Wake NCAE
Wake NCAE c/o NCAE
700 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
Office: (919) 782-8908
Fax: (919) 782-8906
Contact Your Legislators
Facebook Twitter
 

Newsletter Articles

The articles on this page have appeared in past issues of the Wake ACTion. They contain information that you may find particularly useful.



Corporal Punishment

Protect Yourself When Meeting With Administration

The Write Way to Protect Your Job

10 Seconds Could Change Your Career

Thinking of Retirement?

Administrators: Are You A Bully?

Is Your School in Compliance?

My Own Worst Enemy

Watch Your Mouth

It's NOT Your Email

Consultation is No Bargain



Corporal Punishment
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

Wake County Public School Policy says that no school employee may use corporal punishment when disciplining students. Human Resources take a very broad view of what constitutes “corporal punishment.” We have had teachers charged with violating the policy if they have touched, grabbed, pushed, or turned a student in the act of discipline. I will put the full policy on the website law page (www.wakencae.org) so that you can read the full text.

We recommend that you do not touch a student in any way if you are disciplining them. It is very tempting to grab a child’s chin to get him to look at you. You may want to redirect a student by grabbing an arm or a shoulder and moving them in the right direction. You may help a child sit down by pushing a little on their head or shoulder. All of these and more instances can be interpreted as corporal punishment because you were in the act of disciplining the student.

While I’m on the topic of touching, many of you have heard that our advice is not to touch students at all. Frontal hugs, friendly pats on the backside, letting students sit on your lap, are all acts that can be misinterpreted and lead to charges. A friendly punch in the arm or slap on the hand can sound more serious if a child decides to tell a parent that the teacher hit them.

Be careful. Learn side to side hugs. Quickly duck full hugs. Create a special greeting for students, a word, a smile, or hand signal, so that they know you don’t encourage physical contact. There may have been a time when it was normal for teachers to show affection for their students without fear of criminal charges, but that time is over. We live in a society where people leap to conclusions, file charges, and lawsuits. When around your students, you must be the responsible adult, draw the line, and protect yourself.

back to top



Protect Yourself When Meeting With Administration
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

Before the Meeting:

  • Organize your documentation and your thoughts.
  • Make notes about what you want to say.
  • Update your calendar, your journal, your class lists, and grade book.
  • Go in with a positive, professional attitude.

During the Meeting

  • Listen carefully before you attempt a response.
  • Take notes on what was said by all parties. If the conversation gets heated or seems to be going too fast, taking notes can be a calming influence for you. In addition, the administrator may be more careful because you are noting all comments.
  • Stay calm and professional. Keep the discussion on performance issues, not personal issues. The less emotional you can be, the better. If voices are raised, be sure one of them is not yours. Avoid crying, whining, or complaining. You can ask to postpone the meeting to another time, if you feel no progress is being made in your discussion.
  • Be sure you understand the issues that brought you to this meeting, and the steps you are expected to take to improve your performance. If the administrator does not offer you a plan for improvement, ask for one. (This is not a formal Action Plan, but some ideas on how you can do what the administrator expects in the future.)
  • End the meeting on a positive note if at all possible. Remember to shake hands and repeat what steps you are going to take to improve. Repeat when you will meet again, or what other follow-up was discussed.

After the Meeting

  • Keep the details to yourself. Do not discuss the conversation with your friends and co-workers. Administrators admire professionals who get back to work without blabbing all over the school what was said or done.
  • If appropriate, write a short note or email thanking the administrator for the meeting and repeating what action(s) and documents were discussed and what timelines were scheduled as part of your follow-up plan.
  • Do what you were asked to do, and document your actions. Be sure that you are keeping deadlines. Do not wait for the administrator to ask for documents or follow-up information. Keep copies of all documents and correspondence.

When to Call Your UniServ

  • You need some advice on what to do to prepare for a meeting and how to handle the situation, or you just need to talk it over with someone you trust.
  • You are frightened or concerned for your personal safety.
  • You aren’t sure what you are being asked to do is within your job description.
  • Your administrator is abusive or harassing.
  • You have reason to believe that your job is in jeopardy.

back to top



The Write Way to Protect Your Job
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

One of the many services we provide for our members is assisting with the writing of rebuttals, letters, and reports. Any employee who receives a document in writing has the right to respond, in writing, to what was put in the document. For teachers, it may be the observation form, a letter, note, or email from an administrator, or your summative evaluation. For support staff it may be a letter of reprimand or your yearly evaluation.

There are some basic rules for writing responses.

  • Never submit something you have written in anger or frustration. The tone of what you write may appear unprofessional and personal, rather than factual.
  • Never write a response that is longer than the document to which you are responding. A three to ten page rebuttal is either not read by anyone, or it rambles and gets off the main points you needed to document.
  • Always assume that your response will be kept and may be used again in the future. You are part of the “paper trail” that is being constructed in your file, and everything you contribute should reinforce your professional status.
  • Always keep a copy of all documents for your records.
  • If the document you are responding to was sent to others, then be sure to send each of them a copy of your response.
  • If the document you are responding to was sent ONLY to you, in general, respond only to the writer; don’t send copies of your response to several people who have no idea what is going on. This could backfire on you later

Here's a general rule: If you get something in writing, respond in writing. If you are told something that you think needs a formal reply, respond in writing to document the conversation. Remember, you are doing this to protect yourself, not to tell someone off.

Do you need help with writing a response? Email makes it very easy for you to have a UniServ Consultant check your writing and offer suggestions by return email. Use this resource. Membership in Wake NCAE pays every day.

back to top



10 Seconds Could Change Your Career
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

Every week we get at least one or two cases that involve a momentary lack of judgment by a school employee, a quick swat, a mumbled curse, a public argument, or worse. We all deal with children and colleagues that can take us to the end of our rope in an instant. A professional responds appropriately, but even the most seasoned educator can respond in a way that can reap accusations and disciplinary action. Ask the teacher who was so frustrated with her class that she muttered a curse word to the ceiling, if she could take back that moment. Her word was overheard by students and resulted in a letter in her personnel file and three days suspension without pay. Ask the bus driver who lightly swatted a student on the shoulder to get him in his seat after repeated warnings, if she would like another chance to handle that situation. It took several meetings, mandatory anger management classes, and written apologies in order for her to return to work on a conditional evaluation.

The next time you are tempted to swat, grab, swear, shout, or respond in an inappropriate manner, stop; ask yourself if this moment is worth jeopardizing your career. What you do in the next ten seconds can mean weeks of frustration, the possible loss of your job and criminal charges.

Find a way to relieve your stress appropriately. Exercise, play a musical instrument, sing, paint, garden, or do whatever helps you feel relaxed and in control. Resolve to enjoy your career more. Laugh and marvel at the joys of working with students and those who care about education. Use the ten seconds before you act, to draw on your strengths instead of losing your grip, and you will have no regrets.

back to top



Thinking of Retirement?

We get several calls each month from members asking questions about their retirement options, and every time we schedule a workshop on retirement, we have a full room. Here is one way you can get to the information more quickly and get specific answers to your questions.

Go to our state website www.ncae.org and click on Benefits. Then click on Retirement. You will see the same options listed below.

Retirement Issues

Retirement System - Application to purchase creditable service using a rollover or plan-to-plan transfer from an eligible retirement plan or an IRA

Retirement Payment Information

Retirement Income Replacement Percentages for 2004-05

Full Actuarial Cost Request Estimator

Retirement Systems Division Estimate of Benefits

Retirement System Handbook

These options will link you to NCAE articles and to the state treasurer’s website. If you are still unable to find answers, you may need an appointment with the human resources retirement expert at the WCPSS Central Office, or at the Department of Public Instruction. As always, you may call your UniServ Consultant who can assist you.

We wish you well with your retirement planning and remember, it’s never too early to make plans and preparations.

back to top



Administrators: Are You A Bully?
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

Wake NCAE has the highest respect for the people who become administrators. Every administrator begins the job with high hopes of doing well and being well-liked. The best and most successful administrators are those who share the decision making with their employees. They listen, learn, and follow as often as they lead.

At the risk of alienating administrators all across the county, I feel the need to address some issues that consistently come to our attention. First, I want to state the obvious, that 80% of the administrators in Wake County are hard-working leaders who do their best to keep up with policies and laws so that employees are treated fairly and professionally. So how do you know the other 20%?

You know you're a bully administrator if:

  • You insist that others hear your ideas but are not open to theirs. Is your door truly open?
  • Your School Improvement Team is comprised of only those people who agree with you. Did you arrange for them to be on the team?
  • Your School Improvement Team rarely meets, and when they do, nothing substantive is discussed or decided. You make all the decisions and the team does not meet unless you are in charge.
  • Your budget is a highly classified secret and funds are doled out according to your decisions, and not the SIT, department chairs, or team leaders.
  • When you want to target the behavior of one or two employees, you discipline all your employees. If one or two regularly come in late, then why does everyone have to sign in? Educators are professionals who respond to respect and trust.
  • You are indifferent to the stresses or illnesses of your employees. People feel guilty for being sick. People work when they really should be home in bed. People feel the need to take off days just to get away from the stress of working for you. The transfer requests increase every year.
  • You insist that people on sick leave, especially those on maternity leave, continue to provide lesson plans, correct papers, attend meetings, or perform some other job requirement while they are on leave.
  • You order employees to arrive earlier than the policy dictates or stay later than reasonably necessary.
  • You schedule staff meetings too often, keep people late when it is not necessary, or use staff meetings as a form of punishment. There should be a policy against Friday afternoon staff meetings unless there is an emergency.
  • You assign employees to extra duties without regard to equity or special needs. The same people should not have outside bus duty or lunch supervision every day. Your employees can come up with a workable plan if you let them.
  • And the best way you can tell if you are a bully administrator is this article is highlighted and put in your box by several of your employees. If that happens, don't get angry; use this occasion to reflect on ways to improve your relationships and your leadership style. Everyone benefits from a harmonious working environment, especially the students.

back to top



Is Your School In Compliance?

  • Beginning this school year, the School Improvement Plan shall have a plan to provide a duty-free lunch period for every teacher on a daily basis or as otherwise approved by the School Improvement Team.
  • Beginning this school year, the School Improvement Plan shall include a plan to provide duty-free instructional planning time for every teacher under General Statute 115C-301.1, with the goal of providing an average of at least five hours of planning time per week.
  • School Board Policy (3221) states that a teacher day does not begin until 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the instructional day. The instructional day begins when the tardy bell rings and teaching begins. The teacher day ends when students are out of the classroom and the teacher fulfills all his/her responsibilities of the day. Read the entire 3221 policy for more information.
  • There are no class size waivers for grades 1 -3 in North Carolina. Other class size waivers must be part of the School Improvement Plan and approved by all instructional staff.
  • The SIT must be elected and the School Improvement Plan must be approved by secret ballot by the entire instructional staff - after a period of time when the plan can be reviewed and discussed.

back to top



My Own Worst Enemy
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

It seems logical that when you have a job, you do what is expected of you. Sometimes our members are their own worst enemies. They get in trouble because they are habitually late to work, or they don't turn in their paperwork on time, or some other foolish behavior. The duties of your job are outlined in your job description. You are to be reliable and do what is expected. That should go without saying, but employees get into trouble for some things that should be obvious.

Sometimes someone gets into trouble for something serious. The case against them looks even worse when there is a record of "smaller" items that comes out in the investigation. Very seldom do we see an investigation that does not come up with a list of other issues that are either documented or remembered. You can be accused of one thing and find yourself defending yourself against infractions that go back years.

So what do we do to protect ourselves? First of all, do the best you can to fulfill the requirements of your job. When there is a complaint, respond appropriately. If there is a written document from an administrator, colleague, parent, or student, be sure to respond in writing so that your story is documented. If you are accused or corrected in person by an administrator, consider responding in an email. Some issues are best left to just the verbal record, but some issues need a documented response. An email should start with, "Thank you for bringing an issue to my attention today. As I told you in the hallway, at no time have I …………………." Keep it short and to the point. You get the idea.

If you are a probationary teacher, if you are on an Action Plan, if you seem to have the undivided attention of an administrator for some reason, this is the time to protect yourself by doing the very best you can. Obey the rules and document everything. It's okay to be a little paranoid if "they" really are after you. Don't be your own worst enemy by adding to the problem.

back to top



Watch Your Mouth
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

Our culture seems to be more accepting of profanity, swearing, and degrading humor these days. Cable television, live shows, and even network television use words that were not acceptable 10 years ago. The problem is that the education profession does not allow for inappropriate comments or even a slip of the tongue. Several employees have been investigated recently by Human Resources for saying something inappropriate while with students or with other staff members at school. There is no tolerance for profanity, swearing, or comments that offend others in the Wake County Public School System. There is no excuse for blurting something out in anger, frustration, or as a joke. Students repeat what you say to their parents. Your colleagues will report you to the administration if they are offended. You may be overheard by anyone who can make one word turn into a long nightmare. When you are investigated, everything you may have said, any incident you were involved with, any note or comment from your principal, is taken into account to determine a pattern of behavior. Disciplinary action could include a letter in your personnel file, suspension without pay, or even dismissal. Think before you speak, especially in front of students. Better yet, clean up your language no matter where you are, so that you don't accidentally say something inappropriate at the wrong time.

back to top



It's NOT Your Email
Marie Evans, UniServ Consultant

Your work email address does not belong to you. It belongs to the school system. Anything - yes anything - you put on the school system email is accessible to the system. School email is NOT the place for selling anything, inviting people to social events, gossip, or venting your emotions. If you could not post your email on the wall for everyone to read, or you would not want your email forwarded to others, don't send it. Confidential email regarding a student or a personnel issue may be labeled such, but this does not make it unavailable to the school system administration or security. Some of our members have been disciplined for conducting outside business (selling cosmetics, etc.), for inappropriate language to a parent, and for telling an administrator off. Additionally, parents are learning that they can request emails that are written on school email regarding their child. If you must use a student's name in an email, make sure that it is something that is appropriate for the parent to read.

While I'm on this topic, I must remind you that Wake NCAE prefers not to use your school email address. Our listservs only use private email addresses. The UniServ Consultants do not discuss your issues on school email. So when you need information from us, please send it from your personal account. When you want to send NCAE information to your fellow members in your school, you'd be wise to get pre-approval from your administration.

A good tip when you write an email that may be questionable, save it as a draft for a while. If you still want to send it after you read it again, go ahead. If you aren't sure, delete it or change it. Once you click "send" it's out of your hands.

back to top



Consultation is No Bargain
Alan Trogdon

Click here to download a copy of Consultation is No Bargain

back to top