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WEAC-FOX VALLEY * 921 W. Association Drive * Appleton, WI 54914-7250 (920) 731-1369 * Fax: (920) 731-1630 * www.weac.org/weacfoxvalley

February 2012, Issue 56

Meet Your Current Legislators Corey Otis, WEAC-Fox Valley President (otisc@weac.org) We stood on opposite sides. She moved forcefully to her right; I grazed thoughtfully to my left. Across the buffet table, somewhere near the fancy mushrooms, our eyes met. She grimaced. Rather than broach politics, I asked, “How’s Scott?” (The name has been changed to protect the insolent.) Suddenly, her eyes widened with genuine surprise and relief. I guess she didn’t expect a teacher to ask about her son, especially in the middle of a Chamber of Commerce “Meet Your Legislators” event. She shrugged, and with a hint of exasperation, she told me Scott now works the ski lift at a resort out West. She bemoaned his long personal struggle with confidence and motivation. I nodded. I recalled a similar conversation at parent-teacher conferences, about six or seven years ago, when she shared comparable concerns about her son from the opposite side of a different table. “He certainly has all the tools to succeed,” I said, trying to comfort her. “He always has.” She knows I consider her son brilliant, but grades and test scores never accurately reflected his potential. She thanked me, genuinely, for my assessment and promised to say hello to Scott for me. “Please do,” I said as we parted. Along the extreme periphery of our conversations, I noticed a bespectacled man who wore a bushy mustache and jeans about three inches too short. At first, I thought it was another teacher. Once he saw an opening, he approached me and introduced himself. Before I could tell him my name, he pointed at my name tag and asked what “WEA” meant. I told him I was there to represent the teachers union. Reflexively, he informed me his wife is a teacher. He grinned and asked if I was trying to get Walker recalled. “We’re doing all we can to get him out,” I responded. “Let me tell you why you’re wrong,” he said, finger waving in my face. He recited every Walker talking point with precision and obvious pretense. He lectured me about the danger of unions like WEAC. He further detailed how unions will lead to American socialism, which will lead to communism, which will eventually lead to a Chernobyl-like disaster. While I was trying to absorb how teachers unions could cause nuclear devastation, he boasted that he reads all of WEAC’s newsletters and press releases. “I wish my firm had WEAC’s PR budget!” he exclaimed his phony flabbergasting. I explained any WEAC member can see the organization’s budget. I also explained that WEAC’s Representative Assembly offers rank and file members the opportunity to direct WEAC’s actions and priorities. But he was looking over my shoulder, searching for an audience to pay attention. (Continued on page 2)

Henry Krokosky, Exec. Director (krokoskyh@weac.org), Beth Ludeman, Exec. Director (ludemanb@weac.org) Debbie Armitage, Staff Assistant (armitaged@weac.org), Laura McCarthy, Secretary (mccarthyl@weac.org) Appleton Education Association ● Appleton Paraprofessional Association ● Appleton Secretarial/Clerical Association FVTC—Educational Support Personnel Association ● FVTC—Faculty Association ● Little Chute Education Association Neenah Education Association ● Neenah Educational Support Personnel Association ● New London Education Association


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Meet Your Current Legislators (continued) His name tag was handwritten and nearly illegible, so I asked him where he worked. He brashly named his two employers and their respective profits from the last four fiscal quarters. I admitted ignorance about either corporation, so he politely explained that one company involved travel and the other weight loss. He never explained what he did exactly or why he worked for both companies, but he boasted, “Eighty percent of the U.S. population is obese.” I raised my eyebrow and expressed amazement at such a big market. His finger returned to my face and he recited a list of generic grievances against unions. He repeatedly began, “Anyone who’s ever accomplished anything knows…” His less than clever insults were less than subtle, but I maintained quiet composure for the most part. He used his wife as an example only when it served his ideological argument. Ultimately, I wanted to make a real connection between his world and mine, so I asked him what subject his wife taught and where. He stopped dead in his tracks and began to stammer a bit. He hesitated to reveal her job assignment. I shook my head. I asked whether he feared the “union thugs” coming after his wife. The man, a full six inches taller than I, grinned. “Well,” he said in rehearsed cadence, “maybe she’ll be deemed a problem by the union, and problems get dealt with.” I laughed, shook his hand and told him that I appreciated our conversation and even though I didn’t change his mind, he hadn’t changed mine either. As we parted ways, he seemed quite surprised and disappointed by my assessment. Over the course of the rest of the evening, I observed the man occupying the extreme fringe of the gathering, which I saw as a pretty accurate metaphor. We could have traded numbers, opinions and conspiracy theories all night, but that never would have moved us forward to a grounded discussion about practical solutions to real problems. He was never going to leave the realm of ideology, no matter how hard I tried to make real connections. There were moments when he seemed to listen intently to my classroom stories, but mostly he treated my contributions to the conversation as inconvenient delays between his talking points. Most of the politicians arrived late and left early. Senator Mike Ellis sidled through the door behind me. Once he noticed our “WEAC-Fox Valley” name tags, he slipped away like hair down the drain. (Maybe sewer is a better choice of words. The next day Mike Ellis was caught on video insulting Green Bay Preble, public schools, and the Fitzgerald brothers.) Al Ott complained about his sleep apnea, but I think something else keeps him up at night. Michelle Litjens got flummoxed by an education question, so she had to suddenly leave. I wasn’t sure what to say to Dean Kaufert: he voted against the Budget Repair Bill but for the budget. By the time I got a chance to seek him out, he was gone too. Soon, they were all gone. We grew frustrated until one educator unintentionally gave us hope. “I don’t get it. One minute they’re here and the next they’re gone.” Another pretty accurate metaphor, I would say.


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1 million signatures: The biggest recall effort in US history More than a million Wisconsinites signed recall petitions that were turned into the state by grassroots group United Wisconsin. That’s the largest recall signature effort in American history, an impressive feat considering our state’s stringent procedure for prompting recall elections. The numbers are meaningful – think about this: The million-plus signatures are nearly twice what was required to prompt a recall election. For the Walker recall effort, 185 percent of the signatures needed were gathered by volunteers across the state. There have been only two successful recalls of governors, 2003 in California and 1921 in North Dakota, with 23 and 32 percent of the electorate signing recall petitions, respectively, in those states. This total is 46 percent of the Wisconsin electorate! The number of recall signatures is just shy of the votes Walker received in 2010. In Ohio last year, organizers gathered 32 percent of voters over three months to sign a repeal of an anti-union bill there. In the Walker recall, volunteers collected signatures from 46 percent of voters in just two months. This is a historic moment “We are proud of our members and leaders who volunteered their nights and weekends to help contribute to the success of this grassroots effort,” WEAC President Mary Bell said. “It’s been amazing to witness the energy and excitement coming from many individuals who have never been politically active before, but who want to take action to help reclaim Wisconsin.” In addition to the Walker recall petitions, organizers of separate campaigns exceeded the required signatures to prompt recall elections of Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators: Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, Pam Galloway of Wausau, Van Wanggaard of Racine, and Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. The next steps to success: Recall Workshops Please join your colleagues across the state in regional workshops that will cover our union’s plans to achieve electoral success and recall Governor Walker. Members and retirees interested in leading local union efforts around the recall are encouraged to attend. Visit weac.org to sign up. Highlights of this workshop include: Our union’s plan to win The next phases of the 4 x 10 Plan Talking to colleagues, families and friends about the recall Creating and implementing local union plans Legal do’s and don’ts, and more. Remember, this is just one step in the process. Together, we can – and will – reclaim Wisconsin by recalling Walker! This is an 11.29 communication with WEAC members.


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Union Membership: Why It Matters An Interview with Beth Ludeman, WEAC-FV Executive Director (ludemanb@weac.org) With all the contract extensions expiring this June, many members have questions about the future of our union and their membership. WEAC-Fox Valley’s Beth Ludeman answers some of the questions that have been on our members’ minds. Why Do People Join WEAC? There are three areas that our members consider when they make the critical decision to continue their membership with WEAC. First, membership strengthens our collective voice. Our union gains more strength in advocating for children, public schools, and workplace conditions with each member that joins. Together we can do more than we are able to do individually, and that makes a big difference – we are the largest organization in the state advocating for fair school funding. Secondly, membership in WEAC helps you become a better educator or support professional in many significant ways. Whether it is through a variety of training opportunities like the Professional Development Plan or National Board Certification support programs, resources such as the Quality Educator Interactive or the WEA Academy, or representation on policy-developing entities such as the DPI’s Professional Standards Council, our statewide network of educators and support professionals share resources, dialog about tackling common concerns, and assist one another with professional, leadership, and advocacy skills. Additionally, membership in our union affords us access to valuable benefits and discounts, such as free legal representation and services, professional liability insurance, financial products, and publications that are tailored to our profession. Does our union really matter anymore, in this post-Act 10 world? It actually matters more than ever before. We are in the middle of a successful fight to restore our rights, and we will need to work together to ensure that boards of education, trustees, and administrators respect our professionalism, our rights to fair treatment, work with us to restore fair funding for public education and the effective use of that funding. We need to keep our voice through returning to our roots: organizing to impact local, state, and national policies and elections. Consider this: without an organized association, each one of us stands alone. My local’s contract with our district expires at the end of June. What is the procedure for continuing my membership for next year? How do I get this started? Great question, and a perfect time to be asking it! Your local’s membership or organizing committee will begin the process in the coming weeks of contacting all its current members to answer any questions they might have regarding membership continuation. Between now and the end of the school year, I’d urge you to complete a membership form for next year. It’s a quick and easy process, and an electronic funds transfer payment plan make dues transmittal , beginning in September, seamless. Waiting until September to take care of the paperwork leaves a gap in your membership that could cause a potential problem with being fully covered by the benefits of membership. Your membership/organizing committee members can give you more detail on these issues over the next couple of months. (Continued on page 5)


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Union Membership (continued) I have a friend who works as a special education aide in a neighboring district, and she didn’t continue her membership when their collective bargaining agreement expired last summer. She’s now thinking that was a mistake, but it might be too late to join now. She’s worried that some of her job responsibilities might carry liability issues with them. Can anything be done about this? It is never too late to become a member of our union, first of all. Your friend just needs to call our offices here at WEAC-Fox Valley, and we can point her in the right direction. She is right to be concerned about any liability she might bear in these uncertain times, and among the benefits of union membership is guidance on workplace issues, free of charge. But wait a minute, back up. I thought this big recertification vote that I heard about in the fall, where WEAC won 90%, had something to do with membership. Can you explain that? You bet. Recertification and membership are related to one another, but they are separate processes – and your membership committees will be covering this in more detail, too. The recertification vote gives the local union the exclusive authority to bargain with the employer over wages. That vote is currently required to take place in the fall, following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. Some mistake the recertification as a vote over whether the union is going to exist or not. The union is in place as long as it has members. Please remember that no recertification vote can take your constitutionally-protected right to associate away from you. If there are colleagues who have questions about this before our membership committee contacts them, is there a place to send their questions? Any questions about membership can be directed to the WEAC-Fox Valley office. Our number is 731-1369. Also, feel free to contact me via e-mail at ludemanb@weac.org.


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Walker Takes Aim at WR$ Wisconsin Act 32 calls for a “study” of the Wisconsin Retirement System. Under the last State budget, Governor Walker created a “study committee” to look at the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), YOUR pension system. The study addresses the following issues:  Establishing a defined contribution plan as an option  Allowing employees to opt out of making employee required contributions and limiting retirement benefits for employees who opt out. This should concern all active and retired members after what Walker has done to educators and their families by cutting over 1 billion in education funding and eliminating the voice of educators through prohibitions on collective bargaining. Background Current law prohibits participating employees from opting out of the WRS. Allowing WRS members to opt out may ultimately have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of the WRS and would very likely increase contribution rates for employees and employers remaining in the WRS. Belonging to the WRS involves pooling risk and benefits by funding the system through employer and employee contributions. If public employees were not obligated to participate, a likely result is lower system revenue with liabilities increased and underfunding of the WRS. In addition, allowing individual members to opt out of the WRS may violate provisions of the IRS Code governing defined benefit pension plans. This could result in disqualification of the WRS as a tax-qualified pension plan. What Does Defined-Benefit Plan Mean? It’s an employer-sponsored retirement plan where employee benefits are based on a formula using factors such as salary history and duration of employment. Investment risk and portfolio management are entirely under the control of the company. What Does Defined-Contribution Plan Mean? It’s a retirement plan in which a certain amount is set aside each year by a company for the benefit of the employee. The employee assumes the risk in terms of investing and managing the account. The examination of the WRS is really a much larger debate going on about whether employees in our society should have good benefits and a sustainable living versus those that think as long as you take care of corporations and the wealthy elite that profit from them– everything will trickle down and solve employee problems. What can YOU do?  Learn about WRS at http://etf.wi.gov  Sign the petition and share the information with others  Request a site visit from your UniServ Director  Volunteer in recall activities Is Change Necessary?  The WRS is currently pre-funded at 99.7% ($79 Billion). There is NO unfunded liability.  Allowing WRS members to opt out will ultimately destroy the sustainability of the WRS and result in higher contribution rates for employees remaining in the WRS.  If public employees were not obligated to participate, a likely result is lower system revenue, increased liabilities, and underfunding of WRS.  Do you want “big business” in YOUR retirement account? While rumors are circulating about the fate and future of the WRS, WEAC Vice-President Betsy Kippers reminded everyone that members should know that their union leaders are paying close attention to this issue—in fact, VicePresident Kippers serves on the Teachers’ Retirement Board, one of the boards for the Department of Employee Trust Funds (the state agency doing the study) and represents WEAC on a coalition that’s working to preserve our state pension system. Over the last month she has spoken at membership meetings across the state to discuss this issue and provide timely updates. If you would like Vice-President Kippers to speak at a membership meeting in your local or UniServ, please contact WEAC-Fox Valley at (920) 731-1369.


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“Incredible experience! So glad I participated! I met so many wonderful people and learned so many new things! Trip of a lifetime! Kristin Hanna, 2010 participant

Refresh your enthusiasm for teaching while exploring the history, culture and beauty of Australia while earning six graduate credits through the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Join two education faculty members and teachers, librarians, and administrators from the U.S. as they travel to Australia from June 15 through July 10, 2012 for a once-in-alifetime chance to learn about Australian education through first hand experience, seminars, and independent travel. Comparative Education and Overseas Fieldwork Program (EDFOUND760) Six graduate credits for licensed K-12 educators (teachers, librarians, and administrators) Investigate the education, history and culture of another country Enhance your professional career A four-week overseas experience Pre-travel spring seminars (one online, one virtual, and web-based readings and conversation) Unique two-week home stay and classroom engagement with students and teachers – placements arranged to the extent possible by grade level or subject area Four-day seminar held in Australia near Sydney with guest speakers, cultural experiences, and sharing of experiences One week of independent travel after seminar (expenses not covered by the program) Post-travel virtual seminar in fall 2012 Applications appreciated before February 17, 2012 For more information, including costs: http://www.uww.edu/conteduc/travel/overseas.htm To request an application packet, contact: Terry Behlke at 800-621-5376 • 262-472-1003 • cetravelstudy@uww.edu University of Wisconsin - Whitewater


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State of the State: Walker is out of touch with reality You might have seen or read about Governor Walker’s State of the State speech recently, during which he touted his “it’s working” message. But you know – as do most of the working families in Wisconsin – that his rhetoric is out of touch with reality, especially when it comes to education. Walker’s actions speak louder than words. Here is the proof: Walker says all students deserve “access to great education” – but he took away more than $1.6 billion in resources. If Walker truly wanted to enhance education he wouldn’t have put into place the largest cut in state aid since the Great Depression, spurring increased class sizes, continued layoffs of teachers and other public school staff, and directing more and more taxpayer-funded education funds to private companies. Walker touts literacy as key to instruction – but his budget cuts have caused dozens of districts to reduce reading specialist positions. It’s disingenuous for Walker to say he is boosting literacy standards while at the same time taking away staff specially trained to improving student reading skills. It’s simple: You can’t cut $1.6 billion from education and not hurt students. Walker wants to publicly thank the educators of Wisconsin – but then privately take away their voices and hard-earned benefits and balance the state budget on their backs. We all know how little Walker values the profession of public school employees. Taking away our rights is Walker’s legacy, not an insincere thank-you. As WEAC President Mary Bell said to media reporters after the governor’s address: “When it comes to his remarks on education, Governor Walker is not encumbered by the facts. He tells the story he wants us to believe – not what’s true. The reality is he’s caused school districts across the state to lay off staff, eliminate programs and raise class sizes.” It’s time to tell your story: Visit weac.org/letters to send a letter to your newspaper describing what Walker’s extreme agenda has really meant to education. Raise your own voice in the coming days about the difference between Walker’s rhetoric and your reality. This is an 11.29 communication with WEAC members.

THE PROPELLER GOES GREEN!

The Propeller is being delivered electronically to WEAC-Fox Valley’s members’ home email addresses. The Propeller will also be available via WEAC-Fox Valley’s website and Facebook page. Send your home email address to Debbie Armitage (armitaged@weac.org) to ensure future emailings.


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Mark Your Calendars and Plan Ahead! Dianne Lang, WEAC-FV Retired President (dlang@new.rr.com) The WEAC-FV Retired Annual meeting is Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 1:00–3:00 p.m. at the D. J. Bordini Center. We will begin with a short business meeting to elect the offices of President, Secretary, and two at-large Executive Board members and adopt a 2012-13 budget. All positions have two-year terms. Any member is eligible to run for these positions with one exception – no Appleton retirees are eligible for the at-large positions since two other seats are held by Appleton retirees, and our Constitution allows for no more than two retirees from any WEAC-FV local to hold at-large seats. Following the short business meeting, there will be a presentation by POWRS, Protect Our Wisconsin Retirement System, regarding the study provision that was part of WI Act 32, the 2011-13 biennial budget. The program will include a brief PowerPoint and time for questions and answers. Here is an excerpt from the current Department of Employee Trust Funds Wisconsin Retirement System Administration:  The WRS is a multi-employer qualified retirement system under Section 401(a) of the IRS code.  It is a hybrid pension plan with both defined benefit and defined contribution components.  Because of this hybrid design, a participant’s retirement benefit is based on the higher of two calculations: 1) Defined benefit formula: Uses the three highest years’ earnings to calculate the final average earnings and the number of years of WRS creditable service to determine the benefit; or 2) Money purchase (defined contribution) benefit: Calculated based on the value accumulated in the participant account at the time of retirement and matched equally with an amount from the employer reserve. Under the current system, everyone must participate, and there is no option as to which benefit a retiree receives. The retiree automatically receives the higher amount. The defined benefit formula has consistently been the better of the two. Here is the section of the bill regarding the study: 2011 Assembly Bill 40/2011 WI Act 32 SECTION 9115. Non-statutory provisions; Employee Trust Funds. (3q) MODIFICATIONS TO WISCONSIN RETIREMENT SYSTEM (a) The secretary of administration, the director of the office of state employment relations, and the secretary of employee trust funds shall study the structure of the Wisconsin Retirement System and benefits provided under the Wisconsin Retirement System. The study shall specifically address the following issues: 1. Establishing a defined contribution plan as an option for participating employees, as defined in Section 40.02 (46) of the statutes 2. Permitting employees to not make employee required contributions under section 40.05 (1) (a) of the statutes and limiting retirement benefits for employees who do not make employee required contributions to a money purchase annuity calculated under section 40.23 (3) of the statutes. (b) No later than June 30, 2012, the secretary of administration, the director of the office of state employment relations, and the secretary of employee trust funds shall report their findings and recommendations to the governor and the joint committee on finance.” All retirees need to be aware of this legislation. The study has serious implications for both active and annuitant WRS participants. Watch for more information in the coming months.


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WEAC Board Report—January 2012 Patty Barrette, WEAC Board Representative (barrettep@weac.org) WEAC leaders successfully conducted January meeting by webinar. Board members are asked to communicate the following highlights with their UniServ councils, leaders and members:  Walker Recall. A lot of effort went into the signature collection activities across the state. WEAC continues to interview potential candidates to run against Scott Walker. Union leaders are asked to continue their support and promotion of our "4 x 10" program. Right now, one of the most important activities related to this program is signing up for upcoming Recall Workshops! Sign up online and encourage your members to do the same.  WEAC confirms plans for a one-day Representative Assembly to be held in 2012. Registration will open on Friday night April 20 as scheduled, but a one-day Representative Assembly will be held on April 21 – focusing on required activities and elections. All three sessions of the RA will be done that day, with the third session (traditionally held on a Sunday) held on Saturday evening in place of the Awards Banquet. In light of the one-day schedule, it was agreed that the Board of Directors will work with their UniServ presidents to schedule and promote the regional pre-RA meetings, with Leadership Team and Budget and Finance members present in order to answer delegate questions before the Assembly begins.  An update on the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Vice President Betsy Kippers reported on the study to evaluate the Wisconsin Retirement System. While rumors are reportedly circulating about the fate and future of the WRS, Vice President Kippers reminded everyone that at this time we know a study is being done to: 1) evaluate the current system; 2) consider establishing a defined contribution plan as an option for participating employees; and 3) consider an option to allow employees to forgo having to make their employee-required contributions (limiting retirement benefits for those employees). While these issues are of great concern to us, no recommendations have come forward at this point. Members should know that their union leaders are paying close attention to this issue – in fact, Vice President Kippers serves on the Teachers' Retirement Board, one of the boards for the Department of Employee Trust Funds (the state agency doing the study) and represents WEAC on a coalition that's working to preserve our state pension system. Over the last month, she has spoken at membership meetings across the state to discuss this issue and provide timely updates. If you would like Vice President Kippers to speak at a membership meeting in your local, please contact WEAC-Fox Valley at (920) 731-1369. NOTE: WEAC's response to the Governor's "Read to Lead" initiative was also discussed during this meeting. Go to www.weac.org for a copy of our news release or refer to the Connecting Leaders & Staff post from January 4 on this topic. Share your views by leaving a comment.


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WEA Academy Supports your Adventures into the Common Core State Standards The WEA Academy offers several courses that can help to increase your knowledge in building background knowledge in instructional design and student learning that will be necessary as we venture into the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN, K–12 concentrates on an effective and efficient instructional planning process that allows teachers to align their instructional design to state and local standards. The featured experts who provide commentary for this course include authors Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.  Learn to use “backward design” to create comprehensive instructional units.  Integrate formal and informal assessment techniques that allow you to monitor student progress, as well as student mastery.  Create logical learning sequences that help students meet required learning goals. MEETING THE NEEDS OF ALL STUDENTS, K–12 provides teachers with proven strategies and classroom management techniques to help them reach all of their students regardless of ability, language development, race, socioeconomic status, gender, and/or learning challenges. The featured expert who provides commentary for this course is Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson.  Apply strategies to increase student engagement, address students’ individual learning styles, and verify teaching effectiveness.  Strengthen partnerships with parents to facilitate academic achievement of students.  Deepen understanding of student variance, and apply strategies to support: cognitive impairments, difficulties attending to task, learning disabilities, English language learners, above-average abilities, and students who are at risk of failure. EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENT, K–12 grounds teachers in effective ways to assess their students, and how to use this information to draw conclusions and modify their instructional practices to best meet their students’ needs. The featured experts who provide commentary for this course include authors Dr. Kay Burke, Jay McTighe, and Grant Wiggins.  Identify and define different assessment methods according to three categories: Assessment of Learning, Assessment for Learning, and Assessment as Learning.  Examine different grading systems and apply one that best communicates student progress and achievement to others.  Analyze multiple sources of data to identify patterns in student learning and knowledge. Working with students is both exciting and challenging. The WEA Academy was established in 1992 to provide low cost professional development for members working in the field of education. The Academy provides online and face-to-face training programs, an online video library, and Educational Support Professional certificate programs. Contact us at www.weacademy.org. for an online catalogue of course offerings and certificate programs. Some courses can be taken as a ‘non-credit’ option and add value to your Professional Development Plan. If you are planning on taking them for graduate credit, the cost per credit – currently $155/credit – is significantly lower than graduate credit costs from most institutes of higher education.


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Travel News http://my.athenet.net/~mesh Tom Kreif (mesh@athenet.net) The WEAC-Fox Valley Travel Committee is open to all active and retired members. Our scheduled meetings for the 2011-2012 school year are: Feb. 8, Mar. 14, May 9. All meetings are scheduled for Wednesday mornings at 9:30 a.m. at Mary’s North in Appleton.

Everyone is interested in saving money. Check http://www.dealchicken.com. I have used the site and am pleased with what it has to offer. Once you register, you will receive a daily local deal resulting in 50% or more off. Many of the deals are from area restaurants. You have nothing to lose. As many of you know, my hometown is West Bend. In Hartford, there is an excellent Ponderosa with excellent buffets. Many times there are coupons in the local papers and magazines. An all-you-can-eat lunch or brunch buffet for $4.99 for seniors is just one example. Lately they are running a promotion—purchase a $25 gift certificate, receive an additional $5 gift certificate. If one thinks this through, this results in a 20% discount. I purchase the gift certificates and then use them the next time I visit. With the gift certificates, the $4.99 becomes $3.99. This is truly a deal, and other establishments use similar promotions. Once again I would like to remind people about driving during our Wisconsin winter. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Plan your route in advance using a GPS or Smartphone. Frequently check the weather en route and be aware of potentially hazardous road conditions. Travel with a charged cell-phone and car charger, but don’t get distracted while driving (nearly 1/3 of all accidents are caused by cell-phone use and texting). Keep your fuel tank full. Drive the speed limit and take into account weather. Keep beverages in a sealed container or in a cup with a lid. Switch drivers at least every two hours if possible; otherwise take frequent rest breaks. Maintain your car. Drinking and driving is a bad mix. One-third of all highway deaths are alcohol related. Budget Travel had an excellent article on tips for those individuals who are going cruising. Before signing up for a room, check the ship’s layout on-line. Choose a room with passenger floors above and below you. If “addicted” to certain drinks, such as soda, it would be smart to pack some in your luggage. There is no weight limit on luggage. Don’t assume you can save a spot at the pool with your towel. Many cruise lines give you one pool towel at the start of the cruise. If you don’t have it at the end, you will be charged. If your tablecloth is wet at dinner, be prepared for rough seas. Restaurant staffers have been known to slightly dampen the tablecloth to keep plates and glasses from sliding. If you go from an air-conditioned ship room out onto the open deck, your camera’s lens is quite likely to fog up. Warm the camera with your cabin’s hairdryer on a low setting or briefly leave it on your balcony. Even if you get a cell signal while at sea, your roaming charges will be out of this world. To keep in touch with your cabin mates, bring Post-It Notes detailing where you will be throughout the day. For fire-safety, cabins do not have their own irons. There may be shared irons in the laundry room, but there are usually long lines before meals. Early mornings are obviously the best time. There are some cruise lines that do not have laundry facilities for people to use; thus, if you want to do a cruise where you can do your own laundry, check this out before you book. Some cruisers who desire to make their rooms homier, pack a small collapsible vase and a bouquet of flowers.


Propeller February 2012