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Posts tagged ‘Jeff Leake’

CEA President: Connecticut Teachers Are Rising to the Challenge

Teachers are taking on the challenge of educating during a pandemic and are innovating to keep their students learning, CEA President Jeff Leake told WTIC Radio during a recent interview.

“I’ve been a teacher for over forty years in Connecticut, and clearly nothing has ever been in front of me like what’s in front of our teachers right now,” Leake said. “They are rising to the challenge and really stepping up.”

He continued, “I am so admiring of the effort, the intensity, that teachers are putting into this—trying to make sure that, though we can’t replicate the classroom environment, we’re out there trying to make sure that kids are still learning.”

Addressing Governor Lamont’s executive order requiring school districts to continue to pay school staff during the pandemic, Leake said, “Our teachers recognize that schools are education communities. It’s not just about the teachers or the paraprofessionals, it’s about everyone who contributes to the learning of our students.”

Listen to the full interview.

CEA Advisor in Your Mailbox This Week

The April CEA Advisor will soon be in your mailbox and is already available online. Get real-time answers about the pandemic’s immediate and longer-term impact on public education, and see the creative, heartfelt, and inspiring ways your colleagues are adapting to new ways of delivering instruction and connecting with their students.

Below is the column by CEA President Jeff Leake, Vice President Tom Nicholas, and Executive Director Donald Williams that appears on page 2 of the Advisor.

Navigating COVID-19: Stronger Together

These are uncertain times. Unprecedented actions are being taken to prevent the greater spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused major disruptions to our lives, our communities, and the world—the likes of which we have never experienced. We are in uncharted territory, with more questions than answers, leaving us all to do our best to mitigate against the effects of the coronavirus. Read more

Governor Lamont: Schools Could Be Closed Until Fall

In a radio interview today Governor Lamont said that he thinks it is likely that school closures will extend through the end of the school year.

“I really think that’s a likelihood,” said Lamont, who has officially closed schools until April 20. “You worry if people get back too quickly, there will be a second iteration of this virus. So April 20 is the minimum—it’s probably the school year.”

“The Governor is looking at this public health crisis as potentially lasting a longer period of time than initially thought, which he has said publicly before and is consistent with federal CDC suggestions of class cancellations for up to 6-8 weeks,” spokesman Max Reiss said. “Governor Lamont is telling school systems they must be prepared for a potentially unprecedented break from classes being held at schools as a result of the coronavirus to ensure students, teachers, staff and parents are safe. The goal is to have frank discussions with superintendents and the education community as this situation unfolds.”

“First and foremost our priority is the safety of our students, our teachers, and our communities and ensuring students continue learning in the midst of this public health emergency,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “We strongly agree with Governor Lamont’s decision to keep schools closed until April 20 and possibly until the end of the school year. The common belief is that things will get worse before they get better and keeping schools closed until the fall may be necessary to keep everyone safe and prevent the disease from spreading. In the meantime, our dedicated, professional educators are doing all they can to keep their students engaged and learning in today’s reality.” Read more

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.

Wishing You a Great School Year!

Students and teachers are back to school this week in districts around Connecticut. A new year represents a myriad of new opportunities, but also new challenges—and CEA stands with you every step of the way.

Watch this 2019 back-to-school message from Cheshire teacher and CEA President Jeff Leake.

State Board of Ed Recommends Dr. Miguel Cardona as CT’s Next Education Commissioner

Dr. Miguel Cardona and CEA President Jeff Leake.

The State Board of Education today voted to recommend Dr. Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent of schools for teaching and learning in Meriden, to serve as the next commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education. Cardona, a former fourth grade teacher who is bilingual, has served alongside CEA leaders on several statewide committees.

“The Connecticut Education Association applauds the appointment of Dr. Miguel Cardona as Connecticut’s Education Commissioner,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “We have worked with Dr. Cardona in our efforts to establish cultures of professional learning and support in our local districts. Our experience with him indicates that he will be an energetic, progressive, and collaborative leader, sensitive to the needs of urban districts and students but mindful of the needs of all of Connecticut’s students and districts. We are looking forward to working with him to achieve equity and excellence for all Connecticut students by reducing racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in all of Connecticut’s school districts.” Read more

CEA and Education Stakeholders Well Represented on Governor-Elect’s Policy Committees

A standing-room only crowd of nearly 500 people gathered this morning at Eastern Connecticut State University, eager to help shape the future of their state.

Governor-elect Ned Lamont addresses the nearly 500 people gathered for a policy summit at Eastern Connecticut State University today.

“Look at this crowd. You believe in the state of Connecticut,” Governor-elect Ned Lamont told the people assembled, many of whom are serving on 15 transition policy committees for his administration, which met for the first time today.
Read more

Celebrating American Education Week

AEW 2018 FBFrom that first tentative day of preschool to mortar boards soaring through the air at high school graduation, teachers play a crucial role in their students’ lives. You provide a safe, welcoming space for children as they learn about themselves and the world around them.

Thanks to your dedication, students learn not only about parts of speech, atoms, prime numbers, and the American Revolution, but about what it means to be part of a Democracy, how to care for one another, and how to make valuable contributions to their community. Read more

Witnessing History; Shaping the Debates of Our Time

Advisor Feb-MarchThe CEA Advisor will be arriving on your doorstep this week. Check out the issue (in print or online) to learn more about teacher evaluations, school funding, efforts to keep schools safe, how to donate to the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, and more.

As a preview, below is CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake’s column in the February – March CEA Advisor.

Our Perspective – CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake

We felt a sense of history and pure excitement to be among the hundreds of thousands of people who attended President Barack Obama’s momentous inauguration on January 21.

There were Sousa marches, the ceremonial guns, and the voices of James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyonce. But what was extra special was seeing President Obama take the oath of office on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. How appropriate that this inauguration coincided with the celebration of the birth of a great man who fought for equality through peaceful and nonviolent civil disobedience. He also exemplified the ideals of our country’s founders—a theme sounded in the president’s address.

In his speech, President Obama sounded the theme of faith in America’s future, urging “fidelity to our founding principles.” He added, “When times change, so must we.” The president called for “new responses to new challenges.” One of those challenges, of course, involves gun and school safety.

It did not surprise us that the president was on message when he said, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

In our view, the day was overshadowed by the somber mood we all feel after the horrific Newtown mass shooting. We vigorously applauded the president when he told Americans they have the power to set this country’s course, urging us to fulfill our “obligation to share the debates of our time.”

Working with teachers, state policymakers, and communities across the state, CEA is fulfilling our obligation to share in one of the critical debates of our time—gun and school safety.

New polling is basis for policy direction

We were heartened that our colleagues at the National Education Association (NEA) helped set the tone for this debate by releasing a national poll that showed educators nationwide overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence and keep children safe.

Wanting Connecticut-specific polling data for the Connecticut-specific state legislative debate, our state Association undertook our own poll. It was the first time Connecticut teachers were asked for their opinions about school and gun safety in a comprehensive manner that is representative of educators’ views.

Our CEA survey found that members overwhelmingly support stronger gun safety laws and updating school facilities to deal with modern dangers. In fact, almost all of our members surveyed favor extending criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases, and a majority support banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. It also is notable that educators in Connecticut and nationwide outright reject the notion of teachers carrying guns in the classroom.

Our findings are similar to the recommendations that Vice President Biden submitted to President Obama in January. At both the state and national levels, there appear to be clear areas of agreement. We urge legislators in Washington, D.C., and Hartford to listen to their constituents and pass strong laws that will protect and keep America’s children safe from harm.

At the State Capitol, we were front and center when the state legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety started work on January 25. CEA testified before the Task Force’s School Safety Working Group, calling on the state to “do what is necessary to make sure every child in our state’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”

CEA urged the task force to listen to ideas advanced by students, educators, parents, and others in our communities and ensure that localities have the resources necessary, including more school counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

We believe that the task force should ask the full legislature to create School Safety Committees in every school. Districts should be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit. But the legislature would show leadership by acting swiftly and providing models that schools could review, edit, and adopt.

Dedicated teachers offered helping hand

There was great inspiration to be found in the outpouring of love and support following the Newtown shooting. We received calls from all over the world, including Europe, Mexico, and Australia, and from nearly every education association in the country, offering condolences and support. Everyone wanted to do something to help.

Here in Connecticut, teachers did whatever they could to help their Newtown colleagues. They held vigils; offered counseling and support; held fundraisers; donated to numerous funds; provided lunch to Sandy Hook teachers; participated in the snowflake project, creating paper snowflakes for display in the windows at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School; and so much more.

In Monroe, teachers paired up with Sandy Hook Elementary School faculty to help prepare new classrooms for students at the old Chalk Hill School. At a church service in Waterbury, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined Connecticut teachers in paying tribute to the victims.

These acts of kindness are not surprising, since we are a caring group ready to jump in and help in a time of crisis—in our home state and around the country. To that point, some of our colleagues from the Ohio Education Association Crisis Team, whom we contacted, did not hesitate to travel to Connecticut to help. They were a great resource for Newtown at the time of the crisis.

The Ohio team is one of several NEA state affiliates with organized crisis response teams that are part of the NEA Health Information Network Safe Schools Initiative. They are dispatched to help members deal with traumatic events and emergencies. The team is expected back in Newtown in the next few months to offer support to the teachers in what, as expected, will be a long healing process.

Moving forward

No matter where we encounter a colleague, when the talk turns to Sandy Hook, the attention gets focused on how to help in a meaningful and collective way. Toward this end, the CEA Board of Directors has voted to create the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, within the Connecticut Education Foundation.

We’ve set a fundraising goal of $1 million to create a bronze memorial sculpture and a scholarship fund that will later be turned over to the UConn Foundation. Already there has been an outpouring of support and generosity, and we hope you will join it. You can visit www.cea.org/donatewithteachers to participate.

In the weeks ahead, your political action will also be needed to shape the debate on guns and school safety. As we mentioned at the beginning of this column, we hope you all feel our obligation to share the debates of our time. There is no greater challenge than ensuring that our schools are safe havens and that a mass fatality never again occurs in our state. There is a powerful North Star guiding our work, and we hope, yours. It is the timely paraphrase of a quote from President Obama: Our first task as a society is to keep our children safe.

Poll Finds CT Teachers Support Stronger Gun Laws

The senselessness of the Sandy Hook tragedy has brought much needed attention to gun and school safety issues. At a news conference today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CEA officials released the results of a new report showing teachers support tougher gun laws.

Watch excerpts from the news conference below.

Some of the key findings of the poll are:

  • Almost all teachers surveyed (98 percent) favor extending criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases.
  • A large majority (88 percent) support banning the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone except the police and military.
  • Eighty-seven percent of teachers surveyed also support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity magazine clips.
  • A strong majority (85 percent) oppose any proposals allowing teachers to carry guns in schools.
  • Nine out of ten members (92 percent) believe the state should provide funding to local public school districts to modernize facilities to address today’s school safety issues.

For more information on the poll, you can read the news release here.