Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Chancellor Writes Us Again

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope you and your families are staying healthy and safe as we transition to the 2020-2021 school year. Earlier today, Mayor de Blasio and I announced our latest planning for bringing students back to school buildings in September—a plan that was informed by an internet survey with no controls whatsoever. I want to make sure you hear my rationale, however feeble it may be—understanding that it is very possible that pieces of this will change, given that COVID is exploding all over the country, and that it's likely to happen here too once we rashly open buildings. 

With all the ups and downs, one thing has remained constant: our utter indifference to your health and safety. It’s why we put off the closure of school buildings earlier this year — which was essential to the explosion of COVID-19 infection across New York City. Of course, we also closed our office buildings and work sites, meaning our gala luncheons are now largely take-out, but still from restaurants you could never afford on a teacher salary.

Now, as we look ahead to September, we see the big picture: the continuing rise in cases across the country; which we have ignored utterly in our premature opening plans; and the knowledge that as the trajectory of the coronavirus continues to evolve, we must focus on ways to resurrect Mayor de Blasio's political career, which alas, appears deader than a doornail.

In addition to rejecting guidance from health authorities, we have also ignored the input and perspectives of thousands of our colleagues, and hundreds of thousands more from our parents, families, and students. Please know that the reason we surveyed parents and not you is because we well know you have a concern for your safety and health, as well as that of your loved ones.

It is clear that ignoring the safety of all of you, our staff, along with our students and families will demand new health protocols, physical distancing, and more changes for the 2020-21 school year. Our Health Department failed to close schools in March, and is ready to fail to close them once again in September. Make no mistake: New York City students will still be appearing to learn 5 days a week. A major difference is that for the coming school year we are preparing an untested model, never established to work anywhere, and hoping for the best.

Blended learning means students will be taught on-site in school for part of the week, and will attend school remotely on the other days of the week. Fewer students in each classroom means it's your job to figure out what the hell the rest of your students are doing during that time. We will need to be creative. For example, we may need to split some of you in half so that half of you can teach in the classroom, while the other half teaches remotely. We have our finest DOE doctors exploring this issue, and we will provide more information on this soon. 

While we are preparing for multiple blended learning models to meet the diverse needs of our families and students across the city, any family can choose all-remote learning, for any reason. Based on our totally unscientific internet survey, which had every employee at Tweed as well as all our friends and relatives furtively filling forms for forever, we believe everyone wants to go back, even though no one told real parents it was only for a day or two a week. We must not look away from how this virus has further magnified the effects of systemic racism in our communities. Certainly, our communities of color who depend on schools to care for their children during the day when they work, will be totally screwed by our plan. But we are fully aware of this, so we are not looking away.

Our plans must be nimble because teachers will be doing one heckuva tap dance as students, deciding not to risk their lives after all, move away from showing up and opt for remote learning. We are also awaiting guidance from the bastards at State of New York, and the mayor will be eagerly pursuing his sandbox battle with the governor once it is released. Because we are so gosh darn nimble, we will be changing our mind at the drop of a hat over such important issues as:  

·         Shifting Principles 
·         Our Planning Process (LOL!)
·         Health, Safety, and Lack Thereof
·         Student Schedules 
·         Maintaining Equity & Excellence Via Ignoring All Equally
·         Family & Community Engagement Via Ignoring UFT
I always say that New York City has the best staff, students, and families in the world—so it's a wonder they put up with the likes of us. A safe return to schools in the fall, and the broader safety of our whole city, will be totally impossible for all of us — DOE staff, families, and students. Together we can ignore that, hope things work out, and work toward rehabilitating the mayor's miserable reputation. After all, we left the school buildings open after Broadway closed, and we're about to open the school buildings even though Broadway is still closed.

In unity, 

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