News from The SCEA Member Advocacy Center - June 2012 The 2011-2012 year was busy for The SCEA Member Advocacy Center. Hundreds of educators called for assistance in addressing a variety of work related conflicts. Our mission is to protect and defend public education in South Carolina, and we embraced the challenge of helping our members navigate through their conflict. This is the first issue of our new advocacy newsletter and there is a lot to report. Future issues will be briefer. Feel free to give us your feedback on our newsletter and tell us what you would like to see in the next issue. Send comments to Janet Stein. WHAT IS A “GRIEVANCE” AND WHAT IT MEANS TO FILE A GRIEVANCE A school employee who wants to file a complaint (grievance) about things like mistreatment or their evaluation must do so within a specified number of days of the date “it” happened. In most districts, that number is ten. “Grievance” is the name of the complaint procedure that your school board put into place for your use if you feel you have been mistreated. The grievance procedure is located in the Personnel section of the Board Policy manual. Employees who don’t file within the number of days specified in the procedure may lose the ability to appeal. It is not proper protocol to call Board Members directly. Likewise, going straight to the Superintendent is not proper protocol. Your immediate supervisor is always your first point of contact. Use the Grievance Procedure the Board put into place to file your complaint or appeal. Call The SCEA and let us help you. MEMBER ASSISTANCE This year, the most common factors that influenced district offices to take action against teachers were: 1. Inappropriate Comments 5. Parent complaints 2. Physical contact with students 6. Student discipline 3. Insubordination 7. Conflicts with colleagues 4. Weak teaching 8. Problem with certification FREQUENTLY HEARD: Not enough “rigor” & “Bell to Bell”
IN THE SPOTLIGHT (Our obligation to member confidentiality limits what we can share here.)
Members in the low country met to air concerns about TAP. A survey is planned to capture data needed to address their concerns. The SCEA was involved in addressing merger issues in Sumter. The SCEA assisted school paraprofessionals in two areas of the state in getting back overtime pay. Members at two charter schools received assistance in filing grievances.
STATE TRENDS 1. PASS and MAP data is being used to influence evaluations. 2. ADEPT – Formal Evaluation continues to be a major concern. The understanding about how formal evaluation works varies around the state. For instance: a teacher cannot be moved from GBE to SAFE-T in the middle of the year. a member of the evaluation team cannot legitimately sign off on the evaluation if they have not reviewed the data. It is a consensus process. the Team is responsible for walking the teacher through the evaluation document and explaining the rating, the rationale, and what the evaluators were looking for that they did not see. the anecdotal information should coincide with the ratings. If the comments are all positive, the teacher should not have a “not met” rating. 3. Many calls to the Member Advocacy Center were about reprimands, evaluations, parent complaints, or student discipline. 4. Comments teachers make when they are joking or stressed can cause problems. An example is “that’s so ghetto”. 5. Teachers who are experiencing high levels of stress need to pay attention to the warning signs and seek help before they reach the breaking point in the presence of students. Call The SCEA. 6. Teachers often complain about written reprimands that are inaccurate. When this happens, it is important that the record is corrected. Equally important is how future meetings are handled. If there is a tendency to have different recollections about what is said in meetings, steps should be taken to avoid this problem. Meetings can be recorded or important agreements during the meeting should be written before leaving the room. Teachers can send a letter/e-mail of understanding after the meeting restating what was discussed. If the principal disagrees that the letter/e-mail is accurate, call another meeting to discuss it until agreement is reached. These steps will go a long way to address this problem. 7. When conducting classroom observations, observers are sometimes too subtle or vague in their comments and as a result, the teacher may not recognize their comments as criticisms. The observer may be trying to avoid upsetting the teacher. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity may leave the teacher believing that they found nothing wrong. Moreover, if they are later recommended for SAFE-T, they may believe there is no basis for the recommendation. Teachers should be aware of this and make an effort to have clarity and understanding through each step of formal evaluation, GBE, and on any observation forms.
HOW THE SCEA HELPS MEMBERS School employees in SC have a professional partner when they belong to The SCEA. We are hear when they need help with a question, employment issue, or just need information. The staff of The SCEA are knowledgeable and skilled in education law and regulations. Members should call The SCEA for assistance. While you take care of South Carolina’s children, we take care of you. RESOURCES JUST FOR MEMBERS 1. FORMAL EVALUATION SUPPORT SESSION New training seminar is ready to for members. This presentation provides information for teachers going through ADEPT (SAFE-T/PAS-T/TAP), including how to file an appeal. This session takes about 75 minutes. 2. FORMAL EVALUATION SUPPORT CENTER We have a new page in the Member Advocacy Center site for formal evaluation. This site provides a large quantity of self-help information. Click here to visit the MAC 3. NEA Advice and Support Site This site provides tips, advice, and resources for educators. 4. Our Employment Help Page 5. The SCEA EDUCATOR RIGHTS HANDBOOK The latest edition of our Educator Rights Handbook is available to members. 6. COMING SOON. Online SELF-HELP Center for Members A self-help center is underway that will give members access to PowerPoint presentations on a variety of topics. Teachers can watch them at home at their convenience. 7. TOPIC PAPERS White papers on a variety of advocacy issues are available on the “Publications” page of our website. 8. END OF THE YEAR PERSONNEL DECISIONS 9. WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH: MISTREATMENT 10. THE SCEA WINS LAWSUIT OVER SUPPLY MONEY
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