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Mindful Moment: Relieve Tension

Simple acupressure techniques can help eliminate or reduce stress. Learn a few easy activities you can use and teach your students. Watch this week’s CEA Mindful Moment video.

Stamford Officials Disregard Students, Parents, and Teachers: Vote to Cut Education Budget

Despite hundreds of emails, letters, heartfelt comments during virtual meetings, car caravans, and other activities protesting proposed school budget cuts, the Stamford Board of Finance last night voted unanimously to cut the education budget by more than $15 million.

“It’s unbelievable that our voices were not heard throughout this process,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Teachers rose to the COVID-19 challenges, as they always do, to take care of their students and keep them engaged and learning. The consequences of the crisis cannot be budget cuts that limit teachers’ ability to help their students or cuts to resources students need.” 

Prior to the vote, Board of Finance members commented about the process. Saying that the board has been transparent, member Mary Lou Rinaldi remarked, “This should be no surprise to anyone.”  Read more

Share Your Views: The Road to School Equity After COVID-19

The move to distance learning has exposed huge inequities among our school districts and often between students in the same district. Some students don’t have laptops or Internet service. Others face food insecurity or issues related to health and safety.

Teachers are invited to join a special CEA online forum, The Road to School Equity After COVID-19, to share how the pandemic has magnified inequities and focus on identifying strategies, policies, and ideas to put Connecticut on the road to enhancing equity for all students.

Forum: The Road to School Equity After COVID-19
Tuesday, June 2, 4:00 – 5:15 p.m.
Register for the online forum

The interactive forum will feature State Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, who will listen to your concerns regarding equity issues and will use that input to help inform decisions regarding reopening schools.

Forum attendees will also break into smaller groups led by teacher leaders for further discussions and ideas to enhance equity as we reopen schools.

Teaching SEL Remotely: CEA Teachers Share Strategies

Student anxiety and mental health issues were a serious concern before COVID-19 and are even more so now that schools are not physically in session. Distance learning is no substitute for in-person interaction and emotional support, and many educators are struggling to support students and colleagues during this difficult time.

Earlier this month, more than 800 educators attended a webinar hosted by Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Betty Sternberg, Director of Connecticut’s Teacher Leader Fellowship Program, a collaborative program run by CCSU, CEA, and AFT-CT. The webinar, titled, “SEL Best Practices for Supporting Educators and Students During Distance Learning,” featured 23 teachers and administrators from around Connecticut.

Three CEA teachers were featured on the panel. Anthea Groton, a kindergarten teacher at Birch Grove Elementary School in Tolland, shared strategies to help elementary school students deal with anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness. She focused on the importance of warm connections between teachers and students and engaging learning activities like Lego Challenges and Living Room Fort Construction. She spoke of the challenges of distance learning and the emotional toll it is taking on teachers, and reminded colleagues, “What you are doing matters. It matters a lot.” Read more

Car Caravan Rally and Budget Meetings: Stamford Community Supports Teachers, Opposes Cuts to Education

Hundreds of Stamford students, teachers, parents, and other community members showed their opposition to plans to cut the school budget by more than $15 million during a car caravan rally yesterday afternoon and at a virtual Board of Finance meeting last night.

“The community’s show of support is amazing,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Thousands of residents have been actively involved in speaking out at four virtual town budget meetings, and hundreds attended today’s car caravan, urging city officials not to cut the education budget.”

Increased class sizes and the reduction or elimination of positions—including reading teachers, media specialists, technology teachers, social workers, school counselors, EL specialists, and art, physical education, and music teachers, as well as security personnel and paraprofessionals—are just some of the changes in store if Stamford Pubic Schools Superintendent Tamu Lucero’s budget-cutting plan is adopted. That plan has been proposed unless teachers accept $15 million in concessions, including a two-year salary freeze and $4 million in unspecified additional cuts or a 10% increase in the teacher health care premium cost share.

“As we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our students will need more resources. These proposed cuts will jeopardize their education, their emotional well-being, and their future. We urge our elected leaders to listen to the public and do what’s right for Stamford,” said Phanos. Read more

Mindful Moment: Bird by Bird

This series of short videos from CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field illustrates how mindfulness can enhance the overall well being of students and teachers. This week’s video is about the mindfulness lessons birds can teach us.

What Will School Look Like in the Fall?

A virtual panel hosted by Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut discussed the need for safeguards and protocols to be in place before in-person schooling resumes.

Connecticut’s elected officials, health experts, education stakeholders, and others agree that when school resumes this fall, it is unlikely to look like school pre-COVID. Safeguards will need to be in place to protect students and staff against exposure to a virus that has no available vaccine and is still not well-understood. Protocol will need to be developed to assess and remediate against learning loss, trauma, and other by-products of the global pandemic.

But what will those safeguards and protocols be, and will they be consistent from district to district? Those were a few of the questions raised during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the nonprofit Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut.

As the state works on guidance and plans for reopening schools, SEEK is looking to teachers, administrators, parents, and others for potential strategies and concerns, particularly when it comes to students with special needs. Panel discussants, who answered questions submitted via Zoom, included CEA President Jeff Leake, Old Saybrook Superintendent of Schools Jan Perruccio, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy, Connecticut Counselor of Administrators of Special Education (ConnCASE) Executive Director Dave Scata, and Norwalk parent advocate Geraldine Fleming. SEEK board members Andrew Feinstein and Jennifer Laviano moderated. Read more

Survey: Tell Us About Distance Learning Inequities

photo-of-girl-smiling-while-holding-tablet-computer-4144103Teachers are rising to the challenge and educating their students in the most extraordinary circumstances.

As disruptions to daily life continue, teachers are doing all they can to help ease the transition for students and families. The move to distance learning has exposed huge inequities among our school districts and often between students in the same district.

We want to hear about those equity gaps. What are your students and their families facing?

Take Survey ►

Some students don’t have laptops or Internet service. Others face food insecurity or issues related to health and safety. Please take a few minutes to tell us what is happening in your district. We want to hear how these issues are impacting teaching and student learning. Your answers can help us shape decisions regarding the reopening of schools.

The survey is completely anonymous. You do not have to identify yourself, unless you would like to provide contact information to discuss these issues further.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on how the pandemic is impacting public education.

Stamford Teachers Speak Out Against Draconian Cuts During Coronavirus Pandemic

Increased class sizes, the reduction or elimination of positions, including reading teachers, media specialists, technology teachers, social workers, school counselors, EL specialists, and art, physical education, and music teachers as well as security personnel and paraprofessionals are just some of the cuts Stamford Pubic Schools Superintendent Tamu Lucero outlined last night during a virtual Board of Finance (BOF) special budget meeting. Lucero threatened the cuts if teachers refuse to accept $15 million in concessions, including a two-year salary freeze and $4 million in unspecified additional cuts or a 10% increase in the teacher health care premium cost share.

“Penalizing teachers by requiring concessions and eliminating essential positions—including social workers—when we need them more than ever is penny-wise and pound foolish,” said Stamford Education Association President Diane Phanos. “Making drastic cuts is not the right course for our residents or our community during these unprecedented times. When we return to school, our students will need more resources, not fewer, and we have to be prepared to provide remediation and handle students’ emotional trauma caused by the pandemic.”

The SEA successfully organized members to participate in last night’s BOF virtual meeting, with hundreds of teachers among the 800 participants. Despite the record numbers, however, the board allowed only eight participants to speak, cutting off public comment after just 40 minutes. All eight speakers were Stamford teachers who spoke out against the budget cuts, while dozens of others submitted written comments echoing concerns that the cuts would be devastating to students now and in the future, compounded by the trauma and chaos caused by the coronavirus. Read more

Funniest Home Videos—Teachers Share Trials, Tribulations, Tips, and True Stories from Distance Learning

A virtual forum hosted by CEA brought elementary school classroom teachers, special education teachers, media specialists, literacy coaches, school social workers, and others together to share tips, tricks, and challenges—and a few laughs—related to distance learning.

Among the hurdles teachers reported:

  • “Different schools and districts are comparing themselves to each other, but we don’t all have the same capacity and resources.”
  • “If we have to do this in the fall, we need time—teachers need time, teams need time—to really plan and make this work. We are already finding ourselves working long days and nights, often until 11 p.m.”
  • “The level of documentation for special education teachers is through the roof. It took me four hours to update my assignment log and parent contact log. I’m working 10-to-14-hour days, seven days a week. It’s a good thing my own children are grown, but many of my colleagues also have school-age children at home.”
  • “Some Facebook groups have become pretty hostile, so set your boundaries.”
  • “One student told me she left her apartment yesterday for the first time in eight weeks. How can that be good?”
  • “My own son has regressed a little bit during this time, needing me—his parent—around all the time.”
  • “I’m afraid we’re either going to see a zillion new referrals for special education in the fall or none at all. And neither is a good scenario.”
  • “Student engagement has not been tackled or figured out, so grading is going to be a challenge.”
  • “There is a huge difference in live versus asynchronous learning within and among districts. Some districts have legal guidance prohibiting certain things, such as live video conferencing, while others allow it. There’s no consistency.”
  • “As a school media specialist, I’ve been on the tech end of it, rolling out Chromebooks, figuring out how to get them handed out, helping students and parents learn how to use them, getting families access to Wi-Fi. Not every parent or child has the same facility with technology. Not every family has the same access.”
  • “I had a parent say this about his student: ‘I had no idea he would be like this. I am so sorry.’”
  • “You can definitely tell that some students are getting a lot of help from parents while others are left on their own.
  • “In the beginning, we were told that we didn’t have to track students’ assignments, but now we are having to track all of this and to pick standards for grading first-graders with all these varying degrees of help at home.”
  • “Sometimes you are seeing students who were having trouble composing a complete sentence and are now submitting whole opinion pieces with an introduction, body, and conclusion. I had a parent admit to me that she’s been doing all of her second-grader’s work all week.”
  • “What is this going to look like in September, if we are still doing virtual learning and I have five-and six year olds that I don’t know? At least with this class, I had more than half the school year to get to know these little ones. I just am so concerned about what’s going to happen when these very young children are new to this, and I’ve never met them and have to teach them this way.”

Read more