I was just going to print the latest Michael Mulgrew email to members (see below) and leave it at that. However, sometimes I just can't believe what I am reading.
This part left my jaw dropping:
The virus has recently surged in nine city ZIP codes — seven in Brooklyn and two in Queens. We will be calling on the mayor to close all the schools and other public facilities in those zip codes if the positive rate on virus tests in those neighborhoods does not start to come down. At this point, the virus is concentrated in the community in those areas, but independent medical experts warn us that it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads to our schools.
Mulgrew thinks it is a matter of time before the virus spreads to our schools. Wake up Mike; COVID-19 is already in loads of schools all over the place. Can Mulgrew read a map or does he just think we are too uninformed so we won't notice?
President Mulgrew also tells us the city cannot get testing to all of the COVID-19 hotspots.
At our urging, the city has sent mobile testing vans to schools in those ZIP codes, but it doesn’t have the capacity to reach all 80-plus schools quickly.
If they can't reach the 80+ schools in the hotspots, how are they managing to come Monday to Eastern Queens at P.S. 191? This is a part of an email Chancellor Carranza sent to families tonight:
Parents/Guardians of students under the age of 18 must be present and must consent to student testing at these mobile sites
I don't know if we're that high on the hotspot list in Floral Park. Lack of access to testing isn't the biggest problem right now for the UFT. It's the UFT still not pushing to close all school buildings during increasing community spread of COVID-19.
In the actual school buildings, Mulgrew concedes there are hundreds of operational complaints "at the ready." Why hasn't he already filed them and demanded the system go full remote as the remedy? What the hell is he waiting for? The city is getting their hundredth last chance to repair a blended learning system that will never work.
Giving the City-DOE more time to fix what we all know is not repairable is yet another Mulgrew disgrace. It's dither and delay again. He believes if he just keeps stalling, maybe the mayor will eventually work it out in his thick head that blended learning is unworkable or perhaps he feels the schools will get used to this chaos. City Councilman Mark Treyger, a former city high school teacher, figured it out. This is from an interview with Treyger in The Intelligencer done on Wednesday, a day before secondary schools started in-person learning:
Mark Treyger: To this day, we are experiencing continued staff shortages in our school system and in all grades. But the high-school grades are going to be particularly affected by the staffing shortage because in high school — and I’m a former high-school history teacher, so I know a bit about this — you are required to have a license to teach the specific content subject. If a high school has, let’s say, three chemistry teachers, and they’re all out on medical accommodations working from home, you can’t just put a history teacher to teach a chemistry class.
And there is no infinite pool of substitute science teachers in the school system. So what’s happening is that they are simply just shifting personnel to supervise students who are receiving remote instruction from their teacher who’s working from home. I call this “supervised remote instruction.” This is not in-person instruction. When high-school students return for in-person school, they will not be getting in-person teaching. They will be getting an adult who is not licensed to teach them. Or not even licensed to supervise them, because I’m being told now that paraprofessionals are being asked to supervise students in classes, which is against state regulations.
Given the issues you’ve mentioned, do you think it’s feasible to continue with blended learning or would all remote instruction be preferable?
I think that the blended-learning model is a failure and that it was designed to fail. It was not designed to succeed because the city was never realistic about the severe challenges that come with the blended-learning model. Again, it’s very simple to me.
Your model calls for three sets of teachers, but it also requires you to hire thousands more people when many of your existing staff is requesting medical accommodations to work from home. So I don’t understand how they reached this conclusion. I don’t understand why they thought that this was feasible. But it’s just not happening.
The kids have worked this out. They are smarter than some here believe. Reports of 0 attendance in classes are not rare as remote class sizes soar into the 50's and even higher. The parents, some in the media who choose to open their eyes, teachers, and other educators all know blended learning won't work. Only Mulgrew waits a little longer, probably hoping you will all be intimidated to vote for School Based Options to make remote class sizes 50. Don't do it folks.
I cannot comprehend why there is not yet a full scale teacher rebellion. Get beyond the Battered Staff Syndrome-Mass Learned Helplessness. Don't give in. Propose all remote in SBOs. Force the DOE and their UFT partners to refuse to sign off on them so they have the blood on their hands for putting you in harm's way and totally messing up the education of a million kids. We need to do what's right.
It has been an intense week as you welcomed back students that you have not seen in more than six months. At the schools I visited, I watched you greet students — some timid, some excited — on opening day. Even with all the fear, sadness and anxiety you must have been feeling inside, I saw your natural gift as educators on display as you offered these children your elbows and your friendly words.
This school year has thrown up challenge after challenge. There is no playbook to follow. But you are showing up, whether virtually or in person, every day for your students and figuring out how to be the best educator you can be at this strange and daunting moment. I am proud to represent you.
Because the DOE has been unable to meet its hiring goals, some of you have bulging remote class sizes while others must juggle both remote and in-person classes. I know these assignments make it impossible for you to do your best work. We are going to have to make principals readjust their schedules in accordance with the blended learning agreements if the DOE does not fill these vacancies quickly. We have hundreds of operational issue complaints about staffing filed by your chapter leaders at the ready. We can’t have our members stuck with ridiculous programs and workloads for months on end.
Your health and safety come first. We continue to monitor instances of positive cases in our schools to ensure that the city is following the rigorous contact testing and tracing protocol established in the Sept. 1 DOE-UFT testing agreement. Mandatory random testing of 10% or more of the staff and students in every school building every month begins next week. Please report any safety or testing issues to your chapter leader or the UFT Call Center at 212-331-6311 if your chapter leader is unavailable. We are in a much better place than we were in March because of your advocacy, but we need to remain vigilant.
The virus has recently surged in nine city ZIP codes — seven in Brooklyn and two in Queens. We will be calling on the mayor to close all the schools and other public facilities in those zip codes if the positive rate on virus tests in those neighborhoods does not start to come down. At this point, the virus is concentrated in the community in those areas, but independent medical experts warn us that it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads to our schools. At our urging, the city has sent mobile testing vans to schools in those ZIP codes, but it doesn’t have the capacity to reach all 80-plus schools quickly.
If the city is unable to contain these outbreaks in the next few days, we will take stronger action. We cannot put these school communities in jeopardy because the city does not have the common sense or courage to do what needs to be done. Its failure to take aggressive action could endanger public health throughout New York City because the residents in those nine ZIP codes do not live on an island.
I had the honor to stand next to Curtis Buckner, a teacher at University Neighborhood HS in Manhattan, at this Thursday’s press conference. His words speak to our core values: “All we ask — because we are the ones who are doing this work in schools every day — is that whatever decisions are made, they’re not based on politics, they’re not based on economics, they’re based on preserving lives. We’re going to continue to give 110 percent, but we do ask that those making the decisions keep preserving life at the forefront of the conversation.”
Our next serious challenge is the economic collapse. The pandemic-triggered shutdowns have wrecked the city, state and national economies. Yesterday was the last day that the CARES Act, the stimulus bill passed by Congress in March, was in effect. Now, large corporations nationwide are shedding jobs at a fearsome pace.
New York City and New York State are saddled with enormous budget deficits. With each passing day, those deficits grow bigger. We made a promise in the spring to do everything in our power to protect our safety and our livelihoods. We now have to come up with a strategy to protect all of us from possible layoffs. The strongest shield we have is showing our value and worth as educators at every opportunity.
Stay safe and healthy.