President Michael Mulgrew said it was going to be the strangest Thanksgiving ever. Make sure you follow the guidance of the medical people. College kids are getting tested before leaving college and when arriving home.
We are in remote full time now. We came up with a plan in the summer on when to close. We didn't want to deal with what happened in March. Cleaning, PPE social distancing keeping schools safe. No safe plan until we pushed it. State didn't have a plan until October. State and city have different plans that both use 3% as a number. State has a lag and private tests. It comes down to how many tests are given and how many are positive. Two different numbers. State lags. Trying to get state and city to get one number. State lower now but was higher a month ago. Will we move from the 3%? That is the mayor's number. Epidemiologists we work with said that a small number of districts could shut the whole system. Mulgrew likes the state plan. State closed 200 schools in NYC. We like the yellow, orange, red zones. Yellow gets more testing. Orange goes all remote. Red zone has a problem. Nothing is working and numbers still going up. Two plans look ridiculous to the public. Members: some want to stay open if their area doesn't have much Covid-19. Others want to have closed earlier. Do we have to stay with the city plan? We wanted a geographic plan in the summer, not a citywide plan. If we have a problem in an area, we put that area in remote. We are not in control of individuals' behavior. Teachers and other staff following guidelines. Neighborhoods not safe. Doctors clear that if Covid positivity keeps rising, schools will not stay safe. There will be other challenges. We wish the city would have listened to us in August and done a geographic approach. Six or seven districts have caused us to go all remote. Yellow, orange, red is state law so that will continue. Half of Staten Island under that plan would have been remote. Decisions have to be made based on what keeps us safe. Vaccines getting better and better. Timelines moving up.
When will we reopen? Met with doctors who volunteer for us. With travel for Thanksgiving, we expect NYC to be an orange zone. How do we contemplate opening, until we get numbers down. When we get numbers down, we can get back inside schools. Mulgrew conversations with mayor, we tell him that testing has to be mandated which is not being done. UFT position is nobody goes back without a consent form to be tested. As we see a path to an end, we don't want mistakes to cause people to be harmed. We want everyone and their families to be safe. 3% plan should not move. When we get closer to the springtime when the vaccine will be there, we have to microtarget. State plan targets problems in their infancy. All should be looking at one plan. Over 6% positivity in western New York. Schools closing all over the place. We are averaging over 10,000 tests per day. Mulgrew thanks people in the schools. Schools were safe because of our work. We can put a guidebook together on how to open schools in a pandemic. We will get reopened. Numbers will tell whether we reopen. We will follow the numbers and what independent doctors tell us.
Medical accommodations: DOE recognizing medical accommodations moving forward except for pregnancy related documentations. They want medical documentation for pregnancy related. It would be hard to get appointments exept for teledocs.
200 operational issues resolved. Team came up with a menu on how to resolve them. Chapter leaders meet with a UFT rep and a DOE rep to resolve issues. Many resolved once we came up with a menu. Some misinformation out there. Superintendents do not reinterpret things. We are all in remote and we don't know for how long.
When Mulgrew looks at social media, we are our own world. There is nothing easy about what we are doing. We opened up. We fought for a plan. The work at home and at school is not easy. When I see people sending animosity toward other UFT members because of what they do, it gets me upset. We live in a world where we just saw a presidential election like we've never seen. We have to have civility. 12 years ago teachers were bashed for a week on NBC. We won that battle in the end. We can't let that happen. It's not easy with the oversize classes remote or coming into building and wearing a mask. We need basic respect for each other. Other mayors used to say we hate the kids. We fought through all of that. We try to do the best we can. We got medical accommodations and accommodations for caregivers. We can't do to each other what others do to us. This is for this school year. By September 2021, we go back to buildings. We have changed. Every teacher can set up electronic classrooms. We must respect each other.
Evaluations: State said it's a collective bargaining issue at the local level. We will be putting a team together to work on this. We are expecting all standardized tests to be canceled this year. Standardized tests need to be given at the same time with a licensed teacher. Administration can come in to digital classrooms. Don't waste our time filling out checklists. If it is written up, let the district rep know. There is no agreement now on evaluations.
Budget: We worked with Comptroller Stringer to refinance debt. All unions negotiating something. Thank God we have the no layoff clause for the rest of the school year. We are in remote. People are losing their jobs in remote settings. The budget is a mess. We see no help coming from federal government until probably late January or February. We are going to have bad years. Will it be three bad years or ten bad years? It depends on how the next administration does things. Unemployment going up. Food banks are running out of food. We are looking at a horrendous winter. Teacher Center folks are working to be there with the community. We are hoping this is the last major challenge. We are expecting a vaccine mandate to work in a school but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Hopefully, we will get back when it's safe. Attendance is low. We're thinking that it is less than 350,000 students who have opted to go to school this year.
Last week we were told the teachers union wouldn't move the 3% number. The city submitted a plan. Media is so frustrating at times. Repeats that only those with a consent form get into schools. We have to respect each other. Some families going into a horrendous winter. Seeing lines and lines of people trying to get food. There is pain. We will be there to help. It's Thanksgiving, give thanks to your families and each other. We don't know how long this all remote time will last. It was expected to last a few weeks in the spring. We don't want the city to tell us on Sunday that buildings will open Monday. Hopefully, by next September, we can have a big party before schools open.
Question: Wishes Mulgrew Happy Thanksgiving. If people have not received a confirmation email, what should they do?
Answer from Mike Sill is DOE system only allows emails to go out on a rolling way. They are going out in alphabetical order. Nobody should be concerned. Except for those who are pregnant, everyone should get it. Mulgrew interjects that they can apply for family leave. Mulgrew suggests if no email comes by Monday, December 7, contact the UFT. Sill concurs.
Sill goes on to add that those who have remote programs for primary caregivers are also being extended.
Question: Up for tenure, what happens?
Answer: Nobody can be harmed because of Covid. That was governor's order last year. We are waiting for that to be official for this year. We will work on evaluation agreement so those up for tenure can be observed.
Question: Chapter leader beyond frustrated. Oversize class complaint filed on September 13. She has spent hours coming up with proposals. Only offer is to pay dpod teachers more money. They feel it is insulting.
Answer: You are District 3. What would you want? Hire more teachers.
Questioner responds we should go to two cohorts. Monday should be a full remote day for everyone. Teachers have suggested picking up kids and going on remote. The principal and superintendent won't listen and labor people at DOE are downright rude.
Mulgrew Answer: We will take this up at consultation with chancellor tomorrow. No opt-in so schools should reprogram since we know how many students will be in the building. Kids are taking in-person and remote spots.
Question: Praises Mulgrew's interviewing skills. Admires what he is doing. Proud to be a union member with him leading. 27 years and 52, hoping for a buyout. Anything in works?
Answer: It's easy when teachers do what we do. Early retirement bills in Albany. We now have an early retirement piece of legislation that we like. Many unions involved. City will save money. The legislation has to get through in Albany and then the city has to agree to implement it. Early retirement incentive makes sense. We are concerned that we won't have enough teachers and counselors but we are pushing for the early retirement incentive.
Question: Chapter leader asks since we are remote, can teachers teach remotely from buildings?
Answer: Probably no. Why would people want to do that? Questioner answer: Home environment isn't the best. When the state does remote, wants the custodian only in building. We have process when people need to pick something up. Operational people have been great. They are doing cleaning. We will ask.
Elementary schools vs high schools. High schools travel all over the city. Big difference, can that be taken into account?
Answer: We have kids going from Bronx to Staten Island. Attendance not good in high schools. District 75 and elementary schools should be open first. That is the mayor's decision. Mayor mentioned this today. Doctors would agree. D75 amount of PPE to make sure it's safe, our people have done great work. Students not hugging. PPE is the most important thing.
Question: What happened to virtual content specialists?
Answer: We just finished it. Posting in August. DOE wanted to change it. Posting going out shortly. $12,500 stipend. Mike Sill expects it to go out tomorrow.
Question: All should be required to test particularly with schools with high Covid positivity. What happens particularly with pre-K?
Answer: Doctors said it would be okay not to test Pre-k students. We're okay with that. We said first month it would be okay not to have consent forms. We were patient, but reports from the field that consent forms weren't coming in and kids not being sent home. That can't happen any longer when we reopen. The consent form has to be there. We should do weekly testing. Situation Room is working. Testing team from the city is really good. Way over 500 schools shut down before we went remote. If contact tracing wasn't completed, the school shut down. Mandate means mandate. Must have a consent form to enter school. Trying to get testing weekly. New spit test has much higher validity. The minute we make a decision, there may be problems but we keep moving forward.
Question: DOE device issue, people waiting since September. Can this be addressed tomorrow?
Answer: Wrote an oped on this. DOE didn't put orders in until requests were made. On the agenda for tomorrow.
Question: 8 period day schools now 7 period days. Is there C6?
Answer: Prep was moved to the end of the day. It is still an 8 period day unless you have an SBO. Prep at the end of the day but doesn't have to be in the building.
Question: Students in a precarious situation at home or don't have homes. How can we pressure the mayor to get permanent housing for our kids?
Answer: We have a lot of work on our hands. End of December, national non-eviction sunset. We will go to ABNY to help with food and housing. We will do great advocacy for Federal package. Next year we will have to repair social emotional damage that's been done to so many of our students, their families and ourselves. Member Assistance Program growing. We and the city have a big challenge. There are folks in our union who tell us to just do the union stuff but we are tied into the community as a teacher union. We are in this profession because children are dear to us. Our members hurting as are the students and their families.
Question: Students who never received Learning Bridge Placement. Are more being accepted?
Answer: Yes, and we also have to consider opening up Regional Enrichment Centers which opened in the spring and stayed open right until schools opened in September. Learning Bridges has been frustrating.
Question: Mulgrew is her superman, a rock star. This caller lost her father and others and got great support. Virtual class sizes will increase and in-person will have even lower class sizes. It took two months with over 40 students to get class cut in half. Teacher is a certified Google trainer, interested in learning specialist.
Answer: Mulgrew still has to take out the garbage. We should reprogram everything. Some schools may be able to have five day learning. Fully remote can get be fully remote then if not worrying about blended. Weakest part of DOE is instructional plan. That is a mess. DOE screwed up instructional part of reopening. They couldn't get out of their way as far as not telling schools what to do. Mayor's race, we will roll out a political action plan. The question to any candidate is how are you going to blow up the bureaucracy so schools are supported. Reprogram schools and that should take care of most problems.
Question: Why can't we tell people school buildings will be closed through new years?
Answer: Following numbers now, we over 3% and going up steadily. Should a decision be made to keep schools remote until January? I think we should make that call as soon as possible. If we are above 4% a week after Thanksgiving, that decision has to be made. We can't open up for a day or two and then close again. Told mayor and governor that. Number is probably not going to go down. It doesn't make sense that bars and restaurants are open and schools are not. We will try to get information out there. What the questioner said makes sense.
Question: Coming to holiday season, saving two hours a day. Blood center is low on blood. 75% of blood donations through school drives. If you have free time, donate blood. Saved my daughter's life getting blood.
Answer: You are 100% right. Nurses dealing with COVID cases rising. Blood issue is real. People are uncomfortable but it is the right thing to do to give blood.
We will help on food; we helped with coats. We are doing what we normally do. Work with homeless coalition. Wishes everyone a great Thanksgiving. Be safe, be safe, be safe. Take care of each other; respect each other. It's tough and frustrating but we have been there taking care of each other throughout this. Thanks, be well and God bless.