A Most Unusual Time
PAGE and Georgia Educators Innovate in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Vol. 42 No. 1
A Most Unusual Time
4 From the President Teachers: Be a Story not a Stat
20 A Second Term in 12 PAGE Membership Staff Innovates to Continue Unprecedented Times Georgia’s TOTY Shares Unparalleled Service Her Thoughts on the 4 Meet Lindsey Martin, Pandemic, Reopening 13 Newest PAGE PAGE 2020-2021 Schools and Serving Membership Services President Another Year as the State’s Representative Martin’s Standout Skill Is Top Educator Brings Powerhouse Integration of Technology Recruiting Skills to DeKalb in the Classroom 22 PAGE Legislative Team Pivots to Quickly Assess 14 From Spring to Fall: 6 A Most Unusual Time and Advocate for Educator What We Have Learned Needs Georgia Teachers Share 8 Light in Troubled Times How the Lessons of PAGE Awards $75,000 in March Are Informing Their 24 Your Legal Concerns Educator Grants Approach to Teaching This Related to COVID-19 School Year PAGE One Official Publication of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Our core business is to provide professional learning for educators that will enhance professional competence and confidence, build leadership qualities and lead to higher academic achievement for students, while providing the best in membership, legal services and legislative support.
24 Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions 28 Rules on FMLA Intermittent Leave 29 Professional Learning: Instructional Support and Guidance 30 PAGE Makes Full Use of Technology to Support Student Programs 31 Membership Services Representatives
NEW SOUTH PUBLISHING
Executive Director Craig Harper
President Larry Lebovitz
Production Coordinator Megan Willis
Executive Editor Ramona Mills
Publisher John Hanna
Editor Meg Thornton
Editor Cory Sekine-Pettite
Advertising/Sales Sherry Gasaway 770-650-1102, ext.145 Ginger Roberts 770-330-8955
Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta
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From the President
Teachers: Be a Story not a Stat
hile watching “Becoming,” a Netflix documentary about Michelle Obama, something struck me; she told a young girl to be a “story not a stat.” I thought about our teachers, and how heroically they performed this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic seized the nation. Georgia’s teachers have riveting stories to tell about how they are tenaciously grappling with this historic obstacle. How we react to adversity is what defines us. As teachers, we must tell our stories. If we do not tell them, who will? And, will those stories accurately reflect us, our passion and our successes?
I think back on when I Students shaped the person I first became a teacher; I was am today. I have been comnearly overcome with anxipelled to speak out on issues ety paired with excitement. I and advocate for them even prepared the entire summer, more so than I do for myself. attempting to anticipate I relish hearing stories that every move we would make students share of their lives. I together in my classroom. heartily laugh at their jokes, I felt confident that I was encourage them through ready to start school, but challenges, feel the pain of little did I know how unpretheir disappointments and pared I actually was. celebrate their victories. Lindsey Martin What mostly caught me Throughout the pandemic, off guard was how much of an impact teachers have experienced the full range the students would make on me and of emotions concerning their job, their how invested in them I would become. students and their colleagues. Most
Meet Lindsey Martin, PAGE 2020-2021 President
Martin’s Standout Skill Is Integration of Technology in the Classroom By Meg Thornton, PAGE One Editor
owndes County’s successful integration of technology in the classroom is fueled in part by a powerful force: Lindsey Raulerson Martin, the district’s instructional technology specialist. Martin, who is the 2020-2021 PAGE president, has helped more than 200 educators attain Google Certified Educator status; she created and maintains the district’s robust, resource-deep instructional technology website; and she has been awarded many technology grants. She also teaches a course on technology for Valdosta State University pre-service teachers. Lowndes is technology-rich; it began 1:1 Chromebook deployment for grades 3-8 in 2012. But the real measure of technology’s impact is how it assists students in learning — and in wanting to
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learn. Lowndes scores high there, as well. In a multiyear survey with the negatively framed question — “Teachers don’t know how to use technology for learning” — affirmative responses of district high school students dropped from 22 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in 2018, reports district Technology Director Al Rowell. Affirmative responses of middle school students dropped from 6 percent to 4 percent. And in 2018, students in grades 3 through 12 reported that, as a result of technology, they are: • Collaborating with other students more (49 percent) • Developing creativity skills (58 percent) • Understanding what I am learning better (60 percent) Martin, a 19-year educator, blends
technology and solid pedagogy. In 2012, she switched from teaching English at Lowndes High School — “where her classroom was energized with tech-y projects when tech was not nearly as pervasive (or ‘cool’),” says Rowell — to being Hahira Middle School’s media specialist just as the district was pivoting to 1:1 Chromebooks. Immediately, she dove into helping fellow educators integrate innovative practices in their lessons. “HMS students clamored to be in her media center to create with Makey Makeys, Little Bits kits, Spheros, Ozobots and a raspberry Pi,” says Rowell. “One of our greatest challenges — in a time of prescribed lessons, managed instructional programs and greater accountability — is overcoming inertia and restoring energy (and joy) where it has
conveyed how much they missed their students and expressed their desire to connect with them in person. We all know of teachers who delivered meals, drove in parades, sent supplies and gifts, and spent countless hours planning activities for students at home. Teachers have unwavering tenacity, and they seem to power through insurmountable circumstances. Teachers Sprang into Action In March, when the call was made to move to virtual learning, many educators were filled with dread and anxiety about moving into the unknown. In my district, teachers sprang into action. They dove into virtual professional learning classes and sought information. We researched and created plans to enable
teachers and students to keep the learning alive. Grade-level teams and contentbased departments created websites and utilized learning management systems to ensure that students could continue their quest for education. Teachers amended traditional assignments to make them conducive to digital learning. Social workers and the cafeteria staff worked continually to feed our children. School counselors hosted virtual check-ins with students to ensure their well-being. And, many of these school employees did so while their own children were at home trying to learn as well. This type of outreach occurred all over our state and nation. In the early days of the pandemic, we did not perform perfectly, but we performed exceptionally well. Overwhelmingly, parents — many
of whom were forced into the academic “teacher” role — praised the hard job of being a teacher. My hope is that our profession can use this time away from the physical school building as fodder to remind us of our “why.” This school year may prove to be the most difficult one yet. Let’s remember to keep meeting our students where they are. Let’s eagerly continue to learn new ways to engage them. Let’s continue to connect with them and embrace the relationships we are so privileged to have with our students. Finally, let’s remember to share our experiences, no matter what the stats or others tell the world. Go forth, my friends, tell your stories, be renewed and continue to persevere in doing what is n best for our students of Georgia.
port-folios and exclaims, “You have to see this!” enthused Rowell. “It’s a great day when she comes back to the office with a Flipgrid of studentcreated videos or set of Google Sites portfolios and exclaims, “You have to see this!” enthused Rowell. Martin says her greatest challenge was learning the capabilities of the district’s youngest learners. But her first foray into that arena — with a second-grade teacher three years ago — was a success. “We planned activities together. Technology
was always secondary to content, but we made magic together for sure,” recalls Martin. The second graders “created digital portfolios, made videos, created and read graphs, designed interactive posters, manipulated maps and learned to collaborate with each other. I was amazed at how much they could do without much instruction about the ‘technology.’ Martin added that “We stayed focused on the content, and the technology was the easy part. This success did not come without
been depleted,” says Rowell. “Lindsey has brought the enthusiasm and excitement we need to encourage our teachers in innovative (but not gimmick-y) uses of technology.” Instruction Is Individualized To start each year, Martin visits each new teacher to learn their needs and to share tech solutions. She asks staff what topics they want to learn “and dedicates hours researching and honing her skills before sharing with staff in coordination with their PLCs,” notes Rowell. “Where Lindsey really stands out, though, is her availability to teachers who need a little confidence in taking that first step.” Martin’s calendar is filled with sessions at every level, whether it be guiding classrooms of students creating Flipgrids, peer editing and solving math problems; or co-teaching a lesson to second-grade students reading narratives illustrated with art in a green screen video; or encouraging middle school ELA students using TinkerCad to design solutions for transporting water in Sudan. “It’s a great day when she comes back to the office with a Flipgrid of studentcreated videos or set of Google Sites
Continued on page 32
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A Most Unusual Time By Craig Harper, PAGE Executive Director
Most Unusual Time” is the theme of this issue of PAGE One. This is an unusual time, indeed, full of anxiety and frustration, as well as an opportunity — unwelcome though it may be — to challenge the status quo in so many ways. Instructional design and methods are changing as you look for ways to prepare for multiple delivery requirements for virtual, in-person, blended, asynchronous and individualized learning. Students and classrooms may be open one day and closed the next. Some students plan to learn from home while others will be onsite. You’re figuring out how to get connected with new students who haven’t yet been to your classroom as you also work to stay connected with those who are there only part-time.
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Through all of this uncertainty, PAGE is adapting with you — supporting and serving you on the issues that matter to you. You provided invaluable information to direct our advocacy efforts through a survey at the start of the pandemic shutdown in the spring and then again regarding school reopening issues in a follow-up survey in late June and early July. The analysis of your responses guided PAGE in developing recommendations for a phased start to the school year — predicated on a determination of health and safety with low rates of COVID-19 spread — with a later student start date and more time for staff to return to school for safety training and professional learning for virtual learning methods. PAGE staff have contacted superintendents and other district leaders to share employee
concerns and suggest resolutions. PAGE urged Georgia’s federal delegation to provide stopgap funding for public schools due to budget shortfalls — especially for PPE supplies, social emotional supports for students, and other costs associated with maintaining health and safety in schools. The PAGE legal department has responded to thousands of your calls for advice on accommodations for health risks of returning to school, guidance on how to talk to supervisors about work assignments, and options for leave. Our attorneys produced an FAQ to address the most common issues from your calls. The PAGE membership service representatives have actively answered your questions and assisted with advocacy efforts. In these pages, each of our departments that provide services
to educators, future Georgia educators and students presents how they are adapting to meet your needs in this upcoming year. So much of our work at PAGE occurs through direct connection with you at your school, events, conferences, and educationrelated activities. Restrictions on the numbers of people who can gather or limits on participation by those outside the immediate school community hamper our ability to be where we’d like to be — with you in school environments. We don’t yet know what the future holds as we battle COVID-19, but I know that you will do all you can to meet the needs of your students, families and communities, and PAGE will do all we can to support you. In all we do, let’s keep moving forward on behalf of Georgia’s children, educators and public education in this most unusual time. n
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A Most Unusual Time
Light in Troubled Times
PAGE Awards $75,000 in Educator Grants By LaTria Garnigan, PAGE Digital Content Manager
mid the COVID-19 crisis, the members and their needs,” notes Executive Professional Association of Georgia Director Craig Harper. “When there is an Educators (PAGE) sought to create ability to meet those needs in a meaningful a light of opportunity for members — to way, PAGE does its best to follow through. assist with virtual teaching and help preOur main goal in creating this grant propare for the upcoming school year. Enter the PAGE Educator Grant — a $500 reimbursement award “These grants can go a conceived to supply educators with additional funds to apply toward long way for a teacher in students, peers, and professional acquiring materials and development during a time of unprecedented challenges. resources that otherwise “PAGE consistently listens to
gram was to support our teachers in a very difficult time by providing resources of their choosing to be more effective with students. It was also a show of support for the hard work they do every day, but especially during the pandemic, and a response to a need for resources that weren’t fully realized before the move to virtual learning.” Thanks to cost savings resulting from COVID-19-related school closures and operational restrictions, PAGE was able to pass along a total of $75,000 to grant winners.
would be just out of reach.”
Katie Farrar Rome City School District “I’m definitely more prepared for distance learning for the upcoming school year thanks to my PAGE grant!” “I teach kindergarten and didn’t realize the challenges that would come with distance learning. I used my grant to purchase a large whiteboard, document camera, ring light, and math manipulatives. All of these items will help my students because the items are similar to what is in our classroom. And that consistency is very important for young students. I’m definitely more prepared for distance learning for the upcoming school year thanks to my PAGE grant!”
Amber Moosman Troup County Schools “With the $500 Page Educator Grant, I was able to purchase 55 headphones and 34 computer mice!” “I’m so thankful for this grant, and I can’t wait to get these set up for my students at West Point Elementary! I applied for the 2020 Page Educator Grant to provide my first graders with headphones and computer mice for our Chromebooks. We only had a handful (about six) of each to share amongst our class, which made it very difficult to incorporate technology and teach a small group in a quiet, conducive setting. With the $500 Page Educator Grant, I was able to purchase 55 headphones and 34 computer mice! Not only will this help my classroom, but I now have plenty to share with the other two first grade classrooms!”
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More than 160 award recipients are now able to utilize the funds in myriad ways — from sensory equipment for students with autism to projectors to craft materials and more. PAGE awarded $50,000 in the first round that ended on April 10, 2020, with winners notified on April 20, 2020. An additional $25,000 was awarded to educators from the existing applicant pool the following week. Georgia’s teachers are adapting to an ever-changing educational landscape, all the while maintaining their passion and commitment. Obtaining supplies and supplemental learning materials is noth-
“PAGE consistently listens to members and their needs. When there is an ability to meet those needs in a meaningful way, PAGE does its best to follow through.” ing new for educators, but doing so amid a pandemic is. “Teachers are ‘all-in’ for their students,”
says Harper. “These grants can go a long way for a teacher in acquiring materials and resources that otherwise would be just out of reach.” Georgia educators are doing incredible work and making a vast, positive impact on students, families, and communities. In the next few pages, you will see and hear directly from a few PAGE grant recipients as they speak to just how much the grant funds are shining a light into troubled times — enabling them to expand their toolkits and more effectively engage with n students. View the full list of grant recipients at https://bit.ly/3kYYXyS.
Loren Frick Georgia School for the Deaf “I purchased a clear glass board along with an easel stand to remove two obstacles.” “My students are deaf and hard of hearing and use American Sign Language. While making math videos, instead of turning around to write on the board, I purchased a clear glass board along with an easel stand to remove two obstacles: (1) I can write in front of me and sign at the same time. (2) When using sign language for directional signs such as ‘move the decimal the left’ the viewpoint of the presenter and the viewer are opposite. When editing, I use the mirror format to flip the video and make the signing viewpoint correct for the viewer as well as the math work legible in the video!”
Amanda Floyd Appling County School System “Thank you, PAGE, for helping me turn my dream into a reality!” “I cannot wait for my students to begin using the space! I teach in a preschool intervention classroom for students ages 3-5 with disabilities. Many of my students have autism and/or have unique sensory needs. They often get easily overwhelmed and need a change of environment or activity in order to cope. The PAGE grant afforded me a way to begin equipping the area for my students’ sensory needs. I purchased a sand/sensory table, a small indoor/ outdoor trampoline, and a caterpillar climber. I was also able to purchase a picnic table so my students can sit outside to work on various activities. More equipment for the space is being provided by my school and my awesome PTO. Thank you, PAGE, for helping me turn my dream into a reality!” Continued on next page August/September 2020
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A Most Unusual Time Marti Yelverton Dougherty County School System “These are going to be a game changer!” “Some of the products [I purchased] can be used to facilitate a sensory integrated classroom. The stool is a wobble stool that provides just a little bit of bounce and wobble to help a student who needs sensory input in the form of movement. The headphones block out noise, and I am amazed that students can actually hear instruction while wearing them. They help block extraneous noises that interfere with the learner’s ability to focus on instruction. There are also four different tools that can be used by a teacher to help students with sensory needs: wobble stool, seat cushion, foot fidget band, and slide stoppers. The slide stoppers can help a student sit at the table versus pushing away from it while working. These are going to be a game changer.”
William Bowen Crisp County School District “I decided to purchase a MEVO camera with my PAGE grant.” “This fall I will be teaching seventh grade ELA at Crisp County Middle School. I decided to purchase a MEVO camera with my PAGE grant. The MEVO camera gives me the option to livestream my lessons across multiple platforms simultaneously. Students will be able to interact with the lesson if they are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo and Periscope. I have a wide range of editing ability that I can access through my phone. The MEVO allows me to turn my classroom into a learning studio.”
Lauren Burrell Rabun County Schools “Thank you so much, PAGE, for this incredible opportunity to enhance the learning stations in my classroom!” “I teach kindergarten at Rabun County Primary School in Tiger, Ga. I have put together sets of activities to enhance my students learning of their sight words. These sets will be used in my balanced literacy centers and will be engaging for more word work use. I have also made sight word puzzles with popsicle sticks. I made sets for my students to string sight words on pipe cleaners to not only work on phonemic awareness, but also their fine motor skills. I purchased build and write mats for my students to pick a word, build it, and then write it. I also laminated sight words sheets that can be used over and over again with my centers. Thank you so much, PAGE, for this incredible opportunity to enhance the learning stations in my classroom! This Georgia teacher is extremely appreciative.”
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Ellen Wilde Wayne County School District “Thank you, PAGE!” “Thanks to the educator grant, I know my students will learn to see math in a different light and they will have a teacher is who is well-prepared for the uncertain, upcoming school year. Thank you, PAGE! If regulations permit, I plan to purchase materials for interactive activities that my at-risk, high school math students could work through together in class (ex. math Jenga, workbooks for math relays, math dice for students to build their own equations, etc.) If my district decides to move toward online learning, I plan to purchase high-quality curriculum in the subjects that I teach from Clark Creative and All Things Algebra. This curriculum can be easily transcribed into an online format and will help maximize critical thinking and problemsolving skills in my students. Having the curriculum in place for the year takes a huge load off of me and would allow me to focus on building relationships with my students.
Vilencia Leslie Burke County School District “Thank you, PAGE, for awarding me this opportunity to purchase these materials.” “My speech/language therapy materials that were purchased through the PAGE Educator Grant will be used to further enhance each student’s ability in meeting his/ her communication goals and objectives. An SLP’s IEP companion book was also purchased that will allow me to explore and establish other goals and objectives addressed. It is my hope that these materials will be applicable to the student’s specific communication disorder. I also plan to use these materials to enrich school administrators, teachers, and parents’ knowledge in understanding ways to elicit the targeted communication responses. This opportunity will assist the students’ ability in maintaining and/ or carrying over the concepts/skills addressed in meeting their communication needs. Thank you, PAGE, for awarding me this opportunity to purchase these materials.”
Rebecca Woolsey Bartow County Schools “What an amazing journey that I have enjoyed wholeheartedly!” “I purchased over $300 in books, dry erase boards, chart paper, chalk, and dry erase markers with the money. When school ended this year, I gave each of my students a dry erase board, a marker, and 5 books for home learning. Plus, I provided books for most of the other first grade students. With so many books, I wanted a way to get books into as many people’s hands as possible, so I called my friends at The Bookmobile. They were able to provide me with a Little Free Library and new books to help fill my lending library. I ordered books mostly appropriate for first graders and needed books for all ages. I had my grand opening of my Little Free Library on June 26, with the help of my Bookmobile friends. What an amazing journey that I have n enjoyed whole-heartedly!”
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A Most Unusual Time
PAGE Membership Staff Innovates to Continue Unparalleled Service By Jimmy Jordan, PAGE Director of Membership
his “most unusual time” has meant virtual learning at home, Zoom meetings with faculty and staff, instructions from teachers to students and parents on how to handle the virtual learning, daily COVID-19 updates, and difficult decisions from boards of education on how to approach the 2020-21 school year. The PAGE Member Services Representatives (MSRs), College Services Representatives (CSRs) and Student Activities Coordinators have been adapting and responding to pandemic issues confronting Georgia educators while addressing member concerns at an unprecedented rate. Each time a member expresses a concern, that issue is directed to the specific department of PAGE that can most effectively address it. We continually focus on innovative ways to provide outstanding services to members, school districts and schools. Amid the extreme challenges of the pandemic, PAGE transformed operational cost savings into direct support for members — awarding more than 160 applicants with $500 grants to use toward enhancing teaching and learning for their students. (Learn more about the creative and inspiring ways recipients are
utilizing these funds on pages 8 through 11.) At PAGE, you are our priority. Delivering unparalleled services to Georgia educators is what we do best. And, since we’re unable to meet with you in person during this time, we’ve created a video that highlights the many benefits of PAGE membership. You’ll find this video on our website. You’ll likely also see it — introduced by the Membership Service Representative for your particular district — at upcoming faculty meetings and new teacher orientations. As the “making-of ” photos showcased here reveal, we thoroughly enjoyed producing this video for you. We hope you find it helpful as you consider how PAGE legal protections, legislative advocacy, professional learning opportunities, recognition programs, and full slate of member services contribute to your success as a Georgia educator. PAGE also has you covered in regard to the yearly Code of Ethics training required by all personnel in Georgia public schools. The Georgia Code of Ethics (COE) for Educators defines the professional behavior and ethical conduct required to maintain certification. Now available on virtual platforms, PAGE interactive COE presentations — provided by staff attorneys — keep you informed regarding required standards and expectations. Another PAGE staple at the beginning of school is a calendar-planner for new hires. MSRs are arranging for delivery of the planners to all the districts and schools.
You’ll find the PAGE membership video helpful as you consider how PAGE legal protections, legislative advocacy, professional learning opportunities, recognition programs and full slate of member services contribute to your success as a Georgia educator.
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High school students are important to PAGE as well — especially those who are considering teaching as a profession. This year, Future Georgia Educator activities and FGE Days at colleges will have a virtual option for Education Pathway students. Georgia Academic Decathlon, and PAGE Middle School Academic Bowl are also being virtually redesigned for when face-to-face interaction is not possible.
As the 2020-21 school year begins, the PAGE membership team looks forward to providing you with continued excellent service. As Georgia educators adapt and evolve during this most unusual time, so too will we. Thank you so much for your trust and partnership. Should you have questions, concerns, or desire more information, please reach out to PAGE Member Services at 770-2168555 (option 2) or email email@example.com or n firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newest PAGE Membership Services Representative Brings Powerhouse Recruiting Skills to DeKalb
eteran educator Larrell Lewis brings a powerhouse talent to the PAGE Membership Department: Herself. As PAGE’s newest employee, “Coach Lewis” has stepped away from her role as a teacher and athletic director at Jonesboro’s Rex Middle School and into her role as PAGE membership services representative (MSR) for District 4a serving DeKalb County and Decatur City. Her connections with DeKalb educators on all levels, from the teachers to the superintendent’s office, run deep, and her communications and marketing skills have been honed as a longtime volunteer recruiter for district schools. “I know that Larrell will do an exceptional job connecting and supporting educators in DeKalb County and City Schools of Decatur, just as she did with her students and players as a teacher, coach and athletic director,” said PAGE Executive Director Craig Harper. Lewis previously taught and coached at Columbia Middle School in Stone Mountain, at Paulding County High School and at Burke County High School. In all of her roles, she has actively promoted department cohesiveness and collaboration. And as August/September 2020
a member of Rex Middle School’s leadership team, she analyzed departmental procedures for strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth and improvement. The Lithonia resident is a 2007 graduate of Albany State University, where she earned a bachelor of science in health and physical education. Known for her eagerness and pep — “Her enthusiam for educators and PAGE is inspiring,” says PAGE Membership Services Director Jimmy Jordan — Lewis is stoked about her new position: “I’m so excited to become a part of the PAGE team,” she said. “I look forward to building relationships that provide educators with ample knowledge, comfort and great customer service.” Previous PAGE District 4a membership services representative Shirley Wright is continuing her highly successful career at PAGE as the District 5 MSR representing Cobb and Paulding n counties. — Meg Thornton
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A Most Unusual Time
From Spring to Fall: What We Have Learned Georgia Teachers Share How the Lessons of March Are Informing Their Approach to Teaching This School Year By Scotty Brewington
ew Year’s comes twice a year for educators — once on January 1, and again when the school bell first rings in August. While these transition periods typically usher in excitement and anticipation, this most unusual school year is unlike any that teachers have ever faced. We asked educators from throughout the state what they learned from the shutdown last spring and how these lessons will impact their approach to teaching moving forward. Will the lessons of COVID-19 drive positive change in the classroom? How will we come away from this year stronger? Candice Mixon, James E. Bacon Elementary Wayne County Schools Candice Mixon, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at James E. Bacon Elementary School, never imagined a pandemic would shut down schools across the state, forcing teachers to transition to distance learning almost overnight. But Mixon, a 17-year veteran teacher, was ready for the challenge.
classroom packets during the food distribution. During the shutdown, a student was diagnosed with leukemia. Mixon and her students gathered virtually for prayer and fellowship — some holding up phones, enabling others to connect through their hotspots. Now, planning has begun for both in-person classes and the possibility of having to return to remote learning at some point during the Candice Mixon school year. Things will look different, Mixon said, and After the shutdown in March, Bacon flexibility will be key. Elementary — a Title 1 school in Jesup, “The biggest thing is to be flexible and Georgia — instituted a distance learning when you learn something, share,” she plan that included virtual instruction and said. “For example, we’re a Google school, paper packets. but when we shut down, there was a push “Overall, about 50 percent of our kids to use Microsoft Teams. I spent 30-40 actively worked online and the others hours just learning Microsoft Teams and picked-up packets,” said Mixon. “Many creating videos to share with the county of our kids didn’t have personal computand other educators. Another teacher ers at home or had internet access only made beautiful instructional tutorials to through their parents’ phones.” help peers. Nineteen years ago, my superYet, even through these challenges, the vising teacher gave me some great advice: community answered the call. Churches ‘If it works, steal it. It’s not about you — distributed food. Teachers — three of the it’s about the kids.’” four teachers on Mixon’s own team are Mixon said there will be obvious chalpastors’ wives — volunteered and were lenges this year. If classes are in-person, able to see their students and hand-out she will have to find a way for all 26
‘Nineteen years ago, my supervising teacher gave me some great advice: “If it works, steal it. It’s not about you — it’s about the kids.”’ — Candice Mixon, James E. Bacon Elementary School 14 PAGE ONE
students in her class to sit facing in one direction, for example. If school is virtual, there will still be technology challenges to overcome. During the shutdown, Mixon had some students take a photo of their completed work and e-mail or text it to her. For this school year, teachers are required countywide to have a Google Classroom to post assignments and upload work. Because her school is in a smaller, rural community with very few cases of the virus, Mixon hopes school will start face-to-face and if learning is virtual that students will have the opportunity to check-out a device to use at home. Building good relationships with parents and establishing clear lines of communication will be critical. This will begin at the school’s upcoming virtual open house. “I think everyone is better prepared now. The biggest issue will be content preparation,” said Mixon. “The key is to get kids what they need, and we will have to push it out in a way that kids and parents aren’t overwhelmed. The more opportunities I can have with students before we have another shutdown, the better.” For Mixon, these uncertain times are just another reminder of why she became a teacher. “One of the things that draws you to teaching is the love for the child and the love of the connection and part of that love is physical. You want to hug them and celebrate with them face-to-face. That’s been the hardest part,” said Mixon. “We had a drive-through graduation at the end of last year and all of the kids made signs for us and brought us gifts. They said over and over how much they missed us and we miss them, too.” Toni Phillips, Hawthorne Elementary Clayton County Schools When Clayton County Schools closed in March, teachers were given 48 hours to prepare. “Like any educator knows, you have to have a backup plan. Usually that backup plan is due to the world of technology failing us for a moment or even a day, but this was the opposite and we had to turn our backup plan to the world of technology,” said Toni Phillips, Clayton County’s August/September 2020
‘We must embed online learning so that students are capable and know what to do in case we have to go virtual again.’ — Toni Phillips, Hawthorne Elementary School 2020 Teacher of the Year and fourth grade teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School. Last school year, Phillips had about 55 students. Laptops were provided for those who did not have access to technology at home and out of the 55, Phillips says 35-40 students were actively engaged online. The others primarily utilized packets that were either picked-up at school or delivered to their homes by teachers. The county recently announced that the school year will be delayed by five days and will begin with all students learning remotely. For Phillips, this means finding creative ways to connect with students outside of the physical classroom. “I believe that in order to teach a child, you must first reach the child,” she said. “We know from the classroom setting that children experience many things that are not so positive and have a huge negative impact on their lives — from not having internet to not knowing where their next meal is coming from.” One of a teacher’s most important jobs, Phillips said, is to make sure students know they are loved and cared for. Doing this virtually has required some creativity. “So many sent me pictures, Google docs and more telling me how much they missed me, they loved me, and that everything was going to be alright,” she said. “It was a gentle reminder of why I do what I do and the impact that we as educators have on our students.” Though her school is set to begin the year virtually, there is an expectation that in-person classes will eventually resume and with them, health screenings, hybrid schedules and a number Toni Phillips of other safety protocols.
Virtual learning will be embedded in all learning plans so that teachers are prepared for any scenario. “From here on out, technology will definitely be a tool that is used more so than not and a teacher should never be unprepared if something out of our control should arise again,” she said. “If we return to the building, we will teach as we normally do, but during small group instruction, independent practice, collaboration or homework, we must embed online learning so that students are capable and know what to do in case we have to go virtual again.” After finishing the school year virtually in May, Phillips taught summer school for the county. Teaching students that she did not know — and who didn’t know her — was an eye-opener for Phillips as to what school might look like in August with a classroom full of new students. “The biggest challenge for teachers and students this year will be interacting with a complete stranger while on a device instead of in-person,” said Phillips. “It will be the teacher’s responsibility to be proactive and very creative with learning. Continued on next page
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A Most Unusual Time Personalities must shine and teachers must go the ‘Even elementary school students will extra mile. Students will have to learn self-reliance at an early have to gain trust and confidence in themselves age and how to be thorough without a to open up to someteacher standing over their shoulder.’ one they do not know. However, this can be — Thomas Cote, Heritage Elementary School done with a good bit of effort and support.” During summer school, Phillips experimented with different ways to get to know her students in a finalist for Bibb County’s 2020 Teacher of special deals were offered to obtain virtual setting. She opened each class with the Year who began his career in healthphones that could be used as hot spots for a positive quote and video and took five care administration, this school year will internet connectivity. minutes to discuss the “topic of the day” be a rare chance to combine his skills for In addition to making sure students or what students did over the weekend — a new approach to teaching. have access to technology, learning new all good practice for what is to come this As one of many school districts delayways to effectively communicate with school year. ing the start of the 2020-2021 school year parents in this new learning environment “There’s a saying that ‘what doesn’t until September, Bibb County’s schools — and ensuring that they are familiar kill you makes you stronger.’ Well, we are have been closed since March 16th. At the with the programs and platforms being proof that we made it through closing our time of this writing, a decision to reopen used in the classroom — will be another last nine weeks of the year out virtually. in-person or virtually has not been made, challenge for teachers, Cote said. We made it through summer school sucbut one thing is for certain: technology The district has adopted some new cessfully. Now, for the 2020-2021 school will play a significant role in education technologies to help with this. In addition year, we’re setting up not only ourselves, this year. to using Microsoft Teams, schools will but our scholars to be successful,” she “As educators, we have to understand also use the Canvas learning platform, said. “If we can teach elementary students that today’s students are technologically allowing them to more easily streamline from a laptop in various homes throughsavvy, and we have to take the traditional assignments and communicate with parout the country successfully, we certainly standards and change what we have into a ents in real-time. should not have any issues inside the technology-based program,” Cote said. “We have to encourage our parents and classroom that we cannot overcome.” During the shutdown last spring, Bibb be ready to make phone calls and comCounty — a Title I school district — municate,” he said. “Traditional parent Thomas Cote, Heritage Elementary ensured that all students who needed it nights and PTA meetings will change this Bibb County Schools were equipped with a device to complete year, and we’ll have to have better comFor Thomas Cote, a fifth-year teacher and schoolwork at home. For some students, munication with stakeholders like our parents.” A benefit of the delayed start to school, Cote said, is that teachers will have the whole month of August to prepare for both face-to-face and virtual scenarios. In a typical year, teachers only have a handful of workdays to get ready for students. These extra planning days will also help teachers become more comfortable with the technology that will be used this year so that they can better help their students to adapt. Though the shift will be challenging, teachers and students are resilient, Cote said. “Until this year, high schools and colleges used digital platforms. But now, even elementary school students will have to learn self-reliance at an early Thomas Cote age and how to be thorough without a 16 PAGE ONE
teacher standing over their shoulder,” Cote said. “They will have to enhance their personal responsibility, a skill that students don’t typically get until an older age.”
Students did so well with video lectures and virtual reviews that Camp will likely continue them ‘so that we can use class time to be more interactive. We could even free-up time for labs we maybe otherwise wouldn’t have had time to get to.’ — Kenneth Camp, Towns County High School
Kenneth Camp, Towns County High Towns County Schools A 21-year veteran chemistry and biology teacher, Ken Camp vividly remembers the day school shut down in March. It was some lectures at home when we start back Friday the 13th. Now, looking back, Camp so that we can use class time to be more says that although the forced move to interactive. We could even free up time for virtual learning has presented many challabs we maybe otherwise wouldn’t have lenges, it has also unveiled some benefits. had time to get to,” said Camp. “Though At Camp’s small northeast Georgia we had Zoom and Google classrooms high school, the plan as of this writing before, we didn’t really use them until we was to cautiously reopen on Aug. 17 had to. It has put more tools in the tool for face-to-face instruction and virtual chest and can clear-up more classroom options. When school transitioned to time for face-to-face interaction.” virtual in the spring, the county issued Camp said that before the move to Chromebooks and hot spots to students virtual, he generally dedicated 25 percent without a device or reliable internet of his class time to lab work, which helps access at home. students build self-discipline and improve “We have really good people in our teamwork. technology and administration depart“You still need lectures, but I am now ments, and by April, those who wanted thinking there may be a better way — access had every opportunity to get it,” maybe breaking up the lectures and said Camp. “For 80-90 percent, by the assigning parts as homework, especially time we were virtual for six weeks, they the parts with video clips, so that we can knew the routine and what was expected.” be more interactive in class,” Camp said. Camp says one of the biggest lessons “When students are struggling at home, I learned from the shutdown was that there tell them to send me an e-mail. But now is no replacement for face-toface teaching and the relationships fostered between teachers and students. “You learn how much nonverbal communication matters. In a class like chemistry, for example, it is very difficult to replicate what you would get in a physical chemistry lab,” Camp said. However, the move to virtual did have some unexpected benefits. For Camp’s students, certain activities translated very well to a virtual platform. “They did such a good job going through video lectures and handling reviews virtually Kenneth Camp that I am considering doing August/September 2020
that everyone knows how to use Zoom and Google links, there’s no reason I can’t send them a problem and we work on it together as if we were in class.” Camp also said that the break has allowed him to evaluate a number of apps with virtual labs that he hopes to use next year. “I had time to see which apps worked and which didn’t. For chemistry, I looked at 20-30 different sites with virtual labs. I would never have done that if we were functioning normally,” Camp said. “It gave us time to find what works. People adapt when they have to, and we had to adapt. We’ll be several steps ahead when it happens again.” The biggest challenge of the new school year will be maintaining momentum despite the unknowns and inevitable disruptions. “Momentum is a big thing in the classroom,” Camp said. “Having kids in and out and dealing with fear and high-strung emotions, teachers will have to be flexible and value the relationships. We just don’t know what’s coming.” Ultimately, Camp says that he expects both students and teachers will be especially happy to be back in the classroom, socializing with each other. “Students and teachers will value these relationships even more once we’re back — especially high school kids. Socialization in that age group has an effect on demeanor,” said Camp. “If you are happy and feel connected, you will learn n better.” PAGE ONE 17
Protection AdvocAcy Growth economy
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• $1 million liability coverage • $10,000 coverage policy for legal defense of employment, criminal, and ethics cases with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission • All coverage is “win or lose” with no reimbursements, deductibles, or up-front costs • Direct access to an expert legal team with over 75 years combined educator-specific experience • Interactive Code of Ethics presentations, FAQs, and informative resources
ADVOCACY • Your voice at the Capitol – and with policymakers at the local, state, and national level • Advocating to improve your benefits and work environment • Lobbying lawmakers and administrators to improve educator health and safety, protect TRS, reduce high-stakes testing, and more • Providing testimony, media interviews, legislative reports, and coordination of member advocacy events
GROWTH • Professional learning opportunities throughout the state – Engage Academy and Transformational Principal Institute • Grants to support your classroom and growth as a Georgia educator – more than $90,000 awarded so far this year • Scholarships to support your continuing education and career goals – more than $40,000 awarded annually • Teacher and student recognition programs and academic competitions – PAGE STAR, Georgia Academic Decathlon, and more • Future Georgia Educators initiatives support Georgia’s teacher pipeline • PAGE One magazine, annual New Teacher Guide, educator resource materials, and more to keep you informed
ECONOMY • More benefits than any other Georgia educator association • Your best value: — Less than $15 monthly for certified personnel — Less than $8 monthly for support staff • Dues support you – not political action committees; local, state, or national candidates; national organizations; or non-education issues • Dues stay in Georgia to work for you
PAGE is the state’s largest educator association — with members serving in every Georgia school district — and the best option for your professional future. Membership is available to all Georgia educators and school employees, as well as college and high school students enrolled in education courses. Learn more at www.pageinc.org.
A Most Unusual Time
A Second Term in Unprecedented Times Georgia’s TOTY Shares Her Thoughts on the Pandemic, Reopening Schools and Serving Another Year as the State’s Top Educator By Scotty Brewington
racey Pendley — only the second Atlanta Public Schools teacher to win the state’s top honor of Teacher of the Year — is now adding another distinction to her résumé. As a result of this most unusual time, Pendley is serving a second term as the state’s top educator. Pendley will continue in this role until a new award winner is selected in spring of 2021. (This isn’t the first time a teacher has held the TOTY distinction for two consecutive terms. Catherine S. Pittman of Glynn County served back-to-back in 1995-96 as the state shifted its program timeline to align with the national program.) We recently caught-up with Pendley — a fourth grade teacher at Atlanta’s Burgess-Peterson Academy who also serves on Gov. Brian Kemp’s K-12 Restart Work Group — and asked her how she plans to navigate her role during these unusual times, what she is hearing from her fellow educators, and insights from serving on the state’s school reopening committee. “There has been a lot of concern circling around digital connectivity and our
students’ access to technology — the gaps across the state and how we get devices and hot spots to those children,” said Pendley. “We have found that it wasn’t just students having trouble connecting during the shutdown, but teachers as well. It doesn’t come down to income level as much as it does location. Highspeed internet simply isn’t available in many communities.” In May, Gov. Kemp and State Superintendent Richard Woods announced the creation of six K-12 Restart Working Groups to plan for the 2020-21 school year in the midst of COVID-19. The groups include teachers, school district staff, public health officials and representatives from other state agencies including non-profits. There are groups focused on school meals, distance and professional learning, technology, mental health, supplemental learning, and facilities, equipment and health guidelines. Pendley serves on the committee focused on distance and professional learning. “In Georgia, we had 41 percent of students in rural communities picking up physical packets because they didn’t have access to in the internet. We can’t just rely on packets,” she said. On Pendley’s committee, the ‘We have an focus has been on how to make opportunity to virtual learning engaging for all students. completely reimagine “We are looking at this as an how we teach students opportunity to think bigger, better and out-of-the-box,” Pendley said. and what we expect “The expertise brought to the table from them. One of has been outstanding. I am pleased to see how much the voices of eduthe biggest pieces of cators really mattered and that our advice I give is not to voices were considered. We spent many hours over Zoom really hashfocus on test scores — ing out the details about who will focus on growth.’ benefit, who we are missing and who is falling through the cracks.”
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‘We Learned a lot in the Spring’ A positive change this year, Pendley says, is that teachers in Atlanta Public Schools will have three weeks of preplanning as opposed to the typical one week before students begin school. The goal of this extended planning time is to allow teachers to connect individually with students on their class rosters and to begin to form relationships with them before the first day of school. During this time, teachers can also assess students’ connectivity and access to technology. “We learned a lot in the spring. While I was on those Zoom calls, I got to see which students were having to speak through their mom’s phone while she was running out to work and what kinds of assignments they were able to work on,” said Pendley. “We are creative. We found ways to provide resources, and many teachers delivered learning activities to students. I ran a book drive at my school and in June, I was able to deliver 140 bags of books to students at August/September 2020
their homes. I got to drive around and see the kids — it was wonderful.” Atlanta Public Schools has committed to providing students with hot spots and devices, which parents can pick up the week before school begins. Other changes this year include streamlined grade-level times for meetings, providing a more consistent time for students in each grade to meet online. One driver for this is that it will free-up some of the issues of two siblings at home trying to use the Wi-fi at the same time. Georgia has also waived standardized testing for the upcoming school year, allowing teachers to focus more on remediation and student safety. “I haven’t met a single educator who doesn’t want to be physically in the classroom,” said Pendley. “There is so much debate about teachers’ commitment and there’s a lot of blame going around, but I haven’t met a single educator that is not 100 percent committed to providing the
Platform is Education Equity Part of being Georgia’s TOTY includes speaking at conferences and conducting various workshops and programs around the state, helping teachers develop resources for the upcoming school year. Last year, Pendley took a sabbatical from teaching, traveling to various conferences and colleges to speak to education majors. When not on the road, she was working at her home school, which she will continue doing this school year. Atlanta Public Schools plans to start the year virtually for the first nine weeks. Though Pendley will not have a class of her own again this school year, she will coach incoming students and help them get setup and started virtually. Pendley said that she will miss not having a classroom of her own, but is excited about the opportunity to
most equitable education possible to students. We want to be there, but we also want our families and our students’ families to be safe.”
‘In Georgia, we had 41 percent of students in rural communities picking-up physical packets because they didn’t have access to the internet. We can’t just rely on packets.’
IA TEAC RG H EO
use her platform for important social justice issues she is passionate about. “I think God works in mysterious ways. When I was first asked to continue on for a second year, I was excited, but I knew I would miss the kids,” said Pendley. “Our community is really waking up to issues of racial injustice and my entire platform is education equity and a teacher’s impact. Now I have the opportunity to dig deeper and talk to teachers across the state about how we bring equity to the classroom.” Throughout all of the chaos of the past few months, Pendley has remained focused on what she believes to be the most important thing in the classroom: “making magic.” “Students are children. We like to force our kids to grow up, but they are kids. They need magic and engagement,” she said. “It will be challenging to now do that virtually, but I know it is possible. Georgia has committed teachers!” Pendley is especially excited about the upcoming school year because both of her daughters will be at her home school. Her youngest will be entering first grade and her oldest is a fourth grader. With both students beginning the year remotely, she will also be helping them with their virtual learning. What is Pendley’s advice to teachers during these challenging times? “We have an opportunity to completely reimagine how we teach students and what we expect from them. One of the biggest pieces of advice I give is not to focus on test scores — focus on growth,” said Pendley. “Stop focusing on levels and instead use your own classroom assessments. Help kids see and focus on their growth. We all make mistakes. Love your mistakes — that’s how we grow. Reflect on what has happened and make a better n plan for the next day.” PAGE ONE 21
A Most Unusual Time
PAGE Legislative Team Pivots to Quickly Assess and Advocate for Educator Needs By Josh Stephens, PAGE Legislative Services Specialist
n March, the PAGE legislative team expanded its successful advocacy practices in response to the unprecedented, pandemic-triggered disruption of the 2020 legislative session as well as rapidly emerging policy issues. The team quickly engaged PAGE members to identify member concerns and promote those concerns with policymakers. The team highlighted issues that affect educators and students and advocated for policies that best support both groups with lawmakers, state and district educational leaders and other stakeholders. The PAGE team also connected with federal lawmakers to raise awareness of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia schools and the need for resources to protect student and educator health and safety and effectively respond to student academic and social-emotional needs. Launch of the 2020 Legislative Session: Calm Before the Storm The 2020 session of the Georgia General Assembly began on the third Monday of January, as required by state law. Guided by member-identified legislative priorities, PAGE lobbyists tackled multiple issues including protecting the Teacher Retirement System, reducing the number of standardized tests, and advocating for a teacher pay raise proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp. On March 12, legislators met for Crossover Day, the day by which all legislation must pass one chamber to remain eligible for passage into
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law. The day became more significant when House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced that the General Assembly would suspend indefinitely after meeting once more, for legislative day 29 on March 13, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. Kemp declared a public health state of emergency on March 14, and, on March 16, issued an executive order to close all public schools in the state. ‘A Most Unusual’ Recess: Listening to Members and Sharing Concerns The PAGE legislative team pivoted to provide opportunities for PAGE members to share feedback on the ever-changing K-12 education landscape created by the COVID-19 virus through two surveys: the COVID-19 Educator Impact Survey and COVID-19 Budget Impact Survey. More than 15,300 teachers, administrators, and school personnel who participated in the COVID-19 Educator Impact Survey from March 20 to March 27 provided information about how school closings affected them and their students. Claire Suggs, PAGE senior education policy analyst, analyzed the survey results and produced a report describing these challenges, including issues with remote learning and how educators responded to the changes spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. From June 3 to June 8, Georgia educators shared concerns about the impact potential budget cuts could have on them and their students in the 20202021 school year in the COVID-19 Budget Impact Survey. More than 9,100 educators participated in the survey, which captured their perspectives on state and local budget deliberations. From districts across the state, educators cited additional supports that
students will need in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team shared findings from both reports with lawmakers, educational leaders, the media and others who shape education policy decisions. Both reports are available on the PAGE website: www.pageinc.org. On June 9, the PAGE legislative team coordinated a virtual town hall for PAGE members with State School Superintendent Richard Woods and members of the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) leadership team. Woods and GaDOE staff responded to questions from PAGE members about the impact of August/September 2020
Act contained the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund that provided crucial funding to school districts to spend on COVID-19-related costs, direct payments to many American citizens, and student loan relief for federal student loan payments. PAGE leadership delivered a letter to each member of the Georgia Congressional delegation calling for expanded federal relief funding for Georgia’s public schools.
COVID-19 on schools and shared their work to identify solutions to support Georgia schools during the pandemic. Over 200 PAGE members participated. Alongside these opportunities, the PAGE legislative team continued to produce reports providing information on federal legislation and relief packages including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The FFCRA contains provisions for paid sick leave, free COVID-19 testing, expanded unemployment benefits, and increased access to food assistance programs. The CARES
Legislative Session Resumes: Masks, Distancing, Budget Cuts The General Assembly reconvened on June 15 for legislative day 30 with a completely different outlook amid an unprecedented pandemic and large-scale protests. Their biggest task was to complete the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Lawmakers entering the Gold Dome, as well as staff and visitors, had their temperatures measured, and many wore masks. A mobile COVID-19 unit provided on-site virus testing. Discussion under the Gold Dome shifted from providing teachers a second pay raise and cutting the state income tax rate to how to cut the FY 21 budget to account for the loss of state revenue caused by the pandemic. The voucher expansion bill was held in the House. The PAGE legislative team attended most committee meetings in which legislation affecting public education was discussed while wearing masks and attempting to maintain safe social distances from legislators and other lobbyists. The 2020 legislative session adjourned Sine Die on June 26 after legislators passed a budget that included a $950 million cut to Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula, the primary source of state funding for public schools. Though steep, it is a smaller cut than initially expected. The reduced cut comes after Gov. Kemp revised the state revenue estimate, forecasting a loss of $2.2 billion in FY 2021 instead of $2.6 billion. This adjustment, combined with an infusion of $250 million in state rainy day funds, lowered the cut applied to most state agencies to 10 percent from 11 percent.
Lawmakers took a measured approach to developing the budget, keeping cuts to some programs below 10 percent and boosting funds for other programs. Legislators also approved a bill that reduces the number of state-mandated standardized tests bringing Georgia’s testing program more in line with the minimum number of tests required by the federal government. Visit the PAGE website at https:// bit.ly/2Q4hITw for FY 2021 budget highlights and a comprehensive list of education-focused legislation which passed the state House and Senate during this most unusual time. Preparing for 2020-21: Opening Schools During a Pandemic At the conclusion of the legislative session, the PAGE legislative team launched a third member survey to gather perspectives about opening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. More than 16,000 Georgia educators responded and made clear that they are dedicated to their students and returning to schools but have great concern for the health and safety of their students and themselves. Drawing on these and other findings, PAGE issued recommendations to school districts regarding their opening plans. The recommendations include delaying the opening of schools until no sooner than mid-August, requiring face coverings, and, for districts in communities in which there is substantial spread of the virus, opening virtually. The PAGE recommendations were delivered to each local school superintendent on behalf of educators. The report and complete list of recommendations can be found on the PAGE website at https://bit.ly/32b4V97. Advocating Beyond the Pandemic The PAGE legislative team continues to monitor local, state and federal responses to COVID-19 and will continue to provide information on federal packages that will impact educators. They will continue to seek the input of members each step of the way to guide future education policy decisions on the state and federal levels of government. The legislative team can be reached by sending an e-mail to email@example.com or by calling the n PAGE office at 770-216-8555. PAGE ONE 23
A Most Unusual Time
Your Legal Concerns Related to COVID-19 By Margaret Elliott
PAGE Staff Attorney
he PAGE legal team is adjusting course in this most unusual time to best support Georgia educators — fielding different types of concerns regarding reopening of schools, accommodation requests, and questions regarding leave. Legal guidance on these types of issues can be case-specific, and thus we encourage members to reach out to speak to a PAGE attorney. However, for an additional resource, we have developed an FAQ (starting below) to provide general guidance. We’ve also developed virtual Code of Ethics presentations. These sessions accommodate both individual and groups participation. The easy chat box feature facilitates live questions and answers, providing a dynamic experience. Alternatively, educators may choose to watch the PAGE legal department’s video presentations. No matter how you choose to participate, it is critical to stay informed about recent ethics cases in Georgia to prevent problems with students, the school system, and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC).
Since the onset of the pandemic, many educators have faced school district and GaPSC investigations involving unprofessional conduct online. As an educator and school employee, you are an extension of the school system, and thus must remain professional on social media. What educators say or “like” or let others post on their social media platforms can land them in trouble and result in an investigation. Some language can be interpreted as having a bias towards or a preference for certain groups, and this may be enough to sanction an educator for unprofessional conduct or result in termination because the school system can argue that the attention has negatively impacted the employee’s effectiveness as an educator. Remember if you need help, or have questions, please contact our Legal department. You may call them at 800-334-6861 or 770216-8555 and select option 1. You may email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or n email@example.com.
Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions The information below is a courtesy provided to PAGE members by the attorneys in the PAGE Legal Department. The information does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. As always, we encourage members to contact the PAGE legal team directly with questions and concerns: Call them at 800-334-6861 or 770-216-8555 and select option 1. You may email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Though some of the issues listed below may have been resolved by time of publication, we include them here for reference should similar concerns arise moving forward.
If my community has high levels of spread of the virus, can the school board delay the start of school? The school board does have the authority to delay the start of school due to community spread. In fact, some Georgia districts have already done this. Ultimately, it will be a local decision that should be made in accordance with the guidance developed by the Georgia Department of Education in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health. 24 PAGE ONE
What is the best way to address safety concerns if I believe my district is not doing all it should to protect the employees? If you have any concerns about the safety procedures put in place in your school, we recommend that you address these concerns with your principal and suggest specific solutions. Making your administration aware and having an open dialogue is imperative. If you are concerned about retaliation, put your concerns in writing in an email to your principal. Many times, your administra-
H What m .
tion is just as concerned and looking for ideas to keep students and staff safe. If a Principal dismisses your concerns without a response, you can then take your concerns up the chain of command. Is it required that students and staff wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines while in the school building? There is no state mandate for masks. Each local school system will have rules or procedures about wearing masks and/ or face shields, as well as procedures about social distancing. Educators who have concerns should wear their facemask and/or face shield and talk with their principal about how this will be handled at their school. What should I do if my school system or school asks me to sign a waiver regarding the coronavirus? Generally, we advise to avoid signing any waiver unless and until you have discussed the matter with an attorney. We do not believe that a district can require you to sign a waiver, nor do we think a waiver would be enforceable if an employer is guilty of gross negligence. In addition, an employer cannot waive its responsibility under workers’ compensation laws. If you are asked to sign a waiver, do not sign it. You should be non-committal if you are asked whether you will eventually sign it. Be sure to contact the PAGE Legal Department as soon as possible to dis-
cuss the matter with an attorney. You will probably be asked to submit a copy of the waiver to the Department for review. Can I be held liable by the parents if a child in my classroom gets coronavirus at school? This is highly unlikely. So long as you follow the safety procedures put in place by your district, you will not be liable for resulting infections. Can I be disciplined for being absent at this time? Yes, if your absence is unapproved. To avoid this situation, an employee should always seek an approved leave by their supervisor or central office. What is the FFCRA? The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a federal law that provides two weeks of paid leave for employees in any of the following categories: 1. Anyone subject to a federal, state or local quarantine order 2. Anyone advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19 3. Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis 4. An employee caring for an individual subject to (1) or (2). 5. An employee caring for a son or daughter if the school or place of care of the child is closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19
concerns 6. Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under categories 1-3, employees are eligible for 100 percent of their pay for two weeks. Under categories 4-6 employees are eligible for two-thirds pay for two weeks. Reason 5 qualifies employees for an additional 10 weeks of pay. What if my child’s school or daycare closes due to coronavirus and I am required to report to work? The FFCRA allows for 10 days of paid leave at two-thirds pay if an employee must care for a son or daughter if the school or place of care of the child is closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 concerns. There is also up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. If I am diagnosed with coronavirus or if I have to be quarantined due to exposure to the virus, do I have to use my own sick leave time? Under the FFCRA, the employee can utilize up to two weeks (80 hours) of Continued on next page
How many... August/September 2020
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A Most Unusual Time
paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined pursuant to federal, state, or local government order, has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine and/or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. This means that the employee does not have to use her own accrued sick leave for the first 10 days and will be paid her regular rate of pay. After the first 10 days, the employee can use her own accumulated sick leave. Can I use sick days if I have been near someone who was diagnosed with coronavirus? Sick leave may be used when an educator is quarantined as a result of exposure to someone diagnosed with coronavirus. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-850 reads, in part, “Personnel may utilize sick leave upon
the approval of the local school superintendent or an appointed designee for absence due to illness or injury or necessitated by exposure to contagious disease or to illness or death in the immediate family.” Under the FFCRA, employees are provided with ten days of paid sick leave that is not deducted from their personal sick leave account, but if you are not experiencing symptoms, yet are worried because you have been near someone with COVID-19, you must get a health care provider to advise you to self quarantine in order to qualify for these ten days. What kind of documentation do I have to provide for absences? That depends on the reason for the absence. If, for example, the absence is due to injury, illness, temporary disability or exposure to contagious
“The best event of the year just got better”
Join your colleagues at the rst annual virtual GaETC event, GAETC Connect. Interact with nationally recognized speakers and peers from around Georgia through collaborative sessions, round table discussions, and virtual poster sessions. Check out Success Sessions to learn about the latest technologies and how they can help you. ONLY
REGISTER NOW AT CONFERENCE.GAETC.ORG/ATTEND MICHAEL HERNANDEZ
THEME: FUTURE IN FOCUS
26 PAGE ONE
We must use the digital tools we have to empower students to be life-long learners, to be curious about the world in which they live, and to analyze the myriad of information coming at them to make the best decisions for themselves and others.
disease, or if a family member has one or more of those ailments, you should have a doctor’s note just in case. While your employer may or may not ask for documentation, it has the right to do so if you seek to use sick days. What accommodations must a district provide if an employee has a disability or underlying health issues? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employees may ask their employers for reasonable accommodations for health issues. Generally, you will need a letter from your doctor stating what your health issue is and what accommodations you will need. An accompanying letter from you specifically requesting the accommodation is encouraged. As an initial matter, the request is sent to your principal. Once the accommodation request is submitted with all necessary documentation, the duty falls on the employing school system to engage in an interactive process with the employee regarding the request. This can include follow up questions about the request, requests for additional medical documentation, and/or proposed accommodations from the employer’s end. The goal is for the employer and the employee to communicate and come to a consensus on accommodating the employee’s medical needs. Can a district cut a contracted employee’s pay? Due to the global pandemic and the economic fallout, the General Assembly approved the state budget, which included a $950 million cut to Quality Basic Education Fund (QBE). These cuts may result in districts making some hard decisions that could include furloughs, salary freezes, or reductions in staff. We recommend that you attend your local board meetings to stay abreast of budget decisions that are being considered and let your voices be heard. The PAGE Legal Department would need to review your contracts to determine the legality of these decisions.
Am I eligible for unemployment benefits? Any employee who loses her job through no fault of her own is eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are managed by the Georgia Department of Labor. For more information on coronavirus and unemployment benefits, see this link from the Georgia DOL: https://dol.georgia.gov/gdol-covid19-information
Districts may have policies that address the reporting of a child who has symptoms of coronavirus. Where a district or building administrator has provided a directive or procedure to report, an employee is obligated to report and should follow that procedure. Where the district is silent, it is still best practice to give notice of a student showing symptoms of coronavirus to your building administrator and/or school nurse.
Will worker’s compensation cover coronavirus/COVID-19? Possibly. With any worker’s compensation case, the claimant will have to prove causation. This would mean sufficiently proving that the claimant contracted the virus at work or during the course of employment. This may prove difficult with the rate of exposure to the virus becoming higher as time goes on. In Georgia, if the claimant feels like he/she came into contact with the virus at work, the first step is to notify your employer within 30 days. If the claim is rejected by your employer, the claimant can file a claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. The success of these claims is still a developing body of law. For more information on Worker’s Compensation, see this link from the State Board of Worker’s Compensation: https://bit.ly/3ggyd9y
How many TKES evaluations will I receive this year? Will I receive a Summative evaluation? The Georgia Department of Education suspended TKES evaluations for 2020-2021. The GaDOE, however, will leave the TKES platform open for school systems to use as they wish. No evaluations will be reported to the state for the year. For the state superintendent’s press release regarding
What should I do if a child in my classroom tests positive for coronavirus? Employees should follow their building and district procedures for reporting positive tests. Employees should refrain from sharing health records, including positive COVID test results of students, with any party that does not have a right to know. Doing so could violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Am I obligated to report that a child in my classroom has symptoms of coronavirus?
TKES for 2020-2021, visit: https://bit.ly/3ggyd9y Will I be penalized by the GaPSC if I have to get out of my contract due to coronavirus concerns? That depends on how one ends a contract. If an educator is released from their contract or the employer accepts their resignation, the GaPSC will not take action. If the educator unilaterally terminates the contract and is reported to the GaPSC, they will likely be investigated. Please call the PAGE Legal Department if you believe you need to get out of your contract. What should I do if I have more questions? Call the them at 800-334-6861 or 770216-8555 and select option 1. You may email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org n or email@example.com.
Whether you are teaching in the classroom or at home, we are here to help. Education. Research. Teacher Resources. Visit us online at: www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov www.archives.gov www.docsteach.org
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As the home of the 19th Amendment, the National Archives invites you to join our virtual commemoration of the centennial of this landmark document. Throughout August, with online programs for all ages, we will explore the complex story of the struggle for woman suffrage, leading up to and beyond the certification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920.
PAGE ONE 27
A Most Unusual Time
Rules on FMLA Intermittent Leave By Jill Hay, PAGE General Counsel
lthough PAGE has written previously about employee rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this article seeks to provide information and clarity specifically on intermittent leave under this law — particularly important during this most unusual time. If an employee works for an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius and such employee has been working for the employer for at least 12 months and a minimum of 1,250 hours in the preceding 12-month period, the employee will be eligible for protected leave under the FMLA. FMLA guarantees reinstatement to the same or equivalent position and it protects the employee from discipline or discharge for taking such leave. It provides for 12 workweeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees in a 12-month period for: • Serious health conditions of the employee; • Serious health conditions of the employee’s spouse, parent or child; • The birth of a child or placement for adoption or foster care; • The qualifying exigency of an employee’s spouse, child or parent who is on active duty or called to active duty; • The employee’s need to care for a spouse, child, parent or next of kin that is a covered service member. (This one allows for up to 26 workweeks.) In certain circumstances as described below, FMLA does allow for the 12 workweeks to be taken as intermittent or reduced schedule leave. Intermittent leave is taken in separate blocks of time due to one serious health condition, for example, weekly dialysis appointments. Reduced schedule leaves are those that reduce the employee’s usual number of working hours per work week or work day. To take either intermittent or a reduced schedule leave, the employee must have a doctor’s certification that there is a medical need for the leave, which can be best accommodated through either intermittent or 28 PAGE ONE
reduced schedule leave. The doctor’s certification should be specific with regard to the treatment regimen, anticipated frequency or duration, and medical necessity. For whom may an employee take FMLA intermittent or reduced schedule leave? An employee may take intermittent or reduced schedule leave for the employee’s own serious health condition or for a serious health condition of a parent, child or spouse, or for a serious illness or injury of a covered service member. It is important here to note the definitions of “child” and “parent.” The definition of child includes a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, but such child must be under 18 years of age, or 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. The definition of a parent includes biological parents but does not include inlaws nor does it include grandparents. Examples of need for intermittent or reduced schedule leave: • Employee who needs leave taken on an occasional basis for medical appointments or treatments due to a serious health condition of her own or that of a parent, child or spouse. • Employee recovering from a serious health condition who is not yet strong enough to return full time and needs a part-time schedule. • Employee who has a chronic health condition like asthma where he/she needs a day occasionally for a flare-up of the condition. Examples where intermittent leave is NOT allowed under FMLA. (However, employer can give permission pursuant to local policy at their discretion.): To bond with healthy child after birth, adoption or foster placement. (Can take regular 12-weeks FMLA leave but not intermittent or reduced schedule).
Employee and Employer Requirements: The employee must make a “reasonable effort” to schedule treatments and doctor’s appointments so as not to unduly disrupt the employer’s operations. The employer is allowed to temporarily transfer the employee to a different position that better accommodates the intermittent or reduced schedule leave. The position must have equivalent pay and benefits, but does not have to have equivalent duties. The employer is NOT allowed to transfer the employee simply to discourage an employee from taking this leave. If the serious medical condition will last longer than 30 days, the employer can request recertification every six months. However, if the condition will not last more than 30 days, the employer is allowed to ask for a medical recertification no more often than every 30 days. The employer can ask for it before 30 days in any of the following exceptions: • The employee requests an extension of the leave; • Circumstances described by the previous certification have significantly changed; • The employer receives information that casts doubt on the employee’s stated reason for the absence (for example, the flare-ups substantially exceed the projected number certified by the doctor or the absences excessively fall in conjunction with holidays or weekends). At the end of the FMLA leave, the employee must be reinstated to the same or similar position. Many additional aspects of the FMLA are not discussed in this article. For questions on your rights and responsibilities, review the policy in your school district’s personnel handbook and, for additional questions, you may call 800-334-6861 or 770-216-8555 and select option 1. Or, email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or n email@example.com. August/September 2020
Instructional Support and Guidance By Angela Garrett, PAGE Professional Learning
ince mid-March, what we as a nation consider “normal” has been challenged. Within this most unusual time, your home life, school life and social interactions have been limited. Spikes in coronavirus cases across Georgia are making it more difficult to plan for school openings. Each of the PAGE Professional Learning staff are former educators and administrators who understand that you are navigating new territory for the foreseeable future. We are here to support you on that journey. Just as you are learning and adapting to new methods for teaching your students, over the past few months PAGE Professional Learning embraced the challenge of reviewing how we deliver and facilitate the content of our initiatives. This year, due to potential restrictions with travel and in-person gatherings from COVID-19, our learning cohorts will meet online with followup in virtual discussions and coaching, whenever in-person is not deemed safe. Our primary purpose as the PAGE Professional Learning department is to design and provide learning experiences that bring you the most effective, student-focused knowledge and skills. We want to support you as you tackle lessons online, and eventually, in-person. Learning is life-long. Whether you’re a first-year newbie or a seasoned veteran, you strive to increase and enhance your skills. PAGE Professional Learning wants to make it possible for you to acquire knowledge that will enhance your mental model for school and learning in a positive, engaging environment. PAGE Engage Academy, our latest professional learning program, enters its second year. These successful academies meet in the northern, middle, and southern regions of the state. Eight cohorts continue in their final second year. Four
new cohorts start this fall. Meeting four times a year, the Engage Academies resonate with educators because they learn more about unpacking a standard to effectively teach the content, as well as acquire new skills of webbing a unit and creating a lesson using Design Qualities to enhance the lesson. All learning is immediately applicable in the classroom. As participants experience the lessons in the Engage Academy, teachers begin to purposefully focus on the needs and motives that their students bring to class each day. This is not to say teachers don’t already do many of these things, but this process offers a direction and purpose based on foundational principles of why we teach and how best to do it. Our participants this past year were excited to learn new ways of looking at standards — especially when including the knowledge of “how” their students learn. Another addition this fall will be the PAGE Transformational Principal’s Institute. This is for principals at all levels
and will offer participants a blueprint for becoming the instructional leader that they desire to be. Topics include: • Embracing Change through the School’s Mission and Beliefs; • Legal and Legislative Implications for School Leadership; • School Culture and Why it Matters; • Leadership and the PLC (with Kenneth Williams); • Building a Guiding Coalition, Leading vs. Managing; • Designing a School Learning Experience. PAGE Professional Learning supports you in all of your school-related, instructional, and leadership roles. We listen to our participants and adjust frequently to offer the best, most relevant learning possible so that you can apply it quickly, with guidance and coaching as needed. For information on any of our cohort offerings, please contact Angela Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-459-0302. n
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A Most Unusual Time
PAGE Makes Full Use of Technology to Support Student Programs By Michelle Crawford, PAGE Student Programs
AGE student programs enrich academics, recognize achievement and promote education as a viable, rewarding career path. Amid this most unusual time, PAGEsponsored student activities — the PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Grades, PAGE Georgia Academic Decathlon (GAD), Future Georgia Educators (FGE) and the PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program (STAR) — As we begin the carry on. The Academic Bowl had already 2020-2021 school concluded its 2019-2020 activities by year, PAGE is the time schools shuttered in March. GAD’s state competition, held in making full use February, was also spared. However, of technology to sadly, GAD teams that had earned support student the right to compete at the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) programs. The Nationals in Alaska were not able to PAGE Academic travel, nor was the online part of the competition held. STAR — Georgia’s Bowl is exploring premier recognition for high-achievplatforms to host ing high school seniors and their chosen top teachers — had to cancel its virtual rather 2019-2020 crowning event: the PAGE
than in-person competitions.
State STAR Banquet. Thus, STAR’s program concluded at the region event level, with 21 STAR students and teachers celebrated. (See the list of winners at www.pageinc.org/star/ star-region-winners.) Making Full Use of Technology As we begin the 2020-2021 school year, PAGE is making full use of technology to support student programs. The PAGE Academic Bowl is exploring platforms to host virtual rather than in-person competitions. And because GAD is an official charter of USAD, Georgia’s program has access to the online testing platform in place for eight of the 10 decathlon events, and USAD is exploring ways to bring the Speech and Interview events to the virtual platform as well. The GAD Fall Workshop, currently being planned for coaches, coordinators and decathletes throughout Georgia, will be a virtual event. As decisions are reached about any changes to PAGE student programs, the information will be shared via the PAGE website and additional communications channels. To find out n more, please visit https://bit.ly/2FEydnv.
PAGE Georgia Academic Decathlon 2019-20 Fall Workshop
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Membership Services Representatives Jo Breedlove-Johnson District 3a jbreedlove@ pageinc.org Nancy Ratcliffe District 7 email@example.com
Larrell Lewis District 4a firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Provost District 3b lprovost@ pageinc.org
Diann Branch District 9 email@example.com
Kathy Arena District 10 firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Wright District 5 email@example.com
Peggy Brown District 11 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Gina Tucker District 4b (Clayton, APS) firstname.lastname@example.org
BJ Jenkins District 6 email@example.com Joey Kirkland District 12 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Continued from page 5
some hiccups and trials, but we used each of them as a stepping stone to make the next activity better and more complex. The challenge was definitely worth the journey.” Through the years, Martin’s sphere of influence has grown. She earned the 2019 Georgia Educational Technology Conference Rising Star Award and was named Media Specialist of the Year for the South Central District of Georgia (2016). She has also served as a board director for the Georgia Middle School Association and has been a regular presenter at the Georgia Middle School Conference.
Teaching Is a Marathon As 2020-2021 PAGE president, Martin hopes to “rejuvenate teachers who are downtrodden and invigorate them to continue in our common quest for better education, safer spaces and emotional support for our students.” Rather than viewing educators as ‘in the trenches’ or ‘on the front line’ she likes to think about it as a marathon. “We sometimes have to break stride and walk; we sometimes need to be replenished; we sometimes run or walk on bumpy, wet, muddy or slick surfaces; but mainly what we need to focus on is that we always have
Have You Transferred Systems?
If you transferred from another school system where you were on payroll deduction, you must complete a short application (online or paper) to transfer your membership. Otherwise, your membership will expire.
Your PAGE student membership does not cover you for a paid position in a school — even if your student membership has not expired. Please upgrade your
OFFICERS President: Lindsey Martin President-Elect: Megan King Treasurer: Lamar Scott Past President: Nick Zomer Secretary: Dr. Susan Mullins DIRECTORS District 1 District 8 Dr. Oatanisha Dawson Joy Robinson District 2 District 9 Brecca Pope Jennie Persinger District 3 District 10 Mary Case Khrista Henry District 4 District 11 Rochelle Lofstrand Amy Carter District 5 District 12 Dr. Shannon Watkins TaKera Harris District 6 District 13 To Be Filled Daerzio Harris District 7 Lance James DIRECTORS REPRESENTING RETIRED MEMBERS Vickie Hammond Dr. Sheryl Holmes
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each other cheering, holding us up and reminding us of the goal when times get tough. The race may sometimes wear you down, but the finish is worth it.” Martin, mom to 3-year-old daughter Mary Elizabeth, is a 2002 graduate of Valdosta State University. She attained a master’s of education from Troy University in 2004 and, in 2013, completed an educational specialist degree in instructional technology with media n certification at Valdosta State. To view the portfolio of Lowndes District student work, visit: https://bit.ly/3hbWLlF
student membership to professional, taking advantage of your first year half-price discount.
Update Contact Information
Please review and update your online profile to ensure that we have accurate contact information — including a personal email address as some school system firewalls will prevent receipt of messages. You can do all this at www.pageinc.org/membership.
The articles published in PAGE One represent the views of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, except where clearly stated. Contact the editor: Meg Thornton, firstname.lastname@example.org; PAGE One, PAGE, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141-2270; 770-216-8555 or 800-334-6861. Contributions/gifts to the PAGE Foundation are deductible as charitable contributions by federal law. Costs for PAGE lobbying on behalf of members are not deductible. PAGE estimates that 7 percent of the nondeductible portion of your 2019-20 dues is allocated to lobbying. PAGE One (ISSN 1523-6188) is mailed to all PAGE members, selected higher education units and other school-related professionals. An annual subscription is included in PAGE membership dues. A subscription for others is $10 annually. Periodicals class nonprofit postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. (USPS 017-347) Postmaster: Send address changes to PAGE One, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141–2270. PAGE One is published five times a year (January, March, May, August and October) by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA 30350; 770-650-1102. Copyright ©2020 .
Education leaders choose UNG. For more than 140 years, the University of North Georgia has been developing education leaders who are highly sought after for their skills and experience. Our innovative graduate degrees and endorsement programs help educators advance their education and their careers.
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