ronald Skiles, now retired, who taught elementary physical education for 35 years at North Platte; Carol Wagner Skiles, who taught elementary school at North Platte; Molly Skiles Gaviola, who has completed her elementary education studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha; and Sarah Skiles Hansen, who taught four years at a parochial school in Omaha. Not pictured is Jon Linden, an elementary physical education instructor at Sidney.
Inventor’s Center From Lisa Weight a kindergarten teacher at Ravenwood Elementary school in Eagle River, AK:
“To encourage budding artisans, scientists and inventors in my classroom, I have a book shelf designated ‘The Invention Center.’ On one shelf I keep basic tools such as scissors, pencils, markers, a hole punch, tape, glue and a stapler. The other shelves are filled with cast-off boxes, paper towel rolls, washed Page 28 n The NSEA Voice n January 2012
out milk cartons, plastic lids, cardboard pieces, construction paper scraps, straws, pipe cleaners and craft sticks. “I invite parents to help me keep our center well-stocked by sending in their old boxes, clean socks, egg cartons, etc. Students may use the center during free-choice time. I am often amazed at the variety of inventions my students come up with. They have created puppets, vehicles, baskets, robots, jewelry, buildings and more!” Sign up for Works4Me at this link: http://www.nea.org/tools/Works4Me.html