Dear Colleagues,

I just wanted to take a few moments to update you on some key announcements that were made Tuesday 4/7/20, in Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 117, regarding assessments and evaluations for the 2019-2020 school year.  This executive order gives the commissioner of education permission to “waive, suspend, or modify any existing rules” within Title 6A of the New Jersey Administrative Code in order to protect the public welfare during the COVID-19 crisis.  At the time of this advisory, the NJEA do not yet know how the commissioner will interpret this directive or exercise this authority, besides the definitive statements listed below.
  1. Year end assessments were waived for 8th and 12th grade students.  (This is in addition to the statewide standardized testing cancellation, issued by the Governor, on March 24, 2020 for the current school year)
  2. Portfolio assessments required for high school graduation are cancelled. 
  3. There will be no use of student assessment scores for educator evaluations.
  4. The statutory requirement that there will be at least three observations of each educator has been waived. 
  5. Bill 3904 was passed, which means that virtual days will count toward the 180 day requirement and allows our Special Education students to receive services via video teleconferencing.  
I had a conference call last week with the NJEA and a Zoom conference with the BCEA last week as well.  What I took away from the meetings is if you did not complete all of your requirements, that everyone would just receive a NE or not evaluated.  However, there are some non tenure members that would be getting a score calculated off of whatever is on file.  It is the NJEA’s position that this school year will count towards the accrual of tenure for nontenured teaching staff members even if they have not been observed three times.  This executive order, however, does not alter districts’ discretion to non-renew nontenured teaching staff members.  Likewise, teaching staff members on provision certifications may continue their path toward standard certification.  We are still waiting for the DOE to make official announcements regarding evaluations and observations.  I have been continually assured they are expected shortly.  As soon as details of any DOE modifications are made, the NJEA will analyze the information and share with local presidents.  Obviously, I will share that information with everyone right away.  The NJEA has reinforced the belief that the guidance must be issued imminentlyso that we can focus our full attention on the immediate and very challenging task of providing remote education to our students.  
The executive board has had multiple conversations and agreed in these times we should be doing something for others working on the front lines.  With that being said we will be purchasing food for essential employees in North Arlington sometime in the next week or two.  We are also purchasing 500 washable masks that we will be donating to health care professionals to use in conjunction with their daily masks.  A lot of health care professionals are being given one disposable mask for each week that they are to reuse.  They will be able to put them over their disposable mask which will prevent the outside of their masks from getting soiled.  They can also decide to use them personally when out of work in response to the new executive order to wear a mask in all public places.  The last thing these heroes want to do after working 12 hour or longer shifts is go home and make a more comfortable mask for personal use.  We have decided to send the shipment out to 5 different hospital groups for them to distribute as needed.  The funds that are used for these purchases will also be reimbursed to us through newly submitted PRIDE proposals thanks to our PRIDE Chair, Doris Fitzgerald.
Dr. Yurchak will be sending out a survey relatively soon to poll us on the use and comfortability of video and audio instruction.  I have been assured that it will be anonymous and I am encouraging you all to answer honestly.  My personal opinion is that we should not be using this format and I am asking that you please respond with an honest opinion.  One thing we all know is that Remote Learning is difficult and coming up with new content is difficult.  I personally have heard from members and think a large majority of our union are trying everyday to master our primary platform of Google classroom and class Dojo…adding mandatory video and audio instruction will be overwhelming.  I do not think it automatically makes instruction easier for the student, the parent or the teacher.  I have many students in my class still learning how to submit work for my current lessons.  There are plenty of resources for students that have trouble reading and websites that provide guided reading with just a copy and paste function.  I have been fighting hard for our membership to not use these new platforms because a majority of our membership will have difficulty due to a variety of reasons based on the makeup of their class populations.  That is why I am asking you to respond to the survey and answer honestly, but please keep in mind your colleagues that are currently having trouble keeping up with remote learning because of the lack of training, sick loved ones, recently deceased loved ones and having to not only teach in remote instruction but help their own children complete their own schoolwork.  If there is a comment section on the survey, feel free to say you feel comfortable using audio/video instruction if that is truly how you feel, but I am asking that you do not say that you feel like you could easily teach or help a colleague learn how to use it.  If you do not feel comfortable using video/audio instruction then please be honest and say so. 
Any personal opinions expressed in this email is for our Union’s eyes and ears only.  I am hoping that my words impact you, but either way please keep these opinions for our union only and please respond to the survey no matter how your decide to answer each question.
In addition, attached for your convenience and for the sake of reinforcement, please find three flyers.
  1. Vote by mail – One thing we continue to learn through all of this is that we can’t anticipate what the future will bring.  We cal live and learn to do our best to prepare.  The BCEA is urging all members and their families to apply for a vote by mail ballot.  We need to preserve our right to vote. now!
  2. Census Flyer – Understandably, competing the 2020 US Census may not be at the forefront of people’s minds, but the census is essential.  Dozens of federal programs use census data to help direct funding to state and local areas.  Census result help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to state and communities each year for roads, schools, hospitals (health clinics) emergency services and more.  The BCEA is encouraging all of its members to take a few moments and safeguard New Jersey’s federal funding dollars by completing the 2020 US Census.  
  3. Helpful Links Flyer – Just sending for your convenience

On behalf of the NAEA Executive Board, we hope that you and your families stay safe and well.  If the days ahead bring difficult circumstances, please know that you have an entire network of friends and colleaguesready to support you.  Please reach out to co-workers and your own personal families during this break, especially if you are in isolation.  Make a phone call or a text or even plan a Virtual Happy Hour just to have some feeling of normalcy in the coming days.  

During this season of Passover and Easter, may we each find a little peace.  Enjoy the break.
Yours in Solidarity,
Dan Farinola
NAEA President