May 2015 Volume 10 Issue 1

Presidents Corner

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

There is no profession more important, yet under appreciated, than teaching. Take time this week to reflect on why you entered this profession, what keeps you going (besides having 2, 5, 10 years to go before retirement), what have you learned from your students and what have they learned from you? Theodore Roosevelt said that "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." I know how hard all of you work and I believe that the work we do with our students every day is worth doing. Additionally, I have to believe that for the most part, our administrators and the Board of Education know the hard work you do every day as well. The Michigan legislature....well, that's for another time. Take extra time this week to applaud yourself for jobs well done, recognize your colleagues for the good work that they do and know that every day you are working at something worth doing (even when you have just repeated the same direction three times to your class :-) )

Laura Mikesell, M.Ed.

GPEA President


P.S. Please direct thanks to Chris Fenton's office for supplying bagels and cream cheese to all of our GPEA members on Tuesday. Also, thanks to the AR's for delivering them to each school.

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Dr. Gary Niehaus, Superintendent Grosse Pointe Public Schools

Two excellent candidates, Dr. Gary Niehaus from Bloomington, Illinois and Dr. Steve Matthews from Novi were brought forward as the final two candidates. The Board of Education continued to faithfully follow the process of selection as mandated by Board President Judy Gafa and the candidates underwent a few grueling days of community and bargaining group interviews, focus groups, public presentations and final BOE interviews. The GPEA remained very active through every step of the process and gave significant input. Both superintendent candidates brought a tremendous amount of experience to our district and after speaking with both Dr. Niehaus and Dr. Matthews Education Associations it was clear that they both place great value on their staff and the collective bargaining process. Last night (May 4) a decision was made in a 5-2 vote in favor of Dr. Gary Niehaus.

He brings great experience to Grosse Pointe.

See his resume here:

Please welcome him to the Grosse Pointe Public Schools when you see him.


The GPEA was well represented by Rob McIntyre, Jackie Shelson, Laura Mikesell and Mary Casinelli (GP Support Staff) at the recent Spring Representative Assembly in Lansing. This group represents Grosse Pointe in the business, budget, new business items and initiatives that the MEA puts forth for the upcoming year. It looks like dues will be lowered and will remain on a 10 month pay plan. Other important conversations included spirited debate by those of us in the Local 1 Coordinating Council on the M-Step test. Within 48 hours of that new business item being passed you can see the result below.

If you would like to be a part of the voting constituency of the MEA you must be a member in good standing and be voted in by the GPEA membership. Please consider running next year for an RA position.

RA Representatives for Grosse Pointe from left to right:

Rob McIntyre (Parcells), Laura Mikesell (Barnes), Mary Casinelli (GP Support Staff), Jackie Shelson (South)

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Staffing Update

Human Resources continues to put forth a Herculean effort to minimize layoffs and most staffing conversations will be happening before Memorial Day. The GPEA leadership will be consulted as decisions are finalized. Consulted is the operative word there as, of course, new laws give administrators the right of assignment. That being said, all stops are being put in place on all levels to preserve people's jobs. With significant drops in enrollment (over 100 students) that is no easy task. Some staff members may have changes in assignment, slight reductions in FTE or more traveling but Maureen Bur and Jon Dean are pulling out everything to avoid layoffs. There has been significant discussion and debate between administrators and central office and every final decision was examined at length. Nothing surrounding staffing and a decrease in funding is easy and none of the changes that occur will be taken lightly by the GPEA.

The Importance of Your Preparatory Time

GPEA leadership is concerned that your teacher preparation time is becoming a time in the day that is being used for something other than readying your day or week for your many students. The preservation of the teacher preparation period is an essential, non-negotiable foundation to the excellence teachers produce in their classrooms. The GPEA's position is that the teacher preparation period must be protected and remain under the control of the classroom teacher. In general, there should be no mandatory meetings, conferences or other school business unless it is specifically agreed upon by the teacher. Allowing individual prep. time to be regularly used for something other than teacher preparation sends the message that preparation time is not needed. Your time is valuable - let's keep it that way.
Appreciating Teachers = Appreciating Unions (Link)

This week set aside time to read this letter written by a young Wisconsin teacher. It will reinforce the reason why standing together as one is important. Fragmented unions help no one except the other side of the bargaining table.

Teacher Recertification Workshop - Tuesday 5/12

If you need to recertify your teaching certificate this year and would like help doing that - please contact Jane Nutter at to add your name and school to the list. Location for next Tuesday's workshop will be shared after the GPEA has a list of interested parties.

FAQ from the GPEA

Do we have full rollover of days we don't use this year?

Yes, there is a full rollover into your Individual Roll Bank of any days you have not used this year. For example if you have 7 days left this year from the 12 you were given - those 7 days will "roll over" into your Individual Roll Bank. There is no delineation between personal days and individual leave days. They are all part of the 12 total you received from the district. Remember - it is imperative that you continue to accrue days for any emergency that may arise. The GPEA recommends a minimum 24 Individual Roll Bank days or more.

What is a "Prohibited Subject of Bargaining?" Is that why there are sections written in italics in our contract?

Yes, everything in italics in our contract is a prohibited subject of bargaining. The year 2011 in Michigan was the year of reforms for our profession. The list of prohibited school employee union bargaining subjects under the state's Public Employment Relations Act include but are not limited to teacher evaluation, teacher placement, decisions on which teachers to lay off first, classroom observations, employee discipline and discharge, merit pay programs and notification to parents about teacher performance. Find our contract here:

What is National Board Certification? Can the MEA help me pursue this?

National Board Certification is the newest hallmark of accomplished teaching. It is built upon National Board Standards and Five Core Propositions. The Five Core Propositions purport to set forth the profession's vision for accomplished teaching and underscore the accomplished teacher’s commitment to advancing student achievement. Together, they form the basis of all National Board Standards and the foundation for National Board Certification.

If you are a member in good standing, the MEA is providing help and mentorship to teachers who want to pursue a National Board Certification. Click on the link below to help you get started.

Fall GPEA Positions

Please consider becoming more active in the Grosse Pointe Education Association. Each school needs more than one association representative (AR.) AR's represent and defend the interests of his or her fellow employees while also being a union official. Building AR's are an official and important link between GPEA members, administration and GPEA leadership. There will be a workshop offered in the fall by Local 1 that will be an introduction or refresher course for all GPEA association representatives. That date will be on the calendar ASAP. Additionally, the GPEA by-laws indicate that we should have a PAC chairperson (Political Action Committee.) That position comes with a small stipend. Please contact if you would like to step up and protect public education.
Office of Retirement Services (link)

If you have not set up a Mi-account with ORS - please consider doing that. It is a good idea to check to make sure your years and pay are being recorded accurately each year. There are multiple resources on the ORS site that you may find helpful.