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Serving the public every step of the way!

UNITED VOICES

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‘HELPING STUDENTS DISCOVER THEIR WORLDS’ Aaron Knodel - 2014 Teacher of the Year 1


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Education Week

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November 18-22

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Dickinson Education Association Wins Victory for All Teachers

In a case which has not seen the inside of a courtroom for almost twenty years, the Dickinson Education Association (DEA) won a substantial victory for all teachers in the state of North Dakota which will impact bargaining during the next several years.

2014 Teacher of the Year Aaron Knodel is…‘Helping Students Discover Their Worlds’

“Like almost every teacher I know, my family had the predominant influence in my decision to go into the teaching profession,” said North Dakota United member and 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year (TOY) Aaron Knodel of West Fargo. “Both my parents were teachers in my hometown of Beulah, ND, and both my sister and I followed in their footsteps.” However, this is the simple answer Knodel shares when this ‘small talk’ question is thrown in his direction; in truth, his journey into teaching is rooted in a heartache he rarely discusses.

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The Support We Need ESPs Gather in Carrington for Annual Conference

The role that our Education Support Professionals (ESPs) play every day inside classrooms across the state and in our school system is invaluable. And North Dakota United, in its first year of existence, took on the annual opportunity of celebrating the service of ESPs in Carrington at the Chieftain Hotel on Oct. 4-5 for the State Education Support Professionals Conference.

United Voices is the official publication of North Dakota United, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501. Postmaster, send address changes to: North Dakota United 301 N 4th Street Bismarck, ND 58501 Armand Tiberio Executive Director/Consulting Editor Linda Harsche Communications Director Kelly Hagen UniServ Director/ Field Communications Specialist Image Printing Design/Publisher

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Celebrate American Education Week

American Education Week—November 18-22, 2013— presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The week-long celebration features a special observance each day of the week.

Q&A With Sparb Collins Executive Director of the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System Q: What is the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System?

A: The North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS) provides services to the state of North Dakota, and to participating political subdivisions. We do it for an array of programs. We administer six defined-benefit plans, two definedcontribution plans, a retiree health credit program, and on the insurance side we do a health insurance plan for active employees and retirees, we do a dental plan, a vision plan, a long-term care plan and an employee assistance program. So PERS covers many benefits for participating members.

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President’s Post

GREETINGS!

Thank you for your membership in North Dakota United!

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ince my first United Voices column, I have had hundreds of conversations with people from across North Dakota and around the nation about what it is we stand for, what we aspire to become and what I believe it will take to make our newly merged organization the success that it will become.

By Nick Archuleta NDU President

My vision for North Dakota United is quite simple and one that our members have embraced in my discussions with them as I’ve traveled across the state. When I look forward, I look at the year 2017. By then, our union will be going into its fourth year of existence and, if we are doing this right, our members will not think of themselves as being from the K-12 educators wing of the NDU or the Higher Education or Public Employee realm of the NDU. They will be thinking of themselves simply as members of North Dakota United, the organization that has taken the initiative to fight for and enhance the rights of its members and taken its place as the leader in education advocacy for children and students Pre-K-20.

YOU must talk with non-members in your workplaces and let them know why your union is important to you and

invite them to join. NDU is YOU.” By 2017, I will consider North Dakota United to be a genuine success if it is continuing to grow and has proven itself to be a vibrant organization of professionals. By 2017, I fully expect NDU to be even more robust financially with increased capacity to help our members and their locals to function effectively. NDU will regularly provide member driven professional development to enhance members’ skills and professionalism. NDU will be fully engaged in education policy with the goal of aligning our excellent public schools with our equally excellent system of higher education to serve our children from pre-school through grad school. Our kids deserve no less. In short, by 2017 NDU will be well down the road to being a transformative and influential force in North Dakota. But NDU cannot get there without you. YOU are NDU. YOU must help us to develop strong locals that can proactively engage their communities as well as their legislative leaders. YOU must help us identify those from within our organization and your communities who are interested in serving in the statehouse and advancing our goals. YOU must talk with nonmembers in your workplaces and let them know why your union is important to you and invite them to join. NDU is YOU.

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In addition to questions about who we are and what we hope to become, I am frequently asked about what NDU is doing right now. Here’s how I answer that question: • NDU is actively engaged in planning a Higher Education Conference to be held at the end of January. Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen will be there and Vice President Karen Christensen is using input from higher education members to line up meaningful professional development. • By the time you read this, NDU will have sponsored the Common Core State Standards Assessment Conference in Bismarck. Attendees will have heard from the assessment experts at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the DPI, NEA, AFT and North Dakota teacher experts about what goes into the assessments and how the information learned from the assessments can be used to enhance student learning. • NDU has initiated our Legislator Outreach Program. Staff is compiling information around Collective Bargaining, state funding for Early Childhood, state funding for Head Start, and the importance of defined benefit public pension systems for all public employees. Our goal is to meet face to face with every legislator and engage them in conversations on these important topics away from the hub-bub of the legislative session. • Our Executive Director, Armand Tiberio, is in talks now with NEA to see if we can retain the services of a higher education organizer to help in the recruitment and retention of higher education members. • United Voices is preparing a series which feature our members and celebrates their accomplishments and highlights the important work they are doing in service to our communities and students across the spectrum of education. • We continue to work on the organizing campaign and will segue into the area of building capacity in our locals and chapters. • NDU is talking with our constituent groups about our vision for the future and the role that strong locals will play in making that vision a reality. We are early in the conversation but I expect that great things will result from all of us working together. • Of course, we are still very engaged in our ongoing commitment to member service. We take this very seriously and strive every day to get it right. Thanks you again for your membership in NDU. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. E Pluribus Unum!

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DICKINSON EDUCATION ASSOCIATION Wins Victory for All Teachers By Mike Geiermann, NDU Attorney

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n a case which has not seen the inside of a courtroom for almost twenty years, the Dickinson Education Association (DEA) won a substantial victory for all teachers in the state of North Dakota which will impact bargaining during the next several years.

Mike Geiermann NDU Attorney

The DEA was negotiating with the Dickinson School Board. The parties met approximately six times before impasse was declared. During the process, the DEA and the School District did discuss the potential issuance of a two-year negotiated agreement, which would set the terms and conditions, including salary, for the next two school years. While the issue of a two-year agreement was discussed, there was no agreement on that particular issue. In addition, during the negotiation process, the DEA decided to change its position concerning a two-year agreement. The DEA was directed by its association to begin negotiations on a one-year agreement. “We just did not feel the money was sufficient for the second year as offered by the school district,” said Brian Woehl, DEA Chief Negotiator. “The DEA was satisfied with the salary offered in the first year but was not satisfied with the salary offered in the second year. That’s why we decided to negotiate a one year contract.”

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After impasse was declared, the parties went to the North Dakota Education Fact Finding Commission. The Fact Finding Commission recommended that the parties adopt a two-year agreement. The negotiators for both sides then met after Fact Finding and negotiated one more time. The School District decided that it was going to unilaterally impose the two-year agreement on the DEA, notwithstanding the fact that the DEA had attempted to negotiate a one-year deal. Mike Geiermann, NDU legal counsel, advised the DEA on the possibility of litigation after the School District’s attempt to unilaterally issue a negotiated agreement for two years. “There have been several cases from the North Dakota Supreme Court which have recognized a school board’s right to issue unilateral contract offers after the negotiation process has reached an impasse and concluded with fact finding. However, there has never been in this state a school board which has attempted to unilaterally impose a two-year negotiated agreement on an education association,” Geiermann said. The Supreme Court cases which Geiermann referred to both originated in Dickinson. In a case referenced to as ND United Voices


“DEA I” in 1977, the North Dakota Supreme Court recognized that after impasse, a school board did have the right to unilaterally issue contracts for the upcoming school year. Approximately 16 years later in 1993, in another case in Dickinson, which is referred to as “DEA II,” the Supreme Court limited the rights of school boards to issue unilateral contracts to one year. “In doing so, the Supreme Court recognized the tremendous disparity between the bargaining power of an education association and the bargaining power of a school district.” Geiermann said, “The Supreme Court limited the School District’s unilateral issuance of contracts to one school year.” In August, 2013, twenty years after DEA II, the DEA voted to bring litigation against the School District for its action in unilaterally issuing contracts and imposing a two-year negotiated agreement. A hearing was held in Stark County District Court in Dickinson on October 7, 2013. After listening to the arguments of counsel, the District Court held that the School District did not have the right to impose a two-year agreement on the DEA and ordered the School District to issue a one-year negotiated agreement. ndunited.org

“The DEA should be congratulated for standing up for not only itself but for all education associations throughout the state. This decision will have a state-wide impact as it will prevent school districts from unilaterally issuing negotiated agreements for two years simply because education associations talked about it at the table. Once again, the Courts recognized the limitations on the authority of school boards,” Geiermann said. North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta added that the hard working men and women of the Dickinson Education Association (DEA) have stepped up and said, ‘No, we will not accept the imposition of an unjust contract.’ “NDU General Counsel Mike Geiermann and UniServ Director Fern Pokorny have been absolutely resolute in seeing this case to a successful outcome,” said Archuleta. This case will reverberate across the state and benefit all K-12 teachers.” It is not certain whether the Dickinson School Board will appeal this case.

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Education Perspectives

CONFERENCE FOR HIGHER ED Will open up dialogue across education spectrum

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By Karen Christensen Vice President of Education

We are excited to be part of the process that will

focus on the emerging solutions for bridging the gap between secondary education, post-secondary education and the emerging demand from the current job market.”

orth Dakota United is up and running, and with introductions out of the way, it’s now time to engage and commit to the implementation of the standards that have been set forth for our students. The Common Core State Standard Conference was held Oct. 17-18, 2013. The conference gave members from around the state an opportunity to be part of a comprehensive discussion to increase academic success for the young citizens of North Dakota. The platform allowed for open discussions about expectations and responsibilities of students and our educational systems for those furthering their education or stepping into the job market after high school. Bridging the gap between high school completion and entrance to college is an issue that NDU is addressing. The Common Core State Standard Conference will review assessments and the process to meet the criteria set. Our higher education faculty and staff are the last educational professionals that our students have contact with before they enter the workforce. The input that can be drawn from our higher education members to help understand the expectations that make a successful college student is invaluable. From Pre-K to 20, we need to address the needs of students as a group, not as separate entities. Keeping the discussions moving forward, a Higher Ed Conference is scheduled to be held in late January (details to follow). The topics again address the perceived gap between high school, higher education and the workforce. We are planning to hear from Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen

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of the North Dakota University System as our keynote speaker. A question-andanswer session and breakout sessions will include conversations around the Vertical Alignment Project, dual credit and best practices. Allowing time for discussions and the sharing of ideas will open the floor for a better understanding of what students of North Dakota need to become the leaders of tomorrow. The recent merger into ND United has granted our members a golden opportunity within the educational system of North Dakota to establish an open line of communication between Pre-K through 20 educators. Our opportunity to understand each step of the educational process becomes more entwined with the Common Core State Standards and makes working together more crucial. The best way to contribute to the success of our instruction is to understand the linear progression from preschool all the way to the workforce. We are excited to be part of the process that will focus on the emerging solutions for bridging the gap between secondary education, post-secondary education and the emerging demand from the current job market. Taking advantage of professional growth opportunities that transition our students successfully from student to employee produces a productive citizen. “The difference between involvement and commitment is like eggs and ham. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” - Martina Navratilova

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Public Service Perspectives

MEET THE MARKET N.D. setting up for disaster by not equaling private-sector wages

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here has been a lot of discussion over the past two legislative sessions about public employee pay and the need to have state employee compensation at 100 percent of market. The 2011 Legislature adopted the compensation philosophy of paying 100 percent of market that was recommended by the Hay Group.

By Gary Feist Vice President of Public Employees

Many agencies are struggling to recruit staff

while many Baby Boomers are starting to retire.”

However, in an effort to reduce costs, the discussion during the 2013 Legislative Session again focused on basing public employee compensation at 95 percent of market. Under a compensation philosophy of purposely paying our workers less than 100 percent of market, many agencies will continue to struggle with recruiting and retaining staff, and dealing with the costs of continually training employees that leave state employment after only a short tenure to work in the private sector. Many agencies are struggling to recruit staff while many Baby Boomers are starting to retire. The retirements of these long-time employees is not only leaving agencies with the difficult task of recruiting new employees, but they are also losing the expertise and the institutional knowledge that is critical in running agencies efficiently and providing the highest quality service to the citizens of North Dakota. This point is demonstrated by statistics that show that 13 percent of our 7,167 classified employees in North Dakota currently are eligible to retire by either meeting the rule of 85 under the Public Employee Retirement System or having reached the age of 65. In just two years, the percentage

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of employees eligible to retire will climb to 28 percent. On the recruitment side, the struggle the state faces can be seen by looking at the vacancy announcements on the Human Resource Management Services website, which currently shows 85 of its postings with a closing date of “open until filled.” Many of these positions have been open for months, including: a Direct Care Associate in Grafton posted on June 29, 2012; Correction Officer in Bismarck, posted Oct. 18, 2012; and a Registered Nurse II in Jamestown, posted Jan. 6, 2012. The state of North Dakota is not the only state struggling to find qualified quality employees to fill its open positions, but with the country’s strongest labor market, it is crucial that the state offer a compensation package that is based on 100 percent of the market. Many agencies currently struggle to get qualified applicants on the first posting of a position, not to mention the second or third time the job is posted. Offering market-based compensation, which supports an environment where public service can be a rewarding career, will help retain employees and slow the revolving door of employees, coming and going, after the state has expended significant monetary resources and realized opportunity costs of the employees that have been assigned to train the new employees. North Dakota simply cannot afford the costs associated with a compensation philosophy that is less than 100 percent of market.

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Armand Tiberio

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Gary Rath

Executive Director, Bismarck Office armand.tiberio@ndunited.org

CFO, Bismarck Office gary.rath@ndunited.org

As the top official of the staff of NDU, his duties include managing and overseeing the organization’s daily operation, including its 22 employees, its strategic planning, policy and staff/leader development. He reports directly to the President and the NDU Board of Directors.

In that capacity he is responsible for the day-to-day management of the fiscal resources including the general ledger, accounts payable, dues credit trust, NDU PAC, NDU Foundation and membership data. He has management responsibilities for the headquarters building and other property, internal computer systems, and the NEA and AFT member benefit programs.  He coordinates the preparation of the annual budget and the preparation of interim reports to management and the Board of Directors.  He serves as a consultant to locals on fiscal issues including income tax reporting. 

MEET YOUR ND UNITED STAFF In the September Issue of United Voices we introduced you to the new North Dakota United (NDU) Board of Directors. This month, we would like to have you get to know your NDU Staff. These are the faces and job descriptions of the people who are available to help you with any questions or problems you might have.

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Stuart Savelkoul

Assistant Executive Director for Political Advocacy, Bismarck Office stewart.savelkoul@ndunited.org Stuart oversees all NDU electoral activity and its participation in statewide initiatives. He handles much of NDU’s involvement in legislative affairs including lobbying. He is the primary staff advisor to the United Political Action Committee and manages any interactions between NDU and our national organizations involving PAC operations.

Ellie Sharbono

Administrative Services, Bismarck Office ellie.sharbono@ndunited.org Ellie is part of the management staff, and supervises and coordinates our administrative staff. She assists our executive director and president, and works with all other levels of the staff, keeping our office running efficiently. She is assistant to the NDU Board of Directors, and also keeps records for the Dues Credit Trust Program and other office programs.

ND United Voices


Dr. LeAnn Nelson

Linda Harsche

Kelly Hagen

Director of Teaching and Learning, Bismarck Office leann.nelson@ndunited.org

Director of Communications, Bismarck Office linda.harsche@ndunited.org

UniServ Director/Field Communications, Bismarck Office kelly.hagen@ndunited.org

In her position LeAnn serves as the NDU liaison on many state educational committees and as the NEA and AFT contact for North Dakota teaching and learning issues. She is part of the NDU lobbying team and tracks legislation dealing with PK-20. Dr. Nelson researches and facilitates professional development to meet the various needs of members.  She also coordinates the Student NDU and Retired NDU programs.

Linda is in charge of the statewide communication system delivering timely information to all members of the organization, through e-mail blasts, electronic communication, social media, website, brochures, flyers and other print materials, and the official magazine, United Voices. She consults the Executive Committee regarding public relation plans, writes news releases, and works in media relations.

Kelly is the primary contact for working with locals, chapters and leaders in developing and executing communications strategies to build and grow membership of NDU. He helps to develop statewide and local communication organizing strategies to support membership campaigns. He also assists in the statewide communication system, to deliver timely information to all members of the organization, through e-mail blasts, electronic communication, social media, website, brochures, flyers and other print materials, and the official magazine, United Voices.

Dr. Pam Kjonaas

Karol Nyberg

Deanna Paulson

UniServ Director, Bismarck Office pam.kjonaas@ndunited.org

UniServ Director, Fargo Office karol.nyberg@ndunited.org

UniServ Director, Fargo Office deanna.paulson@ndunited.org

Pam works directly with NDU locals, in the field, and with our state association with policies and procedures of NDU, including membership promotion, negotiations and contract maintenance, member rights, organizational health, state and national programs, and helps locals participate fully in the democratic nature of the Association.

Karol works directly with NDU locals, in the field, and with our state association with policies and procedures of NDU, including membership promotion, negotiations and contract maintenance, member rights, organizational health, state and national programs, and helps locals participate fully in the democratic nature of the Association.

Deanna works directly with NDU locals, in the field, and with our state association with policies and procedures of NDU, including membership promotion, negotiations and contract maintenance, member rights, organizational health, state and national programs, and helps locals participate fully in the democratic nature of the Association.

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Fern Pokorny

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Kayla Pulvermacher

UniServ Director, Bismarck Office fern.pokorny@ndunited.org

UniServ Director, Bismarck Office kayla.pulvermacher@ndunited.org

Fern works directly with NDU locals, in the field, and with our state association with policies and procedures of NDU, including membership promotion, negotiations and contract maintenance, member rights, organizational health, state and national programs, and helps locals participate fully in the democratic nature of the Association.

Kayla works directly with the locals, in the field, and with the state association with policies and procedures of NDU, including membership promotion, negotiations and contract maintenance, member rights, organizational health, state and national programs, and helps locals participate fully in the democratic nature of the Association. She also assists with NDU’s involvement in legislative affairs, including lobbying.

MEET YOUR ND UNITED STAFF Nathan Rham

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Gisele Thorson

Project Organizer, Fargo Office nathan.rham@ndunited.org

Project Organizer, Bismarck Office gisele.thorson@ndunited.org

Nathan helps to recruit and train new members and activists within our organization. He meets with members to offer professional advice on personnel issues and grievances, and works directly with locals and chapters in recruitment strategies, through committee building, small group meetings, one-on-one visits and telephone calls.

Gisele helps to recruit and train new members and activists within our organization. She meets with members to offer professional advice on personnel issues and grievances, and works directly with locals and chapters in recruitment strategies, through committee building, small group meetings, one-on-one visits and telephone calls.

ND United Voices


Jane Rupprecht

Geoff Greenwood

Dana Hillius

UniServ Director, Fargo Office jane.rupprecht@ndunited.org

Project Organizer, Fargo Office geoff.greenwood@ndunited.org

Project Organizer, Fargo Office dana.hillius@ndunited.org

Jane works directly with NDU locals, in the field, and with our state association with policies and procedures of NDU, including membership promotion, negotiations and contract maintenance, member rights, organizational health, state and national programs, and helps locals participate fully in the democratic nature of the Association.

Geoff helps to recruit and train new members and activists within our organization. He meets with members to offer professional advice on personnel issues and grievances, and works directly with locals and chapters in recruitment strategies, through committee building, small group meetings, one-on-one visits and telephone calls.

Dana helps to recruit and train new members and activists within our organization. He meets with members to offer professional advice on personnel issues and grievances, and works directly with locals and chapters in recruitment strategies, through committee building, small group meetings, one-on-one visits and telephone calls.

Shelley Lubiens

Accounting Specialist, Bismarck Office shelley.lubiens@ndunited.org Shelly assists with accounting and bookkeeping for the organization, and assists our Chief Financial Officer. She also provides assistance with major projects as needed.

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Renee Franklund

Membership Specialist/Receptionist, Bismarck Office renee.franklund@ndunited.org Renee assists in dues accounting, custom reporting and legal services.

Diana Fliginger

Support Staff, Bismarck Office diana.fliginger@ndunited.org Diana serves as a receptionist and membership processing technician. She assists the communications department, and also provides other office support.

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Professional Development/Travel Coordinator, Bismarck Office diann.schulz@ndunited.org Diann assists NDU’s Director of Teaching and Learning. She is also integral in making arrangements for travel, meetings and major projects. She works directly with the NDU Foundation, and with scholarships and grants. She also assists with the accounting department.

Lindsey Sorenson

Support Staff, Fargo Office lindsey.sorenson@ndunited.org Lindsey is the receptionist for the Eastern Office in Fargo. She assists the UniServ and organizing staff based in Fargo, and works in membership processing for the Red River Valley.

MEET YOUR ND UNITED STAFF

Lois Sundquist

Accounting Specialist, Bismarck Office lois.sundquist@ndunited.org Lois assists with accounting and public employee membership reconciliation.

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ND United Voices


UNITED VOICES Serving the public every step of the way!

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ISN’T GOOFY Use Facebook to talk to the public

You have the power now to interact with your public directly,

through social media. I, along with North Dakota United, strongly recommend you take advantage of this opportunity.”

By Kelly Hagen UniServ Director Field Communications Specialist

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We’re about to start talking about social media, so it seems warranted that I begin by telling you about myself. I went to school and learned a number of skills. I’ve forgotten a number of them, including most everything I once knew about geometry, but I retained a respectable amount. I went to college, and learned to write and edit and mass communicate. I got out of college, went to work for the two largest newspapers in the state, and I learned even more about what it takes to inform the public, pique their curiosity, incite their fury (but in a good way, I assure you), and communicate … uh … good. ND United Voices


Now I’m here, doing field communications for North Dakota United, and a big part of what got me here was a skill I didn’t learn in school or at work. I learned it by goofing off from those things.

It’s Facebook. And I’m really good at it. The great mis-perception of Facebook is the part where I called it goofing off. Which, yes, I guess it is a less-than-serious endeavor when I’m posting statuses to a few hundred friends, many of which I don’t actually know in real life, about how awesome it’d be if robot helicopters delivered me tacos. But it serves a function, too. As of May 2, 2013, Facebook has reached 1.1 billion users across the globe. In the U.S. last year, 245 million people were regular users of the Internet, and among that group, 67 percent of them, or 166 million, regularly used Facebook.

Everyone is on Facebook. We need to be, too. We’ve seen a number of our locals start their own Facebook pages since merger. The Williston Education Association, Bismarck Education Association and Minot Education Association all launched their pages to very generous support within their communities. Fargo and West Fargo Education Associations previously had Facebook pages in existence. The challenge for these locals, and for any of our other locals who want to get started, is to get active on these pages, and any other social media site they open. These pages allow our organizations to put forth a public image, and directly deliver messages to our communities without a middleman. Every organization has its own website, and these sites are the best possible place to store all the detailed information you need for the public to know about your brand. However, very few of these sites are essential enough to daily living that their customers, users or members are logging into those sites on a daily basis.

Tell them. Your Facebook page should be updated fairly regularly, to keep your fans’ attention and continue to draw more likes to your page. Be interactive with your page’s fans. Ask them questions, give them information, create events for them to attend, share pictures of your members doing important things. You can share news articles or websites you feel would supply useful information to your members and supporters. Engage your followers in conversations. Answer questions, facilitate honest and open debate. Understand, too, that the Internet can contain some mean and awful people, and that you don’t want hateful, crude or derogatory comments on a page that has your organization’s name, so a consistent monitoring system needs to be implemented. You have the power now to interact with your public directly, through social media. I, along with North Dakota United, strongly recommend you take advantage of this opportunity. Get started with a Facebook page for your local. Build it, and the followers will come, I assure you. Delegate the responsibility of keeping your page regularly updated to one or more of your trusted leaders. And use that page to put a public face on what your organization does on a daily basis. If any local or member of NDU wants face-to-face assistance with social media or other communications strategies, I am glad to provide that help. Simply contact NDU through our helpline at 1-800-369-6332, or contact me directly at kelly.hagen@ndunited.org.

I’ll teach you everything I know about goofing off.

Internet users log onto Facebook daily. Not only that, they log in multiple times per day. And so it is our mission to harness that activity, pull from that traffic and engage those eyes onto who we are, what we do and why we are doing the things we are doing. The public supports its public employees. They like our teachers, support staff in our schools and in our public universities, our college professors, and the men and women who provide the vital public services we all depend upon. More importantly, they want to know more about us, and what we’re doing. ndunited.org

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2014 TEACHER OF THE YEAR AARON KNODEL IS… ‘Helping Students Discover Their Worlds’ By Linda Harsche, NDU Communications Director

“Like almost every teacher I know, my family had the predominant influence in my decision to go into the teaching profession,” said North Dakota United member and 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year (TOY) Aaron Knodel of West Fargo. “Both my parents were teachers in my hometown of Beulah, ND, and both my sister and I followed in their footsteps.”

H Knodel checks over the work of one of his Honors English students.

owever, this is the simple answer Knodel shares when this ‘small talk’ question is thrown in his direction; in truth, his journey into teaching is rooted in a heartache he rarely discusses. Knodel’s family lived across the street from the high school where his parents taught, and like most boys he adored and worshiped his father. “By all accounts, he was a wonderful teacher, coach, and man,” he said. “On a weekly basis he would take me to the high school gym, and we would play football, make paper airplanes and throw them off the mezzanine, and often shoot hoops.”

Teaching is something akin to throwing many small pebbles into the middle of a large lake, hoping that the waves will one day lead ashore. I am fortunate enough, teaching seniors, to see some of those waves reach land.”

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Knodel recalls on the night before Thanksgiving when he was just seven years old, his dad took his sister and him to the gym to play a few games of ‘lightning.’ After a few rounds, his father went to get a drink of water. “I walked into the hallway a few minutes later; he was lying under the fountain, purple-faced and unconscious. I ran home as fast as my little seven-year-old legs could take me, but he never fully regained consciousness, and died of two more subsequent heart attacks on the way to the hospital,” said Knodel. “I was devastated.” To Knodel, he was a dad, but at the age of seventeen he would find out that this man he called dad, also had profound influences on others. “One day, a man I had never met walked into my first job at a local convenience store,” said Knodel. “But, he had not come in to purchase anything. He wanted to thank me, and tell me how important my father was to him. He told me that my father, knowing that his family had their water shut off, had agreed to meet him early at school so he could shower there.” ND United Voices


Students listen intently as Knodel teaches.

Knodel visits with ND United President Nick Archuleta.

“My father, he informed me, had bought him shampoo, toothpaste, and other toiletries, and did so in a way that was discreet so that other students could not laugh at him or make fun of him. His story stills brings me to tears---and that is the type of teacher I want to be for my students. I have dedicated my career, in a sense, to that single reflection of my father, even though stories like this have sprinkled their way into my life for years since.” Although through his teaching journey, Knodel has won many accolades, it is his sincerest hope that his contributions and accomplishments can be summed up in two words: his students. “It has been my honor to serve all of the at-risk senior students in my district for the past seven years,” he said. “I take great pride in watching them don that cap and gown in the spring. Teaching is something akin to throwing many small pebbles into the middle of a large lake, hoping that the waves will one day lead ashore. I am fortunate enough, teaching seniors, to see some of those waves reach land. “ Knodel is also proud to say that, despite knowing that many of these students are at-risk of not graduating, few have quit on him, and he can honestly say he has never quit on them. “I also take great pride in the success of my advanced placement students. When I took over the AP Language and Composition class, our district had about 20 students take the end-of-the-year exam,” he said. “Now, we are up to approximately 75 each year, and our pass rate has not only gone up with more students, but last year alone, our school had 8 of the 17 perfect scores given to students in North Dakota.” He also takes great pride in knowing that he helped his students in his debate and speech classes develop the life-long skills of speaking, ndunited.org

An English Honors student ask a question of Knodel.

listening, and critical thinking. “I often receive emails or visits from college students who tell me how critically valuable those classes were in developing their confidence, research writing, and speaking skills,” said Knodel. “My greatest accomplishment, I hope, is that my students have proven to be successful.” According to Knodel, being labeled a “great” teacher by his peers, his students, and administrators, however, may merely be nothing more than a popularity contest, or so he wondered. “In 2011, I began the rigorous process to become one of the only thirty-something National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) in North Dakota,” he said. “This, I felt, was a more objective measure of whether or not what I was doing was effective.” “Not only did this process help me become a better teacher, it also made me want to help others set this high standard for themselves,” he said. “So, one of my colleagues and I have started a cohort group in my district to try to get five more NBCTs each year.” Knodel’s greatest and strongest conviction toward community involvement is through education, although he is involved in his church, service work, and coaching. He has also served the West Fargo Education Association through taking the National Education Association’s Collaborative Bargaining Training and serving on the West Fargo Education Association’s Communication Panel, Negotiations Team and as Lead Negotiator. “As a teacher,” he said, “I try to give students of all abilities and backgrounds opportunities to be successful and passionate about their interests. I am particularly passionate about providing opportunities in the arts and humanities.” 17


When Knodel began teaching, he coached Speech, Debate and Student Congress at Shanley High School. Coming to West Fargo, he began coaching Speech, and although they did not have a Student Congress team at the time, he started one and has since had hundreds of students participate. Four years ago, he started and advised West Fargo’s first ever Trivia Team, a volunteer position. Now, they participate in a televised competition, multiple Knowledge Bowl tournaments, the History Bee and Bowl, a National Academic Qualifying tournament, and Knowledge Masters. “My goal as a teacher is to make students do far more and discover far more about themselves and their worlds then they ever imagined,” Knodel said. According to Knodel, the public education system has cracks despite the numerous dedicated and passionate professionals that lead the causes. “We have lost global competitiveness, and in many respects, thirty years after the publication of A Nation at Risk, we have done little to close the achievement gap for our marginalized and lower-performing students,” he said. “We have thrown money at failed government bureaucracies that have put lobby interests above student interests, and we repeatedly and naively herald the next educational trend as the saving grace that will get us on track.” In September, Knodel received the ND Teacher of the Year Award from Governor Jack Dalrymple and DPI Superintendent Kirsten Baesler. ND United will hold a celebration next spring.

“The latest is a nationwide movement for a guaranteed and viable curriculum; a process esteemed and reinforced by our push toward the Common Core Standards,” said Knodel. “I support this movement, and I can say that certain curricular changes are needed if we want to prepare our students for the 21st century, but it is my belief that we will look back at this movement, as we did at the preceding ones with the same befuddling question: ‘Was it enough?’ To me, the answer is simple and validated by every substantial and comprehensive educational research study to date. We should allocate most of our time, energy, and resources to a more productive movement---one within the focus of control that has the most meaningful impact on student learning: teacher quality. “ Knodel believes we should not wait until college to seek out individuals to teach. “Instead, I speculated that it would be more powerful to seek out these individuals at a much younger age, and begin paying it forward while the thoughts of a career are still raw, in high school, middle school, and even elementary school,” he said. His message to other teachers would be “Join Me!” For the past two years, he has worked to inspire others to consider the teaching profession. “On one occasion, I held a boy after class because I told him I needed to talk to him, and although he immediately feared the worst, he seemed flattered and touched that I thought he would make a great teacher,” said Knodel. “Hypothetically, if each teacher encouraged or inspired just one student who would make an excellent teaching prospect to “Join Us,” think of how we could transform our education system.” “Similarly, I would also like to spread the message of RECRUITMENT, RIGOR, RETENTION, AND RESPECT,” he said. “Inside and outside the profession, we must expect that our best students give teaching strong consideration. Once they enter college, we must see that pre-service teachers are trained in a manner that is as rigorous as the job itself.” “When we get these teachers into their own classrooms,” Knodel said, “we must build a system that retains them by offering training, mentoring and professional development that turns their job into a career! Last, we must market our profession in a way that garners the respect that our teachers deserve.”

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MEET NORTH DAKOTA’S THREE TOY FINALISTS By Linda Harsche, NDU Communications Director

The three other finalists for the 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year were Julie Jaeger, a Gifted and Talented teacher at Minot Public Schools; Kristi Shanenko, an English and Communications teacher at Valley City Junior-Senior High School; and Debra Nelson, a 7-12 biology teacher in Bottineau. Julie Jaeger has been a Gifted and Talented teacher for 36 years. “I believe all children can learn,” said Jaeger. “I believe all children have unique gifts and talents. I believe my responsibility is to do all I can to find the best way for each child to learn and to help them discover, nourish, and celebrate their gifts.” “My student teaching experience was a combination of speech/Language and a very short time in a first grade classroom where my job was to keep a young, extremely gifted student busy,” said Jaeger.

Julie Jaeger Gifted and Talented Teacher Minot Public Schools

“His IQ was so high it could not be measured,” she said, “and he would only be in a regular classroom that one year for socialization purposes. His parents would then move to California to a specialized school for gifted students. Working with a young person who read Britannica fluently at age four was quite an experience and gave me a new appreciation and understanding for the difficulties and challenges the extremely gifted had in a public education setting.” “Working in a small district, where she alone was the math/science department, Jaeger points out that students did not have the opportunity to take advanced placement in math or language arts like they did in Minot Public schools. I had to find a way to make it all work,” she said. “As a different learner myself, I knew how much I appreciated those few educators who made my learning meaningful, and how much I appreciated my dad sitting beside me drawing pictures to help me understand Advanced Algebra when he himself had quit high school to enter WWII.”

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According to Jaeger, she also found it important to bring higher order/creative thinking and questioning to the heart of everything she did for all students, not just the high achievers. “Those same teachers who made learning meaningful for me were the ones who did not give me facts or procedures to memorize, but rather they made me think, to question and create an environment for looking beyond what was there to what could be possible; to leave the imagination hanging and working at the same time; to ‘what if?’ This is a lifelong skill I model and use with my adult and student learners.” “For my students, I am proud to have helped them recognize and celebrate their strengths, the value of their contributions, and how making a mistake provides an opportunity to learn,” she said. “For the teachers I work with, I am most proud to have helped them reason about thinking and learning in different ways to getting to know their students so they could modify the differences beyond the academic needs.” Jaeger believes her students know that her job is to make their brains sweat. “They jump into each new challenge ready to grow,” she said. “They know and understand that making a mistake means I have done my job and it’s an opportunity for them to learn. They are not as afraid of ‘not knowing’ or ‘not getting it’ as they were before. After all, Every Child Deserves/Needs to Learn Something New Every Day!”

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Kristi Shanenko, an eighth grade teacher at Valley City Junior-Senior High, has a degree in English (with secondary education) and Communications. According to Shanenko, growing up in western North Dakota in a decade when screen time meant changing out the storm windows, she read! Both her grandmothers helped her pass the long days that her parents were in the fields during planting and harvest by reading to her. “I can picture both of their reading shelves now,” she said. “They’re still there, and, oh, the feeling that washes over me when I kneel by them now. Because of them, I am a teacher.”

Kristi Shanenko English and Comminucations Valley City Junior-Senior High School

“When you love to read and write and find joy in creating new things to share with others, teaching follows,” Shanenko said. “Some of my greatest heroes were teachers – and English teachers especially. I knew I could spend a lifetime doing what they did – helping students succeed with language. I feel fully alive when I’m interacting with students. I feel fully alive when I am creating, organizing, reading, writing, and building relationships. Teaching offers it all!” Shanenko says her greatest achievement in the field of education has been her resolute buildingup of students. “Our role as teachers affords us an incredible opportunity to speak truth and hope into young lives. I’ve only taught eight years, but I’ve already had the chance to lift up 800 students.

Debra Nelson, a 7-12 biology teacher in the Bottineau Public School, was influenced into becoming a teacher by her college professor and her student teaching experience. She had planned on becoming a veterinarian for large animals, but according to her professor she needed a backup career just in case. Thus, Nelson got an education degree in biology.

Debra Nelson 7-12 Biology Teacher Bottineau

After student teaching, Nelson decided to change her career---she really wanted to become a teacher. “I seemed to connect with the students so they could understand the concepts being taught,” she said. “It was a positive and rewarding experience for me. The students met with my teacher supervisor and me. They explained how they benefited from my instruction and hoped that I would become a teacher.” Nelson’s reward for teaching is knowing that she has made an impact on students’ learning, their future career, and their life. “When a student has an ‘ah-ha’ moment, or when they experience success and beam from ear-to-ear with a smile, that’s when I feel rewarded,” she said. “I often find myself grinning right along with them, continuing to praise, encourage and reassure them that they can do it.” According to Nelson, teachers have the power and ability to create or destroy a child’s passion for knowledge and their ability to reach their

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I plan to teach 30 more years. That’s 3,000 more lives. Secondary students need this building up so much more than college students do – they are at an age where words change lives.” “The best classroom doesn’t function because of the threat of discipline; the best classroom functions out of an eager curiosity to see what might happen next on the current learning adventure,” she said. “Students need to experience what the satisfaction of doing work that matters in that same classroom. School is not a joke; it’s not a punishment; it’s a workplace for professionals and aspiring professionals to get to know one another as they work together toward common educational goals, celebrating together when those goals are achieved.” Shanenko believes students need to know they count---that they are one of a kind---that they are original---that they are seen and known and believed in by adults in their lives. “One teacher can make a difference,” she said. “But imagine how much bigger the difference would be if students were seen, known, and believed in by parents, principals, aunts and uncles, neighbors, store personnel, law enforcement, pastors, employers…the list goes on and on. We are all responsible for pouring our time, attention, and love into students so they can grow into who they were made to be. And, so I say: ‘Work with us.’”

full potential. “Some probably agree with me, others do not care,” she said. “Students need to know that someone cares enough and finds them important enough to believe in what they can accomplish. Kids are really hard on themselves. When they do not understand something they immediately think they are stupid and want to quit. That is when and where we take teaching to the next level.” For 33 years, Nelson has made students come in for extra help: to complete assignments, to study with her for tests, to rewrite labs or redo assignments, just like many other teachers do each day. “Funny that today we call it intervention,” she said. “I always felt it was common sense and part of my job. Regardless, kids should not fail and quit on themselves.” Nelson says, “Educators need to find a way to make the connection with a child; don’t shut the door on them. There are so many things happening in the world today that are teachable moments about life: bullying, shootings, stress to succeed---it sounds like ‘survival of the fittest. If we want them to survive, teachers and the general public need to teach coping strategies so students learn to deal with anger and stress. Show them you care by listening and sharing problem-solving strategies. Schedule one-on-one teaching, take their concerns to administration, be their voice when they don’t feel they have one.”

ND United Voices


THE SUPPORT WE NEED

ESPs gather in Carrington for annual conference By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

The role that our Education Support Professionals (ESPs) play every day inside classrooms across the state and in our school system is invaluable. And North Dakota United, in its first year of existence, took on the annual opportunity of celebrating the service of ESPs in Carrington at the Chieftain Hotel on Oct. 4-5 for the State Education Support Professionals Conference.

Connie Deutsch presents at the ESP Conference in Carrington

With the merger of the North Dakota Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association to form NDU this year, this has meant a great deal of change for all the members of this new organization, including ESPs. This change was brought directly to the forefront of everyone’s minds in attendance at the conference, as Tyann Schlenker, the ESP representative on the NDU Board of Directors, started the agenda by bringing up the possibility of changing the term ESP within NDU to United Support Professionals. This change is meant to reflect that support professionals from other sectors of public employment within the state of North Dakota can, and should, be welcomed into this group. Direct Care Associates provide assistance to individuals in need the same way as paraprofessionals give that same support to children in need of a little help in our schools. School bus drivers are tasked with the difficult job of negotiating treacherous roads in winter conditions, and take on the responsibility of protecting the well-being of the children they transport, the same way that our snow plow drivers keep those same roads open and protect the well-being of all citizens. Support professionals within our K-12 schools can benefit from their association with support professionals from our university system and governmental staff from city, counties and the state. That name change is now being brought to the Board of Directors for further consideration.

Attorney Mike Geierman talks about legal issues facing NDU members.

NDU President Nick Archuleta welcomed the 34 participants to the conference to start off the agenda on Saturday, Oct. 5, and thanked them for the essential services they provide at their worksites each day. He compared their service to those that were given to him and his family the night before, when power lines were cut outside his home in Bismarck due to a soggy, slushy winter storm that hit most of the state that weekend. “Your service to students, even in the most trying of conditions, is invaluable to the lives of North Dakotans,” Archuleta said. NDU Vice President Gary Feist addressed the conference, and on behalf of all of the

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Participants in the main room at the Chieftain Hotel in Carrington listen attentively at the NDU ESP Conference.

NDU Vice President of Public Employees Gary Feist welcomes participants to the conference.

Savelkoul and NDU President Nick Archuleta talk about political challenges that our organization faces.

public employees once represented by NDPEA, thanked the body for welcoming them and for joining with them to form this new union and better represent public services within our state. A session by NDU Executive Director Armand Tiberio covered all that has happened in the last year during merger, and what is to come. Tiberio pointed out that, though some angst was created during the process of voting to merge, our organization has not seen an exodus of membership anywhere in the state. We are gaining members and reaching out to everyone associated with North Dakota United to educate them and keep them informed on what the new organization is, and what we can do together. Mike Geiermann, NDU’s legal counsel, led participants through a very lively discussion on the legal rights of ESPs and teachers in our schools. The thread that tied his stories together on cases in which he represented our members in court was that, with membership in NDU, you are protected from the excessive costs that can come with litigation, if something tragic should happen while on the job. With the liability insurance that comes with membership, legal costs are covered, and your membership dues paid back to you. The NDU Assistant Executive Director for Political Advocacy, Stuart Savelkoul, was able to impress upon everyone in attendance the importance of political action within the union. None of your dues dollars ever go toward political action or advocacy, as dictated by law. So, members who want to help in the political process and 22

support candidates for office who share our values and will work on our organization’s behalf need to designate money into NDU’s political action fund: UPAC. One vote can make all the difference in the Legislature, Savelkoul demonstrated by pointing back to the 2011 Legislative Session, when the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS) came within one vote in the House of being scrapped and replaced by a defined-contribution system. And that one vote was in place thanks to the donations and assistance of NDEA and NDPEA, and their political action campaigns. Fargo ESPs Schlenker and Connie Deutsch went through their own presentation on lessons learned in “A Recipe for Respect,” and the conference broke for lunch. During the catered luncheon, National ESP Conference reports were given by attendees from NDU, including Schlenker, Deutsch, Kathy Larson of Fargo, Terisa AmesAhnstad of West Fargo, Sandy Peisar of Minot and Heidi Schostek of Dickinson. The presentation of our ESP of the Year then took place. This year’s winner was Schlenker, who has worked in the attendance office at Fargo South High School since 1986. “Schlenker has a close rapport with students and parents,” President Archuleta said while presenting her with the award. “Her commitment to her job is inspiring.” She has been a member of the Association since 2009, and has ND United Voices


Participants listen to Tyann Schlenker, ESP of the Year, speak during the lunch session of the NDU ESP Conference.

Audrey Haskell of Grand Forks discusses the new opt-out provision for medical procedures that passed in the 2013 Legislative Session.

Nick Archuleta thanks ESPs for the service they provide at the start of the conference in Carrington.

NDU Assistant Executive Director Stuart Savelkoul speaks on the importance of political action within in the union

served as a building rep for the Fargo Education Association (FEA) and as a member of the FEA Executive Committee. She now represents K-12 ESPs on the Board of Directors and chairs the NDU ESP Advisory Committee. Schlenker now moves on to the national competition next spring. Everyone at North Dakota United congratulates her on this honor, and thanks her for all she does for students, for her school and for our organization. The ESP Conference wrapped up with a discussion of the new Medical Procedures Bill that passed in the 2013 Legislature, which allows school professionals to opt out of administering complicated medical procedures, or delivering medications or services to children, if the professional feels uncomfortable or not properly trained. Audrey Haskell, of the Grand Forks ESPs, was a driving force behind this bill, and provided a lot of great information on what the bill included. And Jane Rupprecht, UniServ Director for NDU, led the group through a session on Organizing 101. With that, the 2013 State ESP Conference came to a close, and participants went back home to their communities, to provide the vital services only they can give to the citizens of their towns and cities. Thank you to everyone who braved the winter weather to attend this year’s session, and North Dakota United looks forward to many more years of this conference, and to welcoming more and more support professionals into the fold, and doing the important work in keeping people safe and supporting their needs. ndunited.org

Kathy Larson, of Fargo, celebrates winning a door prize.

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Tyann Schlenker receives the 2014 NDU ESP of the Year award.

TYANN SCHLENKER NAMED 2014 NDU ESP OF THE YEAR Tyann Schlenker of Fargo South High School is the 2014 North Dakota United Education Support Professional. She has worked in the attendance office at South High School since 1986. She was born in Kensal, graduated from Fargo High School and attended Moorhead Technical College. “Schlenker has a close rapport with students and parents,” said ND United President Nick Archuleta when he presented the award during the ESP Conference in Carrington Oct. 4-5, 2013. “Her commitment to her job is inspiring,” he added. She became a member of the Association in 2009 and immediately became involved. After attending the Emerging Leaders’ Conference, she began recruiting members at Fargo South and helping with fall membership.

Schlenker became a building representative for the Fargo Education Association (FEA) and eventually became a member of FEA’s Executive Committee. She now represents K-12 ESPs on the North Dakota United Board of Directors and chairs the NDU ESP Advisory Committee. According to her colleagues, Schlenker is a natural leader who understands that to lead is to serve. Her commitment to NDU is based on her conviction that educators and education support professionals along with public service professionals at every level share a trust and a responsibility to students and communities across our state. “She believes that in order to rise to that challenge, we must stand together to maintain a high standard of excellence in our professions and to advocate for all colleagues in public schools and public service,” said Archuleta. Schlenker will now move on to the national competition next spring.

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CELEBRATE AMERICAN EDUCATION WEEK American Education Week—November 18-22, 2013— presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The weeklong celebration features a special observance each day of the week. They include:

Monday, November 18: Kickoff Day  Nationwide Kickoff. Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education by hosting kickoff events and activities.

Tuesday, November 19: Parents Day Schools will invite parents into the classroom for a firsthand look at what the school day is like for their children.

Wednesday, November 20: Education Support Professionals Day Education Support Professionals keep schools running and students safe, healthy and ready to learn.

Thursday, November 21: Educator for a Day Community leaders will be invited to experience the day as educators and experience the challenges of teaching and the needs of students.

Friday, November 22: Substitute Educators Day Substitute educators play a vital role in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. 

The NEA was one of the creators and original sponsors of American Education Week. Distressed that 25 percent of the country’s World War I draftees were illiterate and 9 percent were physically unfit, representatives of the NEA and the American Legion met in 1919 to seek ways to generate public support for education. The conventions of both organizations subsequently adopted resolutions of support for a national effort to raise public awareness of the importance of education. In 1921, the NEA Representative Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa, called for the designation of one week each year to spotlight education. In its resolution, the NEA called for: “An educational week ... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.” The first observance of American Education Week occurred December 4-10, 1921, with the NEA and American Legion as the co-sponsors. A year later, the then U.S. Office of Education joined the effort as a co-sponsor, and the PTA followed in 1938. Other co-sponsors are the U.S. Department of Education and national organizations including the National PTA, the American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National School Public Relations Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. American Education Week is always celebrated the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving.

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Member Profile

THE WRITE FORMULA Pulitzer Prize winner Aregood is UND professor, NDU member By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

S

peaking truth to power is a dictum that lies at the heart of every great unionist … and journalist. Richard Aregood is both of these things. He is the Charles. R. Johnson professor of journalism for the University of North Dakota and proud member of North Dakota United. Before leaving his roots on the East Coast of the U.S. to take his current professorship at UND, he was a journalist – a reporter, editor, critic and columnist – of wide repute. He’s one of the greats in his industry. He’s won the Distinguished Writing Award of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Three times. He’s won the Walker Stone Award of Scripp-Howard Newspapers. He is a member of the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. And, oh, by the way, he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Richard Aregood

“I started a long time ago,” Aregood said. “I started with some weeklies in New Jersey – rural New Jersey, back when there was such a thing. I went onto the local daily, and then to the Philadelphia Daily News, where I stayed for 29 years. I was a police reporter, a rock ‘n’ roll critic, various kinds of editor. I became editorial page editor, won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize.” The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award that is given out annually for achievements in print and online journalism, literature and musical composition. Prizes are awarded in 21 categories annually, since it was established in 1917 by Columbia University. And, in the realm of journalism, it is the granddaddy of prizes – the top honor that every journalist dreams of one day attaining. After leaving the Daily News in Philadelphia in 1995, he went on to be editorial page editor of the Newark Star-Ledger. Ten years later, “I was deemed too old and highly compensated,” he said, and so he moved onto public relations at the Marcus Group. And he made his way to UND five years ago, after searching for a spot in higher education as a professor, “because I know what adjuncts were paid,” he said. When he joined UND, he immediately also joined what was the North Dakota Public Employees Association, and now North Dakota United. “Oh, yeah. I joined right away,” Aregood said. “Because I owe a lot to the union movement, and I thought it would be a good thing to do. And I’d also become the unofficial union steward in the building I was working in. So, yeah, I’m having a good time.” Aregood grew up in a union family, as his father was a member of the union at his job as a marine electrician at the shipyard in Camden, N.J. Growing up, he joined the Newspaper Guild while working as a journalist, and he served as president of TNG Local 10, the labor union that represented editorial, advertising and circulation workers at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. “Some people might be too full of themselves to admit it, but we’re all workers, aren’t we?” Aregood noted. “We’re all subject to mistreatment, changes in wages and working conditions, all the things that unions tend to get involved in. Unions are in everybody’s best interest, no matter what you may think of yourself.” Aregood’s past notoriety in newspapers are a good window into his attitude toward the value of being part of a public employee union. He was known for his quick wit and

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unconventional style as an editorialist. He summed up the death of Spain’s leader, Generalissimo Franco, in 1975 with a three-sentence editorial underneath the headline of “Adios Dictator”: “They say only the good die young. Generalissimo Franco was 82. Seems about right.” He was also once named to the list of the Top 10 Unforgettable Editorials by Smithsonian Magazine for another 1975 editorial about a convict on death row for the murder and rape of a 14-yearold girl, for writing, “it’s about time for Leonard Edwards to take the Hot Squat” in the electric chair. He is unabashedly his own mind, and makes very little effort toward caring about anyone who doesn’t like what he has to say. When he left the Daily News, he did so at a time when newspapers were beginning the process of constriction, which has led to the current skeleton-crew newsrooms of today, which pay their workers very little and encourage those workers to move on as quickly as they can, so they can be replaced by cheaper, less experienced employees. “I covered state government in Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” he said. “And covering in New Jersey, there were maybe – my memory is, don’t hold me to it – there were 80 accredited people in their state house. The Star Ledger, itself, had a bureau of 14 or 15 people. So they covered everything that went on in state government. Where are we now? We’ve got these nitwits and loonies, and nobody’s pointing out what they’re doing. And now, I think there are two or three people from the Star Ledger and hardly anyone else in the New Jersey statehouse.” The business model of journalism has collapsed, Aregood says, and no one has thought of a good model to replace it with. And, until they do, the workers are the ones who suffer the most, with dwindling pay and opportunities in the industry. “Well, the pay sucks,” Aregood states. “And people get discouraged. People go onto something else. … My oldest son worked for the Wilmington News Journal in Delaware for six years. And then he

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had a couple hits, and he needed to make some money. So he quit and went to work somewhere else, where he makes considerably more money.” And so he teaches his students to be resolute, and to produce the highest quality product they can, for the sake of the art and dignity of the job. “I don’t think journalism itself can change all that much,” he said. “I try to teach long-form pieces; I teach how to write tweets. You’ve got to write what you’ve got to write. They’re all just art forms. … It’s harder to do these days. I’m kind of proud that I’m sticking a lot of my kids into Grand Forks and Fargo, in newspapers, radio stations, TV stations. It’s just not as easy to climb the ladders these days. Some of the rungs are missing.” And it’s important within his own profession now, as a professor at UND, and as a member of North Dakota United, that his coworkers and fellow members understand the strength of a good message, and communicating to the public what you do, and why you do it. “I think we’ve got to be better with communicating with the public,” he said. “That’s the reason why we’re in this problem. I mean, I’m old enough that I actually talked to George Meany when unions were like 50 percent of the workers. But that’s not true anymore, which you know. There wasn’t good union representation in North Dakota, but as long as we’re there, let’s make it as good as we can. We can do stuff.” He said the key to communicating the value of unions is to just be honest, but make the effort that union detractors use to persecute us. “We have to show the same persistence and determination that they do,” he said. “And if we do, we’ve got a chance of winning this because we actually have something to offer. The others don’t. They get to say, ‘Y’know, if you’re a gazillionaire, you get to be treated well, too.’ Well, that doesn’t convince me. And I don’t think it convinces the average person, too. They just don’t hear anything else.”

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The Public Record

Q & A WITH SPARB COLLINS Executive Director of the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

Sparb Collins

Q: What is the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System? A: The North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System provides services to the state of North Dakota and to participating political subdivisions. We administer six definedbenefit plans, including one hybrid plan, two defined-contribution plans, a retiree health credit program, and on the insurance side we offer a health insurance plan for active employees and retirees, a dental plan, a vision plan, a long-term care plan and an employee assistance program. We also administer the flex benefits program for the state. Q: What is the history of NDPERS? A: PERS started as a retirement system in 1966. At that time it was created as a definedcontribution retirement plan. In the mid-’70s, the Legislature formed a committee to review the defined contribution retirement plan since it was not providing an adequate retirement benefit. As a result of that study it was deemed that PERS should be changed from a defined-contribution plan to a defined-benefit plan. We now call that plan the main retirement system, which is one of the six we administer. It was during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that the other program areas where added. Q: How does NDPERS work? A: Since most of our members are in the main retirement system I will focus on that plan. A little over 50 percent of the membership in that plan are state employees and about 49 percent are political subdivision employees. School district employees are the largest political subdivision group followed by counties. The main system is what we call a defined-benefit hybrid plan. It was changed to a hybrid plan in the late 90’s to add additional portability features to it that go beyond what a traditional definedbenefit plan provides. The hybrid feature allows employees to vest in the employer contributions and have it added to their account balance. As a result it becomes portable to them if they elect to withdraw from the plan. Generally this option is of interest to non-career employees. However for our career employees they can elect to retire using the traditional defined benefit feature with the benefit based on the formula: final average salary times the multiplier, times their years of service. Q: What’s the current rule that determines when employees can start to draw from retirement? A: Our normal retirement age is when a member meets the rule of 85 or the age of 65.

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Q: Should public employees rely solely on NDPERS for their retirement, or should they have other investments? A: No. They clearly need other investments. Our plan is designed around the idea that we provide 50 percent of final average salary at retirement for a career employee. A career employee is someone who has about 25 years of service. Our plan design also assumes that the other part of a retiree’s income will come from Social Security, and for the average employee, that comes out to around 30 to 40 percent of final average salary at their social security retirement age of 65 or 66. For the retiree that retirees at that age they would have an income somewhere around 80 to 90 percent of final average salary. In addition you’re going to need supplemental savings to be able to fill in the difference to 100 percent of final average salary and to provide for cost of living increases during retirement. While Social Security is indexed for inflation, PERS isn’t. Consequently a retiree will need to be able to use their supplemental savings to offset inflation over time. This requirement for supplemental savings is even more dramatic if you retire before you meet your Social Security retirement age. If you take an early Social Security benefit, at 62 for example, that’s going to increase the amount you will need in supplemental savings to offset the reduced social security benefit and to offset inflation over a longer retirement timeframe The other implication of retiring before age 65 is that you are not eligible for Medicare, which means your health premium costs will be higher. Consequently an early retiree will need to factor in a greater degree of supplemental savings in order to pay those additional expenses for retiring early. Q: If a public employee leaves their job, can they take their retirement with them? A: Yes. As I mentioned, PERS is a hybrid plan, and that’s one of the key features of our hybrid plan. In a traditional defined benefit plan you’re always able to take the employee contribution with you. But with our hybrid plan, we have what’s called the PEP program – Portability Enhancement Provision. PEP ndunited.org

provides that if you put money in your 457 plan, our deferredcomp plan, we will vest you in the employer contribution of the defined-benefit plan. Those vested employer contributions will go into your account balance in the hybrid plan and become portable to you if you want to transfer the funds to another plan. That’s why PERS is a hybrid plan it has the portability of a defined contribution plan while also offering a defined benefit. It’s the member’s choice how they want to draw their benefit. Q: Could you explain the changes that happened to NDPERS during the 2011 and 2013 Legislative Sessions? A: Let me speak to it from two standpoints. First from our hybrid defined-benefit plan, and secondly our defined contribution plan. Both plans were subject to the dramatic downturn of the financial markets that occurred in 2008 and 2009. In fact, the investment advisor to the State Investment Board had indicated that out of 220-some years of returns, there were only four worse than what we went through at that time. So what we experienced was a clearly unique and dramatic adjustment, and one that hopefully we won’t experience again. But we did experience it and now we had to figure out how to move forward.

Let me first start with the defined benefit hybrid plan. What we did is we worked with our actuary to determine the extent of what happened in the markets and its effect on our plan. We then worked with our participating employers and member groups in determining what actions needed to be taken going forward. The challenge we faced, as identified by our actuary, was the funding status was going to gradually deteriorate over the next 30 to 40 years from where it was to zero. During the 90’s PERS was funded at 100 percent. We knew the challenge we faced was three-fold: stopping that downward trend, stabilizing the plan and putting the plan back on course toward 100-percent funded status or back to where it was before the downturn. After working with everyone, the plan that came forward was spread over four years – or two bienniums. What 29


was proposed was increasing contributions from where they were at about 8.12 percent, to 16.12 percent. It was proposed that this would occur with a 2 percent increase in 2011, another 2 percent increase in 2012, another 2 percent in 2013 and finally a 2 percent increase in 2014. It was further proposed that the increases would be shared by the employer and employee and so it became known as a shared recovery plan. If adopted that full plan would have accomplished all three goals. The downward trend would have been stopped, the plan would have been stabilized and it would have been on path to get back to the 100-percent funded status. It went to the 2011 Legislative session, and they passed the first two years of that recovery plan. The effect of the adoption of the first two years of the recovery plan was it stopped the downward trend, and it stabilized the plan over that 30-35 year period at around a 60 percent funded status. Action on the last half of that recovery plan was deferred to the 2013 session.

This last session the last two years of the recovery plan was considered and the Legislature approved the third year of the recovery, but didn’t approve the fourth year. That means the plan is on the path to about 80 percent funded. However the Legislature expanded the defined-contribution plan option to all state employees for four years. Depending on the election rate, that will reduce the 80 percent funded status going forward to be something less. This result is because as people leave the plan, there are fewer members to pay off the unfunded liability. Consequently where the plan is now is, the downward trend has stopped, the plan is stabilized and we are trending upward, but the full extent of this we won’t know until we see how the defined-contribution option affects the plan. The plan still faces the challenge of getting on a path back to 100 percent.

A lot has been accomplished by the actions of the Legislature and the approval of the governor. The downward trend has stopped, it has been stabilized and the plan may be trending upward depending on the election rate to the new DC option. However the plan is not yet on track to returning to 100 percent funded status. Consequently we will monitor investment returns and, if they are strong in the next year or two, that could put the plan on the path to 100 percent without additional contributions. If not we will may need to consider the last part of the recovery plan.

Concerning our DC plan that plan has also had significant challenges due to the downturn in the market. Contribution increases have also been proposed and approved for this plan so that it provides an adequate retirement benefit. A recent survey of the DC members disclosed that they are very concerned with the level of retirement benefits in the plan. Based upon these responses and information from our consultant that shows the benefits in this plan are lower than the hybrid plan, additional increases may be necessary.

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We are the “doers” and people who take pride in our communities.”

WE ARE THE DOERS By ND United Retired President Gloria Lokken

This fall will once again be filled with events featuring our members volunteering to improve their communities. North Dakota United Board of Directors member, Bill Klimpel and his wife were recently recognized as dependable, committed volunteers at Minot’s annual Hostfest. Congratulations, Bill. It is nice to be recognized, but I’m sure Bill and his wife would tell me they do it because they enjoy it. Giving really does bring joy to our lives. It seems that at every event I attend I see active and retired NDU members donating their time and talents to making these events successful. Certainly, I am not surprised because involvement and commitment are definitely traits of our members. We are people who ask how we can help. We rarely ask who can help us. We are the “doers” and people who take pride in our communities. Just take a moment to think about your own community. Who do you see devoting time to churches, schools, government, arts programs and so many other activities? I know you see yourselves and your colleagues. We all know how busy you are! We are all busy people (and folks, the retired are no exception). But busy people are busy because they want to be engaged. Busy people have talents that are vital to the success of our society. Our members have so much to offer, and we are respected in our

communities because of our abilities. Take pride in the contributions you make. So let us amplify our volunteer activity by asking our friends and colleagues to volunteer with us. We also have a great opportunity to make the new members of our communities feel welcome by engaging them. Many times we get so involved we forget that someone recognized our talent and asked us. I can hear you saying that you ask and ask and the answer is always, “No.” I know that can be disheartening, but even when the answer is no, the person you asked feels valued. And when you get the YES answer it really is a celebration. I can also tell you several people actually have thanked me for asking them to get involved in an activity. You never know the effect you will have. Share the joy. Now I want to ask you to do more. I am asking you, every one of you to make a further commitment to your organization. I want you to talk about the benefits of belonging to a group that supports and defends your profession, enhances your understanding of the issues that affect your working conditions and your quality of life. I am asking you to extend an invitation to others to join ND United. I know you already make new members feel welcome and involved. Please continue. You are vital to the success of NDU. Thank you for all you do!

YES, SIGN ME UP NOW IN NDU/NEA/AFT-RETIRED Complete and mail with your check today, to NDU-Retired, 301 N 4th St, Bismarck, ND 58501-4020 Name: _______________________________________Social Security Number: __________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________________________ City: _________________________________________ State: ______________ Zip: ______________ Phone: ______________________________E-mail:_________________________________________ Local Association: ____________________________Signature_______________________Date______ _______ I wish to join as Annual Retired and pay $52 per year. Mail this blank and your check to NDU, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501-4020. (NDU membership year is from Sept. 1 to August 31.) _______ I wish to pay a one-time payment of $412 for Lifetime Retired. Expected Date of Retirement ___________ (month/year) _______ I wish to pay one payment of $52 and have 9 (nine) electronic transfers of $40 from my bank account for lifetime retired. ndunited.org

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ND United Voices

United Voices, Vol. 1, No. 3  

This issue introduces readers to the 2014 ND Teacher of the Year plus the three finalists. Also a member profile of a Pulitzer Prize winner...