Thursday, May 21, 2020

UFT Virtual Town Hall, May 21, 2020

 by special guest blogger Mindy Rosier-Rayburn

UFT President Michael Mulgrew greets everyone on the call….

Thanks everyone for all that we accomplished.  What we've done is so special and it’s a testament to how we care about our communities and get things done.  

It hasn't been easy and we never know what’s going to happen from week to week. Reviewed all past notes and now look where we are. Things are constantly changing. All the craziness of trying to close schools back on March 1st, all the uncertainty...we got things up and getting up running.  We turned it around and made the largest schools system online. 

Monday will be our first day off since Feb. Everyone deserves that day off. Spring break was such a challenge and we plowed through it. It got ugly, a political fight ensued, and we made our voices loud and clear.  This was a low point. We were at the peak of cases. Members, families, friends, passing away. Lost so many people, 54 retirees, 68  active. We must never forget them and we will honor them. 

We received our raise! You will see it on our next paycheck. Moving forward, everything is about safety and protecting our profession.

Summer school is on and it will be done remotely. 

We need definitions from the DOE for clear language. Everything we are doing right now is to protect ourselves, real labor management work. Remember, all of this emergency planning is only for now. 

Considerations For September….

  1. Will there be a cure ? Probably not
  2. Remain in complete remote learning
  3. Hybrid instructional models

All is being planned for. Focus groups have been going on discussing safety and guidelines.  
We don't know where this is going. Things constantly change. September is currently up in the  air. 

Didn’t know the size of an average classroom but now we do. Eight hundred sq ft can fit 12 children per the CDC social distancing guidelines. We are looking at all options. 

Before we walk into the building…

CDC wants temperatures to be taken, so that's what we will be doing in the school buildings. 

In the end it's the decision of DOE and the Mayor which has been so frustrating because it has been taking them so long to make decisions. This has been very complicated for the DOE to work out. Summer school will be massive. Will the kids come? Will there be teachers? 

End of the school year is approaching, the grading system is in place, we have Memorial day off,  PD's are coming up. We also need to find a way for us to be able to get into our classrooms to close things down or to pick up things for the summer. 

In possible hybrid planning, part time students in school and at home remotely. There are lots of complications. We’ve been trying to set up students as cohorts. All the space will be looked at in the buildings. If students are in schools, who's teaching remotely? Lots of things that must be considered. HS is more difficult to plan.

We are the experts now. Different grades offer different challenges and problems. We’ve been listening to several focus groups of different grades and levels. Paras were applauded throughout. It’s been phenomenal how we put this all together. 

You cannot program all schools from central. All schools are different.  Guidelines will all be the same but should be implemented differently on a school to school basis. 

We have been making sure all information is shared out. Extremely important.

What happens if a child tests positive? What do we do then? Quarantine that student? His classmates? His teachers? Every scenario must be considered for September.

We learned how to remote teach but now we have to plan differently than we have ever done before. We all reach kids differently. How are we going to plan with a hybrid set up? So many things to take into consideration for instruction. We will think it thoroughly through. Won't be perfect at first. We as teachers can adjust. We are not those arrogant people who force things even when they don't work. 

No matter what we are doing in September, it is temporary and safety plans and guidelines will strictly be in place. 

The virus is a challenge but so is the budget. Safety or the economy across the country. We are fighting for safety and livelihood. 

Two teachers testified with Mulgrew with the City Council. We are doing everything in our power to get the Heroes Act to be passed. Safety precautions cost money. 

The DOE has asked, “ what if kids need a new mask everyday?” We have to plan for a child not having a mask. We are not going to send a student home if they don’t have a mask. We should be able to give them one. Costs money. Custodial staff will have lots of cleaning to do. Money for that cannot come out of the school budget. Not every school has a nurse. That needs to change. They are the heroes with all the work they've been doing. We need counselors in every school. Psychologists and social workers too. They need to put up or shut up. Class sizes will need to be reduced. We will need new teachers, but there's a hiring freeze. This is where we are. We need this Heroes act. (Read the bill here.)

Petition took off, politicians woke up to it. 

The Governor will be putting out more preliminary cuts because of lost revenue. State is losing money. This has been a huge political game. It's disgusting. Every state economy has been devastated, but they play games. It's about money and power to them.

Parents and teachers from all states understand that we need this federal package with a stream of funding to schools that can't be touched, amended, or anything. No loopholes. Money is there. It would be sent to all states for this fiscal year and next year. This is our shot to protect our livelihood. If we don't get this, a lot of people will be hurt. 

We need to reach out to everyone. Politicians need to bail out the children in this country. They all blah blah blah about education and then take the money away from public education. We can't let them forfeit our children's future. 

We need volunteers. Just like before. We got our message out before and we can do it again. 

Introduces Anthony Harmon

Anthony Harmon: Committee has been doing lots of work to get this Heroes Act passed. We need this lifeline for our children. 

If you'd like to help….


You'll receive instructions as to what you can do to help. 

Mulgrew: We need to take care of our safety. We need this to pass. Get this out there. Have friends and families help. We are going to reach out to all organizations. 

They are playing games. Shame on them all. We need everybody to get this done and we keep moving moving moving.

We have experts who have been looking at our buildings, helping with safety. We are responsible for safety and  we continually advocate for it. 

You all should have received an email from us earlier today. We now have a UFT legal plan for members only. It's important that everyone here utilizes this. Make sure you have your health care proxies, your wills, and power or attorney are in place. If you don't, it makes a bad situation much worse. There’s no cost to members. People need real access to legal services. Do it! It's free. Get the papers. They are phenomenal people and they will get it done and then you should  keep the paperwork someplace safe. 

So thankful that we as a union is here for this challenge. I don't know anyone who has done what we have. Specifically, this Heroes Act is about helping the people that kept things going in our communities.  Thank you everyone.


Jesse Fuller- Keeping the CDC guidelines and federal recommendations in mind, my school has 3300 kids and over 300 staff. Concerned about the fall and wants to know, when will we have answers?

Mulgrew- Getting frustrated with the DOE. We are a month behind for planning school in September. We are not waiting for those decisions. We are trying to work things out and looking at different models. We all agreed to follow the CDC social distancing guidelines and from recommendations from health care professionals.  If we had to go right now, it would be hybrid. Thirty-three hundred students in schools are a huge concern. There will be some students and staff who will be remote all the time. Hopefully, we will know by 2nd week of June

Rachel Iglesias- Thank you for acknowledging school nurses. For the summer, D75 has the option to work summer…..

Bad connection...request to email

Janice Lynch- I was part of the last town hall and a calendar was mentioned. 

Mulgrew: We agreed upon a calendar and they are reluctant to send it out because of possible changes. Just put on top of the calendar that this can change. Very simple, but they remain reluctant. Schools can still vote on SBO’s.

Amy Winger: Presently a nurse in a rec center.  When will they open? Staffing? Shifts? 

Mulgrew-: We need to get this settled ASAP. We have been able to pull most of our nurse members back. You're going right into a school year where the nurse will be front and center in a school building. You will get your answer. 

Rich Mantel- Working in the summer will be per session and voluntary.  

Mulgrew-: Thanked the 3000 people who already signed up. Pleading, text LIFELINE.

JAMES C: Questioning teacher evaluation or observations tied to certifications. Teachers worried about tenure

Mulgrew-: There are no evaluations. Teachers can still be granted tenure. Less continuance than last year which is very good. SED made it clear that we support their position of extensions and waiting on the Governor for an executive order. It is being closely monitored. If we don't get the waiver we'll go to Albany. We would sit with them and figure something out.

Andrea Polite- Have you thought of a national day of action to email, text , social media, to get McConnell to pass that legislation? We need to shame him into doing the right thing for all of us. 

Mulgrew-- Love your energy! Together Tuesdays. Parents, students, everyone to stand together.  Actions will take place on Tuesdays.  We will keep going after them. 

Sara Friedman- D75 in Sept, with severe low functioning students. For these students, social distancing can't exist, kids will not want to wear masks, sharing materials, etc. How will D75 be looked at for schools opening?

Mulgrew-- We are looking at what is realistic and what is not. We'll be talking to parents about decisions and we'll be talking with the folks who work with them. We have to deal with this situation. 

Corinne B- When it comes to remote learning. We are now seeing checklists. Is that what we are doing? 

Mulgrew-- You have people doing things they weren't trained to do. The tool doesn't work in the way it was meant to. That's why we need definitions. We need to learn about synchronous teaching. It's not a good instructional tool. Kids are on and off. Checklists make no sense. They (DOE) never did remote learning in their life, so how can they tell us what to do? Thank goodness for our teacher center. We must be flexible.  Flexibility is key. Google classroom is a learning platform. Zoom is a meeting place. This is just for this period of time. Teachers have been amazing and creative with what they've been doing. We need you for a whole school year. Don't burn out. Keep that in mind

Nancy Welch- What accommodations for members who have medical conditions for the fall? 

Mulgrew-- There will be a criteria and guidelines set up for those people in determining how we program our schools to set up for September. This has to be dealt with and we are working on making sure everyone is safe

Erica C- Many of us are parents, cohort teaching may conflict with our kids at home. 

Mulgrew-- There's so much to consider and we will work to make sure accommodations and systems are in place. The school cannot be used as day care but only for education. There should be daycares created for these essential workers which is what we will be when we go back. We have been talking with and will continue our teacher focus groups, to discuss the different scenarios. 

Nothing will solve all of our problems, but we can help each other get through this. 

Email questions and we'll get back to you. Don't forget to sign up for LIFELINE.  Sometimes we are going to have to fight people. It's something we will have to do.

Enjoy this weekend. We have accomplished amazing things. When the chips were down, we pulled through. The nurses thank us for supporting them. Don't forget all you have done. Taking care of each other and fighting those who don't have our interests in mind. You have given me the honor of working with such an amazing workforce. Take care.

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