Thursday, September 03, 2020

UFT Town Hall September 2, 2020

by special guest Mindy Rosier-Rayburn

UFT President Michael Mulgrew: This is the largest Town Hall we've ever done. This is a very good thing. People are getting on, wanting to hear all this information leading up to Tuesday. Thank you all for being here.

I want to start by thanking you for all we've been through since March.  We made a promise back in April at our first Town Hall. We won't go back until it's safe. What was needed included PPE, face shields, ventilation, deep cleaning, ionization machines, etc, all need to be in place. We wanted an agreed upon procedure for entry, food, etc, and everything had to be worked out.  We needed a mandated testing program and all was looked at by independent medical professionals.

Yesterday,  over 2800 people heard the plan and approved. It became so personal for us as a union. We were hit so hard. Reading names who passed away on exec calls, every weak. Dealing with the craziness that included Spring break which still needs to be dealt with. Remote teaching needed to be worked out. We made it through the school year. NYC was doing better than everybody else. In April we made a pact that we would need certain things to make reopening work and we wanted to plan back then. Nothing in May. Started talking in June to start the process of getting all the equipment and supplies. We got the list together. In July the Mayor gave the green light to get started. We said this would be tough. The Mayor said we didn't need an agreement just go to school. He didn't think we would go back at him.  All those interviews, he was posturing. He didn't take us seriously. We expected to be listened to when there's a problem. We will not be used as a political pawns. Again in July, there was no agreement about going in and nothing was going on. The plans were only fine for places where there were no outbreaks. Was not appropriate at all for NYC.

Then we started to have school based meetings  about what a strike might look like.

We agreed to sit down and we were there to represent you all. Conversation was clear. We both want to open the schools.
This has to be real. We needed everything in our plan. This is a legal document we can go  to court with. No grievances. This is a check and balance. This is something to do where we can act quickly. There were schools back then that didn't shut down that should've.  We are not doing this again. 

You can't just decide to open based on an infection rate. Something we all did in bringing those numbers down. We don't want to go back to that. We presented our plan over a week and a half ago and the Mayor didn't like it. He didn't want it to be about those doctors, or city council, or any of the other advocating groups, he made it about us. Saying teachers need to stand up and do their jobs. Teachers always do their damn jobs. We fought to make sure your child was safe, getting a good education, and protecting them in the communities.

At the Executive Board meeting the other night, we signed on to the strike authorization resolution. We meant business last weekend. Lots of yelling and carrying on. We aren't going back in until everything is met. A strike will happen if necessary. This is ultimately good for the schools and the community.  Monday night, I asked the exec for the authority to vote to bring the authorization vote for a strike to the Delegate Assembly

Yesterday morning at 9:45am, we still weren't done. At 10:15am, we were done. NYC now has the most aggressive plan and safety procedures than in any district in this country.  There are safeguards now in place. Now things can be acted upon within hours. We would be asking for a temporary restraining order.

We heard it all about going on strike with layoffs looming, etc. No one wanted to strike, but we needed to to do this. This is still a bumpy road but we will continue to go forward together. There were tons of meetings, teachers talking to reporters. Everyone was talking everywhere.  We were not going to let March happen again.

Schools are only open to us on Tuesday. That's it. This is serious stuff about understanding how important we are to our kids and families in their communities and how much they think of us and want us to be safe.

We are going to move this forward. First time walking around, I really didn't want to. Looking around you see the impact everywhere. We have each others backs. We are all feeling these things. We have lots of work to do. What we need to do, to keep safe, is all agreement.  Now they're scrambling. If there's no PPE in a school,  they don't open until there is.

We are going into the schools. I am thanking each and every one of those over 100 people checking every school. Those reports will be released on Thursday. We need to know and see everything. Hotline is set up. We will send someone directly to the school building. Either a delivery of PPE or everyone goes home and switches to remote until the school gets it.

There is still so much more work. Ventilation reports are going to the CL's, supplies are being checked, etc. Nothing moves unless all is in place. We need to think it all through.

BRT now has added personnel and they have extra responsibility, in terms of Covid to make sure all supplies are stocked and custodians have what they need. We need to make sure there's a process and procedures to see the nurse, going to the isolation room, to send a child home, set up appointments for a test, etc.

There will be three types of teachers.

Remote only
In Person- in school
Blended Remote Teacher

We need to form a team so that they work together. Lots of tough stuff. Everyone needs to get coordinated in order to be on the same page. This is why we needed time to get things done to plan.

For the week of the 16th. We will be making sure everything is working, set up, and if there's a problem, we need to know right away. This is what we are going to do to get it running.

Mandated testing. We wanted everyone tested. We wanted an ongoing testing system for every school. You all know the symptoms, we know people, but in school we have to be fastidious. The thing is if we did the test at the beginning, tests are only good for three days. This has to be about monitoring so we can keep track. If there's an uptick in a neighborhood, we test more. If we can catch it we can get it down. You get a random sample to be chosen. It's a mandated program. We need permission slips from parents. If they refuse, they can't return. We all need to sign the slip ourselves. All off us.
If you refuse, you'll be placed on a leave because this is serious stuff. But if we are in this together, its got to be everybody. First cycle starts on Sept 27 to Oct 27.

This was not our only challenges. Some people are very happy. All the messages I received. "Thank God we didn't strike."
Others were ready to strike. We are a union. This is the UFT.

We are still facing layoff issues. We got what we needed but there's still lots of work. If a school doesn't have something, they don't open. We can go to Albany or go to court. There are different things we can do.

Layoffs. This is tough stuff. The Federal government failed us, the City is getting the money into the school system but we are not sure how long it will last.

We are on a twisty path. We keep standing there, side by side. We are watching over each other. We don't want anyone to lose their jobs. There were many challenges but safety was number one.

You all need to think about this. Words do nothing to protect anyone if we don't use our rights to make it real in each and every school. I am not naive. There will be challenges. Others will think they know best. This isn't a grievance. You call us. We can only only use this authority if we work together reasonably to look out for each other.

I'd love to say that every school will open on Tuesday, but I don't think that will happen. It's a safety issue. It's not contractual. It has to be done.

This has been the most difficult times we have ever been through. We get to wear the badge that our system got hit harder than anyone else. We fought to close the schools down. They should've closed earlier. We read names every week. This is personal. This isn't their school system. It's the children, the teachers, all of you, the paras who were hit so hard, and all other school staff. Nobody can say we haven't dedicated our lives to the school system. We will work together to keep us all safe. It's in our hands. I'm so sorry for what we all went through. We need to take care of each other and the kids in the city. We are the best. Nobody does it better.

We all have anxiety and fear about going back. We have also gone through challenges and we have always been there for each other. We are the best system on the country


Q- I'm a para and at the end of June me and other paras were told they might be excessed. No updates yet and no roles yet.

M- If you are working with a child with an IEP. There will be lots of work. We are dramatically short. I don't think they will be excessed

Most who passed away were paras. They work so close with our children. When you go back in on Tuesday, you remember the paras and thank them. The service you supplied, you were dealing with parents, helping teachers, and helping all the kids. There were stories everywhere about you guys going above and beyond. You never know with the DOE stupidity, but we got your back.

Q- Calendar? Retro? Spring Break Days?

M- Calendar is being worked on. There are no concessions. We have been working with the state. We have flexibility in terms of instructional time without it affecting any holidays or breaks.

Q- Every school needs evidence of PPE. What is on the list?

M- We have an agreed upon list. CL's have the list. We can just send it out to everyone. We also need to make there's enough supplies. Doctors are frowning upon  bandanas. Has to fit around your nose and mouth. There should be supplies for 30 days. Schools should be supplied weekly. We'll learn after the first week to see what the burn rate is of supplies. We'll see how much they go through PPE.

Q- With a medical accommodation, can we still go to the school to pick up our supplies?

M-We need to find out. Shouldn't be a problem In the beginning. We need to get it set up and talk to the DOE. I think you need your supplies.
Q- Instructional based. We are facing a staff shortage.  Every dept is short. Hybrid will be in person and remote for their students. Remote will have 64 kids. Is this correct?

M- No. You can't ignore the DOE guidance. We sent this out. He can't do that. There will be lots of subs. We are still short on special educators.

Q- What is the threshold to recall a strike? What constitutes a strike again if they don't meet our demands?

M- An individual school can simply shut down. Simple process. This is a legal agreement. There would be no need to break the Taylor Law. This will get this things done quickly. School will go remote if the problem isn't dealt with. No need to strike when there's a clear way to protect ourselves.

Q- How will this work with outdoor teaching?

M- Three months ago we looked at teaching outdoors. Being also VP at AFT,  I see nationally what they do and there wasn't really any interest. Now two weeks before we open, leaving it up to principal, get out of here. We will look into it. Some parents are into it. We have to wait and see but our same safety people would be checking the outdoor places. Two weeks before is crazy. Too many safety questions.  Millions of questions.  Not cool at all to do this two weeks before.

Q- If we do go towards layoffs, how will this work?

M- Its citywide reverse senority by title. There was an intense meeting today at city hall and MLC. We  will need borrowing authority. We will work with Albany. Don't want to get anyone crazed over this because we still have so much work to do. But this is problematic. If this moves forward, I will have a conversation with all of you. These are real problems. The Mayor doesn't want to lay anyone off. The employer picks the title and then lays off based on reverse seniority.

Q- D75 concerns

M- D75 is way behind. Not happy at all. I can say that the DOE is just realizing they have a problem. They thought they had it and they didn't. There's a major focus and now a priority. The superintendent says everything was handled and it wasn't. Was very difficult dealing with them. Now we have the authority. We are in those D75 buildings. We are looking at all those buildings. Such a challenging situation for you all.
Q- Why isn't there more effort with parents who only want remote? The mayor focused only on in-person.

M- We have had the checklist for months. The procedures and what people need to do was done. Testing was holding us up. We've been telling them since July that over 70% of people will be remote.  Facts are facts. Remote will probably be higher by next week.

What the DOE sent gobble gook. Thirty-six pages of nothing. We need to know; Does it work? How can we coordinate?  Part of the meeting tomorrow will be about this. You control the instructional plan and you are going to blow itt? We figured it out but it would be better if it was figured out better and not by a bunch of idiots in a room who think they know what's going on.

Q- Any buyout updates?

M- Albany is a part of this. This would give savings to the city. We want to work on it. We don't have a date or anything. All unions are working on this. This is what you do when you're in a bind, you look for a buyout for folks.

Q- Teacher planning with blended and remote instruction.

M- There's a new position called an academic specialist. If you're blended, the specialist will load the curriculums, mini lessons, postings, prep work, and assessments into your education platform.
You as a blended teacher, don't have to do that prep work but you have to coordinate daily. There would be small group instruction throughout the day. This is what we have to work through on the school level. Everything will be preloaded onto your platform for the blended world.

Q- Related services. Will there be teletherapy and in-person. What is the expectation?

M- Still working this out with the DOE. You keep your PPE. All depending on the type of therapist you are will base what you'll need. Speech wants a face shield for when kids take off mask for instruction. It is not finished at the moment and we are working with our related service people. It is amazing to me that all we would fight constantly with the DOE about being out of compliance. They would fight to stay out of compliance. Now they are up here demanding compliance.

Q- We got guidance on how many will be tested. What happens with positivd numbers in a school building. Charter has positives, we don't. How does this work? School or building?

M. It's not the school, but everyone in the building. If a charter is part of the DOE, they have to follow the same rules.

Q- Secretary; With respect to everyone on accommodations, my job has expanded and expectations have increased. We are the pillars of the school. When is enough enough? Twenty-two years, I have been here. Anxiety level is high. I'm there every day, more exposed, plus now I have to even more work.

M- I appreciate your question and your school needs to appreciate you. Send this to your district rep. This is why we are having problems with principals because they haven't been given guidance, so they are doing whatever they want in some places. All main offices need plexiglass. Make sure it is in order. It is not contractual. BRT needs to check everything.

Q- Remotely, with medical accommodations,  will I be privy to get all the guides to help me out?

M- There has to be virtual meetings for those remotely.  The education platform is so important. Up and loaded. Do remote teachers need to come to school? No. Because of the large number of remote students, we may need to switch some up. You have access to everything that will be loaded.

Q- Medical Accommodation;  For those granted accommodations, will we be given an opportunity for a renewel or extension?

M- Yes. All you would need to do is go back to the docto with the same kind of documentation.  We will get back to you when the time is coming up. 

Q- Curious how this year will affect observations?

M- Don't know. We haven't figured it out. We know we have to get to this. Hopefully by the end of September

Q- In person, if  I'm forced to quarantine do those days come out of CAR?

M- No. No days are touched due to covid. You are protected. We are one of the few districts who are protected.

Look we have a few days. Labor day is always bittersweet. This will be a different Labor weekend. With the anxiousness and the fear, remember, we are here together. I'll be in the schools too. We did a great job taking care of our kids. Now we need to make sure we are doing everything to be there for each other. This has been personal. In the schools it will be tough, but we will do it. We will watch after each other and we will
 do it when we go in on Tuesday. We have to be on the same page.

Thank you for taking the time to be here. Thank you for everything. Be safe this Labor Day weekend. Deep breath. We will do this. We will have a huge party after Covid is over. Thank you all again and good night.

Recorded Podcast of the Town Hall:

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