Monday, April 06, 2020

UNION COUNTS 26 UFT MEMBERS WHO HAVE PASSED FROM COVID-19

NYC Educator's report on tonight's virtual Executive Board meeting is quite disturbing.

From his minutes of President Mulgrew's report:

We believe 26 UFT members have died of COVID, but sadly that number will not stay the same.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families who lost someone.

Of course, none of our representatives on the Board asked any of the very tough questions:

1-How many of those 26 worked in DOE schools? Retirees and hospital nurse deaths are a tragedy but there is nothing that the UFT could have done as far as I can tell to prevent any of these horrible deaths. 

2-How many of those 26 worked in schools on March 17, 18 or 19 when the UFT refused to protect their members by telling them in no uncertain terms to stay out of schools that at this time were giant petri-dishes? UFTers were doing professional development that week that could have been done from home.

3- How many of those 26 worked the week of March 9 in schools where the UFT admitted they knew there were COVID-19 cases but didn't tell members to leave unsafe buildings?

To be fair, I'm not sure I could have asked these difficult questions tonight. That said, I doubt the UFT's Executive Board that has zero opposition will ever ask these or any tough questions and they need to be asked. That is why democracies need opposition. The UFT Executive Board will hold responsible who Mulgrew tells them to.

The UFT in my view is as responsible as Cuomo, de Blah Blah or the DOE for anyone who caught the virus in schools in March after the UFT was aware there was COVID-19 in schools and refused to tell members  forcefully to stay out.

There is a gofundme for Kimarle Nguyen, one of our colleagues who has died. Condolences to the Nguyen family and her school community.


REGENTS EXAMS CANCELED; WHY IS CUOMO SO POPULAR?

Regents exams are out for this June. Update will come tomorrow on graduation requirements. We also need news on ratings.

Speaking of the state, I cannot comprehend why Andrew Cuomo is suddenly so popular. Does blustering equate to competence and success? Cuomo dithered and delayed at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis just like Mayor de Blah Blah (my words) and President Trump. Look at the issue of closing the schools. Both Cuomo and the Mayor were on the same page to keep them open even after the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11 and we were right in the middle of it.

Jonathan Halabi has a good piece on whether Cuomo or de Blasio should be blamed for schools being open online for Thursday or Friday on religious holidays. The UFT will only aim rhetorical fire at the weak and unpopular mayor. Typical UFT.

If you want decisive leadership in the midst of this crisis, go west and look up Governor Jay Inslee in Washington. 

From The Week:
 To begin with, the numbers don't lie. New York state has thus far had the worst outbreak not just of any state, but of any place in the world. Its deaths have risen faster than any other sub-national region at an equivalent point in their outbreaks, even Lombardy, Italy and Madrid, Spain.

Many have pointed to the density of New York City, with its heavy reliance on public transportation and many international travelers, as one reason its outbreak spread so fast. But while it is surely easier for a virus to spread in such a place, this fails to explain why Hong Kong and Singapore, which are both comparably dense and internationally connected, and also much closer to the initial coronavirus outbreak, have not seen shattering numbers of cases.

Pandemic control measures work in dense cities just as they do in rural areas (which are not remotely immune to viral epidemics), and Cuomo was inexcusably lax in setting them up. New York had its first confirmed case on March 1, and its second on March 3, a "super-spreader" event who was linked to 28 more cases by March 6. But on that same day, Cuomo was still reminding people that more people were in the hospital from the flu than COVID-19. The state transit authority (which Cuomo controls) also informed its employees they would not be issued protective gear, and forbade them from wearing their own. On March 8, he said shutting down public transit was unnecessary. He did not start even moderate lockdown measures until March 12.

To be fair, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was also incredibly irresponsible about this. He also downplayed the virus' severity, dragged his feet on lockdown measures, and was still going to the gym on March 16. But that, in turn, points to the horrible relationship between the governor and the mayor, which is about three-quarters Cuomo's fault. De Blasio is an incompetent nincompoop, but Cuomo is a vicious political backstabber who seems to take great personal delight in needling de Blasio, starting pissing matches with him, and obstructing his agenda out of pure spite. Now, when a working relationship between the two most important authorities in New York could not be more important, that childish pique is taking its toll.

Now that the outbreak is extremely bad, New York's hospitals are being overwhelmed. Few are more responsible for this than Cuomo, who has relentlessly hacked away at his state's hospital capacity during his terms as governor. He pushed through repeated cuts to the state's funding of Medicaid and vetoed a funding increase, which helped bankrupt several hospitals that served New York's poorest residents. Several of them were subsequently turned into luxury housing developments, which was probably half the point. In sum, the state has lost about 20,000 hospital beds since 2000 — a trend that predated Cuomo but kept going under his watch. Even today Cuomo is still trying to push further Medicaid cuts, as hospitals face a completely unprecedented onslaught of work and costs.

Yet for the last few weeks, Cuomo has been holding daily televised updates about the progress of the outbreak in New York. His clear warnings about the dangers of mass death, and the obvious contrast between him and President Trump's daily buffoonery, have made these briefings ripe for media pickup and must-watch viewing for many Americans who are desperate for information. But no amount of showmanship now will make up for the early delays that set New York on its current trajectory.

Returning to the above chart (see link), Washington state, despite being the site of the earliest cluster of confirmed cases in the U.S., has contained its outbreak better than any state, and many other sub-national regions as well. This simply must be because Governor Inslee started testing earlier, implemented clampdown measures earlier, and tightened them earlier. By late February it was clear that Washington would suffer a serious outbreak, and Inslee declared a state of emergency on the same day, Feb. 29, that the state recorded its first COVID-19 death. Working closely with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Inslee first strongly encouraged people to avoid groups and stay at home, then started requiring them to do so in early March. The state set up a command center to coordinate the overall response and direct resources to where they were most needed, and Inslee began regular briefings to inform the public about what was going on.

A month later, Washington has less than a tenth as many cases as New York, and its hospitals have so far been strained but not overwhelmed. It easily could have been just as bad — Washington is only somewhat smaller than Lombardy, where the devastating Italian outbreak has been centered. As we have learned over and over and over, quick action is absolutely vital when it comes to containing the coronavirus.


TRIBUTE TO ICER DAVID DOBOSZ IN BROOKLYN COMMUNITY PAPER

ICE-UFT lost one of its strongest people when David Dobosz passed away last month. I have only fond memories of working with David who was a truly outstanding union activist. Prayers go out to Pat and the rest of the family.

From Greenline:
David Dobosz Made our Community a Better Place
by Lori Ann Doyon
On March 13, 2020 we lost a shining neighbor. David Dobosz was a teacher, church elder, and community activist for education, the environment, affordable housing, and a champion of the community’s diversity.

David was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 3, 1940. He moved to New York City after graduate school and began a several decades-long career in education. He taught at Martin Luther High School, the Freedom School at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church, P.S. 150, P.S. 145, and finally the UFT Teacher Center. He retired from the Department of Education in October 2009.
After retirement and raising his three daughters, David had more time to dedicate to community action. In a previous Greenline interview David

said, “It was a gradual involvement. With kids and teaching there was not enough time.” Although while he was active in his career and helping to raise his family he had made time to regularly attended community and school board meetings.  With more free time he finally had the chance to make a positive difference to counter the changes he’d been witnessing, “Seeing the negative effects on our family and the families of others”. He joined the front lines with his wife Patricia in the fight for more affordable housing and expanding education opportunities to those who are underserved in the community. He became a board member of St. Nicks Alliance and Martin Luther High School, and was a longstanding member of GREC, OUTRAGE, and UNO. As part of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition David protested the rezoning the Rabsky-Pfizer lots, a rezoning which raised concerns about planned segregated and discriminatory housing by the developer. After a steady fight, which had its beginnings in 2009, they finally received a win when a settlement was reached in December 2017.  David’s advocacy helped to make possible the future development of over 1,000 units of affordable housing now in the pipeline for North Brooklyn.

Mildred Tudy-Johnston was another inspiration for David’s activism. Ms. Tudy was a devoted teacher and activist for fairness, equality, child welfare and lived by the example of her motto, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem!” For many years, David and his wife Patricia aided in the annual Kwanza celebration named after Ms. Tudy at St John the Evangelist.
David was a fabulous cook and loved foods of all ethnicities.

David Dobosz was one of the rare people who saw the value of whomever he was with, and at the same time openly conveyed this observation. This validation encouraged and inspired those to keep up the good work or even do better.  David Dobosz made a difference on an individual level and on a community level. He will be missed.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia Dobosz; daughters: Jeannette Montes, Kristina Dobosz, and Stephanie Dobosz; grandson, John Paul, Jr.; and his brother and sister, Paul & Martha Dobosz.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

UFT MEMBERS SHOULD BE ANGRY AT DE BLASIO, CARRANZA AND MULGREW

Anybody who has read this blog for a while knows that one of the best bloggers out there was Reality Based Educator. His blog was more popular than ours and my ego would be bruised sometimes when I used to think that he wrote a better blog. Unfortunately, he is not blogging these days but on the bright side he is still on Twitter and he also continues as an active NYC teacher. This is his reaction on Twitter to the first death of a teacher from complications from COVID-19. Sandra Santos Viscaino from P.S. 9 worked on the three days (March 17, 18 and 19) that the UFT let their members toil in unsafe schools for professional development. The UFT didn't tell members in no uncertain terms to work from home in the middle of a pandemic.

rbe

@perdidostschool

Awful. Just awful.
I am so angry at the chancellor and the mayor for their callous disregard for our lives.

But I am even angrier at the @UFT because I fucking pay them to protect me and all they protect is their own power, perks and privileges.


RBE is totally right; we pay for the consistent UFT surrenders. I very much doubt what happened at P.S 9 was an isolated COVID-9 in the schools case. Word came to me that five UFT members at one Queens High School who went into work with the UFT's okay from March 17-19 are now sick with Coronavirus. The Union knew this building was infected on March 17 and didn't pull the teachers out.

I know of another Queens High School building where COVID-19 was suspected. One principal in that school building wisely told her staff to stay home but in another school in the same building, the teachers still were given the option to report the next two days. The UFT had a responsibility to clear out all suspected unsafe buildings. Why do we need a union if they won't do everything they can to protect member health? That is ultimately Michael Mulgrew's job.

The Department of Education not releasing the numbers on DOE COVID-19 cases again shows UFT weakness. Why isn't the Union screaming publicly for the numbers? Why is it left to Sue Edelman to fight this fight?

When the chips were down and UFT members were calling out sick en masse for March 16, the Union showed who they really are by putting out the memo to District Reps that was leaked to the Daily News. Don't ever forget these words from your Union:

“A coordinated sick-out will be interpreted by the DOE as an organized effort in violation of the Taylor Law and the Triborough Law,” union officials wrote its leaders.

“They will perceive it as a labor action and strike. Each participant is subject to a fine of two days’ pay for every missed day and arrest. However, even worse, the UFT will suffer greatly with fines and penalties. Please advise against.”

They cared more about their dues than member lives in the middle of a pandemic. Let's repeat what RBE stated perfectly about the UFT: "I fucking pay them to protect me and all they protect is their own power, perks and privileges."



Some UFT apologists will claim that the UFT's robust reaction to losing the first two days of Passover, Holy Thursday and Good Friday in Mulgrew's email sent out Friday night shows how angry the UFT is. No, it is another example of how completely impotent the Union is.

From Friday's email:

Under collective bargaining rules, the UFT has the right to negotiate a compensation package for all the extra days you are being required to work, and I will do everything in my power to see that you are properly compensated for your time.

This statement is basically a meaningless promise. Due to the UFT's usual overabundance of caution (I am being kind here), the Union has basically zero leverage in this negotiation, and as a matter of fact, in virtually every negotiation. The Mayor and Chancellor can laugh about the UFT threatening lawsuits in a pandemic. We do collective begging.

Ultimately, however, it is the rank and file and not the leadership that controls our union destiny. Please stop accepting that the membership's fate forever is just to accept the situation as it is but don't dream about voting Mulgrew/Unity out. UFT elections are rigged in a sophisticated way as the Union controls almost the entire flow of information to the members. There is no way an opposition group could possibly get to the thousands of retirees scattered around the country to get them to know them, like them, and trust them enough to vote for them.

As there currently is no viable political option, I would like to talk about a different idea: a DUES STRIKE.  There is a June opt-out period when members have the option not to pay union dues. I will not opt-out. I am pro-union.

However, we can go on a dues strike until the UFT changes in big ways. I'm not talking about getting the 8.25% interest back on TDA or seniority transfers but rather internal, structural changes so the UFT functions as a union again. Unfortunately, this action will never work unless there are many making the statement of going on strike and are willing to return to paying dues if the UFT fixes itself. We can talk about what that repair means for me and open it up to everyone for their ideas in future posts.

The elite in this country are more than likely going to take advantage of the state of emergency and its aftermath from COVID-19 to enrich themselves while there will probably be major austerity for the rest of us. The economy is more than ruined and will be for some time. We need to stand up for ourselves collectively or beg for crumbs. Mulgrew and company can choose the latter route because they are not impacted that much. I choose the former path but my personal opinion as a humble, semi-retired worker who blogs means very little. I don't even represent ICEUFT in this thinking, just myself. It's the UFT members en masse who matter. If you are not going to collectively take control now, when will you?


P.S. I would like to put out a call today and ask how many other school districts around the area that are all in a state of emergency will be working on Thursday and Friday? I checked around and New Jersey is still getting spring break. I also discovered that one Long Island district still received a full spring break and will be off on Thursday and Friday too. Readers, do you know of many other districts working Thursday or Friday?

Friday, April 03, 2020

UFT LOSES PASSOVER, HOLY THURSDAY AND GOOD FRIDAY

Schools will be open next Thursday and Friday in the latest giveback from UFT.

The Mayor used the state of emergency as an excuse to keep schools open on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Passover.

President Mulgrew disagreed with this one at least.

His email (see below) says if a teacher wants to take off, employees have been granted four new CAR days.

I have a maybe not so brilliant idea:

Everyone call in for religious observance next Thursday and Friday. That's right, I mean everybody. Screw the Taylor Law's prohibition against strikes. If you haven't had the need for God in your life yet in this crisis, surely you will find religion by Thursday.

I think we all should be born again next week. Show some guts. We can find some rabbis, priests and ministers to sign our notes.

I'm not disparaging religion or spirituality here. I have done much more praying the last few weeks than in a while.

Mulgrew's latest surrender without a fight in its entirety:

Dear,

The schools chancellor has informed me that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to keep New York City public schools open on Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, even though those days are major religious holidays.

I told him flat out that I disagreed with that decision, but the city is going ahead with it anyway. Under the state of emergency he declared in New York City, the mayor has the authority to do that.

With this step, Mayor de Blasio shows that he does not recognize just how hard you have been working during these stressful and anxiety-filled times. I know how seriously you take the role you are playing in this pandemic. You have kept learning alive and been a social and emotional lifeline for 1.1 million students and their families. You met this challenge head-on while taking care of your own families, and no one can question your results.

I can assure you that there has been an outpouring of thanks from parents and from first responders and health care workers. Meanwhile, the silence from City Hall has been deafening. Never once during this crisis has the mayor thanked you for your service. Instead, he diminishes your work by describing it only as a vehicle to keep children at home. 

I warned the chancellor that since so many members and the families we serve observe those two days, it will cause disruption. New York City schools have always been closed for the start of Passover and Good Friday, which are among the most important religious holidays of the calendar year.

Under collective bargaining rules, the UFT has the right to negotiate a compensation package for all the extra days you are being required to work, and I will do everything in my power to see that you are properly compensated for your time. In the meantime, the DOE has agreed with the UFT, District Council 37 and the Council for Supervisors and Administrators that due to the number of different religious holidays that fall within the spring break, all school-based and other 10-month employees will automatically be granted four additional CAR days in their banks. People who take religious observance days will have those days deducted from those four new CAR days. The DOE's granting of these four CAR days now in no way impedes us from demanding a full compensation package in negotiations as soon as we are back in our schools.

No matter how angry and frustrated we are right now, we must focus on the most important thing, which is to get through this crisis. I am sadly sure that there will be many more tough challenges in the days and weeks to come. But we will face them together as we stay physically apart. 

Be safe, be well and stay strong.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President




NO DRASTIC EDUCATION CUTS IN STATE BUDGET NOW.

State budget finalized. Big cuts are not there yet but could still be coming. This is the entire education part from City and State.

Public school funding

Drastic cuts to school aid appear to have been averted, thanks to additional money from the federal government, the aid to localities bill shows. Although the state is set to cut just shy of $400 million from school funding compared to the executive budget, the feds have chipped in an additional $1.3 billion. So the updated budget language actually represents about a $928 million increase in spending compared to Cuomor’s executive budget. It’s also about $1.4 billion more in total funding since last year’s enacted budget.

However, Foundation Aid, the main source of public school state funding, was frozen at last year’s levels. The budget also drops Cuomo’s proposal to change how the state allocates money in a way that would supposedly end the longtime “shares” agreement that allocates a fixed share of total state education funding to New York City and Long Island. In addition to the Foundation Aid freeze, the budget also authorizes the state education commissioner to make “pandemic adjustments” to school district allocation based on how much additional aid a district received from coronavirus relief funds. All the spending comes with the caveat that the state budget director may withhold any appropriations if the budget becomes unbalanced throughout the year due to economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

State lawmakers had big ambitions at the end of last year when it came to education funding. Democratic members of the Assembly and the state Senate were hoping to increase the amount of Foundation Aid part of a long-running feud with the governor over the meaning of a landmark 2006 legal settlement on education funding. But by the beginning of the week, it appeared that lawmakers were pushing for a freeze in the level of education funding in light of Cuomo’s warning of “drastic” cuts.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

BROOKLYN TEACHER DIES DUE TO COMPLICATIONS FROM CORONAVIRUS

This is from Chalkbeat. We have lost one of our NYC teachers. Condolences to the family of Sandra Santos-Vizcaino and P.S. 9 community.

God, please no more.

The Department of Education, if you read through to the bottom of the Chalkbeat NY piece, is still defending having staff in schools saying there was no greater risk than had employees been in the general community. No, it was safer to be at home in a pandemic.

‘A tremendous loss’: Brooklyn third grade teacher dies from coronavirus
A Brooklyn elementary school teacher described as an “amazing hugger,” and who pushed to make sure her students always had interesting books to read, died from complications of the new coronavirus, according to relatives.

Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, taught third grade at Brooklyn’s P.S. 9, according to the school’s website. She died Tuesday evening.

“Yesterday was a challenging day for the community as we faced the devastating reality of losing a teacher and a challenging night, as we faced the sounds of our thoughts and fears,” wrote Fatimah Ali, the school’s principal, in a letter to the community.

News of Santos-Vizcaino’s passing spread quickly through the Brooklyn community. Jessamyn Lee said the teacher still stayed in touch about three years after her daughter was in Santos-Vizcaino’s second grade dual language class at another school, P.S. 84.

In fact, Santos-Vizcaino kept up with many of her former students, and just a month ago visited one while he underwent cancer treatment, Lee said. 

“She was an amazing hugger and really generous soul and really a talented teacher,” Lee said. 

Lee said that Santos-Vizcaino had been in the classroom for at least 20 years and was “very much looking forward to retirement.” She had been building her dream home with her husband in the Dominican Republic, Lee said.  

“This is a tremendous loss.”

On an online fundraising page, Santos-Vizcaino said her students “work hard,” and said she wanted to provide them with a “creative and collaborative” classroom that met each of their unique needs. In some of her donation requests, she said she hand-picked books for students based on their interests, and successfully raised money to buy graphic novels and stories about math. 

“I have a class of voracious readers,” Santos-Vizcaino said in a thank you note posted to donors.  

Unlike other city agencies, including the police department, the education department has declined to say how many of its employees have died due to the coronavirus or are infected. A principal, paraprofessional, and school safety agent are among those whose deaths have been publicly reported. 

Asked Wednesday about why the education department has not confirmed infection or fatality rates, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said: “You have to keep in mind that the police and fire department are out right now serving the public.” He added that “there is no mechanism” for the department to track how many teachers have tested positive.

Santos-Vizcaino last reported to P.S. 9 on March 19, the final day of professional development before school buildings shut down. She was hospitalized on the 26th and passed away five days later. Education department officials said the school informed the community that there was a self-reported positive coronavirus case on March 29.

Still, some educators have criticized the department for its shift in policy to no longer confirm coronavirus infections, leaving it to educators to inform each other if they are concerned the infection is spreading within their school community. 

Department officials have countered that because the coronavirus is widespread in New York City, educators were not at greater risk when reporting to school than they were elsewhere in the community.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

LIVE BLOGGING FROM MULGREW TOWN HALL (unedited, written on old computer that has some keys that don't work)

When I was patched in, President Mulgrew talked about the great work teachers were doing. He then stated that Governor Cuomo had the right in a state of emergency to keep the schools open during spring break. This was the key time whether this crisis lasts for 6 weeks or 6 months.  He then related that the economy is ruined and there is a huge budget hole in the state. There is additional state funding coming from DC. Mulgrew told Chancellor that remote learning during what would have been spring break should be something different than regular instruction during the break. Teachers and parents need a break.

We are in conversations about making it family engagement. Things like virtual tours. Parents say they are getting way too much work from teachers. Parents said that across the boroughs. Remote learning is crazy but we are getting it done. No training, no support system but we turned the system into a remote learning system. Frontpage story in the NY Times saying how much we're doing. Important that we continue to do that. In the middle of this crisis we are the continuing lifeline for all of these families.

Nurses making great sacrifices. There has to be a real conversation about how we are going to be compensated for this week. There will be a real conversation. Nobody is saying that we are not working at home remotely. We are going to push with the chancellor to make it different for the spring break week. We have to spend time with our families. Getting to some kind of plan on what we will do. On the phone with the medical people, these three weeks are essential as to whether this will be six weeks or six months. We all want to go out. We want to go to the grocery store without having to worry about touching someone. Mulgrew does not think he will shake anyone's hand again.

Nancy Miller, a nurse from Staten Island will be speaking and then AFT President Randi Weingarten will come on to talk about the federal issues. State has a $10 billion hole. City is in bad financial shape according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. Doing this together. Have seen what we have done. Governor made this decision based on public health. We will get through the week and then get through the crisis together.

Mulgrew introduces Nancy Miller. She thanks UFT for getting remote learning going. Detox, operating room and more closed. Hospitals are filled with ventilators. Some patients moved to Albany. This is a crisis. We appreciate the support nurses get from the Federation of Nurses UFT. Thanks UFT for work they are getting from the disaster relief fund. Mulgrew responds that we can't do enough for nurses. Going near a hospital now is surreal. Calls nurses true heroes. Says we would be in much worse shape without nurses. Thanks them three times.

Mulgrew will take questions and comments

First question is from Melrose School. Teacher asks that since they will not be back in schools by April 20, but can teachers go in to pick up resources in buildings?
Mulgrew Answer-Some schools have equipment but for safety reasons DOE doesn't want people to go into buildings. Mulgrew asks if administration is trying to recreate school day.
Teacher answers that we have a flexible schedule. Kids not independent. Working after hours for families. Superintendent wants pacing picked up.
Mulgrew Answer-Parents saying we are doing way too much. Parents want things to be pulled back. Parents saying they have to be there with their children. Having conversations with the chancellor on this. We are hearing from parents that we need to slow down. Parents agree we are doing too much.

Question- Teacher thanks first responders. President alluded to the fact that there will be compensation for working the vacation week.
Answer-Obligation to come up with a compensation package. Something has to happen. Chancellor agreed that he is responsible for having that conversation. Governor put out the executive order on Monday. It caught us by surprise. We are moving to a compensation package but we don't know what it is.

AFT President Randi Weingarten checked in. Mulgrew said he hopes federal lifeline is coming.

Weingarten- She is proud of Mulgrew and our members. No words on probably the worst crisis in the USA since World War II. We are all social distancing. We are flying the plane and building it at the same time. Three things AFT is doing nationally.

1-Randi watched the UFT beg for schools to be closed and then there was engagement. Feb 2 we worked with UFT people but President Trump said this wasn't an issue. Governor Cuomo getting some of the best public health advice. Cuomo is performing the best of the governors.

2-Focus on healthcare providers.

3-Issue about the short term and long term economies. Trying to make sure every teacher, para and food service workers still have a job. Third recovery bill has to be about employment, making sure everyone still has a job. Talking to Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi to make sure Title I money comes to schools. We need to be Roosevelt and not Hoover. We need to be Keynsian and not supply side. We got over $1 trillion. The economy has died. Can we ultimately stimulate it by getting people jobs and getting money into state and city coffers. Protect education. Members making AFT and UFT President's job easier by doing the work we are doing. Betsy DeVos giving no advice. Other students limiting high school time to 90 minutes, 60 minutes for middle schools,, a little less for elementary schools. Randi concludes by saying thank you. Says we are the heart and soul. She is grateful.

Mulgrew thanks Randi. Says UFT is her home and she is welcome.

Mulgrew says members can still take religious observance.

Question-D75 Chapter leader asks about religious observance days. Michael Sill answers that April 8 would be a day people would want to take. We are not working April 9 or 10 but people can take Easter Monday or the last two days of Passover. People can go beyond the three personal days and borrow days. We are looking at non attendance (no days taken out of bank) but we are not there yet. Mulgrew comes back to say everything is flexible including days off.

Question-Can't go back to schools. Anyway we can go back to classrooms to create meaningful lessons for students?
Answer- Looking to get protocol in place where people can stay away from each other and still go into schools. Amazing part of this is teachers are looking to get back into schools to see how they can make things better for students.

Question- How will the budget cuts affect us and our students?
Answer-Trying to get a flat budget for maintenance of effort. Our position is schools have to be held safe harmless and central should absorb cuts. After state budget comes city and then federal.

Question-Teaching live with platforms such as Zoom, as lessons have been hacked. What can we do as a union to encourage principals not to use these programs?
Answer-Parents are posting sessions online. It took DOE legal team to come up with rules so parents can't record or distribute what teachers and related service providers are doing. Pull back live stuff but people can use it if they want to. Some are having a ball with this.
Followup-Some are uncomfortable
Answer-We are in student houses. That's good and bad. A month ago, nobody was thinking about this. Now we are becoming experts on the fly.

Question-Teacher in self quarantine. Champion of schools being closed before March 16. Concern that students need schools but the week before when they were talking about sanitizing schools, it was not happening according to CDC standards the week before schools closed. Teacher was reprimanded for making kids wash their hands before they came to classrooms. If we bring people back April 20, we can't jump the gun because we want things back to normal.
Answer-No conversations about opening on April 20. UFT will take legal actions before opening schools. We knew there were cases of COVID-19 but schools were not closing. Taking legal action to make sure there is oversight over the city to make sure they follow the correct rules. Process will be intense about reopening. We must ensure the safety of everyone. Only mayor mentioned opening. Governor's medical advice says that there has to be a strong defense against stopping this so there isn't a recontamination. Need to be safe before reopening. Do legal advocacy and lobbying with parents.
Followup-Wants to be part of group advocating on this issue.

Question-Teachers not expected to provide what is done when we are in buildings. Concerned about observations.
Answer-We are having conversations at the state level about ratings for the year and tenure. In terms of observations, no agreement that says people can be observed remotely. Administrators can join classrooms. Beth Norton is general counsel. She says nothing from DOE on observations. It must be negotiated.

Question-Some parents concerned about grades. No decisions have been made. Is there anything on the table moving forward?
Answer-We will have to have a conversation about norming on a grading policy. Probably out a longer than April 20.
Followup-Union should put out something preemptive.
Answer-Everything has to go through city hall so it has become cumbersome. Things must go through four layers at city hall.
Followup-We should have access to gloves.
Answer-Will note that.

Question-What if the governor wants to suspend summer vacation?
Answer-We are watching that very carefully. April fools joke about that. Parents will support us if that happens.
Followup-What is remote learning supposed to be?
Answer-Building the plane as we're flying in the air. Parents say we're doing too much. Lessons, activities and homework are too much.

Question-Regents, what about the lab hours for science Regents exams? Teachers worried that with remote learning, some students taking it as a vacation. Could Regents be canceled?
Answer-No answer yet. We have to think about graduation requirements. Can't make up lab hours if we don't go back until May 1 or June 1.
Followup-Create virtual programs.
Answer-Will bring up piece with virtual labs to DOE and state.

Question-Social worker asks about tenure.
Answer-DOE originally said no tenure this year. UFT says tenure determinations can still be done this year. Trying to settle this at the state level. Optimistic there.

Question-D75 elementary school says kids need beyond laptops paper and crayons. Can we send art supplies to public school students?
Answer-It's a great idea to give out art supplies. We gave thousands of books to homeless advocates. For spring break week, we should do something about art.

Question-Payroll secretary asks about an outline for secretaries.
Answer-Agreement on student attendance and teacher attendance. Schools having check in period. Teachers will get a form and it asks if you were in attendance for. Form sent to you at a school. Check it. Mike Sill checks in to say it is a school-wide attendance approach. Staff attendance is that on Friday, staff will get an email on Friday and they will check in if they were present or absent each day that week.

Mulgrew-Working on something for secretaries.

Question-Perturbed and overwhelmed because person has no wifi.
Answer-Send an email to UFT to get help.
Followup-What constitutes attendance? What does present mean?
Answer-You were engaged with the students, you were present. Once schedule is set, if you followed it you are present.
Followup-Can kids keep tech?
Answer-Up to DOE but it is a good idea.

Question-Excessing in June or September?
Answer-Excessing rules apply.
Mike Sill-Nothing about the pandemic directly effects excessing.  Reverse seniority order within license. DOE shuffling ATR's around much less than before. It will be a challenge going forward.

Mulgrew-Teletherapy can be done via phone.

Question-Students who are not taking advantage of online learning. We are making phone calls but kids not engaging on the platform. What can be done?
Answer-This is why we changed the attendance taking procedures. Some children who have life challenges while others just not engaging. DOE has to do something beyond telling the schools to do things. Chancellor agreed.

Question-Teaching fellow concerned about certification requirements.
Answer-State will extend period for all different criteria that have to be met for new teachers and other licenses. Deadlines will be extended. All will be held safe harmless.

Question-How many times do we have to reach out to parents for kids not being active?
Answer-DOE has to intervene. Not much teachers and individual schools can do. DOE has other resources to reach out.
Followup-Students partially engaged.
Answer-This is a lot more work than going to school in remote learning. Reach out to the administration to get support to make phone calls while teacher is teaching.
Followup-Parent wants to know about her own child's graduation and a ceremony.
Answer-We don't know.

Thanks everyone. Hopes the DOE doesn't take two more days away. Look to the future, nobody thinks what we have accomplished in the last two weeks would have been possible. Will go down in history. Teachers figured it out. Take time for yourself. Member Assistance Program having group therapy.

Tells people God bless and be safe.

(That's it. Still waiting for a hard question. It sounded like a Delegate Assembly. Any thoughts?)

For anyone who thinks this was free speech and the questions were random, I just heard from three teachers who told me that the questions were screened and if the screener didn't like the question, the member was disconnected.

For example, a special education teacher wanted to know if what Mulgrew said about slowing down was true but an assistant principal wanted much more, what was the teacher supposed to do?

MULGREW'S VIDEO ADDRESS ON GIVING BACK SPRING BREAK

Teachers, parents and students can forget about a break this April from what for many are onerous assignments. I say that as a parent. My kids were up until after 11:00 P.M. last night finishing school work.

The UFT has agreed we need to work instead of having spring break. For those needing justification, here is a link to President Michael Mulgrew's video address.

Mulgrew will hold a telephone meeting at 3:00 pm today. My wife has signed up. We will be listening if our own kids can do their work without us for a bit.

Here is a very interesting part of an article from LoHud (thank you commenter from previous post) on the spring break issue:

For districts to continue instruction during previously negotiated breaks on school calendars, teacher unions must agree to the change, perhaps in exchange for future compensation or time off.

"Districts will have to work with their unions to find a path forward," Albert said.


David Albert is spokesperson for the New York State School Board's Association. From his quote we learn that the UFT had to agree to the change. They can't blame Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Funny how I must have missed in Mulgrew's video what the UFT is getting back in exchange for giving up spring break.

For those who want to fight it, here is a link to a petition to the Governor to get back our break.

You can sign it. Also, everybody's computer can have lots of issues come those days.

I really do not have a problem with teachers who want to check in with the students that week. There should be extra money paid for those who work by posting and grading assignments. While money is not their primary motivation, I very much doubt the first responders are working through the crisis for free.

Note also that AFT President Randi Weingarten will be on WBAI's Talk out of School at 10:00 A.M. this morning.  I will try to tune in but with Camille working hard, I have to teach my two kids.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

STATE CANCELS SPRING BREAK; MULGREW TELLS EXECUTIVE BOARD WE MAY HAVE STAYED OPEN FOR ANOTHER WEEK IN MARCH (Updated with NYSUT memo on spring break)

This comes from CNYCentral:

School leaders across New York are beginning to share news about a change to April Break in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The latest guidance from the State Education Department is that school districts are expected to provide “continuity of learning,” which means continued instruction and distribution of meals during what had long been declared as time off on the school calendars.


Meanwhile, Michael Mulgrew held an Executive Board meeting via phone last evening. Unity-Mulgrew supporter Arthur Goldstein (at least he still publishes his minutes) wrote that Mulgrew said this among many other things:

How many UFT members tested positive?—Couldn’t guess at this point. Will say they are expecting a 40-50% positive rate in NYC, but many have had it and don’t know it. Will be an antibody test, and that will be pivotal. We will make sure when schools open that DOE and DOH may not sabotage their own process.

When we were going to court on Monday to close schools Mayor closed them. We may have stayed open another week. DOH failed to follow own process. We will take action before we return to make sure DOH and mayor’s office understand this is not a game. If there is an order, schools close. That’s it. We will take action before schools open.

What if they don't follow the process? UFT was willing to send us into infected buildings. They needed to protect their dues. Here is a repeat of what was in the Daily News that we copied last week:

UFT officials told union representatives Saturday to "advise against" a planned call out on Monday.

“A coordinated sick-out will be interpreted by the DOE as an organized effort in violation of the Taylor Law and the Triborough Law,” union officials wrote its leaders.

“They will perceive it as a labor action and strike. Each participant is subject to a fine of two days’ pay for every missed day and arrest. However, even worse, the UFT will suffer greatly with fines and penalties. Please advise against.”

How many more UFT members would have been infected had members not taken it into their own hands and called out sick en masse on Sunday, March 15 for the 16th? A  source told me that the Department of Education was considering clearing out the central offices and sending people into the schools for that Monday because so many people were calling out sick.

It was all of you in my opinion, not Mulgrew, that got the schools closed. Parent outrage helped too of course. Mulgrew's job was publicizing the need for closure. UFT members stepped up when the UFT was more interested in their dues than member health.

There is an exchange in the comments section of NYC Educator between Arthur and New Action's Jonathan Halabi that is revealing:

Jonathan:
"When we were going to court on Monday to close schools "

To be clear, the UFT went to court to close schools where there had been positive tests, not to close all the schools.

That distinction may turn out to be quite important. Makes me wonder if someone in our union knew that teachers were walking into unsafe conditions.

Jonathan

Arthur's reply:
It sounds like everyone knew, the city was doing nothing about it, and UFT tried to force their hand. What did I miss?

Jonathan:
If members were walking into dangerous schools, and the UFT knew, I guess they should have said something to the members. Does that seem wrong to you?

Arthur:
What makes you think they didn't? How do you think leadership became aware? Also, I'd be hard pressed to imagine that any school didn't have cases. Almost no one was tested. ALL the schools should've been closed earlier, and by the time they were closed UFT was lobbying for just that. I work in the most overcrowded school in the city, and it's hard for me to imagine we weren't exposed to it for weeks.

Jonathan:
We might assume that it was everywhere, but apparently there were some schools with confirmed cases where they did not have to assume. I don't think either of our schools had confirmed cases.

Look, an easy one. Teacher at Grace Dodge reported to anyone who would listen that he tested positive. Thursday March 12. DoE refused to close the school. But none of the articles mention what the UFT said. I don't understand how that happens.

Arthur:
There are two in my school, as a matter of fact. I'm sure that's a drop in the bucket.

We can guess the UFT knew there were cases so why didn't they tell the members in no uncertain terms to stay out of unsafe buildings? Because they wanted to protect their damn dues money.

How can the current UFT leadership ever be trusted on anything again? Isn't it time for some accountability, for Mulgrew to go?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

TEACHER TURNED OVER LAB REPORTS SHOWING CORONAVIRUS BUT SCHOOL BUILDING STAYED OPEN (Updated with another Sue Edelman article on Dodge)

Please read Sue Edelman's NY Post piece, copied in its entirety below. A pregnant teacher turned in lab results that she tested positive for COVID-19 but the Department of Education kept the school open. Five other staff members then came down sick with the virus. The Chapter Leader is one of them and he blames the mayor and chancellor.

Please answer me this question:

How is the UFT not as culpable as the Department of Education for not telling teachers in the strongest terms possible to stay out of this infected building? 

We pay dues for the Union to protect us. 

Pregnant teacher with coronavirus couldn’t convince NYC to close school

A pregnant teacher who was hospitalized for COVID-19 says the city refused to close her Brooklyn school — even after she turned over positive lab results — while five colleagues also fell ill from the virus.

Frightened for her unborn child, Raquel Iacurto, 32, begged school officials to shut PS 199 Frederick Wachtel in Midwood and warn others about possible contamination, but she only hit roadblocks.

“I had a lab report and a letter from my doctor. It still wasn’t good enough,” the fourth-grade special-ed teacher told The Post.

Despite her pleas, the city Department of Education did not close the school on March 17 — 19 when the entire faculty was mandated to report for training on remote learning. What’s more, students and their parents flooded into PS 199 classrooms on March 19 to pick up books, iPads and laptops.

“All of my kids came in to get their stuff. They pretty much emptied their desks,” Iacurto, who was home sick, said she heard from colleagues.

It takes two to 14 days for symptoms to appear after a person is infected with COVID-19, and the virus can be transmitted in that time, experts say.

The five other staffers who tested positive include Andrew Rosenberg, 43, the union chapter leader, who also pushed for the school’s closure.

Faulting Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Rosenberg charged, “Their complete negligence should be investigated. They insisted on keeping the schools open without acknowledging confirmed cases, and knowingly put tens of thousands of people at risk.”

City Councilman Mark Treyger, the education committee chairman, said he is equally furious.

“They never shut the school down. They told staff to report to a building they knew had a confirmed case of the virus. They put lives on the line, and that is outrageous.”

The Dodge story below which we added just makes the point further:

Where oh where was the UFT?

Bronx school told teachers to hide coronavirus case: ‘Staff can be fired’

By Susan Edelman

March 28, 2020 | 12:59pm

After learning that a teacher in their Bronx school building was sick with the coronavirus, faculty members were told they could be terminated for warning students to stay away, The Post has learned.

“Staff can get fired for telling kids not to come to school,” a supervisor advised, according to a report of a March 15 teleconference with worried teachers at the Grace Dodge campus in Crotona, which houses three schools.

“Very few students will be in tomorrow. It’s not worth risking your job to lower the number,” the supervisor said.

Later that day, Mayor Bill de Blasio finally announced the city would close schools for students, but require all teachers come in for three days of training on remote instruction.

The report, obtained by The Post, raises troubling questions about whether City Hall and the Department of Education failed to fully safeguard staff and students, and tried to limit information released to the public.

A spokeswoman for Anastasia Coleman, the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, confirmed Friday there is an “open investigation” of the DOE’s response to COVID-19 cases.

The SCI received a letter from Queens Councilman Robert Holden calling for a probe after Brooklyn principal Dezann Romain, 36, died Monday of complications from the virus.

Holden also cited a Post report that the DOE kept Brooklyn Technical HS open for 350 staffers while five ailing teachers tested positive.

“I believe this conduct by the Chancellor to be extremely negligent and irresponsible,” Holden states.

The Bronx report reveals that the DOE delayed closing schools when teachers reported their COVID-19 test results, saying they had to wait until the Health Department ordered it.