Thursday, August 13, 2020

UFT Town Hall August 13, 2020

by special guest Mindy Rosier

UFT President Michael Mulgrew: Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for taking the time to be here. Now we are in crunch time mode.
Today the report will be a longer but still majority of Town Hall will be for questions.

All eyes are on schools right now. Its a horror in other states. So disgusting. Putting teachers and parents in a bad position.
The mayor says we are ready. We are not ready. I spoke to the Mayor. I was very clear and straight. If the buildings are not safe, we will not open. We are going to follow the original CDC guidelines. We have a mess because the Mayor put the timeline on the principals for their plans.

What we want to do is look at the schedules. We want to get kids and teachers out soon as possible from the buildings.

Nothing's been agreed upon. We are thinking about things because we will need to plan for when we do open.

Nobody is teaching 5 in a row. Principals were given so little direction. This is why, we started in April to push for planning.

When we started this challenge in March, with little support, we got it done. We dealt with everything. We worked with the state to make sure that no one would be harmed and people can be granted tenure despite Covid. 

Medical accommodations are starting to be granted which is very important.

Back in April we told the Mayor if you want the school to open safely we must start planning. He ignored it through June and then in July, and now says I want it now.

We worked closely with the CSA yesterday.  The president, Mark said we can't do this. Everyone is doing the best work with intelligence and integrity. CSA sent a letter, that was supported by the UFT, that we cannot open by Sept 10th safely. The Mayor then did a dog and pony show press conference at a school. We already visited schools and they do not look like what he showed yesterday at the press conference. We called that out in the media. He must listen to us or we will not open. We won't be put in harm's way.

Everyday we look at what the daily infection rate and positive rates and will continue to monitor. I know many want to just call it. Can't do that. There are lots of legalities to work through plus parents depend on us and we don't want to add added stress on them. Horrible choices. In school, are they safe? Or should we keep them home? It's a dilemma.  What are we going to? Put my family at risk?

We need to push the city to do everything it needs to do, to make sure our schools are safe. You need to do your job. They will be held accountable. The final decision won't be made until the beginning of the school year. He thinks he has the time to fix things.

We have over 100 trained people to check the schools for Covid. We know there will be schools that won't be able to open. We need to check on PPE, custodian supplies, money, is their enough custodial staff, how's, ventilation, etc. We will take appropriate action if they try to open them and we determine them unsafe.

We have to be smart. We have to be diligent and we need to do things better than them.

Do I think we will open? No. Its show-me time for everything. I'm betting on us, not them.

We are also facing other tough problems. The federal government on the Heroes Act has completely imploded and fell apart. Without the stimulus money we don't think there would be money for all the PPE needed in the schools. The city now is preparing every agency for layoffs. This government can't even get this right. It came down to politics and that's why it failed. We have other avenues to pursue. We don't want any of you to have to face the fear of losing your job or being laid off.

Safety, profession, livelihood--these are the three things we are working on. Everything is in jeopardy but all is not hopeless. There are plans with other unions in figuring out things to try to stop the cuts. We have a plan and we will work quickly. This is just as important as safety. We never have just one crisis or one problem. It's not going to be easy. We will communicate and stick together. What we see everyday is insane in all of those schools. In Florida, 2000 teachers and students needed to quarantine. Georgia has 3000 in quarantine. 

We have to look at our facts here. Is there a possibility in breaking the Taylor law? Yes, but there will also be other avenues to pursue.

Lawyers told me, that for the school system, we would have to reach a clear and present danger to legally stop the opening. If we feel the whole system isn't ready, we will do this together. This is a conversation in itself. You can be terminated, financially penalized of two days out of your reserve, court would deem a person a participant if they are not in school, I could even go to jail. There are lots of decisions.  

At the same time, our medical professionals are saying we can open, but we have to be very careful. We still don't have a testing protocol. Each school would be customizing things for their buildings as they are all different. If you're doing all testing, the  screening, PPE, social distancing, etc. you would be able to pull it off. However, It comes down to the Mayor and the DOE. They say they have a lot of time. No we don't.

Mayor now says we will have a nurse at every school. We talked to nurses. There are many questions. In terms of other things, we can get to a agreement on what we need to keep it safe.

There will be another town hall in a couple of weeks.

Safety is about holding the feet of the Mayor and the Chancellor to the fire until the schools have everything in order or we don't open.

Without this federal package, without the money, the city will start layoffs.

We are all feeling the stress. I understand the fear. We have a path, we have a plan, and we will make things happen, and be there with each other. We will take care of each other. We went through more than any school system in the US.
We are the ones that have to face the parents. They are going to listen to you, the teacher, the counselor, the secretary in the office. We won't say it's safe until its true.

I'm guaranteeing you that we are trying to protect you. No one will lose the ability to take care of their family during this time of the worst recession in history

We won't have the answers for everything which is why we must stick together!

Q- I applied for medical accommodations  and didn't get notification yet. Those that did, said that accommodations would be good until Dec 31st. Then what?

M- We sped things up with this accommodation. The lawyers probably said that people don't have these conditions forever, so they making people reapply after December.  I promise you we will be having more conversations about this.

Q- Remote teaching- What will things look like;  remote only, blended, & live instruction.

M- Almost 30% students opted out and 15% of teachers received medical accommodations. Those 15% can't serve the 30%. Live Instruction will occur. It will not be a recreation of the school day. We have a teacher shortage right now. Schools are not going to have enough teachers because of the social distancing and class size limits. As we get more information, I will make sure it gets out.

Q-Ventilation; My building is too old for HVAC. What report shows current ventilation status? Proof of work? What will the UFT do?

M- We already started testing schools. We are already finding problems. It's a higher bar because of COVID. We already documented issues to the DOE. If the building is not fixed, we will stand in front of them. They won't open. We have been checking out everything. Best ventilation is from the outside.  Just because you get cool air from air conditioning, doesn't mean there's good ventilation.  We have an agreed upon criteria regarding ventilation.  There will be buildings that won't be utilized at all. If the DOE decides to open all and these things are not done, there will be a big fight.

Q- The Mayor announced that by Oct 1st there could be layoffs. Could that be us too?

M- Yes. This is why the Heroes Act was so important. So many stores by UFT HQ are closed, no more tourists, etc. These businesses are not paying taxes. The city is in a huge deficit.  There is a plan, and it means we need to do our work precisely.

Q- How are we going to enforce kids on behavior, mask, etc.

M- We are going to have to train the kids. Middle school is tough. We will train kids on procedure. If they can't do it, they need to learn from home then. Younger ones will be a challenge. Doctors said more challenges, more PPE. Nurses will be training all of us. DOE is happy with that. Face shields will probably be more common.

Q- When we call parents to pick the kids up when the children don't comply? What do we do if they don't show?

M-This is a safety issue. We haven't fully worked this out with the DOE but we are all on the same page that the child will have to be reemoved.

We are going to need those sav rooms. We shouldn't be the ones to tell the parent that they will go remote. It should come from the DOE. They have staff, and they can do it. Chancellor said that any staff with a teaching license can be reassigned.

Q- Can we have a buy-out?

M- We are having conversations. We are not there yet, but the talks are progressing. If we do reopen, the city is going to ask for us to give things back. We are not going to do all of this work and give back money. It is not going to happen.

We go to this other strategy, we will get to this place if there is a good buy-out. We are looking at ramifications. With the buy-outs it could then lead to hiring new teachers. Now it is the political will to get this done by all. To get out of layoffs by doing buy-outs.

Q- For full remote, principal is playing games.May bridge classes if not enough staff and will combine classes with double planning. Is there something in writing?

M- Bridge classes are not something we will entertain. We are not trying to recreate the day but there will be responsibility for a class. Livestream doesn't work well with kids and it is not effective. You have a teacher, with a camera in front of her, with kids in the room too. Its not going to work. This is what happens when you don't give principals guidance. Think this through. They have to teach. If fully remote, they will still be responsible for their kids. Teachers were also recording themselves doing lessons and we found them to be more effective. No, no, no, principals will not make you livestream. In our contract, you can't film teachers and this violates it. We are working on this.

Q- I was denied medical accommodation. They said there was no diagnosis but it was on the letter. What happens next? Was told HR keeps getting calls.

M- Tomorrow there will be a form coming out if denied or email Michael Sill
I'm really sorry you are going through this.

Q- Very concerned about instructional Lunch. Being a speech therapist and knowing how particles move from mouths, I know it is easy to be exposed. If I teach during lunch and I feel uncomfortable can I decline?

M- With a mask only, there is a possibility of exposure because of your eye sockets. We are getting a call tomorrow from our medical experts and if they say shields, we should wear them. If we open, and if we do this, lunch has me most concerned. More risk at lunch. There's a prep at the end of the day and it is OK for you to go home. Your choice. I will get the answer to the shield question.

Q- I'm an art teacher. For clusters, how many cohorts in a day, in a week. There's no real plan yet and principal said that cluster's will be remote and in person.

M- We are working on these issues. This is why I get angry when I hear everyone is in a pod. There is no such thing as a pod in our schools because there are clusters, related service and counselors in the mix. PPE is important to your subject area. What does that mean? Do you have an ionizer? Things will need to be constantly cleaned properly.  Most people will probably be full time in person.

Q- Will I have to do double work as a remote teacher? If you need to quarantine,  what will happen to our days?

M- Your full responsibility should be what you do in school. If you have to quarantine,  it won't come from your CAR.

Q- How will we be able to assist our own children with the remote schedule? Will principals accommodate?

M- We are hoping schools will take care of their own staff. A few weeks ago, the Mayor announced child care for us. Haven't heard details and we need to ramp this up.

Q-Social worker--We travel to different DOE programs and community based programs.
Are we safe to be traveling to all the programs? When we are at the programs we are there for social-emotional support. Would they even want us and is it safe to go?

M- They want to limit the number of sites, make sure there's plenty of PPE. If there's a COVID issue, there could be a contact tracing problem. That's why they want it limited.

Q- We were told in the spring that we had to work through our break. Now they say we are ready, etc. If we are so ready, where is the calendar? We are afraid they are playing games and we are going to lose days from our holidays.

M- The Mayor is not understanding, that he made a mistake by not engaging early. The DOE says they don't want to put it out because they are afraid they will have to change the dates. They are nuts, they are being paranoid.  What we had to do give up in the spring was horrible. The governor's thing was that he didn't want the kids outside. Imagine if we opened up when the number back then was 20%?  We are going in and checking everything. We are not waiting on them. Our staff goes to the schools and file reports. We don't trust the DOE either.

Q- I live with another teacher. I got medical accommodation and they didn't. What can we do? Should they take a leave?

M- Don't take a leave yet. The children who opted online, those numbers will only grow.  Crazy stories are all over the place. The thing is, we thought more would apply for medical accommodations. They are going to need more teachers to do more remote work. We want to give priority to those with someone at home. This is humanity. We need to be careful. Let's see what we can do. No promises, but we working on it.

Q- Federal compliance with IEP, ICT and ratio?

M- DeVos doesn't care if children have IEP's. We will try to adhere to these compliances at all times. We told the DOE that in an ICT setting, the child needs both teachers. We don't have enough special education teachers. We need to be able to get access to both. Don't let principals say we are splitting these classes and teachers. No. They need both. Both teachers have to be working together.

Q- Paraprofessional; how will our jobs be affected? Contractually followed?

M- We are trying to figure out these issues. Our paras, what they did, they picked up so much, all sorts of different things in helping the kids and teachers. Our paras really put up a big light out there, that we will help you. Thank you all so much! The DOE had no clue what was going on. That's what we do, we take care of each other. Big shout out to paras.

Q- What if you are exposed to someone through your spouse?

M- If the quarantine is due to COVID, the CAR days are not affected.

I was on a conference call with teachers from Georgia.  They said days are taken from their bank and if they run out of days, then there's no pay. It's disgusting. They need to sue.

Q- D75; I have students with sensory issues, it may be impossible to get masks on. With PPE, has there been special consideration for us?

M- No discussions with the DOE for D75. We have had many conversations with medical professionals about these students. We will get to this with the DOE. D75 parents said kids aren't doing well, and we need to help them.
I started in D75. I understand the settings. One of our doctors has child who is a teacher and he understands the settings and the major PPE issues.

We have a package on the table to help with these discussions.

Q- Teacher evals?

M- Don't know. Can't do a MOSL.

Q- Hearing we are still going to have them.

M- We've been working on opening. We cannot do evaluations if there is no agreement, but we clearly need to get this done. Safety and livelihood first and then we can move on to things like evals.

Q- Many people are concerned with all the schedule changes. Things are always changing.

M- There has been no guidance to principals. Yet at the same time they were told to pick a program. You can't just do that. Everyone is under a lot of pressure. Don't get crazy. Chill out. We'll go to the superintendent if we have to. Kids can't opt in till Thanksgiving if remote was chose. Cant flip. Can't maintain safety this way. It is still not safe. I'm honest and say so on TV. Gets worse day by day without clarity. Today was a productive day with CSA and the DOE. We got nurses but still so many unanswered questions. It will get uglier before it gets better.

Q- I have a family member who is hesitant to apply for an accommodation. She is afraid it will affect her tenure.

M- There's no way we will solve all problems.  We will make sure there's no harm to a teacher for medical accommodations. I will get a lawyer and sue the hell out of the DOE.

Q- If we went all remote will there be training? If remote in building, how will that look? Retro pay?

M- We will have to have extensive training. Every teacher, remote or in-person, must use the coordination time in the A.M. Curriculum will have to be coordinated, standardized. If the majority of school will be remote, there may be multiple teachers working with that child. Schools need to choose a platform with a Scope and Sequence in the subject areas. We've been working on this since May and the DOE doesn't get it.

Retro & raise. The city is going to come to me about the layoffs. We have a plan you will hear soon to solve this. Why would we give in? We are in the middle of a pandemic and I don't want to give them a dime. We will continue to go above and beyond. This is our school system, not the Mayor's. I love my child's teacher is what I would hear. We understand the bond between the child and teachers. We aren't going to be schmucks. You will stand up and say, I kept our school system going and safe. We will make it happen.

Thank you all. There will be more challenges. We will get thru this. We will take care of each other. We are the guardians of the NYC public school system. Goodnight.

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