Sunday, October 04, 2020


 We've been attempting to help teachers and other educators survive in the COVID-19 era. In Austin Texas, they have the right idea.

From the Statesman News Network:

About 850 Austin district teachers have pledged not to return to their campuses Monday when school buildings reopen for learning.

Concerned about the threat of the coronavirus to both their students and themselves, the educators said they remain committed to teaching their students, but will do so only in a virtual setting.

A little further down, the teachers explain their stance:

“I will not return on Monday nor do I plan to under any circumstances,” said Patrick Stinson, who teaches chemistry and integrated physics and chemistry at Northeast Early College High School. The district two weeks ago denied his request for accommodations, which he sought because his wife has a chronic heart condition. Stinson said he might lose his teaching position with his stance, but he said he is unwilling to expose his wife to risk by being in the classroom setting, where teachers already are exposed to a variety of germs, as school-age children often are carriers.

“Lots of us can’t afford to make this choice and have to do the wrong thing in order to eat,” he said.

Kiker Elementary librarian Sonya Butler notified campus families she’s leaving her position..

“I do not qualify for the accommodations or family leave and due to family situations and health, I am not returning to face to face learning,” she wrote in a letter to the school community. “I am truly heartbroken to leave a job I love so much and people I care about so deeply. However my family must come first and there, since I cannot work remotely, I must resign.”

The union in "right to work" Texas is acting tougher than the so-called mighty UFT:

Education Austin, the district’s largest union, remains in negotiations with district leaders on reopening plans, union President Ken Zarifis said. The pledge among the teachers who won’t return in person is not a strike, he said, because they will continue delivering instruction.

The group held a virtual news conference Thursday and reiterated educators’ concerns, calling again for changes to the reopening plan. The group cites a code of ethics that says educators will not knowingly or recklessly endanger the health of a student. Campus site-specific plans have been fluid, some changing weekly, which some educators say has contributed to the feeling that returning is unsafe.

A caravan of about 150 educators last weekend went to the district’s headquarters and taped to the building signs and messages: “COVID is airborne,” “Put our teachers and students first,” “How is face to face ‘best practices’ during a pandemic?”

I'm starting to think that the UFT may be the last teacher union in the country to still be in a concessionary frame of mind with their members. Up to all of you to change that by changing your union representation.

You can initiate change by standing up for yourself tomorrow if you are an in-person teacher. I read Sue Edelman's NY Post piece on a teacher not being able to get help when students refused to wear masks in the classroom.

Some details:

It’s a teacher’s worst nightmare in the age of COVID-19.

Misbehaving high school students take off their masks in class and dare anyone to stop them, a South Bronx English teacher told The Post.

“The virus is not real. That’s why my parents are sending me,” one student declared, the teacher said. Many kids call the virus “fake.”

Some students clown around, removing their masks and pretending to cough or sneeze: “They think it’s funny.”

Others complain “I can’t breathe” because they say their masks are too tight.

Each class has around 9 to 11 students in person and then another 30 or so remotely.

Having to enforce safety rules such as face coverings and social distancing is a constant battle, the teacher said.

“I’m telling one, ‘Hey, put your mask on.’ I turn my head and boom, there’s another one maskless.”

The teacher, who simultaneously live-streams lessons to students learning remotely, said rowdy kids in the room cause constant disruptions.

“You have to mute your mike because you’re yelling at kids,” the teacher said. “Repeatedly this week, I had to stop the lesson because kids took off their masks.”

The interruptions rob the students, both in class and at home, who want to learn, he said.

As for DOE-NYC-UFT assurances that such offending students will be sent home:

“Nothing is happening. School safety is not removing them from the classroom,” he said.

Instead, administrators simply try to persuade students to comply.

In his school, students are assigned to the same classroom all day, while different subject teachers come and go. Kids may be left alone in the room for a minute or two during the transition.

“They get the freedom of that 90 seconds with no adult in the room, and they’re all over the place. They take their masks off. They’re close together having conversations. It’s a s–t show,” the teacher said.

Teens hate sitting at their desks all day, even for lunch when they are allowed to remove their masks for 20 minutes to eat. Some kids take longer than necessary on restroom visits. Or they just get up and leave the room, the teacher said.

DOE says it's three requests to put on a mask and then the student is sent home for remote only learning. I believe that is the UFT's position too.

I have a very simple solution if this mask rule is not adhered to: The students without masks are making you as a teacher ill. If they don't follow the rules, you are too sick to teach and you need to go home and will consider teaching remotely from there if you are up to it. As the Chicago arbitrator said in closing down school buildings in that city in a grievance decision: 

On this record, it cannot be determined that each school building is safe and healthful to work in and in accordance with the Precautionary Principle, it is better to err on the side of allowing remote work, where feasible, since the extent of the inherently hazardous conditions presented by COVID-19 in each school building is unknown.

Protect your health first ladies and gentlemen and the rule-abiding students too; worry about the consequences for your job later. 


Anonymous said...

James, you know they won't. And then they will defend the uft. Don't waste your time.

Anonymous said...

Did you find out about the two weeks without losiing CAR? Are we allowed to stay home if not feeling well or do you have to test positive for COVID?

James Eterno said...

You are allowed to stay home for two weeks with symptoms. You do not have to test positive for COVID-19. Just need symptoms.

Anonymous said...

Good for them. The problem is the principals are lackluster and wishy washy when it comes to enforcing rules. Bottom line, if you refuse to wear the mask, you're not allowed in school. Do remote. End of discussion! The kids can't say they are being denied an education now since they can do remote which is acceptable if half the kids in the city are doing it now.

Anonymous said...

Today is Oct 5th, the date the new agreement begins. Nothing happens here. No change what so ever.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should notify "tom" from the previous thread who painted quite the rosy picture. i thought everyone was doing so well. More of the same. And nobody does anything.

Anonymous said...

Sharing this for my wife, Rachel Masters, a NYCSchools teacher who contracted the virus in March/April serving students hard of hearing in a BK H.S. She now struggles w multiple symptoms post-covid. She also continues to serve her students via remote learning. UFT has been silent.

Anonymous said...

Nothing will change until K-8 teachers start voting against Unity...regardless of the opposition candidate. Add to that the rest of who should be angry that this is the only union where retirees get to vote on the contract of active members.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, my school has less than 6 kids in attendance today. We take them outside most of the day in here yard. We have extra teachers.

Once again, the teacher shortage headline is bs.

Anonymous said...

To reiterate what’s happening in NYC this morning: students/educators are reporting to schools in city hot spot zip codes (where covid positivity rates are climbing far above limits) bc 1 man has decided a single day of in-person learning > the risk of life & community spread.

waitingforsupport said...

@9:25 am...
Thankfully she is a warrior and survivor. Praying that all symptoms are resolved and her health returns better than pre-Covid. The UFT "leaders" have failed ALL educators for many many years.A perfect storm occurred:
Too many educators have been burdened/overwhelmed by work environment matters for decades and didn't vote and/or put the brakes on the city treating them like mindless tools.
A UFT "president and friends" who tossed in the towel on members.
A "mayor" who tossed in the towel on inner city students, teachers and the city as a whole.
Your wife and so many others have experienced the silent treatment.
Hopefully everyone comes out of this "pandemic" (covid. Silence. inhumane treatment. Inequity) more empathetic.

Anonymous said...

There is change here at FHS. Teachers, AP'S, students, security, janitors, and Aids have their masks down below the chin. How can we expect our students to wear masks when the teachers are sitting around in groups without a mask on? More and more teachers are requesting to teach at home because we are not supposed to say anything about mask wearing. I even heard that an AP told a staff member that it is not his/her job to say anything about teachers not wearing masks.

James Eterno said...

If you don't feel it is safe, leave.

Anonymous said...

1:26: I have that same problem at my school. The administration doesn't give a damn about anyone but themselves. What is the use of documenting? Nothing gets done anyway and I'm not going to lose days in my CAR. All I'm saying is admin. needs to step it up and if they don't the police should get involved.

waitingforsupport said...

@1:26 pm

What are your plans moving forward? You sound alarmed and rightfully so.

Tom said...

@9:22 - do show where I have painted a rosy picture with a broad brush. I can only speak for conditions at my school where we keep the kids in check. Not anybody's fault that you are too much of a coward to speak up for yourself, with Admin AND the students.