Welcome Members – You are the V.E.A. !
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Dear V.E.A. Members:
By now you should have received notice that the Vineland Public Schools will close on Tuesday, March 17 and remain closed until Monday, April 20. This is an unprecedented endeavor. We will all need to use common sense, resist panic, be open to change, and must be flexible. The most important assignment you have during the next month is to take care of your family and yourself and see to their health and safety.
What do we have to do?
According to Dr. Gruccio on Sunday afternoon, the district’s plan calls for teachers to be available to students as if it was a legal attendance day. Rather than use four different time schedules, it was thought that a unified time is best, similar to what is done on district in-service days. As best you can, be available online between 8am and 12:30pm to field student questions. Use the rest of the 7-hour workday for your lunch, assessment of student work, and to prepare the next day’s lesson and materials. Again, common sense flexibility is necessary as many members are parents who will be needed by their own children who are also at home. Unless administration directs us to do them, concentrate on creating your Google Classroom and the necessary materials, not on Genesis lesson plans. You can’t be held responsible for the students that do not participate and you won’t be evaluated on the quality of your Google ‘classroom.’
How to prepare?
On Monday, take home your files, books, or teaching materials that will be needed in the next month. It is important to be reminded that you are still being paid, you still have an obligation to do the best you can for your students, given the circumstances.
What technology do I teach with?
If you have a district-provided laptop, tablet or device, fill out the Electronic Device Sign-In & Sign-Out Form and take it with you and limit its use to your school-related duties and online teaching and grading responsibilities. Do not download and install programs or apps for personal use or entertainment. Do not use your personal online accounts on the computer. Limit its use to school and job functions. If you use your personally owned equipment, you do so at your own risk.
If you do not have a district-provided device:
request one from your principal and supervisor in person and via email for your online teaching from home. Do this first thing in the morning on Monday, March 16. If you do not have internet access at home, Sprint has donated smartphones and data plans to the district. Request that access as well, if needed. The district discussed having at least one school site open for staff to work from if need be. Ask about this or stay tuned to district email. Each Monday in the morning, your school will be open for families to pick up school breakfast and lunch. At that time, you can access your classrooms and materials you need. If necessary, you can utilize your school desktop and internet access at that time. You should not have to incur personal expenses to buy technology. If you do not get access, or an assurance that it will be provided as soon as practical, notify me as soon as possible by email or calling the VEA Office at 856-696-9200.
According to district policy we can only communicate with students through your district-provided email so ONLY USE YOUR SCHOOL EMAIL AND SCHOOL GOOGLE CLASSROOM. You should not have any electronic correspondence outside of school email or the Google Classroom(s) you have created with your VPS Google email and account.
What if I do not have online or computerized lessons?
For now, use Google Classroom to post your regular materials and lessons. You can still assign readings and questions from textbooks and other regular assignments. You can easily digitize handouts and transparencies with your smartphone. Many apps will make your phone’s camera into a scanner to generate PDFs. Use this time to learn the digital skills necessary. The VEA and likely the district will share ideas. Unfortunately, the time that was to be utilized next week to prepare is not available.
How do I grade or assess student work?
At this time there has been no district response to grading. My questions were whether work should be pass/fail (done or not done); whether testing online should be by the honor system; or if tests/quizzes should not be given, but the district has not made such decisions yet. Until there is any guidance use your own, best judgement.
Do I have to sit at the computer for the 7-hour workday?
No. The work from home tips from the N.J. Tech Council say you should not sit at a computer for several hours at a time. Get up and walk around each hour. Do not “multitask” by doing several things at once. Turn off your social media alerts and focus on the tasks of teaching and evaluating at hand. The district plan asks us to “update your Google Classroom each Monday.” If you can create a week’s worth of lessons; great. If you are working a day at a time because this is a new endeavor, so be it, just do the best you can and ask your principal, supervisor and the Association for help. More resources will follow from the VEA and the district. I have asked Dr. Gruccio for flexibility. Students and parents need to understand that while teachers will respond to student emails and Google Classroom comments and questions, it may not be instantaneous. Working from home is not the same as teaching at school. Check your district email at least once per day during the workweek.
How did this decision to do online learning take place?
State authorities began planning several weeks ago. One aspect of existing law is to allow home instruction during a health-related school shutdown, without the need to makeup any of the days missed (other law requires 180 days of instruction). The State, county or local health Dept. must order or recommend such a closing. That happened today. See the guidance and regulations here from the NJ Dept. of Education. Districts were required to create and submit plans to the state. See the Vineland plan on pages 2 and 3 here; it will likely be sent home on Monday with students. All unions in the district were invited to a meeting last Thursday to review the plan, but events accelerated this weekend. The plan to use next week to prepare and assist with getting online resources and onto Google Classroom was preempted by the spread of the virus. You can stay updated with coronavirus-related bulletins and news from the NJ Dept. of Education here.
Rumors of or real infection?:
Rumors of a COVID-19 positive teacher in the district are false. As of Sunday morning, there are no confirmed positive tests in Cumberland County. While a member was asked to go home due to the histrionic panic of a co-worker, that member is fine. If you think you may be infected, read this and call your physician. I do not intend to sound like a scold, but social media like facebook and twitter is no place to get news, vent, or spread rumors about your school, its response to the virus, or coworkers. As a reminder, anything that you write or post on social media can and will be used against you. See NJEA’s bulletin here.
Take health precautions, and keep the big picture in mind – this will pass. We have had more serious health-related crises long ago and more recently. Today, we have advanced medical science to alleviate the symptoms and to treat secondary infections. Supermarkets will eventually get restocked with toilet paper! So, while we’ll be teaching from home and that is real work, look forward to extra time you’ll have since so many of life’s other activities and distractions will be cancelled. I’m looking forward to more time with my family, reading It Can’t Happen Here, lots of yard work, and maybe even bottling 25 gallons of 2017 cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. What will you be doing with your newly found time? Salute!
Questions or Concerns?
Call the VEA office or email me at email@example.com
Lou Russo, President
Vineland Education Association
Thanks to the members who joined us on Feb. 28 at the Brass Tap. A good time and prizes.
Cumberland County Family Shelter – We are collecting donations for delivery each month.
If you hear from individuals or groups trying to convince you to drop your membership or claiming to offer you cheaper representation, understand that they are fronts working for far-right, anti-union organizations funded by the Koch brothers. Their interest is to dilute the power of unions, lowering wages and ending collective bargaining for decent wages and benefits. The V.E.A. remains the only democratic membership organization that exists to represent you. Our power is our unity. Please read this (Click here) if you got the mailing from “Americans for Prosperity” to get the full context of who they are and what you received.
Have a great year and get involved – now is the time!