Thursday, November 19, 2020

Another Message from Our Esteemed Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

This has been an eventful and challenging year on so many levels. Not for me, of course. I’ve been able to not only sit in my office at Tweed, but also stay home and not even get out of bed over the past several weeks. To date, we have seen a COVID-19 positivity rate of only 0.19 percent out of more than 120,000 students and staff tested. This has been a reassuring sign that testing anyone who felt like getting tested, as opposed to actual random samples of people in schools, has been an effective measure. 

Indeed, the Times and Post are full of columns saying we ought to stay open, but the teacher union is insisting we follow the damn agreement. What do I care? I sit here regardless.

As you are aware, the City as a whole is experiencing elevated rates of COVID-19 transmission. As you may recall. President Trump said the problem wasn’t too much COVID, but too much testing. By avoiding actual testing, we’ve proven him right. If you just test the same handful of people over and over, you can make it look like the spike isn’t happening.

As of this morning, the City has now reached this threshold of test positivity citywide and, as a result, the DOE will temporarily close down all public school buildings, effective Thursday, November 19. This action, along with other city-wide measures, is a key component to address the concerning rise in COVID-19 transmission rates. But don’t get too comfortable with it. First chance we get, we’re dumping your asses back into those filthy buildings.

Despite this temporary closure, our important work continues: we have to all pretend that this isn’t utter chaos caused by my utter lack of vision. Our students and families are counting on all of us - whether we work at schools or sit in central and field-based offices and don’t work at all - to wholeheartedly pretend that the tall guy I work for is somehow in charge. To guide us, we have sent a communication to principals saying they may handle this any damn way they please, and school-based staff should reach out to their principals with any questions specific to how they may please them. We have not encouraged principals to ask employees to perform unnatural acts, but we have told legal that unnatural acts are not specifically prohibited in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

While school buildings will be closed temporarily for in-person instruction, staff will be able to access their buildings. Certain staff, such as School Safety Agent(s) (SSA), Custodians, Skilled Tradespeople, and School Food employees, and others will be required to be on-site at DOE buildings. Other school-based staff members can pick up stuff and carry it, or do other such menial tasks as we see fit. Please discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding your work location with your principal or supervisor. Of course principals may set certain conditions for visits, such as pre-interviews at the Comfort Inn, or eating 50 hot dogs.

Our DOE community has been our greatest asset at this time of crisis, and without us sitting around Tweed, I’m sure none of you would be able to function. We know that for many of you, our staff, and our students and families, a transition to fully remote instruction – even for a brief period of time – is challenging to hear. But we’ve found no matter what we ask you to do, we’re able to continue sitting around Tweed, and let me tell you this—it beats the hell out of doing actual work.

New Yorkers have proven they are ready and willing to do the collective work to fight back this virus, and as long as we can continue to collect paychecks for doing nothing other than write occasional flowery email messages, we’re willing to allow New Yorkers to continue this sacrifice. We are relying on every New Yorker to do all they can to maintain our jobs sitting here while you do all the, you know,  work stuff.

Thank you for continuing to ensure our children have the best educational experience. Again, we are so grateful to be sitting here doing absolutely nothing while bouncing you and all the students back and forth like a million ping pong balls.

In unity,

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