Vol. 3, December 2003
A Publication of the Minnetonka Teachers Association
Members of Education Minnesota, NEA, AFT, Minnesota Local #7173
Editor, Mary Tingblad, firstname.lastname@example.org
MM-West, 6421 Hazeltine Blvd., Excelsior, MN 55331
2003-2004 Minnetonka Teachers Association Governance Board
~ President Mark Chalupsky ~ Vice President Julie Anderson-Simonson ~
~ Secretary Mary Tingblad ~ Treasurer Joseph Ricke ~
~ DEC Linda Morantez ~ Deephaven Margaret Ruffino~ Groveland Pam Wertjes ~
~ Excelsior Mark Broten ~ Minnewashta Melanie Casiday ~
~ Clear Springs Debra Jensen ~ Scenic Heights Katie Tuthill ~
~ MM-East Mark Brzezinski & Sandy Gosen ~
~ MM-West Mary Tingblad & Jeri Goodspeed-Gross ~
~ MHS Joseph Ricke, Jan Nelson, Mike Cutshall & Miles Mortensen ~
~~ President’s Ponderings ~~
MTA President, Mark Chalupsky, email@example.com
Hello everyone! You should have received your new pay rate and back pay on your last check. It is very important that you take the time to verify that everything is correct. I would also advise you to always keep your pay stubs in case there is ever a problem in the future. You will also receive your copy of the new contract from the district after Winter Break.
I am very aware of the numerous issues we are having with technology. For many of you, it is almost impossible to use technology with your students because the Internet is so slow. I have had several meetings with district administrators about this issue and will continue to meet with them until the system is functioning properly. I am hopeful that some improvements to the system over winter break will bring more speed on the net. If you are having technology problems, I would encourage you to call the technology help desk at 5123.
At this time, we are only one of 62 districts out of 362 districts in Minnesota that have reported contract settlements. I feel very fortunate that we are done and would like to thank all of your for the cards, e-mails, and telephone calls on this issue. I would also like to wish all of you and your families a very healthy, happy, and safe Winter Break. Hopefully, we can all recharge and be ready to go in January.
~~ Teachers’ Rights Review ~~
Education Minnesota provides members with lots of information on its website www.educationminnesota.org. Here’s a sampling of some of the important information you can find there:
Education Minnesota—Legal Department Disclaimer: Information contained on the Education Minnesota website is published for general information and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or an offer to give legal advice, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship with any of our attorneys. We cannot accept direct requests for legal advice or offer specific legal advice over the Internet. If you have a specific member rights question, talk to your Teachers’ Rights Representative or call your Education Minnesota Field Staff.
When can I take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act? The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provided a great step forward for employees. Previously, employers could deny requests from employees for leaves to recover from serious illness, to care for seriously ill family members, or to be with newborn or newly adopted children. Employees whose employers would not grant time off for these purposes either had to quit or face termination. Now, the FMLA guarantees most employees three significant rights:
1. The right to take up to 12 weeks per year (a) for the birth or adoption of a child; (b) for the employee’s serious health condition that prevents the employee from performing the essential functions of their job; or (c) to care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.
2. The right to continue to receive the same health benefits, and the same employer contribution for or payment of premiums for those health benefits that the employee received prior to the leave.
3. The right to return to the same position the employee had before the leave, or a position that is equivalent in pay, benefits, and other employment terms.
FMLA provides employees the right to take time off, not the right to take time off with pay. However, if the employee has paid leave available, the leave may also qualify as a paid leave. The union contract regarding the use of paid leaves determines what, when and how much paid leave may be used.
When may I have a union representative in a meeting with administration? Under NLRB v. Weingarten, a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case, an employee has the right to union representation when the employee is subject to questioning that the employee reasonably believes may lead to disciplinary action. Weingarten does not require the employer to specifically inform you of your right to union representation. Instead, the right arises when you request representation. Nevertheless, many Minnesota school districts do tell employees of their right to union representation.
News From Education Minnesota
~~ Become A Grassroots Advocate ~~
Threats to public education and public employees are real. Last year’s legislative session clearly showed that educators need more pro-public education legislators at the Capitol, both in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. At the state level, Minnesota’s classrooms were not held harmless in funding, and programs that serve the most vulnerable populations were cut. At the federal level, President Bush’s so-called No Child Left Behind Act reduces the measurement of student achievement to scores on standardized tests.
A strong grassroots effort is critical to ensuring a bright future for Education Minnesota members, our students and our state. Education Minnesota’s Grassroots Advocate Program is an easy way to attain that success. A Grassroots Advocate develops and maintains a relationship with his or her local legislators and communicates with them at critically important times. Education Minnesota will provide Grassroots Advocates with background information, talking points and communication tools for use with legislators. Log on www.educationminnesota.org and visit the Policy and Politics section to find out more and register for the program.
~~ Seminar on Long-Term Care Insurance ~~
How can you learn more about long-term care and the benefits provided by the Education Minnesota ESI-sponsored policy?
1. Visit the Web site at www.educationminnesota.onlineltc.com.
2. Have a personal consultation with a licensed Long-Term Care insurance expert at 1-888-738-5116.
3. Register for an upcoming LTC insurance educational seminar at 1-888-738-5116.
Here’s what is scheduled in our area:
· Twin Cities – central, January 19, 6:30 p.m., Benefit Advisor Services, 680 Kasota Ave., Minneapolis.
· Twin Cities – south, January 22, 6:30 p.m., Edina High School, 6754 Valley View Road.
~~ Read Across America ~~
It’s not too early to start planning for Read Across America, the NEA-sponsored reading celebration on March 2, 2004. You can check out the Education Minnesota website, www.educationminnesota.org/index.cfm?PAGE_ID=2081, for ideas on how to implement a program in your local. Early this year, you will also be able to get materials from the online community. These materials will no longer be mailed, due to cost cutting measures approved by the Education Minnesota Governing Board last fall. Ideas and materials are also available from http://www.nea.org/readacross/.
~~Stand By Me: What Teachers Really Think~~
A recent survey by Public Agenda, a public policy research organization, finds solid union support throughout the teacher ranks. 81% believe that without their union, teachers would be vulnerable to school politics or administrators who abuse their power and that without collective bargaining, working conditions and salaries would be much worse. Stand By Me: What Teachers Really Think About Unions, Merit Pay, and Other Professional Matters reveals that by a margin of 63% to 22%, teachers believe that merit pay fosters unhealthy competition and jealousy. Teachers cite favoritism, district politics, and the threat of job loss to lower paid newcomers as reasons to support tenure. Half of all teachers support alternative certification.
~~ NEA Foundation Offers Grants ~~
The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) funds hundreds of grants each year – up to $5,000 per project – to public educators. Innovation Grants fund break-the-mold innovations that significantly improve achievement for underserved learners. All practicing U.S. public school teachers in grades K-12, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff at public colleges and universities are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is February 1, 2004. For details, visit www.nfie.org/programs/howtoapply.htm.
~~ Education Week Issues Report On NCLB Progress ~~
Nearly two years after its passage, the so-called No Child Left Behind Act has produced one unambiguous result: an avalanche of data on the performance of public schools in the United States. But a survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia by Education Week found less movement on other fronts, such as the number of states now testing in the required grades. Many states are still struggling to mesh their existing systems for rating schools with federal law, which has resulted in confusing messages about what all the numbers mean. Read Education Week’s year-end progress report on the states’ efforts to comply with the NCLB Act at: www.edweek.org/ew/.
AFT PLUS... The Benefits of Belonging
~~ College Education & Career Training Loans ~~
The AFT PLUS Education Loans program is uniquely designed to help you and your family save whether you are looking to continue your own education or are looking at financing options for a family member. The program provides information on going to college and financing for a range of education and training needs. Traditional college loans are available to students attending accredited colleges and universities at least half-time. Funds are made available through Sallie Mae’s nationwide network of lending partners. Sallie Mae is the nation’s leader in education finance. Sallie Mae currently owns and manages student loans for more than 7 million borrowers.
The world of financial aid and student loans can be complex and confusing. Dedicated counselors help guide members through the process and determine their best combination of financing options. Sallie Mae's financial aid counselors are ready to answer questions, make the loan process as easy as possible and take the member's application over the phone. There's no charge to call, and the assistance to union members is free. Extensive online resources, such as scholarship searches, databases and financial calculators, are also available. For more information, call 1-877/881-1022 or visit their website, www.unionplus.org/education.
~~ AFT Scholarships for Children of Members ~~
The Porter Scholars Program was established in 1992 to honor the late Robert G. Porter, who served as AFT secretary-treasurer from 1963 through 1991. Four $8,000 scholarships will go to high school seniors graduating in 2004 who are dependents of AFT members and who intend to pursue a career in labor, education, healthcare or government. Also offered are 10 grants of $1,000 for AFT members to pursue further study in their fields. Members may download the application from the AFT Web site at www.aft.org/scholarships or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Members who do not have access to the Internet may mail a postcard or letter to the Robert G. Porter Scholars Program, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Applications must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2004.
~~ HAPPY NEW YEAR? ~~
An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~Bill Vaughan
~~ Literacy Empowerment Foundation FREE Books ~~
The Literacy Empowerment Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, invites your school to apply for FREE books for Read Across America Day or other literacy projects. This year, LEF has distributed over 2,000,000 books to schools all across the country for Read Across America Day and other literacy projects. The deadline for ordering free Read Across America Day books is February 8, 2004. Resources are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Orders must be received by February 8, 2004. Go to: http://colorcodedbooks.org/ for more information and an order form or call us at 717-791-6210.
~~ So, What’s New at YOUR School? ~~
There are “good news” things happening everyday in our schools. Send your school’s good news to email@example.com to be included in the next issue of The Professional. I’ve been told that this is one of the favorite features of the newsletter. It’s the way that we can share all the good things going on with our teachers!
News From MHS
Are you following Maggie Pistner and her other career? In February, she goes into rehearsal for The Grapes of Wrath at The Starting Gate Theatre, located at the Loading Dock Theatre space in St. Paul. The show will run from April 2 to 25, 2004.
News From Scenic Heights
Mike Hoffman, 4th grade teacher, and wife Michelle, welcomed their third child, Julia Grace, who was born on November 11, 2003.
Baby News From MM-West
Jeannine Adair, Speech and Language teacher, and husband are expecting their second child in June.
Editorials, commentary, opinions, and letters to the editor are not necessarily the position of the MTA. All members are invited to share their unedited views, thoughts, concerns, etc., by submitting them to: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mary Tingblad, MM-West, 6421 Hazeltine Blvd, Excelsior, MN 55331.
A Letter on Health Insurance
Editor’s note: After receiving his new ad for the Want Ads, I urged David Surver to submitted a letter further explaining some Health Insurance options.
Dear MTA members,
When my insurance costs went over $10,000 a year for my family health insurance coverage, I knew it had gotten out of control. Now it’s awfully close to $12,000 a year. I know the district is doing some innovative things to try to get our costs down, but the fact still remains that the cost for family coverage takes away too much of my income! A few years ago I decided to go and do the work it would take to shop for health insurance for my family. I learned several things.
First of all, you have to keep your single coverage with the district. I understand that. We need to keep a “group” together. You have to keep the teacher’s insurance in the group, but you don’t have to keep the rest of your family with the group.
Secondly, everyone is moving towards a higher deductible. If you are willing to take a higher deductible, you can save money by taking your insurance to the private sector. I took a thousand dollar deductible with an A-rated (excellent) company on my wife and kids and saved several hundred dollars a month. If you save, let’s say $3000 a year, you can pay for a lot of $200 doctor visits yourself and still be ahead!
Thirdly, the family members you want insured must be in good health. Just like car insurance companies save their best rates for those that have clean driving records, the health insurance companies save their best rates for those that have been in good health. If you need more information, see the teacher’s classified ads (Editor’s note: The MTA Want Ads are not available in the online newsletter, but MTA members can check the e-mail they received that directed them to the website) or feel free to give me a call at 763-449-5768. I can get you information on rates for your family.
David Surver, Math teacher at MM-West
Welcome, Delta Kappa Gamma Sister!
The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. It was my personal pleasure to stand by her side, as we officially welcome Julie Anderson-Simonson into Delta Kappa Gamma (Tau State, Alpha Theta Chapter) earlier this month. I would like to encourage other women to join us, as well. A prospective member must have three or more years in educational work and employment in the profession at the time of consideration. Those who become members are offered a lifelong association with other women educators engaged in the shared pursuit of common interests, goals, and ideals.
I am awed at the history of Delta Kappa Gamma, which dates back to 1929. Dr.
Annie Web Blanton and eleven other women educators believed there was a need to
unite women educators in efforts towards better professional preparation,
recognition of women’s work in the teaching profession, and scholarships for
those needing aid in improving their professional preparation. The organization
currently has membership of over 150,000 in 14 countries. I’d say we’ve come a
long way, Annie!
Delta Kappa Gamma is a combination of the initial letters of three Greek words meaning "key women educators." This summer, key women educators from all over the world will be here in Minnesota. Tau State will be hosting the very special Delta Kappa Gamma 75th Diamond Jubilee International Convention in July.
There’s still time for prospective members to join. Our next chapter meeting will be on March 1, 2004. If you are interested in finding out more about Delta Kappa Gamma, please contact me. I bet some of you are thinking some of the same thoughts I first had... "I’m too busy... I don’t have time for that..." The meeting schedule is very teacher-friendly-- after all, the chapter is made up of teachers. We have one meeting a month, but we don’t meet every month. We give ourselves vacations from meetings in January and February, when many of the retired snowbirds fly away! We also have the whole summer off-- no meetings in June, July, or August. AND, the really teacher-friendly NO MEETING in September when we are all busy starting the new school year! How’s that for easy?
Send me an e-mail and I’ll send you more information. I would be happy to invite you to our next chapter meeting, just to see what it’s like-- no pressure to join. Really!
Mary Tingblad, Editor