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April 2018 | Vol. 95 | Issue 4 |


One of MEA’s Reasons for Being Third grade reading. Teacher evaluations. Seclusion and restraint. Guns in schools. These four complex issues are unalike but for one commonality: They represent education policy matters that current lawmakers in leadership have preferred to dictate top-down with little regard for the judgments of experts who do the work. For decades the name of this magazine has attested to one of MEA’s reasons for being: to give unified voice to the concerns and expertise of school employees who dedicate their lives to the betterment of our state’s youth. In the last issue of MEA Voice, we documented the frustrations of K-3 educators charged with teaching our youngest children to read. A new Third Grade Reading law came with plenty of mandates but little funding, all passed with little input from educators. In the coming weeks, MEA Lobbyist David Michelson will facilitate focus groups around the state to gather ideas for improving the law from elementary school members—the people best positioned to know the types of supports they need to help kids. And our lobbying team has worked for two years to develop relationships with Republican lawmakers willing to listen and address problems with the state’s new teacher evaluation system. Read about how your feedback became proposed legislation in “Lobby-

ing Insider” on page 8. This month’s cover story documents another issue that is complicated and challenging, which has been addressed by a new law. Reports indicate the Seclusion and Restraint law has created confusion and disruption in many schools. By shining a spotlight on MEA members who are sharing concerns, we hope additional clarification and guidance will be issued on the law to improve conditions for school employees and students alike. Read about the law’s implementation on page 20. Finally, guns in schools is an issue we have written about previously. Even before the deadly Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Republicans in our state were pushing to allow concealed weapons to be carried in schools and other gun-free zones. Since the tragedy in Florida, Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, has proposed adding more guns to schools even while disrespecting educators to news reporters: “There are some teachers I wouldn’t feel safe around if they had a butter knife,” he said. The bill that Runestad and a Republican colleague have in the works would let school districts keep guns in fingerprint-ID locked boxes to be accessed by trained school employees

during an active shooting. Our members have told us repeatedly through the years that guns have no place in the halls of learning. It’s why we responded to members’ requests to send several buses to last month’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. They told us they wanted a voice in the debate. Unlike some lawmakers, MEA does not issue top-down edicts. Our members make up the elected Board of Directors, which meets regularly to steer a policy course based on member input, and hundreds of elected delegates to the MEA Representative Assembly set our agenda and budget as part of our highest governing body. Our Statewide Screening & Recommendations Committee—comprised of a variety of MEA members—interviews and chooses candidates to recommend in statewide races based on education and labor stances (including gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, featured on page 10). Screening and recommendations committees meet across the state to do the work of vetting and recommending local and regional candidates from school board level up. Decisions are made by the members who make up our great union. It is our privilege to serve as your highest elected leaders in this organization dedicated to bringing together and strengthening our members’ voices. ◼

Paula J. Herbart President

Chandra A. Madafferi Vice President

Brett R. Smith Secretary-Treasurer

2  APRIL 2018


4 Editor’s Notebook Limitations of test scores 6 MEA Calendar MEA Scholarship Golf Outing 7 Member Voices Faculty Step Up in New Ways 8 Lobbying Insider Teacher Evaluation Bills 16 Strength in Union Where to ‘Buy Union’ 20 Cover Story Seclusion & Restraint Issues 24 Strength in Union MEA Tools Help Bargainers 27 Start of a Journey New Educators: Final Chapter 28 MEA Elections NEA Board candidates

17—MEMBERS AT WORK: Colby Sharp is nationally known for his literacy work, and now—for his book.

10—ELECTION 2018: Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer sits down for a one-on-one interview.

On the Cover: School Psychologist Marvin Nordeen works at New Campus School in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District.

Executive Director�������������������Michael Shoudy Director of Public Affairs����������������� Doug Pratt Editor �����������������������������������������Brenda Ortega Staff Photographer���������������������� Miriam Garcia Publications Specialist������������� Shantell Crispin

The MEA Voice ISSN 1077-4564 is an official publication of the Michigan Education Association, 1216 Kendale Blvd., East Lansing, MI 48823. Opinions stated in the MEA Voice do not necessarily reflect the official position of the MEA unless so identified. Published by Michigan Education Association, Box 2573, East Lansing, MI 48826-2573. Periodicals postage paid at East Lansing and additional mailing offices. Payment of the active membership fee entitles a member to receive the MEA Voice. Of each annual fee whether for active or affiliate membership, $12.93 is for a year’s subscription. Frequency of issue is September, December, February, April and August. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the MEA Voice, Box 2573, East Lansing, MI 48826-2573 or via email at Allow at least three weeks for change of address to take effect. MEA Voice telephone: 517-332-6551 or 800-292-1934. Circulation this issue: 113,208

12—MEMBERS AT WORK: Negaunee High School teacher Kevin Bell has built a four-year CAD program and a dynasty of champions among his senior teams competing in a national engineering contest.

14—MEMBER BENEFITS: MEA has a popular new benefit—free college for members and their families.

34—SPECIAL REPORT: A new vaping device resembling a computer flash drive is invading schools. MEA VOICE 3


Editor’s Notebook With Michigan lawmakers again debating a simplistic A-F grading system for schools, I need to state my frustration with our national obsession over standardized test scores—over and above the vital question of whether bubble tests even measure what we value as a society. I once taught English in a wealthy school district in California where student test scores ranked in the top 10 percent of all schools in the state. Later I taught English in a Title I district in Michigan where student test scores ranked around the 45th percentile of the state. I was a stronger teacher in the Title I school. I pursued improvement. I asked for help, read books, and attended trainings. I focused on both skills and engagement. I took risks, failed, tried again, learned, grew. That is what educators do—and they change lives in the process. I didn’t see the needle move dramatically on test scores in either district I worked at, but that was no shock to me. If a school focuses on third-grade reading scores or seventh-grade math results year after year, hoping for huge improvements, that will be difficult to achieve. Why? Because every year the kids taking the test in that district are going to be eight-year-olds or 12-year-olds who come from the particular culture of that city, town, or village. From poverty or wealth. From highly educated parents or not. Moving that needle requires real investment. And Michigan lawmakers have disinvested in schools over several years—as documented by a slew of recent studies. Testing data could be used to target needed supports for schools, but our legislators prefer punishments—leaving the education system to solve issues of poverty alone. In December a fascinating study from Stanford Graduate School of Education looked at this issue from a different angle. The study tracked test scores of children over a five-year span—charting the growth of students as they passed through public elementary and middle schools. Unsurprising to me, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced wealthier suburban schools, although more affluent schools also did well. But kids in high-need areas often began far behind the starting line, and educators did heroic work helping them move forward. For example, in Chicago—where schools are routinely labeled “failing”—the growth rate of students from third grade to eighth grade was 20 percent higher than the national average. Read more about the Stanford study at The groundbreaking study led Bridge magazine to use the Stanford model to calculate its annual Academic State Champs among Michigan schools this year. View the Bridge database at BridgeChamps. I’m still not a fan of judging schools or teachers on bubble tests, but at least the Stanford approach measures growth in children and not year-to-year growth in a testing category. And that data shows less advantaged schools are a force for equity in the lives of students—despite lawmakers’ disinterest in doing their jobs to address underlying poverty and inequality.  —Brenda Ortega, editor

4  APRIL 2018


Percentage of U.S. teachers who do not think they or other school staff members should have guns in school, according to a nationally representative online Gallup Panel survey of 500 teachers in March. In addition, an NEA survey of 1,000 members found 82 percent of respondents would not carry a gun to school even if they had training and were allowed to do so.

QUOTABLES “My students did not even know what this opioid stuff was before making this documentary, so I put out old yearbooks to show them that the kids who are passing from this crisis had sat in these very chairs.” MEA member Jody Mackey, whose Traverse City middle school students created a powerful film about the national opioid crisis striking hard in the local area. Four recent alumni from Traverse City Area Public Schools have died from opioid overdoses in just the past year. Read more at OpioidFilm.


ICYMI When the online news site Vox began writing about declining or stagnating teacher pay around the country, the writers were inundated with people’s stories that revealed “an underreported factor in the rise of teacher discontent”: the increasing share of health care premiums that states are forcing educators to pay even while salaries are frozen or shrinking. As teacher unrest spread from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Kentucky, and other states, Vox began asking educators to share their stories via online form. Data from the National Compensation Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, published by Vox


ABOVE AND BEYOND This year’s winner of the “Best in Show” award at the MEA-MAEA Art Exhibition captured the winning photo while aboard a moving train. MEA-Retired member Lynn Gregg was touring Kitts Island in the Caribbean when he saw a mother holding her baby and waving from her porch. Gregg’s winning shot, titled “Hurricane Survivors,” captures details that convey the island’s intense poverty. Gregg edited the photo to bring out color and details in ways that make the 30x40-inch framed work appear like a painting. “I’m not really into taking pictures of scenery; I’d rather show people in their surroundings,” said Gregg, who worked in Wayne-Westland and Brighton schools before retiring in 2014. View more of the artwork accepted in the exhibition—co-sponsored by MEA and the Michigan Art Education Association—at

“People who want our nation to return to a time where working families enjoyed a real chance at upward mobility should remember that more Americans were part of unions when that was the case.” Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, writing in an op-ed in USA TODAY titled “Supreme Court Janus case is bigger than unions. Upward mobility is at stake.” In it she warns that families will have a steeper climb to the middle class if the Janus case before the U.S. Supreme Court succeeds in limiting the collective rights of organized labor, as the billionaire backers of Janus hope will happen. Read more at MEA VOICE 5



April 20-21

Spring Representative Assembly Lansing Center, Lansing MEA’s highest governing body, the Representative Assembly will consider the organization’s policy matters for the coming year. Delegates are elected from locals around the state.

May 8

Teacher Day/School Family Day Statewide Each year, schools and communities observe Teacher Day/School Family Day during National Teacher Appreciation Week with local celebrations that pay tribute to the contributions all school employees make to our communities and society.

June 30-July 5

NEA Representative Assembly Minneapolis, Minn.

The NEA Representative Assembly, consisting of 8,000 delegates from across the U.S., adopts the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, the Legislative Program, and other policies of the Association. Delegates vote on proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws.

July 31-August 2

Summer Leadership Conference Saginaw Valley State University Saginaw

Sessions at this MEA conference help association leaders and members be informed and engaged on topics that include organizing, advocacy, political action, professional development, legal issues, and communications. For more information, go to

6  APRIL 2018

18th Annual MEA Scholarship Fund Golf Outing June 18 It’s never too early to start thinking about golf! The 18th Annual MEA Scholarship Fund Golf Outing is scheduled for June 18 at the Forest Akers Golf Course in Lansing. The outing raises funds for scholarships given to college-bound students from Michigan public schools. Since 1997, more than $600,000 in scholarships have been awarded to deserving public school students throughout Michigan. With college tuition rates continuing to rise, your support of the MEA Scholarship Fund Golf outing will make a difference in the lives of young people. Golfers will have a shotgun start at 9 a.m. in a four-player scramble format. A continental breakfast will be served prior to play, and lunch will be provided on the course. A prize drawing and buffet will highlight the dinner program that follows play. The golf fee is $120 per person, a portion of which is tax-deductible. Fully tax-deductible donations also can be made for hole sponsorships, prizes or directly to the MEA Scholarship Fund. Please secure your spot on the green today! Registration forms are available at or by contacting Barb Hitchcock at Forms must be accompanied by entry fees. For questions regarding the MEA Scholarship Fund Golf Outing, please contact Barb Hitchcock at 517-333-6276 or

Retiring? Join MEA-Retired! If you’re retiring, don’t lose access to MEA and NEA Member Benefits you’ve enjoyed—join MEA-Retired and continue in the fight to preserve public education, ensure school employees’ rights, and protect the retirement benefits you worked hard to earn. For a one-time lifetime membership fee, MEA-Retired members receive the Michigan Retirement Report five times per year, in addition to other retirement communications and MEA Voice magazine. Chapters meet locally to advocate for issues important to retirees. You may already be a member if you paid into the All-Inclusive Membership Program (AIM) during your active teaching years. Contact Lisa Andros at for more information.


Bay College Faculty Aid Students in Many Ways By Nanci Love, Bay Faculty Association

Like educators everywhere, faculty at Bay College in Escanaba spend their days with students in a variety of functions: teaching classes, coordinating arts and events, supporting clubs and sports, mentoring, and helping students prepare for future university and professional careers. “We are committed to helping students,” says political science instructor Molly Campbell. “We try to be there for them academically, but also as friendly supporters and advisors.” Less well known is the growing number of projects that our faculty members collectively accomplish as we support student success through the Bay Faculty Association—an MEA-affiliated local. Each year, the Bay Faculty Association does a Community Improvement or Outreach Project in conjunction with the MEA. Recently, however, members of the Faculty Association have increased their role by donating to a greater number of initiatives and causes aimed at helping Bay College students. First, the faculty joined forces with the college to sponsor monetary awards for the six Student of the Year winners. Each April the six divisions in the college pick a “Student of the Year” based upon involvement and academics. The college has awarded winners with a plaque, but this past spring, the faculty added a check for each student. Former Association President Bill Milligan helped coordinate this effort. “Supporting these awards is a natural fit for us,” says Milligan, “and an extension of the passion faculty have for not only teaching but celebrating student success.” Next, the faculty voted to support continued remodeling at the college. Recently, Bay opened a new academic support and study space called “The

HUB.” It’s filled every day, and students love it. The Faculty Association donated money to help buy outdoor furniture for the remodeling of the courtyard, which extends the study and meeting space outside. Afterwards, the Faculty Association endowed a merit-based scholarship with an initial contribution of $10,000. Income generated from the endowment is expected to be awarded as a scholarship for the first time during the 2018-19 school year. In addition to individual instructors volunteering to make personal contributions to the fund, the Association plans to make future supplemental contributions. “The goal of Bay College faculty members is to help ease the financial burden of our students as they pursue their educations,” says Bay business instructor Ron Pearson.

Most recently, the Faculty Association funded the purchase of a new freezer for the Bay College Food Pantry. Run by two student groups, TRIO Peer Mentors and the Business and Professionals of America (BPA) student chapter, the Bay College Food Pantry helps students get the nutrition they need. The freezer will enable the Pantry to offer meat and other perishables to students. Nursing instructor and current Faculty Association President Sandy Croasdell says nutrition and education go hand-in-hand. “Students can’t learn when they’re hungry. Proper nutrition is an important component of a healthy lifestyle.” Educators give so much of themselves to their students every day. Collective action by the Faculty Association provides even more opportunities to make an impact in the lives of the young people we care about. “We are proud of the college and our students, and we work every day to improve both,” says Chief Negotiator Tom Warstler. ◼

The Bay College Faculty Association bought a new freezer for the college food pantry run by two student groups, in addition to other initiatives.



We Took Your Evaluation Feedback to the Capitol Do you ever wonder what happens after you take an MEA member survey? It gets combed through for ideas and guidance on policy, communications, and lobbying. Your stories and opinions get shared with lawmakers. Sometimes, if enough of you speak out, if the arguments are really strong, and if we can persuade legislators that a wrong needs righting— then the feedback you take the time to provide to MEA becomes a bill in the Legislature. That is what has happened with teacher evaluations. When we printed out the results of an online survey last spring, the pages stacked three inches high. We heard you again last fall during the MEA Officers’ Statewide Listening Tour, when you said the evaluation system was having negative effects on teaching and learning.

with us on solving some issues you have identified. House Bill 5707, introduced by Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis), would keep “student growth” as a percentage of educator evaluations at 25 percent instead of increasing to 40 percent this coming fall. HB 5688 to prohibit an evaluator from conducting an evaluation on a family member, was introduced by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland). And HB 5687 which would bar school districts from setting a limit on the number of teachers who may be rated “highly effective,” was introduced by Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant). We are still working to secure sponsors for other measures that should be introduced to address other problems in the system, including bills to allow a teacher rated effective or highly effective on three consecutive evaluations to move to a biannual—rather than annual—evaluation. Another bill in search of a sponsor would limit administrators to using only one full focus area with an evaluation tool in the evaluation of a teacher instead of three. Finally, we hope a lawmaker will step forward to introduce legislation that would exempt student growth data for a student who scores in the 30th percentile or below and

“We’re in this together.” The new evaluation system implemented in the last two years is time-consuming and ineffective. The move to make “student growth” account for 40 percent of a teacher’s score starting this fall places too much emphasis in the wrong places. The state-approved tools are cumbersome. It will be difficult to address every problem with the 2011 law, given the makeup of the Legislature. However, over the last two years, we have developed relationships with several Republicans who are willing to work 8  APRIL 2018

By Andy Neumann MEA Lobbyist

completed the state assessment in one-third or less of allotted time. Next it will be up to you to raise your voices again. We need you to call or write your representative in the state House to encourage these bills to move. Share your story with them. Give concrete reasons for your position. Remember—dialogue, not debate. It’s sort of like tag-team wrestling. We need you to respond to surveys and calls to action to have our backs at the Capitol. And when you raise your voices with us, we promise to listen and do everything in our power to effect policy changes that support your work in schools. We’re in this together. Union strong. ◼


Rethink Your Drink: Water’s Cool at School Sixty-one schools across Michigan will soon receive new water fountains/bottle filling stations, thanks to help from MESSA and the Delta Dental Foundation. In all, 95 water fountains/bottle filling stations will be installed. The schools are winners of MESSA and the Delta Dental Foundation’s “Rethink Your Drink: Water’s Cool at School” program, designed to encourage children to drink more water during the school day. “Drinking water throughout the school day is key to staying focused and energized,” said Teri Battaglieri, Delta Dental Foundation director. “Not only are sugar-sweetened beverages like pop and juice bad for your teeth, they can contribute to other health issues such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. We want more students to have access to drinking water during the day so they can keep their teeth and bodies strong and healthy.”

MESSA Executive Director Ross Wilson said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Delta Dental Foundation on this important program. MESSA is committed to supporting education employees as they look to improve their own health while modeling good examples for their students.” Winning schools will have old drinking fountains replaced with Elkay water fountain/bottle filling stations by Oak Park-based Balfrey & Johnston. The winners will also receive reusable water bottles for students and staff. More than 600 schools applied for the program, and winners were select-

ed based on several criteria, including age and condition of their current drinking fountains, creativity of their applications, percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and geographic location. The Water’s Cool at School program was piloted at Okemos Public Montessori at Central in September 2016. Within the first month, students increased their water consumption and saved more than 2,200 empty water bottles from going into a landfill. To view a list of winners, visit ◼



Gretchen Whitmer Talks Life and Education

By Brenda Ortega MEA Voice Editor

It was early in the morning, still dark outside, and Gretchen Whitmer had a certain magazine interview to get to. She didn’t want to wake her teenage daughter, Sherry, but she hoped to sing “Happy Birthday” to her 16-year-old. She did both—woke her and sang. Later she would “get the skinny” attending parent-teacher conferences at the East Lansing school attended by Sherry and sister Sydney, 14, and then take the birthday girl to get her driver license. “I think the thing that keeps me grounded and focused on what really matters is my kids and my family,” she said. Whitmer is running a tireless campaign to be Michigan’s next governor. She was the unanimous pick of MEA’s Statewide Screening & Recommendations Committee, and she has since garnered nearly every other union endorsement for her record of championing organized labor. The Michigan Democratic primary election is Aug. 7 this year. Given the pace of her days, she knows a lot about the pressures faced by moms, “whether you’re a paid working mom or a mom working at home,” she says: Breakfast made, lunches packed, dinner in the CrockPot before most people have gotten out of bed. She understands the demands of caring for a family amid other stressors, including tending to the needs of aging parents at the same time. She was the primary caregiver for her mother until she lost her battle with brain cancer just a few months after Sherry was born. Whitmer was serving her first term as a legislator in the state House, and she called that period in 2002 a “tough time” that reinforced her 10  APRIL 2018

values and “eliminated my patience with problems.” “We get lots of politicians that like to make political hay over the issues that we face as a state, and I don’t have any patience for that,” she said. “I want to solve problems.” Topping her education to-do list is to restore education funding and protect it from being raided to bail out other parts of the budget. “The states that are turning around educational outcomes for kids are the ones making a meaningful investment in children,” she said. She ironically noted the headline on a Detroit News editorial from the day before our interview: “Businesses Should Lead School Reform.” “We’ve got a business guy leading the state, and guess what? He poisoned a city and has driven our education system into the bottom in this country. We need educators to lead the way on education policy, just like we need experts overseeing our water.” Teachers and education support professionals have been disrespected for too long, Whitmer says. It’s a theme she returns to often: “We need to stop attacking educators’ pay, and their benefits, and their ability to determine what’s happening in the classroom.” The daughter and granddaughter of educators, Whitmer laments that few legislators even visit public schools. “This Legislature continues to put forth new law after new law impacting the work schools are doing every single day, and they never even

talk to a teacher, a parapro, a cafeteria worker, or any of the people who make up our schools.” The lawmakers who currently control both houses of the Legislature don’t ignore all voices, she said. “The Republicans in Michigan work for one family: The DeVos family. That is who sets policy for my kids’ schools and for the schools your members are working in day in and day out. “They’ve corrupted a government that’s supposed to be working for the people.” Among the destructive policies championed by DeVos and other wealthy special interests, unlimited for-profit charter schools have drained tax dollars out of traditional public schools that continue to educate 90 percent of students. Approximately 70 percent of for-profit charters perform in the bottom half of school rankings. Whitmer wants to close poor-performing charters. If necessary, she would pressure universities that authorize those charter companies.

The daughter and granddaughter of educators, Whitmer sees damage from years of attacks on educators’ pay and benefits, in addition to the silencing of expert voices on education policy.

“A governor with a backbone can use the power of the state budget to force the closure of charters that are failing our students,” she said. She added that her plan to beef up “wraparound” services and support in high-need schools would go a long way to ending the proliferation of charter schools in impoverished urban areas. “Successful states don’t abandon schools like Governor Snyder proposed doing,” she said. “They wrap great support around traditional public schools.” Campaigning around the state, Whitmer has heard in every city, town, and rural crossroads from educators frustrated by politicians’ disregard for their knowledge, expertise, and well-being. The growing teacher shortage is a concern, not a surprise. “The fact we have anyone working in a school who qualifies for a Bridge card is an abomination,” she said. “How would you expect to lure people into this important profession if they can’t support their own family doing it?” Reversing years of disinvestment in higher education to make college affordable again is another top priority, she said. “We have to make it more affordable for people to get education degrees without crippling debt.” Whitmer served five years in the state House and nine in the Senate. She holds a bachelor’s degree and law degree from Michigan State University, though she originally planned to be a sports broadcaster. “I love

sports, and there were no women on ESPN, so that was my plan.” However, she got the “political bug” while doing internships in college and followed that interest into policy work for a time. She decided to pursue law school hoping it would offer flexibility and opportunity, and that is when she discovered her passion, she said. “I think that’s the core lesson about education; it can help you figure out what your path is going to be,” she said. “I was never a stellar student until I went to law school, and that’s when it really clicked for me.” In 2012, she became the first woman chosen by her colleagues to serve as Democratic leader in the state Senate. That year, she bolstered a reputation as a fighter during the battle over “Right to Work” legislation. Strongly opposed to the attack on organized labor in the birthplace of unionism, Whitmer crashed a closed Snyder press conference after he stopped returning her calls to explain his sudden turnabout on the issue. “What he was doing was wrong and cowardly,” she said. “Again the

DeVos family played a big role in what happened, and despite the fact that thousands and thousands of people from across the state came to the Capitol, the Republicans tried to block them out.” Whitmer also voted against the law to allow the state to deduct 3 percent of school employees’ pay to fund retiree health care. Last December the law was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court after a nearly eight-year legal fight by MEA, AFT Michigan and AFSCME. She summed up multiple appeals of lower court rulings by Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette—now a Republican candidate for governor—as part of a political philosophy: “Wear the little guy down, and then you can do anything you want.” That is why the union matters, she says. And it’s why this election is vital. “One of the things we can do to empower school employees is elect a governor who’s not beholden to the DeVos family,” she said, “a governor who understands how critical the educator’s voice is in creating the best policies around our schools.” ◼ MEA VOICE 11


Negaunee Teacher Creates Bridge Building Dynasty the state competition, administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation and judged by working engineers from MDOT. And Bell recently learned one of his teams will be headed to Tennessee for this year’s national challenge run by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The challenge in both comNext month, two senior teams in Kevin Bell’s CAD class will compete in a state-level model petitions this year was to bridge building contest, and one—above, right—will try for a ninth-straight national title for construct a self-anchored Negaunee High School. suspension bridge. The teams have spent a lot of time doing compresWill the dynasty continue? sion and torsion testing and bridge. Those who are accepted of their materials and different kinds MEA member Kevin Bell and three to compete must deliver a PowerPoint of joints. There is trial-and-error, seniors from his Negaunee High presentation and watch their model redesigning, and revising to be done. School Computer-Aided Design go through strength testing. The end product combines students’ (CAD) class will compete next month knowledge and research with their for the Upper Peninsula school’s Students spend months researchunique style, Bell said. ninth straight national title in a moding, designing, constructing and el bridge building contest that tests testing model bridges made of balsa “It’s cool to see I have two teams students’ design, engineering, and wood, glue, and string that can bear working in the same classroom and construction skills. weight. Bell’s winning team last year how different their designs are to The highly competitive TRAC built a bridge that weighed 26 grams achieve the same function,” Bell said. Bridge Challenge now accepts six and held 254 pounds. The key is scorA former student at Negaunee entries from more than 250 junior High School, Bell was recruited ing a high strength-to-weight ratio. and senior teams vying to compete to start a CAD program when he “This is the best cross-curricular from across the country, so even was hired as a teacher in 1992—afproject you could ask for,” Bell said. being accepted into the competition ter graduating from a program at “They’re using math skills; they’re usis tough. In previous years, only three Northern Michigan University where ing writing skills; they’re using CAD teams were selected to compete. he had only done design work on a skills; and in some ways they’re using board with pencil and paper. business skills.” In 2011, Bell’s three teams repreHe has since built a unique foursented the entire national competition. Bell’s students have competed for year CAD program that attracts both years in competitions at both the state Students apply for entry by writing college-bound students interested in and national level. This year both of a proposal and submitting drawings mechanical, architectural, and civil his three-person teams qualified for and photos of their design process 12  APRIL 2018

RETIRING? Stand with more than 200,000 public school retirees to preserve and protect: • Public Education • Retiree Benefits • Student Rights & Programs For more information on joining MEA-Retired, go to

engineering and those interested in a skilled trades career after high school. Bell also teaches welding and wood-working at the school. A feeder program at the middle school—taught by Bell’s brother—introduces students to design concepts using pencil and paper on drafting boards. When they move through Bell’s program throughout their high school careers, students use the same software as professionals in the field. The reasons for the program’s huge success are many, Bell said. Not many school districts are committed to fund a CAD program that students can follow from middle school through all four years of high school. The program starts with the basics on pencil and paper to build students’ foundational understanding, before transitioning in second semester of freshman year to using the technical

equipment that Bell has acquired: computers, software, 3-D printers. Of course, the students themselves are a key ingredient, he says. They look forward to the bridge building competitions for three years. “It’s a full year of work, and I only have them for an hour a day which goes by pretty quick. They do a lot of work at home.” Nearly all of his students go on to some kind of career in engineering or a skilled trade in industry, he said. “They’re kids who are highly motivated, just a great group. They want to excel, so that helps a lot, too.” Both of Bell’s teams will attend the MDOT 2018 Michigan Design and Build Bridge Challenge on May 1. In addition, the team known as Bridge Builders of Negaunee—Dan Nash, Isaac Varty, and Marc Herring—will go to the AASHTO TRAC Bridge Challenge in Tennessee on May 21-23. ◼ MEA VOICE 13


MEA Launches Free MEA member Carolyn Rink always wanted to go to college, but marriage and four children—a job and bills—got in the way. Last month, Rink not only started college nearly 40 years after graduating high school, but she took the plunge with her adult daughter. The mother-daughter duo—both first-time college students—are taking advantage of a new MEA member benefit that allows members and their families to obtain a free

Tami Tefft

associate degree through an online, accredited public college. “This is really amazing, and I felt like it would be crazy not to take advantage of it,” the 20-year paraeduca-

tor said. “This can change your life.” For Rink, an Associate of Arts degree will allow her to substitute-teach after she retires from her paraprofessional job in 10 years. For Rink’s daughter Cara—the mother of four children and a full-time letter carrier at the U.S. Postal Service—a Business Management degree could lead to a higher-paying office job at USPS.

“When I heard about the free college offer through MEA, I wasted no time signing up.” “What a gift to be able to give my family, just by paying my (MEA) dues,” said Rink, 56, who works in the library at Vandercook Lake Middle School-High School in Jackson County. “I’ll get my dues back many times over—I’ve got 15 grandkids!” The program offered by MEA in partnership with Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) was announced in January. Recipients receive a “last-dollar” scholarship from EGCC that covers the costs of tuition, fees, and books that can’t be paid for through federal financial aid. To be eligible, students must apply for federal financial aid and use any grants or tuition reimbursement toward the EGCC bill. Any MEA members and their immediate families will be able to obtain an associate degree online from EGCC in one of eight different areas—at zero cost, regardless of financial need. MEA member Tami Tefft had already been through the process of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—for her son, Paul. He holds a bachelor’s

14  APRIL 2018

College Benefit “This is really amazing, and I felt like it would be crazy not to take advantage of it.” degree from Michigan State University and a master’s from Kendall College of Art and Design. The transportation secretary at Belding Area Schools said she once dreamed of being a teacher, but when she became a mother at 18 she dropped out of high school and turned to working to help raise her child and put him through college. Tefft went to night school to earn her General Equivalency Diploma 10 years after she would have graduated from high school. “I wanted to set the example for my son that education is important, and I knew I would not be able convey that to him if I myself had not graduated,” Tefft said. She worked as a custodian in Belding for 13 years before taking a secretarial position in 2006. Tefft has worked in various departments but has been turned down for central office jobs for lack of an associate degree, she said. “Through the years I’ve encouraged numerous paraprofessionals to apply for secretary jobs and have shared in their joy as they made the move to a new job classification,” Tefft said. “That’s why, when I heard about the free college offer through MEA, I wasted no time signing up.” Tefft signed up for MEA’s free college benefit the day after it was announced—calling the district where she works to request her high school transcript. “That felt pretty cool,” said the 52-year-old mother of one grown son.

The president of her support staff unit in Belding, Tefft is excited for the opportunity to better herself, although she hasn’t decided which program of study she will pursue. “I cannot wait to share this opportunity with all of my members and

I will encourage each and every one of them,” she said. “I plan to tell them that I have already started the process and that I will help them in any way!” ◼

“What a gift to be able to give my family... I’ll get my dues back many times over.” Families of MEA members eligible to receive the free college benefit are children (or stepchildren), grandchildren (or stepgrandchildren), spouses, domestic partners, and financial dependents. Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville, Ohio, is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, so credits are transferable. Programs are available in the following areas: • Business Management with concentrations in Human Resources, Healthcare Management, Marketing and Finance • Accounting • Patient Home Navigator Certificate • Associate of Arts • Criminal Justice • Paralegal • Early Childhood Education • Individualized Study For more information, or to begin the enrollment process, go to



Buy Union

to Strengthen Labor It’s no secret that labor unions have been under attack by right-wing billionaire donors for the past 20 years, culminating in the Janus case playing out this spring in the U.S. Supreme Court (which you can read more about at But you can push back.

people who make the beds, prepare the meals, and greet you at the door. When customers speak, the hospitality industry takes notice. Search for union hotels at

Support union businesses and workers when you travel and shop. Union labels are symbols of quality and fair play and are found everywhere, from washing machines to baked goods and produce, from shoes to autos and auto parts, from clothing to barber shops and beyond.

made goods and services. Go to for more information. At the AFL-CIO’s new Union Made in America site, you can conduct searches for union-made and made-in-America products by holidays and events (think SuperBowl party, Mother’s Day, summer barbecue, Thanksgiving, Chrismas and more) or by products, services, and food (including back-to-school supplies, pet products, beer/wine and more). Go to MadeInAmerica.



Farm workers under a United Farm Workers contract enjoy decent wages, benefits, and working conditions. Grocery shoppers can help maintain hard-won field victories by searching for fruit, vegetable, and wine products from the UFW’s simple list at

LABOR 411 This website features more than 3,000 listings of union-made goods and services and is a go-to source for all things union. Check for the latest in union hotels, consumer products, food, entertainment venues, airlines, rental cars and more.

AFL-CIO The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations operates two sites worth checking out. The Union Label site issues periodic “Do Buy” themed lists— all of which can be downloaded or printed—and it allows users to search across more than two dozen categories for union16  APRIL 2018

Buying a new car or truck? The United Auto Workers Union issues a comprehensive guide to union-made vehicles to help consumers make choices that preserve good-paying jobs in the industry. Find the 2018 list at

FAIR HOTEL Becoming part of a union is a life-changing experience for many hotel workers. Choosing a FairHotel is an easy way to make a real difference in the lives of hardworking

Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, & Grain Millers’ union manufacture products at some of North America’s best known and profitable companies. From bread and cake to yogurt and chocolate, search this site to make choices at the grocery store that support unionized labor across the country. Go to BuyBCTGM.


UFCW Many Michigan grocery store workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, including nearly all Meijer and Kroger stores statewide. ◼

By Brenda Ortega MEA Voice Editor

Teacher Lives the Dream he Sparks in Students

There is no teacher desk or chair in MEA member Colby Sharp’s fifthgrade classroom. If the 11-year veteran educator is not moving around the room, consulting with students about what they’re reading or creating, he sits on the classroom rug and brings the kids to him. Sharp is on a mission. His boundless enthusiasm about books and creativity energizes his classroom and drives his literacy efforts beyond Parma Elementary School in Jackson County onto a dizzying array of platforms—work that has earned him a national reputation online and as a conference presenter. “I like creating things, and it’s fun for me to reflect,” said the 36-yearold father of five children. “I’ve always been into bringing people together to collaborate and learn from each other.” Sharp writes a blog about books, SharpRead; co-produces a podcast about children’s books, The Yarn, which is hosted by School Library Journal; serves as one of four moderators of the Nerdy Book Club, an online community of 20,000 educators and readers and 1,000 guest bloggers; and hosts a YouTube channel where he posts personal videos about reading and teaching. “I think it’s important as teachers, if we feel comfortable with it, to share the great things we’re doing, and make connections, and learn from other people,” he said. “If we don’t share our story, who is going to, right? So now I can’t imagine teaching without it. You don’t feel alone.” The summer nErDcamp he co-created six years ago now draws 1,400 educators from 40 states to attend workshops and hear from superstar children’s literature authors such as Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamil-

lo and RJ Palacio, whose novel Wonder was recently made into a movie. A companion nErDcamp Junior brings 1,000 students into the mix to meet their author idols and revel in the joy of writing. The event is free for adults and youngsters alike, thanks to facilities donated by Western School District where Sharp works, plus other donations and sponsorships. This July’s camp featuring Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey, among heavyweights slated to appear, filled up in 30 hours. Somehow the mega-event is organized by Sharp and three people in his circle: his wife, Alaina; Principal Sue Haney; and fellow teacher Suzanne Gibbs. “For the teacher part of the camp, our goal from the beginning was just to bring together people passionate about teaching, reading, and writing to learn from each other,” he said. “And then with nErDcamp Junior, the mission is to help kids see authors as real people, to see authors as someone they can be, and to give them opportunities to create with their heroes.” Now Sharp is living the dream he loves to spark in children. His book, The Creativity Project, was released in March by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers—one of the powerful “Big Five” publishing houses. The book, which he edited and contributed to, brings 43 authors and illustrators together in a creative challenge that invites the reader to participate. The experience of conceiving,

Students in Colby Sharp’s fifth-grade classroom read books of their choosing and do “book talks” to recommend titles to others who might like them.

selling, and publishing a book—which received multiple offers—didn’t seem real for a while, he said. “I’ve spent so many years talking about everyone else’s books that it’s weird talking about a book that has my name on it,” he said. Sharp grew up one of seven siblings in a home spitting distance from the school where he now teaches, where his parents and youngest brothers—high school students—still live. His father, a truck driver, is an avid reader, he said. But Sharp wasn’t interested in books during school. He enjoyed a few novels he read as a youngster, but his passion for books did not begin until after he failed biology in college. “I couldn’t do the reading,” he MEA VOICE 17

MEA member Colby Sharp is nationally known for his work in literacy and student-centered teaching practices. Now his book on creativity has been published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. said. “I would read and I just couldn’t comprehend any of it.” Meanwhile, his girlfriend (now wife and fellow educator) Alaina was a voracious reader and class valedictorian who loved to talk about books with his dad, “so I thought maybe I should start reading some books.” He started reading during breaks and lunches while working the third shift at a local Meijer store. The more he read, the more he loved it and the wider his array of reading material became. That experience informs his work today. Whether he’s teaching third, fourth, or fifth graders, he believes deeply in giving students choice in what they read and create. He carves time for students to read books of their own choosing and do book talks to share their recommendations. “What’s the best way to become a better reader? Time to start reading,” 18  APRIL 2018

he said. “And some of them are going to be reading about bats, and some will choose fantasy, and others will choose folk tales or realistic fiction, because they’re interested in it.” Sharp recently led a student to try a historical novel, The War that Saved my Life, and the 10-year-old girl could not put it down—reading 130 pages in one night. “This is the best book I’ve ever read,” she told him the next day. He knows what every student is reading, because he confers with each one. He learns their tastes and suggests books, and allows them to “abandon” selections they’re not enjoying. In addition, this year he’s beginning the day with “Creative Start,” 20 minutes for students to do what they choose “so long as they’re making something.” His students can’t get enough of writing, drawing, painting, producing videos and podcasts, creat-

ing video games, and more. “I can’t believe how much they love it,” he said. “For some of them, it’s everything.” Students eat their school breakfast quicker to add more time for projects. When one boy’s mom suggested he work on spelling during that time, the student replied, “Absolutely not. Mom, can I get my spelling words early and practice on the weekends? I don’t want to miss Creative Start.” “Kids want to do things where they’re making and creating, but in so much of their life they’re consumers,” Sharp said. “If we want kids to be creative, then we can’t tell them how to be creative, or what it means to be creative, or ‘You should do this, because it’s creative.’ We have to let go a little bit and give them some choice.” That’s not to say Sharp and his students never read the same book at once or that he doesn’t teach lessons

and give assignments—they do, and he does. But at the core of his philosophy is a desire to make learning exciting and memorable by tapping into students’ hearts and minds. For example, Sharp holds mock Caldecott Award elections with kids reading, evaluating and discussing nominees according to the award’s selection criteria. Then they watch a livestream of the actual Caldecott announcement and erupt in emotion at the news. Sharp has no assigned seats in his classroom. Students choose from a variety of options—a traditional desk and chair, pillows on the floor, tall standing desks, couches, and benches—and often shift and flow

to different places at different times, depending on the task. “The (behavior) issues are a tenth of what I had when I was in charge of where they sat,” he said. Sharp knows he’s fortunate to work for a principal he calls “the best in the state,” one who doesn’t require him to use scripted curriculum, who values his ideas and passion and gives him freedom to do what’s best for kids’ learning and growth without dwelling on test scores. However, he credits the district where he spent his first six years for giving him the tools to evolve his practice—Battle Creek Lakeview, where instructional coaches were part of the staff.

Having an accomplished teacher model lessons, help set goals, observe him in action, and lead him in reflection was invaluable. “I miss it terribly,” he said. “One-hundred percent of the teacher I am today is because I had that support for six years.” That same yearning for connection drives Sharp to build an ever-larger network of educators and readers who share his passion for learning as life and literacy as lifeblood. “It’s exciting to help kids figure out who they are,” he said. “That’s what matters. It’s my job to give kids time to read, time to write, time to think and talk about things, and they’re going to grow up to be amazing humans.” ◼

Friends, Educators, Producers, Authors—Who Knew? In 2015, when MEA members Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker began co-producing The Yarn—a School Library Journal podcast about children’s literature—neither imagined they would be celebrating an even bigger milestone together three years later. The two friends each have debut books releasing within months of each other this year. Both inked book deals with major “Big Five” publishers as an outgrowth of their love for and involvement with children’s literature. “Who knew?” said Jonker, an elementary school media specialist in Wayland Union Schools, whose debut picture book—The Very Last Castle— releases in the fall. “This definitely was not the plan (I don’t know what the plan was, but this wasn’t it). We’re both very fortunate.” Sharp, a fifth-grade teacher in Jackson County, last month celebrat-

ed the release of The Creativity Project, an interactive anthology of writing prompts and responses by authors and illustrators. Each contributor submitted two prompts, which were given to others for choosing. The book sprang from his fascination with the sources and pathways of individuals’ unique creativity, he said: “Where do ideas come from? What sparks ideas? And how could one person take an idea and another person take the same idea and create two totally different things?” Contributors include award-winning creators such as Grace Lin, Linda Sue Park, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Additional prompts invite readers to get creating, too. The book review magazine, Booklist, declared of The Creativity Project: “There’s plenty here to ignite kids’ imaginations and provide both laughs and food for thought.” ◼ MEA VOICE 19


New Seclusion and Restraint Law Creates Challenges

By Brenda Ortega MEA Voice Editor

It’s an interesting juxtaposition to note that the K-12 school where MEA member Marvin Nordeen works as a psychologist is housed in what was once part of the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital. New Campus School—run by the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD)—is nestled on the edge of a sprawling compound of striking Victorian-styled buildings built in the 1880s as the Northern Michigan Asylum, now listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. At one time Traverse City’s staterun psychiatric hospital was on the cutting edge of treatment for the mentally ill. The facility’s first superintendent, Dr. James Munson, believed in the therapeutic qualities of beauty and kindness. Restraints such as straitjackets were forbidden. Now the long-shuttered 63-acre hospital, rumored to be one of Michigan’s most haunted places, is undergoing redevelopment into upscale condos, shops, wineries, restaurants, and offices—along with the TBAISD’s school and meeting spaces. Times change. Attitudes develop. Best practices evolve. Forty years ago a paradigm shift was made away from mental hospitals toward home care and community-based mental health services for people with mental illness—a valiant goal that unfortunately led to ongoing problems with lack of care and homelessness among that population. The fact is even well-meaning policy changes can have unintended negative consequences in how they’re designed and implemented—and that is where School Psychologist Marvin 20  APRIL 2018

Nordeen comes in. He and others contend that the implementation of Michigan’s new law limiting the use of seclusion and restraint, though well-intentioned, is creating confusion and disruption in many schools across the state. The law, passed in 2016 and implemented last fall, needs clarification and direct guidance, experts say. “I testified in front of the House Education Committee in support of the bill, but also about our concerns of where it could take some bad turns, and how it could become more dangerous rather than less dangerous for both kids and staff,” said Nordeen, who spoke before lawmakers at the time as president of the Michigan Association of School Psychologists.

reported. Several educators said they were required to watch a video to satisfy the law’s training requirements. In the video, a legal firm advised staff members they couldn’t physically touch a child to redirect or guide— no touch outside of an emergency was allowed. The training video reportedly said school employees could only touch a child if he were about to jump in front of a car—or in equivalent danger—and the touch could only last long enough to move him out of the immediate danger. As a result, in one Garden City elementary building, a new-to-the-school youngster—eventually identified as Emotionally Impaired (EI)—pushed the boundaries in his general education classroom, said Patti Stanchina, local president and special education teacher at the school.

“I can do whatever I want, because you can’t touch me.”

From schools all over, staff are reporting similar “bad turns” implementation of the law has taken: Kids wandering the school without permission as a paraeducator follows behind. Students destroying property. Entire classrooms being evacuated to accommodate one out-of-control student multiple times per week. In some cases, staff injuries have been

“He was avoiding work, running around the room, throwing chairs, getting physically aggressive and tearing things off the walls—and then he would just laugh and run into the music room,” Stanchina said. “He knew we couldn’t touch him.” Another student being evaluated for EI classification for aggressive behavior and talk of self-harm told

School Psychologist Marvin Nordeen says clarification and guidance is needed on the state’s new Seclusion and Restraint law. Educators in many schools say confusion about the law has led to disruption and frequent classroom evacuations due to one student’s out-of-control behavior (pictured, right).

his teacher, “I can do whatever I want, because you can’t touch me,” Stanchina said. That story is echoed among many educators grappling with this issue. The frustration and helplessness of staff at her school led Stanchina to become a certified trainer in de-escalation techniques and proper use of seclusion and restraint, she said. The idea that students can never be touched is not true—but it’s a widespread misconception of school employees reporting problems. The law does not prohibit all guiding touches as “restraint,” nor is use of seclusion literally banned, Nordeen said. The law was pushed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley—who has a daughter with autism—and other parent advocates concerned about “non-emergency” use of restraint and seclusion on all students but especially those with emotional or behavioral disorders—

practices he terms “barbaric.” Reached for comment on this story, Calley said in a written statement that confusion around the law stems from “inaccurate and erroneous legal advice” schools are receiving. He advised school officials to read the law, policy, and guidance issued by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). In addition, Calley added, “We are working with the Michigan Department of Education to create additional guidance and to combat the inaccurate information being spread and to support proper implementation of the restraint and seclusion law.” Under the legislation, seclusion and restraint are only allowed to be used as a last resort in an “emergency situation”—defined as behavior that poses “imminent risk” to self or others. Any other use of restraint or seclusion is prohibited by the law.

“When people say things like restraint and seclusion are banned or outlawed. Period. Well, no, they’re not,” Nordeen said. “You can say that all you want, but they’re not banned because we still have a duty to protect children when they come through our school doors.” Nordeen is an expert on the subject. He works with kids of all ages who have severe behavior issues at New Campus School, a separate facility that draws the most challenging special education students referred from schools in a five-county area. He also has spent 18 years training school employees in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention through the Crisis Prevention Institute—known as CPI training—which helps teachers and support staff learn preventative skills and strategies to avoid or de-escalate potential conflicts. “The training is intended to MEA VOICE 21

Patti Stanchina, local president in Garden City, says frustration among staff at her school led her last fall to become a certified trainer in de-escalation techniques and proper use of seclusion and restraint.

minimize the use of restraints and seclusion,” he said. “And if you have no other choice and you have to do it, it teaches you how to do it as minimally as possible while maintaining safety and dignity for the child.” Amy Maeder, president of the paraprofessionals unit in TBAISD, attended a recent CPI retraining to help in her work with young adults who have cognitive impairments. “It does work; it teaches you how to pick your battles and resolve problems before they get worse, and that’s something all of us humans need to learn how to do,” said Maeder. The new law requires school employees to contact the parent immediately and document each time they use seclusion or restraint in a four-page report to the MDE. Except for the addition of significant new paperwork, Calley’s new law did not significantly stray from MDE policy guidance on the subject, which had been around since 2006 and most school districts already followed. However, it created conflict between state and federal definitions of terms and between state statutes, Nordeen and others contend. For example, Michigan’s corporal punishment law allows physical restraint to stop damage to property, while the seclusion and restraint law prohibits it. 22  APRIL 2018

Even so, special education teachers and support staff who’ve undergone CPI training for years generally understand the law’s requirements. It is the staff who work in general education classrooms—where students with behavioral problems might spend part or all of the day—who are not as well-versed, says Rosemarie Smith, a school psychologist in Farmington. “Once you do awareness training with every staff member, and you have an elementary music teacher who’s never worked with a student like this, they’re terrified,” Smith said. “They want to know, ‘What does this mean? Can I not hold a kid’s hand walking down the hall?’” Definitions of words such as “emergency” and “imminent”—and even “restraint” and “seclusion”—become more sharply debated when the word “prohibited” is also included in the law, raising the specter of legal repercussions for wrong interpretations. “Nobody wants to be the case law that determines how this is actually applied,” added Smith, who works half-time as an elementary school psychologist and half-time in an administrative role that includes helping to implement the law in Farmington. Everyone agrees seclusion and restraint should be used as a last resort. The problems seem to stem from a

few common issues, including uncertainty about the meaning of terms, but also inadequate staff training and lack of planning or communication from school administrators. Amy Kapala, a Romulus special education teacher, said she and a few others in her district are trained in CPI and attended a three-hour session on the new law through a local ISD. But her district has not adopted a required implementation plan, which her MEA local has questioned. “I’m concerned about somebody getting into a situation and restraining a child and not having backup from central office,” Kapala said. The law’s intent is to reduce students’ challenging behavior, in turn reducing the use of seclusion and restraint, by requiring schools to adopt Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS), eliminating suspensions through restorative justice, and practicing “trauma-informed care.” Another big problem—as often occurs in state mandates—is that funding didn’t follow, Kapala said: “They want schools to look at climate and what they’re doing, but that requires resources. It requires professional development for staff and it also requires human resources—people. “And in schools we have less people each year—we don’t have a lot of

Kate Foster-Dupuis, a veteran special education teacher, says she sees the issue from both sides as a mom of a special-needs child. But she worries about the law’s unintended consequences.

school psychologists; we don’t have a lot of school social workers; we don’t have people to train staff or work with students and general education teachers in doing these things.” Amy Kwiatkoski, a special education teacher who this year started working in the tiny DeTour school district on Drummond Island in Chippewa County, agreed this issue is a hot topic among educators around the state. She has worked in medium and large districts as well, she said.

trampoline and other soft objects. “I’m the first special ed teacher they’ve had on the island. When I told them we needed a room with tools we can use to help in these situations, my administration quickly got on board.” Having an in-school support room where disruptive students can go after other interventions have failed is key, says Kate Foster-Dupuis, a special education teacher who has worked with students in EI classrooms for 17 years

“I can see a lawsuit

if a student gets hit with something being thrown.” From concerns she is hearing from colleagues across Michigan, she said, “I can see a lawsuit in waiting if a student gets hit with something like a stapler that’s being thrown, and then what are we going to do?” Kwiatkoski assists general education teachers if a student has a melt-down and needs time and space to cool off. She invites those students to her room where there is a therapy swing, bubbles to blow (which forces the student to breathe deeply), and a

in Carrollton. And for some of those students, having a safe and comfortable room where they can remain secluded while coming out of an emotional melt-down is also important, Foster-Dupuis said. She is concerned about a potential unintended consequence of the law’s implementation: heightened involvement of police in handling severe behavior issues. Legislators passed an additional measure in January ex-

empting police officers from the law’s requirements. And she worries the law takes away parents’ ability to consent to coping strategies that work—an issue she sees from both sides, because she’s Mom to a daughter who has Down Syndrome and has a propensity to “run” at school. She wants staff to be able to physically redirect her, she said.“Children who have emotional issues or behavioral types of disorders, how they’re dealt with should be determined by the IEP (Individualized Education Program) team and that parent,” Foster-Dupuis said. Lack of supports for staff led to escalating behaviors and room evacuations in Cheboygan this year, said fourth-grade teacher Eric Hall. Frustration led to talks between union members and administrators—with help from MEA UniServ Director Christine Khan-King. Now a committee of teachers, support staff, and administrators will consider changing how they approach and respond to difficult behaviors, including mindfulness and redirection rooms, Hall said. Just the fact that all sides are meeting has given people hope, he added. “The number-one concern of our staff members is to make sure all students and staff are safe,” Hall said. ◼ MEA VOICE 23


MEA Tools + Improving Finances = Better Contracts By Brenda Ortega MEA Voice Editor

Becky Schipper has served on the bargaining team for her Hudsonville Education Association in some capacity for 15 years, and during that time not much changed in the art of negotiating—until now. Schipper’s team piloted a sophisticated new online MEA bargaining tool for EA units that she says replaces educated guesses about costs and finances with specific numbers that show what school districts can or can’t afford. “With this there’s really no arguing about numbers,” the ninth-grade English teacher and chief negotiator

said. “The district knows these are the numbers from their audit and from information they’ve reported out.” New analytic resources from MEA, combined with improving finances for many districts across Michigan, should help bargainers approach the negotiating table with a more positive mindset, says MEA Statewide Bargaining Consultant Craig Culver.

School districts statewide added a whopping $555 million to fund equities from 2016 to 2017. Michigan K-12 Public Schools Unused Year-End Fund Surplus (Excludes Charters) $1,800,000,000


$1,600,000,000 $1,400,000,000 $1,200,000,000


$1,161,282,759 $1,052,281,392 $979,904,729



$800,000,000 $600,000,000 $400,000,000 $200,000,000 $0


24  APRIL 2018






After years enduring a crushing double blow of step and pay freezes plus state mandates that shifted a larger burden of health care and pension costs to employees, some bargainers may be eager to accept any increase that is offered—unaware they’re missing bigger opportunities. “I’m seeing potential for more improvement that could be bargained— not everywhere, for sure—but in many places,” Culver said. “The best way to figure out that potential is to use MEA’s resources… trainings, consulting, research, and various tools we’ve developed.” The newest of three powerful financial analysis tools created and managed by MEA for use by local bargainers is the Proposal Cost Calculator that Schipper piloted when it was a work-in-progress three years ago. Last year it was rolled out statewide. The interactive database was built over the past few years by MEA Labor Economist Ruth Beier with technological help from MEA Programmer Analyst Angela Lanczynski. Beier used to spend hours doing those sorts of district financial analyses one by one. “I got tired of trying to do these by hand,” Beier said. “Angela and I talked about concepts, and we started to build it over time.” As its name implies, the Proposal Cost Calculator is far from a static collection of data. Users can enter a

Becky Schipper

bargaining proposal—for example, a 2 percent salary increase plus steps— and receive a report in just seconds that details costs to the district down to the penny. Those who want to use the tool send Beier an Excel spreadsheet with their district’s current salary schedule and staff roster, including step and lane information for each person. Other district revenue and expenditure data is already plugged in. “What’s great is we can run what-if scenarios, and the district knows we aren’t creating numbers out of thin air,” Schipper said. “They trust what we’re doing is accurate.” Having access to real numbers builds trust across the bargaining divide, said Curt Schaiberger, the local president in Houghton Lake. His team used the Proposal Cost Calculator to bargain a positive new contract, he said. “It makes a better relationship to know we’re all working from the same numbers, because it allows more open discussion and a deeper process to go on,” Schaiberger said. “When you know they’re not holding something back, it makes the rest of bargaining easier.” Standish-Sterling EA President Jeff Katt used the tool with his bargaining team to negotiate a contract that included a percentage increase and two steps in the first year. The ratification vote in favor of the contract was unanimous for the first time ever, he added. Katt’s team also was aided by information from a second MEA financial analysis tool which shows a district’s revenues and expenditures over time, plus fund balances over time, which

helps bargainers see how much money a district has and where it is. That tool revealed Katt’s district had grown a 27 percent fund equity—unused money held in a “rainy day” fund. The state of Michigan recommends school districts maintain a fund balance of at least 5 percent of their annual general fund operating expenses as a precaution. Meanwhile, younger teachers especially had suffered from three straight contracts with no increases or steps, he said. “I told the district our young teachers are making $34,000 from six years ago, and they can’t afford it. They’re going to start leaving the education field.” Across Michigan, fund equities are rising as many school districts recover from the financial difficulties of the

past several years, MEA’s Culver said. By the end of 2017, the amount of money that Michigan school districts held in surplus stood at $1.7 billion—a whopping $555 million increase from the previous year, ac-

Employee compensation as a percentage of school spending is at the lowest point in six years. Michigan K-12 Employee Total Compensation (% of Total Expenditures) - Excludes Charters 80.50% 80.19% 80.00%

79.56% 79.50% 79.25% 79.10% 79.00% 78.78%













Districts that are similar in size, geography, demographic makeup, or other characteristics can be compared to each other. Some bargaining units have used the information to make a clear case that the percent of revenue their district spends on teachers is below typical or acceptable levels. Kevin Howard, chief negotiator for the Grand Haven EA, has used the profile database in addition to the other tools. The scope and accuracy of the information his team can access through MEA tools builds the team’s confidence entering talks, he said. “It helps to figure out what is appropriate and fair to ask for—fair for members, fair for the district, and historically consistent with what we’ve typically cost,” Howard said.

cording to data collected from school district audits statewide. “The reality is our schools are in a better place financially than they were a few years ago but with the same reduced staff and stagnant wages,” Culver said. “Less staff costs less money.” Bargainers who want to track those types of district spending trends can utilize a third MEA-developed tool which provides access to data that exists nowhere else. This database produces profiles of every district’s spending over time and allows searchers to zero in on categories such as total administrative salaries or total teacher compensation, including health care and benefits, dating back to 1994.

For bargainers in districts where the financial analysis shows troubled finances and a lack of money to negotiate over, the MEA’s tools and research can help teams determine what is causing distress and changes that need to be made. Ultimately the MEA financial analysis tools save time, reduce confrontation, and produce results at the bargaining table, concluded Hudsonville’s Becky Schipper. “There still are moments where things get heated, but there’s an element of trust underneath that is so crucial to all of this,” she said. “These tools are one way to build trust, because administrators can see we’re using their numbers and we’re coming from a place of logic and reason.” ◼

Work with your local MEA UniServ Director ( to access these negotiations tools and other support for bargaining your contract.

Total Michigan School District Spending On Insurance (Exclcudes Employee Contributions) Excludes Charter Schools and Districts not reporting some amount of Insurance Spending in each of the last 9 years 12.50% 12.00% 11.50% 11.00% 10.50% 10.00% 9.50% 9.00% 8.50% 8.00% Total District Insurance Cost (% of Total GF Expenditure)

26  APRIL 2018



















School district spending on health insurance costs plunged over the past five years, following Republicans’ passage of a law shifting the burden to employees. Those increased costs to employees, combined with salary and step freezes, have put a financial squeeze on educators. New MEA tools can help bargaining teams enter contract talks with precise information to aid negotiations.


Stories by Brenda Ortega MEA Voice Editor

In Part Four of our series tracking one school year in the lives of two early career educators, both have reached the final stretch of the academic calendar—only to focus anew on beginnings. The teachers have emerged into spring reflecting on lessons learned with an eye to continuous improvement. The words “next year” are sprinkled throughout their conversations. The same is true for MEA UniServ Director Chad Williams, who recruited the pair and others to participate in a new MEA-NEA pilot project, MiNewEd, providing additional supports to beginning educators in three northern Michigan regions. Williams is working to improve the program and to help expand its reach to Grand Rapids.

MiNewEd: Targeted Support for New Educators Building beginning teachers’ effectiveness and confidence is key to changing the five-year 50 percent attrition rate of new educators, says MEA UniServ Director Chad Williams. Young people entering the profession today want to connect to a larger community, and they appreciate having access to targeted advice from a non-evaluative coach, Williams said. But they’re also busy and overwhelmed by the challenges of their new roles, he added. One support in MiNewEd, an MEA-NEA program Williams began piloting in 2016, targets a generation that grew up Googling questions and watching YouTube how-to videos. Participants identify a goal and get resources and feedback from a virtual coach who is a master teacher. “They’re not looking for emotional support,” Williams said. “They want to know ‘How do I do this? How do I get this done?’ That’s what’s unique here—this program focuses on one area of classroom practice and shows participants how to knock it out.” Participants might learn something new from their coach, or they might receive affirmation for an approach they’re doing with advice for how to tweak it and improve. The program operates in three northern Michigan regions, and could expand to Grand Rapids next year. “The feedback I’m hearing is they’re getting good stuff.” ◼

MEA UniServ Director Chad Williams.


Brittney Norman: ‘I feel like Miss Norman again’ As a third-year teacher with some added experience long-term subbing, Brittney Norman didn’t expect to feel like a newbie this year—but that’s what happened when she changed districts from Cadillac to Pine River Area Schools where she lives and her daughter attends third grade.

Norman teaches three rotations of fifth-grade math, plus she delivers the reading curriculum to her “home” group. A new reading unit on technology sparked her recent bout of insomnia, because it reminded her of teaching tools and strategies she’d successfully used in the past.

“I didn’t expect it to be as bumpy as it was. My boyfriend is a farmer, and a few times I asked if he needed help milking the cows, like ‘Are you sure you don’t need help on the farm?’” Norman laughed heartily, as she often does. She has a quick sense of humor that helps offset her intensely focused approach to perfecting her craft. Like many educators, she sometimes lies awake at night worrying about a troubled student or working out a tricky lesson plan. As she reined in her stress around mid-year, her comfort level grew and joy in teaching re-bloomed, she says. “I feel like Miss Norman again, not some creature trying to be a teacher in my body. Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about this new unit.”

One example was Kahoot!—a whole-class game-based learning platform that Norman said she had neglected this year when overwhelmed by her workload. Once she trotted it out to quiz students on fractions, the kids eagerly did the work and had fun in the process. “And it grades their work, so it’s easier on me—one less thing I have to do,” she said. “Then I started thinking about it, and I realized I also haven’t done this, and that, and that— things I really loved about teaching and the kids loved about me.” Things such as “Brain Breaks” had fallen by the wayside this year, she said. Simple get-up-and-move activities, set to music, can help students regain their focus and energy after sitting for a long stretch. So Norman

28  APRIL 2018

added a Brain Break to the daily routine, “and they love it.” In addition, Norman and the two other fifth-grade teachers trimmed a few minutes from other activities to make time for creative problem-solving through growth mindset challenges. That’s something she’s been doing herself—facing challenges with creativity and perseverance. As the M-STEP approached, Norman hoped to lift students by trying an online math system during free time that gives instruction and quizzes at the user’s level, with cartoon avatars and prizes to hold kids’ interest. “It’s something I found one night when I couldn’t sleep,” she said. Her biggest challenge has been classroom management. The clipup, clip-down system used by other teachers at her new school did not suit her style. In January, she switched to sending home a “think sheet” for misbehaving students to fill out with their parents and return. But a few parents responded negatively to the mid-year change when they received a think sheet without warning. One after-school meeting with an upset parent lasted more than an hour, while Norman’s eight-yearold daughter waited in her classroom, so “Mom Guilt” kicked in, she said. “Lesson learned—I need to call home first,” she said. Now she’s using an online classroom management system—Class Dojo—that both she and her students like. So far, she hasn’t used Dojo’s tools that allow her to project student information on the board or let parents view it in real time. But behaviors have improved. Days flow more easily. There’s more time to breathe, she says. “It’s good; I’m excited to come here every day, and I know next year is going to be great.” ◼

Zack Griffin: ‘I’m more confident now’ Recently sixth-grade science teacher Zack Griffin attended a professional development session at his school where the trainer seemed to be speaking directly to him. The subject was self-care. “He said, ‘I bet we have first-year teachers in here who drink a pot and a half of coffee every day,’ and I raised my hand,” said Griffin, who works at Mackinaw Trail Middle School in Cadillac. The trainer’s message got through. “I’ve started focusing a little more on myself,” Griffin said. “I’ve been working out more and taking time to get outside when it’s nice out and go for a walk. I went coyote hunting four or five times in the past month—stuff I hadn’t done all winter.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by lesson plans, grades, meetings and professional development “to where the last thing on your mind is yourself,” he said. “There’s always something going on.” Even with the challenge of teaching a new Lego robotics class to close out the year, Griffin also has been taking time for self-reflection. Looking back on his first year in the classroom, he sees improvement in himself as well as his students. “My comfort level is higher, so I know they’re getting information better now than they were in the beginning of the year,” he said. “I’m more confident now. I know more about them. That whole relationship piece—it’s cool to see how that’s progressed throughout the year.” He’s been reviewing notes on his science curriculum, a new program that aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards. He likes to cull ideas from connections on Twitter. “It’s neat because you have people from all over dealing with the

same type of situations I’m dealing with, saying, ‘I tried it like this and it worked, or this didn’t work and here’s why.’” Griffin also says he’s benefited from a virtual mentor provided by MiNewEd, the MEA-NEA pilot project supporting new educators in several Michigan districts. The help he receives there from a master teacher in Pennsylvania is focused and targeted, he said.

they can reinforce at home what kids learn in school. “Especially in science,” he said, “it’s so applicable to life; I feel like there’s a lot of teachable moments for parents that go under the radar if they don’t know what we’re doing in class.” Right now, the only contact he has with parents involves phone calls to discuss positive or negative behavior, he said. Most of those have gone well, although he’s had to develop a strat-

Every few weeks, he gets on a video conference call with the mentor to set goals, brainstorm strategies, and reflect on how things went after trying something new. As many as 15-20 other new educators from around the country, who are working on similar goals, might be on the call. “It helps a lot to have all these resources available that I don’t have to go looking for, and then it gets you thinking to see things from so many different perspectives.” This semester Griffin is working on increasing parental and community involvement. He wants to strengthen connection to parents, so

egy for “disheartening” calls when a parent gets defensive or shifts the blame to him. “I don’t end on a bad call. I’m not done calling until I have something positive to reflect on.” Overall, Griffin has many positives to reflect on from his first year as a full-time teacher. He’s learned to put in the planning work that gives him the confidence to take risks. And he’s discovered more ways to connect with students, whether they make it easy or not. “Now I know what to expect, so I’m pumped because next year will be even better.” ◼ MEA VOICE 29


MEA Elections co-Chair of Region 15 and our Coordinating Council. ~NEA ESP Professional Growth Continuum -a report to help elevate the professionalism of all 9 ESP career families. As the war to weaken our union continues to rage and pick up steam I will stand collectively with our union fighters, prepared to battle the union bashers. In Solidarity, I ask for your vote to continue on with the MEA Board to best reach out to our union members. Thank you. Marti Alvarez -Region 15A

My name is Marti Alvarez. I am a proud and professional school bus driver (18 years) in Region 15 -Traverse City. I ask for your vote to re-elect me as an MEA ESP at-Large Director. I am passionate about my union work and representation and would like to con-

tinue in this capacity. My union accomplishments and achievements I hold dear to my heart, such as the successful student sock drive or using my voice in support and representation of all educators and students. My interest is with student behavior management and helping to ensure that both the student and the educator have a great start to the school day. I have had to overcome many challenges and roadblocks put up by others but I withstood the storms and came out of it all the stronger and ready to work diligently. Through collaboration I want to help organize members across the nation to positively impact membership student success and also, to bridge the work we do in one accord together, teachers and ESP's. I am an officer on our MEA ESP Executive Board as well as MEA & NEA Boards. I serve my local members in the capacity as a steward and MEA/NEA Rep. I am the

I am Marcia Mackey and I am asking for your support as a NEA Director.

I am Marcia Mackey, a candidate for the NEA Director position and an incredibly proud union member. Over the past 25 years, I have held a variety of leadership positions for the Central Michigan University Faculty Association. Currently I hold positions at the local, regional, coordinating council, state, and national level. My 39-years of experiences in the classrooms/gyms/swimming pools spans all levels of education, thereby providing me with a unique lens through which to view the interconnection between the various components of MEA. The needs and expectations of MEA members vary, yet the link is our desire for the best in public education. As a product of public education, I completed an undergraduate

degree, a Master’s degree, and a Ph.D. I studied law, interned at an aquatic law firm, served as an expert witness for legal cases, and currently I teach law and governance courses. Understanding the legal process and being involved on Capitol Hill is a responsibility of an NEA Director and matches perfectly with my professional experiences. Last spring the Trump administration proposed the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants that provide for low-income college students. In September, the Department of Education released an interim directive for Title IX compliance, which rolls back clear protections and removed the time line for addressing claims. This directive will negatively affect MEA education professionals. Being a voice for our members, as well as all of public education, is a passion for me. We must engage with the legislature and be involved on Capitol Hill. We must be willing to listen, offer alternative perspectives, and share our stories. As others have stated “Either we are at the table, or we are part of the meal.” I am willing to be at the table for all of MEA; to ensure we participate in the dialog and that our voices are heard. As a NEA Director for Michigan, I will do all I can for MEA education professionals and public education at the state and national level.

30  APRIL 2018

Marti Alvarez is a longtime school bus driver who serves as steward of her Traverse City Transportation Association. Alvarez has been a Region 15 co-chair and Coordinating Council co-chair, in addition to being elected to the MEA ESP Executive Caucus and MEA ESP Director at-large. She has also served as ESP Director At-Large on the NEA Board.

Marcia Mackey, Ph.D., is a faculty member of the Central Michigan University Department of Physical Education & Sport, currently teaching aquatics and sport management while serving as the Graduate Coordinator for the department. In her 25 years at CMU, she has served on university, college and department committees, as well as the CMU Faculty Association Board of Directors. Some of her elected positions include Michigan Association of Higher Education Representative; MEA and NEA RA Delegate; Region 12 Secretary and NEA RA Coordinator; MEA Board of Directors; the Michigan Association of Higher Education Board of Directors: Vice-President for 4-year colleges and universities; National Council for Higher Education Executive Board; and NEA Resolutions Committee. In addition, she has served in numerous appointed roles, including College of Health Professions Faculty Association Board Representative; MEA Summer Leadership Conference Planning Committee Co-Chair; Excellence in Human Rights & Education Awards Banquet Planning Committee Chair; MEA Resolutions Committee, Women’s Issues Committee, and Human Relations Commission; and the NEA Historic Black Colleges & Universities Summit Steering Committee. She has taught at all levels of education, in swimming pools, classrooms, and gymnasiums.

Delegates to the MEA Spring Representative Assembly on April 20-21 will elect two members to represent Michigan on the NEA Board of Directors. These are candidate statements and biographies of the four announced candidates for those two positions to be elected.

My name is Marci LaValley and I’m a special education teacher from a small rural community. And just like so many others in education, I’m more than a teacher. We have to step in and be a parent, nurse, or counselor depending on the student needs. I’ve worked in a traditional K-12 school setting, but I found my passion working with students who are going through particularly challenging situations. Working at a residential

facility with court-ordered sexually abused children grades 2nd through 12th, or Pioneer Work and Learn with students 6th-12th grade or at my current position at Wolverine Secure Treatment Center, my unique roles create a different perspective to be shared. As a leader representing itinerant staff between 9 local schools, 3 residential programs, 1 psychological facility, and a prison can be a challenging. Although all buildings and programs fall under the same contract, each separate area also works with another entity or district with different rules and often a different contract. To add to the difficulties; in many instances it is over 50 miles between buildings. I’ve worked hard in reaching out, providing information on member benefits, talking to potential members, and in turn signing them up to be full dues paying members. Encouraging members to do all they can for students yet make sure they are protected in their jobs is the part of a union that almost everyone can agree on. Ensuring growth in membership is the way to keep our union strong.

Advocating for members and students includes not only fighting for our contracts, but really focusing on the many successes in public education. Sharing this information with surrounding communities as well as other members in my region is a passion of mine! And now I want to continue to share while lobbying for public education in Washington D.C.! As an advocate for public education, I will ensure our members are being heard and valued. My variety of work placements allows a different perspective not often heard at the state and national level. I would be honored to represent Michigan educators as an NEA Director!

help and hold our schools and districts together, they are our ESP membersboth K-12 and Higher Ed! Recently, I have been selected to represent our ESP members nationally as a member of the NEA ESP Career Committee. It is with the same confidence and commitment that has been bestowed in me by this fabulous organization that I ask the same vote of confidence from you in ME today as your NEA Director!

My name is Alfonso Salais. I am pleased and honored to announce my candidacy for NEA Director to represent and advocate for YOU and ALL educators of the MEA! During my 23 years as an educator, I’ve made it a goal to teach and advocate for public education. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to the community in which I grew up, and to be a part of an urban setting where I am desperately needed. My purpose as a professional is to help,

to serve, and to improve others unconditionally and positively without regard. My work at the national level has included advocacy for public education and social justice issues for both women and people of color. My heart and passion for advocacy for this great organization has never faltered! I have been very fortunate to have served as NEA BOARD OF DIRECTOR for two one-year terms! This experience and the support of my family are the reasons why I want to continue to serve YOU and our Association! At the National level, I have served on the NEA's Resolution Committee, I was a task force member of the NEA's pivotal Racial Justice in Education Policy statement, and I currently serve as the Ethnic Minority Director for the National Council of Urban Education Associations as well as the NEA's Hispanic Caucus Midwest Director. I also have an extensive background in service to our organization both at the State and Local level. I feel it is important to be a champion advocate for our profession and for those that are major contributors to our field of work. Those contributors are the glue that

Marci LaValley works as a special education teacher in Tuscola Intermediate School District. She has been elected to the MEA Board of Directors and as an MEA/NEA RA Delegate and Alternate Delegate, in addition to the post of Building Representative for Itinerants. She has served on the Executive Committee for Region 11 and on MEA’s Communications and Elections committees.

Alfonso Salais, Jr. is an International Baccalaureate Spanish Teacher at Lansing Eastern High School who’s made it his goal to advocate for public education. He has enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to the community where he grew up and where his work is needed. Salais has held a number of elected offices, including Vice-President of LSEA and MEA Board of Directors. He has served at the national level on NEA’s RA Resolution Committee and as a task force member of NEA’s Racial Justice in Education Policy Statement. He currently serves as the Ethnic Minority Director for the National Council of urban Education Associations and NEA’s Hispanic Caucus Midwest Director.


About MESSA’s excellent autism coverage April is National Autism Awareness Month, so for this month’s column I’d like to talk about MESSA’s excellent coverage for children on the spectrum. MESSA covers various services for children through the age of 18 with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, including Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. There is no annual limit to benefits. Children are first required to be evaluated by an approved autism evaluation center. A list of these centers is available at Just click “Members,” “Find a Doctor” then “Approved Autism Evaluation Centers.” Autism evaluation centers often have very long waiting lists, so if you have concerns about your child, it’s best to start calling centers as soon as you can. The evaluation and treatment process can be complicated, and we at MESSA are dedicated to doing whatever we can to help ease your burden. If you need assistance at any time—with autism coverage or any other children’s health issues—please call one of our member service specialists at 800.336.0013. We’re here to help. ◼

MEA Opt-Out Procedures Resignations must be in writing and submitted to MEA Headquarters via mail or email. Resignations will be honored upon receipt by MEA after they are processed. To resign by mail, send your resignation letter to MEA, PO Box 51, East Lansing, MI 48826. The resignation letter must state your intention to

resign and be signed and dated by you as the member. MEA suggests that you also include your membership number, the name of the local association to which you are a bargaining unit member, and the name of your employer to ensure accurate identification. MEA recommends sending the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested.


You can resign by email by sending your resignation email to The resignation email must state your intention to resign and include your name. Again, MEA suggests you include your membership number, the name of the local association to which you are a bargaining unit member, and the name of your employer to ensure accurate identification. ◼

TOURS Our ad policy, rates and schedule can be found online at The classifieds deadline for the July-August 2018 issue is May 18.

32  APRIL 2018

Ross Wilson MESSA Executive Director

Visit the Homesites of Laura Ingalls Wilder. 2018 brochure available. Phone 810-633-9973. Email Visit our website



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NEA members are entitled to Complimentary life insurance. Have you named your beneficiary? If you’re an eligible NEA member,* you’re covered. You have NEA Complimentary Life Insurance issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Prudential). It’s active right now and you don’t have to take a nickel out of your pocket to keep it active. But you will want to take a minute or so to name your beneficiary. Or reconfirm the choice you already made. Making your choice can speed up benefit payments to loved ones who need them.

Don’t wait! Name your beneficiary today and get this FREE tote bag from NEA Members Insurance Trust. Go to


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Vape Device Invades Schools By Tammy Pitts MESSA Communications Consultant

It’s a dangerous trend sweeping school campuses nationwide that every parent and teacher should know about—‘Juuling.’ Most parents have no clue what it is, but your child likely knows. A Juul is a small, sleek vaping device that resembles a USB flash drive and charges when plugged into a laptop. The trend is so popular teens are using it as a verb. They are juuling in school bathrooms, hallways, and even in class. Teens like it because they can fool adults—what a parent or educator may think is a flash drive in a student’s backpack, could be a Juul. In videos on social media, students brag about taking a hit and then either swallowing or exhaling the vapor when the teacher isn’t looking. “We believe that students are increasingly using these types of devices and they are getting harder to detect,” said MEA member Erika Sponsler, a teacher at Western High School in Jackson County. “They slip easily into an iPad case making it appear students are charging their iPad,” Sponsler said. She notes, “With little or no odor; it can be very hard to catch students using them—even in public spaces.” There are a variety of ‘kid friendly’ Juul pods with flavors like mango and crème Brulee, making the new form of e-cigarettes even more appealing. 34  APRIL 2018

"There’s pretty good evidence to show kids who use these nicotine delivery devices have a higher risk of starting cigarette smoking and we have a lot of evidence about the risks of cigarette smoking," said Dr. Deepa Camenga, a pediatrician at Yale-New Haven Hospital. But it’s not just the nicotine-laden flavor pods going into the vaping devices; substance abuse counselors warn teens can fill the Juul pods with marijuana and other substances. In a released statement, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said ‘Juuling’ may be even more dangerous than conventional smoking—adding that the amount of nicotine in one Juul pod is equal to an entire pack of cigarettes. San Francisco-based Juul Labs stressed its product is not for sale to minors and a purchaser has to be 21 to purchase online. An adult would have to sign for delivery. However, experts say kids lie about their age and simply use a prepaid card to buy the Juul product with no proof of age required upon delivery. While some convenience stores and

gas stations are cracking down and refusing to sell the product, Schumer is calling for immediate action. The Democrat is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement an already finalized rule that would regulate e-cigarettes. The FDA has made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to kids under age 18. However, the compliance deadline for new products was pushed from 2018 to 2022. Because students are juuling in plain sight on school campuses, some schools are now going as far as to ban flash drives on campuses to stop the confusion. A high school principal in suburban D.C. even removed the doors from bathroom stalls to keep students from using drugs and vaping devices inside the stalls. Many schools are also sending letters home warning parents about the potentially addictive trend. Teachers are also advised to be on alert for juuling in the classroom and bathrooms. Experts say the best thing parents can do is to talk to their child about vaping and the potential risks associated with it. ◼

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*Interest is compounded daily to produce a 3% annual yield. Guarantees and/or payments of the insurance feature of an annuity are based on the claims-paying ability of Issuer and not on the value of the securities within the account. There is a $30 annual account charge. Securities offered through Paradigm Equities, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC and a wholly-owned subsidiary of MEA Financial Services. For more information, please call MEA Financial Services/ Paradigm Equities, Inc. at (800) 292-1950 for the prospectuses. The prospectus contains information relating to the product’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses, as well as other important information. Please carefully read the prospectus and consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other important information before investing because these factors will directly affect future returns. Investor may incur penalties if funds are withdrawn early. Variable annuities are long term investments. Access to the investment may be limited by surrender charges. Taxes are due upon withdrawal. For non-qualified or prior to age 59½ withdrawals, earnings are taxed as ordinary income to account owner, plus a 10% penalty. MEA Financial Services/Paradigm Equities, Inc. does not give tax or legal advice.

Online care for body and mind Visit a doctor or therapist from home, work or on the road


aking care of yourself and your family’s health can be as easy as using your smartphone, tablet or computer to meet with a doctor or therapist. You and your covered family members can see and talk to:

• A doctor for minor illness such as a cold, flu or sore throat when your primary care doctor is not available. • A behavioral health clinician or psychiatrist to work through different challenges such as anxiety, depression and grief.

The service is powered by a partnership between MESSA and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. You can access Blue Cross Online Visits via your smartphone, tablet or computer: • On the web at • By downloading the Blue Cross Online Visits mobile app. Call 844.606.1608 if you have questions or need technical assistance.

MEA Voice Magazine - April 2018 Issue  

The MEA Voice Magazine is an official publication of the Michigan Education Association.

MEA Voice Magazine - April 2018 Issue  

The MEA Voice Magazine is an official publication of the Michigan Education Association.