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The

Voice The Nebraska State Education Association ď ś October 2009

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On the Cover: Lincoln teacher Jamie Kreikemeier was one of just 268 teachers across the state fortunate enough to receive tuition reimbursement dollars from the state this year. For the story, see

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VOICE Nebraska State Education Association 605 S. 14th Street, Suite 200 Lincoln, NE 68508-2742 · www.nsea.org (402) 475-7611 · (800) 742-0047

Volume 63, No. 2 ISSN Number: 1085-0783 USPS Number: 000-369 Executive Director Assoc. Executive Director Communications Director Assistant Comm. Director

Craig R. Christiansen Neal Clayburn Karen Kilgarin Al Koontz

NSEA BOARD OF DIRECTORS President Jess Wolf, Hartington Vice President Nancy Fulton, Wilber-Clatonia NEA Director Mark Shively, Omaha NEA Director Leann Widhalm, Norfolk

Official publication of the Nebraska State Education Association, Suite 200, 605 South 14th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508-2742. Periodical postage paid at Lincoln, NE, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: send address changes to NSEA Voice, Suite 200, 605 S. 14th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508-2742. Published 10 times yearly according to this schedule: September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May and August. 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.

Great Public Schools For Every Child Page 2 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

Additional ‘Gold Star’ Settlements Reported More Local Associations Negotiate Significant Increases in Contract Agreements Local associations across the state reported more ‘Gold Star’ contract settlements to the NSEA in the past month. Local associations that settle contracts with significant salary or language improvements are unofficially designated as ‘Gold Star’ by NSEA. Generally, the designation goes to those locals that indicate a base salary increase in the $1,000 range. There may be good reason for the encouraging results from the settlement front this year, said Larry Scherer, NSEA’s director of Bargaining and Research. First, Gov. Dave Heineman has been an ardent supporter of improving teacher salaries, especially given the increases in state aid to schools in recent years. Heineman rightly reasons that those state aid increases should benefit those who affect learning the most: classroom teachers. In June, Heineman sent a letter to NSEA members encouraging strong negotiations for the 2009-10 year. Results Created Second, said Scherer, are the ‘Gold Star’ listings themselves. The best settlements from across the state have been showcased on the NSEA Web site since mid-August. “The governor’s letter and the ‘Gold Star’ listings have created some positive results,” said Scherer. “The ‘Gold Star’ system is positive and creates some momentum.” Through the first week of September, 125 school districts had reported settlements, with the average base increase at well above $800, said Scherer. For the report, go to NSEA’s Web site at: www.nsea.org Among the latest settlements filed with NSEA:

Alliance Base Increase: $1,030, or 3.69%. New base: $28,910. Battle Creek Base Increase: $1,400, or 5.17%. New base: $28,500. Cedar Bluffs Base Increase: $1,000, or 3.45%. New base: $30,000. Conestoga (Two-year Contract) 09-10 Increase: $1,000, or 3.56%. New base: $29,100. 10-11 Increase: $1,000, or 3.44%. New base: $30,100. Greeley-Wolbach Base Increase: $1,200, or 4.51%. New base: $27,800. Holdrege Base Increase: $1,300, or 4.68%. New base: $29,100. Hyannis Base Increase: $1,500, or 5.77%. New base: $27,500. Loup County-Taylor Base Increase: $1,000, or 3.97%. New base: $26,200. McCook Base Increase: $1,273, or 4.42%. New base: $30,043. Papillion-LaVista Base Increase: $1,000, or 3.43%. New base: $30,130. Wood River Rural Base Increase: $1,300, or 4.61%. New base: $29,500.

Western Leadership Dates Announced The annual NEAWestern Leadership Conference is set for Jan. 15-17, 2010, so those interested in attending may want to begin planning now. The conference will be held at the Phoenix Marriott in Mesa, AZ. Registration is $135 through Dec. 14; after that date, the cost is $175. The Minority Leadership Training

Conference, scheduled in conjunction with the larger conference, will be held at the same site, and will begin on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Conference registration and other details can be found after mid-October at this Web site: http://www.nea.org/members/wrlc. html


From the President

At the Table? On the Menu?

NSEA President Jess Wolf ‘There are children in poverty, children underfed, underclothed, and despite our best efforts, undereducated. The question is this: Are we ready to do our part? Are we ready to use our collective power to cause positive change?’

“The test of a moral society is what it does for its children,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famed German Lutheran pastor and theologian. Based on Bonhoeffer’s test, how would you rate American society today? Are we giving our children our best effort? Are we, as a society, meeting the basic housing and clothing needs of our young people? Are we tending to their dietary and physical health needs? How about their social and mental health needs? Most important, from an educator’s point of view, are we providing their educational needs? Quite obviously, the answer to these questions will depend on several variables, many of which we, as educators, have little power to change. Yet in our hearts, we know that change must occur if our children and our democracy is to prosper. And there’s that word again – CHANGE! It was spoken loudly and proudly during the last election by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. With the 2008 election now a distant memory, many of those elected are encountering trouble in attempting to muster the needed willpower or backbone to carry through on those promises. We’ll Go First! On the other hand, we as educators face the need for change every day. There are children in poverty, children underfed, underclothed, and despite our best efforts, undereducated. The question is this: Are we ready to do our part? Are we ready to use our collective power to cause positive change? I hope, believe and trust that we are. While we recognize and understand the many needs of children, education is our bailiwick, our area of expertise. It is the area in which we can effectively cause change. NEA President Dennis Van

Roekel has made two statements about change that I find profound. Van Roekel says, “Change is inevitable. We’ll go first!” Wow – he challenges us, the foot soldiers on the front lines, to foment change. And then he adds this warning “Change is coming. We can either be at the table or on the menu!” So true: We can work with others to affect true, meaningful change, or we can be steamrolled when the change comes. Elsewhere in this edition of The Voice you’ll find articles about proposed changes in education. Cursory glances at the television or YouTube; a quick read of any newspaper or magazine; or a few moments of listening to the radio; will confirm that others have ideas for change, as well. My email in box fills up each day with propaganda from groups on the right and on the left, each espousing ideas for change. Are we at their table or on their menu? Talking of Change As your president, I have the opportunity to meet with policymakers who are interested in affecting change in education. Gov. Dave Heineman; Education Commissioner Roger Breed; State Sen. Greg Adams and other senators on the Legislature’s Education Committee; and members of the educational community at large; are talking about change in education. Can they be trusted to do what we know is necessary for the schools of the 21st century? I believe the answer is ‘yes.’ But it will be your involvement within the halls of every school building across the state, at every school board meeting in every school district; at all town hall meetings; and at legislative hearings; that will ensure that those changes are proper, that those changes will enable all children to prosper. Our voices need to be heard.

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Educational discussion: Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman illustrates a point during a discussion with NSEA’s Board of Directors. Seated with Heineman, from left, are Janis Elliott, Bellevue; Christopher Waddle, Central Community College, Hastings; Roger Davis, University of Nebraska-Kearney; and NSEA President Jess Wolf, Hartington.

Common Ground

Gov. Dave Heineman Talks with NSEA Board of Directors About Salaries, Graduation Requirements and Closing Achievement Gaps From salaries to state aid, curriculum to truancy, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman appears to be of a same mind with Nebraska educators. Heineman also seems to appreciate the opinion of teachers and others in the education ranks, and made that clear on Sept. 19 when he joined the NSEA Board of Directors for lunch and a 90-minute talk about education. The governor said improving Nebraska teacher salaries will not be a one-year event; talked about tougher high school graduation requirements, academic excellence and achievement for all children; and said any performance pay proposals must have the input of teachers. For board members, Heineman’s visit illustrated what NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christiansen said during the board’s same-day discussion of an early endorsement of the governor’s expected run for a second term in 2010 (see story, page 6). “Jess (NSEA President Jess Wolf) or I can call the governor and ask to meet with him, and the response is always ‘we’ll try to get you in this morning,’” said Christiansen. The governor has often circumvented his own aides and staffers to make phone calls directly to Christiansen and Wolf. “This allows us unprecedented access. He doesn’t always say ‘yes’ to us, but he always listens and considers carefully

what we’re asking,” said Christiansen. Heineman also said he is “impatient” when it comes to education, noting he hopes for quick action on a newly-proposed core curriculum for Nebraska high schools. He got that action from the NSEA Board, which voted 21-0 to support his call for tougher graduation requirements. Heineman’s visit to NSEA marked the second time in 14 months that he has met with the NSEA Board. In late July 2008, he spent nearly three hours talking with the board at the Governor’s Mansion. Where the Action Is Earlier this year, Heineman penned a letter to all NSEA members encouraging them to negotiate hard for salaries. The governor had just closed a legislative session in which he successfully pushed for $234 million in federal education stimulus dollars to be funneled through the state aid formula. Heineman’s letter indicated a frustration that state aid increases have not translated into teacher pay that is competitive with other states. “I’ve grown increasingly concerned that substantial increases in state aid have not been reflected in teacher pay. Superintendent salaries seem to be increasing at a significant rate while teacher salaries are not. This needs to change,” HeineOctober 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 5


man wrote. The letter drew criticism from school board representatives and administrators, and was called a political ploy by others who fail to understand the link between competitive pay, quality teaching and a well-educated workforce. But Heineman said state aid has risen from $650 million to $840 million annually in his first term, while teacher salaries – which make up about 80 percent of most school district budgets – have not shown commensurate increases. He said getting salaries to competitive levels won’t happen quickly. “This isn’t a one-year event. As we put more dollars into state aid, more of those dollars ought to be in the classroom. That’s where the action is,” he said. He cited a White Paper by the Greater Nebraska Superintendents (see story, page 12) as another example of the importance of a quality teacher. “Teachers have the greatest impact on a child’s learning – that’s where the money should be,” he said. Performance Pay Heineman said he’s never been a supporter of merit pay. He would leave the door open to performance pay, as long as it has the input of teachers and is measured on a long-term basis. “One year you might get a classroom of 25 students who make you look like a hero. The next year you might get a classroom of 25 that might have come right out of my family,” he joked. Core Curriculum Heineman said he is a “very impatient governor when it comes to education. We’ve got to move on core curriculum.” As chair of Nebraska’s P-16 Commission, he has proposed eight new education goals that include, for graduation, four years of English, three years of math, three years of science and three years of social sciences. He has received support for the goals from business and other education groups. The State Board of Education will consider the goals in October. “I’m truly serious about making strides in the academic excellence area,” he said. “If we don’t, it’s like telling our kids we’re going to have them flip hamburgers the rest of their lives.” Nebraska tops the country among states with more than 70 percent of students taking the ACT. But, he said, NePage 6 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

braska continues to have a tremendous achievement gap. Every student who studies through a rigorous core curriculum program scores two points higher on the ACT, he said. Skill improvement by teachers is also vital. Heineman said in a visit with Greater Nebraska Superintendents earlier in the week, improved professional development was discussed. And, he said, school districts must be able to track kids and intervene before a child has missed school for seven to 14 days. Higher Ed Challenges Finally, he said higher ed cannot continue to “be all things to all people.” He challenged higher education to look at new funding models; to become

more creative and rethink how and what services are delivered; and to eliminate duplication. He noted that college coaches have to recruit players. “If every professor would recruit just one student, the university would have a four percent enrollment increase.” Other action The Board also: n Approved a $2,000 matching funds request from the Ord Education Association. The OEA will use the funds to support a bond issue. n Approved the formation of an NSEA committee to recruit and organize volunteers to work at the National Special Olympics in Lincoln July 1823, 2010.


NSEA Aids Locals in Bond Votes

Members at Local Level Key in Bond Passage at Kearney, Raymond Voters in two Nebraska school districts approved significant measures in mid-September, with NSEA’s help. Raymond Central Public School patrons approved a bond issue on Sept. 16, while Kearney voters passed a bond issue and levy override on the same date. The Raymond Central victory was significant because several bond issues had failed in that district in past years, the most recent in March. NSEA provided matching funds to the Raymond Central Education Association to promote the bond’s passage, and also provide generic yard signs, general consulting, and a last-minute phone bank to encourage patrons to vote. The bond passed by 1,032-937. ‘Significant’ Victories Kearney patrons approved a $45 million bond issue for two new elementary schools and renovations at other schools. Voters also approved a levy override to fund the staffing for the new schools. “To my knowledge, this is the first time a school district has done both a bond issue and a levy override at the same election,” said Brian Mikkelsen, NSEA’s UniServ director for political field operations. Kearney Education Association members and the NSEA played a key role in the Kearney campaign, said Mikkelsen. NSEA matched local association donations for the campaign, provided generic yard signs, consulting and a last-minute phone bank. KEA members then followed up with undecided voters and supportive voters with a mail piece and a door-to-door contact effort. The bond issue passed 3,619-3,278, and the levy override passed by a margin of 3,525-3,366. “These two elections are significant victories for the Association and hopefully set the tone for future bond issue and levy override elections this year,” said Mikkelsen.

Member’s Health Care Access Saved by NSEA Action a ‘Lifesaver’ for Member

When an NSEA member lost her teaching job – and was then denied federal dollars for her COBRA health insurance premium – she contacted NSEA. It was a most serious matter. In addition to being jobless, the member is dealing with a cancer-related illness that requires regular treatment. Results were almost immediate. Her insurance was restored within 48 hours. Under provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passed by Congress, and signed by President Obama, any American who loses or lost his or her job between September 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009, is eligible for a 65 percent reduction in COBRA health insurance premiums for up to nine months. COBRA allows workers who lose health insurance coverage to continue their group insurance with their previous employer for a limited time. On the advice of NSEA legal counsel, the severance package of any NSEA

member involuntarily terminated during the ARRA time period has included language specifically confirming such members as eligible for the COBRA premium reduction. Any member who received a dismissal notice this past spring benefited from NSEA’s proactive effort in that regard. The language was also in this member’s severance agreement. The issue came to the attention of NSEA Director of Member Rights Trish Guinan. She worked with Educators Health Alliance Plan Advocate Kurt Genrich to troubleshoot the problem. Genrich found that the school district had reported the member’s change in employment status correctly. But an insurance intermediary had incorrectly listed the member as ineligible for the ARRA benefit. Genrich worked with the proper insurance contacts to resolve the issue, and the health care was reinstated. “The timely correction of this member’s insurance eligibility was truly a lifesaver for her,” said Guinan.

Membership Benefits Outweigh Cost Now, more than ever, it pays to be a member of the NSEA. The NSEA Access membership card is just one of many reasons that validate that statement. The economic downturn weighs heavy on the minds of all, including those of association members. But NSEA members have an advantage in the Access membership card. The card can save members lots of money over the course of the year – often more than the cost of membership itself. For instance, if you’re looking to upgrade your fall wardrobe, these merchants belong to Access: Lane Bryant offers 20 percent off; The Loft offers 20 percent off; Kohl’s offers 15 percent off; Izod offers 20 percent off; Coldwater Creek offers 10 percent off; and Jos. A. Bank offers 20 percent off. And there are the everyday purchases that can provide extraordinary savings: oil changes, dry cleaning and eyeglasses are never fun to pay for, but are necessities. Mothers have to keep their kids clothed. Families must have cell phone service. For NSEA members, there’s no reason to pay full price. Nebraska is full of local shops and stores just waiting to offer discounts based on NSEA membership. To find savings in your area, go to the NSEA Web site and click on the Access Card icon in the upper right corner of the home page. Enter your 10-digit NSEA identification number and you’ll be ready to save. The NSEA Web site is at: www.nsea.org October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 7


Enhanced skills, knowledge: Lincoln Middle School English teacher Jamie Kreikemeier, working toward a master’s degree, was helped by the state’s new tuition reimbursement program this year.

A Helping Hand

Helping Teachers Earn Advanced Degrees Without the Debt is the Goal of LB547. But More Needs to be Done ielle Lotspeich of the NDE. When English teacher Jamie Kreikemeier receives her “It blew us away. Never in our wildest dreams did we exmaster’s degree in counseling next August, she’ll have been pect to go through so much money so quickly,” said Katt, reimbursed by the State of Nebraska for a good chunk of her administrator for adult classroom costs. program services for the To be more exact, NDE. she’ll have received tuBy the Numbers The rapid disbursement ition reimbursement good These numbers were provided to Nebraska Commissioner of Education Dr. Roger Breed by Nebraska Department of Education staff on of the $800,000 fund intoward 34 of the 51 hours Sept. 9 as a summary of the Enhancing Excellence in Teaching Program. dicates that more dollars she needs for her degree. Funding for the program comes from state lottery proceeds are needed, said NSEA That’s good news for President Jess Wolf. Kreikemeier, one of 268 Award Information “This program meets Nebraska teachers to have Recipients:...........................................................................................................268 a real need for Nebraska her application for tuition Amount Awarded:................................................................................$810,051 teachers and school disreimbursement approved Average Request:.......................................................................................$3,022 Unfunded Applications Received:..........................................................111 tricts,” said Wolf. “Addiby the Nebraska DepartAmount of Unfunded Applications Received:.......................$303,875 tional funding would help ment of Education (NDE) many, many more teachthis past summer. ers.” “Getting a post-graduate degree takes a lot of time and money,” said Kreikemeier. Emergency Clause “To have this kind of financial help is such a blessing.” For several years, NSEA lobbied hard for state senators But Nebraska’s Excellence in Teaching Act fund was quickto approve an effective tuition reimbursement program for ly emptied. Scores of applicants were told their applications arteachers. NSEA’s argument was three-fold: a tuition reimrived too late for the first-come, first-served program, which is bursement program would encourage teachers to seek adfunded from lottery dollars. Many more eligible teachers likely vanced degrees, improving their skills, knowledge base, and were unaware the money was available, and never applied. helping them to become better teachers; it would soften the The response by teachers astounded Sharon Katt and DanPage 8 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009


blow of costly post-grad coursework for teachers, particularly those early in their careers and low on the salary schedule; and it would help to improve the state’s 45th-in-the-nation average salary ranking for teachers. NSEA’s efforts were finally rewarded when Sen. Greg Adams, chair of the Legislature’s Education Committee, took up the cause. On April 17, senators approved LB547. The bill put $1 million in lottery monies into tuition reimbursement each year. The money is split 60-40 between teachers working on post-graduate degrees, and on students seeking a bachelor’s degree in education. Passed 49-0, with an emergency clause, Gov. Dave Heineman signed LB547 five days later. Katt and Lotspeich went to work to get the word out. Because of the emergency clause, Katt said there was not the luxury of time to develop rules governing the disbursement of funding. A first-come, first-serve process was instituted, and an application was posted to the NDE Web site in late June.

Why You Should Write Your State Senator. And the Governor. Now. It’s Easy, and Here’s How to Do it! For Tuition Reimbursement Funding Increase, State Policymakers Must be Convinced of Need Earlier this year, the Nebraska Legislature approved LB547, the tuition reimbursement plan for Nebraska teachers. The plan included $1 million, split 60-40 between current teachers and students studying to become teachers. Applications for the reimbursement dollars were opened in late June and all the money was allocated by the first week in August. There was only enough funding to help 268 teachers. Applications from scores of teachers were turned away after the money ran out. Clearly, the program needs additional dollars. NSEA lobbied long and hard to have the tuition reimbursement program approved by the Legislature, and will encourage senators to add funding in future years. But the influence of NSEA members across the state will make the difference. Write your senator. Write the governor. Tell them how tuition reimbursement will help you to improve your skills and knowledge base, and how those skills and that knowledge will help the students in your classes. Writing and sending the letter is easy. Visit the NSEA Web site. Look for the ‘Contact Your Senator’ link. Type in your ZIP code to find your senator. Fill in the message box with your story, sign the note, and send the message. It’s that easy. The NSEA Web site is at: www.nsea.org The more messages state senators receive encouraging added funding, the more likely it is that additional dollars will be available next year.

Extra Dollars While the luxury of time was missing, there was an unexpected fortune: an extra $200,000 in unspent dollars from 2008 teacher prep funds. LB547 included $400,000 for students and $600,000 for veteran teachers. With the extra $200,000, there was $800,000 available to veteran teachers. The applications came pouring in, sometimes 30 to 40 each day. “We were finally able to sit down and estimate that we had enough funding to accept applications through Aug. 3,” said Katt. “We turned off the spigot as best we could with e-mails to NSEA, administrators and others, but we continue to get applications.” She estimates that the unfunded applications to date total about $300,000 in reimbursement requests. Meanwhile, plans call for a rule-writing process this fall, said Katt, which will result in a more formalized application process in 2010. Teachers are urged to check the NDE Web site after Jan. 1 for updates or changes in the application process. Sen. Adams was pleased to hear that the fund had been expended in such a short time. He said he would evaluate the program’s success and work with the Department of Education to improve the program. An Accelerant Kreikemeier is an English teacher at Lincoln’s Scott Middle School, and was one of the early, and lucky, applicants. She hopes to become a school counselor. “My passion has been helping kids who struggle or who have issues,” she said. “But with all the assessments and paperwork that teachers face, they don’t have a lot of time to help students with those issues.”

Kreikemeier had planned on working slowly towards her master’s degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When UNO’s counseling department alerted students to the tuition reimbursement availability, she was encouraged to accelerate her timeline. She laid out a plan to earn her master’s by the summer of 2010. “At UNO, the tuition for a three-hour graduate course is $612,” without books and fees, she said. “The LB547 reimbursement for a three-hour course, at $175 per hour, is $525.” The reimbursement program made it financially feasible for Kreikemeier to take additional courses. Upon successful completion of approved coursework, recipients receive their reimbursement checks. Kreikemeier believes LB547end result will be to sharpen the post-graduate focus of many of the state’s educators. “Some educators go back to school for the salary adjustment. They have 30 hours of post-graduate work, but they don’t end up with a degree,” she said. “When you have a plan, and get a master’s degree, that’s a much more meaningful approach.” And that is exactly what NSEA had hoped would happen. October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 9


Paycheck or Pay it Back? A Quick Review of Your Paycheck Today May Avoid Problems Later It’s not a common problem. But when it happens, it can cause economic hardship for a teacher or school employee. ‘It’ is a clerical error that causes an overpayment of salary to a school employee. In one recent instance, the salaries of several education support personnel were miscalculated for an entire school year. The impact was substantial: each employee was overpaid by about $5,000. In another recent case, a teacher was overpaid by more than $3,000 over a 10-month period. Whether, and how, those employees will have to repay those dollars is yet to be determined. And reparations in such instances may have to be decided on a case-by-case basis. But the point is that overpayment is a common problem at this time of year, said NSEA Director of Member Rights

Trish Guinan. “This happens several times every year,” said Guinan. “Earlier this year, a school district filed a small claims court case against a member because she hadn’t repaid the overpayment in salary.” Employee Responsibility Guinan said employees and employers both have a responsibility for

confirming their paychecks are correct. In fact, Guinan suggests that local associations remind or help members to review their first paycheck of each school year for accuracy. “We recommend that each local assist its members, and new members in particular, with the computations to determine whether that first check of the year is correct,” said Guinan. “Many of these problems could be avoided with such a service.” If a discrepancy is discovered, members should notify NSEA immediately. Each month the issue goes unresolved adds to the amount the member will have to repay – or to the income lost if the member is being underpaid. The matter is further complicated when considering tax and retirement implications. If you find a paycheck discrepancy, contact your NSEA UniServ director at 1-800-742-0047.

Wallman: NSEA Safeguards Retirement Term on NSEA Board Solidified Her Belief in Association Membership

that manages retirement When Deb Wallman’s funds for public school emterm on the NSEA Board of ployees. Directors came to an end in “I think everyone should July, she passed along some belong to NSEA for the sesound advice to her felcurity of that benefit alone,” low board members about said Wallman, who taught the wisdom of association in Fremont and now teaches membership. at McMillan Magnet Center Wallman served on the in Omaha. “I don’t know of NSEA Board for three any other organization that years, and during that time watches our retirement dolwas chair of the Board’s lars as closely as NSEA.” Retirement Committee. Wallman NSEA is the organization Wallman said that it was that improves and works to not until she served on the keep the retirement system safe and board, and the Retirement Commitsound, and to protect the interest tee specifically, that she realized just of members, said Wallman. For inhow closely NSEA monitors the opstance, during the 2009 session of the erations and actions of the Nebraska Nebraska Legislature, state senators Public Employees Retirement Sysworked to find a solution to a shorttem (NPERS), the state department Page 10 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

fall in the school employee retirement fund. Some senators sought to increase the teacher contribution rate from 7.28 percent to 9.28 percent – a move that would have cost the average teacher nearly $1,000 over the course of a year. NSEA lobbied hard for other solutions, and eventually senators increased the teacher contribution rate by half that amount, to just 8.28 percent. District contributions and state funds also help to address the shortfall. “If we didn’t have the NSEA, I’m sure we wouldn’t have the retirement benefits that we have,” said Wallman. “Our retirement plan provides for retiring with dignity. I’m very thankful for what NSEA has done for me.”


On stage: Omaha teacher Kathy Reckling, right, practices her skills as a trainer during an ELL workshop in Kearney.

NSEA: Building ELL Capacity Aided by an NEA Grant, Nebraskans Work to Narrow the Achievement Gap

ELL students in Lexington. Armed with NSEA’s leadership The trio has already trained about and a $10,000 grant from the National 20 Lexington Public School teachers, Education Association, three NSEA and in a Kearney workshop taught members are pushing an NEA-dethe NEA program to another 17 eduveloped program to sharpen the skills cators from across the state. of educators who teach English lanBohaty, Schwab, Sears and NSEA guage learners. UniServ Director Duane Obermier NSEA is the first state affiliate to visited NEA Headquarters in Washput the NEA program into the field. ington, D.C., in 2008 for training. Under the grant, the Nebraska trio Soon after, NSEA received the trains a cadre of educators with the $10,000 Minority Community Outadditional skills and methods to enreach Grant from NEA to fund the hance their knowledge and teaching First-timers: These Lexington Public program. of English language learners. That “The vision is that we’d do more cadre of educators then shares the Schools teachers were the first in Nebraka to training of trainers,” said Schwab. skills and methods they have learned receive the training from the NSEA cadre. “These new trainers will do staff dewith colleagues in their respective velopment in their own districts, or school districts, or in neighboring they can call on us to help, or call on others in the cadre to help. school districts. The ultimate goal: to close achievement gaps But we’re here to spread this program from border to border.” for non-English language speakers using teaching strategies Among the objectives the training program addresses: developed by NEA. n Demonstrate how culture and equity affect teaching prac“This process is the ‘trickle down’ theory of passing along tices. skills and raising achievement,” said Jay Sears, NSEA’s direcn Expand understanding of beliefs; values; behavior; lantor of Instructional Advocacy. “Our three team leaders have guage; and racial identity, as it affects practices with ELL. been trained well at the national level, and their skills and exn Explore language acquisition theories. pertise are already being shared in more than a dozen school n Understand, identify and apply second language acquisidistricts, with more to come.” tion theories to practice. Or, as Renee Bohaty said: “We’re trying to build Nebraska’s n Be able to identify the five language acquisition levels by capacity to help teachers in the classroom.” student characteristic. n Discuss best practices for teaching students in each lanTraining Vision guage acquisition level. Bohaty, of Lincoln, is one of three Nebraska educators and For more information about the program, or to inquire about NSEA members who have been trained in the program by participating in a training session, contact Sears at 1-800-742NEA. The others are Brooke Schwab, also of Lincoln, and Pat 0047, or at: Ludeke, Lexington. Bohaty and Schwab both work in K-12 jay.sears@nsea.org ELL programs in Lincoln. Ludeke works extensively with October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 11


The Next Step in Teacher Preparation? Nebraska’s Colleges and Universities Offer Some of the Best Teacher Preparation Programs in the Country. But Can they Do Better? The Greater Nebraska Superintendents Believe They Can. Put any two people together in a room for a discussion on Nebraska’s public schools, and they’ll likely have different ideas about how to better serve the children in those schools. Raise standards. Improve the graduation rate. Reduce truancy. Focus on a core curriculum. For all those great ideas, the quality of the classroom teacher remains one of the most – if not the most – important factor in a quality education. Now, the members of the Greater Nebraska Superintendents (GNS), a coalition of administrators from 32 Nebraska school districts, have produced a White Paper on teacher preparation. This paper, according to its conclusion, is meant as a starting point for dialogue between school districts and educational leaders about how best to prepare teachers to serve in Nebraska schools. The White Paper does not address one key issue critical to the teaching profession: teacher salaries. Enhanced

teacher preparation is certainly important. But teachers are being asked to do more (see related story on new education goals for Nebraska, next page), while Nebraska teacher salaries remain 45th in the nation. “We appreciate the fact that superintendents are focusing on the knowledge, skills and technology needed to produce quality teachers,” said NSEA President Jess Wolf. “Human capital with the type of quality skills and knowledge suggested by this White Paper demands a price in a competitive labor market. Only when the teaching profession meets that price can teaching attract, and keep, quality people in the profession.” The White Paper does not necessarily reflect the views of the Nebraska State Education Association. The introduction is presented to promote discussion of the teacher preparation issue. For the complete text, visit the NSEA Web site at: www.nsea.org

Teacher Preparation A White Paper

2/2/2009 Greater Nebraska Superintendents

A Discussion on Teacher Preparation

Introduction Nearly everyone will agree that teaching is an important profession. In fact, most of us can probably name at least one or two teachers that have profoundly affected us in either a positive or negative manner. Current research supports these statements, indicating that teachers are, at the very least, an important part of the educational process. Furthermore, the results of recent studies have found that a student’s assigned teacher has a much stronger influence on how much he or she learns Page 12 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

than other factors, including things such as class size and composition. In fact, results of several studies have established that students who are assigned to very effective teachers over consecutive years have significantly greater gains in achievement than students assigned to less or ineffective teachers and the impact carries over into the ensuing school years. Many in education have assumed that factors in a student’s background, such as income, parents’ level of education and other family issues, are the primary forces that impact student

achievement. However, a number of studies indicate that the expertise of a classroom teacher has as much, if not more, of an impact than individual student demographics. As a result of this research, it is imperative that educators improve the quality of teachers in the classroom to help students educationally at risk or prone to fail. The Greater Nebraska Superintendents (GNS) organization is submitting this White Paper to the university and college systems as a way to start a dialogue about teacher preparation in Nebraska. Nationally, beginning


Who are the Greater Nebraska Superintendents? The superintendents in these school districts belong to the Greater Nebraska Superintendents. Alliance Aurora Beatrice Blair Broken Bow Columbus Crete Elkhorn Falls City Fremont Gering Grand Island Gretna Hastings Holdrege Kearney Lexington Lincoln McCook

teachers will enter a classroom where at least 25% of the students live in poverty, from 12% to 20% have identified learning differences, 15% primarily speak a language other than English, and about 40% are members of racial/ ethnic minority groups, many of them recent immigrants from countries with different educational systems and cultural trends. In addition, No Child Left Behind has increased accountability through Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements and Nebraska has moved to a statewide test, Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA), in the areas of writing, reading, mathematics and science. The reasons presented to this point are the rationale behind the proposed discussion items listed below. It is our belief that schools of education must prepare teachers to meet the myriad of needs for diverse learners in today’s classrooms by increasing the number of education-based classes required in the colleges and universities by one semester. To balance this necessary increase, the general classes required of students would be reduced by one semester. Editor’s Note: For the complete White Paper text, visit the NSEA Web site at: www.nsea.org

Nebraska City Norfolk Norris North Platte Omaha Papillion- LaVista Plattsmouth Ralston Scottsbluff Seward So. Sioux City  Waverly Wayne- Carroll York

Push Under Way to Toughen Graduation Requirements State Board of Education Will Consider Plan at October Meeting; Governor Will Approve The state’s education policymakers are pushing to require more rigorous coursework for Nebraska high school students. Gov. Dave Heineman, several state lawmakers and other education policymakers joined in a recent press conference to propose eight Heineman academic goals for the state’s schools (see box, next page). “We need to prepare our students for the 21st century, not the 19th century,” said Heineman. In addition to the eight goals, Heineman announced changes to the leadership of the Nebraska P-16 Initiative, a coalition that includes 27 of the state’s education, business and government groups. The P-16 Initiative bills itself as “a statewide effort

to improve student success and boost the economy.” The first of those eight goals will require Nebraska school districts to offer a core curriculum that requires four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies. Those offerings would be in place by the 2014-15 school year. Other goals would eliminate the achievement gap; raise high school graduation rates; and increase the number of teacher education grads in science, math and other areas. Heineman expects the Nebraska Board of Education to make changes to state education regulations to conform to the goals in the near future. He will approve those changes, he said. Salary Issue Under current state standards, high school students must complete 200 credits in high school, with 80 percent of those credits core curriculum classes. As with the Greater Nebraska SuOctober 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 13


perintendents White Paper elsewhere on this page, the proposal, while laudable, neglects to address a key component: teacher salaries. “Enhanced salaries will attract to the teaching profession the number of people and the quality individuals Nebraska needs to continue to offer a top-notch educational program,” said Jess Wolf, NSEA president. “We at NSEA will continue to work with the Governor, with state senators, the state board and others, including the P-16 Initiative, to address that issue,” he said. The P-16 leadership changes include Heineman now serving as chair, with four state education leaders taking posts as co-chairs. Those co-chairs are Commissioner of Education Roger Breed; Sen. Greg Adams of York, chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee; J.B. Milliken, president of the University of Nebraska; and Liz Koop, president and CEO of EducationQuest Foundation. NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christiansen serves on the Nebraska P-16 Executive Committee.

Page 14 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

Proposed Education Goals for Nebraska State policymakers in August announced eight new educational goals that they say will improve academic performance of students. Those goals are: 1. Require four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies in Nebraska districts by the 2014-15 school year. 2. Eliminate the academic achievement gap between Nebraska’s K-12 white students and black, Hispanic and Native students. 3. Develop a data system that can confidentially track a student’s progress from preschool through post-graduate degree attainment, and entry into the workforce to help align resources with strategic goals. 4. Increase the state’s high school graduation rate to 90 percent. 5. Improve Nebraska’s college-going rank to the top-10 tier nationally. 6. Provide affordable access for Nebraska students to attend Nebraska’s post-secondary institutions. 7. Improve time-to-degree completion, and increase the graduation rates at Nebraska post-secondary institutions. 8. Increase by 5 percent the number of teacher education graduates in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math within state postsecondary institutions.


‘New’ HQ Open to Members Remodeled NSEA Building will be Open for Viewing on Oct. 17 NSEA members headed to Lincoln to attend the Oct. 17 University of Nebraska football game against Texas Tech might want to get to downtown Lincoln a bit early. NSEA invites all members and their immediate family members to an open house and Husker Tailgate on that day. The purpose is to allow members to tour the newly-remodeled NSEA Headquarters building, and to allow NSEA staffers to thank members for their support of the project. While the official kickoff time for the football game has not yet been set, the building doors will open three hours prior to kickoff. A tailgate lunch will be provided to the first 500 members and their immediate families through the doors. For NSEA members without game tickets, NSEA plans to have the football game on television sets throughout the building. NSEA staff moved out of the building in February 2008, and returned in July of this year. During the intervening 17 months, the 46-year-old building was stripped down to the bare concrete and steel frame, and then rebuilt from the basement up. The project replaced failing me-

chanical systems; made the building more energy efficient; and greatly enhanced wiring for technology needs. A substantial amount of asbestos was also removed from the building. The building now has more meeting space, and is heated and cooled using a geo-thermal well field drilled on the site. The new technology fittings should serve the Association staff well into the future. Handicap accessibility has been enhanced, as has building security. The renovation was approved by NSEA members at the 2007 Delegate Assembly. NSEA has been at the site directly across the street from the State Capitol since 1931. After the current building was completed during the summer of 1962, it won national praise and honors for its unique design. The street address of the building is 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln. For videos and photos documenting the process, or for updates on the open house, check the home page of the NSEA Web site at: www.nsea.org

Home again: NSEA staff has returned to the NSEA building after remodeling was completed.

NSRA Offering Two Scholarships The Nebraska State Reading Association awards two $500 scholarships to any junior, senior or graduate student currently enrolled in a teacher education program at a Nebraska postsecondary Institution, and who is a resident of the state of Nebraska. The scholarship will be awarded in February. Letters of application are due by Nov. 1, 2009, to Scholarship Chair Deanna Porkorny, 4680 Road V, Linwood, NE 68036. Forms are on file at Financial Aid Offices and at the NSRA Web site at: www.nereads.org The mission of the Nebraska State Reading Association is to lead in the promotion of literacy in the state of Nebraska through collaboration, advocacy and professional development. October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 15


Resources You Can Use Dates Set for 2010 Conservation Meet Mark your calendars now for the 2010 conference of the Nebraska Alliance for Conservation and Environment Education. The theme will be ‘Coming into Focus: Conservation and Environmental Education in Nebraska.’ The conference will be held at Camp Carol Joy Holling near Ashland, on Sept. 9-11, 2010. For details, contact Lindsay Rogers at this e-mail address: lindsayannrogers@yahoo.com

Foundation Web Site Has a New Look The NEA Foundation has given its Web site a facelift! The new site represents the energy and spirit of the Foundation and the educators and students the Foundation supports. The site is designed to share important information about work to close achievement gaps and to provide new ways for members to help the Foundation help kids. Among the many new features: n Grantee success stories. n V ideos on Foundation programs. n A new online donation system. n R esources for educators. To see the Web site, go to: neafoundation.org

Nominate a Colleague for an NEA Award The Swedes and Norwegians have their Nobel Prizes, and NEA has its Human and Civil Rights Awards. Occasionally the two intersect. Greg Mortenson, who wrote the bestseller Three Cups of Tea and builds schools for boys and girls in the remotest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, won this year’s NEA Mary Hatwood Futrell Award, and he is under serious consideration for a Nobel Prize. Unlike the Nobel Prize, NEA members have the power to nominate someone for an NEA Human and Civil Rights Award. NEA specializes in unsung heroes, but will also honor a Greg Mortenson. The next NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner will be in New Orleans on July 2, 2010. The process is simple: Download a Page 16 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

NEA Foundation Sows Green Grants

Applications for Environmental Education Projects Due Oct. 15; Grants Awarded Beginning in January With $150,000 in new grant funding designated for projects that integrate green-related topics and experiences into the classroom, the NEA Foundation is growing its Learning & Leadership and Student Achievement grants program for individuals and teams of educators. The expansion of the grants program was made possible by unprecedented back-to-back financial commitments from Nickelodeon and Staples Foundation for Learning. Public school educators are eligible to apply for individual grants worth up to $5,000 for the development and implementation of ideas, techniques and approaches for teaching ‘green’ concepts. The first application deadline is Oct. 15, and the first grants are slated to be awarded in January. The Foundation will award two more rounds of these green grants in 2010, with deadlines for applications on Feb. 1 and June 1. Interested educators can view application guidelines and a sample application, watch an instructional video guiding them through the application process, find descriptions of recently funded grantees, and apply online at: neafoundation.org nomination form and instructions from: www.nea.org/hcrawards Submit the form and documentation to NEA Human and Civil Rights on or before Dec. 10. The NEA Human and Civil Rights Committee will carefully review all nominations and recommend selected candidates to the NEA Executive Committee for their final decision. By honoring a man or woman who works for human and civil rights, we affirm our commitment to equal opportunity and a just society.

NEH, ALA Offer Bookshelf Grants The National Endowment for the Humanities, in cooperation with the American Library Association’s (ALA) Public Programs Office, has opened applications for the seventh We the People Bookshelf project. The project will award 17 books in the We the People project to 4,000 K-12 libraries across the country.


This year’s theme, ‘A More Perfect Union,’ invites reflection on the idea of the United States as a ‘union,’ a ‘One’ as well as a ‘Many,’ and will complement library programs observing the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. To stimulate programming, the Bookshelf features a DVD edition of The Civil War, the award-winning documentary by Ken Burns, including the rights to show the series to public audiences. Public school K-12 libraries are invited to apply online through Jan. 29, 2010. For details, go to: http://publicprograms .ala.org/bookshelf

IRS Releases 403(b) Plan Video Courses The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released two video training courses about 403(b) plans. The courses may be of interest to Nebraska educators. The  first presentation is for employers and discusses recent regulatory changes. It can be found at: http://www.stayexempt.irs.gov/ ep/403b_employers/player.html The  second is for employees and discusses how 403(b) plans work and their advantages. To view the slide show and listen to the training, go to: http://www.stayexempt.irs.gov/ ep/403b_employees/player.html

Math Trust Offers History Stipend The Mathematics Education Trust (MET) of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has announced a new scholarship — the Professional Development Scholarship Emphasizing the History of Mathematics for Grades 6–12 Teachers. The scholarship will award a maximum of $3,000 to an individual currently teaching math in grades 6–12. The scholarship will provide financial support for completing creditbearing course work in the history of mathematics, creating and field-testing appropriate classroom activities incorporating the history of mathematics, and preparing and delivering a professional development presentation. The application must be postmarked by May 7, 2010. For details, visit: www.nctm.org/met

Drawing winner: NSEA Member Dan Zoucha, a social sciences teacher at Boone Central High School, was one of several attendees at the Nebraska Coaches Clinic in August to win a prize at the NSEA booth. NSEA UniServ Director Midge Dublinske gave Zoucha a Nebraska t-shirt as NSEA Associate Staff member Kathy Hutchinson looks on.

NEA Seeks Applicants for UniServ Intern Program Program Focus is Minorities, Women NEA is seeking eligible candidates for the 2010 UniServ Intern Program for Ethnic Minorities and Women. Individuals must complete a fourand-one-half week summer training program, and a three-month field experience as a local UniServ director. Applicants must be a female or ethnic minority as designated by the U.S. Census, and must also have been an active NEA member for at least one year. Applicants must be willing to resign from all association positions at the local, state and national levels. A letter of interest, including an

e-mail and street address, must be received no later than Dec. 15 at this address: Denard Earl, NEA UniServ Intern Program Affiliate Learning and Effectiveness Dept. National Education Association Suite #413 1201 16th Street, NW. Washington, DC 20036

Beginning on Dec. 15, application packets will be e-mailed to applicants. The deadline for formal applications is Jan. 31, 2010. For details, contact Earl at 1-202-822-7620, or at: dearl@nea.org

The Census in Schools: It’s About Us The U.S. Census Bureau has created a Census in Schools program called ‘2010 Census: It’s About Us.’ The program will provide educators with resources to teach the nation’s students about the importance of the census, so children can help deliver the message to their families. It will also help ensure that every child and every household member is counted in 2010. Age-specific educational materials for students in kindergarten through 12th grade will include maps displaying population counts and other demographic information, and lesson plans grouped by grade and correlated to national standards for math, geography and language arts. Every school principal should have details about the census, and teachers can now access online census resources. For more information about the Census in Schools program, visit: census.gov/schools/ For details about the 2010 Census, visit: 2010census.gov October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 17


BCBS Q&A

Looking to Retire? Child Graduating? You May Need to Review Your Health Insurance Options

In each of our lives, when change occurs, we may have to make decisions for ourselves or family members about health and dental coverage. If you have a spouse who has lost a job; a child graduating from school; if you have been recently married or divorced; if a spouse has died; or if you have retired; there are options provided through the Educators Health Alliance that may be able to help you continue with your coverage. These are options to consider, if you are covered under the EHA health and dental plans. COBRA The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances, such as voluntary or involuntary job loss; reduction in the hours worked; transition between jobs; death; divorce; and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan. There has been a change in the COBRA law that helps individuals who have been involuntarily terminated. Under the federal stimulus package, employees who were involuntarily terminated may have 65 percent of the health premium paid for by the employer for up to nine months. The employer then would receive a tax credit from the Federal Government for the amount of premium they pay on behalf of the involuntarily terminated employee. Early Retiree Coverage If you’ve been on the EHA health and dental plan for at least five consecutive years, and are eligible for retirement through your school district, you can continue coverage through the EHA on the Direct Bill Health Plan. The coverage is for early retirees of the school until they reach Social Security age (age 65 currently). This plan is another benefit of your membership with NSEA. Only NSEAR members are allowed to continue on Page 18 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

Spouse’s Coverage). It’s available to NSEA-R members and others who pay dues to be eligible for coverage. Pharmacy coverage (Part D) is available on an individual basis through BCBS of Nebraska, and not through the NSEA offering. the plan through the EHA. The current available plan is the $600 deductible option, with a PPO dental option. A member can select single, two singles, employee/spouse, employee/children or family coverage. Selecting two singles could save money when compared to the employee/spouse rate. If a member or spouse turns 65 before the other, the younger spouse may continue on the Early Retiree Coverage individually until reaching Social Security age.

Children Under 30 Covered LB551 passed in May. It will go into effect on Jan. 1, and allows dependent children, up to age 30, to keep coverage through their family’s group health insurance plan. The child does not have to be a full-time student to remain on the plan. As long as the child is a dependent, they are eligible for the Section 125 Flexible Spending Account, and are eligible for COBRA after age 30.

NSEA Medicare Supplement Coverage If you are age 65 or older and qualify for Medicare Part A & B, the NSEA-R has an outstanding plan that includes a dental option. No individual supplemental plans offer a dental option like the plan through the NSEA-R. A member can select this Supplement option even if they weren’t on the Early Retiree coverage (COBRA,

The educator’s Health Alliance has contracted with Kurt Genrich to serve as the EHA plan advocate. As such, Genrich will work with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska plan participants to answer questions and promote the plan. The EHA Board of Directors is composed of six NSEA representatives, and three each from the Nebraska Association of Genrich School Boards and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. NSEA Executive Director Craig R. Christiansen chairs the EHA Board of Directors. To reach Genrich, e-mail him at: kurt@ehaplan.org


NEA Member Benefits Snookie’s Snippets The Welcome Back page in the Professional Resources Channel at neamb.com offers these discounts: n Talbots will offer, through Oct. 12, a special members-only 20 percent discount. Members are requested to sign in and/or register on the neamb.com Web site, and print out their discount coupon to take to their nearest Talbots. Krumbiegel A store location finder is available on the Web site. n On the Web site, check out the many helpful and informative articles on today’s economy, including, “Tips on How to Negotiate with Your Creditors.” n Find out how your NEA dues dollars are spent, by viewing the NEA Dues Pie Allocation Chart. Also, discover the NEA Academy. Online learning through the NEA Academy is designed for today’s busy educator. The programs offered are supported with credibility, experience, commitment, practicality, flexibility and value. For details, go to: www.nea.org/academy Early Warning! First alert: Watch for exciting new discounts in next month’s column! Reminder Checklist Last month’s column highlighted Life Insurance Awareness Month. Don’t put it off, don’t forget. The time to think about life insurance is now! New Association members must register a beneficiary for the free, oneyear $15,000 NEA Introductory Term Life Insurance. Current members need to register a beneficiary for the no-cost NEA Complimentary Life Insurance. Visit neamb.com, or call the Member Service Center for details. October Prizes Check the NEA Member Benefits Web site for the chance to win Subway gift certificates and $200 Shell Gas cards. Register to win at: www.neamb.com Snookie Krumbiegel is Nebraska’s NEA Member Benefits representative.

Negotiate With Your Creditors

These Tips Can Help You Reduce Debt Most of us can pay cash for our daily living expenses. But when it comes time to make a major purchase such as a house or car, we need a credit file with a history of responsible payments. Credit is a convenience that keeps us from having to carry large amounts of cash, and allows us to buy now and pay later. Higher rates, lower spending limits, increased minimum payments, and closed accounts can put your finances at risk. If your account terms have been altered, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) says: Ask for an explanation. Everyone deserves to know why their account terms were changed. Creditors may close an account due to inactivity, because you’ve become too much of a risk, or you’re no longer profitable. Fight to get your terms reinstated. If you’ve had a sporadic pay history, are at or near your credit limit, or rarely use the card, this may be tough. However, if you’ve been a good customer, it’s worth it to call the issuer and plead your case. Build your case before calling. Know how long you’ve been a customer, how much you charge each month. Know your good payment history. Prove you’re worth having. Get your free credit report. Review it for accuracy. You want to make sure that you

and the creditor are seeing the same information. Pay the few dollars it costs to get your credit score. Your free credit report is available at: www.annualcreditreport.com Negotiate. Before calling, know what you want. Be willing to negotiate. If your interest rate has been raised and your credit limit lowered, ask that both be returned to previous levels. Know which is more important: do you need a low rate because you carry a monthly balance, or is a high line of credit vital? If you end up in a stand-off with the creditor, you’ll know where to give. Ask for a supervisor. If you’re not getting answers, move up the ladder until you get what you’re after, or are convinced they’re going to stand firm. Inquire about an opt-out. If it makes financial sense, ask to have your account closed, with you continuing to pay the balance under the former terms. If it will be a hardship to meet the new terms, it’s better to close the account. For help making sound financial decisions, building a budget, or aid in digging out of debt, call a trained, certified counselor at an NFCC Member Agency. To find an agency near you, call toll-free to NEA at 1-866-479-6322, or go online to the special Web page at: www.neamb.com/debtadvice

A Book Club You Can Love! NEA Member Benefits has joined with the Progressive Book Club to offer NEA members deals on a wide range of current books — without the hassles often associated with book clubs! Through a special arrangement, NEA members who join Progressive Book Club can select two free books from hundreds of titles, paying only a small shipping and handling charge. Members are required to buy only two more books within the next year at regular club prices, which can reflect savings of up to 80 percent off the cover price! Progressive’s editorial board reviews and selects the best titles in fiction, history, health, education, politics

and more. Each month, members who sign up receive an email that lists recommended authors and specials. It’s up to the member to initiate purchasing a book — or not! Unlike most book clubs, members will not automatically receive books they do not order. Add this great member bonus: For each regular club price book of $10 or more purchased, Progressive will donate $2 to a beneficiary organization that the member designates. The NEA Health Information Network and NEA Foundation are options! Learn more at the NEA Member Benefits web site at: www.neamb.com October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 19


Page 20 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009


From the Executive Director

Telling the Truth: The Cost of Education monthly salary to make it to the next month. And the real I recently re-visited one of my favorite western steak cost? Ask if their students are getting the best these teachhouses. The food and atmosphere always ensure a fun ers have to offer when our new teachers have to spend time time. When I go to this restaurant, I think of two young subsidizing their own employment. friends who began teaching this fall in our public schools. This nation laments the fact that it loses about 50 percent My fun, relaxing time is their work time. They are both of all new teachers in the first five years of their careers. servers at this restaurant. They simply leave. If that happened in most industries, the Like all new teachers, they are excited about their first market would respond jobs in the profession. by raising the price They are both Midof that labor to meet dle School teachers. the market demand Erica teaches Social and reduce turnover. Studies and Reading Education has found and Russell teaches another way. TeachSocial Studies, Engers raise the money lish and Communifor their own salcations. They are in ary needs by getting great school districts a second job. Some that support good labor economists sugteaching. They both gest that the lack of talk proudly of being mobility by teacha teacher. Both are ers contributes to the eager to experience problem of low pay. the great satisfaction After all, they sug– and the reality – of gest, if the job doesn’t what it means to be a pay enough, move to teacher. a better-paying disThe hard fact is that The real cost of education: NSEA Executive Director Craig R. trict. part of what it means to be a beginning teacher Christiansen, center, flanked by new teachers Erica Nuzzolillo and As Expected is that it is often nec- Russell Bradley. The fact is that essary to supplement a teachers are doing exactly what we expect them to do. beginning teacher’s salary with income from a second job. They become deeply-rooted members of their communiIn addition to the great learning curve that accompanies ties and establish themselves as valuable contributors to the the first years of teaching, they are learning that a pubquality of life wherever they teach. No, they don’t easily lic system that is unwilling to pay professional salaries to move to better job markets. And society is lucky teachers newly inducted teachers relies on subsidies to boost those don’t – especially a society that only reluctantly pays even salaries to adequate levels. Who provides those subsidies? inadequate salaries that teachers have to “supplement” or The teachers themselves. “stretch.” Sadly, salaries are not the only part of a school district’s The Best to Offer? budget that teachers routinely subsidize. The average Teaching and the ministry may be the only professions teacher now spends between $500 to $600 from his or her that require its practitioners to provide part of their own personal account each year for classroom teaching materisalary to be able to afford to remain on the job. als. When I explained that fact to a local businessman, he The consequence for education is that, at the very time looked puzzled and said “I go to work to make money, when new teachers should be spending their time planning, not to spend it.” What he did not understand is how much preparing and studying their new craft, they are using that teachers already subsidize local district coffers. valuable time to wait on tables, paint houses, clean offices The next time that someone complains about the cost of at night, mow lawns, babysit or bake cakes. The lucky education, let them know that the real cost is even higher. ones work at retail stores where they get discounts on the The truth about the cost of public education is that teachers clothing they need for school. Russell talks about “supplehelp pay the bill. menting” his teacher salary. Erica calls it “stretching” her October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 21


NSEA-Retired Corner

Board Elections Set for March Treasurer’s Post, Several District Directorships are Open for Balloting Elections for NSEA-Retired offices of secretary, treasurer and for district directors from the Metro, Panhandle and Tri-Valley Districts will take place in March 2010. Nomination forms will be printed in the January 2010 issue of The Voice. Current NSEA-Retired Secretary Ruby Davis is completing her first term in office, and is eligible for reelection. Treasurer John Jensen is completing his second term, and is not eligible for re-election. Panhandle Director Kent Harvey and Tri-Valley Director Jan Barnason are completing their first terms and are eligible for re-election. The September 2009 issue of the NSEARetired Advocate incorrectly listed Sandhills District Director Joyce Huggans, whose term expires in 2011, as being up for election in 2010. NSEA-Retired will adopt new NSEA District boundaries for elections in the spring of 2010. The new Metro District is the two-county Learning Community consisting of Douglas and Sarpy counties. Current Metro District Director Arlene McFall does not live in the Metro District Learning Community, so her director position will be an open seat in 2010. For the purpose of voting, NSEARetired members are assigned to NSEA-Retired Districts based on their current home address, not where they taught prior to retirement. A current map for NSEA Districts is on the NSEA Web site: http://www.nsea.org/members/ districts/index.htm NSEA-Retired Membership Video NSEA-Retired has a new sevenminute video that promotes and explains the member benefits for NSEA-Retired. We hope you use it to promote retired membership for your active members. It’s available through your UniServ director. For more information, call NSEA at 1-800-742-0047. SEAN Outreach to Teach 2009 The Student Education Association of Nebraska (SEAN) has set its third Page 22 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

Warm this winter: For the past several years, the NSEA Retired has raised money for the NSEA Children’s Fund through a raffle for a quilt, handmade by retired Lincoln teacher Lorene Behrends. This year’s winner was Linda Brown of Lincoln, and the Children’s Fund, which received the $1,281 in proceeds. From left are Behrends, Brown, and NSEA-Retired President Roger Rea.

annual Outreach to Teach activity for Saturday, Oct. 10, at Kellom School, 1311 N. 24th St., Omaha. The project will include painting and landscaping the campus. Look for details on the SEAN Web site at: www.nsea.org/members/sean NSEA-Retired contributed $500 in support of the project, and will deliver a number of volunteer retired members to the school that day. All volunteers are welcome to lend a hand! Local Affiliates Following is more information on some of NSEA-Retired’s local affiliates. Platte Valley Retired Education Association Guy Roggenkamp, 308-383-3579, is president. Other officers are Rita Lammers, vice president; Linda Dahlstrom, secretary; and Stanley Urwiller, treasurer. Other local leaders: Don Britton, past president; Jim McMagan, communications chair; and Jan

Barnason, Tri-Valley NSEA-Retired director. Meetings start at 2 p.m., and are set for Nov. 4, to hear about the Veterans’ Honor Flight; Feb. 3, to learn more about the public teacher retirement fund; and May 5, for a legislative update. Meetings are held at the Platte Valley State Bank in Grand Island. Elkhorn/Sandhills Education Association Retired Francis Rohrich, 402-371-9096, is president. Other officers are LuEtta Clark, vice president; Mary Ann Wright, secretary; and Patricia Monson, treasurer. Meetings are set for Nov. 9 at ESU No. 8 in Neligh, for a Christmas Social; Feb. 24 at the Norfolk Senior Center for lunch, a meeting and a tour of the Elkhorn Valley Historical Museum; and June 17 at Green Gables Restaurant in Royal for lunch, a meeting and a tour of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. — Tom Black, Editor wpc6296@cableone.net


Do You Work With Excellent Teachers?

Of Course You Do! So Why Not Nominate a Colleague for an NSEA Teaching or ESP Award?

After school fun: Members of the Westside Education Association enjoyed the association’s first-ever Barbeque Bash to celebrate the end of the first full week of school. More than 100 teachers, education support professionals and family members took advantage of great weather to socialize, eat and to learn more about the benefits of membership in the Westside Education Association and the Nebraska State Education Association.

Media, Technology Webinars Presented by PBS Teachers Topics Include Science, Geography, Social Studies and Storytelling PBS Teachers has introduced a series of free webinars featuring education technology experts, authors or producers of PBS programs who will share ideas on using digital media to engage students in rich learning experiences. Teachers can participate in the webinars after signing up for free membership in PBS Teachers. Membership provides preK-12 educators with access to the PBS Teachers online community, all of PBS’s educational services, and a searchable library of more than 9,000 free local and national standards-based teaching activities, lesson plans, on-demand video assets, and interactive games and simulations. PBS Teachers was recently named a “Landmark Web Site for Teaching and Learning” by the American Association of School Libraries, which cited the Web site’s dynamic content and curricular relevance. Topics covered in the fall/winter schedule of webinars include elementary and middle level science, geography, social studies, digital storytelling, education in the digital age and online professional development.  To sign up or for more details, visit: www.pbs.org/teachers/webinar The schedule: Wednesday, Oct. 7: Teaching About Place with Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Thursday, Oct. 22: Welcome to the New PBS Teachers Site. Tuesday, Nov. 10: Education in the Digital Age: FRONTLINE’s “Digital Nation.” Thursday, Dec. 10: PBS TeacherLine: Online Professional Development for Educators. Tuesday, Jan. 26: Middle Level STEM Education with “Design Squad,” “Fetch” and “DragonflyTV.”

Several deserving notables who have contributed to the betterment of public education in Nebraska will be recognized at NSEA’s 2010 Delegate Assembly — but only if they receive your nomination! Any NSEA member may nominate an individual or group for the awards. In all cases, send nominations by Friday, Feb. 12, 2010, to: NSEA Awards, Suite 200, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508-2742. Nominations may also be submitted online, with any required supporting material mailed to the NSEA. The online forms for the awards will soon be found under the ‘Call for Nominations’ link on the NSEA Web site at: www.nsea.org NSEA members are eligible for these awards: n NSEA Rookie of the Year. n Award for Teaching Excellence. n Education Support Professional of the Year. Finalists will be notified in March, with winners announced at Delegate Assembly in Lincoln April 16-17, 2010. Each winner receives a $250 cash award, and each finalist receives $100. The winner of the Award for Teaching Excellence will compete for NEA’s Teaching Excellence Award. Though there are no cash awards for these honors, NSEA members are also eligible for these awards: n Community Service: Recognizes individual NSEA members and/or local associations who are actively involved in non-paid volunteer work outside of classroom duty hours. n Local Public Relations: Recognizes local associations for outstanding communication within the association, and promotion of educational excellence within the community. Nominations are also sought for these awards: n Friend of Education: Local associations are encouraged to nominate either an individual or organization that has made a statewide contribution to education/educators. n Media: Recognizes a newspaper, television or radio station for outstanding work in covering education issues and promoting community involvement in education. For details, contact the NSEA at 1-800-742-0047.

Omaha Educator Clark Dies at 97

A longtime Omaha teacher, administrator and NSEA member died Sept. 5 at the age of 97. Thresa Clark worked for the Omaha Public Schools for more than 36 years. Clark taught sixth grade at Webster Elementary, and moved to Rosewater School as principal seven years later. She also later took over as principal at Robbins and Corrigan Elementary Schools. In 1956, she became principal at Benson West Elementary, and remained there until her retirement 20 years later. Clark was a regular at NSEA functions during her career. She was one of the founders of the Omaha Education Association Thrift Store, which raised money for OPS and OPS students. Clark is in the Omaha South High School Hall of Fame, and graduated from Omaha University. She is survived by several cousins, and good friend and retired teacher Mary Moberg. October 2009 n The NSEA Voice n Page 23


Speaking of Teaching “There is only one thing that costs more than education today: the lack of it.” — Anonymous. Mailed By: The Nebraska State Education Association Suite 200, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508-2742

Family of Teachers Decorating for High School From hollyanna50@peoplepc.com, a high school English teacher:

“I’ve taught English in both middle and high school, and find that there’s a serious lack of tasteful educational posters and decorations for high school students. “There’s nothing worse than a student recognizing a poster, worksheet game, etc., that is intended for use in a middle school classroom but has been used in his/ her high school instead. “I buy very little from the educational stores. Instead, I buy plants, fresh flowers and artwork. Plants not only clean the air in the room but they provide a caring environment. Many students can relate to plants as living things. I always have fresh cut flowers on my desk, and it’s amazing how sometimes the most agitated student will calm down after gazing at the flowers. “I go to garage sales and buy all kinds of art work to display in the classroom. I also make my own posters and put up a lot of the students’ work.” Sign up for Works4Me at this link: http://www.nea.org/tools/ Works4Me.html Page 24 n The NSEA Voice n October 2009

Recker family of teachers: Mike and Pat Recker and their four children have more than 70 years invested in the teaching profession. Seated, from left, are Lisa Crane, a teacher at St. Vincent DePaul School in Seward; Pat Recker, a secretary and librarian at Howells Community School; and Michelle Roberts, a second grade teacher for the Osceola Public Schools. Standing, from left, are: Jon Recker, a senior at the University of NebraskaLincoln majoring in secondary education; Mike Recker, who has been the elementary guidance counselor at West Point Public Schools for the past 16 years; and Brian Recker, who teaches elementary health and physical education for the Syracuse-Avoca-Dunbar Public Schools. If you have a Family of Teachers, send your photo to Family of Teachers, c/o NSEA, Suite 200, 605 S. 14th St., Lincoln, NE 68508.


The Voice- October 2009