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
Many labor unions are advocating improved conditions for working families this legislative session, and the CEA Board of Directors formally joined them recently by passing resolutions in support of raising the minimum wage and ensuring paid family leave.
“When children don’t have a safe home, enough to eat, or regular medical care they’re not able to focus on academics when they come to school,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “When parents have to work two or three jobs to pay the rent they don’t have time to read to their children, to help with homework, or to attend school events. Ensuring a living wage would help Connecticut families provide a brighter future for their children.”
Studies have also found that when families’ financial situation improves their children experience improved emotional and behavioral health. Read more
“If you were wondering why there are so many people wearing red in the audience tonight, it’s to show support for the contract negotiations with the Board of Education— to improve teachers’ working conditions, salaries, and health benefits,” said West Hartford Education Association Negotiations Chair David Simon.
West Hartford Education Association members arrived to the Board of Education meeting early last night to show support for their negotiations team.
More than 100 West Hartford teachers wearing #redfored crowded into Town Council chambers to show their support for Simon’s remarks during public comment at a Board of Education meeting last night.
Teacher contract negotiations in West Hartford are at a standstill over the issue of health insurance. The West Hartford Education Association, representing more than 800 teachers, has asked the town to move teachers to the State Partnership Health Insurance plan. Read more
As it decides what recommendations to make toward putting Connecticut’s pension funds on more secure footing, the state’s Pension Sustainability Commission today heard from State Treasurer Denise Nappier about the history of funding for the teachers’ retirement fund, the largest pension fund overseen by the treasury.
State Treasurer Denise Nappier and staff for the Office of the State Treasurer presented to the state’s Pension Sustainability Commission today.
“We must ensure the sustainability of the fund so that it can provide the retirement benefits we have promised to our retired and current teachers,” Nappier said. “They deserve no less.” Read more
“This history teacher is making history,” 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes told her supporters at a victory celebration in Waterbury last night. “I am honored to be your next congresswoman.”
Five months after announcing her candidacy, former Waterbury teacher Jahana Hayes won her bid for Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District seat—defeating opponent Manny Santos by a margin of 148,000 to 116,000 votes. She will be the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.
“Your vote is your voice, and you used your vote and you used your voice to vote for me,” Hayes said, thanking supporters. “We need somebody in Congress who is us, who understands us, who understands what we’re going through.” Read more
Misconceptions abound when it comes to teachers’ pensions, but today, in a presentation to the Pension Sustainability Commission, an actuary clarified that Connecticut teachers’ pension benefits are actually quite modest.
The Connecticut Pension Sustainability Commission is charged with studying “the feasibility of placing state capital assets in a trust and maximizing those assets for the sole benefit of the state pension system.”
John Garrett, principal and consulting actuary at Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting, shared findings from the March 2018 report of the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System Viability Commission.
Garrett compared Connecticut with 11 other state retirement systems that cover pension benefits to teachers who do not receive social security. “Connecticut has a fairly modest benefit when you look at other non-Social Security covered workforces,” he said. Read more
Teachers frequently need outside funding for classroom resources and funding to engage in meaningful professional development. The NEA Foundation has grants available to current NEA members to help with both.
NEA Foundation Student Achievement grants, support teachers in helping students learn how to think critically and solve problems. The NEA Foundation is currently giving preference to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global learning into projects.
Through the Learning & Leadership grants, the NEA Foundation supports the professional development of NEA members by providing grants to:
- individuals to participate in high-quality professional development like summer institutes, conferences, seminars, travel abroad programs, or action research, and to
- groups to fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson plan development, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff.
The foundation gives preference to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global competence in their projects.
For both grants two levels of funding are available: $2,000 and $5,000. Grants fund activities for 12 months from the date of the award.
The third and final 2018 deadline for applications for both grants is coming up October 15.
Find out more and then apply for either the Student Achievement grants or the Learning & Leadership grants.
“A union allows teachers to be stronger,” says Cooperative Education Services Education Association building rep Marilyn Della Rocco. “Together we can accomplish more and have more of a voice.”
Della Rocco, a preschool teacher at Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport who also serves as co-vice president of her local association, says it’s very important for teachers to be engaged with their union because there are many groups who seek to erode teachers’ rights.
“The rights to a half-hour lunch, being able to have prep time, having class sizes that are appropriate to the developmental stage of the children—these are all things teachers enjoy today because our union has fought for them over the years,” she says. “Without a union, things would be very different.” Read more
Just two weeks ago, Plainfield Memorial School students and teachers had no idea where they’d be starting their school year after a fire caused extensive damage to their school building. Yet, thanks to the generosity, hard work, and dedication of a community pulling together, 350 fourth and fifth graders are back at school today with their teachers, ready for the year ahead.
“These two weeks have taught me something about kindness I’ll never forget,” says principal Natasha Hutchinson.
“Our whole school initiative is talking about grit. Boy, have we shown grit,” says fifth grade teacher Jessica Phaneuf.
When Jessica Phaneuf found that the classroom she’d be using with her fourth graders lacked cabinet doors, she quickly improvised a solution.
Litchfield faculty and staff enjoyed a rousing back-to-school welcome from HoWiE Roll, a band made up of faculty, staff, and a student, who brought a musical touch and upbeat energy to this morning’s convocation.
Band HoWiE Roll, which opened Litchfield Schools’ convocation, features music teachers Peter Perkins and Dan Porri, student Matt Bove, school nurse Theresa Simaitis, principal Kristen Della Volpe, administrative assistant Tammy Knox, and paraprofessional Jen Gleason.
Dan Porri, a music teacher at Litchfield Intermediate School who plays bass in the band, says the band initially formed almost a decade ago when Litchfield High School Principal Kristen Della Volpe came to the district. Della Volpe thought a faculty band would add enthusiasm and excitement to the first day of school, and the band has been performing at convocations ever since. They’ve added other school gigs as well, playing at a battle of the bands, the high school pops concert, and more. Read more