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Serving the public every step of the way!






VOL. 2 NO. 6












D N U 2
































Kelly Hagen Director of Field Communications Image Printing Design/Publisher


How many student members of ND United do you think would choose to spend what little money they have, vacationing at the National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA)? If you’ve ever been, you know what a grueling job the RA can sometimes be for a delegate, but it can also be a life-changing experience.

Seventeen delegates from North Dakota United, along with more than 7,000 educators from all 50 states, gathered in Orlando, Fla., from July 3-6 to attend the National Education Association’s 94th Representative Assembly (RA).





Postmaster, send address changes to: North Dakota United 301 N 4th Street Bismarck, ND 58501 Linda Harsche Director of Communications

By becoming a member of North Dakota United, the state’s largest and most effective union of public educators and employees, you are uniting yourself with more than 11,000 public workers across the state of North Dakota. Additionally, you are affiliated with over 4.7 million combined members of our two national affiliates, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.


AUGUST 2015 United Voices is the official publication of North Dakota United, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501.

Negotiation is never easy. Across North Dakota, negotiations between teachers and school boards are nearly over for the year, with only four contracts still being bargained at the mid-point of August. This year’s negotiations were difficult, with rewards and setbacks for both sides of the table. But, on the whole, all parties in public education involved – including teachers, students, administrators, parents, elected officials and the entire community – benefit overall for going through the process.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. In 1992, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the Williston School District had to pay extra compensation for teachers who taught an extra class in high school for the 1990-91 school year. In 2012, the Williston School District did the same thing to Williston Middle School teachers and now have to pay them one-seventh of their salary as they were required to teach an extra class.

Spoiler alert: If you’re starting fifth grade in Velva, N.D., this fall, expect to get a big assignment in English right off the bat. “At the beginning of the year, I throw a three- or two-page paper at the students, as fifth graders, right away,” said Alex Schmaltz, a fifth-grade teacher for Velva Public School and NDU member.

ND United Voices

President’s Post

NDU IS EMPOWERED TO DO ‘BIG THINGS’ But, we need YOUR help! I hope you have all had a restful and restorative summer with plenty of time to enjoy the company of your friends and families. For many NDU members, this column will find you returning to the classroom after continuing your education, enhancing your skills and/or providing exceptional educational experiences to students in summer school sessions across the state. This column will find still more NDU members engaged in the rewarding work of skillfully providing the vital services that the people of North Dakota have come to expect. Higher education professionals will be found engaging in dynamic research and teaching that brings distinction to our university system. Some members will be supporting our higher education faculty in making sure that the materials and services needed by faculty and students are available and easily accessible. Other education support professionals will be hard at work helping K-12 teachers and students to reach goals and impart necessary skills. Some members will be helping the most vulnerable among us regain their skills after injury, while others will be working to help others to reclaim their lives as they recover from drug and alcohol addiction. This column will find some of North Dakota’s invaluable public employees fixing our roads and keeping them safe. Others will be keeping us safe through their work in our state’s corrections and rehabilitation facilities. Many NDU members will be found making sure that the State of North Dakota is providing the litany of services that benefit all North Dakotans; from collecting the taxes our state is owed to providing the health and human services our citizens need, to making sure that these services are provided as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. We are all public servants, and we are all North Dakota United! Your membership in our organization has resulted in a very successful year for NDU, beginning with an increase in our membership. Through membership comes strength and influence. It is that strength and influence that has resulted in a very successful legislative session where our lobbying team represented your interests very well. On behalf of our members, NDU successfully lobbied legislators: • To secure 3 percent increases in salaries for public employees in each year of the next biennium • To secure 3 percent increases in education funding for each year of the next biennium • To turn back a truly awful attack on the collective bargaining law affecting all K-12 teachers • To continue full funding for public employee health insurance • To defeat pension “reform” • To pass Anti-Workplace Bullying legislation • To pass legislation to grant leave that can be used by victims of domestic violence

By Nick Archuleta NDU President

The number one reason that people do not join is that they are not asked. You can change that.”

• • • •

To stop an ill-advised plan to allow school districts to arm school employees To pass an historic bill providing state funding for an early childhood education program To kill a voucher bill allowing a tax credit for parents who enroll their kids in private schools To guarantee that all state agencies have a policy to address workplace harassment

There are more but the point is this: our members have empowered us to do “big things” on their behalf. So, for us to do more “big things,” we must grow our membership even more. To that end, I am challenging each of our 11,300 members to do one more “big thing:” ask your co-workers and colleagues to join our organization. The number one reason that people do not join is that they are not asked. You can change that. You know your colleagues and they know you. Tell them about our values and about our unwavering commitment to great public schools and great public service! And remember, for every member you sign up that was not a member last year, you earn $50.00! Thank you for your membership, thank you for your activism, and thank you for the “big things” you do for NDU and North Dakota every day! Cheers!


COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IS KEY TO RETENTION AND RECRUITMENT Teacher shortage can be addressed at negotiations table By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

Bargaining is never easy. Across North Dakota, negotiations between teachers and school boards are nearly over for the year, with only four contracts still being bargained at the mid-point of August. This year’s negotiations were difficult, with rewards and setbacks for both sides of the table. But, on the whole, all parties in public education involved – including teachers, students, administrators, parents, elected officials and the entire community – benefit overall for going through the process. “Teachers bargain to improve working conditions, to lure our young scholars into the profession and make the educators more able to focus on educating,” said Karen Christensen, vice president for education for North Dakota United, as well as president of the Wishek Education Association and lead negotiator for their teachers. Wishek’s negotiations this year was one of several in the state that went to impasse. Under state law, an impasse exists if “after a reasonable period of negotiation, an agreement has not been formulated and a dispute exists,” and “the board of a school district and the representative organization both agree that an impasse exists.” At that point, the North Dakota Education Fact Finding Commission will mediate the dispute, hearing from both sides, and the public, at an impasse hearing. The commission gives its recommendations on a path toward solving the dispute, and then the two sides can either choose to accept the commission’s recommendations or, ultimately, the school board can “impose” a one-year contract on teachers, with the terms that they term acceptable. The Wishek Education Association went to impasse primarily over one sticking point: contributions made to the Teachers Fund for Retirement (TFFR). WEA wished to change the contribution from a flat rate of $1,205 per teacher, to a rate based on a percentage of the teacher’s salary, so that the contribution grows with the teacher’s years of service. Christensen said that WEA members wanted this change to assist in efforts to improve retention. “We wanted to have an ace in our pocket, in order to say, ‘Look, here’s what we offer if you stay long-term, what this can mean to your benefit package,’” Christensen said. “We needed something else, because the inconsistency of a flat rate to your staff means you’re offering $1,200 to a beginning teacher, which is 3.5 percent of base, but the longer you stay at school, the less your benefit is.” Retention and recruitment of teachers are big topics of discussion in North Dakota, currently. Our state, along with many across the U.S., is struggling with a shortage of teachers. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recently charged a task force with the responsibility of brainstorming ideas on how to turn the tide, and fill open positions across the state, particularly in smaller, rural districts. The idea that seemingly should stand out above the rest would be to increase 4

ND United Voices

compensation to teachers, in order to increase the pool of applicants to open positions, and also retain the quality teachers already in place. However, in a state that has historically undercompensated all of its public workers, including and especially teachers, that idea doesn’t get as much traction as it should. So if school districts are unable, or just unwilling, to look at making salary a priority in this fight, they need not look too far off the table to find ways to better retain the experienced educators they already have in place. Look to the bargaining table for your answer. “The teacher’s voice needs to be brought back into the conversation,” said Tom Young, president of the Grand Forks Education Association and chief negotiator in their latest round of bargaining. “We’ve been ‘done to’ and ‘told to’ and ‘talked to’ for a long time. What we need to have as professionals is to have our professional expertise and our professional vision solicited and respected.” During negotiations in Grand Forks, the two sides came to an agreement right on the edge of going to impasse. Starting salaries was a big issue, but the real sticking point was preparation time for elementary teachers. “That was an issue that was at the table for a long time,” said Young. “And what the teachers were really looking for is enough guaranteed time in their work day so that they’re prepared to do their work well. With this highly individualized kind of lessons that teachers are expected to engage with in the 21st Century kind of learning style, that we’re supposed to engage all of our individual students and talk to them. And it’s very time intensive. We just don’t have the time right now in our day to adequately prepare to do what we’re asked to do. And really, when it comes right down to it, it becomes a matter of professional respect to afford the teachers the time they need to do their job well for the kids.” Key to the issue of recruitment would be an acknowledgment that salaries for beginning teachers must keep pace with the rapid increases in cost of living. This doesn’t always happen, according to Toni Gumeringer, who was a negotiator for Bismarck Education Association this year. “I know this year,” Gumeringer said, “when we went into

negotiations, I had a teacher come in and say, ‘You know, Toni, I just got my daycare bill for next year, and it’s $24,000. And I’m seriously considering not teaching because, at that cost per year for daycare, how far ahead do I come?’” BEA negotiators drew a hard line in the sand during bargaining to protect some very key parts of their contract, including grievance procedure and access to a sick leave bank. “You can say ‘no’ (during negotiations), but they came up with saying ‘not interested’ when we were working on some of those things,” Gumeringer said. “So we just kept saying that back to them, toward the end, on those issues we wanted to protect. ‘We want to do this!’ ‘No, we’re not interested.’ … Do we want to give up those sick leave days? Nope. I don’t think we can. Do we want to give up the grievance procedure and make the teachers less protected? Nope. I don’t think we can do that either. And I really think we fought hard to keep the benefits we felt would retain the good teachers in the classroom.” Standing true to those principles helped teachers in Wishek to earn a contract that contributes three percent of a teacher’s salary toward TFFR. In Grand Forks, a memorandum of understanding was added that puts it into writing that the issue of prep time will be studied, and action will be taken. And in Bismarck, their grievance procedure and sick leave provisions were protected, as agreed to in past negotiations. As we enter the new school year, and administrators are hitting the panic button over open positions at schools across North Dakota, there should be some acknowledgment that there already is an apparatus in place for addressing the issues in compensation, in working conditions for teachers and learning conditions for students, that are negatively affecting retention and recruitment: the collective bargaining process. Teachers are already at the table, telling officials and administrators what they need in order to take a job in teaching, and to stay in it for years to come. Listen to what they have to say. “The biggest asset your school is going to have isn’t the furniture and the computers,” Christensen said. “Your biggest asset is going to be the people in the front of the classroom, the people who are directly working with the kids. We have got to have a system that is starting to invest in those teachers that are highly qualified.” 5

Public Service Perspectives

HAVE A ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATION WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES Find out what they want from our union!

By Gary Feist Vice President of Public Employees

The union is its members, who through a collective voice advocate for our shared values within the communities in which we live.”

What do you want from our union? The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of NDU’s national affiliates, has rolled out a campaign of Reclaiming the Promise of … quality public services, public education and health care. The members of our union provide quality services that are used by our families, friends and neighbors, each and every day. We, as public employees, higher education faculty and staff, and teachers and educational support staff, should be proud of the work we do, and our work should be respected. I’m proud to be a member of the AFT, NEA, NDU and the North Dakota Public Employees, because it is through our collective voice and action that we have the power to ensure justice, fairness and opportunity for our union and community members. Unions have been under attack from corporate-backed politicians in many state legislatures and in the courts, where the right for public employee unions to represent employees is being threatened. Strength of a union is achieved through the activism and engagement of its members. Are you engaged? Do you want to become more active? Your union wants to know the issues that are important to you, what activities you would like to participate in, and how we can make your career as a public servant more fulfilling. As part of AFT’s 100th birthday, the AFT Executive Council passed a resolution that set the goal of reaching out and having one-on-one conversations with its 1.6 million members over the next two years to strengthen its bond with its members. Members must realize that they are the union, and through their collective determination the union will fight the obstacles we face and achieve our aspirations. As an activist member of North Dakota Public Employees, I hope to have many conversations with the members of NDU at their worksite, their homes or in the local coffee shop. As members of NDU, we all have a responsibility to talk to our fellow members about what we the workers want from our union. The union is its members, who through a collective voice advocate for our shared values within the communities in which we live. Your engagement in your union can be what you want it to be, including attending a professional development session, participating in a political campaign, or attending a local meeting, to name just a few. I hope you will join me and other activists of NDU in having a one-on-one conversation with a fellow NDU member or potential member about their shared values, what they would like from their union, and how they can become an engaged member of their union and the community advocating for quality public services, quality public education, and dignity and respect for all.


ND United Voices


Education Perspectives

They inspire children, and foster their intelligence and individual traits to affect the future Another school year is about to begin! Negotiations are complete, roles are assigned, professional development classes have been completed and reviewed for application in the classroom, and now you begin the task of establishing your classroom. Why do you do this? Why are you going back? Why do you want to be a teacher? These are questions I ask myself every year. When the reasons for teaching becomes blurred and unfocused, I believe it would be then that I could consider another place to spend my energy. The first reason that I feel compelled to be in the classroom is the contribution to the future. Teachers inspire children, and foster their intelligence and individual traits to affect the future. Getting to witness the “ah-ha” moments when the student realizes they have moved into a higher level of understanding and then the excitement to keep moving forward is very rewarding. I truly enjoy spending my day with kids. No two days are the same, and most days I learn just as much from them as I am hoping they learn from me. Each day holds success and failures that allow us to grow as a person. My students keep me from growing old and taking life too seriously. I could tell you stories! Working with a group of people that share common interests also adds to the excitement of being a teacher. Walking into a room filled with educators sharing excited conversation and heartfelt laughter helps keep me refreshed and ready to try new strategies. Getting involved in association activities and professional-growth conferences has introduced me to some of the kindest, most compassionate and inspirational people. The empathy and ground-building attitudes for working towards quality futures for our students is energizing. Educators sacrifice everything from personal family time to finances to make sure students are accommodated. Presentations made to lawmakers and local school boards add to the role educators take on to meet the needs of students.

By Karen Christensen Vice President of Education

Getting to witness the ‘ah-ha’ moments when the student realizes they have moved into a higher level of understanding and then the excitement to keep moving forward is very rewarding.”

Educators need to prepare students for successful lives while preparing for successful careers. Of course this career choice comes with the question, “Why would you be a teacher with what they make?” Taylor Mali responds best with, “I make a difference. What do you make?” I believe in education and the people that are involved as educators and support staff. Being a professional means getting involved in what shapes the career you have chosen. The first step in doing that is joining your union. The second step is being actively involved. NDU unifies the voice of the profession and works towards guiding lawmakers to do what is right for the students we serve. ND United develops professional opportunities to inform members of issues that threaten the quality and progression of educational opportunities for our future citizens. Taking part in activities such as the NDU Instructional Conference is a professional responsibility that allows for statewide sharing of experiences, challenges and successes. I look forward to seeing you at the Instructional Conference on Oct. 22-23. I wish you all the success and pride that comes with working with your students. “I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.”---John Wooden


By becoming a member of North Dakota United, the state’s largest and most effective union of public educators and employees, you are uniting yourself with more than 11,000 public workers across the state of North Dakota. Additionally, you are affiliated with over 4.7 million combined members of our two national affiliates, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Those numbers add up. The foremost benefit of your membership in North Dakota United is the benefit of association. You benefit from your combined power, at the negotiating table with school boards, in the halls of the state Legislature, and in every decision that elected officials and administrators make in determining your pay, benefits and terms of employment. You benefit from the combined resources available to you through your association, including expert assistance in negotiations, public relations and legal matters; scholarships and grants available to members and their families; professional development opportunities; and insurance programs, including fullcoverage liability protection. You also benefit from your combined buying power, with discounts on insurance, health care, legal and financial services, travel, entertainment and shopping. The U in in NDU stands for United. Our union of professionals in public education and public services, of 11,000 public workers, is our greatest asset and the power available to you as a member.

You are the U in NDU. You are United. 8

ND United Voices


Your voice is your power. In the classroom, at your worksite, on university campus – your voice is your best tool in your toolbox for advocating for yourself and your profession. By joining North Dakota United, your voice becomes more powerful. Your voice is amplified to the tune of more than 11,000 members of NDU across the state, and 4.7 million combined members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). That’s a strong voice, and a noise that cannot be tuned out. Your concerns are more easily heard at your workplace when they are echoed by a majority of your co-workers. A person may ignore the concern of one, but he or she cannot ignore the will of the majority. Through NDU, we are able to organize all of our many voices into one powerful sound, and amplify its effect.

ADVOCACY By joining North Dakota United, your voice combines with more than 11,0 00 other members to create a powerful noise and a potent force in advocating for the interests of our members. NDU lobbies in the state Legislature for quality public education and great public services for every North Dakotan. We collectively act in pursuit of our organization’s goals, for fair compensation for workers, for collective bargaining rights, retirement and health care benefits, tenure rights and academic freedom.


Sometimes you just need to talk. As a member of North Dakota United, you are always just a phone call away from professional assistance from the expert staff of NDU on matters big and small. If you or your local needs assistance with negotiations, communication, public relations, professional development, event planning or fiduciary responsibilities, simply call the NDU Help Center at 701-223-0450 or e-mail, and you will have access to a staff member dedicated to assisting you in any way possible.


As a union of professionals across the entire public sector, we take pride in the work we do, and the experience and knowledge we have to offer. Our members regularly seek out professional development opportunities, in order to better understand their

jobs and how to do them better. North Dakota United is proud to offer our members those opportunities. NDU regularly hosts workshops and conferences across the state of North Dakota, and brings in experts from the field to speak to, and work with, our members in attendance. NDU hosts statewide conferences and our Delegate Assembly, for all of our classifications of workers to work together and learn from one another on what it is to be a great public worker and a great union member. Our staff tours the state all year long, presenting workshops on topics such as retirement-planning, member advocacy, political action, local communications and workplace bullying. Outside of N.D., our members attend trainings and conventions of our two international affiliates, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. All of these professional development opportunities are available to any of our members who are interested in participating. NDU offers financial assistance to our members for all associated costs.

SCHOLARSHIPS & GRANTS Members of North Dakota United are eligible to apply for numerous college scholarships and grants, through the NDU Foundation and our partnerships with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. It is our association’s goal to “sow seeds of the future” and nourish the developing minds of our students, and to engage the ideas of our professionals to enrich their own minds, and give back what they have learned to our state’s citizens. These scholarships are an investment into the future of our organization, and into our communities, as we are able to open doors and grant access to higher education for our future leaders.


All of our public educators and employees are vulnerable to litigation. Workers are taken to court over accidents on the job, or may seek legal remedy after being improperly disciplined or terminated. Our local associations have taken administrators through the legal system, all the way to the N.D. Supreme Court, over abuse of power. Through membership in North Dakota United, you will have access to legal services from the state’s best-practiced, mostknowledgeable attorney in the arenas of education and labor law, Michael Geiermann, and his firm, Schulz, Geiermann, Bergeson and Gular Law Offices. 9


Performing the important duties required of your job can leave you vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances. You need protection for when the worst happens to you. Membership in North Dakota United provides you with that protection. Through your membership, you are enrolled into our association’s Educators Employment Liability Program. This plan is a professional liability insurance program that is provided by NEA as a benefit of membership in NDU. Your Educators Employment Liability (EEL) Program covers payment of court-ordered civil liability up to $1 million, payment of legal costs up to $3 million per member per occurrence, attorney fees for the defense of criminal proceedings up to $35,000 if you are charged with violating a criminal statute in the course of your employment as an educator and you are exonerated from the charges, bail bond reimbursement up to $1,000, and assault-related personal property benefit.


By combining the collective buying power of our large number of members statewide in North Dakota United, and with the millions of our fellow members of our two affiliated international unions – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – we are able to secure an enormous amount of savings programs for our members, to save money on the costs of insurance, classroom supplies, telephone services, entertainment, hotels, travel, car rental, new and used vehicles, restaurants, appliances, clothes, and on and on. If it’s a product you regularly buy, there’s probably a discount available to you, through membership in NDU.


Why not control your paycheck and earn interest on your money? NDU’s Dues Credit Trust has been helping members since 1981 develop better budgeting techniques and giving them an opportunity to earn interest on their salary. The interest they earn is generally higher than what an individual can earn because of the “investing power” of NDU members joining together to reach a common goal – earning a higher rate of return on their salary while balancing their paycheck over 12 months. A participant whose salary is taken on a nine-month basis can invest a portion of each check in the Dues Credit Trust Program. The Trust will then deposit three electronic checks into the member’s bank account during the summer months. The program offers a great deal of individual flexibility.


Through a long-standing partnership with our union, Horace Mann Insurance Companies offer Educated Financial Solutions to all of our NDU members. As a member of our union, you can receive discounts and member-only coverage on your home and auto insurance. Horace Mann agents are specially trained to offer 403-B tax deferred investment opportunities designed to work with your Teachers Fund for Retirement or Public Employees Retirement System benefits.


As part of the effort to assist with the recruitment of Association members, North Dakota United is offering a $50 incentive payment for enrolling your colleagues as new NDU members. To be considered an eligible new member, the person must not have been an NDU member in the past 12 months. The $50 will be paid directly to the “recruiter” who signs the membership enrollment form.


ND United Voices


“If you want to be part of a vital organization, join it and lend your voice to it.” Tom Young, vocal music teacher at Red River High School and member of North Dakota United

“Becoming a member of NDU, I have a hand in my growth, in my own contract, in my own salary. I have a say in where my future is going.” Nancy Ost, first-grade teacher for Jefferson Elementary School and North Dakota United member

“Because NDU sat beside me, I got a fair hearing for tenure through the administration. And it was in that moment that I realized the value of a union.” Rob Walsh, assistant professor of communications at Valley City State University and North Dakota United member


HELPLINE ASSISTANCE “One good thing about the organization is that if you have an issue, there’s someone that you can call and be an advocate for you.” Paula Cruz, paraprofessional at Nedrose School in Minot and North Dakota United member

“The staff at NDU have been phenomenal. Every time we had a question, they were right there for us.” Kathy Lentz, fifth grade teacher at Washington Elementary School and North Dakota United member


“One of the classes I took this year at the NEA ESP Convention dealt with special education. I enjoy meeting people from all over the country and listening to their stories, which are similar to our stories.” Julie LaFrance, special education paraprofessional at Minot Public Schools and North Dakota United member “I get benefits in my personal life, as well as my professional life, when I go to the trainings that are offered. They are extremely beneficial to me.” Heidi Schostek, paraprofessional for Dickinson High School and North Dakota United member “I attended the Higher Ed Conference, and it was just great to have an organized place for faculty from all over the state to get together.” Dr. Kjersten Nelson, assistant professor of political science at North Dakota State University and North Dakota United member


“NDU sent me to San Antonio, Texas, for the Women and Minority Leadership Training. All of that energy and creativity in one room was a really humbling experience.” Rebecca Maloney, music teacher at Mary Stark Elementary School in Mandan and North Dakota United member

LEGAL ASSISTANCE “I knew that I needed to be a member of an association, so I was protected from some of the serious situations that could come along at any time.” Jerlyn Gabrielson, second-grade teacher for Flasher Elementary School and member of North Dakota United

LIABILITY INSURANCE “Being a paraprofessional in a classroom with emotionally disturbed students, the best way that I could find to protect myself and the students was to become part of the association.” Audrey Haskell, school manager at Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Grand Forks and member of North Dakota United

MEMBER DISCOUNTS “We went to Disney World, and used the Disney World discount. It’s not the main reason for why I joined the union, but it’s a nice side perk.” Dr. Deb Dragseth, professor of business at Dickinson State University and North Dakota United member


“Both my husband and I are members, and so we are able to get a very nice rate on our insurance through Horace Mann. They are knowledgeable, efficient and provide fantastic customer service.” Amber Augustadt, music specialist at Northridge Elementary School in Bismarck and North Dakota United member ND United Voices

Instructional 20

Conference 15

Held in 2 Cities Over 2 Days Mandan and West Fargo

Oct. 22nd and 23rd

Watch for More Information and Registration at

Professional Development

Member Rights Advocacy



Patricia Lopez


Student delegates attending the NEA Student Representative Assembly are, from bottom to top: Cheryl Mortezaee, Malia Salyards, Patricia Lopez, Aubrey Moen, Erin Olsen, Emily Pfeifer, United and MinotND Advisor Dan Voices Conn


Former Student NDU president says being around powerful educators inspired her to get her degree By Linda Harsche, NDU Communications

One of the first things on Lopez’s agenda is joining North Dakota United this fall. ‘ I want the experience of being an active member of all three associations.’”

How many student members of ND United do you think would choose to spend what little money they have, vacationing at the National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA)? If you’ve ever been, you know what a grueling job the RA can sometimes be for a delegate, but it can also be a life-changing experience. Well, former Student NDU President Patricia Lopez decided to go for that life-changing experience one more time this summer and pay her own way to the NEA RA in Orlando. “Even if the RA is long sometimes, it’s really good to see the passion educators have for their profession,” she said. Lopez was not able to be a delegate to the RA in Orlando, because she was in between graduating from college and getting her first job. After attending two other Assemblies in Atlanta and Denver, she decided she wanted to go again this year, even though she would not have the delegate status. Not being a delegate meant that Lopez was not required to attend the 7:00 a.m. state caucus meeting each morning or sit on the floor of the Assembly from 10:00 a.m. until well after 6:00 p.m. each day … but she did all of that and more. During the RA, Lopez helped with the Legacy Project in Orlando, which consisted of putting in a garden between two school buildings. “We put in fresh dirt and plants,” said Lopez. “Now the students will be eating all the vegetables and other things we planted this fall. It’s exciting knowing you’re doing something productive for others.” Lopez did two other Out-Reach-to-Teach projects at RAs in Atlanta and Denver. “In Atlanta, we painted a school library,” she said. “Two of the students got my telephone number, and they each sent me a voicemail, telling me how happy they were that I came to help them out. In Denver, I was a team leader. I was able to help the organization of the project flow, which was a lot of fun.” Born in Austin, Tex., but growing up in the small town of Clarissa, Minn., Lopez chose Mayville State University to get her degree. “It was small, which I was used to after growing up in a small town,” said Lopez, “and it felt like a second home. I was comfortable with the people right away.”

The hard choice for Lopez was deciding which area she would like to teach. “I chose ninth- through 12th-grade English because I want to have deep conversations with my students about books and life skills,” she said. Lopez graduated from Mayville in four years. “A lot of people didn’t think I could do it, but I did,” she said. “I’m very proud.” According to Lopez, she was able to serve as Vice President and President of the SNDU because she’s really good at putting a lot on her plate and then figuring it out later. “If I couldn’t get something done, it was great to have student organizers to help,” she said. “Many times I was in Bismarck late at night, doing homework and then up early doing stuff for the student program.” By being in SNDU, Lopez said she was able to feel her passion for education. “I was always surrounded by such powerful educators who really loved what they did,” she said. “That really inspired me to get my education degree and begin teaching.” On the national level, Lopez knows former NEA Student President David Tjaden and current President Chelsey Herrig. “It kind of crazy that I know such important people,” she said. “But, I don’t just know who they are, I am able to talk to them one on one … we’re friends. I’m able to make a difference even though I’m from a little town in Minnesota and went to a small college in North Dakota.” This fall, Lopez will be teaching 7-12th grade English in Towner, which is part of the TGU (Towner, Grandville and Upham). “Upham doesn’t have a school,” said Lopez, “but both Towner and Grandville have grades K-12.” One of the first things on Lopez’s agenda is joining North Dakota United this fall. “I want the experience of being an active member of all three associations,” she said. “It will be different because I’ll be on the side of the Association where the policies affect me. I’ll be an educator instead of a future educator.” You can follow Lopez’s first year of teaching on her blog at


North Dakota delegates take an unofficial photo at the NEA Representative Assembly (RA) in Orlando, FL this summer. In fact, they got photo bombed by Wyoming Executive Director Ron Sniffin, who is holding up the circle in the back row.

17 ND UNITED DELEGATES ATTEND THE NEA RA It’s one of the most exciting, fulfilling and empowering times of your life! NEA Director Report by Karen Askerooth

I’d like to give a big, thank you, to the other 16 delegates who participated in RA 2015 and remember ‘YOU are the U in NDU.’”

Seventeen delegates from North Dakota United, along with more than 7,000 educators from all 50 states, gathered in Orlando, Fla., from July 3-6 to attend the National Education Association’s 94th Representative Assembly (RA). Delegates from ND United included: President Nick Archuleta of Bismarck; Vice President of Education Karen Christensen of Wishek; NEA Director Karen Askerooth of Valley City; Stacy Adamson, Deb Beeler and Lisa Dullum of West Fargo; Amber Augustad and Toni Gumeringer of Bismarck; Alicia Bata of Adams; Danielle Borseth of Mandan; SNDU members Cheryl Mortezaee and Malia Salyards of Minot State University; Retired Nancy Peterson of West Fargo, Brooklyn Schann of Underwood; Brenda Seehafer of Rolla; Tim Thuesen of Solen; and Tom Young of Grand Forks. Staff members attending were NDU Executive Director Chad Oban and Communications Director Linda Harsche. ND United delegates along with other merged states tried to repeal a Constitutional Amendment for the allocation of delegate credentials to state affiliates, dual-national state affiliates, and dual national local affiliates, which are now proportionately adjusted. The repeal of the Constitutional Amendment failed to pass the Assembly. 16

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NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia presides over her first RA.

NEA Director Karen Askerooth of Valley City (blonde with red top on in front row) sings in the NEA Choir on July 4th.

Delegates listen intently as NDU Retired Member Nancy Peterson speaks at the microphone during the Teachers of the Northern Tier (TNT) Candidate Forum.

NDU President Nick Archuleta takes the microphone to speak before the over 7,000 delegates at the RA.

The RA is the top decision-making body for the nearly three million-member NEA, and sets Association policy for the coming year. Embracing the meeting’s theme – “NEA: Unite. Inspire. Lead.” – delegates tackled complex issues with far-reaching implications for the profession, from the future of testing to equity in education. This RA conducted 150 debates, but the abuse of “points of information” slowed the process of moving on RA business. NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia showed tremendous poise as chair of her first RA, and was able to conclude all business before 8 p.m. on July 6. Delegates passed two high-profile New Business Items (NBIs) supporting the recommendations of the NEA Task Force on Accountability, which recently released its report, “A New Vision for Student Success.” In the report, the 19-member Task Force addressed issues that the current narrow focus on testing overlooked, including equity and access, and explained how shared responsibility for our educational system will best serve students. NDU delegate Lisa Dullum of West Fargo presented a new business item to the NDU delegation, which brought New Business Item 73 to the RA floor. The New Business Item passed

as amended. NEA will explore increasing the reimbursement for attorney fees for the defense of criminal proceedings from up to $35,000 to up to $300,000. “By passing this NBI, the delegates recognized that we can’t do this important work alone,” said NEA Vice President Becky Pringle. “We must partner with other education, parent and community stakeholders; we must work shoulder-to-shoulder or we won’t be successful in realizing our vision.” RA delegates also approved an NBI that addresses issues of institutional racism. The measure calls for a coalition of partners to work together to eradicate policies that perpetuate institutional racism in education and expand educator-led professional development in areas of cultural competence, diversity and social justice. The indispensable role that educators play in forging progress on these fronts was a recurring theme in many of the speeches delivered at the RA. “Whatever journey brought you to this room, your hearts are wrapped around your students. From the very beginning, 17

our mission has never changed: we wake up every day set on doing whatever we can to ensure that our students have every opportunity to learn, to grow, to succeed,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and Paula A. Kerger, president and chief executive officer of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The two organizations were cited for being an undeniable and critical resource in public education.

If there is one thing you can count on at an RA, it’s speeches, and this year was no different. Delegates heard from President Eskelsen Garcia. Both the Teacher and ESP of the Year gave speeches. NEA also gave out an award to the Social Justice Educator of the year and the Friend of Education Award. You can find all of these speeches in full at In her keynote address, Eskelsen García congratulated educators everywhere for their relentless advocacy in helping shape a better Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently in Conference Committee after different versions passed both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

Two educators from the Midwest were elected to serve three-year terms as NEA Executive Committee members: Eric Brown, a biology teacher at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, and Shelly Moore, a high school teacher from Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Brown serves as president of the Evanston High School Teachers Council, as well as on the Board of Directors of both the Illinois Education Association and NEA. Moore is a member of the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Education Association Council and served on NEA’s Board of Directors for six years.

“A minor miracle occurred because of you. We demanded an end to the toxic testing produced by AYP that limits what it means to teach and what it means to learn to what fits on a standardized test. We told your senators: Replace that failed one-size-fits-all bubble sheet with a dashboard of multiple indicators of success,” Eskelsen García said.

Next Year’s NEA RA is scheduled for Washington, D.C. Mark your calendars to become involved in one of the most exciting, fulfilling and empowering times of your life! I’d like to give a big, thank you, to the other 16 delegates who participated in RA 2015 and remember “YOU are the U in NDU.”

NEA Executive Director John Stocks told delegates that educators are part of a “New American Majority” that is demanding action on a wide range of economic and social justice issues. “This movement is fueled by growing income inequality, the scourge of racial injustice, attacks on our voting rights, a political system rigged to benefit the wealthy and powerful, the corporate takeover of our public school system and the threat of global climate change,” Stocks said. 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples also addressed the delegates, encouraging her colleagues to “do battle with stories” by being the voice and champions of their students. “Our critics love clichés, simplistic slogans and manipulated data,” said Peeples. “This is how they attack, and the good news is the utter banality of those attacks. Stories are different. There is no defense against a good story. … I contend that we advocate best for our students and our profession when we are brave enough to tell our stories.”

From left, Brenda Seehafer of Rolla, Tom Young of Grand Forks and Toni Gumeringer of Bismarck attend the (TNT) Forum.

In her speech, 2015 Education Support Professional of the Year Janet Eberhardt reminded delegates that effective advocacy depends on all educators working together. “It’s easy to say that some fights are for teachers and some are for ESPs. But all of these issues impact our students and our communities, so we must be a united front for our students and public schools,” Eberhardt said. The RA also honored Jose Lara, a social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex High School in Los Angeles, as Social Justice Educator of the Year. The NEA Friend of Education Award was given to Patricia de Stacy Harrison, president and chief executive officer of the 18

Delegates are hard at work on New Business Items on the RA Floor. ND United Voices


You’re Invited




ESP Conference at a Glance

Friday, September 25th

The 2015 ESP State Conference is an opportunity for Education Support Professionals from across the state to meet, learn, and share with others common interests and work-related issues.

Social at the Ramada Inn

The conference will provide important information about membership, stress relief, and leadership opportunities. The conference will begin on Friday evening with a social from 7:30-9:30. Please join us for food and friendship in a relaxing setting. Registration and breakfast will be available from 7:45-8:30 Saturday morning. The conference will follow from 8:30-3:30 and will cover a wide variety of topics. The luncheon on Saturday will include great food, reports, and the announcement of the 2015-16 ESP of the Year Award. North Dakota United would like to extend an invitation to all ESP/PSRP for this important learning and sharing experience.


Group dinner – ESP Advisory Committee

Saturday, September 26th Stress Relief - Chair massage Kelly Kruse- Massage Therapist Gary Rath- NDU CFO Welcome/Introductions Nick Archuleta, NDU President and Karen Christensen, NDU Vice President Message/Comments Chad Oban- NDU Executive Director “True Colors” Jane Rupprecht - UniServ “My student attacked me – what are my rights?” Mike Geiermann – NDU Attorney ESP of the Year Award Presentation “Stickin’ with the Union” – Union History Stuart Savelkoul – NDU Assistant Executive Director “Advocacy Boot Camp” Heidi Schostek –NDU Member “How to Bridge the Gap” group discussion


From left to right: Fargo President David Marquardt, former Fargo President Kim Belgarde, NDU President Nick Archuleta, Grand Forks President Tom Young and West Fargo President Lisa Dullum enjoy the St. Benedict Library while waiting for the television ad film crew.


ND United and Education Minnesota produce TV ads By Linda Harsche, NDU Communications NDU President Nick Archuleta and Education Minnesota President Denise Specht were responsible for getting the joint Back-to-School television ad produced along with their board of directors.

North Dakota United, in a joint effort with Education Minnesota, produced television spots this summer in St. Cloud, MN. These spots, which will start airing in eastern North Dakota Aug. 17-Sept. 6, 2015, evolved from a conversation between NDU President Nick Archuleta and Education Minnesota President Denise Specht at a national meeting, and they decided to share both states’ expertise and money in order to produce the spots. On Aug. 2, 2015, Archuleta, along with Fargo Education Association President David Marquardt, former Fargo Education Association, President Kim Belgarde, West Fargo Education Association President Lisa Dullum, and Grand Forks Education Association President Tom Young, spent a day on the road in order to get to St. Benedict’s University outside of St. Cloud, where Education Minnesota was having their Summer Conference and the filming of the joint ad was taking place.

Lisa Dullum gets makeup applied before the ad shoot.

Once arriving at St. Benedict’s for the shoot, Marquardt, Belgarde, Dullum and Young each got treated like professionals, with makeup being applied and hair styled to perfection. Talented educators became talented actors. NDU will have unlimited rights to use the ad on social media, other online uses, trainings, etc. And, there will be no discernible time stamp on the faces using existing b-roll. Teacher’s faces on camera are interspersed with student video. Check out the ad at or at

Tom Young is given directions on where to stand and how to say his lines.


ND United Voices

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF IN WILLISTON Middle school teachers compensated additional one-seventh of salary By Linda Harsche, NDU Communications

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. In 1992, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the Williston School District had to pay extra compensation for teachers who taught an extra class in high school for the 1990-91 school year. In 2012, the Williston School District did the same thing to Williston Middle School teachers and now have to pay them one-seventh of their salary as they were required to teach an extra class. Back in August, the Williston Education Association (WEA) won a judgement against the Williston School District (WSB) regarding paying middle school teachers who gave up their prep period for the 2012-13 school year to teach an extra content class. They will be compensated for an additional one-seventh of their salary for the sixth class period. In June of 2011, the WEA and the District agreed to a two-year negotiated agreement. The agreement provided for extra compensation for teaching a sixth class period. Specifically, it stated: “A 7-8 grade teacher who consents to be assigned more than six (6) class periods shall receive 1/7th of his/her scheduled salary for a seventh period class.”

I believe the court clearly recognized the similarities between the two cases. History really did repeat itself.”

Teachers who accepted those contract offers by the District for the 2011-12 school year and who were assigned to Williston Middle School had a schedule that included five content class periods, a prep period, a team-time period, and a prime-time period. The prime-time period was the first class period in the morning. This period was a studentcontact period, had a curriculum and required teachers to prepare. The period was 40 minutes long. Prior to the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, three teachers at Williston Middle School agreed to teach an additional class period instead of having a prep/planning period. Those teachers taught six periods and were paid an additional one-seventh of their teaching salary. “By paying these three teachers, the district established the past practice of paying teachers extra salary for an extra class period,” said NDU Attorney Mike Geiermann. Because of increased enrollment, the next school year all Williston Middle School teachers were assigned an additional class period. However, the district chose not to pay any extra compensation for the extra class period. WEA believed this violated the negotiated agreement and requested legal assistance from NDU. In ruling in favor of the WEA, the court determined the District had breached the negotiated agreement by failing to pay extra compensation for the extra class period as provided in the negotiated agreement. NDU Attorney Geiermann argued to the court that the case facing the Williston Middle School teachers was almost identical to the situation that occurred 23 years earlier at Williston High school.” The court agreed and wrote that the 1992 WEA case was “eerily similar” to the case before the court. “I believe the court clearly recognized the similarities between the two cases,” said Geiermann. “History really did repeat itself.”


Member Profile

Fifth grade teacher Alex Schmaltz, stands in the Velva Public School library.

THRIVING IN VELVA Hometown son sets a standard for new teachers By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

Spoiler alert: If you’re starting fifth grade in Velva, N.D., this fall, expect to get a big assignment in English right off the bat.

to learn the responsibility that comes with juggling all of the challenges that life throws at us.

“At the beginning of the year, I throw a three- or two-page paper at the students, as fifth graders, right away,” said Alex Schmaltz, a fifth-grade teacher for Velva Public School and NDU member. “They’re just astonished because they’ve never written more than a page, ever. And I do that on purpose, because I like to see how they react to it at the beginning of the year. Do they look at it, roll their eyes and say, ‘Aw, I don’t want to do this’? Or do they go, ‘Oh! I can write about this!’ because now they know how to organize it. Now they know about the tools they have in their toolbox in order to get over that hurdle and succeed.”

“In fifth grade, that’s when you start seeing that transition,” Schmaltz said. “You start seeing the transition from a very teacher-led classroom to now giving those students more power. It’s a transition for these kids. It really is. Organizational skills are a huge thing that we have to go through with in fifth grade. Just understanding that you now are going to be responsible for your education as a fifth-grade student. … Once you get to that seventh grade, you’re not necessarily on your own, but a lot of the work and a lot of the responsibility is put on these kids. We’re their last-ditch effort to teach them those types of skills.”

Organization and time management are the keys to Schmaltz’s philosophy on teaching. As he sees it, fifth grade happens at the point in every child’s development where they are beginning

Schmaltz said that teaching in a small school system like Velva affords him the opportunity to get to know his students, as well as their families and the situations that they live with at home. “If


ND United Voices

a student comes to school that day and he’s really tired, you get to understand that he’s the one who’s been watching his brother and sister at home all night, giving them supper, putting them to bed while Mom and Dad are working two jobs,” Schmaltz said. “You get to understand that. Getting that math assignment, that 20-problem math assignment, yes, that education is still important, but on the same side you know the reasons: It wasn’t that he was playing video games all night, but that he had other responsibilities.” Schmaltz knows the students and families of Velva so well because of his experiences in teaching there for the last four years, but also because he was raised in Velva. “I grew up here,” he said. “I’ve been in the Velva school practically my whole life. I played sports through here, football and wrestling. Basically I went to Minot State University, and I took one year away from Velva, and then I came back as a coach for wrestling. So I’ve been coaching here for 7-8 years. And once a teaching position came open after I graduated, I wasted no time in getting back here, into this school.” Schmaltz has known some of his co-workers going back to when they taught him in school, but one teacher in Velva he knows particularly well. Schmaltz now works alongside his mom, Peggy Schmaltz, a long-time Title Reading teacher at Velva Public Schools. “She’s taught here … oh, quite a number of years, actually. She still teaches here now. So now she goes from one of my teachers to one of my co-workers.” Even as a young teacher, with four years of teaching under his belt, Schmaltz is seen as a leader in his community, in the classroom and among his fellow teachers and support staff at Velva. He has that certain quality that draws people’s attention to him immediately, according to Jane Rupprecht, NDU UniServ Director and a former teacher at Velva.

that if I took on the presidency, normally it goes hand-in-hand with the chief negotiator, as well. So they nominated me into that, and a week after that was my first phone call to Jane to say, OK, where are we at? How are we going to do this?” Schmaltz was at the table this year for a particularly rough round of negotiating, which ultimately ended in impasse. Schmaltz said the teachers stood strong on raising the base salary to a level that would attract new teachers to the district, and improving the conditions of working to the level that the teachers they have on staff can be retaining. “That was kind of the big thing with our negotiations this year was we’ve had quite a bit of teacher turnover,” Schmaltz said. “It is our first- and second-year teachers out of college who are coming to Velva, and then they’re ending up leaving, and we’re not understanding exactly why. Of course, salary is always going to be a big issue to that, and I think a lot of that is the unstable environment we’ve had here in Velva.” As Schmaltz enters his fifth year teaching fifth grade in his hometown, Schmaltz said he’s proud of the work he has done and the example he has set. You can go home again, and you can make your mark and serve as an example of the great good that a young teacher can do for students in a smaller community. All they have to do … is survive. “We’ve always been taught that you need to survive your first one or two years … and the third year, you need to thrive,” Schmaltz said. “By the third year, you should be comfortable enough in the position you’re in, in order to make an impact and make an influence on it. You need to survive those first two years, take all the knowledge that you possibly can, and then in that third year, that’s when you start shining and that’s when you show the district, that’s when you show the community and you show those kids what type of teacher you can be.”

“Alex was serious about school and worked hard,” Rupprecht said. “Even as a student, he was a leader in his class and in school organizations. He was and is a Renaissance man – talented in the arts and an outstanding athlete. He is an advocate for his students and his colleagues.” It was that leadership quality in Schmaltz that afforded him the opportunity to serve as the President of the Velva Education Association in only his second year of teaching. “At the beginning of the year, we were looking for a union president,” Shmaltz said. “One of the older teachers who had me in class was the one who nominated me for this position, knowing full well that it was a negotiating year for us as well. So I understood


Communications Corner

THE POWER OF HELLO Communicate with prospective and current members of NDU Welcome to another school year! As the father to a new kindergartner this year, I’m being personally introduced to how school works, at a parental level. It’s interesting. I’m trying to do my best to prepare my daughter to this new experience, because I don’t want it to take her by complete surprise. Like it did for me. By Kelly Hagen Director of Field Communications

I don’t remember a whole lot about my first day in kindergarten. I know it was in Wilton, because I’m always very attuned into where I am, geographically. I know my twin brother was there, too, because he looks a lot like me and that’s not the sort of thing you forget. I remember there being an opportunity for napping. And I remember crying. A lot. I’m very sensitive, you see. I hadn’t ever been left anywhere on my own before, without my parents. Sure, my brother was there, but he’s not a lot of help ever, especially not as a kindergartener. He was helpless, and so was I. I didn’t know what to do. This isn’t a knock on my parents. More than likely, they did their best to prepare me for kindergarten. They probably mentioned it to me numerous times in the days, months and/or years leading up to me starting my school years. They likely dropped it into conversation here and there, “Say, boy, if you like that macaroni and cheese


ND United Voices

you’re shoving into your mouth like a glutton, you’re going to love kindergarten, which you’re starting in a week. I don’t feel like you’re grasping what I’m telling you, nor that you’re chewing your food properly right now.” … But I’ve never been a great listener. I hated it. I screamed and cried and didn’t nap. The last thing I remember of that day was sabotaging our alarm clock that night, so it wouldn’t go off and, I surmised, we wouldn’t ever have to go back to that place again. We were late to my second day of kindergarten. It was awkward. What I wish I would have known to do that day was this: Say hello. Just walk up to someone and say, “Hello. My name is Kelly. What’s your name?” I’m making up for that lost opportunity now. Hello. My name is Kelly. What’s your name? I’m part of the communications staff for North Dakota United. So communicating is kind of important in my daily life, now. And that word, “hello” … you’d be surprised at how many different ways there are to say it. But the word is less important than the concept. You get people’s attention; you introduce yourself to them. It’s a new year for most of our NDU members, with the start of the new school year for K-12 teachers and school support staff, and for university faculty and staff. And, though it may not be the start of a year for our public employees, it is a new opportunity

right now for all of us, to get people’s attention and do that thing I wish I’d done all those many years ago in the kindergarten room at Wilton Public School: Say hello. Say hello to a new teacher or colleague at your worksite. Say hello to someone you’ve never talked to before. Say hello to someone you know pretty well. Say hello, exchange names, ask them how they’re doing. Make small talk. Communicate. Somewhere in your talk, ask them the question. I know it’s not always easy; I’ve been there. But it’s a perfectly good question. It is: Are you a member of North Dakota United? If their answer is no, then the follow-up is this: Would you like to be? To prepare yourself for the follow-up conversation, which comes after “hello,” we’ve included some really good information on the benefits of membership in NDU inside this magazine. Please feel free to borrow from what you read, or even pass a copy of this magazine onto a colleague who may be thinking about joining. You are uniquely qualified, though, as a member of North Dakota United, for answering the questions about why someone should join. Why did U join? How do U use your membership? Why do U think they should join, too? Remember that you are the U in NDU, and the conversation will flow nicely from there. But it starts with a hello.


NDU member Cathy Halguseth, third from left, poses for a picture with Hilary Clinton and the AFT interview team at AFT headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A PART OF HISTORY NDU member interviews candidates for U.S. president By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

The campaign for the presidential election in 2016 is off and running, as you have probably noticed by now. Seventeen candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the Republican Party nomination, while five are pursuing the Democratic Party nomination. The two major political parties in the U.S. will select their nominees for president at their respective national conventions in July of 2016, after every state has thrown in its selections made through primary votes and caucuses, and a consensus winner has been selected. Influential citizens and groups within the U.S. are free to endorse their preferred candidate in an election at any time they see fit. This includes labor unions, and so the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) made headlines in July for announcing their endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the office of presidency, very early into the primary process. 26

ND United Voices

“Our voice will help determine who becomes the next president of the United States,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in her keynote speech to the AFT TEACH Conference, in Washington, D.C., on July 13. “Our endorsement is decided in two phases. For the primaries, the AFT executive council, which is elected by the convention, makes endorsement recommendations. For the general election, our convention chooses our candidate.” To decide on a candidate to endorse in the primaries, the AFT held town halls with members across the country, received input on its “You Decide” website, took member polls, and then invited every declared candidate from both parties to interview with the AFT executive council and a team of selected members from states across the U.S. And that’s where North Dakota came into the process. Cathy Halgunseth, the chief administrator for the North Dakota Veterans Affairs main office in Fargo and a member of North Dakota United, was selected to serve on the interview team that spoke with the presidential candidates, along with the AFT Executive Council. “It was really short notice,” Halgunseth said. “It was like a Friday that (NDU Vice President) Gary Feist called and asked me, and I was supposed to fly out on Monday. … At first I thought, oh boy, that’s awfully short notice. I don’t know if I can make it. But then I talked to my colleagues, and they said, ‘What do you mean you’re not going to go? You need to go!’ And then I realized that this is an opportunity that probably won’t come by again, so I need to make the most of it.” Halgunseth joined a team of eight “rank-and-file” members from across the U.S. at the AFT headquarters in Washington, D.C. They would interview three of the Democratic candidates for president – Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York; Bernie Sanders, current U.S. Senator from Vermont; and Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Maryland. All of the presidential candidates from both of the major political parties in the U.S. were invited to interview for the AFT’s endorsement, and Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley were the three who responded. The AFT interview team and Executive Council met with each candidate individually, with a block of time reserved so that each candidate could come in, and speak with the large group. Each member of the interview team was allowed to ask a question to one of the candidates. “Mine was Martin O’Malley, so I didn’t have to do anything (during the other candidates’ time) but listen and just take it all in,” Halgunseth said. “They gave the candidates time to speak, and that was really interesting to hear it up-close and even seeing their mannerisms.” Clinton was the first candidate to interview with the AFT team. This meant everyone had to go through a security check by the

Secret Service, which protects the entire Clinton family for life due to Bill Clinton’s time in the White House. “They had the Secret Service guys, and that was a little unnerving to be that close to them,” Halgunseth said. “(They were) talking into their cuffs, and had their little earpieces, so you knew who they were. But they were very polite, very nice, trying to stay in the background. I was afraid, though – I had put a notepad under my chair, and so I reached veeeeeery slowly under my chair to get it.” When O’Malley came in to interview, Halgunseth was selected to ask him a question. “I was able to ask Gov. O’Malley about collective bargaining,” she said, “because in North Dakota, teachers have it but we don’t as public employees. He was very pro-employee, as far as raising everybody up in wages and very supportive of collective bargaining for all the sectors. I was very impressed with him. He was very passionate about it.” Halgunseth said that all three candidates were impressive. O’Malley came across as the most authentic to her. “He’s a very nice gentleman,” she said. “He had a lot of really interesting things to say, so I hope his message gets out there.” Sen. Sanders was “kind of out there,” she said. “He was very forceful in his thinking and in some of his views. His state (Vermont), they’re really behind him. They really, really think highly of him, so they’re hoping he gets his message out there, too.” Clinton was the most polished of the candidates, Halgunseth said. “I know, Hillary Clinton, obviously she has the political experience. But, then again, with all of that comes some baggage, too. And she did make the statement that the other side will be coming after her pretty hard. She’s the one that they’re going to target.” She said she also had concerns about how well Sanders’ ideas will play in middle America, and that O’Malley has some work to do in getting his name out there. “I think this was early in his candidacy, so I know all his aides were taking notes of when he didn’t quite know how to answer or he stumbled a bit on a question. So I’m thinking, over time, he’s going to get to be a little bit more polished.” Halgunseth said that, at the end of the process, the interview team all shared their thoughts on the candidates on video. Those thoughts were considered in the decision process, which ultimately ended in the choice to endorse Clinton in the primary. Halgunseth is thankful for the opportunity to have played a role in the process, and the chance to meet with these candidates for the highest office in our country. “I was nervous, but I was also very excited. Because it’s not often you get to say, ‘Yeah. I met that person. I got to visit with that person, and now they’re president.’ At one point, we had our picture taken and Gov. O’Malley had his hand around my shoulder, and I thought, this jacket, I may not wash it ever again!” 27

The Public Record

Q&A WITH DAVID HUNTER CIO and Executive Director of the North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office

David Hunter

Q: How long have you served on the State Investment Board, and where did you come from — private sector? A: “I have been proud to serve the State Investment Board (SIB) as the Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer of the Retirement and Investment Office (RIO) since Dec. 2, 2013,” said David Hunter. He joined RIO from HSBC where Hunter held the position of Vice President of Pension Investments and Director of Asset Securitization. Prior to HSBC, he was a Senior Vice President in structured finance with Sumitomo Bank Securities and worked at Citibank and Arthur Andersen in Chicago. “Overall, I have about 30 years of professional investment banking, management and accounting experience,” Hunter said. Q: How does the work you do now differ from what you did before? A: Hunter has spent the vast majority of his professional career working with three of the world’s largest banks, and he enjoyed it a great deal, but they were clearly larger and less personal organizations. “In contrast, the Retirement and Investment Office has a much more personal, family feel - which is really nice,” said Hunter. “In recent years, I also found it more difficult to make timely decisions and create positive change in the banking sector due to an increasingly complex regulatory environment. Conversely, I feel that the SIB and our 23 clients maintain a consistent desire to ‘do the right thing’ for our constituents and stake holders. This alignment of interests on major policy decisions allows our great team of professionals at RIO to efficiently work towards our common goals in a straight-forward, timely and diligent manner. I find this environment to be rewarding and empowering since it improves our ability to take advantage of opportunities (or mitigate developing risks) as they arise, which is critical to our success.” Q: What is the State Investment Board? A: According to Hunter, the SIB is responsible for the investment of funds for 12 statutory clients (including the Legacy Fund, PERS, TFFR, Workforce Safety and Insurance and Budget Stabilization Fund) and 11 contractual clients (including pension plans for Job Service of North Dakota and the cities of Bismarck and Grand Forks). “The SIB and RIO work with the governing boards of each of our 23 clients to develop their own investment goals and objectives based on their expected rates of return, liquidity and risk levels,” he said. “The SIB, with assistance from the RIO’s professional staff, then implements the investment strategies for each of our clients based on their client specific investment policies, which contain their asset allocations. Asset allocation decisions have historically represented over 90 percent of the total return of a portfolio.” Q: How often do you meet? A: “The SIB meets 10 times a year, generally on the fourth Friday morning of the month excluding June and December,” said Hunter. Q: What is the makeup of the Board? A: “The SIB consists of eleven members, which include Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley as Chair, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, State Land Commissioner Lance Gaebe, Workforce Safety and Insurance Director designee Cindy Ternes, Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm, three members of the Teachers’ Fund For Retirement (TFFR) Board and three members from the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Board. TFFR Board representatives on the SIB include Mike Gessner, Mel Olson and Rob Lech noting that Mr. Lech also serves as our Parliamentarian, while PERS Board representatives include Yvonne Smith, Tom Trenbeath and Mike Sandal,


ND United Voices

noting that Mr. Sandal also serves as our Vice Chairman. All SIB decisions are based on a majority vote of the board with each member responsible for casting one vote,” he said. Q: Why should North Dakota U members be interested in what’s happening with the State Investment Board? A: “NDU members are likely interested since the SIB is responsible for investing over $4 billion of pension fund assets for TFFR and PERS,” said Hunter. “These investments support the payment of pension benefits to our valued PERS and TFFR beneficiaries, which will likely play an important role in retirement planning.” Q: How much money do you manage? A: “SIB client assets approximate $10.7 billion, as of May 31, 2015,” said Hunter. Q: Who picks the stock that the money is invested in? A: According to Hunter, the SIB externally manages all of its investments, and hires professional investment firms to manage strategies intended to best maximize returns for stated levels of risk within the client policies. The investment firms make the day-to-day decisions on which securities to buy or sell based on investment strategies they are hired to utilize. “RIO staff acts as a “manager of managers” and coordinates the activities of the external investment managers, custodian bank and investment consultant,” said Hunter. “The top 25 firms (investing $50 million or more) include Adams Street Partners, Axiom International, Babson Capital, Brandywine, Callan Associates, Capital Guardian, Clifton Group, Declaration Management, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Epoch International, Grosvenor, INVESCO, JPMorgan, LA Capital, Loomis Sayles, LSV Asset Management, Northern Trust, PIMCO, Prudential, State Street Global Advisors, Timberland Investment Resources, UBS, Vanguard, Wellington Trust and Western Asset Management. Each one of these managers is a specialist in the designated asset class in which they were selected (such as real estate or infrastructure).” Q: What rate of return do you expect and what do you typically get? A: Hunter says investment return expectations vary widely for clients depending upon their respective risk appetite and liquidity requirements. As example, TFFR has a long-term expected return of 7.75 percent while the Budget Stabilization Fund currently has a return expectation of less than 2 percent. “These differences in return expectations are a direct result of each governing body completing a risk assessment and establishing a desired level of liquidity,” he said. “The Budget Stabilization Fund serves as a ‘rainy day’ fund. As a result, this fund is primarily investing in short-term, high quality bonds with a low level of credit risk, but a high degree of liquidity. The return expectation for the Budget Stabilization Fund is substantially lower than the TFFR pension plan, which has an investment horizon of over 30 years and relatively small liquidity needs in the near term (as a percent of total fund assets).” According to Hunter, it is also important to emphasize that most government pension plans focus on longer-term results over shorter-time frames due to this long-term investment

horizon and short-term investment volatility. “Again, this longterm focus is driven by the realization that pension benefit payments extend far into the future (as opposed to a ‘rainy day’ fund which may need to provide liquidity in the shortterm),” he said. “On the actual versus expected performance front, I am pleased to note that every single one of our 23 SIB clients generated net investment returns, which exceeded their respective policy benchmarks for the 3- and 5-year periods ended March 31, 2015. More importantly, I am also pleased to report that the actual returns of TFFR and PERS have surpassed their long-term return assumptions (of 8 percent historically) over the past 30-years.” Q: How do the investments for TFFR differ for those from PERS? A: “There are relatively minor differences between the current investment programs of TFFR and PERS, noting that PERS has a 1 percent higher allocation to Emerging Market Equity (5 percent) than TFFR (4 percent) in recent years,” he said. Q: Is there anything working for the State Investment Board that has surprised you? A: “I have to admit that I have been impressed as to the overall level of engagement and the board’s consistent desire to ‘do the right thing,’ even if it requires a follow-up meeting to address any developing concerns or the simple confirmation of key facts,” said Hunter. “Second, I find the SIB to be highly supportive of our strategic initiatives, including RIO’s budget requirements, which is needed to meet our long-term goals. Third, I am impressed with how kind and appreciative everyone is on the SIB. The entire RIO team delivers a high quality service with regards to retirement benefits and investment services. It is nice to hear that our RIO team members are valued by the Board on a consistent basis.” Q: Do you also manage the Legacy Fund? A: “Yes, RIO works with the Legacy and Budget Stabilization Funds Advisory Board and SIB to oversee the investment management of the Legacy Fund,” he said. Q: What is the amount of money presently in the Legacy Fund? A: “As of May 31, 2015, Legacy Fund investments were valued at approximately $3.3 billion,” said Hunter. “Earlier this year, RIO successfully completed the implementation of a new asset allocation for the Legacy Fund. Prior to August 1, 2013, the Legacy Fund was 100 percent invested in short-term fixed income. During the subsequent 18-months, RIO transitioned from short-term bonds into a broad range of assets including stocks (50 percent), bonds (35 percent), and real assets (15 percent) noting that real assets include real estate and infrastructure investments.” Q: With the oil production slowing is the amount of money going into the Legacy Fund decreasing also? A: “Cash flows into the Legacy Fund have declined since peaking at over $110 million per month in 2014 to approximately $54 million this past month (July 2015),” said Hunter. A more detailed Q & A of this story is available at 29

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ND United Voices

HOW DO WE COMMUNICATE? Here’s how you can help us get our message out!

Since taking office in April 2015, I have been able to meet and interact with a number of retirees and active members across the state, country and world. Issues that are important to us in North Dakota are also important to members no matter where they reside. This might be surprising to some that we have the same issues as an Association member in New York City or England. But it’s true!

By Nancy Peterson ND United Retired President

All members of our union want to feel included and have their needs addressed. I saw this first-hand when I attended the NEA-Retired Conference in Orlando in June and again at the NEA Representative Assembly, also in Orlando in July.”

All members of our union want to feel included and have their needs addressed. I saw this first-hand when I attended the NEA-Retired Conference in Orlando in June and again at the NEA Representative Assembly, also in Orlando in July. Through a democratic process, wants, needs and issues were brought forth to both bodies. Votes were taken, members were elected and results are available for perusing online. One issue that was a commonality between all groups is the ability to communicate. How can we get a message to our members in a format with which they feel comfortable? Should it be by print, online, on the NDU website, or through Facebook or Twitter? The answer is all of the above. I know that many of us use these technologies on a daily basis. We, on the NDU Council, have been making phone calls this summer to retired members whose e-mail address comes back as undeliverable (about 300 of you). So help us out, and let NDU know your current information. Please ask to be our Friend on Facebook and read postings that are affecting members. If you know of members who have moved out of state, please share this information with them. For those who are pre-retired, many school districts will not permit e-mail from NDU to reach you, and many of your school email addresses have changed, but you have not changed it on your membership forms. Many members are getting rid of their landlines, and we are unable to connect with you. This is a shame as you miss out on information that affects you, such as retirement information, professional development and on deals from Member Benefits, to name a few. Please help us out and notify the NDU Office of your personal e-mail or changes in address and phone number. The Retired Association wishes all active member educators, ESPs, custodians, bus drivers, and higher education members a great start to the new school year as you work with the leaders of tomorrow. Your dedication to the profession is greatly appreciated.

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 form 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.




















North Dakota United 301 N 4th St Bismarck, ND 58501-4020


ND United Voices

United Voices Vol. 2 No. 6