The Granite Education Association Presents “Retirement 101: What’s Your Plan?” OR “Generation Debt: Student Loan Forgiveness
Retirement 101: What’s Your Plan? Everyone is one a different retirement path. During this session, we’ll cover basic concepts of retirement planning: Utah Retirement System (URS), identifying financial goals, investment vehicles, risk analysis, Rule of 72, diversification, pre- and post- tax, and compound interest. Tuesday October 6, 2020 at 5:00-6:30 p.m. (MOUNTAIN) Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/retirement-101-whats-your-plan-tickets-115884263953
Generation Debt: Student Loan Forgiveness During this session we will focus on the three student loan forgiveness programs available from the US Department of Education, the requirement and process of forgiveness, and how to prevent being denied forgiveness. In addition, NEA Member Benefits has made the “NEA Student Debt Navigator” powered by Savi FREE to all GEA members for the first year. This tool will analyze members’ specific student loan debt and assist with the paperwork process. Tuesday November 10, 2020 at 5:00-6:30 p.m. (MOUNTAIN) Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/generation-debt-student-loan-forgiveness-tickets-115886655105
Process: After you register, you will receive the Zoom link and a couple of reminder e-mails, it is suggested that you log-in 5-10 minutes before to ensure there are no issues. After the presentation, the Power-Point and other documents will be e-mailed to attendees. It is suggested that you visit www.neamb.com/start prior to the training and register on the NEA Member Benefits website, this will allow members immediate access to various student loan resources. If you have any problems, call our Member Advocacy Center at 800.637.4636.
Increased COVID-19 infection rates are not a surprise to many of us who work with, or in, public schools. This was the concern Utah educators had going into the 2020-21 school year and, sadly, we are seeing our worst fears begin to materialize.
While districts surrounding Granite are facing decisions on whether to close schools, despite the Utah health department’s caution of closing with 15 or more positive Covid-19 cases in a school, many are asking, “What if this were a Granite District school?” From the very beginning, the Granite school board and superintendent have repeatedly said that they are making decisions for the 2020-21 school year based on the state health department’s recommendations. The planning and implementation of health and safety guidelines by district administration and staff have created the safest environment possible for students and employees.
GEA has been re-assured today that this emphasis on health department recommendations is still the standard-bearer for decision making for Granite District’s school board and administration.
Today, the Utah Education Association (UEA) sent a letter to Governor Gary Herbert calling for him to increase the state’s “oversight and compliance” of the health and safety guidelines recommended by the Utah State Department of Health. Public opinion should not change protocols already in place and depended upon by the general public, specifically quarantining schools for a minimum of 14 days when there are 15 or more positive COVID-19 cases in any one location. The state’s commission on public health and the Utah State Board of Education created the COVID-19 School Manual in order to establish guidelines to be followed in the event of mass exposure and in turn should be enforced for the health and safety of all public education employees and the students we serve.
GEA and GSD continue to discuss and collaborate on COVID-19 and other issues each day. We encourage GEA members to reach out to us with concerns so that we may problem-solve effectively.
** Submit your application by October 2nd! Want to Host Your Own Mini Reading Marathon?
PBS Utah is excited to offer support outside of Salt Lake County
We want to continue to promote the love of reading, even though this school year looks different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we are offering Mini-Grants to support distance learning and creative virtual events to celebrate reading achievements.
Libraries, schools, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for support to host their own Mini Reading Marathon.
GEA leaders met with the Granite District superintendency to share concerns teachers are experiencing now that the school year has begun. These regular meetings are collaborative and seek to problem-solve working condition issues GEA hears from members.
In our meeting this week, we discussed the issue around short weeks, similar to what we will experience during SEP and Parent/Teacher Conferences the week of September 21st, and later in the year. GEA shared that with Friday compensation days, and Thursday’s as short days, the planning time available for teachers is cut short. GEA requested that the District calendar follow the same pattern as the majority of weeks in the calendar, i.e. Monday – Thursday, dual modalities, and Friday all students are distance learning. We asked to have the last day of any short week be similar in that students are not in the buildings but are learning online from home and teachers have the day to plan for the next week.
The District superintendent agreed that this planning time is important, and the following message went out to principals 9/10/2020:
Prior to the school year starting, the board approved a distance learning day each week. We placed that day at the end of each week, or on Fridays. On weeks that we do not have school on Friday there will still be a distance learning day, but it will be held on the last day of the week. This means that during the first quarter Thursday September 24th and Tuesday October 20th will be distance learning days. The district calendar is being updated to reflect these changes and the Communications Department will be sending this information out to parents. We would ask that you communicate this information out to your faculties, patrons, and students as well.
Our collective voice matters. Thank you for your continued support and loyalty to your professional association.
Dear Superintendent Bates, Board President Winder, and members of the Granite school board,
I am writing you to plead once again that you prioritize the safety of your staff as well as the students.
GEA just completed a survey of its membership. There were over 1400 responses. A very large majority, over 69%, feel unsafe with the district’s current plan. Over 55%, 792 educators, say “No amount of PPE and cleaning will be enough without the ability to create adequate distance between people in the building,” and only eight percent say they have no concerns with Granite’s current plan for the 2020-21 school year.
This result is not surprising to any of us who have been reading the emails from educators these last few weeks. Educators are afraid. They are pleading. They are waiting for some sign that the district means what it says when it tells educators “we value you.” Based on these survey results, GEA is once again renewing its request that Granite School District change its plan to allow for distancing within our school buildings.
We are asking that teacher concerns about lack of social distancing be taken seriously. We have several recent examples of teacher-training events where the presenters asked participants to engage in close group work, writing on a common poster for example, passing a ball back and forth, or manipulating the same physical items as a team. In normal times such strategies would be admirable efforts to engage participants. In the current climate they are not simply an unnecessary risk; they send the message that the health and safety of the participants are not a priority, and that their concerns are not taken seriously.
Whatever plan the district uses must include adequate social distancing (six feet from another person who is not part of your immediate family). We believe that social distancing is possible in any meeting of adults in the school building. We ask that principals:
Be directed to allow for social distancing in their plans for all staff meetings and all professional development.
Any principal-directed activity during:
the seven teacher contract days before the start of the school year could allow for distancing or even be done remotely through video conference,
as could every faculty meeting this year,
every leadership committee meeting,
every meeting of adult professionals.
There should not be any activities requiring a group of adults to crowd around a small table or sit in a size-constricted room.
And I hope it goes without saying at this point that we expect principals to model and enforce mask-wearing in any room or space which educators and students will congregate. We also expect them to enforce the negotiated agreement, i.e. today, secondary teachers are being told they will need to donate 10 minutes of their duty-free lunch to facilitate student lunch transitions. Please communicate this expectation with all building administrators.
Unfortunately, the efforts made to allow elementary educators the option to teach face-to-face or online has become confusing and difficult, if not near impossible, for many school buildings. Following are significant challenges we are hearing:
Principals and educators are trying to navigate a lack of FTE,
the high number of students enrolling for face-to-face instruction,
and programs such as Dual Immersion, Gifted, and other Special classes.
Educators working online are being asked to participate in school transition periods and supervision, which means they are in front of students during the most crowded times of the day.
Educators should not be asked to sign a form acknowledging they will be provided two hours of planning time; we already know will not happen. We already know years before Covid-19 we haven’t had enough paras and substitutes. Why would we put in place a process we know will not work?
Principals are, today, telling distance learning teachers that they will be called on to substitute when a face-to-face teacher is out.
Principals do not have the budget to pay an additional two hours to those volunteering to teach dual modalities, and many educators are feeling pressured into taking on both modalities to avoid disruptions to the school and/or their fellow colleagues.
We have teacher coaches and specialists throughout the district. Why not dispatch these individuals to teach the distance learning students throughout the district when FTE is short?
We understand it is inconvenient, but what you are asking schools and their staffs to do is untenable.
At this time, GEA is advising educators not to sign the form which gives away their rights under the contract and is requesting that a weekly schedule similar to secondary be provided for elementary schools (Monday – Thursday students face-to-face, educators managing both modalities, and Friday’s with all students online and an opportunity to prepare for their online students for the next week).
Please note that this requested shift in plan is not meant to replace the medical accommodations necessary for some educators to not be face-to-face with students but allow for the ADAAA interactive process to meet the needs of these high-risk individuals.
Educators are afraid for their health and the health of their loved ones. We are said to be essential employees and are the only group of such workers asked to be sequestered in a room with 25+ people for several hours a day, every day. GEA is asking that educators’ fears and concerns be acknowledged and more so, addressed. Telling educators not to worry is not helpful. Providing sanitation materials is not enough. Show us that you take our concerns seriously. Make the difficult decisions necessary to protect all your employees, and students.
Dear Granite District School Board members, President Winder, and Dr. Bates:
GEA is writing today to follow up on the concerns expressed in our July 13th letter, and to correct a possible false impression that the teachers support the current Granite re-opening plan.
We had an emergency meeting of the GEA building representatives last night. Teachers still have many of the same concerns that were expressed in our first letter. The number one concern is the same as it was on July 13th - How will appropriate social distancing be managed in a classroom with 30+ students?
GEA requests that you reconsider your plan to reopen schools on a regular schedule with all students attending on the same day, 5-days weekly. This plan does not allow for distancing in the classroom, and it puts teachers, staff, and students at high risk.
(To illustrate the problem, I had attached a video a high school teacher shared with us that shows the desks in her classroom, where can see that distancing will not be possible. I have removed attachments so the email would send.) I hope to correct a possible false impression created during a discussion at the last board meeting by sharing information we received from a survey GEA just completed. We asked building representatives what they were hearing from the teachers at their school. Over 60% report either hearing from high risk teachers who are afraid to return, or that a majority of their coworkers are extremely anxious and concerned about the district’s plan. Asked about the level of concern, 58% said either teachers are “extremely concerned” about the inability to physically distance, or that it was their number one concern. Finally, if asked to choose between distance learning only, returning to full-time in-person teaching, or a modified schedule, 57% say teachers in their building would prefer a modified schedule that only had half the students in the building at a time.
The argument was made in the last school board meeting that since teachers expressed concern over the difficulty of teaching in two modalities, that teachers must prefer going back full time over a modified schedule. This is clearly not the case. Yes, teachers are concerned - extremely concerned - about the workload. However, the modified schedule, as it was being explained in June, would have given teachers Friday to prepare distance learning lessons. It was when the plan changed to full-time regular schedule that we really started to hear the worries about doing two full-time jobs. I understand that there are many reasons you may desire a regular schedule with all the students in the building at once ( and possibly 20% learning online); I just don’t want the false idea that teachers support this plan to be one of the reasons.
Teachers are concerned about the safety of Granite’s current plan, to the extent that some of them are choosing to leave. Teachers have chosen early retirement, a one-year unpaid leave of absence, or simply resigning, rather than face what they perceive as unsafe working conditions created by Granite’s current plan. Granite has, thus far, been willing to allow teachers to leave and waive deadlines for retirement for example, and for that we are grateful. It is GEA’s sincere hope that teachers will not be fined if they resign without the usual 30-day notice, in these extreme circumstances. They are leaving because of the model you have chosen, to have all the students in the building at once, with no opportunity for distancing. Teachers would be more willing to return to work if you were to reconsider this model. Since submitting to you our concerns on July 13th, many of the concerns we expressed have been addressed. GEA wants to thank the board for addressing concerns around increased teacher workload and having to teach both online and in-person. We don’t believe all these issues have been solved. We know that particular schools (small schools, dual language, etc.) will not be able to assign staff to a single modality, and will need additional planning time. At the secondary level, it’s problematic to have students frequently switching modalities. But we believe that progress is being made on this issue, and we look forward to continuing productive conversations.
We are also grateful for the collaboration of district administration in answering the many questions teachers have sent us. The district’s Frequently Asked Questions document contains reassurances about many of our concerns, including that principals will enforce the mask-wearing requirements, and that Personal Protective Equipment will be provided. We look forward to continued collaboration and problem-solving with the district administration.
We anticipate district cooperation as we troubleshoot the individual school plans that are being developed. We expect that such plans will honor the negotiated agreement between GEA and the district. We especially want to underline the need for planning and preparation time for teachers. With the new expectations this year, teachers will need more planning time, not less. All school plans must also provide for a 30-minute duty-free lunch. We also ask that principals be sensitive to childcare issues which are created for our employees by COVID 19 and other school districts’ responses to it.
There are many routines and practices that will have to be different this year due to the pandemic. Therefore, we respectfully request that unnecessary changes be delayed. Specifically, we ask that the district stop any new rollouts of new programs that were planned for this year. Let’s press pause on introducing anything new that is not made necessary by our present crisis.
This week we heard that Davis District has changed their plan, and will open with a modified schedule, allowing half the students to attend at a time. Realizing that COVID-19 cases may be higher in Davis County at this time, Salt Lake County still struggles with hot spots where Granite schools reside.
GEA asks that Granite District will also reconsider their current plan to open fully. We should return to a regular schedule only when transmission rates are as low or lower than they were in March. GEA is formally requesting that Granite District open in August using a modified schedule that would have half the students in the building at a time.
I trust, whatever the plan, that we will keep working together to make every possible provision for the safety of teachers, staff, and students. Thank you, sincerely, Michael McDonough GEA President
GEA believes that teachers are the experts in the classroom, and we do everything we can to elevate teachers’ voices in the plans that affect your classroom. We will often call on members to write to the school board or the legislature, or otherwise speak up on matters of policy. As your advocates, we also have a role in protecting your employment and keeping you from getting in trouble. It is in that spirit that we offer the following advice:
As licensed public-school educators, there are limitations to our first amendment rights. If you choose to speak publicly about your concerns regarding school reopening, it is recommended you keep the following in mind:
If you are at YOUR school, at a school board meeting, or any gathering at YOUR school, you are likely not able to distinguish yourself as a patron and will be deemed an employee with limited First Amendment rights;
If you are speaking at a school in your neighborhood but not a school where you are employed, distinguish yourself as a patron, neighbor, parent, community member;
Avoid addressing the proposed plan specifically and focus on issues related to COVID-19 and health and safety concerns;
Avoid naming any administrators, supervisors, employees or school board members;
Avoid assigning blame anywhere;
Be professional always; be courteous; exercise grace and gratitude;
Acknowledge the difficulty the local board, administrators, supervisors face in trying to meet the needs of the parents, students and employees
If you have any questions about what you want to say please consult with your local UniServ Director before speaking.
As stated above, GEA encourages educators to speak out about issues impacting employment and the health and safety of employees and students. This post is not a discouragement of professional and necessary communication with elected leaders. Keep your letters and concerns coming, just be mindful of appropriate guidelines.
UEA put out a press release today about delaying the return to school buildings.
"Rush to open amid rising virus rates put students, educators and families at risk
In a continued effort to advocate for the safety and wellbeing of students, educators and communities across Utah, the Utah Education Association calls on the governor, the State Board of Education and local school districts in impacted areas to delay public K-12 school reopening plans and instead temporarily resume distance learning to begin the 2020-21 school year. Schools should remain closed to in-person learning until COVID-19 cases decline and school districts have reopening plans created with input from educators and carefully reviewed and approved by local health authorities." Read more >>>
Given the links to articles I’m being sent frequently, it’s clear many of us are subscribed to the same news feeds. I am keenly aware of, and very concerned about, Utah’s COVID numbers and trends. I know this is a time when you and I have lots of concerns and lots of feelings and lots of unanswered questions. The idea of going back to school raises fears about spreading the virus further and even contracting the virus ourselves. These fears naturally extend to concerns we all have for the health and safety of our loved ones, parents, spouses and children. The risks are real, and I know those feelings and concerns are both genuine and valid.
Please know, as superintendent, I feel great responsibility for all of our 64,000 students and their families, and for our more than 8,000 employees and their families. However, I can also say that I am approaching this coming school year with confidence - wariness, yes - but with confidence. I’d like to share with you why.
While I do not know our state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn personally, I know many who do. They have great respect for and confidence in her. I have personally known our state superintendent Dr. Sydnee Dickson for more than two decades. I know no one who is more competent or who cares for children more deeply than she. I have great confidence in the direction we receive from her.
I know the leaders of our county health department personally. I am extremely grateful to them for taking CDC guidance - guidance that is issued and worded to have application from Waynesville, Missouri to New York City - and translating it for specific application to Granite School District. I have great confidence in the health department team that has been assigned to work directly with our district with everything from contact tracing to analysis of specific situations and guidance accordingly. I know that every “positive” diagnosis is reported to the health department and that each time they immediately work with us to determine the medically expedient next steps.
I have great confidence in our school nurses, medical professionals who have dedicated their careers to helping children be safe and healthy at school.
I have great confidence in school leaders, assigned to serve in our more than 90 schools. They know their people, their facilities, their resources and their communities. I’m so impressed with the thoughtful, principle-based plans they are developing with their leadership teams and broader communities.
I have great confidence in our support personnel and their abilities to keep our work and learning spaces clean as they do everything from preparing lunch to installing hospital-grade air filters into our school HVAC systems.
I have great confidence in our nearly 4000 educators who recognize that they represent the only opportunity for tens of thousands of our kids to get an education, the only possible ticket out of poverty and into a healthy and self-sufficient life. Over the last ten years I have visited thousands of our classrooms and can’t imagine a more professional and dedicated group. I would hold our teachers up against any group any time and anywhere.
I have great confidence in the families of Granite School District, specifically our parents. No one knows the children better than they and I honor the decisions they make for their children. Some may feel their children will be better served in a distance modality for a time, I respect that and we will do all we can to serve them to meet their needs. For the families who do not choose a distance option and for the very many for whom a distance option is simply not a real option, we will provide for them as well. None of our district’s children can afford to fall further behind, especially those referenced before for whom we represent the only opportunity for a successful future.
Please know that we are listening closely to the governor’s office, including Dr. Dunn and associated state health officials, our county health leaders and our state superintendent. I do not know what changes will occur over the next weeks and months but have confidence yet again in their ability to issue guidance and our ability to pivot accordingly.
I sincerely thank you all for all you do!
Martin Bates Granite School District, Superintendent
Disclaimer: The publication of the Granite Education Association Web site is made available on the Internet as a service to the membership of GEA. It is not an official site of Granite School District, nor does it represent the opinion of GSD and/or its School Board or Administration.