Wednesday, May 19, 2021


 Gothamist has a piece on NYC's school reopening for the fall.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said repeatedly that his goal is to get all students back into school buildings next fall. But some educators worry there won’t be enough physical space or staff to welcome back all their students if officials stick with current social distancing requirements. 

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools, saying students should be at least three feet apart in classrooms, and six feet apart when eating. The guidance also calls for six feet apart for older students in communities where transmission is high. 

The mayor adopted the recommendations for New York City’s schools, requiring three feet apart for elementary age students and six feet apart for middle and high school students. All students must also be six feet apart from adults and from each other when eating. The move allowed more children to opt-in for in-person learning, and has enabled five days of in-person instruction in many schools. 

But more than 60 percent of students continue to be remote, allowing for more space in typically crowded classrooms, but that almost certainly won’t be the case next year.

How to solve the problem? Simple, find more space to finally lower class sizes that have not been reduced in the UFT Contract in over 50 years.

In terms of space, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wrote in The Atlantic last week that her union is committed to all schools reopening fully in the fall—with safety measures in place, including social distancing. She recommended school district leaders start searching for additional space now. 

Leonie Haimson, director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters, said the city could free up additional space by moving pre-K programs out of school buildings and into community based organizations or pre-K centers. She said the city could also use shuttered Catholic schools to create more capacity. “If you’re going to do social distancing, you need space,” she said. 

Haimson, who has spent decades fighting for smaller classes, said reducing the number of students per class is all the more crucial now, both because of safety and the need to support students academically and psychologically following the health crisis and a year and a half of remote learning. She said the city also has the resources to reduce class sizes: the state finally increased funding for schools according to a longstanding court mandate and the city has federal stimulus money to invest. 

“It’s just no brainer,” she said. “It really is a golden opportunity to finally provide kids with the learning conditions they have needed and deserved for a generation,” she said. 

In Albany, State Senator Robert Jackson and Assembly Member Joann Simon have proposed legislation requiring New York City to create a plan to reduce class sizes, starting this fall. 

I personally feel the proposed legislation is not nearly strong enough as it gives the city-Department of Education time to put out another five-year plan to lower class sizes. Since schools are fully funded for the fall, student enrollments are down, there is a need for some social distancing as elementary school children probably won't be eligible for COVID vaccinations until after school starts, and we don't know if COVID will come back, now is the time for the UFT to demand lower class sizes across the board.

Contractually, according to Article 8L, there is supposed to be a labor-management committee established to lower class sizes in all divisions if Campaign for Fiscal Equity funds are available. The money is here but you hear crickets from the UFT on class sizes. Why? Their five-point plan only mentions class size reduction in 100 needy schools. Every school needs lower class sizes, not just 100. It's been over fifty years since class sizes have been reduced in the UFT Contract. Money that would not have to be taken from raises is available. Push for it now. 


Anonymous said...

The time is now to end the silly mask wearing, which is nothing less than abusive to children.

Anonymous said...

What a stupid waste of mind space james. I taught NYC for 32 years and from year one to the end always a promise from the uft to lower class size.

Anonymous said...

It can be done if we would demand it.

Anonymous said...

Not happening! Not enough money! Not enough space! Administrators will say you can have up to 34 in a class according to the contract, so unless it is in the next contract, don't keep your hopes up.

unknown said...

I dont know if anyone else has experienced this or agrees, but this post is super important. Being an in person teacher this year and having 14 kids in each class has been eye opening. The lack of distraction has allowed kids that normally struggle to start to shine. I would say all students have benefitted and are learning in a way they did not prior to this year. In my opinion this is the answer to closing the achievement gap. 14 is extreme I get it. But 18-20? I know it seems pipe dreamish but I'm pretty convinced that if we really want to affect the most positive change in nyc schools... this is the way.

Anonymous said...

Ain't gonna happen, ever. Even with the federal school stimulus money, there is not enough cash to reduce class size citywide. As mentioned above, a change to our contract would be needed to reduce class size. Anything other than that will not matter. Yes, there will be a reduced class size in 100 targeted schools next year but the year after that those schools will be back to the same old scene.

David Suker said...

I taught GED for years and 12-14 was the ideal amount of students for at risk kids. More than that it was unmanageable and students didn’t get the required attention and less than that it felt like no one cared enough to come to school. It will never happen, but that’s what it would take to close the achievement gap. Now let’s see how billions of dollars will be wasted in the next couple of years. I hope someone will be able to pad their pension because I don’t have the energy to! đŸ˜‚

Anonymous said...

Are high school classes in session during Regents?
Are we to report on Juneteenth ( Observed Friday June 18th?
Are we to report on June 3rd PD?

TJL said...

I'm not holding my breath but if we can have MOAs that modify the contract mostly in the City's favor then we can have an MOA reducing class sizes by, let's say, 10%. That would get us to 31 in HS and 30 in JHS. Not ideal but a start.

Anonymous said...

For the Renewal schools the first initiative should have been to have smaller classes in those schools which has proven to be effective not altering curriculum and sending us consultants to do useless pds. But again, if it makes sense the DOE won't do it.

Anonymous said...

TJL... what would you give back to get smaller classes? I don’t want to give back anymore.

Anonymous said...

Did the uft help your wife when Kayode was abusing her? He did the same at Jefferson Campus.

Anonymous said...

The DOE will not lower class sizes as long as the DOE is a patronage mill for a crony Mayor with
communist ideology driving his social justice agenda.

Anonymous said...

I think there is plenty of money to reduce class size if education was the true goal. The NYC DOE is a tremendous corrupt money pit that wastes billions. I think the true goal of the DOE is to (1) provide high salaried administrative DOE jobs for obviously unqualified and inexperienced people and (2) to make sure students are uneducated and dependent on the government so that as adults these same students will vote for the same corrupt politicians that gave them all the free passes in the first place. The DOE is just a very expensive joke.

Who in their right mind could spend $34,000,000,000+ a year and have have an overwhelming majority of the schools be such disastrous failures? The DOE could easily produce the same failure for half the price!

waitingforsupport said...

Agree with you on your class size point David

James Eterno said...

Yes, the UFT helped my wife. She's fine.

Anonymous said...

Really? You said Mulgrew didn't do shit about him and many others. Top grievance? 13%? LOL.

The story of Rosemarie Jahoda, Interim Acting Principal at Townsend Harris High School, is now well documented in the press and on the blogs. Jahoda was an assistant principal at Bronx High School of Science who had 20 teachers in the Math Department file a harassment complaint that was substantiated by an arbitrator but rejected by the Department of Education's Office of Labor Relations. What a great background to be promoted to principal. Jahoda is upsetting the entire school community in her new job at Townsend Harris.

She is not a rogue principal. Queens has two other interim acting high school principals who deserve to be publicly blasted as they too are creating extremely hostile teaching and learning environments in their buildings.

Kayode Ayetiwa is the Interim Acting Principal at Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School. For full disclosure let the record show that my wife Camille is an English teacher at Humanities as well as being the UFT Delegate. Each evening Camille comes home with another horror story of Ayetiwa or two of his assistants AP Moussa or Stergiopolous disrespecting staff members and/or students and getting away with it.

Teachers are working five or six periods in a row in violation of the UFT Contract; administrators are entering classes and berating teachers in front of students; observations with mostly 1's and 2 ratings on the Danielson scale are given out with regularity to many of the veteran teachers; bulletin boards are micromanaged beyond belief as are substitute lesson plans.

When Camille and Chapter Leader Lowena Howard complain to the Principal, he does nothing. Camille has filed many APPR complaints, grievances - including several for union busting - and is appealing for arbitration over last year's ineffective rating that was done by Stergiopolous and the previous principal Rosemarie Omard.

In response to grievances or APPR complaints, Ayetiwa either ignores them or he goes well beyond the time limits specified in the contract. When he finally hears grievances, he denies all of them, no matter how obvious the contractual violation, while telling Camille to sign his decisions as if she agrees with them. In one hearing, Ayetiwa actually sat there and laughed through the entire conference as Camille meticulously exposed numerous contractual violations. No resolutions to the violations are ever sought by the principal even though Chapter Leader Howard continuously asks how the issues can be resolved.

To their credit, the UFT has taken all of Camille's grievances to the Chancellor's level and she is one of the 13% going to arbitration on her rating. However, the central UFT refuses to do anything to publicly expose Ayetiwa or any principal from hell. They leave it up to the school. AFT President and former UFT President Randi Weingarten used to say the UFT would come down on abusive administrators like an 800 pound gorilla. The gorilla must be asleep these days or maybe sleeping with the administration (figuratively that is).

Anonymous said...

Harsh publicity is what is needed to reign in the likes of Jahoda and Ayetiwa, particularly since we are entering a mayoral election year and Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to be held accountable for keeping former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's appointments at the DOE essentially in place. de Blasio and his Chancellor Carmen Farina have shown virtually no respect for us as they continue the war on teachers started by the previous administration.

Townsend Harris and Humanties and the Arts are not alone. This past week another story came to us about a different school with an interim acting principal abusing people. We heard from both staffers and other members of the school community at the High School of Applied Communications in Long Island City. There is video of a student walkout last week protesting new principal Michael Weinstein's policies. The UFT knows about it and had a presence at the protest but again there is public silence from the union. There is another new principal in a different school who we have heard negative reports on that we are attempting to confirm.

When there are multiple schools in the same superintendency that all have the same issue, isn't it time for our union to do something more than just having behind the scenes conversations with the Superintendent while telling members to file grievances? Add in the veteran principals such as Jose Cruz at Math/Science, Howard Kwait at Bowne and Namita Dwarka at Bryant who have been abusing staff with impunity for years and it adds up to a real crisis. Complaints have also come in multiple times concerning two of the principals at the building where I used to work, Jamaica High School. Jamie Dubei and Carlos Borrero are two principals who have been able to get away with problematic behavior for a long time. Dubei has had almost a complete turnover of staff since the school started in 2008 while Borrero is the subject of a lawsuit that would have gotten a teacher removed from a school in about five seconds.

Much more needs to be done by the UFT to expose these bully principals. The Chancellor and Mayor need to know we are not going to stand for this a second longer.

Instead, AFT President Randi Weingarten will soon be holding a fundraiser for Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection at AFT Headquarters. Randi might want to consider what her members are facing here in Queens High Schools under Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina before raising big bucks for the Mayor.

As for UFT President Michael Mulgrew, I have been to three Delegate Assemblies this fall and I haven't heard Mulgrew talking much about abusive principals. Mulgrew calls NYC schools a model for the country. He obviously doesn't see or want to see what is going on in many of the schools he is responsible for.

James Eterno said...

You asked if the UFT helped my wife 5:13 and 8:28.

Here is what I said at the time of that comment in 2017:

"To their credit, the UFT has taken all of Camille's grievances to the Chancellor's level and she is one of the 13% going to arbitration on her rating."

As for confronting abusive administrators, the UFT falls way short.

Anonymous said...

The ideal size of a class is 12-16. You can do a lot with that number.

Over 25 kids can be tough.

One class I have now in person has 3 kids. All 3 are very shy and don’t say much. It’s torture.

Anonymous said...

546 wtf? you're spun. you should look into education systems in these places that actually have/had that ideology. the system is completely different, and much more beneficial to children. start with Cuba.
but to think DeBlasio or any US politician has a communist ideology is crazy talk. get real. they're just liberals and conservatives, two sides of the same coin.

Anonymous said...

546. Don’t listen to commie sympathizers who think Cuba is a role model for anything. Talk to some Cuban Americans. They’ll tell you about Cuban Communist horrors.

waitingforsupport said...

@1:52 pm..key word "some". Some Cubans love Cuba.

Anonymous said...

152. yes, making up ridiculous stories is common of reactionary expats. there are plenty of studies one can read through to easily counter the garbage anecdote based narratives that come out of Miami.

Anonymous said...

No one who escaped communist Cuba or the children of those who escaped loves it. It’s a leftist fantasy to believe it. Anyone who thinks there is anything good about communism, please, stay in nyc. The rest of us are living peaceful American lives while proudly displaying our flags. Better dead than red is what you’ll hear up north.