Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mindy Writes a Letter to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson

This is an open letter written by Mindy Rosier-Rayburn about the outlandish nature of education cuts during a pandemic, along with "hybrid learning." She's given me permission to share it here.

Dear Speaker Johnson,
I know you are very busy, but please take a moment and read this. As you know I’m a proud public school special education teacher. I have been teaching remotely for the last few months and I will be teaching summer school as well. Remote teaching is not ideal at all for my population. However, it is necessary for health safety reasons, and we are doing our best to make it work.
Many of my students have experienced loss because COVID-19. One student lost six family members. We lost a beloved paraprofessional, as well. She was loved by students and staff alike. Speaking for my kids, although they receive counseling services online with one of our two counselors, it will not be enough. My kids are extremely lucky to even have those two. Thank goodness for a legal document called an IEP. During this time, children’s needs were met as best as we could, and they got all of their services. Can all other schools say this? Probably not. We got the services because they are legal mandates. General education populations are not so lucky, because they don’t have those mandates.
We are going to need lots of counselors, citywide. There is no getting around that. Our kids are scared, confused, and who knows what else. The unknown is scary for all of us. If schools are going to open in any way, safety procedures and guidelines must be put in place and followed by all, for the safety of our families, students, and staff. This will cost money, of course. We are already stretched thin financially, and school funding has been an issue forever. That’s THE reason I walked to Albany four years ago. Of course none of us could’ve predicted that this would’ve happened, but we cannot afford any more cuts. Not one cent! How can we keep everyone safe if there’s no money? We need the Heroes act, and we need no more slashing of funds.
We (teachers) are fed up with the lack of leadership and real planning from the Mayor and the Department of Education (DOE). Also, if we are expected to go into these buildings without the much-needed safety guidelines, we will NOT enter them (ATTENTION: Speaker Johnson). Teachers will refuse to do so, even in hybrid mode. There has to be safety procedures and guidelines to be followed by all (and that includes the custodial staff), to actually do their jobs appropriately. Again, this costs money.
All too often you hear about how the kids need to be back in school. I agree, but what about us, the school staff? We have never stopped teaching—not even during the spring break that was taken away from us. We never stopped! We love our kids and we have been doing the best we can to try to make our kids happy, safer, and less scared.
So now we “plan” for September. However, once in the building, then what? You have staff that uses public transportation back and forth, to interact with others who traveled by trains or buses, to work with children who came on buses from their homes. If safety is not a priority, you are guaranteeing a second wave.
I’m sorry, but as an educator, activist, community leader, constituent, and caring, empathetic human being, I cannot be quiet about this—and I refuse to do so. We cannot allow those cuts to go through. Our kids, our schools, will desperately need that money!!!
Please keep all of this in mind. You have always been a friend to our schools, and you are well-respected by our union. We need you to be our local hero and save us from those cuts!
Mindy Rosier-Rayburn
NYC Educator / Advocate / Organizer
President of Chelsea Reform Democratic
Club (CRDC)
UFT Political Team Co-Chair
UFT Executive Board Member, At-Large
Founding Member & Board Member of

Monday, June 29, 2020

UFT Executive Board June 29, 2020 What in the World Are We Gonna Do in September?

Roll Call 5:50

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes have passed via email.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--We will be talking during the summer. We are at the end of the city budget. DOE has been cutting central and outside contracts, to some degree, but this is phase one. If we don't have fed package, state will do more cuts. City may have to borrow money, but if everything stays the same, we can do bare bones in September. Can we open safely? Probably not.

City may have to borrow, but hoping not. We don't know where we will be next year, but virus is still raging out of control around the country. Last week we had good week of planning with DOE and CFA on safety. Will we open? No idea, but odds are not good. We need fed funding and virus under control. We need both. Very tough.

We finally got medical accommodation process, but criteria is changing. We try to track it based on facts, talking to doctors rather than pollsters. Of course changes contribute to fear and anxiety. Age group affected dropping dramatically. Won't be able to make call until it's very close. Governor has grave concerns. How can we keep NY safe? No answer as of yet.

People need to do basics, stay away from one another and wear masks. We want people to get info out, and do more planning about staying remote. We will look at both ways. Exec. Board needs to understand as we move forward.

Some groups are upset at us. We want to cut central. We don't want layoffs of people who work with children. Budgets are not good. We want central and outside contracts cut before we look at cuts to school. DOE moving in that direction now, and hopefully programs that help children will be taken off chopping block.

As soon a budget is done we will send synopsis to Exec. Board. Our teams did Town Halls with every series of electeds. Seems we're headed more toward funding things that help kids.

Cassie Pruett--We were aligned with Chairman Treygor and protected dollars that affected members and students. We will stay close with updates.

Mulgrew--We're staying with that. Cuts need to be from central and contracts. Money needs to go into social workers, PLC programs, and all the things we will need. We will defend schools.

As for reopening, I thank those who've done walkthroughs. Almost 1200 completed. 40% are three cohorts. Some outliers with five. DOE doesn't visit schools. We do and we know them the best. No schools are actually ready, though some principals programmed schools without speaking to anyone.

Allocation for planning committee to work over the summer is now out.

CT said every kid was coming back, they would rent space and hire thousands of teachers. We don't think that will work and we haven't got the budget. We are explaining to people how things really work, and we're looking at a childcare plan for the city of NY. People understand why we need this, and it's not DOE, There is Dept. of Youth and Development for this.

Chancellor will talk to principals on Thursday. There's a team looking at windowless rooms, adding air exchange systems. We're looking at how many custodians we need. With no decisions, we need to see how remote learning will work, and what support systems we will need.

At least we are working together with DOE and CSA at this point.

As HEROES act moves along, you see changes. GOP Senator Lamar Alexandar now saying political games must stop.

Anthony Harmon--Campaign with AFT tried to embarrass US Senators for going on vacation. Pressure mounting. Looking at Day of Action July 8th. Have had some success with Senators doing the right thing. Thanks Tom Murphy and retirees did Zoom call of 2,000. They will work on this.

Mulgrew--This week, thankfully, no one passed from Covid. Very concerned about retirees in Florida. Prayers are with the.


Q--DOE putting contracts to hire retirees for outside companies.

A--Have not heard of this. M. Sill will check.

Q--Reopening--admin says shouldn't happen till August. True?

A-- We don't have official re-opening committee. CL and safety should be part of planning. Allocation out this week. Should happen sooner rather than later. Should be real conversation.

Q-Like many schools, we have a proprietary email address, free from gmail. The DOE is now saying they want us to use their awkward and unreliable system instead. We worked very hard to get all of our students signed into our system, which we like, and we don't want to start from square one. Can we work to negotiate something with the DOE so that our own addresses can be integrated into DOE Zoom and whatever else they plan to offer?

A--Exactly what we are trying to do. Have been asking for four weeks. We don't want to give people more work. Have been told it would move over, but we need a definitive answer.

Q--Med. Conditions--Focusing on this tomorrow. Will have to go by CDC and what they say. If you are caring for loved one with conditions it's problematic, because accommodations are only for working people. I change in my backyard when I come home, as do a lot of people. We will get done whatever we can. We are trying to work on these issues, but this is a very tough road, especially with so many teachers, 8-10K with med. accommodations.

Q--Is DOE trying to max number of students in school? A--they tried, but we've pushed back, as has CSA. This is why we did walkthroughs. Yes, DOE thought we could get 100% of kids back in. We now know, and so do they, that it won't work.

If we go remote, we are discussing allowing students to go to school buildings to use tech.

Latest day to return, if we do, in September.

We are getting through budget. When we do, we don't expect layoffos.Fed package will make things much easier.

Buyout--has been discussed at all levels.

Many students won't come back. If hybrid happens will be very small classes.

683 updates--Live two hours a day? Not good for students.

Two hours is time for number of different synchronous activities. Not student time to do that in addition to all services.

Teacher had only one informal this year with tenure delayed last--Send name to M. Sill.

CDC--accommodations--Who will authorize? Members live far away, how can they care for their children?  A--We need to set up child care. We will not be able to accommodate everyone. We will focus on safety, livelihood and profession.

We are asking for extension of Open Market. We will keep you posted.

Do we need to wear masks if we teach? Yes. You will need to get used to it if in building. Hoping for better masks. Nurses had complained about it and now we understand what it means.

Will students stay masked? Big piece of our planning. We will have to deal with that.

What if principal denies walkthrough? Tell DR.

Cleanliness--How do we know school will be fully sanitized? There will be inspections.

We will look at negotiating evaluation after we go back.

We had some calls about medical accommodations, wants to thank Welfare Fund for making sure calls were answered. Did interviews with graduating seniors. We were front and center in the middle of this, from shutdown, to remote, to silly demands from DOE. Students were very thankful to teachers and all who supported them. Patients are thankful to nurses. Graduation seniors are a big deal to HS teachers. These students were grateful to teachers, counselors, secretaries, all who helped.

Spoke of how teachers, despite caring for their own children, kept checking on them. March 15th we closed our system. One more day left for some members. We kept our system running, got through state budget, trying to get through city budget with mayor screaming about 22K layoffs.

We have challenges to come. Bad reports from multiple states, and still some planning to open in August. Virus is out of control. We started in anxiety. This was a real danger and still is. We're not going back if it's not safe. That's it. We will follow what professionals say. If virus is not under control, this is all moot. I'm not optimistic but we still have to prepare.

We understand people have had real losses. We will move forward. Thank you for leadership, thank you for questions. We know you have best interests at heart. Thank you for helping us through this. We will be smart, do what needs to be done, stay safe, and protect livelihoods.

We will meet through the summer. Happy 4th of July. If you're outside at a party, put your mask on.


Friday, June 26, 2020

Another Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,  

Today is the last day of the most challenging, most intense school year we have ever experienced. You got tossed into the deep end, and I shaved my mustache. Every single one of you confronted major disruptions to your lives, which often imposed great stress on you and your families. And yet I still plan to fire thousands of you so I can hire people here at Tweed for 200K each to join me at gala luncheons.

I am absolutely preening with pride, the proudest professional pride that pricks and prods ponderously at the prickliest of princesses. My gratitude to you runs deep. Console yourself with that after you get those pink slips. Believe me, my well-compensated staff and I will continue to think about you as you toil away at whatever menial jobs you can muster during an active apocalypse.

This school year was divided, of course, between “pre-COVID” and “post-COVID.”  Before the pandemic upended our lives, we opened more pre-K Dual Language programs , Community Schools, and reached record high college enrollment rates . We hope you all remember that stuff as opposed to being sent to work in hotbeds of infection even as we deemed it too risky for rich people to sit in $800 seats to Hamilton. Try not to dwell on how we removed guidance counselors, cut the budget, and made you the most overqualified employee at Kinko's.

You suddenly confronted the enormous challenge of transforming to remote teaching, learning, and working. Many of you. like me, had no idea what you were doing and just hoped for the best. Yet with amazing support from one another, and none whatsoever from us, you all managed to shift to an entirely new way of conducting your work. Believe me, after all that work you did, it isn't easy to just throw you under the bus like this.

The personal toll of the coronavirus on our City, our friends and families, and the DOE itself is tragic. It has left us all struggling with a relentless sense of grief. Fortunately, it hasn't given the mayor or me so much grief that we aren't willing to send those of you we aren't firing right back into the belly of the beast. You got it, those of you who survive our layoffs are going right back into those COVID-infested buildings with 50 kids in a class, just like 1975.

You’ve also had to persevere as our nation has mourned the senseless loss of more Black lives at the hands of those whose responsibility it is to serve and protect, and as voices call for change at the very deepest roots of our society. You have my personal assurance that when we lay you off we will do so with no regard for race, religion, or creed. When you risk your lives in September to teach a handful of masked kids with whom you may not significantly interact, we won't be treating you any better or worse no matter who you are.

We all must disregard the welfare of not only you, but also the students we serve. We will boldly confront systemic inequalities and treat absolutely everyone badly, except wealthy New Yorkers who don't pay their fair share of taxes. I am grateful that our programs will put every non-wealthy person equally at risk of unemployment and death, and that those who simply get sick will do so only on the basis of their tough luck for being sneezed on at an inopportune moment.

If this year has taught us anything, it is that we haven't got a clue what we're doing, but we can always dump the hard work on you. You should know that we are deep into pretending to plan the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year—and we need your thoughts about various issues so we can begin ignoring them ASAP. So please fill out our All-Staff Return to Buildings survey by the end of the day on Monday, June 29.  

We are committed to protecting your health and safety pretty far, but not too far. if you have conditions the CDC says place you at high risk, you don't have to come in. If your loved ones have similar conditions, too bad for them.  Go rent a hotel room or take a leave or something. Not my frigging problem.

Thank you again for your extraordinary work in an extraordinary year, and have a safe and healthy summer!  You'll need it, because come September, only the strong will survive.
In unity,  

Happy Summer (More or Less)

This is often a joyous day for UFT members. I'm sure it is for many still. On this day, a friend of mine used to give a party at his home. It was the best day of the year. We had the entire summer to look forward to. Sometimes even APs would show up. There was no thought of all the nonsense or pettiness that may have befallen us.

Everyone brought food. There was a barbecue. There were drinks. We met one another's significant others. People would bring their children. Two years ago, my friend retired, and no one picked up the tradition. Maybe it's because he had this great big backyard that could really accommodate a big party. You could have gotten married in that yard, if you were so inclined.

I don't think I particularly missed that party last year. I'm not sure why not. This year is different. This year, even if my friend hadn't retired, we'd have had to forego the party. It's not safe, you see, for huge groups to get together and mingle.

Of course, that doesn't stop people. On the Freeport Nautical Mile, just blocks from my house, I walk my dog past an outdoor bar or three every day. People don't social distance. Servers wear masks that don't cover their noses. I wouldn't set foot in one of these places. Of course, I'm painfully aware we're in the midst of a pandemic. These people aren't helping, Nor is our ostensible leader.

Let's follow that logic a little. Maybe if we stopped airing weather reports there'd be less rain. If only we hadn't made all those pregnancy tests available there'd be fewer babies. And if only we would get rid of that US Border Patrol we'd have fewer undocumented immigrants.

Those of us who wish to know what's really going on look at evidence, and then form our opinions. Trump and his ilk make up their minds first, then invent evidence to support what they wish were happening. And of course they have an entire bogus news network called Fox to support such idiocy.

Here in the real world there's a pandemic going on, despite our best intentions. Here in the real world the virus is spreading rapidly in over half the country. South Korea, once seen as a textbook example of control, had to close its schools once again. Beijing had to close its schools as well. Israel's schools remained open only two weeks before they started retreating once again. Florida is going to open in August, and it will be a disaster.

While Chancellor Carranza demanded 108,000 signatures from epidemiologists before he'd close the city schools, I haven't seen him call for anything resembling that as he and the bumbling mayor contemplate reopening them. I don't know if the chancellor gets out much, but my observations suggest that social distancing is just not happening as it should, and that a reopening of school buildings will be an unmitigated disaster.

I'm hoping that someone puts some thought and imagination into exactly what opening NY schools will mean. There are models everywhere that tell us. There are ways we could use school buildings productively, and there are students in need of quiet, peaceful places to work. Let's serve those students, just as we served the kid of first responders these last few months.

The alternative, of course, if going face first into yet another disaster. You'd think we'd know better. So far, I've seen little evidence that's the case. Those who advocate for a quick reopening of buildings have little or no more vision than the guy above with the unnaturally orange face and hair.    

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Wartime Consigliere

Tough times for NYC. Tough times for us. The mayor is set to let 22,000 city employees go. We haven't faced a crisis like this since 1975. If this happens, if will be a disaster for city schools.

Particularly now, there's simply no way we can sustain a significant drop in the teacher pool. I'm told that, during times of fiscal emergency, a whole lot of contractual regulations fall by the wayside.

The first one is class size. It's remarkable that during a crisis in which we need to physically stay apart from one another anyone would contemplate having fewer teachers. Yet if you let thousands of us go, that will be exactly what happens. I've been all bent out of shape about the ludicrous nature of so-called hybrid learning. That's no longer my concern, because there's no way school buildings are opening at all under these conditions.

My concern now is the new generation of teachers, a great deal of whom will be sacrificed to this crisis. Unless the scumbag GOP decides to bail out the states, we'll be stuck here until Trump and his thugs in the Senate are tossed out on their worthless asses. And ironically, because they fully expect that to happen, they may just happily ignore the entire country and not fix anything, hoping everyone forgets and blames Democrats by 2022.

I started teaching in 1984. NYC was still feeling 1975. I know that because they hired me with no experience or training whatsoever. I saw an ad on a subway train, took a test to determine whether or not I could write in English coherently, and that was it. They sent me to Lehman High School as an English teacher. On my ninth day I was observed, and essentially told I didn't know what I was doing. This was no revelation to me. I'd told them that when they hired me.

I caught on, eventually. Of course not everyone did. When you pull people off the street and say, "Now you're teachers," it's kind of a crap shoot. Do you think NY City kids ought to have teachers chosen like that? Okay YOU. Go stand by that desk and give it your worst. That will be the inevitable conclusion if de Blasio goes forward with this. We'll lose a great many of our smart young teachers, they'll find work elsewhere, and they'll be so disgusted they'll never, ever return.

Mayor de Blasio certainly has his share of blame. When he left us high and dry for a few months on his preposterous presidential push, he spoke of taxing the crap out of millionaires. Yet I don't recall his pushing for such a tax in NY State during that time, or even when he came back with his tail between his legs. You'd think he'd take on Cuomo in an effort to save the city, but you'd be wrong.

The person who's supposed to be standing for New York City's children is Chancellor Richard Carranza. This is his chance to shine. Just days ago he was replacing a few six-figure educrats who we almost certainly didn't need. He also let a bunch of high-needs schools lose a bunch of highly needed guidance counselors. Months ago, he burnished his company credentials by rejecting UFT's plea to close the schools, demanding signatures from 108,000 epidemiologists rather than the 108,000 UFT members who'd signed the petition at that state.

This doesn't bode well for the moment. But I'm not cynical (at least not always). I've seen good in Chancellor Richard Carranza. I've seen him speak eloquently and persuasively of his high regard for educators. Carranza now faces leading a school system through the toughest challenge I've seen since I started back in 1984. Will he rise to the challenge?

If the answer is yes, he'll speak out against Mayor de Blasio's plan. He'll demand that we find cuts elsewhere. He'll demand, even as de Blasio does not, that Andrew Cuomo tax his BFFs no matter how many suitcases of cash they've slipped him in the past. He'll get in front of cameras and spout fire and brimstone over the need to support the 1.1 million children he represents.

If the answer is no, we don't need a chancellor at all, and we can save a few hundred thousand right now by sending him back to Texas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

More Questions on Hybrid Learning

Here's another photo of the hybrid Rav4 I bought from Toyota. It's supposed to run over 500 miles on a tank of gas, but the gas tank will not fill. Toyota says they're working on a fix, but they've been telling me that since September. I'm rapidly losing faith in hybrids, and I'm not well-disposed toward trying a new one at this juncture. 

I just had a column in the Daily News about how proposed hybrid learning is impractical and undesirable. My vision was giving a lesson while standing in one place. I figured some students would see me live while most would watch remotely. Even that, though, is hard to figure out.

In our sorely overcrowded school, for example, students would only come in once every five days. When we did our walkthrough yesterday, our principal had set up a model room with ten chairs. The idea would be the room could accommodate nine students and one paraprofessional at a time. Okay. Assuming every student and adult practiced social distancing and wore masks all the time, it was something we might be able to accomplish.

The think is, though, with five groups, I'd only see an average of seven students. That's not necessarily an issue in itself. Were I on camera, I'd still have a full class. But how exactly would we interact? All the students in the classroom would need devices to interact with the students who weren't in the room. I couldn't fairly focus on only those present, and I'd argue, in fact, that seven might be a too small a class size anyway. You need to have a mix of students, and in a group that small I could easily draw seven painfully shy kids who might follow each other's examples.

But let's say we did find a way for the entire class to communicate. It's possible that we could direct the stream to the screens we have in front of most of our classrooms. That way, the students attending the class could easily see those not attending, and we could interact. Of course, to do that, the students in the actual classroom would need to have their own devices so that those learning remotely could see them as well. Once we get to this point, I have to ask once more--What is the actual point of my students and colleagues coming to the building at all? Why couldn't they view laptops in their homes, or if that were not feasible, in safe locations provided by the city?

Another scenario I've heard described is the possibility that since students are coming only once weekly, their visits to actual classrooms could be tutoring sessions. That's a nice idea in a way. I teach language learners who need all the assistance we can muster. One issue, though, is the way we tutor. I don't know about you, but if I'm helping a student one on one, I'm right there next to the student. I'm looking at work and making suggestions. If I have to sit at a teacher desk and communicate from a distance, what's the point of any of us risking our lives to come to the same building?

Let's put that aside for the moment, though. Tutoring certainly suggests one on one. Now if I'm tutoring one student, what are the rest of the students supposed to do? Perhaps two of them have the same issue. Again, what about the rest of them? Of course, I could design a lesson for all of them, but then it's no longer tutoring. It's teaching.

Let's say we work out all those issues, though I frankly have no idea whatsoever how that could be done. So there I am, somehow successfully tutoring all those students who show up that one day a week. What on earth are the other 80% of my students supposed to be doing on those days? Is it enough for me to give one lesson, or even one-ninth of a lesson on a daily basis? What about all the students I don't reach?

If we're called  into the building to do five tutoring sessions a day, that's fine as far as workload goes. We work with what the students suggest. We don't have to give or grade group assessments. We'll grade far fewer assessments, and likely won't need to write formal ones.

The part I really can't follow is who's going to take care of the students who aren't present. Are they going to hire shadow teachers for each one of us while we tutor a handful of students daily? That would make our lives pretty easy. Like many teachers, I've spent quite a bit of time checking Google Classroom these last few months. (As borderline students try to pass by Thursday, I'm still doing it.)

It's disgraceful that the DOE sits back and asks us all to figure out what the hell it is we're going to do in September. Even if we were to negotiate in good faith with our principals, how do we know the DOE won't set guidelines that are outside the parameters of what we've negotiated? Worse, even if the DOE came up with something, it would likely be terrible. They've never done this before and have no idea what it entails. It was sheer hubris on their part to go through the posturing of "training" for remote learning, let alone calling us back to COVID-infested buildings to do so.

Really, we are the ones who should be training them. We've done this work and they haven't. There's no perfect system. While I understand those who say students need social interaction, I fail to see how that can be achieved under any hybrid scenario I've looked at. Just about the only way to make that happen would be for students to violate CDC guidelines.

Show me one safe way of going back. Show me one way that represents an improvement over remote learning. If you can't, and no one has thus far, I'm going to stick with my opinion. We ought not to open up a single school building until it's safe. I don't mean that we want it to be safe, that we hope it will be safe, or that we're depending upon the behavior of teenagers and young children to keep it that way.

While remote learning is far from ideal, thus far I've seen no hybrid model that improves upon it.  Safety first, and effective instruction as possible second. I've seen no model of hybrid learning that meets those criteria.

Monday, June 22, 2020

UFT Executive Board June 22, 2020 --The Future's Uncertain and the End Is Always Near

5:50 Roll Call—

6:00 UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr
—Thanks us for calling in.  Minutes have passed via email.  Reminds us to get out and vote tomorrow, that it’s important to have our voices heard.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew—Sadly, we have lost three members this week, two retirees and one in service.

Moment of silence.

Last full week of school. Thanks all CLs who’ve been reporting on walkthroughs. DOE at first thought it would program all schools from central, then they thought 70-80% of students would show. Failed to account for number of teachers, but are moving toward reality.

Childcare issue is a challenge for city,  must come up with solution for parents, including teachers.

DOE is not moving on this issue or others. Blue book square footage fails to account for desks, walls, various and sundry. CLs saying numbers are not correct. We have to take control.

There are some good people at DOE but they’re stuck in political agendas. We need to break schools into cohorts and programs. Not often CSA and UFT are in agreement.

Had school safety meeting today with Jeff Povalitus, Janella Hinds and CLs. Every person on phone said square footage was wrong. We need to figure how to program with social distancing. Data from walkthroughs important.

Trying to start process for medical accommodations, but we must maintain confidentiality. This is a very straight process, not open to interpretation. We will follow CDC guidelines, hope for a process to send out to membership. Principal cannot ask people about medical status. If schools have to adjust, they have to adjust. We won’t get info on time and can’t wait until October.

Virus exploding all over SW US.  Hospitals starting to gear up for Aug-Sept. second wave. Will spread quite a big and likely bounce back to NY. Some people still think masks are political. Virus knows no politics. Hoping it doesn’t happen but we have to prepare for worst case scenario.
Tomorrow is election day. If you haven’t voted you need to vote.

HEROES Act—Met with city council. They need to understand we can’t open without it, and they now seem to. Members now understand it more than elected officials.
Budget—City not transparent with city council. School safety in the middle of all of this. Problematic. We have no issues having a conversation, but moving safety from NYPD to DOE is not defunding police. We don’t believe DOE can manage safety. PBA doesn’t even want it, and would be happy to not be responsible.

We will support different actors. We need to be thoughtful. Peace and justice needs to be real and not rhetoric.

Anthony Harmon—Many people have signed up to campaign to get Senators to take HEROES Act seriously. McConnell has been uncooperative. We are in touch with union leaders around country. AFT thinks we need 115 billion to safely open. Urges we call US Senators. We ask people do high five, contact five people in states that need some pushing. We have this on website. There are twenty identified states that need pushing. We will have call tomorrow with retirees around the country. Everyone needs to get involved.

Senate going on vacation without taking this up. We need to shame them. Some states are facing furlough, out of money due to Covid 19. Schumer and Gillebrand championing issue, but we need to apply pressure in south.

Mulgrew—This is our number one summer priority. Everything contingent upon it.
Janella Hinds—We had a meeting with people recommended. First focus was move of NYPD out of school via school safety. Also discussed partitions, class size, repurposing rooms. Will get together again in a month or so. Will have two meetings over summer and reconnect in September.

D75 summer school?

Mike Sill—Yes. 683 happening remotely.

Will union do remote training? Yes.

You can’t know if staff member is positive. Supervisors may come into online classrooms. If they’re doing it constantly may be harassment.

How do we hold DOE accountable for not closing in time? There will be legal action, especially since so many have died. We were able to procure death benefit, but there will be a lot of litigation. Will fill you in when it happens.

If 500 people can’t gather, how can we go in? Remains to be answered.

School admin mandating check in and rigid schedule—Late question. Should’ve been taken care of under operational complaints. Has been solved in many places, but you have to bring it forward.

We will explicitly talk about responsibilities of paras and counselors. This will be part of our summer work.

Discussions with DOE on 180 mandated days—SED has recognized all days are worked, we still have to file for reimbursement for seven additional days. Possible next year we open and then go back to remote. Minute system doesn’t work.

Barr—Last official meeting today.

Mulgrew—We should continue to meet. Will discuss next Monday. We cannot go silent. We will speak quite a bit during the summer. We somehow made it to end of year. Focus on HEROES act, so we can fight for what buildings need. If that doesn’t work we will go out on streets fighting. Very sorry. Was hoping for no more members passing, but that was too hopeful.
Report all issues to DRs and district reps. Thank you all.

Second roll call

We are adjourned 6:37

Sunday, June 21, 2020

I Read the Post Today, Oh Boy

Yesterday Sue Edelman wrote about how three 200K administrators were jumping ship amidst a pandemic. The article characterized them as leaving the Titanic, but I see it very differently.

We're hearing all sorts of things about cuts to actual instruction in the fall, dire cries of budget woes and the need to balance a budget. If the three of these desk jockeys make 600K between them, I'd characterize their exit as a good start.

In fact, right in the article there are pretty good arguments about why one of the three, Cheryl Watson-Harris, is a more than welcome departure:

On her resume, Watson-Harris has boasted “record gains” in NYC test scores in math and English under her watch, a claim testing expert Fred Smith disputed.

Despite Carranza’s disdain for NYC’s selective schools that screen applicants, Watson-Harris enrolled her own children in elite and less diverse schools, The Post reported.
Is this really the sort of person we need on payroll? I'm not a huge fan of this, "Do as I say, not as I do," philosophy. And after benefiting from outrageous privilege, Ms. Watson-Harris appears to have padded her resume and stabbed the chancellor in the back. With friends like that, who needs to pay them 200K a year in times of austerity?

In fact, I'd argue Ms. Watson-Harris personifies the primary issue teachers face at the DOE. She feels entitled to do whatever works for her and her family. She has no issue using her position to get preferential treatment unavailable to most New Yorkers. This is not how you lead, and people like this are precisely what drags our system down.

Every teacher in New York city knows an administrator who fails to follow rules, but demands absolute fealty and blind faith from UFT members. Every teacher knows an administrator who resorts to petty vindictiveness at the drop of a hat. In case that's not enough, there's an entire legal department whose sole purpose is to deliberately misinterpret and misrepresent the contract so as to allow principals to weasel out of following it. Every single one of those tinhorn lawyers should be gone before one cent is pulled from the classroom.

The real crime here is not that NYC is sinking. (It isn't. New York City teachers perpetually face outrageous challenges and meet them over and over.)  The problem is that Bloomberg's ghost infects Tweed like a cancer. I've read the contract and I frequently go back to refer to it. Are city administrators too stupid to do that? Do they really need all those lawyers to read it for them, even as we inflict very similar Common Core reading exercises on our hapless students? If that's the case they should be fired too. "Legal" is an abomination. Furthermore, it's borderline criminal  that the money-sucking administrators cited by the Post are being replaced. We have a partial hiring freeze, and we could use this money to hire real teachers who actually do the work.

If the chancellor wants to really do some good, he'll have a party, virtual or otherwise, to celebrate their departure. Then, he'll make a list of all the Bloomberg leftovers stinking up Tweed and dump them all. Whatever this chancellor's flaws, he's not part of that crowd.

I can't meet two chapter leaders without hearing at least one tale of outrageous administrative behavior. Anyone who follows Sue Edelman is familiar with at least a few of the most flagrant instances.  There's a lot of fat to be cut out of our system.

Virtually none of it is in the classroom.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Blogger's Day Off...

...but you can read my piece in the NY Daily News about just why hybrid learning is a terrible idea.

Friday, June 19, 2020

45 + 45 = 45, or Boy Wonder Assigns a Program

That bastard Chapter Leader is making a stink again. Of course, of course. That's all he ever does. He lives for this stuff. Now it's all, "Oh, you CAN'T give Mr. Scwartz a program with four preps." I told him it's three preps, you sucker, but he's all, "Yes, but one of them is two periods, and it takes twice as much time to prep 90 minutes as it does to prep 45.


Now, he's all,"Oh, I'm gonna file a grievance, and it's gonna go to the superintendent, and then you're gonna have to make the change anyway." I'll make a change alright. So instead of having him teach The History of Cement 1 and 2, I'll make the bastard teacher the History of Cement 1, 2 and 3. Then it will be a three period class. And I'll make sure the other two preps are different ones. Then I can give that asshole five preps instead of just four, and it will still be three on paper.

I wasn't born yesterday. I know how to deal with all that nonsense.

That's what I'm gonna do if they win this frigging grievance. If that weasel superintendent grants them this stupid request, he's not worth the cardboard he's painted on. You know, Burger King is offering one free Whopper with purchase this week, and they deliver. I could order three times today and get three free Whoppers. I wonder if they'll charge extra for cheese, those bastards. That's how they get you. There's always a catch.

Anyway, what if he wins the second grievance? I guess I can keep on adding levels one at a time. Can they even grieve again once you change the program? This is the problem when you agree to all these ridiculous rules. What's even the point of being the boss when you can't do what you want? I mean, those lazy teachers are just sitting on their asses at home and I can't even send them out to buy me lunch. What's up with that?

I would fix this system if I were in charge. No more of that nonsense staying home just because there's a frigging pandemic. Oh excuse me, I don't want to get infected. I'd send every one of those whiny bastards into the building every frigging day, and if they didn't like it, they could walk. Hey, the world is full of risks and they're the underlings and they should be ready and willing to go out there and take them.

Plus I live close enough to the school that I could send at least some of them out to bring me lunch. These frigging delivery services, man, they take forever. Then they wonder why I don't tip. I don't believe in tipping. If they wanted real jobs, they'd work their way up, like I did. In our family, that's what we were taught. As soon as my uncle was principal, he made me assistant principal, and as soon as the old goat kicks it, I'll have that job.

Anyway, this isn't Burger King, so you don't get it your way. If you come crying to me about your frigging program I'm just gonna find a way to make it worse. Hold the lettuce my ass. And you'll be on potty patrol forever.

Those teachers should just quit their bitching, If they had half a brain, they'd work tbeir way out of the frigging classroom just like I did. Meanwhile, they'll take what they get and like it. Or not. I don't give a flying hoot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

UFT Delegate Assembly June 17, 2020--HEROES Act, September, and Everything Else

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--4:15--Welcomes us. Speaks of dedicated unionist Louisa Johnson, who passed.

Moment of silence.

Biggest ask among delegates was longer question period. Asked for extension. Motion to extend question period 15 minutes.

Passes 94%

Report--School opening issue--Focus will be on safety, livelihood, profession--Three options
1. Vaccine--unlikely but simple
2. Remain on remote--more realistic than acknowledged. Unless we get Federal HEROES act, don't believe there's any way we can open buildings safely. Massive budget cuts face us. If we don't get it, it's pretty clear we aren't going back into buildings.
3. We open, have package, put in safety procedures and social distancing. Many will need medical accommodations. Major issue of child care. Who will care for our children?

Federal--We were pushing. Three weeks ago HEROES act seemed viable, and both parties were looking at before July 4. Does not appear it will happen. Some GOP Senators support, but they don't control what gets voted on. Mitch McConnell not bringing it up. Working with AFT and various states to target 19 Senators. Thanks to retirees for helping in FL and elsewhere.

NY State budget passed April 1. There are provisions for cuts in worsening economy. Not made yet, but projected. Will damage communities and public sector workers will lose jobs, services cut. Trying to pay bills month to month while waiting on feds.

City has to pass budget July 1st. Must be balanced. Right now there are bad cuts. Elections matter. We have strong city council with former UFT members. Fighting for language that we might have to readjust for more cuts or new revenue. If we don't get fed package, governor will roll out cuts, because he won't have money to pay state bills. Many cuts will come to NYC. On July 1, 3 to 4% budget cut could be bad.

Could be additional cuts. Will be very ugly. City will come to municipal unions if there are more cuts. Then we'll discuss significant issues like wage freezes or furloughs, never done for UFT members. Could be layoffs. Could talk about freezing money. A lot of pain, no good decisions.

Stimulus package won't be done before city passes budget. We're all trying to push fed package. Without it there will be additional cuts, bad consequences, and school will not open. No way to be safe. No federal stimulus, school doesn't open. If you're in a 4th grade with 200 kids you have 8 teachers. Forget about remote instruction. If you get half the school in, you'd have ten classes of ten but only eight teachers. Forget about remote instruction, added costs of PPE and other things.

In July 1st city will pass budget. We will continue to work. This is a national election year. After July 4 there is a window before August and their summer break. That's when we can get this done. One things no one's arguing about is schools must open for economy to come back. This is not a game, but you can't open without this package. We will make sure everyone knows O Connell is stopping economy from opening.

If we get it passed, we have to judge about where virus is. We know reopening states are all having problems. If decision is made, if safe, we will open on social distancing system. If we get money, we have to be prepared to do this in September. There are professional, union and personal decisions we have to make. Want to get you all info and help you need.

Stories of people helping people is why we're successful. All principals received communication directing them to do walkthrough of school. Can invite others, parents, or SLT. Looking for simple questions to be answered. Square footage estimates are generic. Don't realize there are things inside rooms. Need number of classrooms vs. half classrooms. Count off all classrooms and look at other space you might be able to use--non traditional classroom space. Do you need walls for auditorium, principals are asked.

We need estimated enrollment, staff right now. No school will really make every other day. Looking at A, B, C scenario or more. Possible four groups. DOE can't program buildings from above. They don't know what you do, needs of staff or students. Please do that and get info back ASAP.

We need to plan for all contingencies. Safety and protecting our livelihood are in jeopardy otherwise.

Medical accommodations--We're advocating with DOE and CSA--We need to know approved medical conditions for accommodation. If anyone needs to do this they will ask for accommodation due to condition, so as to work from home. These people will do remote instruction. Hope to have it by end of month to send out to all.

You have complete right to never answer questions about your own medical conditions. You don't have to tell anyone. Should be handled at citywide level. You can change your mind later, but we thing 15-25% will have them. Many children will need them, and many will just stay home. Some will insist students go to school. Knowing how many will help us.

In terms of child care, we would like to set up ways our members can have access and be prioritized. If we help our children we have to help ourselves.

In terms of opening schools, our support centers have been open since mid March. We learned a lot in those centers. PPE is vital. We had all we needed. There were no issues. All procedures were followed. We learned it's tough to get five year olds to adhere to social guidelines. Thanks to volunteers and others who worked there. Proved this work can be done safely, but requires rigid procedures, cleaning. We can't pay for it without HEROES.

We need to watch and be there for each other.

Gotten number of emails about buyout or retirement incentive. Members are likely excited about this. We had 6K register for pension meetings in 15 minutes. We know city's budget. This is on the table, but this is not an easy process. We understand there was a bill in Albany, but that bill is introduced every single year. Then they go back and say they tried.

Both parties have to be willing at local level. City hasn't said that yet. If we do, we have to work out all numbers, put together a financial note. We would need Senate and Assembly to vote, and governor to sign. Last one in NYC was 1995. I support it and put my name on letter. I will keep you up to date.

No APPR this year, but will be tenure. Licensing and compliance issues have been granted waivers. Last thing we are working on is for guidance counselors. Other certifications are extended officially. Thanks team who did work with SED.

Told DOE we don't want to do anything new. We still don't have a program for September. We don't want anyone to migrate to Gsuite. We can't do new things until we take care of old things. Every time they put info in data system, it doesn't work. Guidance doesn't say anyone has to do it. If you want to phase it in, fine, but why should you have to migrate over?

No new initiatives. We want a plan to open schools safely and effectively. They say they talk to parents, but we talk to parents every day. They speak only to a very small group all the time. This has to be done as a community together.

You may go to school and get your things. Must adhere to social distancing.

Working on reorganization. Should've asked us about that. We could've been flexible. How can you file reorg grievance when you don't even know what schools will look like.

Thanks to all who've demonstrated for civil rights, peace and justice. Abuse has to stop. Optimistic this could be time, but I've been optimistic before. Our union is large with diverse opinions, but evidence is overwhelming. We should all be on same page.

School safety--I understand about issues with NYPD, but they don't want school safety, They'd be happy to give it up. Was taken away from DOE because UFT agreed with and worked with Giuliani to remove from DOE, because there was a problem. Our schools were not safe at all. Violence in halls constantly. You know how DOE central works. Imagine them trying to keep schools safe.

NYPD safety got bad when Bloomberg started zero tolerance policy. Incidents would lead to long term suspensions and arrests. Teachers were arrested for intervening. Fortunately we got that stopped. Safety doesn't report to precincts. If people want to move them, we'll have that discussion. If moved, we need to be assured of safety. We can defund NYPD, but moving safety won't do it.

We don't want to open schools and deal with DOE having more things they're trying to fix. Would be perfect storm. Can entertain different management system, but police now need permission to enter school and arrest someone. We can't play politics with safety of children.

Tuesday is election day, and elections matter. If you don't understand that now, I don't know what to tell you. You vote. We need to change dramatically what happens in DC. You have to vote. Whether or not you agree with positions of union, vote and tell others to vote.

Staff Director LeRoy Barr--June 23rd NY Primary, elections matter. Early voting now. General election November 3, 2020. June 19, Emancipation Proclamation 1865, Juneteenth, celebrated 100 year. Official state holiday next year. Pride month, commmemorate Stonewall Riots. Puerto Rican Heritage and History celebration one people, many voice. AFT teachers and UFT Nurses honored. Happy Father's Day, have safe summer.

Mulgrew--Sad we miss celebrations this year, but think of what you did. Put it in perspective what you've been able to do in taking the largest school system putting it on our backs and shoulders, and making it work. We did something no one else did. Was scary, but this is phenomenal union because of your passion and leadership. All across the country no one believes what NYC has done.

Question period of 30 minutes.

Q--Concerned about why individual principals are asked to make decisions about how many kids should go into schools. Can individual principals advocate for 100% remote learning?

A--Strict guidelines. If not adhered to, won't be approved. Can't play games with this. If principal says they're being asked to do that, they're just supposed to provide room by room number of safe occupants, including teachers, paras and students. Principals don't have final say. Just looking. They don't have final decision.

Q--We have multi-buildings. Told by AP principal has to walkthrough before us. When should it happen and what it they don't want to do it?

A--On call this morning because of this. Principal was ordered by chancellor to call you and invite you to walkthrough. If problem, get back to us. CL should call DR.

Q--Four schools in our building. What is protocol for shared buildings? Only with our principal, or with other schools?

A--Depends on relationship between schools. Some principals work together and others hate each other. If you can work with other schools and discuss common spaces great. If schools can't play nice we will deal with it. Better to scatter schedules, or make them the same? Should be discussions.

Q--Email about reorg said form would be today.

A--Will be out today or tomorrow. There is something put together, just want to make sure it's right.

Q--APPR ratings suspended, but what about those with S and U?

A--As far as we're concerned we are suspending all of them. APPR law says if none is approved at state level, funding could be taken away. Order said can't stop tenure and no financial harm can come to district. We are talking with DOE, and we prefer everyone covered. Will get back to you.

Q--Please ask DOE for plan by second week of August about protecting our health in school buildings.

A--We plan to follow CVC guidelines. States who didn't have huge issue.

Q--What measures being taken to sanitize books, walls and everything?

A--We have a report from DOE that all schools have been cleaned. Taking with grain of salt. Will have to verify all equipment, supplies and cleaning protocol is in place. Wiping program will be big deal. We will ask CL to check before school year. If not, we'll get done on your behalf.

Q--SBOs--We want to have some--Can we issue and draft them and how do we do that?

A--We should be as flexible as possible and should keep it open even in August, to suit new programs. Will make it happen.

Q--Now at school meals for students and community. Going forward, will that continue?

A--If schools don't open will probably continue. If schools open, they'll have to show how they isolate it and keep school safe. Will suggest they move it elsewhere. Food pantries are different.

Q--What if people in household have medical conditions? Can teacher still work from home?

A--Unless school asks for volunteers there are no CVC guidelines about that. Legal plan for members involves eldercare, which may help these members. However, CVC now says that isn't covered. Will try to work with our medical people and at school level to work things out.

Q--Shared campus, good working relationship with DOE school, but charter above us. What are they being asked to do?

A--They have to follow same guidelines. State waiting until August, but if there is no vaccine, schools will have to follow social distancing recommendations. Some charters work well, chains not so much, but must follow guidelines. DOE would have authority to make them change.

Q--Teacher's Choice doesn't allow cleaning supplies. Can that change so we can sanitize our space>

A--Working with city council now to try and figure out how we can make things work. We have former UFT there. Will see if we can get that regulation changed. Others are asking about this.

Q--If HEROES act is or is not passed, is possibility we will do only remote?

A--If we look like Texas or Florida, we are remote.

Q--When will you have statement on buyout? People already putting papers in.

A--I guess somewhere in August. We will do whatever we have to do with pension fund. They can handle a lot more volume than before. If we have to bring in extra staff or work 14 hour days we will. City and state government don't know what things will look like yet. Everything politicized.

Q--Budget cuts and open market--

A--will be no opening of open market until we know budgets and who is retiring. Union will extend open market this year perhaps until end of August.  Good we have excessing rules to prevent layoff. Will fight financial problem first.

We will have a team of people get back to others with questions.


?. Moves up resolution offering summer contingency plans for endorsement, in case we need to do it between July and August. Move up because it must be done if we need it. For this month.

Passes 91%

Katie Moilan--for this month--(very fast, I missed a lot) UFT has resolution for BLM--should end zero tolerance, fund counselors not cops, and express solidarity, and more...

Passes 82%

Mulgrew--We have passed resolutions in support of BLM.

Rashad Brown-- next month 51st anniversary of Stonewall Riots. Last Friday, Trump got it wrong and announced rollback of Obama protections for LGBQ and trans people. Trump admin will be sued. We have had JK Rowlings spreading anti trans and several being murdered. Trump anti LGBQ, rolled back title 9 on sexual harassment and violence. Ben Carson proposed fed funded shelters deny access to trans women. UFT has always been on right side of equity equality and justice. Can't do nothing as Trump denies rights to marginalized group. We will denounce that and partner with groups, push affiliates to do the same.

No speaker against.

Passes 89%


Summer contingency--

?- Critical we make endorsements if necessary. Probably won't need it unless someone resigns, passes or is removed from office. We have to stay involved, Please support.

 Speaker--Rises in support, logical, makes sense, unforeseen situations happen, asks you vote yes, because you never know.

G. Escobar--As member of union advocate for all life, you are advocating for perspective we all stand for. Stand in solidarity with LGBQ.

Mulgrew--wrong resolution.

Question called

Passes 92%

Mavis Yan--Supports resolution we must support workers under attack in seven unions as Trump blocks Post Office workers. Mail persons are essential for everything we do. Need to support postal service also for election. Trump already doesn't want vote by mail. 3 of 4 Americans support mail in voting. We can't have outsourcing, would be blow to labor.

Kate Martin Bridge--In favor. Remembers when stamps were 2 and 3 cents. Can't imagine life without postal service. In 2006 was awful they had to prefund expenses for 75 years. Handled in despicable way, should've been addressed by Congress, and should be addressed by us. They could try to do same thing to any public entity.

Question called.

Passes 98%

Mulgrew--We are at time. Thank you for being there and doing extra work for members. We all did this, but it doesn't happen without leadership of people on this call. Will be communications this summer. Reach out to everyone you can about HEROES act. We cannot allow schools to be decimated in pandemic. God bless you and UFT, and all we do. 6:05