Saturday, May 04, 2019


NY 1's education reporter, Jillian Jorgensen, read our blog post on the calendar. She then emailed and called me the other day about the controversy of schools being open on Monday, December 23 next school year. As we have stated repeatedly over the last week, this is unprecedented as I have been keeping school calendars since 1986.

Jillian interviewed some people at my kids' school, PS 191 in Floral Park. I was one of those interviewed as a parent and a retired teacher. 

Shameless plug. Don't miss the video of the news report. You get to see my kids in it too. 

Tying Up Loose Ends on December 23rd Issue
When Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday, we always were given Monday, December 23rd off but not in 2019 because the UFT was negligent in not covering the calendar issue in contract negotiations. Those talks culminated in a contract in October even though the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) put out a Fact Sheet in September telling local unions that the State Education Department expects new collective bargaining agreements to comply with new minimum instructional days (180) and hours (900/990) regulations.

The issue is not that we don't meet the minimum number of days that the SED requires for instruction. It is that the State Education Department no longer will allow districts to count passing time as instructional time. Therefore, even with 185 days in the calendar for next school year, we are short a few hours of the SED requirements. Ergo, a useless school day on Monday, December 23.

For those who have looked at the calendar and see an easy fix by making Wednesday, September 4 into an instructional day instead of a conference day, I don't think that will work. The SED allows four conference days to count as part of the 180 to be used for instruction. If we take September 3 and 4, add in Election Day plus Brooklyn Queens Day, we have four conference days. Those days are already counted as instructional. Taking one away will still leave us short apparently. There are also two clerical days (January 27 for high schools and June 9 for elementary schools) but I am not sure if they can be used as instructional.

The easiest solution is to just rework the number of hours in our instructional day by adding a few minutes of instructional time and just take away a few minutes from the 155 minutes of extended time done in single session schools each week. This is where the UFT was completely neglectful in collective bargaining. They should have insisted on changes to meet the new SED regulations on hours before agreeing on the 2018 contract. They had plenty of time since the contract was not due until the middle of February 2019. If principals, parents, teachers, students and others continue to put pressure on, the contract could be reopened on the time issue to comply with SED regulations if the New York State Board of Regents don't back off on the passing time issue.

There is plenty of precedent for reopening the UFT contract on the hours of work. When extended time was first brought into the contract in June of 2002, it did not work out well and had to be renegotiated in the fall of 2002 and then again in 2003, 2004 and twice in 2005. Only the second time in 2005 was it tied to a new contract. This was all done with the anti-UFT Chancellor Joel Klein and anti-teacher Mayor Michael Bloomberg in office. The use of the extended time was negotiated again with the current Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina in 2014. The membership approved each change in a referendum. There is no reason why the time can't be renegotiated again under Chancellor Richard Carranza to make everyone happy if the Mulgrew strategy of pleading with the Regents up in Albany to count passing time as instructional time doesn't work. Since the UFT is rightfully making the retention of the cap on charter schools a major priority up in Albany, it would seem like doing this here in NYC might be a preferable way to go.

For those who believe this will only be a one year problem, it will be worse in future years. When Eid and the Lunar New Year come on school days, we will be short days/hours and have to give back more days to meet the minimum instructional hours regulations. UFT members will be working more days for the same amount of money. That is called a contractual giveback. I concur with the commenter who said February Midwinter Recess will be on life support. We are going to have to make up days and hours. It is just a question of which days unless the Regents back off on the new regulations or we renegotiate the work hours portion of the contract.

For those who want to compare us with the corporate sector in terms of the number of days off teachers have, that is an apples to oranges comparison. Compare us with other school districts.

Thanks to one of our commenters from Tuesday's post (see below), we have a substantial list of school districts in New York State that will be closed on December 23, 2019. Another commenter pointed out that the suburban districts generally have contractual calendars with a fixed number of days. Ours is variable based on when Labor Day falls, when the last two weekdays in June fall and when the holidays occur. There are districts that have fewer than the 186 days NYC teachers will be working next year which it looks like the SED is going to make our new minimum. This year's NYC calendar has 183 working days for teachers. That's right, 183 and we have full vacations.

I don't know of any district that has 155 minutes built into each week for Professional Development, Parent Outreach and Other Professional Work. All we need to do is to take some of that time, and move a few minutes into the classroom for instruction and we're good. It's so simple but will only happen if all of us put the maximum pressure on the UFT and DOE.

From a comment on an earlier post on the issue:
December 23rd......Look at how many districts in NYS are off!!!!! This is not just Long Island districts but also every upstate school district I have seen so far...
NYS schools

Off Dec 23

1. Bellmore
2. Chappaqua central
3. Comsweogue
4. Garden city
5. Half hollow hills
6. Hicksville
7. Long Beach
8. Long wood
9. Manhasset
10. Massapequa
11. Middle country
12. Mount Sinai
13. North port east north port
14. North shore
15. Patchogue medford
16. Plainedge
17. Plainview
18. Port washington
19. Rockville center
20. Three village
21. Valley stream district 13

22. Ardsley
23. Brewster central schools
24. Byron Bergen central
25. Canandaigua
26. Cazenovia central
27. Chenango forks
28. Churchville-Chili central school district
29. Clarence central schools
30. Clarkson central schools
31. Cornwall central school district
32. East Syracuse Minoa
33. Greenberg’s eleven Ufsd
34. Guilderland
35. Haldane
36. Hilton central schools
37. Homer central schools
38. Kingston city school district
39. Lakeland central
40. Lansing central
41. Middletown
42. New Hartford
43. Palmyra-Macedon central
44. Pelham public
45. Pembroke central
46. Phelps-Clifton springs
47. Pittsford central
48. Rye union free district
49. Saratoga springs
50. Scarsdale
51. Scotia- glenville central
52. Starpoint central
53. Troy
54. Valhalla ufsd
55. Victor central schools
56. Voorheesville central
57. Washingtonville central
58. Webster
59. West genesee central
60. Williamson central
61. Williamsville central62. Yonkers

63. Capital region Boces
64. Nassau Boces


Anonymous said...

You appear to have found your life's calling.

Anonymous said...

We don't need the clerical day in June. The work that is done on that day can be done in lieu of PD and OPW for a couple of weeks. Restore it to either a half day or full instructional day.

James Eterno said...

I am not certain if this one already counts. There are easy fixes if there is a will. Come on folks, put on the public pressure please.

James Eterno said...

Is my life calling as a parent or an activist? Or an obsessive compulsive calendar saver?

Bronx ATR said...

Great interview and lovely kids. Mulgrew’s words make it appear that he’s with the rank and file in wanting the day off - which belies his prior knowledge and his inaction in fighting it and informing the rank and file. This is very telling in that it shows indifference and/or ineptitude. James, you should have put a hot poker on that leech via that news channel.

Anonymous said...

I am might not be a smart man, but if we are working more days than in the past shouldn't we be getting paid more?

Johnny Change said...

Good job. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

James, there was no problem in making the clerical half day a full instructional day back in 2013 in the aftermath of Sandy.

I just find this frustrating, and will affect us in the upcoming school year and next. In 2020-2021, we don't get Rosh Hashahah, but we do get Eid al Fitr and lunar new year, so that's essentially a wash. January 2nd is a Friday, and our last day of school is Monday, June 28th (which isn't quite as annoying IMO). I agree with keeping the pressure on, because this is a two year issue.

We need to get the parents involved, because their voices carry more weight.

James Eterno said...

If the clerical days can be turned into instructional days, then there is an easy solution. We will try to find out.

I just think long term we have to consider adjusting the teaching time schedule to make sure we meet with the state regs every year.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean we will have to make up any snow day as well?

James Eterno said...

Don't know.

Anonymous said...

We have 4 snow days built in, right? Sounds like overkill for nyc. If we make it three snow days do we get 12/23 back?

James Eterno said...

Don't understand that either.

Anonymous said...

People are concerned about getting a letter in you file if you call out and don't have a doctor's note. We have self treated days. The DOE gives us 10 sick days. Nowhere in the contract does it say you can't call out on certain days, so don't worry about a letter in your file. They are just trying to scare us.

James Eterno said...

Granted we have 10 self treated days but if someone calls in sick and posts pictures from Aruba that would be a problem.