JFT DECEMBER NEWSLETTER
Happy Holidays to you all. As this year comes to an end, I want to thank everyone for their support of JFT.
This past year, we added Executive Vice-President, Bonnetta Franklin, to the JFT staff. Her specialization is special education. Bonnetta has been an excellent asset to our members who teach and assist special education. She has been providing members with special education guidance and representing members in their due process hearings surrounding special education-related concerns.
JFT will be hosting a retirement workshop in the spring for members who are planning to retire at the end of the school year or the upcoming school year. Voya and TRSL will be present to answer any questions you may have about planning for your retirement. This is a popular topic that gets brought to our office daily.
Even if retirement is not on your horizon, the meeting will be open to members seeking retirement or investment information. A link for registration will go out when the date and location are set.
Our Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire on June 30, 2024. I want to thank everyone who filled out the cards JFT organizers had in schools during their school lunch visits during the fall semester. The cards will be given to board members so they will know the concerns of employees heading into negotiations.
JFT will also be putting out a more detailed survey asking for input. We will also hold a meeting in the Spring to review the detailed survey data with membership.
Bonnetta and I have recently met with members who said they would like after-school meetings. The members have stated lunch isn’t always convenient. Executive Vice-President Bonnetta Franklin, Vice President of Para Educators and School Support Staff Karen Riggleman, JFT organizers, and I will be holding after-school meetings for members this spring. We look forward to meeting and talking with you.
Finally, I want to recognize the work of JFT members. Education is your passion, and it shows. The dedication you have to your students is unwavering. At the December 2023 JP Schools Board meeting, JFT recognized the tireless work and dedication of the JP Schools employees. We recognized the great employees who keep the door open, deliver instruction, feed our students, counsel and guide students, transport them to school, assist students in classrooms, provide medical care, and keep schools clean and safe. Everyone plays a vital part in school success. Our schools could not survive without our devoted and dedicated employees of Jefferson Parish Schools.
Please take time for yourself this winter break to rest, recharge, and enjoy time with family and friends. It is well deserved.
Happy New Year,
December 8, 2023, School Board Meeting Highlights:
JFT’s staff and executive board members were present at JP Schools December Board Meeting held at 501 Manhattan Blvd. Worley Middle School was named Campus of the month, and TH Harris Middle School was named School of the month. The partners of the month were Skobel School Uniforms, Uniforms by Logo Express (ULE) and Johnson’s Uniforms. These companies provided uniforms for approximately 2,000 students in JP schools.
The Holiday Card Art Contest winners were recognized as students from Hazel Park, Haynes Academy and Audubon schools. The First Quarter High School Outstanding Athletes were recognized and awarded. Numerous School Administrators and Staff were recognized for their 2023 School Performance scores. JFT congratulates the schools, staff and students for their achievements and continued hard work!
Two Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) endorsement requests were on the consent agenda. 6.4 APF River Partners LLC was withdrawn from the agenda, and 6.5 Bunge Loaders Crocklaan USA, LLC was deferred and will be revisited. JFT President Sanda Hauer was ready to speak in opposition to Agenda Item 6.5, Bunge Loaders Crocklaan USA, LLC. JFT does not support the ITEP program and will continue to advocate for programs that provide funding to public education, not take away funding from public education.
President Sandra Hauer spoke on behalf of JFT, thanking board President Ralph Brandt and Vice President Derrick Shepherd for their service during their 2023 term. The school board elected Dr. Gerard Leblanc as President and Chad Nugent as Vice President to serve in 2024. President Sandra Hauer expressed appreciation for the professional working relationship the current school board has created and hopes to continue as we progress through the school year.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires on June 30, 2024. JFT is looking forward to negotiations with the school board. Members' greatest concerns are planning time, working conditions, and pay.
General Membership Meeting
JFT will be having the Winter General Membership Meeting, Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 6PM via Zoom. Please use the link below to register.
Notice of Election
There will be an election of JFT Officers in April of 2024. Nominations will take place at the JFT General Membership meeting on March 12, 2024 (location to be determined). To be eligible to hold a position, you must be a regular member of JFT in continuous good standing for at least one year immediately preceding the final date for nominations (JFT Constitution, Article VII, Section B.) No member shall be a candidate for more than one elective position in any single election (JFT Constitution, Article VII, Section B).
To be eligible to vote, you must be a member in good standing by January 1, 2024 (Section 8 of the JFT Nominations and Elections Procedures).
Good standing is defined as being current in dues payments with no impediments to membership.
Nominations and Elections Procedures, and blank petitions, will be available at the JFT office on January 8, 2024. Completed petitions may be submitted at any time prior to 6:00 p.m. at the General Membership Meeting in March of 2024.
If you have questions, please email the JFT Nominations and Elections Committee at JFTElection@gmail.com.
The JFT Office will be closed for Winter Break, Monday, December 18, 2023-January 2, 2024. The office will reopen Wednesday, January 3, 2023. Enjoy your break!
Solidarity Day – January 3rd, 2024
The next JFT Solidarity Day is Wednesday, January 3, 2024. Wear your JFT blue on January 3rd and send us photos at firstname.lastname@example.org to highlight your workplace solidarity; then attend the school board meeting with your colleagues. The January meeting will be held at 501 Manhattan at 6 PM. JFT is inviting all union members who are able to attend this meeting.
JFT Organizing Update
As part of our efforts to improve communication and ensure that all members are kept informed about important updates, events, actions, meetings, and elections, JFT is updating its membership information. We kindly request all members to fill out this form with your contact information. Your participation is crucial in enabling us to stay in contact with you and provide timely updates on matters directly impacting you. Click this link to update your information: https://forms.office.com/r/fB9EDkbvf6.
From now until January 12, 2024, JFT will accept donations of new or gently used coats to be distributed to children in the community. JFT is partnering with WGNO and other neighboring businesses to provide coats for kids during this winter season. Donations can be made at our office located at 2540 Severn Ave Ste. 301.
JFT was awarded a $20,000 grant through AFT’s Powerful Partnerships Institute (PPI) to address the needs of food-insecure students in Jefferson Parish schools. In partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, the grant money will be used to fund their ‘Backpack’ program. This program reduces childhood hunger by bridging the gap between school day meals, weekends, and school holidays.
Healthy snacks will be provided directly to at-risk students during the second part of the school year. Right now, we are asking for monetary donations to extend the program to more kids at various schools in Jefferson Parish. Any business, organization or person can donate to the backpack program. Please call JFT office at (504) 454-5047 for more information.
Paraeducator and School Support
JFT’s Vice-President of Paraeducators and School Support Staff, Karen Riggleman, is a sitting member of AFT’s Policy and Procedure Council. The council introduced the Bill of Rights for PSRP staff to the US Senate. This bill is a call to action to provide PSRPs with long overdue dignity, respect, and recognition.
JFT wrote a resolution for LFT’s 59th Annual Convention. The resolution was adopted and will become part of the LFT Legislative Agenda. The resolution was Physical Assistance Pay for PSRPs. This resolution shall introduce and support legislation that would equalize the benefits of all employees who suffer injuries while protecting students’ safety without regard to the employee’s certification, classification, position, or title. Currently, paraeducators and school support staff do not receive the same physical assistance pay when injured by a student.
From the Lawyer’s Desk—Larry Samuel, JFT Legal Counsel
You may be working in your class. Or you may be at home. Without any warning, you learn that a Sheriff’s Deputy or Police Officer wants to ask you questions. You may have no idea what this is about. Or maybe you do. You may be completely innocent. Or maybe you aren’t.
The Deputy asks for your name. You should give it. You should be polite, too.
But should you answer if the Deputy asks you whether you were at school the day before…or whether you know a particular student? After all, those seem like harmless questions, and you don’t want to appear uncooperative. Besides, won’t the officer think you are guilty if you don’t answer even those questions?
To be clear: You should not answer any questions. You should not give information (other than your name and address) until you speak with an attorney. You should immediately call JFT if you are a member.
You are not required to answer questions, and you shouldn’t. You should exercise your rights, even if you are innocent.
So…if you are innocent…why not answer the officer’s questions about what happened?
Because if you do, you may unknowingly incriminate yourself. By remaining silent, you avoid giving incriminating information that could be used against you in a court of law. When you exercise your right to remain silent, you are giving your attorney the opportunity to build a stronger defense strategy on your behalf. When you give information, you are helping build a case against yourself.
But…won’t the officer think you are guilty if you refuse to answer questions?
In the end, what matters is what a judge or jury thinks. Invoking your right to remain silent protects you.
We have seen many situations where clients made statements believing the statements to be innocent and harmless but later learned that their statements hurt their case. Serious offenses are at stake, including Cruelty to a Juvenile, Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Battery, and Assault. Plus, the information can be used by the parent to sue you for money.
Some additional advice:
If the Deputy asks you to sign a “Summons,” sign it. By signing the Summons, you are not admitting guilt. You are only acknowledging that you are required to appear in court. This may avoid an arrest.
The principal/supervisor has the right to request a written statement. Immediately contact JFT if you are a member. If you need additional time to prepare a statement, ask the principal.
Some actual examples of why giving information can be against your best interest:
A Deputy tells you that you are being accused of hitting a student the previous day. You immediately blurt out, “But I was absent yesterday.” The Officer returns to the student with this information…and the student changes his mind and says, “Oh, it was the day before.” Your attorney should be the person to devise a strategy on how to best use the information that you weren’t even at school. You shouldn’t help anyone build a case against you.
A Deputy tells you that a student has accused you of hitting a student the previous day and you left a mark on his arm. You respond: “I didn’t hit him. I grabbed him because he wouldn’t get in his seat.” Unknowingly, you have just admitted (1) that you in fact were in the room with him, (2) the student was non-compliant, and you reacted, and (3) you came into contact with him by grabbing him. In the end, your attorney is the expert to advise you on how and when that information should be disclosed.
Your words matter. Your words can unknowingly hurt you.
As a Federation member, you are entitled to protection and representation by the Union. If you are a member, you should immediately contact JFT. You are protected through an Occupational Liability Plan through the American Federation of Teachers. This Plan pays reasonable legal fees up to $5,000 regardless of the charge or the outcome and pays up to $35,000 in certain cases. Additionally, the JFT will represent you at Human Resources conferences. But you must be a JFT member when the alleged incident occurred.