Flamingos Fly South?---from the November 2005 Staff Newsletter

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 6:43 PM | Allie Maloney

Flamingos Fly South?

Toby Harper, NIA President

The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views,

working within the NOLS community to promote the school s mission and values.

The lake at the foot of the garden here in Quebec's eastern townships won't freeze over for a while, yet it didn t seem far off whilst I waded around pulling the floating dock out yesterday.  This ll be my last newsletter article of the year, I hope NOLS'  40th, the NIA's 30th and WMI's 15th were relatively good ones for everybody.  The celebrations in Lander were inspirational, I felt they revealed the institutional memory that holds the school together as it tumbles through time.

What is below contains a little internal news about the NIA and an amalgam of the update on Performance-based pay I sent to the NIA list-serve in September, of the outcomes of the October NIA board meeting and of my presentation to the NOLS Board of Trustees a few weeks ago (many thanks to those who attended on a sunny Saturday morning).

I first want to thank this year s NIA board members: Matt Lloyd (Treasurer), Albert Mitugo, Diego Allolio, Fabio Oliveira, Mark Fisher, Fredrik Norrsell, Les van Barselaar (Vice-President), Mike Clelland! (Membership Driver), Nate Furman, Shari Leach, Rick Rochelle (Membership Manager and Past-President) and John Fitzgerald.  They have brought their great energy to the NIA, and the NIA to its successes.  Past-Presidents Sam Talucci and Marco Johnson have been great mentors on the NIA board and I very much appreciate their coaching.

About half the board will return next year, the ballot for the new folks is open until the first week of December in the Polls section of the Yahoo site.

The NIA is also seeking a new president; please contact the board if you or someone you know is interested.  Here's Vice-President Les van Barselaar s take on the role:

The NIA president position provides a unique opportunity to participate at the heart of NOLS.  Where else can you meet and talk to instructors about what's important to them, learn about the administrative point of view at the branch and international level, and get to meet and talk with the NOLS Board of Trustees throughout the year.

The President's position also provides great learning and practical skill development (leadership, communication skills etc.) if someone were interested in pursuing an administrative or education career with NOLS or elsewhere.  You'd have many opportunities to hear innovative ideas on NOLS leadership, curriculum issues, and Human Resources issues.  The NIA is also changing in exciting new ways to fulfill our mission.  This is a unique opportunity to play point in actualizing the NIA and NOLS missions.

You don't have to do this on your own either.  The NIA board provides a deep well of experience, they are your immediate team.  The NIA has great support from over half of Field Instructors, from directors and the NOLS Board of Trustees.

An annual stipend of $5000 is currently paid to the president by the NIA.

Apply now by sending a bio and vision statement to nia_board@yahoogroups.com


NIA membership is at a record for this time of year.  We have 303 at the moment (59% of Field Instructors), our past best for this Newsletter was 302 in 2004.  Once again, the NIA would especially appreciate hearing from non-members about why they have chosen to not join.

Participation seems to be high because instructors are invested in the mission and feel the NIA both represents their views and role models their values.  Thank you to all members for your investment and support, we feel it quite a responsibility to communicate for you.

For 2006 we already have 156 members and 38 for 2007.  I've sent out an email to those whose memberships expire January 1st 2006, early renewal really helps us out administratively.  I understand the frustration of not knowing whether you're a current member or not, and when your membership will expire.  This seems like our biggest administrative challenge.  We are working on getting the current membership list and expiration dates on an NIA section of Rendezvous.

We are also considering offering a three-year membership option, and getting an (almost) automated email out to all those who join.  Please bear with us through this time of transition.

Recent Achievements

2005 has been a successful year for the NIA mission.  Enrollment at the school remains flat but revenues are up due to program diversification.  While growth is not quite where the Board of Trustees might want to see it Field Instructors should look forward to the planned implementation of Staff Recruitment Development and Retention committee recommendations for 2006.  These include a change to 4%/week health insurance reimbursement and a 4.65% payroll budget increase, if NOLS' 2006 budget is approved in November.

We should also see reimbursement of visa and Homeland Security fees for international staff beginning Sept 1, 2005.

The Board of Trustees, NOLS administrators and especially the Human Resources Department have lately been very clear on our progress towards and goals for staff diversity.

Another great success this year has been increased participation (up to 27%) in Field Instructor giving to the Annual Fund.

Current Challenges

The Board of Trustees stated in June that: future pay increases will be directed toward those positions where we are most off comparables, where turnover is the greatest, for meritorious performance and to those positions for which it is most difficult to hire .  The human resources department has echoed that it supports both merit pay and differential pay.

While I have tried hard to focus on things other than pay during my term it remains the number-one concern for Field Instructors and it has recently come to the fore in new ways that demand instructor participation.  The topic at hand, Performance-based pay , wouldn't necessarily change the figure on your paycheck, yet it would change the way you got to that amount.

How do you feel about the current Field Instructor pay scale being changed to value factors other than only seniority (weeks) and position (CL/PL/I)?  These other factors might include 'performance' on a course (measured against set expectations/criteria), which course you're working (what type, where and when), whether or not you accepted the course you asked for (a 'turn-down' ratio), and what you 'brought' to the course (certifications, education, etc)...  What do you think the impact of a change to this system would be?

Do you agree that the challenges with restructuring the pay scale fall into two broad categories, the first functional: a radical change towards a different system would likely require a large amount of administrative energy (money) to get right, how would we make this as clear as possible, as efficient as possible, and as fair as possible across the school?  And a second, perhaps larger challenge, philosophical: How do you feel about NOLS addressing its mission and strategic goals of staff recruitment, development and retention by shifting from an entirely seniority-based pay scale (which values your longevity at NOLS) to a more dynamic system (which values other factors that you as an educator bring to the program, to quality student outcomes, and to the economic sustainability of the school)?  Is this a question of 'institutional memory' versus the 'free market', `excellence' versus `loyalty ?

It seems reasonable that Field Instructors expect to be involved in any changes to the philosophy and structure of their compensation.  Please respond to the above questions and contribute your ideas so that the NIA can represent your views if asked.  A great place to submit your thoughts is nia_nols@yahoogroups.com.

Our Travel Plan also continues to be a challenge, Field Instructors often pay out of pocket for long-distance travel expenses to work courses, how does this affect you?

The Future

As I end my year as president I want the NIA to remain focused on constructively supporting NOLS mission by communicating instructor views.  A few topics of discussion which I think remain particularly relevant at the school include:

∑ Our strategy towards diversity, from how we change the structure of our international pay scale to how we recruit students from a broader range of backgrounds.

∑ How we value senior instructors.  Do we feel it is important to have folks with 250+ weeks working in the field because they can work a variety of course types or because they re mentors for junior staff, they are better risk managers or create better student outcomes in general?  How do we measure this, and demonstrate that we value them, with pay increases, with awards and recognition, by creating Chair of Faculty positions?

∑ Curriculum, it is the product of which we are so proud, yet NOLS doesn t have an education committee at the board level or a curriculum director as part of the executive team.

∑ The August 2006 staff re-survey process, what will we ask about?

∑ Rendezvous , the internal website for staff, is an expanding resource for knowledge sharing and a great opportunity to improve the consistency and quality of our program and livelihoods.  As this web based resource becomes more user friendly, how can the instructors more actively participate?

Many thanks once again to those instructors who have entrusted the NIA with the responsibility of communicating for them and to NOLS directors and trustees who have supported us for so long.

The challenges ahead will undoubtedly demand application of the modes of leadership we value in the field.  Field Instructors are certainly competent in these and can role model them as yet another contribution to the mission of the school.  Take care and safe travels,

Toby Harper

Think creatively.

Act collectively.

Join the NIA.

The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views and to work within the NOLS community to promote the school's mission and values

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