Tuesday, September 22, 2020


The story below was at the ICEUFT@gmail.com inbox tonight. The Professional Staff Congress, not the UFT, represents the teachers at Hunter College High School. The PSC sued today to get two buildings closed down. 

I've said it a thousand times here and I will say it again: We need a better union, not to be without a union. 


Released: Tues., Sept. 22

Contact: Fran Clark, Fclark@pscmail.org, 914-364-8925

CUNY Teachers' Union Files Restraining Order to Bar In-Person Classes at Hunter College Campus Schools until Building is Proven Safe 

Prestigious K-12 Public Schools Run by Hunter College Violated Own COVID Safety Plan, Installing Unproven “Air Purifiers” Instead of HEPA Filters

New York—The union representing teachers at the Hunter College Campus Schools (HCCS) petitioned a State Court today to grant a temporary restraining order and injunction against the City University of New York and Hunter College. The Professional Staff Congress (PSC) asked the judge to bar administrators from compelling its members to return in-person teaching at the public elementary and high school until real HEPA filters are installed in every classroom, as required in the school’s reopening plan. The union also asked the judge to direct CUNY to permit an independent inspection of the HCCS building and ventilation system.

The petition covers the fortress-like building with windowless classrooms located at 94th Street and Park Avenue and the Silberman School of Social Work on 119th and 3rd Avenue, where some students will attend class this fall.

“Teachers’ life-and-death concerns have been met with inaction by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and HCCS Director Lisa Siegmann. Their demands for COVID testing, small classroom pods, independent inspections and other protections provided to students and staff at all other NYC public schools have been denied. And now we have learned Hunter isn’t even following its own, inadequate safety plan,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the PSC, the union representing 150 Hunter teachers and staff and 30,000 other academic staff at CUNY.

Authorities say rooms with ventilation systems inadequate for air filters that can remove COVID-19 virus particles (MERV13 or better) should be equipped with HEPA filters, which have been found to be more that 99.97% efficient at capturing airborne viral particles.

The HCCS Plan says portable HEPA filtration units “will be installed in classrooms which have ventilation systems that use recirculated air.” Instead, the schools have installed untested chemical air purifiers (not even filters) whose efficacy against COVID-19 or other viruses is unknown.

Remote instruction at HCCS began yesterday, September 21. In-person and hybrid instruction will start September 29 for grades K-6 and October 1 for grades 7-10 (grades 11-12 will start the year all-remote). Most of the school’s 1500 students will then begin hybrid instruction at the 94th Street building.

HCCS teachers pressed all summer for a voice in the reopening plan and have called for a delayed reopening of the building. They want to return to in-person teaching in buildings that have been proven safe with adequate health and safety protocols and an independent inspection.

Meanwhile, back at UFT represented k-12  schools, UFTers continue to report to what they believe are unsafe buildings. This picture from Dodge says so much. The PSC, UFT Solidarity and others are fighting back. Don't give up the fight. Find whoever will listen to you and make noise.

DOE-UFT ventilation in Manhattan below



Can anybody figure out what is really going on in the school system this fall? The media is reporting that an Early Retirement Incentive is being discussed by the unions and the city (it would have to be approved by the State Legislature and signed by the governor) to save the city money. Meanwhile, at the same time there are reports of thousands of new teachers needing to be hired to alleviate shortages. If thousands take a retirement incentive, the shortage just grows.  

From yesterday's NY Daily News:

New York City employees facing potential layoffs should get early retirement incentives as part of the city’s efforts to identify savings amid a worsening fiscal crisis, Mayor de Blasio said Monday.

“It’s not the whole solution, but early retirement will definitely be a piece of the solution,” the mayor said at his Monday press briefing. “Early retirement as a policy is something we have to put into play."

An early retirement incentive when there is a huge shortage seems contradictory. This is from Politico from yesterday:

The city agreed to bring on 4,500 new teachers to alleviate a shortage sparked by a policy requiring separate teachers for in-person and online sessions. But the principals and teachers unions say that will only be enough to staff elementary schools, not middle schools and high schools.

"We still do not have the number for middle school and high school," United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said Monday at a press conference at the Mickey Mantle School in Manhattan.

I know there are grand conspiracy theorists in our audience who think there is a giant master plan at work here but as an Oswald was the lone assassin of JFK theorist, I am just trying to make some sense out of this. In addition, has there ever been a retirement incentive offered after school starts? That just further adds to the chaos.

Maybe, all of you are right that the DOE just wants to get rid of anyone paid a decent salary. Could the DOE be planning to do what they always wanted to do in some schools by letting the School Aides teach as the next group up?Aides are way underpaid and they do just about everything else in the schools when asked. Don't bet against the Parent Coordiatiors being deputized to teach soon too.

I wish we had a real union to stop the madness and teachers who were ready to organize that union rather than just complaining or opting out of dues.

For those who want to worry some more, this is from the same NY Daily News piece:

De Blasio has been in talks with city labor leaders for weeks to identify savings from the city’s workforce — whether it be through early retirement incentives, or having city workers pay for a portion of their health care premiums.


Agreement regarding the changes in paraprofessional duties and working conditions during the COVID period.

It is the intention of both parties to incorporate the following into an overarching memorandum of understanding that is made in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and the DOE response thereto:

On-site paraprofessionals, during their contractual workday, when they are not working directly with a specific student or class, may be directed to:

• assist with arrival and/or dismissal including busing

• assist with health screening upon entry

• provide student and parent outreach

• provide other administrative duties including but not limited to hall duty, cafeteria duty, attendance processing 

Paraprofessionals will not be required to stay in the school building for more than 6 hours and 20 minutes per day. Paraprofessionals will be expected to remotely perform the equivalent of 30 minutes of work. 

Paraprofessional Classroom Manager

DOE will post the position of Paraprofessional Classroom Manager. The paraprofessional classroom manager will receive a per term stipend of $1,750 to perform this work. Among those paraprofessionals that apply, priority will be given to those who have been accepted into the Lead Teacher Assistant (LTA) pool but have not been selected for an LTA position. 

The duties of this position shall be to manage classrooms of students, under the general direction of a pedagogue, while the students:

• perform independent work

• eat during non-instructional lunch

• are being instructed by a remote teacher during synchronous learning. In this scenario, the total class size (on-site students + remote students) may not exceed pre COVID class size limitations for that subject area/grade level.

In the event of an emergency, the paraprofessional classroom manager may teach a scheduled class when no teacher is available to cover. 

• If a Paraprofessional Classroom Manager is asked to do more than 5 such emergency coverages  in a term, then the PCA will be paid the teacher’s coverage rate (in addition to the stipend above).

The paraprofessional classroom manager will not be expected to teach except in an emergency coverage situation as described above. 

The DOE must have just cause for any discipline (up to and including discharge) of a Paraprofessional CClassroom Manager for any conduct (incompetence and/or misconduct) that occurred while the Paraprofessional Classroom Manager was not under the direct supervision of licensed teacher.

Monday, September 21, 2020


One can usually figure out the state of the UFT's relationship with the mayor by how President Michael Mulgrew talks about the state of the schools. If his phone calls are answered at City Hall, schools are great. If he has to leave a message, then some reality about major problems in the schools may actually come from Mulgrew's mouth. Today, Mulgrew's call may have been answered on the first ring.

From Arthur Goldstein's report from tonight's Executive Board:

Our focus has to be getting our schools up and going. Six months and six days since we had in person learning, wants to thank d75 staff, early childhood all teachers who were there today. First time I felt everyone DOE, UFT and CSA were on same page. Really was good day in terms of what we were able to accomplish.

We understand people are anxious and apprehensive. We worry about children being traumatized and adults are too. Thanks teachers and paraprofessionals who welcomed kids today. 

Forget about the UFT fighting for full remote. The spin is going to be that it's wonderful for the most part in the buildings. I hear Mulgrew more than Chancellor Richard Carranza these last few days promoting the reopening of buildings. This top-down union that ignores so many members will continue like this until you collectively say no more, not by opting out of union dues, but by organizing for a better union.

For some reality on what is likely to come in the next few months, this is from Reuters:

Although new cases are down about 50% from the peak in July, the United States is still reporting on average nearly 40,000 new infections a day - the highest number in the developed world.

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he would like to see new cases below 10,000 per day before flu season starts in October.

"We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it's not going to be easy," Fauci said during a panel discussion with doctors at Harvard Medical School earlier this month.

"We've been through this before," he said. "Don't ever, ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic. And don't try and look at the rosy side of things."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has also warned that Americans are in for "the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we've ever had," citing concerns of a possible "twindemic" of COVID-19 cases and the seasonal flu overwhelming hospitals.

Sunday, September 20, 2020


 This is what everyone has been looking for today on COVID-19 in NYC schools. This is from twitter:

This projection of coronavirus in NY from the bottom of the Gothamist Coronavirus page worried me just as much as the map above. Why are schools opening up again? Is it to make sure that curve rises? 


This email to President Mulgrew was forwarded to me this evening from one of the petitioners in the lawsuit to expand remote accommodations. The case was started by UFT Solidarity, led by 2019 UFT presidential candidate Lydia Howrilka. 

Please note the ending where Lydia says that if the UFT does not join the case, they will have breached their duty to fair representation. I'm totally not sure how this will play out but you have to give Lydia an A+ for trying to represent UFT members with everything she has.

To: Michael Mulgrew

Cc: LeRoy Barr

Subject: Open Litigation- Will the UFT join us?

Dear Mr. Mulgrew:

We have over 20 UFT members who have committed on Monday to refile this petition Corwin et. al. v. City of NY demanding for fair remote work accommodation. These dues paying members are paying out of their own pockets for an attorney because they feel that they are not being properly supported by their employer and their union. We have discovered that there is no policy in the DOE that is universally applied. Our fact- finding has shown that people have been denied multiple times and there is no clear guidance on the "informal accommodation process."

The DOE remote work accommodation process is inequitable. Some members have been arbitrary been denied. Rubber room teachers are told to stay home on full pay. Our members feel that they are being used as Guinea pigs and are risking their family's safety. There are more members out there who are too scared to go public. My phone has been ringing off the hook for the past six weeks and I keep on receiving email requests asking me about our case and what they should do since they do not feel safe and they doubt the union cares.

We ask that the UFT join us as a party or amicus curiae on this case. If you do not stand by us, we will have no choice but to name you as a respondent for breach of the duty of fair representation to your members.

Please advise us what you plan to do.

Thank you.


Lydia Howrilka


 From Sue Edelman in the NY Post:

At the Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology in Far Rockaway, at least 13 teachers and administrators — including the principal and three assistant principals — are now quarantined for two weeks after a supervisor in charge of safety and security tested positive, according to staffers.

“Any one of them could come down with it now,” a staffer told The Post, referring to the exposed colleagues.

Also upsetting to teachers: They spent two days in the building after the staffer tested positive on Monday. They received notification about the case on Wednesday evening.

You may be wondering about the UFT's involvement here. Since Jeff Kaufman works in the building, we were sent the District Rep's email to the Chapter Leader from Wednesday:

It appears that an employee from your school tested positive and reported it to the school on Monday. I have no reason to believe that the administration did not follow the protocols, but although the DOE and NYC promised to do the contact tracing necessary and the notification to the staff, it appears at this moment that neither has been done. The union is involved and I have reached out to the superintendent for an explanation of this case. Please let your staff know.

Jeff Kaufman wrote a response to the DR. A major part of it is copied below:

While [the District Rep] has "no reason to believe" the administration did anything wrong how is it that we find out about this from the Union over 2 days later than the employee reported it? Didn't the administration have a duty to advise us on Monday? When did the Union find out?

[The District Representative] admits no contract tracing was done but, don't worry, "the union is involved." What the hell does that mean? Who is protecting us?

I have notified the media of this finding but I guarantee there are many more schools where this information, like it was in March, will be hidden from our fellow teachers and the public.

I have been skeptical of both the DOE and our Union for most of my career but I never thought they would conspire, either through recklessness or some perverted sense of maintaining the status quo, of endangering our lives. This has to stop.

Sue reports 61 DOE COVID-19 positive tests since September 8, "including 23 who reported to 21 school buildings and possibly infected others." We don't know how many are quarantined.

This has the potential to get worse when the students arrive starting tomorrow in District 75, pre-k and 3-k.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew's words from Friday's tv interview keep playing in my head:

"Look, this is a major challenge and every other large school system ran away from it. We're not."

What I cannot comprehend is why so many UFTers would still go into buildings if they believe they are unsafe. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020


There is a must see lengthy interview of UFT President Michael Mulgrew from PIX 11 news that aired Friday morning. Everyone needs to watch and listen very closely to what the UFT President says.

They start the segment by showing a protest in front of Benjamin Cardozo High School on Thursday with a longtime Unity Caucus Chapter Leader leading a chant of, "Teachers Vote, Stay Remote!" Then, the news anchor explains the latest delay in the start of the school year. Next, comes the long interview with Mulgrew.

Mulgrew says the main issue now is staffing. He states that it's been on the table for months. He says there are still some ventilation problems but most have been cleared up. He continues that most of the PPE issues should be taken care of by the end of this weekend. He concludes by noting that some safety problems haven't been worked out but the main issue is staffing.

Mulgrew says he talked to the mayor on Wednesday. He told de Blasio we don't have the staff to open on Monday. "You cannot open a school unless you have a teacher in every classroom." You have to increase the budget. He adds they can't just put kids in the auditoriums as that would violate safety procedures. NYC now ready to hire new teachers. News anchor asks: Can you hire 7-8000 teachers in a week? We should be able to do that according to Mulgrew.

55 positive cases of Covid-19 in schools might be higher according to the news anchor. Mulgrew responds that we did a lot of media last week on contact tracing not working and to the their credit, the city set up a situation room. He adds that we are now getting our test results back in 24 hours from tests. That's gotten better. 

Mulgrew states that the MLK Campus is not ready. Ventilation is passing all inspections in most buildings but if they turn on the heating systems that could be problematic. He then adds that private companies and independent contractors have been hired to address this.

Mulgrew then says emphatically: "Look, this is a major challenge and every other large school system ran away from it. We're not."

The news anchor asks if there is a possibility that things could go all remote. Mulgrew answers: "If the virus spikes up, yes." He adds that the infection rate of the virus is the only thing that could cause us to go all remote and that the mayor has made it very clear that he is not going to go all remote at any cost unless it's the virus itself that causes it. Mulgrew agrees with the mayor that you cannot have a substitute for in-person education. We will have safer policies than any other school system.

The rest of the conversation concerns teachers teaching out of license. Mulgrew stands up for physical education teachers. 

The main takeaway from this interview is something we've pretty much known all along: The school reopening plan is not and never was Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza's alone. It's Michael Mulgrew's too. Mulgrew is all in and is just insisting that the details are worked out so that it is safer, not safe. 

How do we pay to open schools so around half of the students can come into buildings once or twice a week? Snow day, every day basically. The Independent Budget Office on Thursday estimated the cost of opening the buildings to be an extra $32 million a week. As Living Colour said in The Glamour Boys: "Where the money comes from heaven only knows." This will become our problem when they ask us for new concessions. 

Money aside, my understanding is the majority of UFTers and at least 42% of the NYC parents prefer all remote education, not because we don't want kids back in school, but because we don't want the virus to spike again. All of the other large districts in the country have gone all remote to prevent that second wave of COVID-19. 

In NYC, most teachers and other school employees will continue to be the guinea pigs in de Blasio, Carranza and Mulgrew's experiment on whether putting a large group in school buildings will lead to a spread of this deadly coronavirus that has killed almost 200,000 Americans and one in 300 NYC residents. Starting next week, District 75 students, pre-k and 3-k students get to join in on the experiment if they so desire.

What truly baffles me is why the Unity faithful such as the Chapter Leader at Cardozo (a decent guy) who was shouting, "Teachers Vote, All Remote," aren't in open rebellion against Mulgrew? Mulgrew is admitting on live TV that he represents the mayor's position; it just has to be implemented a little better. I don't think he ever asked the membership for their opinion. Is your loyalty to Unity Caucus more important than your health and safety or do you actually buy what Mulgrew is selling? I can't understand why so many others just go along too. 

Friday, September 18, 2020


 Oral arguments are today at noon in the case where a judge has already issued a Temporary Restraining Order blocking the DOE from forcing the original five plaintiffs from having to return to work in school buildings. 20 new people have filed affidavits to join the case. They are all seeking accommodations to work remotely from home.

Both sides submitted their written papers and answers. The concluding paragraph from Attorney Bryan Glass:

53. Given the serious safety concerns above, among the 5 petitioners and the 20 proposed intervenors who have boldly come forward out of their own pocket to publicize their severe discomfort and dilemmas (despite paying union dues) to seek safe remote teaching accommodations, these 25 educators should be afforded the same remote accommodations that 30,000 of their colleagues already have been granted by the NYCDOE since the start of the 2020-21 school year. They should not be the victims of standardless arbitrary and capricious decision making subject to the whims of unidentified nameless administrators and inconsistent application of vaguely defined rules. 

I think they have a very strong case. We will update you when we hear more.

Update: The oral arguments were heard on Friday. Judge needed more information so we worked part of the afternoon to help to update an affidavit and coordinate documentation to be submitted as exhibits. 

Outside of the court case, we heard some horror stories about teacher programs that don't adhere even slightly to the UFT Contract. I suggest people keep documenting what's going on. Put complaints in writing.

Update 2: UFT Solidarity has it on their website that the judge has transferred the case to a different judge since both sides agree that the DOE is not a city agency so since the city is not a party, the case goes to a different judge. New papers will be filed on Monday.


Thursday, September 17, 2020


 From Michael Mulgrew's latest email declaring another UFT victory:

All UFT members with in-person assignments will continue to report to school buildings next week even if they initially are providing remote instruction or services. Your eyes and ears in every school building are the key to ensuring that the safety plan is made real in every school. Please continue to be the advocates for safety in your school building.

It's not safe for most students but UFTers can keep reporting with some becoming infected with COVID-19. Mulgrew is admitting you, D75, 3-k and pre-k students are guinea pigs to make sure school buildings are safe. I guess the staff infection rates are acceptable enough for him.

The only question I have left is this:

How much more of this will UFT members keep putting up with?

Full remote until it's safe.

Teachers should not be thinking about opting out of a union but might want to contemplate how to collectively decertify the UFT and start over with a new union. We still need a union.


 From the Mayor's press briefing:


 This pretty much says it all:

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


 This came from a longtime friend this afternoon:

When they are ready to rebel at Cardozo High School in Eastern Queens, the DOE plan is clearly a mess. Stand up for yourselves and the students everyone.

Update: Protest today-


Your life is more important than the Department of Education. COVID-19 is a deadly virus. The mayor can downplay it all he wants but reality hasn't changed. Close to 200,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19 in around half a year. I am no scientist but it seems working in many NYC DOE buildings would be an almost ideal environment for a virus to spread. 

If you and/or your UFT Chapter do not think a building is safe, don't enter it or walk out. UFTers at schools like the High School for Economics and Finance are showing the way. They have refused to go into a building they believe is not safe. Worry later about being docked pay or losing a sick bank day if you are feeling ill. Staffers from at least 56 NYC schools have tested positive for Covid in just the first week. While Michael Mulgrew continues to put off taking action even though he says problems are systemwide (see below), the pandemic is not letting up. The custodial budgets are not going to be increased; Mulgrew says they were cut. Schools are not getting any cleaner or healthier anytime soon. How many of you honestly believe the situation will improve when the kids come in next week?


UFTers cannot continue being the good soldiers and just following orders if they feel it isn't safe.

Some of you are probably thinking that it is easy for me to advocate taking a hard line as a retiree. It's true I am out but when my friend Nunzio and I took on Deputy Chancellor John White in 2010 in the middle of Jamaica HS's school closing hearing (I was told I looked like Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver in one his famous tirades), we were not afraid of the DOE. A school being closed was an important injustice but it is nothing compared to your lives being put at risk. You shouldn't be in fear of the DOE just as we were not. When we were threatened, Nunzio told Deputy Chancellor White we should settle it in the parking lot. DOE administrators are people with File Numbers just like you. Many support our position. You have a right to a safe work environment. You just need to document how it is not safe. 

For the latest from Michael Mulgrew, this is from 1010 WINS:

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The president of the United Federation of Teachers on Tuesday told 1010 WINS that having a citywide postponement of school openings is not off the table.

"We haven't made that determination yet, but right now what we're seeing is systemwide problems," Michael Mulgrew said.

According to Mulgrew, the city wants to deal with a "rhetoric campaign versus a reality campaign."

Mulgrew says one of the issues they are facing is the amount of time it takes for results of COVID-19 tests.

The results take days to confirm he said.

He also noted that due to budget slashings, they are also dealing with a lack of ability to disinfect and clean every night due to custodial personnel being cut.

"You'll see teachers sitting outside of their schools because they know there's violations of safety protocols already in their building," Mulgrew added.

The UFT is following testing and tracing protocols where schools report where they are at with safety protocols, including cleaning and disinfecting, he said.

"It's really quite frustrating and angering at times," Mulgrew said.

A report will be put together this evening in order to make a determination of whether a systemwide postponement is needed.

If they feel that city does not follow the citywide safety plan submitted to the state, they will be "a fight," Mulgrew said, adding that a strike may be possible and they will be forced to "try legal remedies.