AEA Welcomes Interim Executive Director

Mar 30, 2022

Liz Picone Brings Decades of Association Experience 

The Arkansas Education Association is excited to announce Liz Picone has taken the helm of the state’s largest professional organization for educators as Interim Executive Director.  

Picone will lead the organization over the next six to eight months while the AEA Board of Directors conducts a search for a new director and plans to immediately focus on membership growth. 

“Arkansas teachers and education support professionals are at the heart of all we do and the source of AEA’s power,” Picone said. “Our members allow us to provide professional development programming, educator support and advocacy for students and educators at the local and state level.” 

Picone is now in her 28th year of association staff experience. She brings a wealth of experience as an Organizational Specialist serving National Education Association members across the country from Pre-K to Higher Ed. Picone has worked in more than 35 states assisting with membership campaigns, political campaigns, leadership development, coaching staff and serving as a thought partner for Executive Directors. 

Liz taught Orchestra in the Texas Public Schools for 13 years before she began her association career. 

“Coming from the classroom, I know the value of an organization that has your back and amplifies educator voice,” she said. “Over the last three decades, I’ve seen the incredible things educators can accomplish when we work together, and I look forward to working with Arkansas educators to spread the word about AEA’s work to improve student learning conditions and school employee working conditions.” 

The recruitment drive will begin April 1st, when educators can enroll early to receive benefits for free through the remainder of this school year.  

“Early Enrollment is a wonderful opportunity for educators to join the association and discover the many benefits of membership,” Picone said. “We also look forward to a return to more normal back to school events following years of disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.”  

Picone holds degrees from the University of Kansas and Eastern Illinois University. She also holds administration and supervisor certifications from the University of Houston and Sam Houston State University. Picone is a graduate of the Harvard Trade Union program and one of a select group of Association Executives that qualify for the Certified Association Executive (CAE). The CAE credential is the marker of a committed association professional who has demonstrated the wide range of knowledge essential to manage an association in today’s challenging environment. 

She replaces former Executive Director Tracey Ann-Nelson, who left the association for another position following seven years at AEA. 


February ’22 Adequacy Update SCHOOL FUNDING TALKS CONTINUE AT CAPITOL

Feb 10, 2022

AEA’s lobby team was back at the State Capitol this week for continued legislative hearings to review and recommend school funding levels. The Monday and Tuesday meetings included a look at how schools are funded, and how districts are spending the money they receive.

Bureau of Legislative Research officials told lawmakers the bulk of school funding is provided by the state’s “foundation funding.” The amount each school receives is calculated using a matrix that assumes a school has 500 students to achieve efficiency, but the majority of Arkansas schools fall below this number.

BLR also said different spending patterns occur between different types of schools, and the size of the district is a big factor. That spending matters, especially when targeting high poverty schools and improving instruction. Successful schools seem to invest more in human capital and instruction-related resources. In school districts with waivers, spending is often less, they said.

This hearing is part of an 18 month long process where lawmakers study various aspects of public education to determine how to adequately resource public education in Arkansas. AEA attends each of these meetings and offers testimony to lawmakers to inform the final recommendations. The next meeting in this series of hearings will take place at the State Capitol on  March 7th and 8th.


OMICRON CHECK IN STUDENTS ARE SUFFERING WHILE EDUCATOR VOICES ARE IGNORED

Jan 25, 2022

Arkansas’s students are suffering from emotional distress, learning loss, and undernourishment as the state experiences a rapid surge in COVID-19 infections, according to a recent survey conducted by the Arkansas Education Association. In addition, the majority of survey respondents believe a brief virtual shift would be the best option to limit daily disruptions and keep students and educators safe. 

“We have learned the hard way it is more difficult than ever to be an educator,” said AEA President Carol Fleming. “With no option to pivot to virtual, and AMI days running out, we wanted to get a broader perspective of what our educators are experiencing and what insight they could provide into the ever-growing need for mitigating the effects of the virus on students and educators.” 

STUDENTS ARE SUFFERING 

While educators are worn thin from trying to stay healthy and keep their families safe, they have also had the added stress of worrying about the well-being of their students. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 94.07%, reported that their students have suffered some level of emotional distress due to the pandemic72.44% reported some level of undernourishment in their students, and 96.69% have observed academic losses.  

“Our top priority is to keep our students and educators safely learning in their classrooms – and we have the tools to make that possible,” Fleming said. “Educators are always showing up for their students – but we need the support and resources to do what we love most. Whether it’s repairing broken, outdated HVAC systems or addressing the shortages of rapid tests – we’re asking for what is needed to make in-person learning safe.” 

EDUCATORS FEEL IGNORED 

“Educators are on the front lines of this pandemic and have become experts on delivering meaningful instruction during this health crisis,” Fleming said. “However, it seems most of them are not even being asked what they think.”  

Most respondents, 72.08%, disagreed with the statement “My district is listening to educator input as it relates to COVID-19″Furthermore, 63.76% disagreed with “My district is treating me in a way that makes me feel respected and valued.” To that end, only 46% of respondents feel comfortable reporting health and safety violations.  

AMI DAYS ARE RUNNING OUT 

Many schools had to close because of staffing shortages due to rising infection rates, using their 10 allotted AMI Days (Alternative methods of instruction). While the use of AMI days can help keep educators and students safe in the short term, they are currently capped at only ten (10). Once a school exhausts their days, the school calendar will be extended into the summer break. 63.10% of respondents reported that their school is using AMI days in response to the omicron spike. While the legislation states that AMI can be delivered virtually, educators reported that 62.22% are being mandated to conduct synchronous instruction.  

“Educators know how important it is to remain flexible in responding to unprecedented and rapidly changing circumstances – we have shown up every day the past two years, adapting and innovating the ways we teach and interact with our students,” Fleming said. “But right now, our districts don’t have the flexibility they need. If districts exhaust AMI days and the school calendar is extended, what does this mean for educators who are teaching virtually and then making up days at the end of the school year?” 

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE? 

We sent four hypothetical options for educators to choose what they feel schools should be doing to keep themselves, their families, and their students safe. 50.38% agree that schools should move to virtual instruction until positivity rates begin to decline and 29.50% wish to remain in-person, but with strong mitigation strategies such as mask mandates. 9.39% would like to return to a hybrid model of teaching both online and in-person, and 10.73% would like to see virtual options and mask mandates eliminated while keeping schools open.  

“We know the impacts of the pandemic can look different from community to community,” Fleming said. “Each school district across the country needs to bring together parents, educators, administrators and elected officials to collectively make local decisions that will best keep our students safe.” 

 


Educators call on school districts to follow health expert guidance during Coronavirus Surge Court ruling allows for masking requirements that limit virus cases

Jan 3, 2022

The Arkansas Education Association is unabatedly concerned with the health, safety and welfare of our state’s students and educators as we approach another semester of school under virulent conditions.    

While in-person instruction is best for our students, it must be done safely. As record numbers of new infections hit our state, we must follow health expert guidance to make sure our students and educators are as safe as possible in their learning and working environment.  

The Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians is calling on schools and child care facilities to return to masking requirements for staff and students to help keep buildings open. Vaccines are also an important tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in any of its forms, but that does not negate the need to continue health and safety protocols including masks and social distancing. 

Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s ruling on Act 1002 as unconstitutional allows local school districts the authority to make decisions in the best interest of the community. Data shared by Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health, showed school districts where students and staff wore masks had 20% fewer cases of COVID-19 than schools with no mask requirements. It is vital that school boards consider and follow the expert medical advice of our health professionals given the situation on the ground.  

Educators are leaving their positions as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on their students, themselves, and their families. Districts cannot continue to ignore the rapidly changing learning and working conditions that must be addressed to maintain safe and healthy classrooms, buildings and school buses.

The Arkansas Education Association is a professional organization for teachers, education support professionals, students and advocates. Our fundamental objective is to work for quality and equitable public education for all of Arkansas students, the betterment of the Arkansas state education system and quality working conditions for educators.


2021 AEA Virtual PD Conference Registration is Open

Oct 8, 2021

Our 2021 AEA Professional Development Conference has shifted to virtual in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. We are working with presenters to ensure a quality online experience for attendees and will be featuring more than a dozen courses including Trauma-Informed Care, Ethics for Educators, Adaptive Leadership and the Who, What and Why of ESPs.

Be sure to download and submit your letter of intent to attend to your administration ASAP, and

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

You will be able to choose which course you would like to attend, and they will be available to complete online beginning November 4th. Also, don’t miss the Hybrid 2021 Forrest Rozzell Lecture, which will be held both virtually and in person at the Ron Robinson Theater Thursday, November 4th at 7 PM. Find details on the event and Register NOW.


Register NOW for the 2021 Forrest Rozzell Lecture

Oct 7, 2021

Join us for our 2021 “Hybrid” Forrest Rozzell Lecture with Dr. Charlotte Parham!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY 

A Revisit to W.E.B. Dubois Truth, Knowledge, and Sympathy in Public Schools

Thursday, November, 4th

6-7 PM

Brown vs. The Board of Education was the historic Supreme Court ruling that made racially segregated schools illegal. Desegregation was an important and necessary time in American history, but it was difficult for all involved. White teachers were unprepared to deal with teaching children who were deemed inferior. Black families were hesitant to entrust their child’s education to an unwelcoming environment. These issues of the 1950s strangely find themselves as relevant discussions in 2021.

For schools systems to provide safe, rigorous, and optimal environments where all students can succeed, there was and still is a need to address the school systems’ social systems. This system involves the human mindset and perspective of both teachers and families. The sociologist W.E. B. DuBois (1935) recognized the complexity of desegregation, positing that effective changes to the social systems must involve three critical components: truth, knowledge, and sympathy. This lecture revisits Dubois’s essential elements of truth, knowledge, and sympathy; and discusses how those components can provide a foundation for equitable education systems.

For more than 20 years, Charlotte R. Green Parham has been an educator in the Arkansas community. Dr. Parham served as an elementary teacher, gifted specialist, principal, and district administrator. She is a national consultant and author who currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Central Arkansas. Her research focuses are systems of equity, academic achievement gaps, school readiness, and disruptive innovation.

Dr. Parham is the executive director for Arkansas Imagination Library, the state’s affiliate for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library book gifting program. She is also the founder and CEO of Strategic Inc., a consulting firm that partners with schools and various organizations to support areas of equity and literacy.

The 2021 AEA Forrest Rozzell Lecture will be held both in person and online. Doors open at the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock, the lecture will begin at 6:00 pm, following a reception with boxed heavy appetizers. This hybrid event will qualify for Professional Development Credits.


Legislators back leaving Arkansas schools’ premiums alone

Jul 21, 2021


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Jun 19, 2021