Tuesday, August 03, 2021

UFT Town Hall August 3, 2021

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Thanks us. Will post on website for those who are unable to attend. Over 21K registrants. Very tough in parts of country with low vax rates, but tough here too. Will discuss what we're facing and how to deal with it. One silver lining is people now know how imporirustant our work is. 

Everything, of course, is subject to change. We thought vaccines would make for a smooth opening. Will be better than last year, but still tough. We will deal with issues that come up.

Virus--We decided in March that we would use an independent set of doctors. Our decisions are based on their advice, and not politics. New strain is an issue, and doctors fear a strain resistant to our vaccines could develop. I love this union and its diversity. I also want you to understand we were able to make progress because we stick together. 

We are not going to say remote only unless doctors say so. We are telling the city there should be a remote option. NYSED sent out guidance. After what we've been through, they want us to do everything possible to get students in person, but that we ought to accommodate those who need remote. Mayor opposes this. We agree we want majority in person, because that is where they will do better. Doctors agree, if medically feasible. 

We are not, however, pushing against masks. And there is, in fact, no mandating of vaccines. Government can mandate it but has not. We are not supporting that at this point, but we understand best way out is for more people to be vaccinated, according to our doctors. You can't, however, say people who aren't vaccinated shouldn't be able to work. Our goal is to get out of pandemic. 

Mayor says all leisure activities require proof of vaccination. In terms of law, it's clear that government can mandate vaccines. Established in law in 1905 and has been tested in court. Everyone has rights, both people who don't want vaccines and people who don't want to get sick. Nonetheless, this law has been repeatedly upheld in diverse districts, regardless whether vaccine is emergency or authorized officially. 

We will defend our people's rights, and we do need more people vaccinated. Mayor has not mandated it, but we've been under mandated testing. Teachers will remain under mandated testing, but city cannot do so on students without remote option. Proof of vaccine means you do not have to be tested. We have asked for vaccinated people to have that option if they like, and I will update you.  

For people who are not vaccinated, testing is mandated, and that is now a collective  bargaining issue. Must be available at worksite during workday, or members should be compensated for own time. Some people say it's not fair because the vaccinated can also carry Covid, and our doctors think all should be tested if possible. They say that unvaccinated at higher risk of getting and transmitting Covid. They need to get to doctors quickly, especially given new strain. 

Governor has his own problems today. AG report pretty damning. NYSUT now calls him unfit for office. Governor did say he was considering mandating vaccines for teachers. Why only teachers? 

Federal--US DOE and White House saying setting policies to encourage vaccination. Would be better if they just said it outright. Policies may make it more difficult for unvaccinated to function. We go by what doctors say--more should be vaccinated. Vaccine isn't perfect, but most breakthroughs do not lead to serious illness.

We are opening in September. We have to make sure we do everything to keep people safe. We will retrain building response teams. Not happy with members saying people who choose to be vaccinated shouldn't do this work. We have to uphold rights and keep you safe with knowledge we receive from our independent experts.

Our story, already is amazing. Many people characterize us as selfish, but we went and established not only remote teaching, but also in person learning even before the vaccine. These people should shut up. Their points are ridiculous. We are the people who get this work done, and do so as a union. 

September--Thanks thousands who've been trained on what we want to implement. We have a five point plan out there. We have a team of people responsible for academic and social and emotional screening, what we call an intervention team. We have a very successful and safe summer school.

Class size--We have a small pilot, but also working on a solid piece of legislation. Courts have sided with city. Group of creative people came up with the idea of changing health code. We believe this time we will support court challenge. We believe the city, not the UFT, should pay for this, unlike in the past. Thanks all who helped push plan.

Academic literacy and numeracy--K-10--will do screening. Also social and emotional diagnostic for all children. Our students will come in, and some will demonstrate problematic behavior. We will train crisis teams in every school. We trained thousands in BRTs, and crisis team will also be important. Have had very constructive summer with DOE. We will train people in how to recognize trauma. I will send email about it. 

At same time, we need at least a few months to do diagnostic. We will see outward behavior right away, but we need time to see less obvious signs. Will start in October.

We will have academic intervention team for literacy and numeracy. Are already training people now. Will open training for all. Most literacy data will be computer based, except from K-2.  We want class rosters populated into computer system, and it is DOE responsibility to make this as simple as possible. DOE will supply computer platforms, and schools will decide how to organize, by grade, pull out, etc.

Our teams will inform us if things are either incorrect or unreasonably burdensome. Not standardized test, and no stakes involved. Academic screens will start Sept. 27 and completed by Oct. 22. Last week of October for makeup work. We will identify students who need more support as result of pandemic and provide intervention.

Social and emotional--Will start at end of October. Someone on staff who knows and works with child will determine who needs extra support. 

Safety--Masks will be mandated unless something dramatic happens. 

Overcrowded schools--DOE says they have figured out 3 foot social distancing for all schools but 50. We don't believe it. A lot of people don't understand we have schools with over 200% capacity. 

Ventilation will be issue. Cafeterias will be a challenge. We have been working with industrial hygienists, and cafeterias will be quite breezy, believe it or not. Trying to take best of recommendations. 

We are trying to undo harm and keep everyone safe. We may go from 85K to 100K tests a week. City will continue with policy of closing schools and classrooms as last year. If people have to quarantine, we don't want days to come out of CAR. Looks like DOE is being reasonable. 

Hopefully by mid-October systems will be in place and working. We were able to face issues well last year. We will have a new mayor, a new admin, and our contract will be up in a year. Will put together a huge negotiation committee inclusive of all chapters. We have to be prepared.

Last year was about safety and livelihood. This year will be a different challenge. Digital classrooms will be part of collective bargaining. Technically we are not at an emergency now. So this needs to be on table now. There will be classrooms closed down. We will do what we have to get to the end of this, and we won't be bullied into ignoring our experts. 

We hope mayor understands medical necessity for small number of students for remote. We'll fight for medical accommodations, but this year it won't mean work from home. 


Q--Covid protocol--Will disinfecting protocols be put in place, how often random testing, and what is closing protocol?

A--Cleaning protocols adjusted to current evidence, but not much of a change. That turned out to be easier than we anticipated as DOE was supportive. Minimally last year was 85K a week. Will maintain at least that, and hoping for more. This time we will have 600K more people in buildings. Commitment now is for every other week. Classroom and school shutdown protocol will be the same. Three related cases shuts down building. Will send email with policy. We don't think remote teachers need to be in building.

Q--UFT members who are parents--what if our children are quarantined?

A--At this point, DOE position is if you have to stay home for child care, they will not entertain relief for CAR days. Labor relations for NYC would have to provide this benefit for all city workers, so this is big issue with MLC. I'm not happy with this. 

Q--Unvaccinated teachers--will we be tested in school or on our own?

A--Mayor mandating this for all workers, but mayor either has to supply test during workday or compensate people. Their issue is every agency is different, but that is their problem.

Q--For people with medical accommodations, will there be options if they don't want to get vaccinated? Will there be a Covid leave of absence?

A--We've had these conversations with city. My position is city needs to supply a leave for people unwilling to work under current conditions. Trying to get a leave in place for that. This is important. We are working on it.

Q--What if students refuse to wear a mask and there is no remote option. Teachers Choice?

A--TC is officially back. We will see how much money there is and divide it. Can start spending now, however. We dealt with masks last year. We've asked--last year we sent these students to remote. City now says they will get back to us on this. We've had some children in D75 and elsewhere who had difficulty, and members wore shields. City needs to get back to us and tell us what they're doing. 

Q--Programming--What happens to other classes that share a closed room?

A--Program as though it's a regular school year. Except for 50 schools, it should be okay. In HS setting in between classes will be challenging. School has to have a conversation about how they're doing that. Will be a challenge. 

Q--Procedure for isolation rooms?

A--We will have that answer and will train BRT to deal with it. Thankfully, we already have a lot of people dealing with that. 

Q--Permanent school nurses?

A--There are big efforts for that. In fact, this is a big issue for Eric Adams. City Council has put aside more money for it and everyone is on same page. Next September I believe we will have nurse for every school building. 

Q--Arbitration for spring break?

A--It's filed. DOE is upset at that and class size legislation. Too bad. They blame governor, but his order left it up to localities. CAR days were nice, but they agreed not to use that in arbitration against us. Our position is they made us work for five days. 

Q--Google classroom--We got an email saying we need to set one up within next two weeks. Has that been discussed?

A--No, not set in stone. Forward email to us. We understood under emergency working conditions. This is not. We have to get back to basic labor laws. Not condition under which we were hired. 

Q--Diagnostic testing--Who is doing that and responsible for it?

A--Most schools will handle that well. We have an agreement there will be a professional learning team, majority of which is UFT. We will train, and provide outside support. Then school will come up with a plan. If something is onerous or unfair, contact us. 

Q--Distancing--If rule is 3 feet, what happens during lunch when school is using cafe for other purposes?

A--That won't work. Can't be final plan. We have a process to prevent that. Contact us if there is issue.

Q--Since you have access to ventilation experts, would love to see video.

A--We already have one. It went viral. Our industrial hygienists made it. Some teachers were freezing when they didn't need to. We now have air purifiers everywhere. Depends on type of building you're in. Pushing heavily to get this for all school buildings, and want schools retrofitted with federal funds. We have a school in SI that uses less energy than it produces. That's the model.

Q--I'm an itinerant teacher. Will we be tested in every school? What will we get for classrooms?

A--Can't put you in crowded spaces. You will get a lot of PPE. We'll make sure you get all you need. We have a team working on this right now. 

Q--Per session retro checks?

Mike Sill--We will send out dates. Will come in next few weeks. August 17 for active members.

Q--Disappointed ERI didn't pass. Dead this year, or will it go through Albany again?

A--I was disappointed, as were all city unions. City said they needed all people, and they have hired quite a few people this year. We're going to hire a lot of people, but we don't know how many children are coming back, and we won't know. For a few years, there will be funding in place. I think there will be another opportunity in next year or two. The amount of work that went into that ERI, and it just sat there. We all felt the same way. Very sorry we were unable to get it done. Those who sponsored bill are upset. If we see opportunity, we'll go at it again. That's what we do.

Thanks us again for taking time on August afternoon. We will be sending instructional plans as soon as they are hammered out. Your questions help us plan, and suggest things we hadn't considered. Will be another town hall before school begins. Hope you're having a much better summer, and very thankful for all you do.

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