Thursday, October 15, 2020

UFT Town Hall October 15, 2020

by special guest Mindy Rosier

Mulgrew: Thank you for taking the time on such a beautiful day to make it on this call. We are going to be talking about a lot of going ons. Spent a lot of the weekend talking to medical experts. When will this pandemic end? How long will our school system have to stay in this way? Next year we should be in a better place. It is about figuring out how we navigate through everything we need to deal with. The elections is weeks away and then we work on the Mayor's race. We are making sure we are safe, our livelihood is intact, and we are working on issues with the principals and the DOE.

We need to be diligent with everything we are doing. We are the only school system with mandated testing. Now the Gov wants to do more of this. We fought for the testing, the PPE, and we pushed the Mayor for delays twice. 

We cannot take anything for granted. We need to know issues right away. Schools have been getting the supplies. You must report any issues. City Hall found the money to make it work. We can only take care of a problem if we know about it. We will make sure they will do what they are supposed in making sure schools are fully supplied. Everything we have now, we had to fight for. PPE and procedures are the number one piece in stopping the virus. Then comes cleaning and testing. This should keep our schools safe. Everyone needs to do what they supposed to.

There is clearly a second wave hitting the country. We are paying attention. 

Our testing program has started. We get the reports nightly. We are way below the city average. You have to wear a mask. You need to be responsible. It's mandated testing for everyone. You have a responsibility to keep each other safe. The first week, the results weren't coming back fast enough. Solution was put it all in one place called the Situation Room. If there's a problem, we will move quickly. 

We now know we are not teaching children the way we would outside of the pandemic. We change. We adapt. Its what we do. 

There are community spikes and we saw specific zip codes go up. In the deal with the city and state, with rates over 3%, the schools must be tested. Of 118 schools, only 25 schools were being tested. We were preparing to go to court. The city was in violation with the plan that was put in place. We were ready. Call got a call on Sunday night from City Hall. All schools in those zip codes will be put in remote for at least 2 weeks. Gov jumped in with colored zones. We are tracking everything. We went from having to shut down the whole school system down to getting those schools into remote right away when there's a spike. Now the city is responsible to do the testing. If you need any further information on this, you can contact the call center.

Do not take anything for granted. Let us know if there are any issues in your school. We need to know if people don't wear a mask. That is not ok. Everyone must wear a mask.

Profession and livelihood: By next September, hopefully we'll have some normalcy. This has changed all of us forever. The economic wreckage on our economy is going to last years. It's real bad. The only good thing is, we may be able to bounce back quicker because we have so many industries here. 

If the city were able to borrow $3B, it wouldn't last long and we would go back in the red. NYC costs so much to run. There is a job increase in city, but not the state. There's no tourists, no planes, cargo ships. Economy has been very damaged. We fought really hard for the Cares act which ended at the end of September. Since the Cares Act prevented layoffs, as soon as it ended, Disney laid off thousands as did the airlines. Here, the Mayor spoke of layoffs for all agencies including us. We were able to thwart that because our schools couldn't open safely until there was more staff. 

If we get a big stimulus, we can get through 

the next 3 years and the ecoomy hopefully will pick up. If it doesn't, it can take 5-10 years. We had robust calls about retro. We were preparing for a problem with the retro. We asked for confirmation on the retro. We didn't get one. We use an electronic service, they don't understand our system. They thought they had to issue payment to the bank and they thought they had until the 13th. I said again, are you processing the retro payments. They did not confirm. They were not putting the money in the system and it was on hold. We put the legal papers together . That money is directly under the control of a mediator. Because of this, we could go straight to arbitration if there were any issues. Last Thursday, we got the  notification that there will be no retro. Told them we are going to arbitration and they weren't happy. Friday we went into arbitration and it was long and ugly. They kept arguing fiscal emergency. If they say this now, they can claim this anytime when they don't want to pay for something.  The arbitrator thought they were nuts. Plus on top of this, they were threatening to lay us off? The city was not happy with what was agreed to, the raise, the split payment, and no layoffs this school year.

We will get half of the retro this month and the other half in July.

Something else came out this day. We were able to get legislation crafted and was introduced to the senate and assembly.  We have been working on this for months. The city has given us written support for an  Early Retirement Incentive. They introduce this all the time in Albany, the electeds say they support it but then it goes nowhere. We will negotiate, we will get the legislation in place, and the city will be in agreement. 

Moving forward we need to get all of these operational complaints taken care of. Some principals say there's nothing we can do which is full of crap. Every CL is getting a phone call from the union. In late August principals were asked if they were ready. Staffing becomes an issue once open. Since they said they were good originally, staffing requests are being denied. An SBO is our tool not the principals. There are teachers who only want to teach their students both remote and in person. Do an SBO and we will work it out. There are so many ridiculous things going on in schools. Now get the schools staffed. We must remedy these things quickly. Enough is enough. The schools system is open. There will be schools that get a call at 4am letting them know that you're closed for a day or two or longer. This is the world we are living in. The craziness. 

So many of us are fried already. Working in a pandemic is a tough thing. These are extremely challenging times. Be there for each other. We are a political organization.  We have extremes on both side. Union comes first. Right now the union’s job is to protect our safety, our profession, and our livelihood.  

We are in a highly charged political society right now. Talking politics is crazy right now. All the yelling and disrupting. Our job right now has to be taking care of our safety, profession, and livelihood.  I need people to really be there for each other in the schools. What I've seen so far has been amazing. People saying how they are proud to be on the building response team. Beautiful stuff in schools during such a terrible time. These are our schools and our kids. We are going to do our jobs and we are going to take care of each other. We still have plenty of enemies. There are so many fights right now. We need to look at all of the issues and how they affect us. This is the world we are in. 

Thank you to all who have been reaching out to me. The beautiful part and the tough part of the union is trying to figure all of these things out. We keep moving forward. 

This is our profession. We adapt. We move forward in dealing with everything. We will hold more Town Hall coming up soon.

I've never seen so much stuff go out from the DOE with so much wrong information for example the testing. They said it isn't mandated, when it is mandated. 

Election day is a remote learning day. Teach from home. Not up to the principal. Kids are home. Read the calendar. We don't want you in the buildings because they will be used as polling sites. Drives me nuts. If they could just be clear with the communication it would make everything easier but they don't. 

Its phenomenal with what we all have done. 


Q: I qualify for a medical accommodation. I applied 3 weeks ago and no updates. I've also made calls to the call center. 

M: Sill will contact you after the Town Hall. 

Q: In D26 there are plenty of operational issues. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

M: Yes, we informed the DOE. The Mayor hired staff. Your CL will be getting a call. Our goal is to resolve these issues in a week or two. Its moving, and hopefully you will get the resolution you looking for

Q: Early retirement; Are there any specifics? If it gets passed when will we get it? 

M: It would be at the beginning of the fiscal year, if we get it done and that would be July 1st or so. People could then apply over the summer. Last one was 2002, we are looking at that. Let me be clear. It is not done yet. We do not have the Early Retirement Incentive yet. 

Q: What about medical accommodations after December 31st and any updates on Spring Break?

M: When arbitration is back up, we will move forward on Spring Break. Medical accommodations are based on a medical condition. We would have to do another one in Jan. Same documentation and everything.

Q: Speech therapist; Concerned about excessive paperwork with all of the changes including the back and forth with remote.

M: Are you saying parents are switching back and forth? 

: Yes

M: Give me some time to work out the rad. Sped folks at the DOE have nothing better to do than make us work harder while they do nothing. Mary Jo and I will be taking care of this. 

Q: Clarification on testing D75 

M: D75 is not exempt. Those doing testing are not DOE folks. D75 was never exempt. They don't seem to understand that the majority of D75 kids are in buildings with other schools. It doesn't matter how many schools in the building,  they are tested. K is still in question. We will probably be testing for the rest of the school year.

Q: In D75, it is my understanding that if students and teachers can't wear masks, they can't remain in school.  

M: Do they have a medical accommodation to not wear a mask? Can they wear a shield? I've been in many D75 schools. I see masks and shields. D75 is now getting whatever they need. The child might have to go remote. This is a health emergency. Please send info to Mary Jo. 

Q: How would the Early Retirement Incentive affect 25/55 ?

M: It might mean you may be able to retire early. But until it's negotiated, I don't want to say too much. It shouldn't affect things. They wanted us to pick specific titles. They don't want math, science and special ed to retire. It doesn't work that way. We will fight over this. Amount of credits and we'd like to settle on is 36 months. 

Q: I have a principal who thinks his interpretation is correct, how does this get resolved? Classes are doubled instead of hiring more staff.

M: Every time you hear a principal say that, you know the interpretation is crazy. This is moving forward. We started the process yesterday at the DA. What's going on with you is happening in other places. They want it done, they need to hire. 

Q: Observations?

M: We do not have an agreed upon observation process. They need to fix all of the operational issues before evaluations can even start. We have not negotiated this yet.  We believe at this time, the number is around 65% for remote. 

Q: Paras, roles, and responsibilities.  It seems that those who are remote are going 8 hours straight. There's no official schedule, no break, calling parents, and doing Sesis. It's am overwhelming amount of work. Its too much.

M: There is stuff there that should not be happening. Did you file an operational complaint? 

Same Q: No. Don't want anything escalated. Admin gave some information, but it is open for interpretation. 

M: What I'll do is, I will work with our folks with paras and get these things in place. You paras, the work you guys did was phenomenal.  For you guys to be treated this way now? Not acceptable. Paras were there to help out and went above and beyond. We will deal with this  and I will deal with the Chancellor directly. 

Q: I'm in a room without students and see students on Google meets. My lessons are all online. Can I do this from home? 

M: Yes. If all you are doing is teaching children from a room, you would qualify to work from home. 

Q: We found out that someone tested positive. How do I know proper procedures are being followed?

M: If you were informed that someone was positive, contact tracing is already happening. We taught them what questions to ask in school communities. We will get a report. Some people may be told that certain people need to quarantine.  Over the last 2 to 3 weeks, we have more confidence in them as they stepped it up. They are not DOE personnel.  They were very receptive to us. Our positivity rate right now is very low and we are doing lots of testing. 

Q: Are there any updates to Learning Bridges? 

M: Updates by the end of the week. It will be moving forward so that it is doing the job it was intended to do. They have to change the parameters of their programs.

Look, we will have another Town Hall in 2-3 weeks. There's still more issues to deal with. The program stuff, its a mess. There will be fights as these issues have to be dealt with. Thank you again for coming on this call and for everything you do. Nobody told us we'd  be doing this during a pandemic. It's about us. Doing what needs to be done. We will continue to take care of each other. It's about the passion and dedication of the work we do. It's been recognized now with our school system open. Everyone sees it. We have a lot to do. We will get through it. Find sometime to relax whenever you can. Goodnight. 

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