Welcome back, REA members!
First of all, I have to start by thanking all of you for your hard work in the past year. I could not have imagined such a crazy year, full of changes and complications. And yet, despite the chaos and uncertainty, you all stepped up and did everything you could for kids. You are resilient and dedicated educators, and I am so proud of and impressed by all of you. It is a privilege to represent you as REA president this year. Obviously, we cannot promise any sort of “normal,” but I know I am definitely looking forward to getting to have students in the classroom again and having some of the classroom experiences that we all missed out on last year. And I have no doubt that you will all rise to the occasion again and create a positive school experience for your students.
We also need to take a moment to give a shout out to all summer school staff. In spite of changing plans, lack of materials, and other challenges, all of the certified, classified, and administrative staff who worked on the summer school program at each school did an amazing job making this valuable and enjoyable for students. I was so impressed throughout the summer at everything I saw and heard – from multiple schools, especially from students – and it was clearly a success because of all your hard work. You should all be very proud of what you created for kids!
By now, you have probably heard about the state’s mask mandate for all K-12 schools and about the vaccine mandate for all school employees. (This will go into effect October 18th or six weeks after the FDA gives full approval for the vaccines, whichever is later.) All staff will be expected to comply with both of these state mandates. While the state has taken these two decisions out of our hands, there are still many COVID-related factors that will affect your working conditions and students’ learning conditions this year. REA is currently negotiating with the district to finish an MOU that will apply to our return to school this fall. Our goal is to preserve the safest conditions possible for staff and students, while facilitating a very necessary return to classrooms and in-person instruction. We are encouraged by the collaboration shown by the district’s MOU negotiations team and hopeful that this MOU will be settled soon.
Some start-of-the-year details and reminders:
*Formal contract negotiations are also ongoing, although the priority at this time is the MOU mentioned above. As we are currently working without a settled contract, the previous 2020-2021 contract is still in effect. Also, the partial tuition freeze that was in effect last year has ended, so all members should once again have access to the usual tuition reimbursement, per Article 19. The next formal negotiations sessions are tentatively scheduled for September 21st and October 5th. These sessions are scheduled to be virtual and are open to all.
*The schedule for our first week back at work looks like this:
Monday, August 30th – member-directed workday
Tuesday, August 31st – building PD day
Wednesday, September 1st – district PD (a.m.), building PD (p.m.)
Thursday, September 2nd – member-directed workday
Friday, September 3rd – non-contract day (buildings should be open)
Thanks to our negotiations team for working so hard to get us that additional pre-instructional workday to help us prepare for students. Specifics about the professional development days should be provided by your building principal/supervisor.
*Don’t forget to complete your insurance enrollment. This year, enrollment is mandatory, which means EVERYONE must re-enroll for each of your insurance options in order to continue them. Enrollment must be completed by September 3rd. Staff should have received an email last week from Liza (Elizabeth) Holland, the district’s new benefits specialist, including information about the district’s planned enrollment support sessions (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday of this week).
Finally, as we look forward to welcoming students back into classrooms, please remember to take care of yourselves and of each other. Once again, we are starting a school year with lots of things up in the air and lots of external factors affecting us and our jobs. Keep in mind that everyone is under an extraordinary amount of stress, and be sure to extend compassion and support to each other whenever possible. We are all working toward a shared goal – to support our kids – and we are always stronger together. When we support each other, we can work together to create amazing school experiences for students.
Good luck to each of you as you prepare to start the school year. Please reach out if you need anything or have questions.