Friday, April 24, 2020

UFT Town Hall, April 23rd

by special guest Mindy Rosier-Rayburn

UFT President Michael Mulgrew began with a moment  of silence for the 82 in-service and retired members.

He thanked all of us for all we have been doing considering all that we are facing. We are making the school system run. School is in session everyday. It is clearly an amazing feat that we all pulled off. 

A little over a month ago feels like a year ago. We have accomplished so much despite all of the conflicting information out there. We have figured how to make this system run. If you ask anyone, with no planning , nothing in place to move to a remote process...everyone would say no, it can’t happen. No other school system has reached our level of success. We are getting it done. We all should be so proud of what we pulled off. 

Focus groups have been pivotal in helping us get through with all that's being done. These focus groups help keep everything real. We figured it out because we know how to reach children
We have always faced lots of challenges and we have figured them out.

Governor says one thing, the Mayor says another. Realistically, schools won't be open. We have to wrap up the rest of this year and get ready for next year. Summer too. Everything needs to be worked on. This includes grades and the calendar.

To the DOE- You want to find out how remote teaching works? Ask a teacher. Plain and simple.
Better perspective of what’s going on, when you speak to the people doing the work. 

We are getting our raise. Period. End of story. Law is on our side. Many of our members are 2 paycheck households but now, not as much.

Over 1200 schoos did School Based Options last year. We are starting to get our SBO’'s in place, online. They are building that system now. This has been one of the top pieces of the contract being utilized.

Summer School;

School is in session everyday. Just the buildings are closed. To those upstate, we can prove we worked those 180 days. We have fulfilled our state obligations. No reason to drag the school year into the summer. Now for summer school itself, it is still being figured out. It will probably be done remotely. Lots up for discussion. Lotts of parents spoke via focus groups. Everything is being talked through. Parents love us and respect us now more than ever. We are their angels. We made it happen by working with them and their children. 

The Chancellor is saying he wants a standardized grading policy. Parents are concerned. If a child is moving from elementary to middle or to HS or to college, but there's no tests this year, and the issue about attendance, how can they appropriately move forward. How do you do this for over 1800 schools? Two thirds of the school year has already been completed. That is not to be forgotten. Right now children are facing harsh realities at home and we as teachers need to be responsible. We should have a grading policy that could allow for recommendations come Sept. to help the students who need it. A standardized grading policy is coming and of course it  becomes political. We need to do this thoughtfully and it needs to be done right. No child can be harmed. Other school districts have policy where all the students have passed. However if you look at their attendance, it is very low. We can't do that. Would like to tie some accommodations if needed, in the summer. It is all being worked out. 

Focus as we go Forward;

Two extremely important things, but they are 1 and 1 because they are equal. 

1.We are to continue to have a livelihood so that we can take care of ourselves and our family.
1. Safety 

We had no layoffs. We are all seeing everything on the news. We had to fight to close our schools. Other districts closed before us. We didn't close until we had almost 400 cases. Many politicians learned that they aren't smarter than doctors.  

Schools were supposed to be closed down, investigated, and thoroughly cleaned. That didn't happen. There will be legal issues with this. We can't let this happen again.

Budget:  Back to Livelihood;

What will school look like in this new environment?

We were able to move a lot of things forward with a lot of lobbying. We got a lifeline. A 600m cut was avoided. Now with the city budget and state budget, we are facing two big problems. Both in major deficits. All tax revenue is not here. No cash to make payments. 

We have been working with the City Council. Mayor announced major school cuts. Mulgrew said bluntly, “the cuts should come from central. They don't like to hear that.” * I absolutely agree. 

There's second lifeline package hopefully passing today. It will be helpful, but on a federal level, they need to get things going. There has to be a chunk of money that will go to the state and city level. The state is looking at a $10B deficit.  Next year will be really scary unless things get better. We MUST fight like fiends. 

The budgets will bring on excessing in the way it was designed. Excessing is meant to protect your job. Normally one would get laid off. Not in our union. We are protected. There will be excessing. There are rules and that must be followed. There will be lots of training. There will probably be excessing in a large scale. You keep your job, you just get placed elsewhere. Excessing, may not be because of a budget but rather student population. The UFT will be there for us to make sure it is done correctly. There is a hiring freeze in place. Principals have been notified. 

Safety- What do we do to make sure our school buildings are safe. Social distancing is impossible in schools. Can't be done. Cafeteria? Absolutely not. 

Outside of the building- How do we make sure we have evidence that it's safe. Whether it’s testing for the virus, whenever they come up with it, we would need real evidence that people that come into our building will not spread the virus. Must be a strictly followed procedure. We are not a medical facility.

What about during the school day? Do we start doing partial remote teaching? Half building attendance at different times a day or alternate days? Something has to be put together and it has to be done and blessed by medical professionals, not politicians.  This is not going to be easy. We understand that there are high risks in this environment. There has to be cleaning procedures in place too. They are thinking everything through. Information all too often has been fluid but we will get this done, way before the buildings open.

Next week, there will be a petition sent out to all of us demanding that we have the procedures in place necessary for the safety for all of us. We are the protectors of the schools. We want to make sure parents do this with us. This really needs to be pushed out. We've done everything to support our frontline workers, but we also need to make sure our buildings and our staff, kids, and parents, are thoroughly protected too.

We have to take care of ourselves. We are all going through so much with what's been going on. We are dealing with heavy duty stressful stuff. We are ripe with fear and anxiety. 

MAP has been phenomenal. They have been pitching in to help all of us. We are all affected. We have a program to help each other out. Tina Pucci was introduced and was thanked profusely for what she's done for so many people. 

Tina Pucci-  If you know someone who needs support, on a virtual level there are a variety of things we can do to help. Social distancing doesn’t mean emotional distancing. We need to connect with family and friends.

Use this link or call the MAP center (212-701-9620)

There are support groups for members and our nurses too. We all face struggles and challenges, daily. These support groups are led by social workers and counselors.

Eighty-two members have passed. We will be starting virtual bereavement sessions for colleagues soon.

Self care is key and we are taking care of everyone. We must also take care of ourselves! For questions email

Back to Mulgrew;

Virtual happy hours aren't the answers. They can be fun, but we all need so much more. 
It's part of our DNA to do more. It's the culture of an educator. We are hard on ourselves, always looking to do more because we are driven to so. We must remember to take care of ourselves. 


Over 10,000 of us on the phone.  If our question wasn’t read on the phone, someone will get back to us.

Trisha- In some schools, principals are saying we must live teach. 

M- Our stance has not changed. The Chancellor has been clear as well. No mandates to teach live. It is being dealt with. 

Susan,- A D75 nurse asked if there will be summer school for D75.

M- It is a mandated service. Will it be remotely or physically?  Still in discussion. It’s on the agenda for the meeting with Chancellor tomorrow. Something has to take place as it is a required legal service. Thanks for what you are doing out there.

Kristen- She is concerned about the Arts being cut from schools because of the budget.

M- Great concern as the arts have been the first to go all too often. The DOE needs to come up with a plan, in trying to figure out how we keep this investment in the arts. It would be horrible if we don't have the arts.  Doesn't make sense to scatter those teachers. Keep them in place.

Anna- Google meets is less user friendly and it has poorer quality than Zoom. It’s disheartening that there's a better tool out there that we can't use. Any progress about Zoom?

M- With Zoom, the security concerns are real and there is much we haven't heard. There were security concerns with other platforms and they changed them. Zoom didn't want to address those security concerns. Hopefully, they will fix them. If they don't address them, we can't use them. Convos are still happening.

Next week, we will be starting new focus groups. Teachers play such important roles, school buildings too. People are just realizing it. How can we use all of these tools that we are now using, to help us move forward? A plan needs to be created before DeVos comes out with something ridiculous 

Natara (?)- What is the future going to look like since the census will probably do poorly?

M- Encouraged everyone to fill it out. Ten years ago we did horribly. Now that remote teaching is working, we can handle other issues, and we will get back to pushing the census but not just with us, but with parents and communities. Funding for the government is based on the census. We have to always think about what's coming around the corner.

Isabella- Are there any discussions of early retirement incentives. Are pension clinics going to happen again?

M- By Friday there will be a plan in place. There will be a preference to those who are within two years of retirement. In terms of retiring incentives, the city has been quiet about this. 

Kristen P- Requested to hear more details about the agenda with the Chancellor. She also explained briefly what was going on in her school regarding attendance. They need to list everything they do and with whom. Lots of paperwork daily. She is In D13.

M- Everything that was said falls under operational complaint and she would win. Requested an email from Kristen to help her take care of this.  

Amy- We are in agreement to forgo observations, but principals are still saying they want to pop in and make observations.

M- DOE has no say. This is a state agreement. It is state law. Parents groups all support this. Until a process is in place, they can't observe you. They can pop in and that's fine. They just can't officially observe you. For further assistance, send an email. 

We have to go back to the state to make sure we don't get harmed because we not being observed for our ratings.

Joan- Are we to expect our retro in Oct?

M- Yes and our raise too next month. We have a contractual agreement. It would be against the law to take it away. It is impossible to predict such a disaster which is why it is secured. The money is ours. 

Mark- Will salary differentials still be applied? If tenure was expected will it still be granted? 

M- There are delays but it is happening. At the DOE, their computer system is antiquated with less staff. Tenure will be granted. 

Wrapping Up;

We are the epicenter of this crisis. Put this in perspective. Look at what you all have accomplished,  without anything...we figured it out and got it done. They can't do it, we can. It is a testament that the UFT folks are angry and afraid but we can get it done. 

Future town halls will take place if we all still want them.

“We must take care of each other and ourselves. You are my heroes.” Michael Mulgrew.
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