Summer Update

WDEA brothers and sisters,
I’ve been holding off on what is normally a mid-summer email for two reasons: I don’t want the summer to end, and the recent dental plan changes everyone is talking about are still in flux. My apologies for any stress the recent dental insurance memo from the district has caused and thank you for your thoughtful responses over the last week or so.
  • Dental rate increase finalized at 29%
  • Open enrollment extended to Sept 15
  • Call Cheryl Robinson at 426-3227 for questions and information
  • Aug/Sept birthdays register teaching certificate with SED
  • Making Strides website is live, please register for 10/16 walk at SRC arena
  • New APPR plan submitted
Dental Insurance: We were blind-sided two weeks ago by that ridiculous 37% rate increase in dental premiums with Ameritas. Immediately we were in contact with the district and ENV Insurance (the broker who contracts with the district to help find and manage insurance related products).  Knowing that many members may not, understandably, be checking their emails in the summer, I asked that the district send all info to you via the mail as well as email. Cheryl Robinson in the DO was very helpful in compiling materials including a spreadsheet of all our insurance premiums, and she quickly got the mailing out to you by the end of the week (thank you Cheryl).  I also contacted ENV and requested specific info about our group’s dental utilization, basically “why did this spike happen and what could we have done to anticipate or prevent it.” Per the WDEA contract, the district covers a fixed amount for dental premiums: $250 for individual, $650 for family. In the past, that amount has been adequate but as rates go up, the member assumes the full cost of the increase.  Our health insurance is different, the district pays 85% of the premium, so any increases are assumed proportionally by the member and the district.  So, this dental rate increase stings a little harder than others.
Since you received the increase notice, ENV has been in contact with Ameritas and they have finalized the rate increase for this year at 29%, still exorbitant but the numbers originally quoted you will be a little lower. I’ve posted the updated insurance rates here:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1coCgHBORbGKjfrTOhqHV4b_6TuO4ckFAdBfsp-LSsEM/edit?usp=sharing
We’ve also been in contact with the other unions (WEU, Teamsters [bus drivers], and admin) and will be convening our healthcare committee to compare dental plans, both premiums and benefits.  The district has submitted an RFP (request for proposals) to ENV which charges them with compiling dental plans (Excellus, Delta etc) with similar benefits and premiums for our review.  We’ve used the healthcare committee when we switched to Ameritas, it’s a good model of working together to make big decisions. Of course any changes in dental, as a major benefit in the contract, have to be agreed upon by the union and will be submitted to you for a ratification vote.  It may take a little time, but we’ll be working hard to mitigate this increase and find the right balance of benefits and cost for the members.
In the meantime, the open enrollment deadline that was previously Sept 1 has been extended to Sept 15.  If you have any questions about the insurance coverage or changes, please call Cheryl Robinson in the DO at 426-3227. I can be reached at 882-6344 vial phone or text.
August and September birthdays register certificate with SED. If your birthday falls in August or September (or if you haven’t yet registered a July birthday), please take the time to contact SED and register your teaching certificate. Once you’ve verified your TEACH account with SED it’s a fairly easy process. When I called SED, I had to wait on the phone for 20 mins but they were very helpful and got me the info I needed. DON’T CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT unless you’re sure you don’t have a pre-existing account with the state.  You’re better off calling to verify than trying to create a new account, it will mess things up in the long run. Read my primer on our website at:  https://wdea3115.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/sed-certificate-registration-system-is-live/ and call me if you have any problems.
Our WDEA MAKING STRIDES TEAM is registered and ready to go. Please visit our team page to register and make a donation to the October 16 event. This year the walk to raise money for breast cancer research is being held right in our back yard at the SRC arena on the OCC campus. Please join the team, make a donation, and spread the word to your family and friends. American Cancer Society has a great phone app this year that allows you to track your fundraising goals, post on social media, and even take credit card and check donations right on your smart phone.  Our team fundraising goal this year is $2500, please help us reach our goal. Join the team at:
This summer we met with the district to review and re-submit our APPR plan to SED. The new regulations (3012-d) make significant changes to the plan that we’ll review in full on opening day. The main thing you’ll see in your classroom is the elimination of the LATs and SLO model as a measure of student performance. We negotiated a plan that uses multiple, non-CommonCore assessments (Regents, 4-8 science tests, etc.).  The target for those tests will be negotiated each year by the WDEA. It in no way is a perfect plan, but we think it’s as good as we can get under the current system.  NYSUT continues to lobby for a repeal of the 3012-d law and we hope to see changes to the APPR in the new legislative session.
Thank you for being patient as the summer comes to an end and we navigate these bumps in the road.  I hope you’ve had lots of time to refresh and relax with friends and family.  If you have any questions, please call me and I’ll do my best to get you answers.  If you’re at the Fair on Saturday, Sept 3, stop by the NYSUT booth in the Center of Progress to say “hi”. The WDEA will be at the booth from 10AM-10PM that day. Otherwise I look forward to seeing all of you at our opening day session.
‘Til then,
Greg
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SED certificate registration system is live

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 8.17.27 AMThis week the State Education Department opened the new online registration system required of all certified classroom teachers and Level III teaching assistants working in public schools and BOCES. The process is being done through the TEACH system. SED this week sent notification emails to the addresses they already have in the TEACH system to alert certificate holders of the new requirement.

As part of the process, registrants will be asked questions about child support and a series of moral character questions. SED says the child support questions are required by the state general obligations law and must be asked of all registrants. The moral character questions are currently asked of all licensed professionals looking to register or re-register with the state. NYSUT objected to the inclusion of these questions in the new registration process because the law did not specifically include a provision calling for these questions. SED decided to move forward based on the requirements for the other professions. Here are screen shots of the registration pages.

For more information about the new system, see NYSUT’s updated certification page.

To log in to your TEACH account, go to http://www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/teach/. If you can’t remember if you’ve ever logged in, or can’t remember your password, you can enter the home email address that is associated with your account to receive a password reset notification.

Still having problems? If you can’t remember what email is associated with your account or if the associated email is out of date (my problem), you can contact NYSED by email form or call the help line here. I had this problem and called the help line to reset my email. Although I had to wait on hold for 20 minutes, they processed my request quickly and I was able to access my account easily after the call.

Although NYSED is asking people to wait until their birth month to register your certificate, you may be able to do so early. I was told that the window for registration will be open 3 months at a time. So, teachers born in July, Aug, and September should be able to register now.

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GM

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Governor signs extension for new APPR agreements

In the final hours of the session, both houses approved legislation that would give school districts and unions until Dec. 31 to submit new Annual Professional Performance Review plans with the State Education Department. Districts around the state have been scrambling to negotiate new evaluation plans by Sept. 1, or risk losing promised state aid increases.

An estimated 450 districts still have not finished negotiations. NYSUT said the new law, signed by the governor Thursday, offers “important breathing room” for districts and local unions.

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NYSUT activism staves off last-minute legislative attacks

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 8.04.56 AMLast week, just as the legislative session was drawing to a close, some cynical lawmakers launched a number of 11th-hour attacks on teachers, public education and working families.

NYSUT legislative staff stalked the Capitol day and night, meeting with lawmakers “to ensure the passage of good legislation and the defeat of bills that would have been very bad for our members,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta.

“And, thanks to a whirlwind of last-minute member activism, we were able to win several key victories in the waning hours,” he said. “We asked for your help, and you responded.”

Among those important victories, which will now go to the governor, whose signature would enact the laws:

  • An extension of the APPR deadline — from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2016 — for school districts to implement and have plans approved, which has already been signed.
  • The union protected public pensions. The pension forfeiture legislation that was ultimately passed included only elected officials and public officers … and not NYSUT members.
  • Both houses passed legislation that would protect the collective bargaining rights of public employees with respect to negotiated health insurance buyouts (NYSHIP).

Just as important were the onerous things the union defeated, including yet another shameful attempt at a backdoor voucher that would take public tax dollars meant for public schools and give them instead to the wealthy and powerful.

To stay involved and active in the issues that matter to you, click here to become a FAN of the NYSUT Action Center page on Facebook!

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Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Break

Things to Get Done This Week
  1. Please register your preferred home email with us so we can contact you over the summer regarding contract and APPR updates as well as back-to-school info and events.  Complete the simple survey by visiting our website: https://wdea3115.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/stay-in-touch-over-the-summer/
  2. Bookmark the WDEA website on your smartphone. Access important info including everything you read in these emails as well as a Retiree Fact Sheet and our WDEA contract under the Important Documents tab (note: password for access is 3115). Go to www.wdea3115.org and bookmark the page today.
  3. Register your teaching certificate during your birth month. I’ll be sending monthly reminders throughout the year (you can NOT register early, you must wait until your birth month). All teachers must register their certificate through NYSED’s TEACH system beginning this July (if you were born in July or August, you must register your certificate this summer). Teachers holding “Professional Certificates” (after Feb 2004) must also catalog 100 hours of professional development/continuing education every 5 years. “Permanent Certificates” (before Feb 2004) are not required to track continued education.  Questions about professional development hours may be directed Liz Dougherty at OHMS, she’s our resident expert.  You may also contact Annette Iamondo in the District Office for quidance on what counts for PD/Continuing Ed. Learn more by visiting NYSUT’s fact sheet or by accessing the TEACH system directly at http://www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/teach/.
  4. Submit any professional development hours and In-Service requests to My Learning Plan before the end of the week. Remember, there is a 5 hour PD requirement (local Westhill requirement) for all teachers, and those receiving certificates after Feb 2004 must complete 100 hours every 5 years. Your MLP hours will be uploaded to TEACH automatically. You may submit hours including staff development days, staff meetings and PLCs, CSE meetings etc. that occur throughout the year. Those hours may be submitted all at once, no need to submit each individual session (ie. submit all meetings for a particular committee on one form). 
  5. Be sure to return FLEX benefit election forms and payroll forms to Cheryl Robinson before the end of next week (June 23).
  6. Contact Cheryl Robinson at the D.O. for all insurance enrollment questions. Open enrollment for health insurance is July 1. If you wish to re-enroll in health insurance, please see Cheryl immediately (if you currently receive health insurance through the district, you’re all set-no need to do anything). Open enrollment for all other benefits (Vision, Dental, Disability, Life etc. is Sept. 1. Enrollment forms for those benefits must be completed in August to meet the Sept. 1 deadline.
  7. There is no need to upload artifacts this year for your APPR. Although you are always welcome to upload artifacts or share information with your principal, this step is not required.
  8. Visit the New York State Teacher Retirement System to learn more about buying back prior service credit for military service.  New this year (just signed two weeks ago), veterans who served in the military during non-combat times are now eligible to buy back up to three years of service and add it to their NYSTRS service credit.  Yes, that means you could retire earlier than you originally thought, or at least retire with a bigger pension. Learn more by visiting the NYS Comptroller’s website or by contacting NYSTRS directly at https://www.nystrs.org/Contact/Get-in-Touch.  Call 1-800-348-7298 ext. 6030 for prior service questions.
  9. Stop by the NYSUT booth in the Center of Progress during the Great NYS Fair. If you’re at the Fair on Saturday, Sept. 3, look for our WDEA brothers and sisters between 10AM and 10PM. Sept. 3rd is WDEA day at the NYSUT Fair booth.
  10. Save the date: October 16th is the date for this year’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk. This year’s event is being held right in our back yard at the OCC SRC Arena. Please consider being part of the WDEA/Westhill team this year and joining us for a wonderful event. Thanks to Liz Persons for volunteering to be our team captain again this year.
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Stay in Touch Over the Summer

WDEA members, please take a moment to register your preferred home email with us so we can keep in touch and send you important APPR and contract updates as well as back to school info and events.  Thank you and have a great summer!

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Elementary Clubs

In the latest WDEA contract, elementary clubs were added to the co-curricular schedule to recognize work that is being done at the elementary level (K-6) without compensation (WPS mileage club, CRS drama club etc) and to incentivize new clubs being formed in the future.  The club schedule added thirteen $569 stipends for clubs meeting once a week for 8-10 weeks.  If you completed work this past year that you think might fall under these clubs, please follow the link below to print and submit an application to your building principal by Monday, June 6th. Email or call me if you have any questions about eligibility or talk to your building reps.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T0h0LlXEpJwzzUNdy_p_ZfIIpk_PqM4vDnsExt-2XnM/edit?usp=sharing

This is a quick turnaround for this year only (2015-16), next year’s application process will be outlined in a separate email.
Thank you.
GM
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