Tuesday, March 31, 2020


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:

"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.


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?

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?

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.

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.

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


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.

Friday, March 27, 2020


There are two pieces in the media today on the coronavirus being present in NYC schools before they were closed and this being covered up by the Department of Education.

What is noticeably missing from the Post and the Politico articles is something updated from the official United Federation of Teachers. The last we heard from the Union on these topics was on Tuesday when the UFT released a statement saying the DOE did not follow protocols.

This blog has been furious with the UFT for letting members go into buildings to work when the Union had knowledge that schools were unsafe. Mulgrew and company put the rank and file in peril because they were afraid that the Taylor Law's prohibition against strikes would be invoked and they would lose automatic dues checkoff. Money before members. The anti-strike provisions were not going to be invoked during a pandemic if the UFT told members not to report to work in schools. Even if the anti-strike law was implemented by the DOE, I have a question for President Mulgrew: 

Would you rather lose dues or put the health of members at risk? 

The UFT answered that their dues are more important than member health by NOT telling members in no uncertain terms that buildings were not safe so don't enter them. 

We have been mulling over some ideas as to how to move ahead in a pro-union, anti leadership way.

From the NY Post:

 Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza dismissed accusations that he sought to “cover up” coronavirus cases — claiming Friday they were without merit because they were made to The Post.

Rather than address the issue on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” he suggested that the on-the-record comments made by a union chapter leader were to be ignored.

“Number one, it’s The Post,” he said, referring to United Federation of Teachers chapter leader Nate Bonheimer’s concerns.

Bonheimer said five Brooklyn Tech teachers called him to report that they had tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month when schools were still open.

Rather than shutter the 6,000-student campus, the DOE instead kept the doors open after noting that the building had been cleaned.

“They did not alert the people who needed to know the most to protect themselves, their families and everyone else they came into contact with,” Bonheimer said.

Carranza said Bonheimer and his colleagues did not have the standing to assess his performance because they are unable to appreciate the demands of his position.

At the end, Carranza added that schools are not likely to open again this school year.

From today's Politico NY piece:

Educators and advocates are raising alarms over the city’s decision to stop publicly confirming positive cases of the coronavirus in school communities — as even with schools closed, teachers, parents and students may be left in the dark over their exposure to the potentially fatal disease.

They point to a lack of clear protocols from the Department of Education for schools where staffers tested positive, and expressed frustration the city has not revealed the number of DOE employees who contracted the virus. Even after schools were closed, teachers and other staff reported to school for three days from March 17 to 19 for remote learning training.

City Council education chair Mark Treyger said the DOE has been leaving it up to individual principals but cautioned that was not enough to safeguard school communities.

“A number of teachers are primary caretakers for their parents who are elderly, who are in the high-risk category and they have been self-quarantining at home with their family this past week,” Treyger told POLITICO. “They need to know immediately if they've been exposed to the virus. Many of our children are medically fragile, many of our children have special needs.”

Dez-Ann Romain, principal of Brooklyn Democracy Academy in Brownsville, died from complications stemming from the coronavirus. Ronda Phillips, principal of Kappa V High School — in the same building — has been hospitalized, along with two DOE employees in the building.

Treyger called for an investigation, and the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers union, suggested the city’s Health Department did not follow protocols for all schools.

“In the week leading up to system-wide school closure, we had been given information that led us to believe that the New York City Department of Health was not following the school closing protocol issued by the state for COVID-19,” the union said in a statement this week.

De Blasio denied the claim when asked Thursday.

“I have no evidence whatsoever that those guidelines were not followed in the past. If anyone wants to provide me evidence, I'll look at it," he said. "I believe those guidelines were followed properly when we were in a whole different reality a couple of weeks ago.”

Teachers and other staffers said they were exposed to the coronavirus at a number of large high school campuses, including the Grace Dodge Educational Campus in the Bronx, the Jamaica High School campus in Queens, the Grand Street campus in Williamsburg and the Alfred E. Smith campus in the Bronx.

Before the city moved to close the school system, the DOE publicly announced individual schools with cases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said any school where a student tests positive should be closed for at least 24 hours. The mayor said the city stopped confirming cases due to the large number.

The DOE said that when school was in session, it immediately notified communities when there was a confirmed case by the Health Department and closed the school, which it said happened once, noting they followed state Health Department guidance. Self-reported positive cases, they said, depend on an individual rather than a centralized database.

The education department said the state told them the school closure guidance doesn’t apply after schools close, but said it continued to deep-clean schools daily, including enrichment centers and meal hubs.

“Out of an abundance of caution, when school was in session, we closed six more sites that had self-reported cases, and we continue to support schools in notifying their communities of a self-reported positive case,” DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot said in a statement. “Though as of March 13, the last day of school, the City’s Health Department advised that a positive case in the school or workplace environment did not put others at higher risk than did anywhere else in the city.”

Since the disease has a 14-day incubation period when symptoms may not emerge, many are arguing that guidance is putting people at risk.

Treyger said he informed the DOE of a pregnant teacher at P.S. 199 in Brooklyn who was hospitalized. (The DOE said they did not have confirmation from the state Health Department). She notified her principal, who notified DOE Central, which did not close the building. The school building reopened, and five additional teachers tested positive.

And before the city closed schools, Treyger said the principal of Abraham Lincoln High School on Coney Island learned a student tested positive. The principal notified DOE Central, which said the building has to remain open.

Teachers at the Grace Dodge campus, which has three co-located schools, said a staffer self-ported a positive case March 12. In a March 18 letter, New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the building was disinfected but that the schools would not be closed.

“It was after they made the call to close all schools that they finally acknowledged that Grace Dodge had had a positive case prior,” a teacher at the school, who requested anonymity, said, noting teachers have taken up the responsibility to inform students and families.

The Politico article then cites the MORE Caucus asking the DOE for an apology for not telling us there was coronavirus in buildings. MORE also wants the days put back in sick banks if members took off and something to address inequalities in outer borough healthcare.

Note to MORE, if the DOE admits they are wrong, they are subjecting themselves to some major lawsuits. That is my guess as to why the UFT has suddenly stopped yelling on this issue. They know they are guilty too.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Here is a link to the Department of Education's Frequently Asked Questions that I believe the UFT signed off on. As usual, we are happy to help with anyone who is in trouble but we don't know anything more than what is in this Q & A which I read through and of course the contract.

Some notable questions and answers:
Q: What are the work hours for school based staff?
A: Employees should not be asked to work outside of the contractual work day (be flexible). 
Working remotely necessitates using time differently from a traditional period by period school day.
In consultation with school administration, school staff must use professional discretion to determine how to work remotely.
Work that is absolutely necessary and normally done in single session schools during PD, Parent Engagement, and Other Professional Work should be embedded within the flexible work time for employees.
Work that is done during faculty and department conferences in multi-session schools should be similarly embedded.

Q: Can a school supervisor require a staff member to report to school to discuss pedagogical issues and/or performance concerns?
A: No. Under the circumstances all conferences should be conducted remotely. School supervisors have the discretion to determine the date/time for the conference and should utilize available technology to conduct the conference.  To the extent possible anticipate the documents that may be pertinent to the conversation and share in advance with the staff member. UFT members who are subject to disciplinary conference retain the right to have union representation which may include the chapter leader or other UFT representative in the virtual conference. Prior to resorting to discipline, school supervisors should be mindful that our staff, students and parents may be caring for others, sharing technology resources and/or be battling illness themselves. 

Q: Can teachers be required to give administrators access to their online learning
platform (Google Classroom or other)?
A: If  asked  by  an  administrator, teachers  must provide access to their online learning 
platform. The change of the instructional delivery model to a remote learning paradigm 
does not change the ability of a supervisory staff member to “walk into a classroom.”
Supervisors  should  provide  guidance  and  feedback,  support,  and  pass  along  best 
practices  that  are  observed  in  the  various  modes  of  remote  learning
as  soon  as  is practicable.
Teachers must know when the supervisor is “present” in the classroom.

Q: How are teachers being evaluated this year?
A: No decisions regarding evaluations, including observations, have been made at this time. Until further notice, the focus should be on providing supportive, non-evaluative feedback.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


This is from Politico:

New York City's teachers union said Tuesday the city health department put educators and students at risk, prior to the city's system-wide shutdown, by not evenly applying a closure policy for individual schools when a staff member contracted the coronavirus.

The union issued the statement in response to the death of Dezann Romain, principal of Brooklyn Democracy Academy in Brownsville, who died this week from apparent complications stemming from the coronavirus. She was 36 years old. Another principal in the same building — Ronda Phillips, principal of Kappa V High School — has been hospitalized.

"Our heart goes out to the family, students and colleagues of Dezann Romain," the union said in a statement Tuesday night. "We will not comment on this particular tragedy at this time. However, in the week leading up to system-wide school closure, we had been given information that led us to believe that the New York City Department of Health was not following the school closing protocol issued by the state for COVID-19."

Further down:

Before Mayor Bill de Blasio closed schools, the state issued a directive to close any school where a staffer or student had tested positive for the virus for 24 hours, while the city conducted a deep clean and tracked anyone who may have come into contact with the infected person.

The union said it was told all final decisions for individual school closings — along with medical investigations and notification of affected members of the school community — rested with the city's Health Department. With its statement, the UFT suggested that did not happen with all schools in which someone had contracted the virus.

"For these reasons, the UFT was prepared to go to court to shut the schools, but stopped when city officials finally listened to reason and ordered the schools closed," the union said.

The Union knew buildings were unsafe but the best they could do was threaten a lawsuit. They told us to keep going into buildings where coronavirus was known to be present.

In fact, when members were calling out sick on Sunday, March 15 for Monday because they believed schools were unsafe, the UFT was discouraging them.

The Daily News published a message from UFT officials sent to District Representatives Saturday, March 14. This message was sent after the time the UFT now admits they knew buildings were unsafe. They sent it out because members said they were going to be absent en masse.

But UFT officials are privately warning members against that move, arguing it could be interpreted as a violation of state labor law, according to a message reviewed by the Daily News.

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.”

The UFT told the truth when they said that it was even worse that they would suffer greatly with fines and penalties. This blog noted that the Taylor Law prohibition against strikes was not going to be invoked in the middle of a pandemic.

The UFT declared that its dues are more important than member lives when they were willing to send dues-paying members into what literally were toxic buildings. Those buildings were just as unsafe last week when the Union didn't stop members from working in them on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

I won't forget, nor will my wife. Neither should you.

Please Mulgrew/Unity Caucus apologists, tell me how I am wrong. I would really like to be corrected.

Monday, March 23, 2020


The two documents below were sent my way yesterday. The first is the email to day-to-day substitutes declaring they are "essential" employees. These subs are UFT members who have no health benefits or access to unemployment pay but they are being asked to go on the front line to take care of the children of first responders who can't obtain childcare. If they do not go, no pay as far as I know.

The second document is an email from the Chancellor to principals. Note that Carranza says there is teacher flexibility in figuring out if students have interacted with the school.

I would not take what is stated overly seriously. If your computer goes down or you have to share it with your own kids for their schooling, there is only so much you can do. Are you folks really worried about getting a letter for your file now? You can go crying to the UFT all day and all night. Last week, the Union should have told UFT members that school buildings were not safe so do not enter them. Do you really think that a union that didn't have the guts to tell you to avoid going into unsafe buildings has the power to stop DOE micromanagement?

Interact carefully with the students (watch what you say). Other than that, just show you care. Your teaching license more than likely does not have on it that you are a tech specialist. Do your best. There are so many bigger problems to concern ourselves with now. We are in the middle of a pandemic.

From Chalkbeat NY:

A Brooklyn principal has died due to complications of the coronavirus, the first known death of a public school staff member connected to the epidemic, the principals union confirmed Monday evening.

The principal, Dezann Romain, ran the Brooklyn Democracy Academy, according to the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. 

“It is with profound sadness and overwhelming grief that we announce the passing of our sister, CSA member Dezann Romain, Principal of Brooklyn Democracy Academy, due to complications from Coronavirus,” the union wrote in a statement. 

Thoughts and prayers go out for Ms. Romain and her family.


Dear Substitute,

Your cooperation and flexibility during this sensitive time is appreciated.

Please note the following important information:

- Substitute staff are considered "Essential" so the Governor's Executive Order does not apply to you in regards to staying home - you are needed to support other essential workers

- If a site has an overage of staff and another site in the area (district and/or borough) has a need, you may be asked, on a voluntary basis, to change assignments. This could include same-day movement. This would be VOLUNTARY only.

- If there is a need for additional staff in the late shift, you may be asked if you can stay later. Again, time other than what you have been scheduled for would be based on a need at that site. However, it is not mandatory that you work for more than what you have been scheduled. If you are asked to work additional hours and you choose to do so, you WILL be additionally compensated for the extra time.

- If you report to an assignment and student turnout is lower than expected, you will NOT be turned away and you will be guaranteed work for the full week as long as you report to the assigned location.

Dear Principals,

Thank you for your leadership and your commitment to our students and families during this unprecedented time. We understand that transitioning to a remote learning environment has presented unique challenges and we appreciate the hard work your teams have put in to ensure a seamless transition for our students and families. As we prepare to implement remote learning today, we wanted to offer guidance about the system for monitoring student engagement and interaction, which will constitute attendance during this period.

The tracking and follow-up of attendance is one of the Department of Education’s most important responsibilities as it relates to the safety, welfare, and educational success of the students of New York City. Chancellor’s Regulation A-210 sets forth standards for school attendance programs and establishes the policies for school attendance services, attendance reporting, and follow-up procedures. As we transition to remote learning, it is critical that we maintain regular contact with students to ensure they can engage in meaningful ways in their new online learning environments and to support their general well-being.

As shared in the initial guidance on this topic provided in the Guidance and Expectations document, schools are responsible for having a mechanism for tracking student engagement and interaction. Schools must develop attendance policies and procedures that are designed to ensure regular student engagement and that address attendance-related objectives and responsibilities, including, but not limited to: maintaining accurate records of student attendance; monitoring patterns of student absence; and using effective intervention strategies to improve student engagement/attendance.

Our central team has been hard at work creating a solution for schools that will enable your teachers to monitor daily student engagement using a familiar online system, STARS Classroom, that is easily accessible from home and that is simple to use. We are proud that we were able to make the decision to proceed with the system in partnership with your union and incorporate their advocacy surrounding your concerns.

The Student Remote Interaction Tracker will be available starting Thursday, March 26, 2020, for all teachers to get a look at the system. The start date for citywide implementation will be March 30, 2020. We will be asking groups of schools and teachers to provide us feedback over the course of the week to gain feedback to ensure a successful roll-out. We hope that the initial week will allow us to make appropriate adjustments and revisions that reflect your feedback.

As schools transition to using this tool, we ask that you make note of the following:
To make the tracking of this information easier, the functionality to collect student interactions was developed in a web-based system you already use: STARS Classroom.
For the immediate future, schools will not have the ability to track daily or period attendance in ATS using the normal procedures they would follow when schools are in session. Starting today, Monday, March 23, days will remain on the ATS calendar. This will allow you and your staff members to complete necessary transactions (e.g. capturing interventions (ILOG), running reports, entering student discharges, etc.).

There is flexibility for teachers to work with their school leaders and teams in defining what daily meaningful contact with students looks like. Student interaction can include but is not limited to:
Student submission of an assignment
Student completion of an online assessment
Documented student participation in an online forum, chat log, or discussion thread
Student-initiated email or responses to teacher email
Phone communication with teacher or other school staff
Other evidence of participation as determined by the principal

Please ensure that staff monitor the daily attendance of students with child welfare involvement and take appropriate action in response to the unexplained absence of such students in a remote learning environment. We must remain connected to our most vulnerable students as we transition to remote learning.

We will share more information, guidance, and training materials for using the Student Remote Interaction Tracker feature on Wednesday, March 25.

The system will be available for use beginning Thursday, March 26. The start date for citywide implementation will be March 30, with all schools asked to begin using the feature on STARS Classroom on this date.

It is important to note that STARS Classroom will only capture interactions with K-12 students. We are working to ensure that there will be a system for capturing the interactions between teaching staff and 3-K and Pre-K families and children. Additional guidance on students under 5 is forthcoming.

Thank you for all you do to support our students and families as we continue on this journey together. It is important that you take care of yourself, your family, and your teams as we get ready for this transition. Please continue to share your questions and concerns about remote learning guidance and contact us at remotelearning@schools.nyc.gov for more information. Additionally, continue to monitor the InfoHub Coronavirus Communications page for ongoing updates.

In unity,


Sunday, March 22, 2020


I read Sue Edelman's Saturday NY Post article very closely while getting angrier and angrier as she detailed multiple schools that were unsafe but the Department of Education kept them open for staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The title tells most of the story: "‘Blood on their hands:’ Teachers say de Blasio and Carranza helped spread coronavirus"

One after another, sick Brooklyn Technical High School teachers called union chapter leader Nate Bonheimer last week, to tell him they’d tested positive for COVID-19.

By Friday, five of them had shared the devastating news. But after being notified about each one, the city Department of Education still ordered the 6,000-student school’s 350 staffers to show up for work last week, saying the building had been cleaned.

“The DOE did not close the school for any of the cases,” said Bonheimer, who worries that inaction exposed others to the dreaded infection.

The city failed to follow a March 9 directive by the state Education Department that “requires an initial 24-hour closure, in order to begin an investigation to determine the contacts that the individual may have had within the school environment.”

Brooklyn Tech was not alone.

At the Grand Street campus in Williamsburg, which houses three high schools, a teacher returned from a trip to China over the February break. Despite reports of the outbreak, the teacher did not self-quarantine, but returned to teach kids in all three schools Feb. 26 through Feb. 29, a staffer said.

The teacher then became sick and stopped working. The school was not closed, and employees were not notified, insiders said.

Up to four other staffers have since become sick, they said.

The teacher did not return a message, but a relative said Friday, “He’s very ill, and so is his entire staff,” before declining to comment further.

Last Thursday — after Grand Street teachers worked three days in a row in the building — the principals sent a joint letter saying that “members of our school community” had self-reported positive COVID-19 tests. It did not say how many members or give other details.

And another school building:

At the Jamaica High School campus, which houses three schools, Carlos Borrero, principal of the High School for Community Leadership, blasted a robocall to parents the Sunday before schools closed for students, reporting the school had “one confirmed” case and another “preliminary positive” case identified over the prior two days — while students attended. One was a teacher, Borrero said.

Asked about the announcement last week, the DOE would not give details.

Still another:

At the Grace Dodge High School campus in the Bronx, a teacher self-reported a positive COVID-19 test on Thursday, March 12, staffers said. The DOE did not close the school the next day, when kids still attended before de Blasio announced that all schools would close for students starting March 16.

Teachers received a form letter from Carranza confirming a staffer had tested positive, saying the building was “disinfected.” The school was not closed while teachers worked last week.

“We asked when students and parents would get notification, and they still haven’t gotten it,” a teacher said. The DOE had no comment.

And still another:

At the Bronx’s Alfred E. Smith campus which houses three high schools, teachers reported for three days of training on remote-teaching to begin next week.

“Ten minutes before the end of the last day, the union rep walked through the hall and said, ‘You’re free to leave,’” a teacher said. She asked why.

As custodians arrived in Hazmat suits, the union rep replied, “There’s coronavirus in the building.”

We know of three other Queens High School buildings that house seven high schools that had the same situation with people in the buildings possibly or definitely testing positive for coronavirus. Only one principal from these schools that we are aware of told teachers to work remotely. My educated guess is there were plenty of other schools where someone inside the building tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. Here is another example from Queens.

We completely agree with the conclusion of a DOE employee quoted in the Post piece:

"Some DOE employees believe de Blasio and Carranza deliberately kept the lid on the COVID-19 cases popping up, putting kids and families at risk.

'The blood is on their hands,' one said."

Blame Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio all you like. But what about the supposedly powerful UFT and its leader Michael Mulgrew?

The best we could get out of the Union for the Post story was this: “Unfortunately, the DOE suspended keeping track of positive cases.” That was from a teacher citing a UFT official. It was not an official UFT quote. On the Chalkbeat NY story on Dodge, the UFT silence says it all:

 The union United Federation of Teachers did not respond to requests for comment.

Thousands of UFT members placed in jeopardy in multiple school buildings last week and the Union is suddenly shy. That is unacceptable. Did the UFT put anything out in writing?

All the UFT had to do was say this: STAY HOME!

This blog was all over this last week as UFT members were reaching out to me asking if they had to go to work inside school buildings if they didn't know if it was safe. I personally have multiple family members who work in the system and I still work part-time in the schools. ICEUFTblog put in writing a piece on Monday explaining member rights and fearing UFT caution. On Tuesday, after learning how there was nothing essential going on in the buildings but more importantly that new coronavirus cases were being discovered inside multiple schools, we pleaded with members not to go to work in schools but instead to work from home.

Buildings were not safe. What was UFT President Michael Mulgrew saying to his members? He was doing a Facebook video telling teachers how to teach remotely.

Here is what Bronx ATR said in commenting on Friday's post on Brooklyn Tech:

Of course, teachers are correct to be outraged over deBlasio’s dangerous leadership and Mulgrew’s timid response (and his deafening silence after schools were finally closed and teachers told to report), but no one forced anyone to do anything. If I had gone in, I would have been angry with myself and perhaps that’s really what’s at issue here. That’s a good thing. It’s a painful reminder that teachers have to start doing their own thinking. It’s also a reminder of what the UFT really is. This reminder can facilitate radical change - not by suing, but by speaking out for your human and contractual rights. If Mulgrew’s allowing you to be sent into biological minefields doesn’t wake you up, nothing will. As some of you start getting sick or worse (and I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen), remember.

Bronx ATR is absolutely right. This is a turning point for me. I have defended staying in this union since Janus was decided by the Supreme Court in 2018 when union dues became optional. I thought we were better off inside than out. We had to keep the union as strong as possible even if we disagreed with the leadership. I'm not sure I still feel that way after what happened last week.

The UFT proved once and for all that they are there to defend their automatic dues checkoff more than their members when they wouldn't tell members in no uncertain terms not to enter buildings that were unsafe unless it was for something essential like making sure kids are fed. The Taylor Law fines public employees in New York State two days pay for every day they strike and denies the union automatic dues checkoff if there is an illegal strike. There is no way in hell in my view the anti-strike provisions were going to be invoked under our current circumstances even if everyone stayed home. And what if it was invoked? As a union leader and a human being, wouldn't you rather keep members safe and worry about dues checkoff later?

On social media, I saw that there was a perception that I only spoke up because I can as a retiree. That kind of infuriated me. Back when I was Chapter Leader at Jamaica High School in 2006, the water was shut off in the building. There was not enough pressure for the toilets to flush. We had no idea why the water was off. I received calls in my classroom about two minutes into the crisis. I rang the UFT and within an hour was in touch with President Randi Weingarten. She immediately called Chancellor Joel Klein who soon thereafter phoned the Principal and the building was shut down. Staff and students were sent home. We were contemplating walking out if they didn't act. We didn't care about the Taylor Law. It was our health and the health of the students. The UFT fully supported us.

There was an Executive Board meeting that evening. Randi told me she would be at the school at 6:30 A.M. the following day and if the water was not on, we weren't going in. It turned out there was construction in the area so the water was turned off purposely but it was turned back on in a few hours. It just took a while for the pressure to build up into the school. The water was fully operational in the morning and the building had been cleaned so Randi ended up with a nice photo-op. The point is that the UFT was fully prepared to keep us out of an unsafe building and we were ready to leave. There was still a semblance of a union operating in 2006.

In 2020, Mulgrew obviously could not have come to all of the infected buildings but instead of being silent, he needed to put the word out that school buildings could not be guaranteed as safe as Covid-19 was spreading rapidly so don't enter them. Did anyone get that kind of memo from the Union? There are times when leaders have to say, F**k it, I'm doing what's right and I don't care about the consequences.

Back in 2010 when the DOE had its Joint Public Hearing with the School Leadership Team to close Jamaica High School, I was screaming points of order in a full auditorium at Deputy Chancellor John White to shut him up as he was dictating procedure for the meeting. A colleague was threatening White that he would settle our dispute with him in the parking lot. DOE security was telling me to leave the auditorium which I refused to do. When they threatened to arrest me, I answered: "On what charge, raising a point of order." I told them to arrest White for not yielding to hear it. It all got straightened out and we never went to jail or the rubber room. UFT officials who were in attendance that evening supported me. One chapter leader who was there compared me to the legendary hall of fame Orioles manager Earl Weaver arguing with an umpire. As a long time admirer of Earl, I took that as a compliment.

I'm not writing any of this to say I am some fearless leader. I'm not. In fact, I am a bit of a germaphobe so the current situation is extra alarming for me. I am scared for my family, friends, the city, the nation, the entire world and of course myself as the Covid-19 virus spreads. We should be worried about the virus and not concerned about the DOE or UFT.

It's time for answers from the Union. I fully acknowledge that Mulgrew helped lead the charge to get schools closed for the kids while the mayor was dithering and delaying. However, why did UFT leadership not tell UFT members in no uncertain terms to keep away from buildings leaders knew might be infected with Covid-19 which by last week was basically all of them? I would hope one of the so-called "independents" on the UFT Executive Board will ask that question. Or, are teachers just going to panic about being forced to be active on a computer for six hours and fifty minutes for online learning this week?

My advice to teachers is to do the best you can with remote teaching but don't worry about it further. Are you going to get a letter in your file if your computer crashes? Nobody said we had to be tech geniuses to be teachers. Stay connected to the students; be positive and reassuring with the kids but don't worry about DOE micromanagement. We have bigger problems now.

As I said earlier, last week's UFT inaction was a turning point for me. If it is true that the Taylor Law prohibition against strikes was more important than member safety to Mulgrew and the rest of the leadership, then it's time for them to seriously think about what their responsibilities are as unionists or to step aside if they are not up to the daunting challenges we face. For the rest of us, we need to rethink paying any dues to this Union if they don't change now. I don't say that lightly.

Friday, March 20, 2020


This was up at Chalkbeat NY last night.

New York City teachers streamed onto their campuses Tuesday through Thursday for training on moving instruction entirely online during a citywide school shutdown. In some cases, they walked in without any official word on whether they might have been exposed to someone with the new coronavirus.

City health officials have stopped publicly confirming instances of COVID-19 among school communities, as cases have skyrocketed to more than 3,600 as of Thursday morning in New York City.

But the principal of Brooklyn Technical let his teachers know on Monday afternoon that at least one person from the school community self-reported testing positive for the disease. Still, the staff at the country’s largest brick-and-mortar high school had to report for duty as they spent three days training to transition to remote learning. 

The Tech teachers then spoke out to Chalkbeat. They used their names and went on the record.

“I feel like the DOE really let us down,” said Katie Moylan, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History, Advanced Placement macroeconomics, and world history at the school. “We’ve been left out to dry.”

And another:

“There is so much to clean and disinfect,” said Sujay Sood, who teaches Advanced Placement Language and Composition at Tech.  
Sood said the training that teachers have been asked to complete involves webinars and could easily be done online, eliminating the need for them potentially to expose themselves to the virus by traveling to campus or being inside the building together.
“We don’t understand why teachers are being asked to commute from the five boroughs,” he said. “It makes no sense. It’s callous disregard for the wellbeing of teachers.” 
The DOE's pathetic defense:
A spokesperson for the education department said that school buildings were being “deep cleaned” every day and defended the decision to continue to ask teachers to show up in person for training.

“Our teachers are best suited for success in a remote learning model by first participating in in-person training and meetings while practicing social distancing,” spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon wrote in an email. 
In the Chalkbeat article, there is no request for a quote from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. Here is some of what Mulgrew said in telling parents that the buildings weren't safe last Saturday:
Because of his irresponsible decision to keep the public schools open, Mayor Bill de Blasio can no longer assure the health and safety of our students and school communities.

The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close public schools. We have a small window of time to contain the coronavirus before it penetrates into our communities and overwhelms our health care system’s capacity to safely care for all the New Yorkers who may become gravely ill.
After schools were closed for the kids, Mulgrew was perfectly fine with sending his members into buildings that had coronavirus in them. We would practice social distancing. Here is what the latest science says about the spread of the virus. 
The new coronavirus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. To prevent transmission, keep surfaces clean.

In addition,  people can be asymptomatic and still be carriers.
Does anyone trust a DOE deep cleaning? Why weren't teachers and other UFT members told to work exclusively from home all week? The best the UFT would do is tell members they would not be disciplined if they worked from home instead of outright saying that buildings might not be safe so do not go in. We can certainly talk about getting sick days back if a member worked at home. We will recommend grieving and/or going to court when the time is right.

DOE, with the backing of the UFT and CSA, sent employees into what were probably contaminated buildings for no good reason. I tried to convince people to stay home but I do not have the outreach of the UFT.

Is worrying about the Taylor Law's anti-strike provisions being invoked where the UFT would lose automatic dues checkoff more important to Mulgrew than protecting the health of members? Under these circumstances, the anti-strike provisions were not going to be implemented in my opinion. I agree with the Brooklyn Tech people that the DOE didn't care about our wellbeing.  As for the UFT, did they do enough?

For today, Friday, UFT members are supposed to work from home.  Check in please.

Stay safe!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


I have heard all kinds of reports from friends and family in schools today. Teachers reported being sent to classrooms to plan for distance learning but nobody told me they were doing work or having meetings that couldn't have been done at home on a computer or phone. It was very irresponsible, in fact dangerous, for the Department of Education to send so many people to work today and not immediately close completely for tomorrow and Thursday too.

Under these circumstances and with a shelter in place order being imminent, I see no reason at this point to risk spreading the COVID-19 virus by going to work in school buildings. I am not a doctor or lawyer but as I stated yesterday, do not worry about getting in trouble if you stay home even if you don't have CAR days in the bank. It's a pandemic with NYC at the center. Even the DOE is relaxing rules for absences by saying in writing they won't discipline employees who take off due to COVID-19. That's kind of the reason for just about every absence now.

Multiple people told me that students or staff had tested positive for the virus in their school buildings. This just confirms my belief that schools should be as empty as possible and only used to serve emergency meals. ATRs were given no work but still had to show up. Why? On the other hand, some enlightened principals told their faculties not to come into the buildings and did computer conferences at home. There cannot be two standards. We are contractually entitled to equitable and fair treatment.

Many UFT members are looking to UFT President Michael Mulgrew for real leadership now.  The UFT needs to tell its members it is not safe to go to work if the DOE doesn't shut down completely now. Don't worry about the Taylor Law. It's not a strike or sickout to stay home with your loved ones during a pandemic.

For what my two cents of advice are worth, my humble opinion as an experienced chapter leader and executive board member is that you should STAY HOME! That's what I asked my family and friends to do. The life you save could be your own or mine. While de Blasio dithers and delays, you don't need his permission or your principal's to STAY HOME.

Update: DOE Closes 65 Court Street Administrative Office

Dear Colleagues,

The health and safety of all of our employees and partners is our first priority. To keep everyone safe as the COVID-19/coronavirus situation continues to develop, we are closing the 65 Court Street walk-in center for the time being. We ask all visitors to 65 Court Street to contact our offices virtually so that we can help you as quickly and effectively as possible.

Health and safety of all employees is their first priority? What about those who work in the schools? Mulgrew please respond. If some UFTers want to volunteer to go into school to help, okay, but for everyone else: STAY HOME!

Monday, March 16, 2020


I have been hearing from UFT members today who are worried about going to work tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is from a Daily News op-ed written by teacher Monique Dols entitled "Stay home educators, why should teachers criss-cross the city this week?

Would the director of a hospital assemble all of her nurses and doctors in one room to train them on new methods in medicine without any protection right now? I am sure that they would follow the best practices of world health leaders so that they can continue to do their jobs through what is going to be a prolonged crisis. I would presume if they needed to bring together nurses in such a way, they would do so only having taken extreme preventative measures and, if possible, remotely.

Schools have no way to take such precautions. Most of us were just last week figuring out how to teach kids to wash their hands properly. All public school educators should be planning remotely like many private and charter schools are already doing.

Her conclusion:

We stand in for our students when the whole system has failed them because, let’s face it, we catch everything that our shredded safety net lets fall through.

At the same time, we’ve been at our wit’s end for a long time. And we aren’t going to and shouldn’t have to put our lives and the lives of our communities at risk this time, in this way. By even suggesting this outrageous and reckless idea, de Blasio is delaying any meaningful planning and collaboration between staff another week. We cannot continue to put our communities in danger in this way. Call it whatever you want: A sick out, a strike, or simply following the CDC guidelines. I’ll gladly work from home, but I’m not going in this week, and neither should you.

Here is what Michael Mulgrew said in his Sunday email to members:

Students will not be returning to school this week. School staff will all stay home on Monday. At this moment, the staff will then report to work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to prepare instructional plans for remote learning for their students during this interval. If that plan should change, we will notify you. On those three days, please observe every precaution on your commute and at school. New York City public schools will then be shuttered from Friday, March 20, through Friday, April 17.

Many UFT members are anxious.  President Donald Trump said we should avoid gathering in groups of more than ten. I don't know of too many schools with under ten staff members.

I am not a doctor or lawyer but I was a chapter leader for 18 years. Friends told me they are worried about going to work this week. One said that there were two cases of coronavirus in their school building discovered in the last few days. Here is what I told this teacher and what I would tell anyone concerned about travelling to and from work and working in school buildings.

It is not an illegal strike or an unexcused absence to do what you think is necessary to protect your health in the middle of a pandemic.

UFT members should know the following:

1-Contract Article 16 entitles teachers to ten self-treated sick days per school year. It has not been waived. If you are feeling anxious, then stay home.  Losing three days in the sick bank is a very small price to pay. Look at what waiters, taxi drivers, bartenders, etc. are going through. Their livelihoods are being destroyed. We can worry about grieving to get sick bank days back later.

2-If any insane administrator questions someone, I consulted the UFT Chapter Leader Handbook about self-help. Self-help is when an employee is insubordinate by defying an order from a supervisor. Normally, a teacher should obey an order that violates the Contract and then grieve.  However, the Handbook provides three justifications for an employee to be insubordinate. Two of them apply to our current situation:

First, the employee has a reasonable belief that carrying out the order will endanger the employee's health.

Second, carrying out the order will threaten the safety of others.

Entering buildings that may have coronavirus would seem to apply to both justifications.

Don't expect the UFT to tell you not to report to work. I commended Mulgrew for strongly condemning the mayor's decision to keep schools open and think it helped lead to the decision to shut them down. However, we have to be very real here. The Union will be overly cautious throughout the crisis because if the leadership encouraged teachers to stay out of the buildings, they are fearful that it would be called a strike and they would lose automatic dues checkoff if the Taylor Law's prohibition against striking was invoked. The Taylor Law will not be invoked in my humble opinion. Nobody will lose two days pay for every day out and UFT won't lose dues. It's a pandemic! Safety first. 

UFT members are adults. It's your call. Please use sound reasoning skills in deciding whether to go to work tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


This is from the NY Post:

New York City’s schools will close Monday and remain shut till at least April 20 — and possibly the rest of the school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.

“To say the least, this is a very troubling moment, a moment where I am just distraught at having to take this action,” said de Blasio, who had been facing a coup from parents and teachers over his refusal to close the schools amid the coronavirus.

“But I became convinced over the course of today that there was no other choice,” de Blasio said — adding that New York City is now up to five dead and 329 confirmed cases of the virus.

“We may have to go out” for the rest of the school year, “we may not have the opportunity to re-open them,” he warned.

The mayor said remote learning for students would begin March 23, with teachers undergoing “battlefield training.” The mayor added that over the next five days, schools would be open for “grab-and-go meals” for needy students, but that would only last this next week.

Further down:
The schools chief [Richard Carranza] said teachers will be asked to come to school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for training while still  “practicing social distance.”

He said the goal is to make sure every student can continue to get their lessons online.

“Enrichment centers” also will be set up at various sites for the kids of healthcare and emergency-services workers, Carranza said.

And more:
The move came after Gov. Cuomo appeared to reverse course on the issue, too.

“Bureaucracies do not adjust quickly, but sometimes they have to, and this is one of those times that they have to, and I want them to sit down, figure it out,” the governor told reporters earlier in the afternoon.

He later added on 1010 WINS radio that “all schools down state” would close. His office soon issued a press release saying city schools were closed.

The city now “must develop a plan within the next 24 hours to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents — especially critical healthcare workers and first responders – will be provided access to child care as needed,” the governor said.

He said schools in Westchester County also would shutter as would those in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
We kind of figured Cuomo was the one to go to. Good job with all those phone calls and petition signings. So many teachers calling in sick for tomorrow, in spite of the union telling members not to, didn't hurt either.

If teachers are filled with anxiety and need to take days on Tuesday, Wednesday and/or Thursday because they feel ill, I want to remind you that Contract Article 16 entitles you to 10 self-treated sick days per year. Use them if you need to. If the UFT won't defend you, I will gladly help.

The UFT did lead here in publicizing the dangerous insanity of keeping the schools open. We applaud Mulgrew and company for that. However, the Union's action toward members prudently calling up to stay out tomorrow was not exactly pro-union. It's not an illegal strike prohibited under the Taylor Law to protect your health. The UFT shut down the schools for a week back in 1993 because of asbestos. The acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee, the UFT President36 eminent scientists, and many others had stated that schools were not safe. Calling in sick in the middle of a global pandemic is not an illegal strike. In addition, an international court has ruled that the Taylor Law prohibition of public sector strikes in NYS is a human rights violation.

In the end just be safe folks.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Message from Michael Mulgrew:

To the parents and guardians of our public school students:

Because of his irresponsible decision to keep the public schools open, Mayor Bill de Blasio can no longer assure the health and safety of our students and school communities.

The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close public schools. We have a small window of time to contain the coronavirus before it penetrates into our communities and overwhelms our health care system’s capacity to safely care for all the New Yorkers who may become gravely ill.

More than 21,000 U.S. schools, serving over 15 million students, across the country have closed to help check the spread of the virus. New York City museums have closed, Broadway has gone dark and major sports leagues have canceled or postponed their seasons, yet Mayor de Blasio refuses to close public schools.

The city can find ways — even with the schools closed — to keep our children safe, to see that they are fed and to provide other supports for working families.

We UFT members are asking you to come together with us to demand that the mayor protect our city and our children by executing a plan to:

Close New York City public schools immediately.
Maintain services for our medically fragile students and other vulnerable children.
Set up an emergency support plan for all first responders and health care workers to support their childcare and other needs.
Provide access to appropriate tests and care.
Call 311 to demand the mayor close schools now!

The health and safety of our school communities — and indeed the entire city — hangs in the balance.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Friday, March 13, 2020


Mayor Bill de Blasio has shown that he does not have a clue when it comes to the coronavirus and the schools. By canceling after school activities, he admits that we have to do more to stop the virus from spreading. However, by keeping public schools open in the day, he is contradicting his argument.

I work a part-time job now where I am in three separate schools and I drop my kids off and pick them up each day at their NYC school. The kids apparently have not received the memo about "social distancing."

This is from the CDC:

• Implement social distancing measures:
» Increasing physical space between workers
at the worksite
» Staggering work schedules
» Decreasing social contacts in the workplace
(e.g., limit in-person meetings, meeting for
lunch in a break room, etc.)

For the kids I saw this week, it's business as usual. Nothing different is occurring. I witnessed in the last two days students hugging, kissing, wrestling, sitting on top of each other and more. No social distancing. Kids are being kids. This is no joke; lives may be at risk if we stay open.

What should we do? Some are saying we should bombard the city's 311 lines with calls telling the mayor to close the schools. Okay, do that and sign the UFT's petition to  de Blasio to close schools. I also think  we should go right over the mayor's head and pressure the state.

Call Governor Andrew Cuomo and tell him it's time to close the schools. I just called and told the person answering that Cuomo must act like governors in other states by closing schools.

For those who want the Governor's phone number, it is:

(518) 474-8390.

Make your voice heard parents and teachers!


Statement by UFT President Michael Mulgrew:

UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement recommending to Mayor Bill de Blasio that New York City public schools close to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We recommend that New York City follow the example of affected jurisdictions around the region, the nation and even the world and close our public schools.

We don’t suggest this lightly. We understand the immense disruption this will create for our families. But right now more than a million students and staff crisscross the city every day on their way to schools, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure and increasing the likelihood of bringing exposure into their homes and communities.

Many local area schools, religious and public, have already closed, as have schools in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, as well as the District of Columbia, and the entire states of Michigan, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Oregon. The schools of entire countries have been closed to help contain the spread of the virus.

We must find ways to keep our children safe and to see that they are fed. We must do all we can to help ensure that our students can continue to learn. But we have reached the point where continuing to keep our classrooms open poses a greater lasting threat than the disruption that will result from school closings.

I have met with the Mayor and outlined our reasons for urging a shutdown. He believes the schools should stay open, though he has agreed to a number of additional safeguards and accommodations. In the end, we have decided to respectfully disagree."

Thursday, March 12, 2020


What is wrong with this picture? Seattle, Washington has shut down its schools for a minimum of two weeks starting today as has the entire state of Ohio. What about NYC?

The Superintendent in Seattle is quoted in the Seattle Times:
Superintendent Denise Juneau said in the statement that the closure was a last resort. “Closing schools is the last thing we ever want to do, but, obviously, this is an unprecedented situation,” she said. “The health and well-being of our students and staff is one of our top priorities and that’s a primary reason for the decision, but it’s also because of the potential wide reach COVID-19 can have.”

Ohio's governor went further by closing all of the schools in the entire state for three weeks.

From The Hill:
Ohio will be closing all schools for three weeks starting Monday amid the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Thursday. 

DeWine said the decision to have an “extended spring break” came after consulting with experts. The closure will be reviewed at the end of the three weeks. 

The risk for children, unless they have another medical problem, is not high but children are potential carriers of the virus, DeWine noted. 

“We will continue to consult with educators on this. We have to take this action. We have to do everything we can do slow down the spread of this virus,” he tweeted.

In New York City, the Coronavirus apparently can only spread after hours as this is what Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today, as reported in The NY Times, in declaring a state of emergency:

All New York City public school assemblies, plays, after school sports and other activities will be canceled as a result of the spread of virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.

The mayor has so far resisted mass school closings, citing extreme hardship for many of the city’s low-income students and their working parents.

“We want our schools to remain open, we intend for our schools to remain open,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The mayor will put us all at risk because many kids rely on the schools for meals and daycare. I understand that the schools provide food and a nurturing environment for many so keep schools open for those who absolutely need them with a skeleton crew. However, the number of people outside should be kept to a minimum to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

I work part-time and was in a middle school today. It was business as usual in the playground with students wrestling with each other and in close contact. The Ohio Governor is right in saying that the kids are the carriers. The economy is already shot. What is de Blasio trying to prove? Where is the Union?

The petition to close NYC schools to mitigate the spread of the virus and to move classes online now has over 180,000 signatures. The goal is to get to 200,000. Will the mayor listen if there are a million? Will the Governor listen?

Are people going to start a wildcat sickout?

UPDATE; Maryland closes all of its schools.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


From the NY Post:

The CUNY and SUNY systems will cancel all in-person classes beginning next week and institute remote learning due to coronavirus fears, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday afternoon.

Pressure on the massive systems to shutter mounted quickly this week after a student at John Jay College tested positive for the contagion.

“This will help us reduce density and reduce the spread of this virus,” Cuomo’s Twitter account posted Wednesday.

The switch to “distance learning” will begin March 19.

Cuomo said some campus facilities will remain operational to accommodate students.

Administrators initially held out on a systemwide closure but eventually deferred to growing student demand to scrap classroom learning.

A petition to close all campuses drew more than 45,000 signatures in just the past three days.

The CUNY system is the largest urban university system in the nation, with roughly 254,000 students and 50,000 teachers.

SUNY enrolls about 420,000 students across the state has more than 90,000 employees.

What about prek-12? It will be much more difficult to do online learning for elementary and secondary schools and of course public schools provide meals for many children and that must continue. However, if containing the spread of this disease is our primary goal, the schools are places where this disease can spread rapidly. Isn't the time to contain it before thousands are sick like in Italy?

From the University of Minnesota:
COVID-19 can be spread before it causes symptoms, when it produces symptoms like those of the common cold, and as many as 12 days after recovery, according to a virologic analysis of nine infected patients published today on the preprint server medRxiv.

Also, in a study published in today's Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at Johns Hopkins found a median incubation period for COVID-19 of 5.1 days—similar to that of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

This bolsters the argument that now is the time to shut New York City down to the maximum extent possible before the COVID-19 outbreak multiplies exponentially. On the other hand, some say we should not be panicking.

In the Washington Examiner we hear from Doctor Drew Pinsky:
The celebrity doctor urged people to listen and heed Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Do what he tells you and go about your business. That’s the story. Do not be alarmed by the word ‘pandemic,'” he said.

He did add that the virus should be approached differently by older people and smokers.

“If you are over the age of 70, maybe the age of 75, particularly if you have any chronic medical conditions and if you are a smoker over 50, you should be behaving differently than the rest of us," Pinsky said.

“The rest of us? Go about your business,” he said. “Wash your hands, get your flu shot. That should be the story. Because you are way more likely, orders of magnitude, more likely to die of the flu than the coronavirus.”

Pinsky previously said the media was stoking the flames of coronavirus "panic" in the United States, and the industry should "be held accountable," during an interview with CBS.

“What I have a problem with is the panic and the fact that businesses are getting destroyed, that people’s lives are being upended, not by the virus, but by the panic,” Pinsky said last week. “The panic must stop. And the press, they really somehow need to be held accountable.

Doctor Anthony Fauci testified before a Congressional Committee today.
From NPR:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns that the number of cases of the COVID-19 viral disease will continue to grow because containment measures and contact tracing have failed to prevent community spread of the virus.

"Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?" Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, asked Fauci on Wednesday.

"Yes, it is," Fauci replied.

While this coronavirus is being contained in some respects, he testified, the U.S. is seeing more cases emerge through community spread as well as international travel.

"I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now," Fauci said. "How much worse we'll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country."

Further down:

"As we experience the growing community spread in the United States, the burden of confronting this outbreak is shifting to states and local health professionals on the front lines," the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, said during Wednesday's committee hearing.

To counter Dr. Drew, I refer you to the National Review, no liberal publication, describing what is occurring in Italy.

A doctor who asked not to be named because of potential repercussions painted a dire picture of the situation in a hospital in Milan. While the coronavirus is best known for causing severe disease in elderly patients, even some young people are affected, the doctor said, and without sufficient beds and ventilators, some can’t be treated.

The hundreds of patients needing treatment for pneumonia have swamped the supply of available specialists, the Milan doctor said. Physicians such as gastroenterologists, who normally focus on the digestive system, have been conscripted to help out with lung patients, and they’re still not enough, the doctor said.

Gallera said about 150 more acute care places will open up in the next week. Whether this will be enough to keep up with the spread of the contagion depends on how effective the government’s containment measures prove to be.

Italy is a case study in why the “just the flu” argument doesn’t work, at least not if the virus runs out of control.

For those who want to see the petition to close the NYC schools that as of now over 145,000 have signed, here it is.

For anyone who wants the official UFT perspective, go to NYC Educator for a report on today's Delegate Assembly and also there is the UFT Coronavirus page that is updated frequently.

Your thoughts:

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


From Michael Mulgrew:

Dear ,

We wanted to give middle and high school teachers an important update regarding the parent-teacher conferences happening in March.

In an effort keep people safe, the UFT and the city Department of Education have agreed that the middle school and high school parent-teacher conferences in March will be conducted by phone or computer. Parents will not attend in person.

All UFT members who choose to use their own cell phones and computers may conduct the conferences at home or any other appropriate location. Those who do not wish to use their personal cell phones or computers can use equipment available in the school during the regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference hours.

Principals can request that teachers submit a log of calls or videoconferences.

As is normally the case, parents who are unable to connect with teachers during parent-teacher conferences may contact the school to schedule conferences during the weekly Parent Engagement time.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Monday, March 09, 2020


Below is what the UFT is saying on coronavirus from The Organizer. Members should know that the Delegate Assembly meeting has been moved up a week and will now take place this Wednesday, March 11.

UFT members have a contractual and legal right to a safe work environment. We know the authorities are telling us to wash our hands for twenty seconds regularly. For those who aren't getting adequate washroom supplies, look at Contract Article 7S1:
Adequate supplies will be made available in teacher washrooms in schools. 

Don't be afraid to yell immediately if supplies run out.

Also, Article 10E1 Safe Environment states:
In recognition of the importance of employee safety and health, the Board agrees to provide the appropriate recognized standards of workplace sanitation cleanliness, light, and noise control, adequate heating and ventilation. The Board of Education agrees to eliminate recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm.

What you need to know about coronavirus

The UFT has created a new information hub on its website that contains the latest information and city Department of Education guidance on the new coronavirus. Here you’ll find DOE guidance for principals, staff and parents as well as information about transmission and symptoms, quarantine guidelines, preventive measures and absences. We will update this section as new guidance from the DOE or other important information is released. 

Your chapter leader is gathering information concerning cleaning supplies and protective gear and the staffing of the isolation room, and using out this online form to report any issues to the union. The UFT continues to work with the DOE and the Department of Health to monitor the outbreak of Covid-19 and its effect on our school communities.