Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The Union has produced a Question and Answer sheet pertaining to the three days of vacation time that we are surrendering from the midwinter break because we missed days due to super-storm Sandy.  The Q and A explains some of our dilemma but not everything.

Basically, the UFT argument is that we are adhering to the law so we have no choice but to give up three vacation days. A very close look at the situation still reveals that there is some wiggle room that could have been used but was not.

The original calendar had us working 184 days.  Subtract the 4 we were off for Sandy and we are still working the 180 required by state law. (I understand that some schools missed more than four working days but we are talking about the majority of the system.)

-  4

The problem is that there are not enough instructional days in that 180. The state only allows four conference days as part of the 180.  We have already used all four up.  There were the two in September before the kids came in, Election Day and Friday, November 2.  That is the day the city made us come back to school after the storm but the kids stayed home.  We did a great deal of orientation on that day which is allowable according to the state.

If the two remaining conference days (January 28 and June 6) are switched to teaching days, we would pretty much be in compliance with the state regulations.  We would have 180 days with four used as conference days.

Don't let anyone tell you that Regents days and rating day don't count as State aidable.  Here is what the state says:

"Regents Days
Regents examination days, including rating days, count toward fulfilling the 180 required days of instruction, but schools need not take attendance on such days."

The city can still make the argument that the first day when we come back in September should not be an aidable day because we were preparing our rooms and there was only some professional development. I would contend that it should be counted as a conference day since much of the time was spent listening to the rules such as, "There will be no corporal punishment or verbal abuse," and we also did a great deal of professional development. That seems like an orientation to me.

If we concede on the first day, which I would not, then we would have to make up one day.  There is precedent for us working on a legal holiday.  Recall that in 1993 we missed a week because of the asbestos crisis.  November 11, a legal holiday, fell on a Thursday that year.  We taught that day. Would we rather work on MLK Day or Memorial Day than lose most of the mid-winter break?

Even if we take the worst case scenario for most of us, which I would not, and agree that we came to work for nothing on November 2 and September 4, it is still only two days that have to be made up, not three.

As for the hyper-compliance with the law that the UFT is now citing as the reason we must shorten the midwinter break, it doesn't hold up.  Let's look at what the Commissioner's Regulations say concerning aidable days after the Regents: "Session days should not be scheduled after the June Regents examination period."  The original NYC calendar has three days on it, June 26, 27 and 28, where schools are in session after the Regents are done. I guess our contract is out of compliance.  Or, perhaps there is some flexibility here and something called the spirit of the law.

The point of all of this is to say that there could have been negotiations and the calendar could have been altered to preserve vacations, that teachers and students need to recharge, while still providing adequate instructional time.  It could have been worked out if we were dealing with reasonable people. I blame the UFT leaders for not consulting with us before they agreed to something but the main culprits here are the City/DOE who as usual showed complete contempt for both teachers and students.

Since I am trying to be fair in the spirit of the holiday, I will add that the only part the DOE got right in this entire mess was allowing us not to lose sick bank time when people could not get to work after the storm. Does that make up for the rest of this?

Happy Thanksgiving!

The union's Q and A is printed below in its entirety so our leaders can have the last word.

Q & A on making up lost instructional time due to Hurricane Sandy

We hope this Q & A answers your questions about making up the storm days. But at the risk of repetition, there are some things that we want you to know before you read the Q & A. We want to make it clear that we wish this never happened and we wish we didn’t have to make up the days. But making up the days was NOT a choice. It’s the law. We did not have the power to negotiate over if we should make up the days or not. We just discussed which days we MUST make up. This is happening to ALL the affected school districts in New York State. The Commissioner of Education cannot grant a waiver while we still have vacation days. School districts only get a waiver after ALL vacation days are used.
Why did we have to give up part of our midwinter break? There had to be better alternatives.
First of all, we didn’t have the power to negotiate over whether or not to give up days. State law requires that we make up those days. The discussions we had with the DOE were only about which days to use. The state requires a minimum number of 180 instructional days and this school year, we were close to that minimum given how the holidays fell. If this were last year, when we had 186 days in the school calendar, we would have been able to absorb the lost time. We are dealing with this issue because we have the maximum vacation time in this year’s calendar.
The union explored every possible option for making up the time, but state law and regulations would not allow us to convert PD days, get a state waiver, extend the day, come in Saturdays, work on federal holidays or use days at the end of the school year. The time had to come out of the Christmas break, the midwinter break, the spring break and one clerical half-day. There was no other choice.
Why didn’t you consult with the members before agreeing to give up those three vacation days?
Time was of the essence in this situation so members and parents could make plans. Under state law, the days had to come from one of the three breaks. The midwinter break was chosen because it was the only break that did not contain religious observance days.
The state has the power to grant a waiver in the event of a natural disaster. Why didn’t the state issue one in this instance?
By state law, we would have to use up EVERY vacation day in this year’s school calendar before the state Education Department or the State Education Commissioner can grant a waiver allowing New York City to have fewer than 180 days in the school calendar.
How have other school districts around the state dealt with this dilemma?
As of Nov. 20, 13 school districts on Long Island have already agreed to make up the time by taking away all or part of the February break and/or the spring break. Others will be following suit in the days ahead. There weren’t better choices available for any school district.
I already booked a trip to visit my family in California. Do I have to cancel my plane tickets?
We realize that a number of you have already bought airline tickets or cruises for the midwinter break and risk losing a lot of money if you canceled those trips now. At our insistence, the DOE agreed to allow any UFT member who has purchased a vacation before Nov. 20 to go on the purchased vacation and instead deduct those days from his or her CAR bank. They will have to submit proof of purchase. If they have no days in their leave bank, they can either borrow days or take the days as days without pay. These absences won’t be used against those members in any disciplinary hearing or in their end-of-year rating.
Why didn’t the union insist on making up the lost instructional time by using Election Day and Brooklyn-Queens Day for instruction instead of professional development?
Under New York State law, school districts have the right to use up to four days without instruction in the calculation of the number of days to meet the state’s 180-day minimum requirement. The DOE already used four non-instructional days — including Election Day and Brooklyn-Queens Day — in its calculation so converting those days to instruction would not have helped solve the problem.
Why didn’t we make up the time by converting the last few days in June into instructional days or by extending the school year?
State law does not allow you to make up days to meet the 180-day minimum by adding instructional days after the completion of the high school Regents. That means we could not make up the lost time by making changes to the school calendar at the end of June.
Why didn’t we convert Martin Luther King Day or Memorial Day into work days instead?
State law does not permit turning a federal holiday into a school day.
Why didn’t we make up the time by extending the school day?
According to state law, you can’t add to the minimum number of required instructional days by extending the length of the school day.
Why is it that we frequently work more than 180 days per year without getting any days back?
Our contract states that we come back to work the day after Labor Day and up to the last Wednesday in June. The length of the school year depends on where the holidays fall in a given year. This year, every holiday fell on a school day so we were already at nearly the minimum number of required days.
The mayor ordered non-school-based members to report to their work site for the whole week after the hurricane. I walked miles to get to my school. Why do I have to make up that time?
If non-school-based members such as teachers assigned made it to work on any of those four days starting on Oct. 29, they will not have to make up those days that they reported.


Anonymous said...

What about the members who worked in the shelters during and after the storm? How are they compensated?

Anonymous said...

Per session pay

MORE said...

Dear bloggers. MORE (where members of former opposition caucuses ICE and TJC and current members of GEM have all joined forces) is fighting back, we are having meetings, held CTU solidarity actions, are preparing to run in the spring UFT elections, and are building our network of activists and allainaces. This recent sell out is just another example of how the current leadership does not have the best interests of our teachers or the well being of our students at heart. It is another example of backroom deals without any democratic process for rank and file UFTers. The ground swell anger of bloggers and tweeters must direct their energies to helping us organize. We can not hold rallies or meeting without all of you. We cannot have a change of leadership in order to save the UFT and make real educator led reform without all the great people writing on the web. We need all your help, it can be donating as little as $20 to our cause or even helping by joining our media team to publish MORE blogs and press releases. the time is now, the elections are coming soon, we all believe that The UFT can be a force for good, we can be even more powerful than Chicago's CTU becuase we're over 80'000 strong, but MORE cant do it with just a few dedicated members. it would be great if you all could help us get our names and literature out there, but you input and energy would be even more welcome, and to be brutally honest its going to be necessary- the voice of dissent will not survive without more people joining us.
Find us at

Anonymous said...

What is MORE'S position on the three days?