8/22 UFT Town Hall Notes

Highlights

  • 5 free COVID days due to positive test. Documentation required beyond that.
  • No more health screenings and in-school testing programs.
  • Everyone gets 4 home COVID tests/month. More if needed.
  • Contract is up soon, many city unions already are with no new contract.
  • Teachers’ Choice is the same as last year for all titles. ($250 for teachers).
  • Teachers to get a stipend for setting up Google Classroom.
  • The UFT is developing a Members’ Hub similar to the Chapter Leaders’ Hub; hope to roll out before Thanksgiving.

Town Hall began at 2:03pm.

Hoping everyone is enjoying some time off. Take these last few weeks to get some of that mojo back. Hope that everyone has some kind of relaxation and enjoyment this summer. Update on issues with the city before school starts. Another town hall during the first two months of school. Remember that our contract expires in the middle of September. Hoping for a solid 40-45 minutes to take lots of questions.

Working all summer on the cuts that we’re dealing with. Insane that we’re having school cuts. Constantly in negotiations over things like exemptions and accommodations, COVID protocols.

Thanks to everyone who is advocating and doing the work. Situation makes no sense .This mayor has more money than any mayor previously, using this rightsizing rational due to enrollment loss. Enacted complete use of Fair Student Funding. This formula was designed under Bloomberg. Many Bloomberg admin are back in the DOE and following a strict per pupil allotment. DeBlasio understood it wasn’t the right way to fund a school. Need to take into account base cost; forces schools to do things like remove art and music. SPED is a big problem with FSF. Certain children need more services. We’ve been cited for being out of compliance with IEPs; principals getting squeezed through their budget.

DeBlasio had a committee to change FSF to address issues. Because of COVID, it was never finalized, and the DOE didn’t like the changing of FSF. We’re frustrated with the DOE thinking they’re there to be served by us. Sick of hearing it’s impossible to do this. Try walking into a classroom and seeing the work we’re doing. Banks going forward with FSF; we’re also a part of that committee. Lots of advocates and frustrations. Don’t know where the school cuts are going to land. State leaders upset because they gave NYC more money than ever had. We have to keep the pressure on them. Testified this morning at City Council. Comptroller Lander confirmed $4.3 million dollars in federal money not yet spent. We need a plan to get the support that our schools need. This mayor’s educational platform was to blow up the bureaucracy and support schools. We’re going to keep fighting on the budget cuts. City Council just passed a resolution to rescinding all cuts.

Class Size legislation in Albany. Keeping pressure on the governor. Many of us are there to talk to her about class size. Of course this mayor won’t support lowering class size. We have the budget to support it. There are provisions so that schools that are overcrowded won’t be hurt. To the DOE: You must lower class size, but also have to implement a plan for overcrowded schools. Repurposing spaces, annex spaces, etc. It’s a thoughtful, good piece of legislation. John Liu has been a strong advocate for the bill.

Contract – still in effect. Most city union contracts have expired. MLC is all talking together about raising the level of intensity. The city isn’t broke; has more money than ever before. You can hear from the mayor’s comments that the city is about to go off of a financial cliff. Not dealing with the fact that they need to get their workers contracts.

Talk of teacher shortage/negotiations. Always a shortage of SPED, STEM, foreign languages, but now what’s happening in the rest of the country is starting to happen in NYC. As VP of ALT, Mulgrew also travels to other areas. Living in NYC is an expensive undertaking. You want the best teachers working with our children, help them afford to live in NYC. The contract is only one piece. Also trying to develop housing programs. It’s tough to live in the city. We have a 500 member negotiation committee. Every chapter, every title is represented. Meeting again after we get back to school. No concern from the city because our contract is still in effect. Some career and tech stuff happening, dyslexia training nothing like how the mayor has been speaking about it. UFT offered the DOE a plan, but the DOE disregarded. We’ll monitor throughout. Nothing really happening on the educational side with the DOE.

COVID. The country has decided to live with COVID. We don’t negotiate with the DOH, we follow their guidance. Missed opportunity that there wasn’t a willingness to sit down and talk about moving the schools and system forward.

A few thousand received notice of possible excessing in June, between 600-700 actually excessed. Not losing a job, but there is currently not a position in the building they were at.

Frustrating last couple of years. Maybe I’m (Mulgrew) a bit jaded from dealing with other states, especially Florida. The attacks on teachers, unions, public unions are so intense. This administration seems to not be able to move on anything except for convincing others that the city is broke. What happens in NY is important. Some states are trying to push vouchers, online learning. Recent legislation in FL where teachers can be sued/arrested/prosecuted for discussing any sexual (identity) issues. Can’t believe this is happening in the United States. Yes we’re frustrated with the mayor and chancellor. They come and go, we’ve always been here. We protect our children. Hiring is down. Currently 1,100 new people coming in our system. Do what we do: embrace those people and help them out. Remember your first year. It’s going to be tough. Make sure you’re helping them out. Welcome them. It’s important that we are treating each other with the support and respect that we expect others to show us.

COVID. Basically following the CDC guidelines. In-school testing will not be in place. Every member of a school community will get 4 monthly home tests minimum. More tests will be available. 5 day quarantine for positive test no CAR days. After 5 days, need to supply medical documentation. Wear mask for 5 days upon return. Health screening is no longer in place. Anyone who had a full year medical or religious exemption, the DOE will recognize those exemptions. More information coming out for those in that group.

Accommodations. Anything related to COVID is a regular (reasonable) accommodation. COVID stuff now dealt with under the regular accommodations process. Will need to supply more up to date paperwork.

Leave b/c of vaccination status. DOH is not rescinding the vaccination mandate. In conversations with the Department of Ed about if someone chooses to get a vaccination before the 5th, they’ll be treated as if they’re on a regular leave and have full rights to their position. After Sept. 5th, access to employment, but no guarantee of returning to the employee’s previous site.

Retirements not particularly up, they’re in the usual range. Folks aren’t waiting for the end of the year to retire. Steady trickle of retirements each month. Hiring is low. Take the idea of the CL hub, and create a similar thing for all members. Plan to roll that out before Thanksgiving. Ability to quickly communicate with everyone; very important in this day and age. It’s hard to get straightforward information from any source. People don’t need this frustration in their lives. Last year, everyone was paid for the Google Classroom. This year, there will likely not be partial classroom closures. based on the CDC guidance and where we’re going. Still going to have staff members and children who are out with COVID. The DOE isn’t thinking about paying people to set up their classrooms. Are you really going to allow schools to say that they don’t get an asynchronous option during illness? Talks to implement the same process as last year.

Quick pitch for the Labor Day parade on Saturday 9/10. We’re going to set up on the street with food, rides, and stuff before the parade. Bring your children and have a good time. Just us and CSA on that entire block.

This is a tough job, but a great profession. What we do isn’t easy. There are a lot of loud voices on both sides of the political debate. We need to start pushing the message about elevating teaching as a professional field. What happened during COVID has put teachers in a much better light. Took this pandemic to make that happen. The city re-gave authority back to the superintendents. Very disorganized and all over the place. Superintendent’s are supposedly in charge and their job is to support and hold principals accountable. Not sure how it’s going to work out. Always more about what they think versus going to schools, talking to members, clinicians, therapists. We need to push, we’re going to go hard at them. This school year should be somewhat like what we’ve had in the past, but we’ll never go back to the past. Public education is about the opportunity that we have as a union to push the message out there.

[Missed the start of this remark. Mulgrew spoke to CollegeBoard representatives.]Teachers like PBL. Sometimes we have to follow crazy curriculum. Doesn’t work, but that’s how our evaluations are aligned. Projects work, and also in AP courses. CollegeBoard saw great strides for black and brown students. Let us do what works best for our children and provide the right support. Thanking everyone for taking the time to join the call. Hope that everyone gets some down time. Transition to questions.

Town Hall Q&A

Margaret Retiring CL: More of a suggestion. With the teacher shortage, can excessed staff be used to fill the gaps?

DOE couldn’t tell us how many teachers they need. When they say they’re out of SPED compliance, they can’t say how many therapists, providers, etc. they need. That’s a common sense idea, but the DOE has made sure that they can’t figure things out. We’ll do our best to keep track and move people. We’ll see where the need is and certain districts will be able to do it faster.

Allison: Are we still getting teachers’ choice? How much?

Yes, $225.

What happens to long-term subs who haven’t received a full-time position? Covering maternity/leaves for several years. Why aren’t the long-term subs getting positions?

Principal is in charge of the hiring (comparison to schools as like a franchise). This is one of the things we’re going to try to address. We’ve had long-term subs serving in the same position for two years. We’ve been angry at the DOE. Why aren’t you hiring these teachers? Hope to address soon.

Gertrude: Any more information about dyslexia program?

We’re going to (want to?) use literacy coaches to become city experts because dyslexia is within their wheelhouse. One hour program isn’t effective, never going to work. Need to ID and screen student; how do we train experts who then work with the teachers? The DOE threw up their hands because they don’t want to manage the program. They don’t want to manage 600 people; would rather tell schools to go figure it out.

Member Q: Elementary para: can I wear my mask?

MM: Yes, that’s okay.

Beth: Often on hold with HR Connect for 3 hours and getting disconnected. Trouble rectifying paychecks because I can’t get through to a person.

Write an email to msill@uft.org. We don’t run HR Connect. Have told the DOE that it’s a failure. They keep saying that they’re working on it. We don’t control HR Connect.

Melissa – Will PTC’s be remote. Can they be remote forever and ever?

Yes for this year. We’re trying for ever and ever. We’ve been in more contact with parents than ever before using the remote system. In the DOE’s interest too.

Alissa – Are booster shots going to be mandated?

No, have not heard from the DOH about mandate boosters. We don’t negotate with the DOH, they do their thing.

Amanda – On a medical/religious exemption and it goes through again this year, where do they report?

At this point, it’s basically the same setup we had last year. Some will report to buildings, others work from home. First need to get the exemptions/accommodations recognized. Expect it to run the same as last year.

Robert – I drive into work on W 50th St in Manhattan. Any thoughts on congestion pricing?

City workers should be exempt. Anyone that has to report to a workplace in that zone should be exempt. Just starting the process. A lot of us pay tolls, this thing is a mess. The process just started and we’re a part of it.

Karen – [Missed the question, something about the contract]

We’re one of the few city unions left with a contract still in effect. The mayor is telling everyone that the city is broke. We passed a reso that the time (length of day) can’t be negotiated. We are not swapping time for money. We need a raise.

Tashonna – We’re hearing about the influx of migrant children in the news. Are there any additional resources of provisions that are being shared?

We’re still waiting. The mayor made the announcement. DOE said we’re going to put together a support program for these students; we’re already short ESL teachers. No issues with helping, but here goes another announcement without a plan. Going to need serious services there to support families and students. We’ll get out info once we learn more from the DOE.

Member Q: in SI our borough office houses students. Any guidance on where members with accommodations will be going to?
MM: We are figuring it out.

Member Q: Is there anything in place if schools have a breakout of monkeypox?

MM: What our doctors have told us is that schools are not high liability/risk place for monkeypox. But if there is an outbreak we would work with the DOH quickly. But I have learned to say that nothing is definitive.

Member Q: Will members be paid for setting up Google Classroom? Will snow days be remote?

MM: Got a text that teachers will be paid for Google Classroom setup just like last year. If we get a snow day, it will be…gotta come up with a snow day. If the mayor says that children shouldn’t go to school, we’ll be remote.

Member Q: Why can’t nurses come back and work part time?

MM: All about the pension stuff. This is something we’re going to revisit with the city. We still don’t have a nurse in every building. This mayor was one of the fiercest advocates for nurses in every building as borough president. We’re not going to stop. We need a nurse in every building. Maybe we can open it up to nurses who are retired and want to give some time to the school system.

Member Q: I’m one of the staff members who only received 3 vacation days. Will we ever receive the other 4 or is that settled?

MM: Most folks in that case were able to get their 7, but there were some under the arbitration who wouldn’t get all 7. Reach out to Michael Sill to confirm your circumstances.

Member Q: We had IEP meetings virtually on various platforms. Will that be the rule or exception?

MM: It worked better, but we’re still in discussions.

Member Q: Anything more than excessed teachers could be doing to find a placement since Open Market has closed?

MM: Open Market was previous extended (by a day?) Transitioned to the Excessed Staff Selection Site. Excessed staff can see vacancies.

Member Q: Parents weren’t allowed in the building last year without the vaccine. I’m in a building with low parent involvement. Do children’s family members still need to be vaccinated to come in?

MM: Parents required to provide proof of vaccination, but the daily screening has been withdrawn. Health and safety team is working on making sure that each school has a system for parents to provide proof of vaccination. The issue isn’t completely settled yet. Like usual, the Department of Ed is dumping the issue on schools.

Member Q: Asking for clarification about the budget process.

MM: The next step is the appellate courts to review this court case

Member Q: Staff members reached out to me. A member is now in collection (because of a COVID test that wasn’t covered?) What avenues are there to get that bill paid?

MM: At this moment, the MLC is going to have to make a decision about whether the city pays for the expenses or if there will be some kind of court case. The city said numerous times: We want all city workers to get tested.

Member Q: Will the DOE implement DESSA and will teachers have more times to complete the paperwork? Took a lot of time last year.

They’re going to continue DESSA. Being transparent: This is a waste of our time. You don’t do anything to help kids in crisis find a counselor. We signed an $18 million contract. Another reason why we don’t need the DOE.

Member Q: Developed an autoimmune disease due to COVID. Do we reapply or are accommodations extended to this year?

MM: Can apply now.

Member Q: Wondering about a potential buy out for senior members who didn’t qualify for 25/55.

MM: Don’t see anything at the state level, especially with upstate being hit hard by teacher shortages. Has to come from the state.

Member Q: Anything about getting our raises back? Ended on May 14th, 2021.

MM: Ended because that’s the last raise of the expiring contract. Will be updated with the new contract, but it’s probably going to be a fight.

Member Q: Many city school’s front doors are always open. Will doors be secured/locked?

MM: 50 schools are getting buzzers, but that’s a drop in the bucket.

Member Q: The news keeps saying that budget cuts are due to lower enrollment of kids in the system. Will it be the case that if numbers increase, that’ll be an argument for restoring the money?

MM: The thing that’s really causing the budget cuts is that they went to a strict interpretation of FSF from the Bloomberg years. DiBlasio was decent about funding throughout his entire term. The Adams administration went back. The state doesn’t fund NYC Schools on per pupil. This morning, I asked: “Where the hell is the money?” When they send less money to the schools, central gets more money.

Thanking everyone for taking the time. We’re going into a new school year. There are going to be great and frustrating parts of the year. We adjust and move. Because we’re professionals we make things work. No matter what happens, schools figure it out. That’s why I’m so proud to say that schools can handle it. They’re there with the children and taking care of them. Be there for the new staff members. They’re going to be great teachers and make a phenomenal impact. We’re here to support and take care of each other. Another town hall will happen around the end of October unless something comes up.

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy family and loved ones.

Town hall adjourned at 3:39pm.

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