Dear Fellow WHEA educators,
It is now officially Fall and it is time to let you know about some of the exciting things that are going on with the West Hartford Education Association.
One of the things that I had hoped to accomplish as a new president was a broadening of the power base in our organization. I wanted to bring more members into the decision making process so that more voices are heard, more ideas are presented, and as a result, our collective momentum increases. I think that if you will take a moment to read this message, you will find that this is happening.
Summer Leadership: 11 participants attended a variety of workshops at Mohegan in August and came away with a better sense of the importance of union action. For a recap of those workshops, please check out the WHEA newsletter that Joyce Bogdan will be sending you shortly and the link to Joyce’s newsleter on our website, WHEA.org.
Committees: Negotiations took place one year ago. Because some issues are extremely complex, they cannot be fully investigated and negotiated in the limited time frame allowed. Three committees emerged from negotiations and have been meeting consistently.
Start of Year Committee: Led by David Simon and Theresa McKeown, this committee submitted a list of recommendations to the superintendent to make the start of the school year more productive for teachers. As a result, most schools reported that they received more teacher work time in the first two days of this year in order to prepare.
Stipend committee: Made up of teachers from all three levels and exec team administrators, this committee is working on a new model for the stipend committee. In the near future, there will be a building based committee at each of the secondary schools made up of teachers and building administration. More decision making will be taking place at the building level. There will also continue to be a district wide stipend committee made up teachers from all three levels and admin. This committee is only addressing extra-curricular stipends at this time. More information to follow.
Elementary Workload Committee: This committee is now meeting monthly and is composed of 5 elementary teachers, 3 elementary principals, and exec team administration. The goal is to raise awareness of issues unique to the elementary environment and to bring more consistency and equity to the elementary schools.
Political Action Committee: At our last Rep Council meeting, we made great progress towards providing this committee with a specific task and direction. The WHEA PAC led by John Tracey is excited about our political mixer event on Friday, Oct 21st at the Legion Hall at 7 pm. The PAC has sent questionnaires to all candidates who will be appearing on the WeHa ballot. Many have been returned and can be found on our website. West Hartford is a crucial town when it comes to education. Some of our representatives hold powerful key positions in the state legislature and on the state education committee. Please mark your calendars to attend our mixer on the 21st. We guarantee and interesting evening.
Representative Council: Affectionately known as Rep Council, this is the main representative body of the WHEA and is made up of building reps from all of our schools. We have 6 new building reps this year. Our last meeting was devoted to a discussion about whether the WHEA should endorse local candidates. If you do not know who your building reps are, please check our website for a list. Your building reps are there for you if you need them. Don’t hesitate to ask them for advice or call upon them to accompany you to any meeting with administration that you believe may be disciplinary. Please read about your Weingarten Rights on WHEA.org.
Social Committee: Eric Feeney did an amazing job last year as social committee chair (50th WHEA birthday, Spring Fling, Polo shirts) and has a lot of ideas to unveil this year. Please stay tuned to find out how you can be engaged with the WHEA and have fun at the same time.
Ethnic Affairs Committee: Lara White continues to plan ways to engage and retain teachers of color in West Hartford and to celebrate the rich diversity of this town. Stay tuned for more exciting news from Lara and the WHEA EAC.
Mastery Exam Committee: This is a state level committee that I serve on at the invitation of CEA. We continue to provide the teacher’s voice in a realm that is dominated by politics. I have tried to maintain a steady course in raising issues about the side effects and “device effects” of computerized testing. CEA continues to fight to keep the SBAC from being linked to teacher evaluations.
Of course, not everything takes place in committees. You should be aware that the WHEA is currently working on two grievances and two Teval appeals in addition to everything else. We are also engaged in a variety of smaller meetings at schools and with departments and individuals.
One example: You are probably aware of the increase in the number of video surveillance cameras in our schools. What you may not be aware of is the fact that some of our teachers now have cameras in their classrooms. Our P.E. teachers now have cameras in their gyms. The WHEA is working with our P.E. teachers, our district administration and legal team, and CEA legal to move forward into these uncharted (at least in West Hartford) waters. The goal is clear and open dialogue and an environment of trust and safety.
Health Insurance: The WHEA is aware of the fact that the transition to the new health plan has not been easy for everyone. We fought hard to avoid this during negotiations, arguing instead that we move into the State Employee’s Health Plan. Things did not go our way, (that move was not yet feasible at the time), and like almost all districts around the state, we moved into the HSA. We did however, gain step movement all three years and money on the top step all three years. This is ancient history at this point, but the reality is that we have to adapt to a new way of paying for our health care. If you encounter problems during this period, please continue to direct your questions to Sue Gibilisco and Chip Ward. They are the ones dealing directly with Anthem. We ask that you keep us in the loop in the event of a serious concern. In addition, you may want to find a teacher who has been in the HSA for a few years and understands the mechanics well. The best advice is to stay organized, keep records, and keep communicating. If you have not yet attended one of the informational sessions, please go if you are able.
There is more of course, but I don’t want to take up too much of your valuable time. Please keep up the good work that you are doing. West Hartford continues to thrive in large part because of what each and every one of you does on a daily basis.
On behalf of the WHEA Exec Team and speaking personally,
Thank you so much for your service
Feb. 18, 2016
Time has certainly flown. It’s hard to believe that the year is more than halfway over. I must say that my first six months on the job have been a whirlwind. Every day presents interesting new challenges in this large, dynamic, and diverse district!
Coming in to this job, my hope was to increase transparency and communication in every direction. I also hoped to broaden the power base within WHEA so that more people are involved in making more decisions. Although there is still much to be done, I think we are definitely headed in the right direction.
I find myself surrounded by great people who are capable, experienced, and eager to safeguard our educational legacy.
A brief timeline of events and accomplishments is in order. In October, we hosted a “meet the candidates” night that was very well attended by teachers and candidates. In November, we held a 50th anniversary party with Dr. Tracy Wilson as the keynote speaker. The negotiations committee (11 people strong) came away with a settlement that was one of the highest in Hartford County, secured step movement in all three years, and improved working conditions for many. In December, our Ethnic Affairs committee held its first event at Rizutto’s which was very well attended.
We have several new people on our Executive Committee. Eric Feeney, teacher at Wolcott Elementary is our new Social Committee Chair. John Tracey, social studies teacher at Sedgwick, is our new Political Action Chair. Lara White, social studies teacher at Hall High School is the chairperson of the new Ethnic Affairs Committee.
We also are in the process of forming three new standing committees which will meet on a regular basis with West Hartford administration. The stipend committee has been formed and will commence meeting this month. The new Elementary Workload Committee will be represented by WHEA teachers Christine Newman, Jessica Dunn, June Mann, and Lisa Garand. Finally, the Start of Year Committee will be coordinating with administration to make effective use of the first two work days of school.
We have a new website hosted by Sedgwick library media specialist Shannon McNeice which is becoming an excellent resource for teachers and a great companion to our award winning newsletter written by Joyce Bogdan.
Looking ahead, we have several events on the horizon. David Dippolino will continue to represent WHEA as celebrity chef at West Hartford’s Cookin’ in April. We will send a delegation to the CEA RA (representative assembly) in Hartford in May. We will again host the annual Retirement/Recognition Dinner in late May and we will have a booth at Celebrate West Hartford in June. In addition to these events, there are certain to be a few other things that will be well worth attending. Please stay tuned!