Friday, December 15, 2006

An Evening of Pizza ‘n Politics Engages Unit Two Members

On Monday evening, December 11th after a full day of instruction, educators gathered in Hampton at Godfather's Pizza for an evening of "Pizza 'n Politics". UniServ Unit Two Director Cindy Carroll (on left) and Unit Two Administrative Assistant Michele Alden (on right) greeted members as the evening began.

Approximately three dozen EA members from throughout Unit 2 participated in the evening of Pizza n' Politics. Members enjoyed the buffet of salad, pizza and dessert before legislators addressed the group.

Making a pitch to raise money for expenses for EA members that will serve as delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly in Philadelphia in July 2007 is ISEA Bargaining Specialist Joann Mackin.

Three newly elected members of the Iowa House from legislative districts that touch Unit Two participated. The first to address the group of EA members was Representative-elect Dave Deyoue (R) House District 10 of Nevada (seated at right).

We next heard from Representative-elect McKinley Bailey (D) House District 9 of Webster City (standing at left).

The final legislator to address the group was Representative-elect Doris Kelley (D) House District 20 of Cedar Falls (standing at right).

Representative-elect Kelley challenged the EA members to share with these newly elected legislators concerns they have regarding the state of Iowa's public schools. The following are just a few concerns that were mentioned:

* The state needs to better meet the needs of students in science and math at the lower level. A teacher had taught in China over the summer and the students are more driven and dedicated – the culture is “hungry” for education.

*A member stated that the difference is the “time” spent on education – students from other countries are overwhelmed by the events that take students out of the classroom. Today’s teachers are competing with many different activities and parents pull kids from class for the smallest events.

*Today’s technology was a distraction and teachers have to compete with cell phones, computer games, computers, etc.

*An art teacher shared their opinion that curriculum is off balance – students today are so driven to meet the testing requirements – time to be creative is lost. There is no time to explore creativity, think outside the box, allow their imaginations to grow.

* A Special Education teacher said teachers are blamed for whining – the legislature who makes the laws for education have not had any experience with what is happening in the classrooms. There’s a disconnect that leaves them less supportive of educators and public education in general. She invites legislators to visit schools, spend time in the classroom and talk to teachers.

*Another Special Ed teacher - asked about Performance Based Pay – and the difficulty in comparing students in her class who suffer behavioral disorders with other students. Any comparison or testing is inequitable.

*Again, a Special Education 10th grade teacher– reiterated that her 10th grade class with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, learn the basic skills of life and do not even understand, let alone comprehend the testing.

* Suggestion was made that they would like the legislature to somehow get local school boards to set priorities back to the students and less with testing and reporting. The Media Specialist in their school has to complete report cards for 730 students – one media specialist! Let alone teach them all how to use computers? How do we get administration to see the need?

*Class size is an issue – she now has 30 students in her kindergarten class and is losing the attention of kids because she can’t give personal attention to so many. Parents are not supportive and many children are missing the basic needs. The schools are not addressing the child.

* A 2nd grade teacher shared their class is so overcrowded that even after trying several ways to arrange desks, there’s no way to beat the crush. No room to move.

* A Special Education teacher commented on the extensive work with IEP’s that special education teachers have to complete. The reports are so cumbersome that all they do is finish reports and spend little time actually teaching – she’d like to see the reporting made more simple.
The evening of Pizza 'n Politics concluded with a report from ISEA's Administrative Lobbyist Brad Hudson. Brad (standing at left) shared Team ISEA's Legislative Agenda (passed by the 2006 ISEA Delegate Assembly) for the 2007 Legislative session. The evening was wrapped up with a review from association members of what they heard this evening (they are as follows):
Ø Salary increases
Ø More staff
Ø More time – less paperwork
Ø Class size
Ø More arts to allow for more creative thinking
Ø Change in curriculum to allow for teaching to the “whole child”
Ø Functional IEP
Ø Diversity training
Thanks Team ISEA leaders of Unit Two. This was just the most fantastic exchange of concerns from the classroom with state legislators that I've been a part of! I challenge you to continue your dialogue throughout the entire legislative session!

A Visit to Clarion-Goldfield

On a crisp December 11th morning, the association road lead me to Clarion-Goldfield Schools in Clarion. My first stop of the day was at Clarion Elementary. Association leaders had a nice variety scheduled for me starting with reading to children in the Developmental Learning Center (3-4 year olds pre-school where instruction is centered around teaching children social integration skills). Pictured at left are Diana Kreitlow (teacher, on left) and Joan Voigts (teacher associate). Here I read the book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.

My next classroom visit took me into Jenny Kreitlow 1st Grade (pictured on the right) where I read Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, to the children. Jenny serves as the Clarion-Goldfield EA Membership Chair. Thanks, Jenny for your leadership on Team ISEA!

Team ISEA UniServ Director from Unit Two, Cindy Carroll, was able to join me for the day in our visit to Clarion-Goldfield. Our next stop was in Cindy Anderson’s 1st Grade class. Cindy was absent, so providing instruction for the day was substitute teacher (retired teacher) Judy Gorder. Judy is pictured with Mrs. Anderson's class here at the left. I read aloud the book, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.

Wandering through the elementary hallways on our way to the next classroom, UniServ Director Cindy and I came across this display (pictured at right). With all the pressures of NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and standardized tests, this really caught our attention!

Before breaking for lunch, I had the chance to speak with a classroom of 5th graders about careers. Pictured at left is Tanja Sanders and her homeroom of 5th grade students. I encouraged the class to think about teaching as a career. They shared how caring, compassionate individuals are their favorite teachers!

Following lunch I spoke to two different groups of 8th graders in the Middle School, again about careers. The first group I met with was in Mrs. Daphne Pogge's 8th grade reading class. Daphne is a first year teacher and explained to the students how she was a non-traditional student. She shared how she had her family first, then decided to go to college. She shared some of the challenges of going to school while having the responsibilities of being a parent. Mrs. Pogge and her 8th graders are pictured below on the left.

The last group of students I visited with was Margaret Askelsen 8th Grade Careers Class. The students came prepared with questions about teaching as a career and then we entered into the discussion of serving your community as a member of an elected board or running for the state legislature. Margaret Askelsen and her 8th graders are pictured below on the right.

We had a most engaging day with students and staff during our visit to Clarion Elementary and Clarion-Goldfield Middle School! We experienced the chance to see educators and support staff providing challenging experiences for students. We experienced first-hand students engaged in the thrist for learning.

And as the school day wound to a close, Clarion-Goldfield EA members gathered at the High School in Clarion for an association meeting. Pictured here (at left) is Clarion-Goldfield EA co-president Sue Mecham. Sue led the meeting of the dozen or so members gathered.

UniServ Director Cindy Carroll and I had a most enjoyable day! It is such a treat to see teachers and support staff work their magic--engaging students in meaningful and challenging activities! Thanks for all you're doing every day for Iowa's students!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

One Old and One New on my "Favorites" List

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin; Illustrated by Betsy Lewin; Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

For the past two and a half years as I get the chance to visit elementary classrooms across Iowa, I've shared this old favorite, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. For one, it is a quick read--so when I've only 10 to 15 minutes in a room...this is the book I share. really calls for the interaction of the youngsters!

Here is what the editors have to say about this delightful book (an old favorite of mine):

"Cows that type? Impossible!" That's what Farmer Brown thinks when he first hears the "click, clack" from the barn, but then he reads the note the cows write him. All they want is electric blankets for the cold barn. When he refuses, they go on strike. What's worse for the farmer is that the strike spreads to the cold hens as well. Duck finally negotiates a compromise. Unfortunately for Farmer Brown, the ducks have learned from all this, leaving us with a smile at the ending. This broadly humorous nonsense finds an appropriately bold, almost slapdash visual counterpart in Lewin's illustrations. Thick, brushed black lines define the characters and farm environment, while washes of color help emphasize gestures and evoke emotions, as when the red door symbolizes the farmer's rage. Great slapstick also suggests thoughts on animal rights.

My "new" favorite--but actually a book I've had for years (and recently rediscovered) is:

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox and Illustrated by Julie Vivas.

I had a chance to share this with first graders this week and not only did their teacher love it, but the children loved it too! There is something to be said about the innocence of young children!

Here is what the editors of Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge have to say about the book:

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge is a small boy who lives next to a home for old people, all of whom are his friends. His favorite is Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, because she has four names too. Wilfred is worried when he hears his parents mention that Miss Nancy has lost her memory. He asks the old people what a memory is, and all of their answers inspire him to fill a basket with objects. When this small boy presents the basket to Miss Nancy, each object sparks a special memory from her childhood.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

U.S. Senator from Indiana Looking at Run for President

On a cold, blustery December evening, United States Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana met with Iowans in downtown Des Moines to share his vision for America. Senator Bayh spoke of cutting through the partisan gridlock of Washington to help Americans make a better life for themselves and their children.

Evan Bayh was first elected Secretary of State in Indiana in 1986. He went on to serve two terms (term limited) as Governor, elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998 and re-elected in 2004. He counts his most important role and greatest responsibility a position he assumed in November 1995: proud father of twin sons Beau and Nick, a joy he shares daily with his wife, Susan.

In attendance in the over 50+ people gathered was state Senator Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs. Senator Gronstal (extending his hand of thanks) credits U.S. Senator Bayh with helping Iowa Democrats recapture the majority party in both the Iowa Senate and Iowa House. Bayh raised funds to provide 25 young staffers to work throughout the state of Iowa in making the difference in state legislative races.

I will make every effort to meet candidates that have an interest in running for President in 2008 as they travel to Iowa and would challenge you all to do the same!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Team ISEA Receives a Surprise Visit from Governor-Elect Culver

The ISEA Executive Board had a pleasant surprise on Saturday morning, December 2nd when Governor-elect Chet Culver walked in! Team ISEA Lobbyist Brad Hudson had made arrangements with the Culver Transition Team to have Governor-elect Culver stop by at some point of our weekend meeting. Governor-elect Culver (pictured at right) personally greeted every board member, thanking them for their efforts in helping elect him as Iowa's next Governor.

Following the brief thanks to the Executive Board and ISEA Managers, Governor-elect Culver autograped a children's book (D is for Democracy, A Citizen's Alphabet, by Elissa Grodin) that we will auction off at ISEA's Legislative Conference on January 5-6, 2007 at the Quailty Inn to begin raising funds for Campaign 2008 and replenish our ISEA-PAC funds.

One last photo before taking off, Governor-elect Culver poses for a photo with me. When Governor-elect Culver is sworn into office on January 12, 2007, he will be the only Governor in the nation to have been a classroom teacher within the last 20 years.

ISEA Executive Board Meets and Hears from State Committee and our Lobbyist

Team ISEA Executive Board met on Friday and Saturday, Decemeber 1st and 2nd. In the Friday evening portion of our meeting, several leaders reported to our board. First up on our docket was the state committee "Strengthening Local Associations". Committee chairperson, Melissa Keeney (standing at the podium at right), 2nd grade teacher and Nationally Board Certified from Johnston EA, reported the work the committee has accomplished from the two meetings they've held in August and October. Much of the committees work has centered around building local membership committees and communicating with them. Also participating in our board meeting was Jeremy Kunz, NEIEU UniServ Director and staff liaison to the committee. We have much to celebrate with the help of this state committee, staff and leaders from all across the......Team ISEA's membership is up by over 580 members!

Also reporting to the Executive Board on Friday night was Team ISEA's Lobbyist and Political Action Specialist, Brad Hudson. Brad (pictured at left) walked the board through the proposed ISEA Legislative Program for 2008 (which we took action on during our Saturday portion of the meeting), previewed the 2007 Legislative Session, and provided the board with a summary of the 2006 Election. Needless to say, the Executive Board was giddy with the results! The board gave Brad Hudson a much deserved standing ovation for his leadership on behalf of all our 32,000 members in Campaign 2006! Thanks, Brad!

For the second year in a row, the ISEA Executive Board has teamed up with staff from within the ISEA headquarters building to contribute to the Des Moines area "Toys for Tots" program at the holiday time. Pictured here are some of the Executive Board members that donated new toys or cash for the "Toys for Tots" effort. Thanks to all Team ISEA for your generosity!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Southwest UniServ Hosts Legislative Dinner

On Wednesday night, November 29th, Southwest UniServ Unit hosted a dinner for association members to dine and have conversations with area state legislators. SWUU President and Lewis Central High School teacher, Tom McLaughlin, welcomed the over 50 SWUU members Wednesday evening at the Red Coach Inn. President Tom (on the right) reads from a letter received from Governor-elect Chet Culver addressed to the Southwest UniServ Unit.

Four southwest Iowa state legislators participated in the dinner and discussion with area educators. The first to address the group was Rep. Mike Reasoner (D) from Creston. Representative Reasoner (pictured at left) was elected by his caucus as an Assistant Majority Leader.

The next legislator who addressed the assembled group of educators was Rep. Cecil Dolecheck (R) of Mount Ayr. Rep. Dolecheck (pictured at right) had served in the majority party as chair of the Education Appropriations Budget Sub. Committee.

Re-elected to his second term in the Iowa House is Representative Richard Anderson (R) of Clarinda. Rep. Anderson (pictured at left) shared with SWUU educators that in his own family his mother was more like House Democrats in that she wanted to be nice to everyone and take care of all their needs, while his father was more like House Republicans and be more fiscally responsible. His remarks drew many questions.

The last state legislator to address us was Iowa Senate Majority Leader-elect Mike Gronstal (D) of Council Bluffs. Senator Gronstal has served in the General Assembly 24 years and has always been a leading advocate for children and public education. Sen. Gronstal addressed raising teacher's salaries to 25th in the nation and raising the minimum wage.

Team ISEA's Lobbyist, Brad Hudson, shared with legislators ISEA's Legislative priorities. Brad (pictured at left) also addressed questions from our members regarding Teacher Quality money, Open Enrollment, the so called No Child Left Behind (federal law), additional paperwork issues and Staff Development. Brad shared with SWUU members now that we know who has been elected to the General Assembly, our real work begins. He encouraged members to participate in area Legislative Coffees, email legislators and invite legislators into their schools to better understand the impact the policies they've put in place have upon students and schools.

Thanks southwest area legislators for the work you'll be doing on behalf of all Iowans! We look forward to working with you in the coming legislative session.

Thanks too to Southwest UniServ Unit for turning out a great crowd and continuing to engage members in issues that impact them in the work they do for Iowa's public school children.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's Beginning to Sink In

November 7th, 2006 has come and gone. So many worked so hard in getting to that date.....we were like children anticipating Christmas and at times we thought it would never arrive.

Public education emerged as the big winner! At the head of the class is ISEA-recommended candidate Chet Culver who was overwhelming elected as Iowa's next governor. A former high school government and history teacher and coach, Chet Culver will be the nation's first governor to have taught school within the last 20 years.

And in a stunning victory, pro-public education candidates also took over both chambers of the Iowa General Assembly! In the House, Representative Pat Murphy of Dubuque (pictured at left) will become the next Speaker of the House. Joining Speaker Murphy in the Iowa House are the following newly elected members of the majority party:

McKinley Bailey, District 9
Andrew Wenthe, District 18
Doris Kelley, District 20
Art Staed, District 37 (Jr. High Social Studies teacher/ISEA member)
Tyler Olson, District 38
Ako Abdul-Samad, District 66
Eric Palmer, District 75
Elesha Gayman, District 84

In the Iowa House, 54 of the 72 ISEA recommended candidates were elected for a 75% win.

In the Iowa Senate, state Senator Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs will become the next Majority Leader and Senator Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg, the Senate President. Pictured with Majority Leader Gronstal and Senate President Kibbie are (left to right) Becky Schmitz of Fairfield(retired AEA/ ISEA member); Bill Heckroth of Waverly; Gronstal; Staci Appel of Ackworth; Rich Olive of Story City; Kibbie; and Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids.

In the Senate, 19of the 22 recommended candidates won for an 86% success rate.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Making Phone Calls to Clinton EA Members for Friends of Education

On Wednesday afternoon as the school day ended, MBUU UniServ Director Lynette Claeys and I headed to Clinton to make phone calls on behalf of two incumbent legislators that are great friends of education. Greeting us as we drove up was state Representative Polly Bukta. Rep. Bukta (pictured here on the left) is a retired teacher from the Clinton Community Schools. Polly was first elected to the Iowa House in 1996. I share a connection with Polly---the wonderful person, Eileen Tyler, that served as my clerk for the 4 years I served in the House--has been Rep. Bukta's clerk ever since.

Another educator that we ran into in the county party headquarters was Jeff Michel. I first met Jeff when I visited Clinton last year. Jeff teaches high school History and Government at Clinton High School. Jeff (pictured at right) was making sure things were all in place for his precinct on election day.

Stopping by the headquarters to say "Hi" was former state Representative Art Ollie. Art (pictured on the left) was a favorite of mine when I served in the Iowa House. Art, now retired from teaching, chaired the House Education Committee in the 1980's through 1992 when the Democrats were in the majority party. Art and his wife Joyce, also retired from teaching, continue to give back to the community of Clinton by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and for their church. Gosh it was so good to see you, Art!

Both MBUU Director Lynette Claeys (on left) and I made phone calls to all Clinton EA members that live in the district of state Representative Polly Bukta and state Senator Roger Stewart. It was especially fun to chat with members and first, thank them for their membership and secondly, ask how their school year was going.

The final teacher that we found in the headquarters working to elect great candidates was Jean Pardee. Jean (pictured on the right) is a retired teacher from Clinton.

An Afternoon in Pleasant Valley Community Schools at Pleasant View Elementary

The afternoon of Wednesday, November 1st, Mississippi Bend UniServ Director Lynette Claeys and I traveled to Pleasant Valley Community Schools to visit Pleasant View Elementary. As we entered the building we were greeted by 4th grade student Jake Williamson. Jake helped us sign in and put on our visitor tags, then lead us through the hallways on a school tour.

Our first classroom stop was in the 4th grade classroom of Becky Roller. I visited with all four of the 4th grade classrooms about the responsibilities of serving as ISEA president. In addition we reviewed the three branches of the federal government and talked about how our state government follows that same model. Mrs. Roller and her class are pictured here on the left (with me in the middle!).

We next visited the 4th grade classroom of Lisa Barfnecht. Lisa along with Elementary Media Specialist Bev Anderson were instrumental in initiating the invitation for my visit. Thanks, Lisa and Bev! Lisa and her 4th grade homeroom are pictured here on the right.

The third classroom visit took us to the homeroom of Katie Welling. Katie was absent and retired teacher Louise Jesson was subbing. Louise had taught at Pleasant View Elementary and loved returning to see her former colleagues and former students. Pictured (on left) is the 4th grade homeroom of Katie Welling.

Our last classroom visit at Pleasant View Elementary took us to the homeroom of Monica Belby. Monica is pictured here (on the right) with her 4th graders.

It was such a treat to have time with 4th graders! They are indeed my favorite! The children asked if I had found an ideal school in all of my travels. I told them as Dorothy from The Wizzard of Oz said, "There's no place like home"! Although I miss my own school back at Carter Lake Elementary, I have discovered so many great places I would be comfortable in being a part of the staff....and Pleasant View Elementary was one of them!

Thanks Pleasant Valley EA members at Pleasant View Elementary for your warm hospitality!