volume 1 | issue 7
Summer fun made easier with WEAC deals Page 12
Teachers are taking advantage of technology now more than ever before. Free resources are available at the click of a mouse, and the technological knowledge gap between students and instructors is shrinking. Think kids are the only ones updating their Facebook profiles or sending messages on Twitter? Think again. Appleton East High School teacher Elissa Hoffman set up a blog on WordPress for her AP biology class. Hoffman blogs regularly about science in the news, even posting clips from YouTube to detail chemistry lessons. Since YouTube is blocked in the school, Hoffman recommends students view videos at home. This is Hoffman’s second school year managing the class blog, which has featured practicing scientists posting to the site as guest bloggers.
ust as e-mail was burgeoning into the mainstream, Sun Prairie teacher Janice Mertes went to a conference at UW-Madison about “this thing called the Internet.” “I remember the teacher saying, ‘This might change education,” says Mertes, a teacher since 1993 and a National Board Certified Teacher since 2003. “Now, when we teach, everything’s on the Web. It’s been my life for the last couple of years.”
In Sun Prairie, “I was reading a lot of sciencewhere a new high school is oriented blogs, and I wanted to take being built, Mertes is coordinating new advantage of all the amazing resources technology to be installed in classrooms on the Web to help my students learn,” and she’s getting instructors up to Hoffman says, speed on how adding that to use the new More inside most of her tools. Interactive students hadn’t n Social Media 101: How Facebook could whiteboards, heard of blogs get you fired, page 8. computer pods before she n Faraway funding: This Web site will help and sound systems introduced pay for your classroom projects, page 9. will be in most the site and rooms of Sun that she’s Prairie’s new high been introducing them to other blogs. school as well as the current high school “They’ve learned how to create their to be remodeled for grades 8 and 9. own blog posts as well as comment on
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insideandonline Spreading ‘Seedfolks’
Starting school in August?
Looking at layoff notices
It’s not time to abandon stocks
Appleton ESP starts movement based on book.
Bill being debated could change school year calendar.
Declining enrollments, recession spur hard choices.
Dollars & Sense looks at your options for Wall Street.
Page 2 www.weac.org/spotlight
Page 11 www.weac.org/dollars
Member Spotlight Lou Hull Paraprofessional Appleton
Teacher has a new ‘challenge’ for teens Pam Haffely was working up a sweat while taking a fitness class near her home when it hit her: Why weren’t her students doing this? Haffely, a physical education teacher in Deerfield, had been organizing basketball sessions and racquetball games for years in gym class. It was time for a change, she thought, from rackets to barbells, from nets to benches.
Lou Hull was so moved by a Christmas gift that she brought it to her school and shared it with students, colleagues, and eventually, the Appleton community. The gift is Paul Fleischman’s book “Seedfolks.” The author illustrates how positive action brings about change in a community and he specifically looks at diversity and reconnecting to nature, Hull says.
So Haffely designed “The Challenge,” a summer test run of a fitness class for students. Run in the boot-camp style of modern fitness classes, it incorporated lunges and crunches for 10 students. When school started up again, Haffely posted a sign-up sheet for a new gym class, hoping to attract some kids disinterested in traditional gym activities.
“It moved me so much that I wanted to get the message out to the greatest number of people,” says Hull, a paraprofessional at the Appleton Area School District’s Foster Elementary School and Valley New School.
“All of a sudden the guidance counselor told me I had 88 kids. I was floored,” she says, adding that a wait list had to be implemented. n
Hull received a grant to purchase 500 books, some of which already have been distributed to students and the community.
Read more about Haffely’s class at www.weac.org/spotlight
Hull has done just that and has spurred a series of fortunate events.
On May 11, Renaissance Schools for the Arts students at
Mary Bell, President Guy Costello, Vice President Betsy Kippers, Secretary-Treasurer Dan Burkhalter, Executive Director Kim Haas, Public Relations Director Bill Hurley, Editor Laura DeVries, Graphic Design Specialist Contributing writers: Matthew Call, Christina Brey, Anne Egan-Waukau, Bob Moeller.
Appleton West High School will perform a play that is based on the book, and Fleischman will be on hand to see the 7:30 p.m. premier. The play is open to the public at no cost, Hull says. “Students started writing to the author after they read the book,” Hull says. “He was so impressed that he has decided to come and visit us.” She says staff embraced the book and introduced it into the curriculum. Hull says a colleague also created a quilt to commemorate the book’s messages. There have been discussions with district employees as well as grade-level discussions about the book. “I’m not done yet,” Hull says. “It keeps mushrooming and new things are happening almost daily.” n Read the full Spotlight profile at www.weac.org/spotlight
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At the Capitol
Teachers support 5K attendance bill
Classes in August? Bill would allow earlier start to school year Teachers, administrators and school board members pressed state senators on April 2 to allow an earlier start to the school year, supporting a move at the Capitol to restore local control of the school calendar.
Greg Stewart, a social studies teacher at Whitewater High School, testifies before members of the State Senate Committee on Education. Stewart was there to support a bill aimed at repealing the state law requiring schools to start their academic year after September 1.
Greg Stewart, a social studies teacher at Whitewater High School, said the decision to start the school year should be left to “the best interest of kids and their education rather than what is in the best interest of the tourism industry.” “I am asking that the flexibility be allowed for the school district to be more creative, with the community’s help, in establishing a school year for all of our students that are competing in a more global society from the great state of Wisconsin,” Stewart told members of the State Senate Committee on Education.
The committee is contemplating a measure (Senate Bill 109) that would repeal the state law enacted in 2000 that requires schools to start September 1 or later. Stewart said that in Whitewater, pushing the school year start date into September creates uneven schedules and puts students at a disadvantage. “Now, because of snow make-up days, second semester is sometimes five or six days longer than first semester,” Stewart added. “If a semester course or an Advanced Placement semester course is offered, a teacher may lose several days of instruction. Even if one teaches a year-round AP course, many of the tests occur in early May nationwide. If snow days are made up at the end of the school year calendar, as is normally the case, teachers and students could lose several days of instruction. That is not fair to those students in Wisconsin taking the AP test.” Stewart isn’t alone in calling for a repeal to the law. Superintendents, district business managers and school board members also spoke in favor of restoring local control over the date. n
What do you think
Should we start the school year before September? Should 5-year-old kindergarten attendance be mandatory? Vote in our online polls at www.weac.org/multimedia.
Children who regularly attend kindergarten are more likely to succeed in first grade, go on to finish high school and become employed, several teachers told the Assembly Education Committee on March 17 at a hearing in Madison. “Those students who show up for first grade with no prior school experience are likely to have missed essential opportunities to develop necessary skills, competencies and interests in a supportive classroom environment,” Kenosha kindergarten teacher Anne Knapp said. Knapp and other teachers testified in favor of a bill that would make Anne Knapp attendance mandatory for those enrolled in 5-yearold kindergarten. Assembly Bill 119 also makes kindergarten a prerequisite to admission to first grade, with certain exceptions. The bill being debated came out of a Representative Assembly resolution Knapp proposed in 2007, leading to action on the state level. “Throughout my teaching career, I have witnessed the kindergarten curriculum become increasingly more academic,” Knapp said. “As school districts around the state increase their kindergarten standards, they are demonstrating their belief in the value of the kindergarten curriculum. We must also demonstrate the value of attendance in order to attain these expected standards.” n
For more news articles, visit www.weac.org/capitol
Members help Evers, Abrahamson win elections The hard work of WEAC members across the state paid off Election Day in April when Tony Evers was chosen as the new superintendent of public instruction and Shirley Abrahamson was elected to a fourth term as State Supreme Court justice.
Both Evers and Abramson were recommended by WEAC-PAC members, and your work getting the word out on both candidates played a role in their success. The Department of Public Instruction sets policies that impact your classroom and set the tone for education-related issues across the state. The State Supreme Court also makes important decisions on cases that affect Wisconsin’s schools. Your vote was important in this race because it sends a message that we need to maintain and reinforce our state’s strong tradition of quality education. Budget cuts have, for far too long, caused class sizes to increase and opportunities to diminish. Evers promises to deliver more resources to schools, not take them away. Electing an advocate for public schools is critical to shaping the future of public education in Wisconsin and building off our successes in the classroom. Evers won by about 109,000 votes, and Abramson won by roughly 154,000 votes. Considering there are more than 98,000 WEAC members statewide, the margins of victory have a lot to do with your efforts. Evers told WEAC members at Winter Conference in February that improving education is about “leaving a legacy,” and he has touted reforms for the Department of Public Instruction to implement new measures of growth for students. Evers said he wants to set policy so that students from every corner of the state have access to the same educational opportunities and that public education can be a vehicle to create jobs in Wisconsin. n
For more election news, visit www.weac.org/elections
Be prepared to say ‘you’re welcome’ during Teacher Appreciation Week May is a time for you to say “you’re welcome,” because you’ll be receiving plenty of thanks from students, parents and community members. May 3-9 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. This is an ideal time for locals to join communities across the state in honoring the dedicated teachers who work tirelessly to make sure our schools remain the best in the nation. WEAC has produced a variety of public relations resources to help people across the state celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. We’ve run ads on radio stations and given fliers and posters to locals to put up recognizing your hard work. If you have any questions about National Teacher Appreciation Week or would like more information, please contact Anne Egan-Waukau at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-3547816, extension 1109. You also can visit www.weag.org/taw. n May 2009
Share Your Photos
To share photos of activities in your local association or school district, please e-mail photo files to InPrint@weac.org. w w w. w e a c . o r g / s h a r e p h o t o s
Burmaster announces ‘Project Lead the Way’ recipients More than 100 high schools will share a $250,000 state appropriation for Project Lead the Way programs for the 2008-09 school year. “Programs like Project Lead the Way are important in preparing Wisconsin’s students for the quick-paced technologically advanced world,” State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster said. “Many of the fastest-growing industries and highest demand jobs are in fields that require a background in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.”
2008 WEAC ESP of the Year Debbie Martin of Kettle Moraine School District, 2009 NEA ESP of the Year Kathie Axtell of Washington state and 2008 NEA ESP of the Year Laura Vernon of Milwaukee Public Schools take part in the NEA ESP Conference in Orlando, Fla., March 13-15. n
PLTW is dedicated to preparing middle and high school students for careers in the technical, high-wage sector of engineering and engineering technology. Students receive training in state-of-theart technology and participate in handson projects while enrolled in classes that include design, digital electronics, and computer-integrated manufacturing. For more information about the program, visit www.weac.org/news. n
Voucher students perform no better than MPS students, major study finds
Members of the Verona Education Support Personnel Association (VESPA) decided it was time to take action to get its 2008-2010 contract settled. Facing a mediation session scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day, VESPA leaders and members formed an Action Team to plan activities in support of the bargaining team and a settlement in mediation. The Action Team coordinated informational member meetings about the bargain, Green Fridays, and “Support VESPA” buttons leading up to the peak event on the eve of the mediation. All of these activities generated unity as VESPA and Verona Area Education Association members signed a petition in support of a statement that was read at the Verona Area School Board meeting March 16, the eve of the mediation. St. Patrick’s Day was indeed a happy day in Verona as the VESPA bargaining team and Verona Area School Board settled the VESPA contract in mediation. n
Milwaukee students who participate in the publicly funded private school voucher program perform no better than their peers in Milwaukee Public Schools, according to the results of a major new study. The much-anticipated, privately funded study concludes: “The primary finding in all of these comparisons is that there is no overall statistically significant difference between Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and MPS student achievement growth in either math or reading one year after they were carefully matched to each other.” For more information about the study, visit www.weac.org/news. n 5
WEAC priorities With a State Assembly committee hearing about the School Finance Network’s school funding plan and President Barack Obama pushing health care reform initiatives, a lot is happening surrounding WEAC’s priorities. Here is an update:
allowing you to keep your current plan if you’re happy with it. Also, one of WEAC’s principles forming its health care reform mission is to establish full, free and fair collective bargaining rights covering any move to a universal plan. Should a universal plan provide coverage for routine, preventive, diagnostic and catastrophic care, collective bargaining rights must be established to allow unions to negotiate over both supplemental coverage beyond that provided by the universal plan, as well as a share of the savings from health care reforms.
The State Assembly’s Committee on Education held an informational hearing April 21 on the School Finance Network funding proposal. This is the initial step in the legislative process for the plan, which aims to improve school funding for all districts in Teacher Jeffrey Sikich of the West Allis-West Milwaukee district testifies at the Capitol in Wisconsin and support of the School Finance Network plan. make it more accountable to taxpayers. The proposal is based on two years of work from the SFN, which is made up of WEAC and eight other groups. It targets school funding to where it’s needed most and protects our state’s proud tradition of great schools. For more information and the latest news about the plan, visit www. sfnwisconsin.org.
Health care The national movement for health care reform is gaining strong traction on the federal level. President Barack Obama’s health care reform initiatives are being debated by Congress, and summits about the proposals have been held across the country. As the health care reform movement continues, it’s important to remember that Obama’s proposal plans to build from the current system,
For more information, visit www.weac.org/ healthcare.
No money for field trips? Try this Are budget cuts diminishing field trip opportunities in your district? Why not try some free alternatives, like mapping a neighborhood or sending older students to read to younger kids. That’s just one of the helpful tips on the NEA’s Web site. The site is a great resource to use for professional development and helpful hints to use in the classroom. The field trip guide, www.nea. org/home/ns/4217.htm, attempts to strengthen creativity by using talent and imagination to get students thinking outside of the classroom. Ask school staff about taking the students behind the scenes of the cafeteria to see how lunch is prepared. Invite firefighters or police officers over to detail their jobs. Venture outside for impromptu birding. For more guides and resources, visit the NEA’s Web site at www.nea.org. n
Collective bargaining In late March, WEAC President Mary Bell testified in front of the State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance to talk about Governor Jim Doyle’s proposed budget. In speaking to legislators, Bell detailed WEAC’s support for Doyle’s plan to repeal the QEO, arguing that doing so will restore fairness to the state’s bargaining law. Eliminating the QEO will improve school quality through facilitating better dialog between administrators and teachers, promote greater efficiency through things such as longer contracts, and help retain and recruit top-quality teaching talent, Bell said. For more information and to read Mary Bell’s full testimony, visit www. weac.org/bargain. n
Fighting cancer in Mosinee Dozens of Mosinee teachers, education support professionals, students and community members shaved their heads recently to raise money to fight childhood cancer. The event was held in association with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. n
See video of the Mosinee event online at www.weac.org
Looking at layoff notices For years, Phillips School District teacher Teri Hanson has been rallying against revenue caps, organizing walks through the state to Madison to sound the alarm. Now those revenue caps have hit home, prompting her district to reduce her full-time position to a .67 FTE (67 percent) after cutting a German class. After 19 years in the district, Hanson, who is also president of the Northern Tier UniServ, faces what would be her first year not working full time or trying to land a job elsewhere. “I really don’t Teri Hanson know what I’m going to do,” Hanson says. “It goes to show you no jobs are safe.”
“The board didn’t choose to overturn its decision, but at least it gives them food for thought,” Laborde says.
Not quite full time Hanson says a recent trend for districts is to create teaching positions that are time-tailored to classes. Before being reduced by about a third, Hanson was a two-thirds German teacher and a onethird gifted and talented coordinator. Some teaching positions are just 25 percent, whereas some can be 98 percent, she said. “They don’t always make the stretch to make the job full time,” Hanson says. Not only is Hanson’s salary being impacted, she will have to pay more health insurance as a result. The district pro-rates its insurance payments, meaning Hanson will have to kick in about a third of her insurance coverage that traditionally has been provided by the district.
Across the state, teachers are making hard decisions about their careers after diminishing enrollments, economic strains and other budget cuts spur districts into talks of laying off teachers.
“A lot of teachers are in this position – can I afford to keep teaching?” Hanson asks.
Hanson’s job was reduced after her district cut back on a German class due to declining enrollment. In other areas of the state, economic woes are prompting layoff notices.
Hanson says a new state school funding formula is needed to reinforce opportunities for children. Revenue caps have resulted in teacher reductions that cause larger class sizes and fewer course offerings, she adds.
In early February, the Merrill School District sent layoff notices to 21 teachers, 10 percent of the work force. “They didn’t know where the budget was going to go,” Merrill Teachers’ Association President Janeen Laborde says. By April the school board was talking about recalling Merrill teachers, but a failed referendum April 7 put several jobs still in jeopardy. When the notices came, many Merrill teachers spoke out at community meetings and one directly addressed the school board to say she thought her layoff was a bad idea. www.weac.org
“Revenue caps build into our budget a 2 percent deficit every year,” Hanson says. “We really need to have a new funding formula. Without it, you’ll see more cuts, you’ll see more consolidation and you’ll see fewer opportunities for kids.” Hanson has been urging state legislators to revise school funding laws, including adopting the plan from the School Finance Network. The SFN, of which WEAC is a part, is a coalition of groups to address the problems of inadequate school funding.
Finding help If you’re looking at the possibility of a layoff, there are several avenues available for you to find help: n Unemployment benefits. Organize paperwork, such as a copy of your layoff letter, that you will need to file for unemployment. To file a claim, call the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development at 800-822-5246 or go to www.ucclaim-wi.org. The recent federal stimulus package includes an extra $25 a week for those eligible for unemployment. n COBRA benefits. The federal stimulus package mandates that employers pay 65 percent of an employee’s COBRA premiums for those eligible. This benefit is available for nine months, and you can extend benefits further by paying for them yourself. Contact your health insurance provider for more information. n Employee Assistance Program. The state offers a confidential, voluntary work-site program to assist state employees in topics such as coping with job loss or financial counseling. Learn more by calling DPI at 800-441-4563. Your UniServ office is also available for help in finding additional resources.
The SFN plan would increase aid to all school districts and target money to where it’s needed the most. “After 16 years of revenue caps, it is frighteningly clear in districts across our state that we need a better school funding system for all students in Wisconsin,” WEAC President Mary Bell says. “The School Finance Network plan addresses critical budget problems targeting precious resources to all districts and restoring our state’s strong tradition of quality public education.”
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On the Web
others’ posts, and I think those skills will serve them well in college and beyond.”
n WordPress blogs: www.wordpress.com
n ActivBoard: www.prometheanworld.com
Setting up blogs and Twitter accounts is easy and free, but the hot tech trend is interactive whiteboards, large touchscreen displays that are essentially the computerized evolution of chalkboards. “That’s the popular high-tech tool going right now,” says Mertes, whose Sun Prairie district is installing numerous interactive
n SMART Board: www.smarttech.com
whiteboards with recently approved referendum money in the new high school. The boards, which function much like a digital chalkboard or whiteboard, can be used for everything from teaching simple lessons to creating interactive
videos. Schools throughout Wisconsin are increasingly targeting their limited technology funds for interactive tools, and many teachers who use them say it helps students become more engaged. “This technology is intuitive, it engages kids on a completely different level,” says Julie Ann Sawall, a former music teacher who now travels throughout the state to educate teachers about making the most out of this interactive technology. “Kids know this technology, they’re the natives. This wraps the kids into the technology.”
Social media 101: How Facebook could get you fired It’s not just Facebook and Twitter that dominate social media networking nowadays. School employees are flocking to education-specific sites such as The Apple (www.theapple.com) and ProTeacher Community (www.proteacher.net) to connect with other educators and friends. WEAC’s Web site at www.weac.org also is expanding its social networking tools. While these sites can be great resources, remember – as a school district or technical college employee, you are considered a “role model” and you should be cautious when engaging in social networking sites, blogging or other forms of Internet communication. Your Internet communication can impact your employment, especially if your employer doesn’t allow you to browse during work time. If you blog or maintain a page on a social networking Web site, WEAC recommends the following tips in order to reduce the risk of your Web activity affecting your job: 1. Limit access to your Web page or blog using a “friends only” or similar restrictive setting. Do not accept students as “friends” on a personal Web page. As an educator, you should have appropriate boundaries with students. 2. If visitors can post to your blog or Web page, monitor postings constantly and remove any that are inappropriate. 3. Do not blog or post about your job duties, colleagues, supervisors or students. This will reduce the danger that you might disclose confidential information, share information about a private workplace complaint, or otherwise unintentionally write something that could negatively affect your job. 4. If you choose to blog or post as a citizen about a non-job related matter of public concern (i.e., the elections, terrorism or environmental issues) take care that what you say will not undermine your employer or otherwise disrupt your school. 5. If you are blogging or posting about innocuous information (i.e. your favorite football team or family genealogy), you
still must be careful not to engage in comments that could undermine your employer or interfere with your ability to carry out your job duties. 6. Reduce your risk by not writing about extremely personal subjects (i.e., romance, alcohol or drug use). Your blog or Web page should not contain any references to sexual subjects or contain vulgar or profane language or graphics. If your blog or Web page was a movie, it should be rated “G.” 7. Before you post photographs of you or your friends, think about the image that you want to portray to parents, students, administrators and community members who may view your blog or Web page. Even if you limit access to your page to “friends” it is possible for your “friends” to send photographs to other unintended individuals, including your employer. 8. Check to see if your employer has any policies regarding blogging or Web pages. If so, you should review the policy with your local union. 9. Blogging and posting anonymously may not protect you. Names of bloggers, Web page authors and other Internet users can be discovered through litigation. 10. Take the time necessary to monitor your Internet communication to make sure you are following the tips above. Please contact your UniServ representative if you have any questions or work-related issues regarding your Internet communication. n
– Submitted by WEAC Legal
More thoughts? Do you have other questions about using social media and the impact on your work? E-mail them to email@example.com
To make it work, a teacher needs to have three pieces of hardware: a computer, a projector and an interactive whiteboard. That’s it. Interactive whiteboards can replace every piece of technology in your classroom, because it can also run DVDs, television and videos.
Engaging students Lynn Preston, an elementary school teacher in Hartland, uses interactive whiteboards from a company called Promethean to create a game for art students to engage them in their lessons. “For example, if they can drag the correct name of the artist who painted ‘The Scream’ into the area of the painting, the name stays on the painting and they are rewarded with a sound effect – a scream of course. If they drag the wrong artist’s name to the painting, it bounces back. The kids love it,” Preston says. Sawall, who has more than 15 years of classroom experience, is a true believer in the benefits of this interactive technology. Sawall was named a 2005 SMART Exemplary Educator by SMART Technologies – a leading maker of interactive whiteboards – for her integrated use of a SMART Board into her choral and general music classrooms. “There are lots of different ways to engage our students,” she says. And the future might hold more tech tools. To further student engagement, Mertes sees classrooms embracing more forms of technology – even some that are in your pocket. She received approval to test using cell phones in classrooms. Some students in her AP comparative politics and government class use their phones to integrate current events into the class discussion. Mertes says students’ devotion to and knowledge of their cell phones can be used to leverage their schoolwork. “Why don’t we use this?” Mertes asks. “I think that’s the next big technology tool.” n
For more news headlines and articles, visit www.weac.org/news
Faraway funding This Web site will help pay for your next classroom project When Milwaukee first-grade teacher Mark Schmidt decided he wanted to replace a 45-year-old set of dictionaries for his Sixty-Fifth Street Elementary School classroom, he wasn’t sure his district could fully fund the plan. But he’s betting a nine-year-old Web site will help him – after all, he’s already had seven requests funded by online donors. DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit Web site set up to aid teachers such as Schmidt fund projects such as new textbooks, audio-visual materials or – in one recent case – a human life-size skeleton requested by a Kenosha teacher. DonorsChoose reports that it has funded more than 200 projects in Wisconsin from nearly 700 online donors. Schmidt’s first funded proposal was a set of books for struggling readers that students could take home and work on with family members. A donor from Alexandria, Va., was the principal financier of the project, which cost $148. “I teach in the Milwaukee Public School District, which everyone knows is having a financial crisis. It is difficult to get the materials needed for classroom instruction. Teachers do not have the supplies and resources necessary to teach the curriculum. Therefore, I turned to DonorsChoose.org to help bring some more much-needed things to the classroom,” Schmidt says. “I use DonorsChoose to help supply the classroom with the essential items needed for educating my first-graders. In addition, we could always use more books and materials in the classroom to help support the core curriculum. As a teacher, I already spend a lot of my own personal money for classroom use. Therefore, any help I can get from the generosity of the public is much appreciated. “ Andrew Farrar, a second-grade teacher in Dousman, joined the site in July and stocked his classroom with a digital camera and writing binders to help his instruction. “In a time of economic downturn, I am truly grateful for the kindness of strangers, especially those who have donated to help educators and our students,” Farrar says. “The products that were purchased for my classroom have allowed me to help provide a better quality of education for all of my students.” DonorsChoose is open to full-time classroom educators at public schools. The site recommends that requests be kept simple and inexpensive to boost their chances of being funded. According to the site, nearly 80 percent of projects requesting less than $400 in materials are funded within a few months. The site accepts requests for items, budgets the projects and posts them online for donors across the country to fund. DonorsChoose partners with vendors such as Office Depot, Weekly Reader, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy, and uses donations to buy items from its vendors. The teachers who have a project funded are asked to send their donors a thank-you note with a picture of the items in action. n
Getting about retirement Within 10 years of retiring? Add these items to your to-do list
3. Put a savings and investment plan in place that targets having 10 to 25 percent of your retirement savings in fixed or stable accounts by your retirement date. The amount you should have in these types of accounts should be equal to your anticipated withdrawals during your first five years of retirement.
Retirement checklist ❑ Save, save, save! ❑ Review your asset allocation with an appropriate financial professional. ❑ Put a savings and investment plan in place that targets having 10 to 25 percent of your retirement savings in fixed or stable accounts by your retirement date.
Retirement provides a chance to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. However, a pleasurable retirement requires proactive and thorough planning. As you near retirement age, it is a good time to review your current financial situation and plan for your final career years. With this in mind, we have provided a list of five things you should consider as you approach retirement.
❑ Put a plan in place to pay off all nonmortgage debt by the time you retire.
4. Put a plan in place to pay off all nonmortgage debt by the time you retire. If you can afford to pay a bit extra on your mortgage while you are still working, do that too!
5. Explore the benefits of “tax diversification” of your retirement accounts. Many experts advise having a combination of before-tax (Traditional IRA, 403(b), 401(k)), tax-free (Roth IRA, Roth 403(b), Roth 401(k)), and after-tax (traditional investment) accounts in retirement. Doing so provides you flexibility in managing your tax bills in retirement and may also be beneficial if you wish to pass along assets to your heirs.
❑ Explore the benefits of “tax diversification” of your retirement accounts
1. Save, save, save! The key to any secure retirement is having your own retirement savings in addition to what you will receive from Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) and Social Security. “Give yourself a ‘retirement raise’ every year by increasing the amount you are putting away,” advises Robert McCalla, Certified Financial Planner™ and Retirement Income Consultant at WEA Trust Member Benefits. 2. Review your asset allocation with an appropriate financial professional. No matter how many years you are away from retirement, make sure your investment portfolio reflects your investment time horizon.
“Seeking professional advice and assistance is something everyone should consider as they approach retirement,” notes McCalla. “WEAC members may want to consider a Retirement Income Analysis from WEA Trust Member Benefits.” This feebased service is aimed at those planning to retire within 10 years. For more information, call Michelle or Rob at 1-800-279-4030, extension 2513 or 6769. n – Submitted by WEA Trust Member Benefits. Investment advisory services offered through WEA Financial Advisors Inc.
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By Bob Moeller – WEAC Member Benefits Take control of your personal finances
This is not the time to abandon stocks This article results from my receiving many phone calls and e-mails from distressed members who have suffered significant losses in their investment accounts. Their general message is usually “I’m convinced the market is not going to go up for a long time, should I sell all my stock investments?” Usually the problem is that the member put too much of his or her investments into stocks and has very little invested in stable investments. I have advocated for 10 years in my seminars that you should have a general range of your age, plus or minus 10%, in stable investments. That would be CDs, bonds, fixed interest products, etc. But the purpose of this is not to criticize. I am also guilty of having a little too much in stocks. So I lost a lot also. Am I going to liquidate? No. Am I going to stop buying stocks? No. This is not the time to panic and abandon stocks. It is the time to look for good conservative opportunities. One way to be more cautious is to concentrate on financially strong dividend-paying stocks. A second strategy is to make sure I do not have too much of my investments in any one company or industry. So, today I looked at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). This gigantic company sells drugs and consumer medical products and has only modest reliance on any single product. It is one of the very few
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AAA-rated companies in the U.S. (GE just lost its AAA rating). JNJ has paid dividends every quarter without fail since 1944. JNJ is today selling for about $53 per share. This is down from a price of over $70 in September 2008. Considering the quality of the company, this stock is “on sale.” The dividend rate is $1.84 per share for a yield of 3.5%. The dividend has been raised every year for the last 10 years. In 2000, the dividend was 60 cents Will it continue to go up? I believe it will – JNJ is paying out a reasonably low percent of its profits and it has lots of money. Is it guaranteed? No. Can the price go down even more? Absolutely. Would I recommend that my mother put a portion of her stock investment money here? Sure, and remember this is my inheritance we’re talking about. Finally, if I want to be really conservative, I can consider writing a call option on my investment, which cuts my cost and risk. Let me be clear: I don’t
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recommend this for most members and I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU DO THIS. I will illustrate how it works just for information purposes. Here’s how “writing a call option” works: I would buy a stock (100 share lots) and then sell someone else the right to buy from me at a set price for a specific period of time. For this example with JNJ, I look at an ultra-conservative approach. I can sell someone the right to buy my JNJ for $40 per share anytime before January 16, 2010. (Yes, I just paid $53). I get paid immediately $13.90 per share, which cuts my investment in 100 shares down from $5,300 to $3,910. I get all the dividends. So I now have a share that costs me $39.10 paying me an annual dividend of $1.84 for a yield of 4.7%. If the buyer decides to call the stock, I make an additional 90 cents or 2.3%. It will certainly be called if the price is anything over $40 on January 16. If it is not called, I keep the $13.90 I got and I own a quality stock paying a 4.7% dividend. Of course I have to calculate commissions into this, but often this kind of approach manages to reduce my money at risk, and increase my return. What am I giving up here? If JNJ goes way up, I don’t get the big profits. I am forced to sell it at $40. Alternatively, I could sell the option with a call price of $55, generating an instant $4.10 income per share, which along with the dividends returns about 18.5% annual return IF CALLED, and cuts my investment to $48.90 per share if not called. Again this is just for illustration; I am NOT recommending it to members! n Leave a comment at the Dollars & Sense blog at www.weac.org/dollars
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Summer fun made easier with WEAC deals Being a WEAC member opens up a world of savings for you, whether you’re going on vacation, watching the Brewers, visiting Noah’s Ark or just picking up dinner.
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The WEAC Savers’ Club, accessible through the WEAC Web site at www. weac.org, is offering new deals all the time, with some more in store in the near future. The Club’s deals, offered through Access Development, helped Pam Burns of Rock Valley Education Professionals save $30 during a visit to the John Hancock Observatory Deck. And Holly Albrecht of Cedar Lake United Educators has used the Savers’ Club discounts for reduced rates at hotels while on several trips to Florida. “I always preplan most of my trips, so I search online for the best deal. It is a great benefit of being in WEAC, and I would recommend people use it any time before looking elsewhere,” Albrecht says. Finding deals on the WEAC Savers’ Club is as easy as logging on and entering your zip code. Using them is even easier: you can print out coupons to local and nationwide merchants. Look in your wallet for your membership card – your 2008-2010 WEAC member card also acts as your WEAC Savers’ Club card. The most popular discounts are used on categories such as dining and shopping. For WEAC members, the top five merchants viewed recently included Target.com, Blockbuster, Ann Taylor Loft, AMC Theatres and Bose.
The Savers’ Club this season also is offering deals on Milwaukee Brewers tickets, some of which are being offered for half of their face value. To find more information, including dates and seats, log into the Savers’ Club at www.weac.org. But membership benefits don’t end there. Discount passes for Noah’s Ark are back again this summer, and you’ll also have the chance to win some free passes to the largest water park in the country. The all-day, unlimited passes are $25, including tax, and are available at www. noahsarkwaterpark.com. Use the redeem code weacmr69 to activate the WEAC discount. Also be sure to visit www.weac.org to enter a trivia contest to win free Noah’s Ark tickets. And that’s not the only summer discount available. The American Players Theatre in Spring Green holds Educator Night Performances throughout the summer. The discounted performances are listed at right. Educators’ discount tickets are $19. You can order online at www.playinthewoods. org. If you have any questions, call the APT box office at 608-588-2361.
on’t forget that WEAC Member Benefits will be holding no-cost individual financial planning appointments during the summer. To book an appointment with Bob Moeller, WEAC’s member benefits specialist, call Diana Buchholz at 608-276-7711 or 800-362-8034, extension 253.
June 19, “The Winter’s Tale”
July 31, “Hay Fever”
July 23, “In Acting Shakespeare”
August 8, “Old Times”
June 30, “The Philanderer”
August 12, “King Henry V”
July 15, “The Comedy of Errors”
August 25, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Appointments are available throughout the summer in Madison and throughout the state on the following dates: June 17.......... Green Bay June 18........... Green Bay June 24............ Brookfield June 25........... Brookfield July 7.................Appleton
July July July July July
9............ Fond du Lac 15...........Menomonie 16.............. La Crosse 21............... Kenosha 23.................. Racine
July 29...........Rhinelander July 30................Mosinee August 4......... Sheboygan August 6.......... West Bend August 12......... Brookfield