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Black Lives Matter Rally This Saturday in East Hartford

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The death of George Floyd and those of other African Americans as well as the inequities some of their students face weigh heavily on the minds of many educators. To show their support for their students and community the East Hartford Education Association Ethnic Minority Affairs Commission is organizing a peaceful rally and march this Saturday in East Hartford in partnership with CEA and Young-Educated-Determined to Succeed, Inc.

Monique Butler, who teaches fourth grade at East Hartford’s Norris Elementary School, is one of the educators who has been hard at work with colleagues and community members organizing the rally called BLACKOUT, which stands for Black Lives Actually Can’t Keep being Oppressed Until Tomorrow. The rally will take place Saturday, June 20, from noon to 3 p.m.

Butler says, “The overall message I’m sending is that we all stand together. I am working with East Hartford police to have a safe route, to practice social distancing, and to ensure our kids are seen and heard.” The organizers are also asking all participants to wear masks. Read more

New Milford Teachers Standing Up for Their Students and Their Colleagues

Teachers are working harder for longer hours during this time of distance learning, but that hasn’t stopped New Milford from asking teachers for concessions.

CEA New Milford Vice President Angela Herdter told Town Council members that teachers are working sometimes up to 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week. “Can one of you name a domestic or international group that was told by its stakeholders to change their method of production, retool all currently proven and practiced methods—to deliver a good, reliable product that produces results close to what they were before the switch over?” she asked. “Anything come to your mind? Well, I have a group—a group called TEACHERS.”

“We won’t give up on the students and teaching them to the best of our ability, no matter what,” CEA New Milford President Kim Patella says. “We have the resilience to stay focused to create positive experiences for our children. We will speak out often when we think the Board is losing sight of the priority of the students.” Read more

Mindful Moment: A Pebble in Your Shoe

Life’s struggles can sometimes be like a pebble in your shoe. You have a choice to remove it and enhance your well-being or let it fester and become a bigger issue. Watch this week’s CEA Mindful Moments video and learn how to remove the pebble and not let issues overwhelm you.

New CEA Ad Campaign Emphasizes Need to Support Education for Coronavirus Recovery

When coronavirus struck Connecticut, teachers and students had their worlds turned upside down almost overnight. Schools were closed, and homes became de facto classrooms. Through all of the uncertainty, Connecticut teachers did what they always do: they rose to the occasion to take care of their students, keeping them engaged and learning.

Now, another crisis looms on the horizon. Cities and towns across the state are discussing drastic cuts to education budgets that will eliminate critical resources for students and limit teachers’ ability to help them succeed.

For our state to recover, our schools must remain high priorities. That is the core message of a new CEA television ad featuring Connecticut teachers and students engaging in virtual learning.

“Throughout this health crisis, our teachers have been working harder than ever to keep their students learning in this uncertain world,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “As we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our students will require more resources, not fewer. Proposed budget cuts will jeopardize their education, their emotional well-being, and their future. The television ad is a reminder to cities and towns to turn their efforts from making cuts to fighting for resources to educate students safely when they return to the classroom.” Read more

School Reopening Plan to Be Shaped by Health, Education Priorities

How Connecticut returns to school in the fall is on the minds of educators and parents around the state, and the governor and State Department of Education expect to announce official reopening guidelines by July 6.

Yesterday, Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona shared some of the many factors the Department is taking into account as it develops those guidelines with nearly 800 CEA members who participated in a CEA webinar with Cardona and his Deputy Commissioners Charlene Russell-Tucker and Desi Nesmith.

The Department of Education is working with education stakeholders, the Department of Public Health, and the Governor’s Office to develop reopening guidelines, and the commissioner said there will be certain mandatory protocols when schools reopen.

Deputy Education Commissioner Desi Nesmith, CEA President Jeff Leake, Commissioner Miguel Cardona, CEA Executive Director Donald Williams, and Deputy Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker discussed guidelines for reopening schools.

“I do believe that when it comes to health and safety, we can’t have children at greater risk in one district than those in another. We’re working with health partners to develop those nonnegotiables,” Cardona said.  

Though certain measures will be required of all schools, the commissioner said that the Department recognizes one size doesn’t fit all, and that schools will need to adapt based on their unique circumstances. For example, he said that a high school with 150 students will need different requirements and procedures in place than one that educates more than 3,000 students. Read more

Stonington High Finds Novel Ways to Recognize Seniors

The school year is drawing to a close and high school seniors are mourning the many events and rites of passage that they are missing out on. While there’s no way to make up for that loss, teachers are doing what they can to celebrate their soon-to-be graduates.

Stonington High School science teacher Rosamaria Burger says, “They worked so hard for four years, and we want to make sure they’re getting everything they’re entitled to as best we can.”

Burger and fellow senior class advisor Catherine Ellis decided that one way they could show seniors some love was by delivering lawn signs to all 161 students in the graduating class. It was a way to communicate to seniors that their teachers are thinking of them, love them, and are there for them—a message that can be hard to convey digitally. Read more

This Monday: Ask Commissioner Cardona

What will schools look like when they reopen? Will teachers and students be required to wear face masks? How will social distancing happen throughout the school day? Will distance learning continue? How can teachers in high-risk groups protect themselves?

You have a lot of questions, and we invite you to join a live webinar where State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and members of his staff will listen to your questions and address your concerns.

Hosted by CEA President Jeff Leake, the webinar will take place on Monday, June 8 from 4 – 5:30 p.m. and will focus on health and safety procedures that must be in place when schools reopen.

>Register now.

Mindful Moment: Planting Seeds

In this week’s Mindful Moment video, CEA’s Kate Field discusses how cultivating plants can lower your stress and improve your outlook on life.

CEA Members Discuss Ways to Enhance Equity for Students

State Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker.

Issues of equity are top of mind right now for educators watching the news and listening to their students’ worries and concern, and an online forum hosted by CEA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Commission (EMAC) Tuesday gave teachers an opportunity to come together and discuss what was on their minds. 

“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind given the last months, let alone the last week, that equity does not exist in our Connecticut education system. We need to do something to change that,” said CEA President Jeff Leake.

“We can’t map out the entire route to equity today, but we will start that journey,” he continued. “This is about listening to all of you—we want your input.”

“We want to identify strategies, policies, and ideas to put Connecticut on the road to enhancing equity for all students,” said CEA EMAC Chair Sean Mosley, a Waterbury teacher. “Equity means giving all of our students the best shot at hitting a grand slam when it comes to educational achievement, no matter their ZIP code. We’ve seen the lack of consistent, effective models of distance learning in our districts and the lack of technology.”

The forum gave more than 250 CEA members a chance to hear from State Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker before moving into virtual breakout rooms for small group conversations. Read more

Health, Safety, Well-Being, and Inequities Among Teachers’ Top Concerns for Students

The top concerns of teachers regarding any return to school are the health and well-being of their students, ensuring they have access to computers and online resources, and keeping them safe when schools reopen.

Teachers say specific actions must be taken before schools reopen, including

  • Establishing statewide protocols and protections for all schools.
  • The protections should include disinfecting schools, devices, and desks, guidelines for wearing masks and social distancing, smaller class sizes, extra precautions for those at greater risk, measures for handling students who develop fevers or become ill, actions for handling a case of COVID-19 at a school, and guidelines for closing schools should there be another outbreak of coronavirus.

Those are some the findings of a new CEA survey of nearly 3,000 teachers taken in late May regarding the current health crisis in Connecticut.

“Teachers have stepped up to the enormous challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis and instantly went from in-person lessons to teaching students online,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “Teachers want the best for their students, and while we don’t yet know the specifics of when or how schools will reopen in the fall, we all agree our top priority must be the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff—especially those at higher risk.”

According to the survey, 43% of teachers are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and the number increases to 71% for teachers with 30 or more years in the classroom. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say their schools are not equipped to provide for frequent and sufficient hand washing for students and staff to reduce the spread of the virus.

“Moving forward, schools are going to look a lot different,” said Leake. “Safeguards must be in place to protect students and staff against a virus that has no vaccine and is not well-understood. We also must address learning loss and trauma suffered by students.”

Read the full CEA press release about the survey.

Read survey results.

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