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How to Request an Absentee Ballot to Vote in the August 11 Primaries

i-voted-sticker-lot-1550340The election this November 3 will be as important as any before it for students and teachers. Elections for federal and state positions will have wide-reaching impacts on everything from keeping our schools safe during the pandemic, to education funding, to involving educators in the decision making processes.

For the first time ever in Connecticut, due to COVID-19, voters can choose to vote by mail via an absentee ballot or in person in the upcoming Democratic and Republican primaries which are being held Tuesday, August 11.

If you are an active, registered voter with a major party affiliation, (Democrat or Republican), you should have received an absentee ballot application in the mail last week from the Secretary of the State’s office.

If you want to vote by mail using an absentee ballot and haven’t sent in your application already, here is what you need to do today: 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

Let Go and Feel Free

Are you holding on to anger or resentment? They could be causing you undue anxiety and stress.

Watch this week’s CEA Mindful Moment video, and learn activities to help you let go and enhance your well-being.

President Signs $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package

1-us-bank-note-47344The aid package the U.S. House passed this afternoon and President Trump has now signed into law includes $13.5 billion in dedicated aid for K-12 schools and billions more for child care and nutrition services.

Among the elements of the bill are:

  • Immediate stimulus checks for most households—up to $1,200 per person and $500 per child
  • $30.7 billion Education Stabilization Fund to help fill expected state budget gaps, provide more dollars for student and school needs, and prevent educator layoffs
  • Expanded unemployment insurance
  • Six-month suspension of federal student loan payments
  • Tens of billions of dollars to help prevent housing insecurity

Click here for more information on the specifics of the bill.

“The bill is not perfect, but it does address many urgent needs of our students, educators, and schools,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

The language in the legislation also makes clear that any state or school district receiving money from the stabilization fund “shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus.”

Coronavirus and School Closures: FAQ for Teachers

Current school closures are unlike anything we in Connecticut have experienced in our lifetimes. You understandably have many questions about what school closures mean for you and your students, and here at CEA, we are compiling the answers to some of your most pressing questions.

We will be answering more questions as more information becomes available. Subscribe to updates from BlogCEA to stay up to date.

A: Governor Lamont has closed Connecticut schools through April 20 and said it is likely that they may remain closed until the fall. At this time, school is not canceled for the remainder of the school year in Connecticut. Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona recently said, “We hope to welcome students back, but at this point we are taking precautions, and if we have to extend class cancellations, we will.”

A: Governor Lamont issued an executive order waiving the 180-day requirement for school districts, meaning that the last day of the school year may be what each district had previously planned prior to closing due to coronavirus, unless the district chooses to add days to make up for lost instructional days.

A: Teachers are considered “essential” workers per Governor Lamont’s executive order, and thus not covered by the order to stay home. However, educators do still need to follow social distancing protocols. Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona has stated, “While total school closures have not happened, we are also encouraging work from home as much as possible and little to no person-to-person contact in our schools.”

***If your administrators are asking you to go to school for group meetings, or if you feel uncomfortable going into school for any reason, please contact your local president and UniServ Rep. You can also email your questions and concerns to CEA at myvoice@cea.org

A: Prior to the governor waiving the 180-day requirement, many schools, expecting to be out for only two weeks, sent students home with only supplemental activities. Since the waiver is now in effect, and the closures are likely to extend for at least several weeks, the State Department of Education has asked districts to shift to thinking about distance learning. Districts retain the authority to devise plans that best meet the needs of their students, and the State Department of Education is offering districts resources to support remote learning, such as this guide. NEA offers these resources to districts that have the capability to engage in online learning. Follow the lead of your district (which should first be in touch with your local union to reach agreement on expectations) as to what kinds of activities they expect you to plan and how they expect you to be in contact with students and parents. If any conversations with families take place over the phone, use *67 first to block your phone number.

A: Check the website of your school district or municipality. Many districts are making breakfasts and lunches available for students to pick up at school to take home at specified times, and a few districts also have specific dropoff locations for meals. Anyone in the household age 18 or under can receive the meals, not just school-aged children. Usually only one child per household must be present for the family to receive meals. Most districts are only providing meals to students (and younger siblings) who attend school in that particular district, but some others are providing community-wide emergency meals to children without residency restrictions.

A: The U.S. Department of Education has waived standardized testing requirements for the current school year for students in elementary school through high school. The department says it will provide relief from federally mandated testing requirements to any state requesting a waiver due to the public health crisis. Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Cardona have already submitted a request for a waiver, so no Connecticut students will be required to take SBAC assessments, SATs, or NGSS assessments. The State Department of Education is working closely with The College Board to determine the best course of action to take in regard to the administration of the SAT, since the test plays an important role in high school students’ college acceptance, placement, and entrance.

A: If the resource is something you can legally download and use (such as a worksheet) and you are following your district’s remote learning procedures, you are probably okay, but any websites that require students to log in, have accounts, or otherwise do things online need to be approved by your district (as always). PA 16-189 (the student data privacy law) is still in effect. If you use your own resources or sites that aren’t approved, you may be liable if something goes wrong. Stick with district-approved resources, and if you find something new, share it with your administrator and you may be able to get it approved.

A: Training exists online for many of the sites commonly used by schools, but when in doubt, ask your district for help. They won’t know the need exists for support unless you speak up.

CT Schools to Remain Closed Until at Least April 20

IMG_20200208_070320In a press conference this afternoon Governor Ned Lamont announced that the earliest Connecticut schools will be allowed to re-open is April 20.

To support students who are out of school for an extended time, the governor said that the state is working to get laptops and internet access for more children.

The Partnership for Connecticut has pledged as many as 60,000 laptops to high school students in Alliance Districts, saying the laptops will be prioritized for students in the most need. The Partnership will work with the state Department of Education and school districts to get the computers in students’ hands as soon as possible. Laptops will belong to districts, which will retain ownership once students return to school.

The governor also said that the state is working with internet service providers to expand WiFi access to families who do not currently have internet access.

CEA Issues Guidelines for Teachers, Schools to Protect Against Coronavirus

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CEA Executive Director Donald Williams and President Jeff Leake talk to Governor Ned Lamont about plans to protect Connecticut’s schools and communities against coronavirus.

As the threat of coronavirus disease spreads, CEA is working with Governor Ned Lamont, State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, and others to ensure that Connecticut’s public schools are prepared.

“We must be proactive about ensuring the health and safety of our students, teachers, and school communities,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “CEA is taking every step to make sure our teachers are up to date should this virus make its way into our state.”

Earlier this week, CEA posted to its website protocol developed especially for schools, based on recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control. Read more

West Hartford’s Future Educators of Diversity Share Achievements, Plans

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Conard High School senior Kaliya Ortiz (center) says Future Educators of Diversity Clubs help students like her “see a path to becoming an educator.”

Future Educators of Diversity were at the top of the agenda at West Hartford’s Board of Education meeting this month, where the Board and community members learned about the organization’s mission, achievements, and planned activities.

Future Educators of Diversity was piloted in West Hartford, where it has grown and is very active.

Since then, similar clubs have been established in four other Connecticut school districts as part of CEA’s ongoing efforts to bring greater diversity to our state’s teaching force,” says CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas, who was awarded a grant from the National Education Association to create and expand “grow your own” high school clubs that provide underrepresented students with the tools, knowledge, and support to enter the teaching profession. “We are excited to see new groups starting up, as well as established organizations—such as the one in West Hartford—grow and thrive.”

West Hartford’s FEoD, a combined group of students from Conard and Hall high schools, meets every Thursday during the school year and encourages students of diverse backgrounds to examine issues related to race and equity in education and to explore careers in teaching—a profession that is largely white and female. Read more

$1,000 Scholarship Giveaway for NEA Members

business-money-pink-coinsCould you use some breathing room in your budget? Enter by December 31 for a chance to win $1,000 from NEA Member Benefits.

NEA Member Benefits also partners with Sallie Mae to offer members the NEA® Smart Option Student Loan® by Sallie Mae®, the NEA® Parent Loan by Sallie Mae®, and NEA® Graduate Loans by Sallie Mae®.

Quality Professional Development for You From CEA

SC19-381The CEA Professional Learning Academy offers a wealth of professional development opportunities, aligned with Connecticut’s professional learning standards, to improve teaching practice and enhance student learning.

Through the CEA Professional Learning Academy, members can attend free workshops, conferences, and trainings developed by experienced educators, administrators, and experts in law and special education. CEA is a State Department of Education designated provider of professional development.

CEA offers workshops and seminars on dozens of topics, including
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  • Classroom Management
  • Social Media Safety
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Maximizing Your Time
  • Building a Culture of Empathy
  • Strategies to Help New Teachers Survive and Thrive
  • Strategies to Foster Social-Emotional Well-Being in School
  • The Gender Achievement Gap
  • Implicit Bias 101: Its Powerful Effect on Instruction and Learning
  • Section 504: An Emerging Issue for Educators
  • Mythbusters: Understanding Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities in the Special Education Process
  • Teachers and the Law
  • Knowledge Is the Best Protection: Preventing and Responding to Aggressive Student Behavior
  • PDEC Strategies to Save Time and Promote Collaboration
  • ESSA: Implications for Your District – Title I Accountability
  • Introduction to Student Trauma: Developing a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom

And more!

Check out the complete list of offerings, which are continually updated to include new strategies and address evolving needs.

For more information or to schedule a professional development workshop, contact CEA’s Professional Learning Academy at 860-525-5641 or at myprofession@cea.org.