Arizona Education Association

Winter 2021

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t no time has it been more challenging to work in our schools than it has for the past two calendar years. Yet through all the fatigue, disrespect, and unsustainable workloads you've remained committed to the students you serve and to the colleagues you work alongside. You've made your schools the safest places to learn that you can, but we know the increased stream of educators leaving the job will become a flood if the situation continues unaddressed. As we enter winter break—with half the year behind us and half a year le before us—we must be honest with ourselves about what we are facing and what we need to change to get through the upcoming semester without losing more educators. And we need to accept the fact that the situation will get far, far worse if we do not speak up and offer our own solutions. AEA will continue to work on your behalf with the governor and legislature to pass sensible solutions to the challenges facing you and to provide the necessary flexibility to implement them at the school level, but the hostility many of them openly show toward educators will continue to make that challenging. Fortunately for us, we have a real opportunity at the local level. Every district in the state received part of $4.3 billion in one-time COVID relief Congress sent Arizona's public schools. is is the fuel for our solutions. We must share with the public the real, unvarnished impact the stress, the workload, and the inability to 'just hire more teachers/substitutes/bus drivers/aides/etc.' is having on our ability to keep enough school employees healthy so students receive in-person instruction. ese authentic stories help the public understand what we are going through and the urgency to act quickly so that we can support and hopefully retain the educators we still have. And we need to think big. Some our solutions will be small and straightforward—like spending less time in meetings or ending mandatory professional development, but some will be huge and systemic. How do we solve the workload issues related to the inability to hire for vacancies or even cover for absences? Do we look at changing next semester's schedule to ensure there is sufficient time for teachers to plan or for bus drivers to safely complete their routes? Would having students work independently at home a half day or more each week provide classroom teachers the time they need to plan lessons, grade assignments, and provide students and parents the feedback they need? e American Rescue Plan Act signed last March mandates that districts collaborate with local associations "in a meaningful way" in designing and revising their plans to keep schools open to in-person instruction. is creates a seat at the table for us, and we must use it to advance the solutions we know will help us get through this difficult year. To support you in this effort AEA recently launched a Call for Safe Schools Now, which includes eight district level expectations to ensure our students and educators are safe and healthy so our schools can remain open for in-person instruction. is campaign is about ensuring your voice is heard when decisions are made about how your district will spend those critical COVID relief dollars. Read more about AEA's Call for Safe Schools Now and how locals can make the COVID relief money count on page 6. e key to all of this is us. Our voices, our professionalism, and our solutions will create the light at the end of the tunnel we need to see to believe we can get through this. And we will get through this together. In Solidarity, Joseph H. omas, President Arizona Education Association IN SOLIDARITY by Joe omas AEA OFFICERS Joe omas President Marisol Garcia Vice President Angela Philpot Treasurer AEA STAFF Sheryl Mathis Interim Executive Director Sheenae Shannon Editor Roxanne Rash Graphic Design Advertising e AEA Advocate is published by the Arizona Education Association, 345 East Palm Lane, Phoenix, Arizona 85004-1532. Phone: 602- 264-1774 or 800-352-5411 Fax: 602-240-6887. Email: AEA's website may be found at Permission to reprint any material originating with this publication is granted provided that credit is given to the AEA Advocate. e AEA Advocate (ISSN 0194-8849) is published in Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer for $3.50 per year by the Arizona Education Association, 345 East Palm Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85004-1532. Periodicals postage paid at Phoenix, Arizona. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the AEA Advocate, 345 East Palm Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85004-1532. Moving? Please let us know before you go. Simply clip your mailing label from the back of the Advocate and send it along with your new address to: AEA Advocate 345 East Palm Lane Phoenix, Arizona 85004-1532 4 ADVOCATE | WINTER 2021

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