UFT News & Updates for February 9, 2021


Dear Colleagues,

This week has brought some surprise announcements, including the news that middle schools will open across the city for student on February 25 with staff reporting the day before.  Due to expectations of low attendance, and other reasons, there are currently no plans for resuming blended learning.  Students who have opted into on-site instruction will attend five days a week.

There was a building safety meeting this morning that took up issues related to the reopening of ENYFA’s middle school grades.  Mr. Ed Ludde, the chairperson, posted the meeting minutes.

I am making this month’s chapter meeting at a different time than usual.  It will be Thursday February 11 at 4 o’clock because of commitments I have later in the evening.  I won’t be available for a Saturday make-up meeting.  Please try to join us Thursday!

I plan to report on the UFT delegate assembly which is taking place tomorrow along with other updates I’m expecting to get from our district rep.  In the meantime, I can be reached at jlawhead33@gmail.com or at 347-217-2219 for voice or text with your questions and concerns.

Something I’ve had questions about is the timing and length of faculty conferences.  Here’s a new guidance from the DOE.

COVID-19 Related Leaves from Work

The DOE has updated its policies on paid and unpaid leave time related to COVID-19 and quarantine requirements after travel in the wake of changes to federal, state and city guidance. DOE employees can no longer receive paid leave to quarantine due to travel — they must use their CAR days.

DOE employees who are caring for someone who is self-quarantining because of heightened risk associated with exposure to COVID-19 are eligible for two weeks of excused leave at partial pay. Partial pay equals two-thirds of your regular rate of pay, not to exceed $200 per day or a total of $2,000. To qualify for this excused leave, you will have to demonstrate that this individual depends on you for care and you cannot work remotely while providing that care. You may also use CAR days, annual leave or sick leave instead of excused leave at partial pay, but the time off cannot exceed a total of two weeks.

You can read the full updated memorandum online.

Sabbaticals for 2021-2022

Last month the DOE issued directions and timelines, and eligibility requirements for applying for a sabbatical during the 2021-2022 school year.  Applications will be accepted starting on February 12 with March 17 the deadline.  There are two types of sabbaticals available.  One is for study and the other is for restoration of your health.  Consider working on an additional certification in a shortage area.  According to this memo the DOE is looking into providing tuition forgiveness when teachers pursue studies in these areas.

Pension Clinic

The information session on pensions will be February 24 online.  It’s open to all UFTers who are interested in learning more about their benefits at retirement.


New Permanent New York State Education Commissioner

I look for good news to share.  I believe Betty A. Rosa the most progressive-minded commissioner in several decades.  Important policy changes may be coming!


Karen Lewis (1953-2021)

A union leader that the long abused and neglected Chicago public schools deserved.


Thanks for reading!  Stay safe and be well!

UFT News & Updates for October 27, 2020


Dear Colleagues,

Nearly every week there’s been a new agreement or statement of policy on the part of the DOE.  Questions arise from the changes.  This week the DOE issued a new grading policy which I’ve posted at enyfaUFTer.net.   

Some teachers were surprised to read that for a grade of NX, which was introduced last spring, the make-up instruction and assignments can become the responsibility of someone other than the original teacher.

I’m always flattered when members expect me to be able to answer the questions that come up in our new situation. I often can’t.  In that regard I’m glad to tell you that our UFT district rep, James Hogan, will be available this Thursday at 5 o’clock for all ENYFA staff to ask questions or share concerns about recent agreements and policy.  Please consider joining us. Text me at 347-217-2219 for the meeting information.

Please note that our next ENYFA UFT chapter meeting will be November 5 at 5 o’clock via zoom.  I will send information about the meeting next week.

Back Pay from 2009-2014

Unfortunately, the mayor contradicted everything I said at our last chapter meeting about the final retroactive payment.  After the city announced its refusal to pay the final lump sum of 25 percent the UFT went to emergency arbitration.  The arbitrator approved an agreement wherein half of this amount will still be paid in the October 31 paycheck with a remainder following by July 31, 2021.

With this deal the UFT jumped ahead of other unions in offering savings to the city. It was able to guarantee no lay-offs in the current school year and possibly the next.  The 3 percent raise scheduled for May 2021 will also be left untouched.  There are several other unions who are owed back pay, including school administrators and nurses.  Other unions faced delayed raises.  Here is a summary from the Chief of how the city may press other unions for savings. 

Random Testing

The expected resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic is upon with the city averaging around 600 new cases a day over the last week.  One measure to prevent a worse spread is random testing and the protocols for this testing continue to evolve.

The target for what percentage of staff and students are to be randomly tested is different according to the zone a school is in.

Under governor Cuomo’s directives hot-spot zones replaced zip codes.  To learn what zone the school is in you need to enter location at this page.  There is currently several yellow zones in Brooklyn, north Queens and the Rockaways and a red zone that extends in Brooklyn from Borough Park to Flatlands and Gravesend.

A recent UFT communication states, “In order to meet the target numbers, the test is being offered to ALL staff in some buildings. We strongly encourage everyone to get tested when it is offered at your school building. However, unless you are on “the randomized list”, it is a personal choice.

“Once the first round of testing is completed, we will meet with the DOE to discuss any concerns that arose during the first round of testing and to refine the randomized testing process and protocols.”

A group of teachers that have been raising concerns about Fulgent Genetics the company with the contract for the testing.  However, the contract the DOE awarded to  Fulgent won seem to guarantee that any data obtained would not be used for purposes other than the testing program.

Time off for voting

November 3 is a remote instruction day.  It was designated as such as part of the delayed reopening in September.  Owing to revisions in the state’s time off to vote rules we no longer qualify.  Here is the wording:

There is sufficient time to vote if an employee has four consecutive hours to vote either from the opening of the polls to the beginning of their work shift, or four consecutive hours between the end of a work shift and the closing of the polls

Duties of Paraprofessionals

The UFT and DOE reached an agreement about working hours and responsibilities for paraprofessionals this year. Read the agreement.

(The following information is courtesy of Gene Mann’s The Organizer, gmann@optonline.net.)

What hours will paraprofessionals be working?

Paraprofessionals will not be required to stay in the school building for more than 6 hours and 20 minutes per day. Paraprofessionals will be expected to remotely perform the equivalent of 30 minutes of work.

If paras are not working directly with a specific student or class, what duties may they be asked to perform?

When paraprofessionals are not working directly with a specific student or class, they can be asked to help with tasks at the school such as assisting with arrival and/or dismissal including busing, assisting with health screening, reaching out to families or doing other administrative tasks.

My principal has asked me to report early to assist with student arrivals, but is also expecting that I stay until the end of the school day. How long do paraprofessionals have to be on site at school buildings?

Paraprofessionals are not required to stay in school buildings more than 6 hours and 20 minutes per day. An additional 30 minutes of work done remotely may also be expected to complete your day. Please let your chapter leader know if you are asked to work longer hours than what is required.

Could paras be assigned more than one student in person and/or remotely?

Nothing about the blended model allows for a child’s IEP to be changed. So, if the child is supposed to have a 1:1 para, the ratio cannot be changed to 1: 2.

Will paras have protective equipment for changing students who will be physically in attendance, including gloves, access to hot water and soap?

Yes, paraprofessionals will have all necessary personal protective equipment as will the teachers they are assigned to, and for the task they are being asked to perform.

Can a paraprofessional be directed to work with a breakout group of remote students via their own Google Meet or Zoom? Must that group include a teacher or can a para be alone with a small group of students?

A paraprofessional cannot be made to work with the group alone on their own Zoom or Google Meet. It must be under the guidance of the teacher.

How will 1:1 paras be able to keep social distancing guidelines when we work in the closest proximity to kids?

Paraprofessionals should be sure to use all personal protective equipment for the task they are asked to perform. If you have any questions, please call the UFT Safety and Health liaison in your borough:

What is the new position of Paraprofessional Classroom Manager?

The Paraprofessional Classroom Manager will manage classrooms of students while they perform independent work, eat during non-instructional lunch or participate in a remote class from the school building. Paraprofessionals who apply and are selected for the new position will receive a per-term stipend of $1,750. If no teacher is available to cover a class, a Paraprofessional Classroom Manager can cover for absent teachers. Paraprofessional Classroom Managers asked to perform more than five coverages in a term will be paid the teacher’s coverage rate.

Priority for Paraprofessional Classroom Manager positions will be given to paraprofessionals that have been admitted into the Lead Teacher Assistant pool, but who have not yet received a Lead Teacher Assistant position.

Check with the UFT for the application procedure. (212) 331-6311

Will paras have to take temperatures or supervise isolation rooms?

Paraprofessionals can be asked to help with health screenings. If a para applies for the new position of Paraprofessional Classroom Manager, they can be asked to cover isolation rooms.

Good & Welfare

Stay Safe!  See you on Thursday!

UFT News & Updates for October 3, 2020


Dear Colleagues,

Please note that I rescheduled the next ENYFA UFT chapter meeting for the coming week. This will enable me to go over the new or impending agreements between the DOE and the UFT, some of which is still too sketchy to be described or acted on. We’ll meet via zoom on Thursday, October 8 at 5 o’clock. The make-up meeting on the same topics will be Saturday October 10 at 10 AM. Please reply to this email and I’ll send you the Zoom links, meeting IDs and passcodes.

I appreciate it when colleagues call or text with questions and concerns. If you’re someone who does this you know I’m sometimes forced to guess about things. In early September I expected all of the schools to have gone remote by now. I hope I didn’t sound too sure of myself. If you are facing issues or a difficult situation, don’t hesitate to contact me at 347-217-2219.

How Sustainable is the Reopening?

Nobody was arguing that remote learning is better than students being in school. The question was how soon could on-site instruction could be phrased in safely during the still continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The mayor has urgently pressed for starting the experiment as soon and as widely as as possible despite serious obstacles.

Those obstacles include the huge expense (according the Independent Budget Office it is costing the city an extra $ 31.6 million a week to add the staff, equipment and testing needed to use school buildings during the ongoing pandemic). With the unfortunate death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the chances for a second pandemic relief bill from Congress, one that was supposed to have included funding for school re-openings have significantly faded.

Another factor is the views of students and their families changing to become less and less favorable toward on-site attendance. Still another recent complication is vocal dissent from the school administrators’ union which a few days ago declared no confidence in the mayor’s ability to preside over the reopening and called on the state to intervene.

Of course the greatest obstacle for schools remaining open is very likely to be the pandemic itself. The surging infections could quickly make a mockery of all the safety protocols and check-lists that have been put in place. The NY Times today reported on a NYU study that concluded the current plan for random testing will fall short of enabling anyone to see how the pandemic is spreading. According to one researcher more extensive testing could have useful for the city.

The mayor’s control of the schools is top-down and rigid. That’s evident in the way the high infection rates in neighborhoods most acutely affected is subsumed under the city-wide average when it comes to pausing the reopening. This means that by the time the city-wide infection rate reaches the magic number of 3 percent, infection rates in certain neighborhoods could be in the double digits!

New Pressures for Teachers: With What Protections?

Most people know that during the summer the UFT leadership was alarmed by the apparent poor planning for a safe reopening and considered calling a strike in September in spite of the harsh penalties of the Taylor Law. They instead won a delay from the mayor and since then with several formal agreements have been able to exert influence on the DOE’s plans and policies.

The first Memorandum of Agreement promised that on-site instruction, blended instruction and remote instruction would be treated as separate roles. School administrations were expected to make an effort not to combine these roles in giving teachers their school assignments. In fact, it was often beyond the control of the school not to do so. The UFT reported hundreds of violations and the DOE agreed to hire thousands of educators to fix this. The push to hire more teachers has both ended the threat of layoffs but also outraged many school administrators and was apparently part of what pushed them toward the declaration of no confidence.

Another effect of that agreement was to make the live-streaming or recording of lessons a decision left to the teacher. It has also given teachers some discretion in deciding how blended learning is carried out.

The second Memorandum of Agreement concerned the ability of more UFT staff to work remotely with the permission of their school administrations. Staff in all job titles when they do not have on-site responsibilities can request to work remotely. This covers both those who have full days of remote responsibilities as well as those with on-site assignments who have work that can be done remotely when no students are present in the school building. That agreement will go into effect on Monday, October 5.

The second agreement also provides a way to accommodate schools that have instructional programs that violate the agreement on blended learning. This will be done by opening the School-Based Options (SBO). I hope to have more information about this next Thursday.

The UFT website has FAQs and answers on a range topics relating to the reopening.

Safety Conditions

I attended the monthly safety meeting for the Maxwell building via zoom, heard numerous outstanding issues discussed and conveyed complaints about specific situations.For missing safety supplies, inadequate air flow / ventilation, protocols that aren’t being followed or other irregularities call the UFT Call Center at 212-331-6311 directly.

Voting on November 3

If you have done already, you must register to vote by October 9. There’s more information about voting here.

Good & Welfare

A happy 60th birthday to Nigeria and the ENYFA Nigerians. Stay safe, everyone!

UFT News & Updates for January 12, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Happy 2021!  I hope you had a relaxing break and that the rest of this New Year won’t be as disturbing as last week.    

Hopefully some of the information that follows will be useful.  If you are receiving this email via your enyfa.net account please send me a non-DOE email so you can be sure to receive future updates.  UFT policy discourages the use of school email accounts for disseminating union information.

Our next ENYFA UFT chapter meeting will be Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 5:00 PM via Zoom (with a make-up meeting at 10 AM this Saturday for those who have a conflict with this time).  I will be reporting on anything new I learn at the UFT Delegate Assembly tomorrow.  This may include, ongoing discussions between the city and the union regarding reopening plans, teacher evaluations and other matters.  Please try to join us.

I often include information in these updates after getting questions from ENYFA staff.  You can reach me by voice or text at 347-217-2219 and my email is jlawhead33@gmail.com.  Please let me know about your questions and concerns.

Remote Instruction Until When?

There is not much clear information about how soon the NYC DOE intends to reopen school buildings for grades 6-12.  Mayor de Blasio has not backed away from his strong assurances that he wants that to happen as soon possible, preferably this month. 

A message somewhat in conflict with these declarations went out last Sunday in the form of Chancellor Carranza’s request that teachers who are currently teaching remotely wait for “further guidance” before scheduling an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination.  Since the vaccine comes in two doses spread out over several weeks there seems to be an assumption that teachers who are now remote will remain that way for at least a month.

At the December 16 UFT Delegate Assembly Michael Mulgrew called the delays and limited capacity for on-site testing the most significant obstacle to any expanded reopening.  Not only is there insufficient on-site testing but the return of test results has been extremely slow sometimes taking five days.  Here is an editorial by Mulgrew that ran in the New York Daily last month.

During the same meeting Mulgrew also said he expected high schools to open sometime during the spring.  The reason he says are state course requirements that require in-person activities.

School Closings Increasing

You can access an expandable map online showing the location of these schools.

According to the Situation Room table on this Daily Covid map page, results coming in yesterday were positive for 135 students and 140 staffers.  As a result of the surging pandemic 853 of the classrooms opened in November are now closed.  One hundred twelve buildings are closed for 24 hours and 114 have been closed for 10 days.

We know that some of the safety standards agreed to in September have gone out the window.  Mayor de Blasio maintains that the infection rate in the schools is “extraordinarily low” and suggests that schools could remain open even during a general shutdown.  Michael Mulgrew has said that when the city’s infection rate reaches 9 percent of those tested on a seven-day daily average, by the state’s calculations, he will urge that there be a shutdown of all schools.   It’s anybody’s guess how Andrew Cuomo would respond to this.

Whom to believe?  If you trust de Blasio’s declarations that we are just a few week away from having grades 6-12 reopened, you might consider making an appointment to get vaccinated.

The medical sites that are administering the vaccine require a photo ID and proof of   employment such as a recent DOE paystub.  The sites themselves are not screening school employees with regard to who is working on-site or remotely.

The UFT is also matching school workers with vaccination site based on a screening survey.

Challenges Ahead

There are a lot of questions besides when school buildings will reopen or close again.  One is whether students are going to be offered make-up classes and when.  Another is how schools will deal with budget cuts caused by the loss of student enrollment.  There is also concern about the online programs that have proliferated to support online learning and the problem of mayoral control during the pandemic.

For an interesting discussion of a large range of topics I recommend listening to the December interviews with Michael Mulgrew and Mark Cannizzaro of the administrators union, CSA, on the Talk out of School program on WBAI.

Virtual Content Specialist

We discussed this new position at the December chapter meeting.  It involves at least five hours per week outside of teaching time.  It will be supervised by Tweed.  The posting is here.  The job posting contains a link to an online form with which to express your interest.

Member assistance during the pandemic

The UFT Member Assistance Program collaborates with mental health professionals at the Center for Trauma and Stress Education to bring UFT members training for the management of stress and trauma recovery. You can register online.  Read the flyer here.

Free CTLE hours in January

The three courses have multiple dates 

  • All About the Google G Suite;
  • Educational Equity: Advocating for Our Multilingual Learners;
  • Second Language Acquisition: Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

More information and to registration

Film Series

The UFT is hosting a film series the theme of which is “From Chisholm to Harris: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Government.”

If being with “Unbought and Unbossed.” The movie will be followed by a special panel discussion about the journey of women of color who have run for president.

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at 4 o’clock PM.

Register now

Black Lives Matter at School

There will be a city-wide Black Lives Matter at School Curriculum Share. It will take place January 23-24.  Sessions will run from 11 – 4 o’clock Saturday and 11 – 2 o’clock Sunday.  From the organizers:

We’re particularly looking for folks who can share about centering Black joy, rather than Black trauma, and folks who are interested in helping people workshop their lesson plans.

Use this form to get more information.

Further reading:  Invasion of the Capitol

There has a lot said and written about what occurred in Washington, D.C. last week.  I found these two articles insightful.

Was the Riot Really Unprecedented?  (National Geographic)

These Black Capitol Police Officers Describe Fighting Off “Racist A** Terrorists” (Buzzfeed)

Good & welfare

If I don’t see you at Thursday’s meeting (or the Saturday make-up) please stay safe and have a pleasant MLK weekend!

UFT News & Updates for August 25, 2002

Dear Colleagues,

Teachers are raising questions about the city’s plan for schools to reopen on September 10.  There is a lot of uncertainty about if and how this can happen safely. Mayor de Blasio so far remains adamant that on-site instruction will start next month, but there has been an increasing amount of push-back from the UFT, the principal’s union, a majority of the city council, and parent and student groups.

Hopefully, you received an invitation for the zoom meeting for ENYFA UFT members this week. The meeting will take place on Thursday, August 27 at 4 o’clock. James Duncan, our district rep will be discussing safety concerns and the union’s response. He and other UFT leaders want to hear from you. Please make an effort to participate.

The UFT is demanding safety protocols be in place, which include a school nurse in every building, testing of all students and staff for Covid infection, contact tracing, building inspection to assure adequate ventilation in all classrooms and adequate supplies of safety equipment. I’ve uploaded the UFT checklist at enyfaUFTer.net. The demands for school-wide testing and contact tracing were enumerated separately in this UFT-sponsored petition.

At a press conference on August 19 President Michael Mulgrew discussed his intention to delay the reopening by petitions in court and possibly with a job action by members. A strike or sick-out (which would also be considered a job action) would be used only as a last resort. The state’s Taylor Law imposes severe penalities for such actions. Any strike would require authorization by the membership and strong solidarity to succeed.

This recent statement published in the Washington Post by a parent-group PRESS is one of the most comprehensive critiques of the city’s current plans that I’ve read. I will continue to update the enyfaUFTer.net website with updates on the reopening plans and push-back.

I hope you’ll join us on Thursday. Don’t hesitate to contact me by text or voice at 347-217-2219 anytime. Stay safe and be well!

UFT News & Updates for June 12, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am no longer trying to bundle all new relevant information into a single dispatch. I encourage you to continue to visit enyfaUFTer.net for information related to your interests as educators and members of the UFT. The larger topics are indicated by the menu at the top of the homepage. I am updating these topics continually. I can also direct you to other information when you contact me by voice or text at 347-217-2219 with questions or concerns.

SBO Voting on Monday, June 15, 2020

The SBO voting is taking longer than normal this year because of the logistics of remote voting.  Because of the size our membership the voting had be staggered over a period of weeks with schools assigned a single day for voting.

The day for ENYFA UFT members to vote is Monday, June 15. Please check the inbox of your non-DOE email account for an invitation from Election Buddy. Since they are not likely to be among your contacts you should check your spam folder as well.

The ballots can be viewed beforehand on the SBO page at enyfaUFTer.net.

Planning for a September School Reopening

There has recently been a flurry of guidance documents regarding how schools should be reopened. You may have some or all of this already. Please check the School Reopening page for updates.

Chancellor Carranza has made a special allocation of $10 million to support school planning and programming for September.

 Among the tasks of the school planning teams will be choosing among three models for the instructional program. It will have to be one of the following: A student body divided in half that receives alternating weeks of onsite and remote instruction. A student body divided in half that receives alternating days of onsite and remote instruction. The student body divided into more than two groups with a scheme of alternating onsite and remote instruction. Remote or onsite instruction for the entire was not one of the options announced.

The planning teams will also have to address the need for personal protective equipment, temperature scanning, the elimination of mass gatherings like assemblies, cafeteria dining and the physical education. They will also need to plan for the accommodation of students and staff with high risk medical conditions.

Black Lives Matter in School

A former student of mine shared this photo from Haiti.  Here Black Lives Matters is translated in Haitian Creole as lavi nwa yo enpotan.

The protests, vigils, testimony, occupations over the last few weeks have been unprecedented.  Across the nation there has been a significant movement in response to the outrage over the killing of George Floyd and others to change the policies of policing and accountability for police misconduct. The governor has signed a package of bills into law that repeals a provision in the Civil Code, 50-a, blocking the release of police personnel files. It also bans choke holds of the type that killed George Floyd and strengthens the recent establishment of a special prosecutor’s office within the state’s attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute culprits whenever unarmed civilians are killed by police.

Among the possible ramifications for New York City schools are a proposal to change control of school safety officers from the management by the NYPD to the DOE. Principals lost their ability to supervise school security officers under Mayor Guiliani in 1998. 

The City Council is offering a plan for reduced funding for the NYPD that includes this.

However, this is not likely to happen any time soon given that the mayor has expressed opposition.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew has also expressed wariness if not explicit opposition. In comments to the UFT Executive Board he stated (as summarized by NYC Educator) The idea of giving school safety back to DOE is problematic. If there’s another entity, maybe. Police officers still need permission if they want to come in and arrest a student. We know, though, what DOE control means, and the idea of them running safety in addition to everything else is quite frightening. We are open to constructive ideas, but back to DOE will lead to bad results. 

New Legal Services for UFT Members

The UFT is offering a program of legal services for all members. Previously to now we could obtain legal services through the NYSUT state affiliate. This involved joining the program for a fee. The new program is free and you are already enrolled. Spouses, domestic partners and children up to age 19 are also covered by this benefit.

Lawyers from the national legal office of Feldman, Kramer & Monaco, will give UFT members free access to an attorney for telephone advice and consultation, letter-writing, document review (including leases), wills and trusts. Additional services for the purchase or sale of a primary residence, refinancing a residence, divorces and other more complex legal matters are also available at discounted rates.

More information here.

Excessing is Likely for 2020-2021

This is a complicated topic. If you receive a notification that you are in excess please let me know. More information is available on the enyfaUFTER.net topic page.

Good & Welfare

Stay safe and healthy! Don’t forget you can visit and contribute comments at the page to pay tribute to the colleagues we have lost in the UFT at the Honors page. There is also a webpage to honor all New York City residents recently created by The City newsletter.

UFT News & Updates for May 22, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I’m grateful to those who have contacted me directly with questions because it gives me a better idea of what to include in the UFT News & Updates.  Thank you for that and also for the condolences for my mom’s passing in February.

I’m trying to avoid posting information that is subject to change.  Therefore there’s nothing that can be said as to what is the policy for reopening New York City schools.  Likewise the school calendar and school budgets and likely excessing of staff is all yet to be determined. 

I have been posting various guidance documents from the DOE and the state with regard to remote instruction.   Please note that these guidances are often open to interpretation.  Since the UFT grievance process was suspended at the time of the closing of schools in March there’s no actual enforcement of what they suggest. 

I hope everyone has been careful in staying home and staying well.  You can reach me at 347-217-2219 for questions and concerns.  Please make sure my gmail address (jlawhead33@gmail.com) is in your contacts. 

UFT Members Lost to the Coronavirus

At the Wednesday Delegate Assembly Michael Mulgrew reported that 68 active members had been lost to the coronavirus as well as 57 retirees.  Pictures and stories about many of these beloved educators can be found at the Honors Page (https://ufthonors.uft.org). There are obituaries there, a place to post comments, and contact information to send condolences to the families.  Of course school administrators, and many relatives of educators have passed away as well.

School Based Options (SBO) Voting

The UFT leadership has been ironing out plans for schools to conduct SBO votes. Because of this the process is happening later than usual. The plans are still sketchy but I learned this week we will be using a program called Election Buddy.

I’ve set up an SBO page with the ballots I submitted to the principal for approval. I will be receiving a list of eligible members who will get an email invitation with directions for voting online anonymously. There has been no decision yet on whether DOE or school emails could be used to get the invitations to members.

The ballots I submitted to the principal included provisions for an early start time and division of the professional activity assignment into 4/1 or 3/2 days in order to accommodate grade and department team meetings. These SBOs had strong support last year. The two ballots with weaker support last year were for additional professional activities and although they passed they were not implemented. Therefore I didn’t submit them to the principal this year.

Summer School Applications

The dates for filing an on-time summer school application are May 21 – June 13, 2020.  The application can be accessed at the DOE Summer Jobs page (https://www.nycenet.edu/summerjobs/).

The instruction will be conducted remotely. For those who have not worked per session during the summer you should be aware that contractual limits for class-size and breaks are not in effect during the summer.

Salary Increase

A raise of 2 ½ percent went into effect on May 14th and will appear in your May 29 paycheck. The lump sum payment for October is still in effect.

Compensation for the additional time worked this term during the cancelled Spring Break which is being requested in addition to the four additional CAR days, is being negotiated.    To check the salary rates, you can visit the UFT salary page.

Further Reading: Student Privacy Concerns

Most people are aware that one of the main online conferencing applications was banned by the DOE and then allowed back in again. This was on account of Zoom not meeting New York State requirements for student privacy protections.

Student privacy an area in which that the DOE has not done a lot in terms of training or informing educators about in general (although service providers for student with special needs are required to be familiar with the federal protections in FERPA).

If you’re interesting in reading more about this, Chad Marlowe of the ACLU has written an article that includes recommendations for Ed Tech companies during the coronavirus pandemic.

There is a handbook for teachers that includes good practices with regard to protecting students privacy.

Good & Welfare

Please take care of yourself! The epidemic is taking a heavy toll on people’s sense of well being. Michael Mulgrew that the Member Assistance Program has been overwhelmed with requests for counseling. This month the city announced expanded services also. Look in the enyfaufter.net menu for updates on this.

UFT News & Updates for March 2, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you had a relaxing February break and a good week back at school.  The UFT has a policy that discourages the dissemination of union materials on school-owned email accounts.  I’ve previously been somewhat lax about adhering to this.   

For now I’m sending this to those for whom I have a non-DOE email.  With your help in spreading the word I would like to reach all the UFT members in the school again.  Please encourage colleagues you see to send a non-DOE email to jlawhead33@gmail.com. I can also be reached by calls or texts at 347-217-2219.

Note also that there is a new way to read UFT News & Updates, using the web address www.enyfaUFTer.net.  Eventually, all of the newsletters will be archived there.

UFT Consultation

A formal complaint about the inequitable assignment of coverages was argued by a union rep on January 6 and the decision issued on February 25 went against us.  The Chancellor’s rep accepted the principal’s claim that assignments have been made properly and only in emergencies.  He also noted that the complaint lacked “specificity as to who, when or where the alleged violations occurred.”

I will continue to appeal to the school administration to take steps in resolving complaints I receive by keeping better track of the assignment of coverages and offering a paper slip to teachers who are asked to do them.

CTLE Workshops for High School Teachers and Paraprofessionals

Teachers with permanent certification do not need CTLE hours (though they were supposed to have registered on the New York State Education Department website).

Teachers with professional certification and paraprofessionals who hold a Level III Teaching Assistant Certificate do need them. They are required to complete 100 hours every five years. This cycle is called a registration period. The current registration period will end in July 2021.

The following workshops will take place at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway in Manhattan from 4 to 6 p.m.  You can access the registration page by clicking on a title.

Wednesday, March 4: IEP 101 – Putting the I in IEP

Participants will discuss the research behind special education policies, identify the components of an IEP and examine and use criteria for developing a PLOP (Present Level of Performance) and a SMART goal. A SMART goal is one that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Thursday, March 5: Designing Coherent Construction (Component 1E)

Participants will learn a variety of techniques for effective lesson planning, including differentiating between lessons and units, allowing for student choice in instruction and grouping strategies.

Wednesday, March 11: Creating a Classroom Team – Paraprofessionals and Teachers Working Together

Participants will learn how teachers and paraprofessionals can collaborate to create a successful classroom environment.

Thursday, March 12: Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport (Component 2A, Component 2D)

Participants will discuss various approaches for identifying reasons for behavior, using nonverbal communication strategies and winning ways to build classroom communities.

Thursday, March 26: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques (Component 3B)

Participants will learn ways to refine their questioning techniques to create a more student-centered classroom and discuss strategies designed to differentiate content for all students.

CTLE hours and cost: Participants will receive two CTLE hours per course. The fee for each workshop is $30 for teachers who want to receive CTLE credit and $15 without. The fee for paraprofessionals is $15 with or without CTLE credit. Please note: These workshops are not for college credit.

For questions, please email teamhighschool@uft.org.

There will also be a full-day event for paras entitled, “All Aboard: Navigating the Needs of Culturally Diverse Learners.”  The cost is $40 which includes lunch.

The date and location is March 17 at the New York Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. Read the flyer.

Member’s Privacy with Regard to Sick Days

When you take days because of illness you are protected from having to reveal specific medical information. Under the law, an employer can only ask for limited general information about why you were absent from work. In the case of a lengthy absence, central DOE can ask when you expect to return. You may be required to provide a doctor’s note in certain instances, but again an administrator cannot require that it include medical information.  You can access this page to learn more.

Applications for a Study Sabbatical

Teachers may apply for a sabbatical leave to enhance their teaching skills, restore their health if necessary, or earn state certification in a shortage area.  Members who want to study for enhancing their teaching skills have until Tuesday, March 19, to submit an application on SOLAS for a study sabbatical for the 2020–21 school year. Tuesday, March 26, is the deadline for a principal’s recommendation to the superintendent.

Coursework must be related to one’s teaching assignment. Teachers are eligible for a one-year study sabbatical after 14 years of service.  Junior high or high school members with seven years teaching may also apply for a six-month study sabbatical for the spring semester only. During either type of sabbatical teachers earn 70 percent of their salary.

The 70 percent goes for health sabbaticals also.

Visit the Leaves of Absence section of the UFT website.

Members can read the current guidelines and eligibility requirements in the Chancellor’s Regulation C-650 on Sabbatical Leaves of Absence, which the DOE updates and reissues each spring.

Filing Taxes for 2019

The IRS began processing 2019 tax returns on January 27. If you misplaced the W-2 form you received at school, there are two ways to obtain another one.

NYCAPS allows you to download your W-2 as a pdf file to your computer immediately.

You can also visit the NYC DOE payroll portal to request a copy by mail. 

Note that if your annual income is less than $69K you can use software to file for free.

If itemize deductions you can calculate your union dues for 2019 from this corrected chart:

Pro Publica has an explanation of the 2019 tax brackets, how they are applied to your income, and an interesting map showing who is most likely to get audited.

Changes Coming for New York State Graduation Requirements

Last year the state Department of Education began a review and overhaul of high school graduation requirements.  It is projected to take at least two years.

Parents, students, educators and other interested parties are encouraged to participate in a survey and give comments at the public meetings.

There are good reasons to think that significant changes are coming, rather than something cosmetic (as, for example, the 2017 relabeling of the state’s learning standards from ‘Common Core’ to ‘Next Generation’).

One factor is a general trend across the country.  Although during the Bush/Obama years there were as many as 27 states that required a test (commonly called an exit exam) besides coursework credits for high school graduation that number declined to 11 in 2019.  Also, when the states of the U.S. are ranked by high school graduation rates there usually are about 40 states with better graduation statistics than New York.

Last year NYSUT which is the state affiliate of the AFT to which we belong conducted a phone survey of 1108 NYSUT members.  This was the question and response on one of the items.

The survey was not widely disseminated. In fact, to read all of the responses including comments your need to log in with your NYSUT ID number which can be obtained by calling 800-342-9810, ext. 6224 during business hours.

The last time New York overhauled its graduation requirements was during the late 1990s, and it was not done quietly.  It was heralded as a triumph of a new tougher accountability over a miserable status quo of low expectations.  

There were many converts to tougher standards including then-NYS Commissioner of Education Richard Mills who only a few years before had been proudly implementing state-wide portfolio assessment in Vermont.

I recall advocates declared it was an outrage that students could satisfied the writing portion on the English RCT just by composing a letter of complaint for a situation described in the directions.  The new Regents ELA exams which was produced by various vendors, including McGraw-Hill and Pro-quest have caused a lot of head scratching and murmuring among teachers. They have also undeniably shaped the curriculum to an extent that it’s hard to see how the coursework for graduation could be changed much without a revamping the testing regime and perhaps revisiting some of the assumptions that brought it into being.

The first phase of the current overhaul involved outsourcing the project to Achieve, Inc. to do research on graduation criteria across the country and then collecting feedback from stakeholders through the survey and public meetings.

Achieve, Inc. work has been funded by a $ 100 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In December Achieve, Inc. reported to the Regents on the graduation policy used in other states.  In the next few months a report on stakeholders input (collected from the survey and comments at public meetings) will be produced.

The second phases will be carried out by blue ribbon panel of experts who will be appointed by the Regents later this year.

In December there was an outcry over the way Achieve, Inc. was running the research phase. In January that company was replaced by WestEd. The Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa has been assuring reporters that the Gates Foundation money arrived with “no strings attached.”

I may be wrong about dramatic changes coming, but if after all this the high schoolers still have five regents to pass in 2023 (that not quite 2 out of 3 educators believe in) they can always write a letter of complaint.

U.S. Constitutional Issues

As Black History Month comes to a close, discussions have focused on the way the institution of slavery shaped American society up to the present.

In the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College, we have two institutions whose design involved a departure from the principle of one-person one-vote are.  Many of us were taught that these institutions were shaped as a compromise between the large states and the small states.  Corey Robin, a professor at Brooklyn College argued recently that it had more to do with slavery than the size of states.

I have no idea who at the Brooklyn Public Library thought up the Amendment by the People project but I admire the spirit of it and hope it draws a good participation.  This is the description.

The US Constitution determines the rights of everyone living in America and how the government is structured. Over two centuries it has been changed, or amended, 27 times to reflect the will of people.

Brooklyn Public Library invites the public to help draft the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. Through a series of town hall-style forums held at library branches, correctional facilities and high schools, Brooklynites of all ages and backgrounds will come together to discuss and debate the issues that they believe the amendment should address. While the result will not be a legal document, the amendment, written by our Framers, will reflect the aspirations and collective will of the people of Brooklyn.

Macon Library, Thursday, March 5, 6:30 pm / Sunset Park Library, Tuesday, March 24, 6 pm / Sheepshead Bay Library, Thursday, April 2, 7 pm / Greenpoint Library, Saturday, April 25, 2 pm / Crown Heights Library, Wednesday, May 13, 7 pm / Brownsville Library, Tuesday, May 19, 7 pm

Why do We Laugh?

There are probably a lot of ways to answer that question. This article offers some scientific reasons.

Updates on Previously Posted Stories

I am planning to include another installment of the William H. Maxwell story which I began in the last newsletter.  I’m omitting it to spare you the length of what is already an oversized edition of this newsletter.

I did not want to leave out this update on the 2016 federal lawsuit over racial discrimination at a Queens high school.  After two days of trial a settlement was reached with Lisa-Erika James who’s now a teacher at the La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts.  She had previously said she was pursuing the suit to address “systemic racism in the public school system.”

The NYC DOE has now spent $ 2.1 million settling the case from 2016 while claiming there was no wrongdoing on the part of the school administration or the district superintendency.

Good & Welfare

On a personal note, my mom passed away in February.  She was 91 and had been debilitated by a stroke she had in 2014.  For most of the past 5 years she lived in a nursing home in Fresno, CA where my brother lives.  In October of last year my sister moved her up into her house on a mountain near Port Angeles, WA.

I had planned to visit her during the February break but I got there too late, so I ended up visiting with my sister and her family.  

My mom was the eldest daughter of Canadian missionaries who went to the Belgian Congo in March of 1928.  The McIntoshes were among the first Protestant missionaries in the eastern Congo and had trouble obtaining permission to settle. My mom was raised with her three sisters there until she came to the U.S. to attend high school and college in Southern California.

After she married my father who she met at a church in San Diego she became interested in education.  She obtained a language certificate from l’Ecole Coloniale in Brussels.  With this she got permission to open a government-funded school at Rethy in what is now Ituri Province.

In 1960 after several years of protest and unrest the Congo was granted Independence.  That year there were sixteen other new nations in Africa emerging from under the colonial yoke.  Following the election of a Congolese-led government, the Belgians with the support of the U.S. and other western powers were sowing seeds of chaos, by cutting off funding for the infrastructure including the school. 

The school built at Rethy was large and the Congolese teachers came to my mom to demand their pay.  Not satisfied with her explanations they went on strike. The Belgians also ended the pay for the army, called the Force Publique which was still officered by whites.  The soldiers mutinied against lack of pay and the continuing command by white officers.  The soldiers set up road blocks to collect funds from the traffic. My grandparents continue to work in the Congo during the 1960s but our family did not return after two evacuations, partly because of a medical condition of one of my siblings. 

As a young adult I read books like The Congo Cabels by Madeleine Kalb and In Search of Enemies by John Stockwell.  With what I was finding out it was hard not become a know-it-all around family members who were still clinging to the official narrative that Patrice Lumumba had tried to bring about a Communist takeover.  In fact I didn’t put much effort into being tactful but I remained interested in the experiences they had had.

My younger sister remains in mission work has made several visits to Nyankunde were my mother was born. Recently at my sisters house we shared memories of my mother. Since she is five years older than me her memories of the Congo that were more extensive than mine. We talked about the school my mom opened. She recounted my mom feeling bitterness toward the teachers for the way they accused her putting the Belgians’ money away somewhere. My mother had only told me the basics: that after the teachers went on strike and they got tired of waiting they left as a group for Stanleyville (now Kisangani) to defend Lumumba’s government.   

In Los Angeles my mom worked for several years as substitute teacher and later as a medical assistant.  She was an avid gardener and took pride in cultivating rare palm trees.  During my last visit to Washington I drove up the mountain to my mom’s old house and was surprised that the large garden she’d left behind was still there.  It included a lot of non-native species, more suited to California, like a Sequoia tree. The plants were thriving beautifully, obviously well-tended by someone I’ve never met.

My mom and I believed in different things and unfortunately we both loved to keep good argument going.  A bunch were left unfinished.  I’m of course grateful that there were also many things that inspired us both and those are still around.  Her courage in recovering her language ability after a major stroke was amazing. I gathered several pictures to share here but the fondest image in my mind is of her at work moving among the shrubs and flowers.

UFT News & Updates for January 10, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year!  I hope 2020 has started well for you.  A good bit of information follows.  Hopefully some of it will be useful.  I appreciated hearing from ENYFA colleagues about items they would like to see included.  Thank you! I can be reached by text or voice at 347-217-2219 with questions and concerns.

UFT Consultation

We are awaiting a decision in the formal process for a complaint over a school policy that leaves ICT teachers with a disproportionate amount of assignments for emergency class coverages instead of having a general rotation.  I urge ICT teachers who are given  other assignments with your ICT position left uncovered that you email an administrator for confirmation of this. It’s regrettable that teachers’ complaints must go into a drawn out formal grievance process but we can’t abide a situation in which those raising such basic issues are told they might not be a good fit for the school.  School-level UFT consultation is a process that works if we can manage to have the patience and respect it requires.

Teacher Observations

The last day for fall teacher observations (called a “window” in the current rating system) is January 27.  By this time half of the required minimum number of teacher observations should be completed.  If your situation requires a minimum number of three or five, an additional observation may occur in either window.  Please note that there is no maximum number of times a teacher can be observed.

Note that there is 10-day deadline for feedback (oral or written) and 30 days for observation reports.

CTLE Courses

For a schedule of upcoming CTLE courses offered on Saturdays by the UFT check out:

The following courses are free, but take place on school days.

There will be a one-day institute on Project-Based Learning presented by NYC Outward Bound Schools. In this approach students learn by investigating an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.  The institute takes place on Thursday, January 23 from 8:30am-3pm, and will include samples of high-quality STEM, humanities, and interdisciplinary project tasks with student work.  CTLE credit will be awarded but you must register by January 10.

NYC Outward Bound Schools
 29-46 Northern Blvd, Long Island City

Lunch & light breakfast provided.  For more information, contact Jessica Bardy, Director of Select Strategies, (929) 233-7830 / jbardy@nycoutwardbound.org

For teachers of Social Studies and ELA there will a workshop given by museum staff to examine multiple perspectives relating to different aspects of Holocaust history. Through an exploration of artifacts, photographs, diaries, memoirs, testimony, and other primary sources, teachers will learn how to help students deepen their understanding of the content by comparing, contrasting, and evaluating their findings.

Friday, January 31, 2020, 9 AM – 2:30 PM.
Museum of Jewish Heritage,
36 Battery Place, New York, New York 10280

Register by January 29.

School Secretaries Seminar

Saturday, January 11, 2020, 8:30 am – 3:00 pm

UFT headquarters, 52 Broadway, Manhattan

This free seminar is an opportunity to receive useful information on important topics, including paid parental leave benefits and the rollout of the new version of Cybershift. 

Register here.

Paraprofessionals Rights and Responsibilities

This updated summary from the New York Teacher describes some benefits paraprofessionals obtained from the 2019 collective bargaining agreement.  It has sections on cafeteria duty and due process rights.

UFT Initiative on the 2020 Census

The federal government will collect data for the 2020 Census from March through the end of July. This effort is meant to help the city get its fair share of federal funding. New Yorkers have been undercounted in past censuses.  Ten years ago, New York City had a 61% response rate for the Census, below the national average of 74%.

The UFT is making a push to help maximize New York City’s participation rate.  During the spring months there will be a need for volunteers to canvas and distribute information.  For now you can read a Census Q&A that appeared in the New York Teacher to learn more.

Since the last census was taken in 2010 New York has lost 1.4 million residents to other states.  During the last two years the Empire State has been leading the country in net population decline (first in numbers, and fourth by percentage).  Observers attribute this trend to the high cost of living.

Because of this trend the state is in danger of losing congressional seats (at least one and perhaps two).

New Court Hearing on School Overcrowding

On Monday, January 13 a New York appeals court will be hearing arguments in a lawsuit brought by New York City parents demanding that the state comply with previous court rulings on equitable funding the city and to correct the distorted spending priorities that leave schools overcrowded.  The Commissioner of Education argued that the previous ruling had expired, a lower court agreed and hence the need for an appeal.

The underfunding of New York City public schools has been the subject of litigation for 27 years.  The struggle continues now to implement the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State decision of 2003 which agreed that there has been a systemic deprivation of city students’ right to a sound basic education.

Here’s an article on the state budget and calls for increased foundation aid.

Federal Case about ‘Explicit Bias’ on the Part of DOE Principals

In February court hearings will begin in Title VII case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office over the DOE’s failure to protect teachers from racial bias on the part of a principal and her district superintendent.

Members of Black Lives Matter in School attended the DOE Panel for Education Policy meeting on December 18, 2019 to ask the Chancellor why, “despite all the rhetoric about implicit bias, equity and restorative justice, the city refuses to settle on reasonable terms” before the case comes to trial. Arguments are set for February 4.

According to an article in the City, the principal continued to work at the school for two years after the accusations brought by three teachers and an assistant principal.

Black Lives Matter in School is planning a week of events during the week of February 4-8.  One of the issues they hope to raise awareness about is the decline in the numbers of black teachers in New York and other major cities.

The Irishman

I’ve recently become interested in the story of an Irishman.  This is not the one depicted in Martin Scorsese’s last movie who was a criminal associate of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa.  While there aren’t any blood-spattered walls in this tale, it has other kinds of drama.  This Irishman grew up in County Tyrone in the north.  His father was a clergyman. He had a good formal education and was a college lecturer before deciding to seek better opportunities abroad.  He came to New York in 1874 at the age of 22 hoping to become a school teacher.

It’s often said when looking for a job that who you know matters more than what you know.  This was never more true than in the gas light era of New York and Brooklyn before the Consolidation of 1898.  Ward bosses controlled all public jobs and strangers didn’t get interviews.  After a fruitless search for a position our new arrival ended up getting hired by the newspapers as a reporter.  He worked for the Evening Mail, the Tribune and the Herald.  Later he worked as an editor on the Brooklyn Times.

In this capacity he got be familiar with important politicians, in particular the boss of Democratic Party machine, Hugh McLaughlin.  This connection proved valuable.  By 1882 he had the political backing to become an evening school instructor and then seek higher appointments. He soon ascended to the level of superintendent for the City of Brooklyn.  He would go on to take charge of the school system for Greater New York from 1898 to 1917.  If you haven’t guess already, the man’s name was William H. Maxwell.  Check your inbox in a couple weeks for more about him in another UFT News & Updates.

Getting Students’ Creative Work Published or Displayed

There are still several magazines that publish students’ creative writing and artwork.

Cricket Magazine is for ages 9-14

Skipping Stones accept submissions from kids of all ages.

Also, check out these local events.

The For-Teens-By-Teens 2020 exhibition will be part of BRIC’s Youth Contemporary Art Program.

What is New York’s perspective on transit? What inspires you about your daily commute, whether it be good or bad?  Submit a work of art that reveals small secrets within the system you see every day.

Submissions are being accepted until January 28, 2020 (11:59 PM)
For-Teens-By-Teens exhibition: May 20 – June 14, 2020

Read the requirements here:

Here’s something that might inspire young graphic artists.

Eighth Annual Black Comic Book Festival
January 17-18, 2020
10 AM to 8 PM
Free and open to the public.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037

Every year creators, illustrators, writers, and independent publishers come together with thousands of collectors for two days of programming and activities. This event includes interactive panel discussions, a vendor marketplace featuring exclusive titles by Black creators, a cosplay show, and more.

Teacher Performances

“I’m happy I didn’t quit that first year. Back then, I felt like everything good that happened was a lucky accident, but now I know there’s not much that happens by accident. Almost everything, like a group of kids coming together for a classmate, happens when you let go and give them room to love.”

Teachable Moments is a live storytelling event for current and former educators in New York City. Each event gives listeners an unadulterated look inside the unparalleled ups and downs of teaching.

Teachable Moments
Newyorican Poets Café
January 15, 2020 6:30 PM

Due date

Teachers Choice form, January 17. More information here.

Calling the UFT

The UFT’s new contact center is open and can provide support with all your union rights and benefits. Call the following numbers with any questions or for assistance.

DOE members, 212-331-6311
DOE functional chapter members, 212-331-6312
UFT Welfare Fund, 212-539-0500 – questions about health benefits
UFT Welfare Fund forms, 212-539-0539 – to obtain forms
Paid Parental Leave, 212-539-0510

UFT News & Updates for December 20, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings from your scarcely seen chapter leader!  The break is near and after tomorrow, December 21, there’s a slightly longer amount of daylight each day.  Next week might be a good time to put some UFT workshops in your calendar for the New Year.  See the information below.  Keep in touch with me about any concerns, whether that be issues at school or with your union benefits.  I can be reached with calls or texts at 347-217-2219.

Upcoming Subject-area Workshop

One-day conference for K-12 social studies teachers on Crossing Frontiers Across the American West.  Cost:  $40.  Saturday, January 6 9:00 – 1:00 PM. Register soon if you are interested.

CTLE Courses Offered at the UFT Offices

Follow this link to a list of CTLE courses that are scheduled for January 11, 2020

Sign up form

MAP Workshop for Caregivers

UFT Member Assistant Program Workshop for Caregivers.  February 26, March 4, 11, 18, 25 April 1, 2020.  All of the sessions will be held at 52 Broadway, 12th floor conference room #1, Manhattan.

Next Student Debt Relief Webinar

The next webinar on the Student Debt Relief for Educators will be on Monday, Dec. 23.
This will be followed by another one on Saturday, January 4, 2020 9:30-11:30 AM.

Once you’ve watched a webinar, you can make an appointment to speak by phone with a loan specialist to discuss your situation. Use the online form to sign up.

Paraprofessionals Needing College Credits

If you are a paraprofessional and are not sure about your credit accumulation you should log into the TEACH account on the State Education Department’s website and find out what you’re missing.

Anyone receiving a notice of termination for lack of college credits can apply between February 1 and March 31, 2020 for the Career Training Program for the summer semester. The program pays tuition for from three to six credits per semester for undergraduate study at participating colleges and universities. Two and a half hours per week of release time and/or a summer stipend are also provided to support study. If you have specific questions about this contact the UFT’s certification specialists — Monica Christie, Jeremiah Bornemann or Stephanie Forbes — at 212-331-6311.

Borrowing from Retirement Funds

As a UFT member, you have two sources from which to borrow money. If you are in pension tiers 3, 4 or 6, you can borrow from your Qualified Pension Plan against your Member Contribution Accumulation Fund and against part of your additional member contributions. You may also borrow from your Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) account.

 The maximum amount you can borrow from your pension and your TDA is $50,000 provided you have sufficient funds. Loans are normally available within two weeks after you apply and under normal circumstances are not taxable. Both have convenient repayment plans. The interest rate for TDA loans is 7% per year and the interest rate for QPP loans is 6% per year.  Remember to compare the terms of TRS/BERS loans to other loans to understand all of the ramifications. For more information, see the Teachers’ Retirement System website.

Continuing Discussion of the Fight for CUNY

I appreciate the comments I’ve received about stories and links in my recent chapter newsletters.   A colleague wondered whether the large raise given to CUNY adjunct instructors will result in increased tuition for students.  

That would not seem to be the case since there are two sides to any labor agreement and the city’s assent should entail the necessary budgeting.  But who knows?  There’s been a long running trend of disinvestment from CUNY by both the state and city ever since the budget shocks of the 1970s.  In recent years the financial burden has dramatically shifted, such that CUNY’s operations are increasingly financed by student tuition.

Jumaane Williams is the city’s Public Advocate.  He spent seven years earning his undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College.  He went on to earn an advanced degree from the same school.  His editorial on the situation at the CUNY campuses is worth reading.  He describes the neglect presided over by our elected officials.  From 2008 to 2018, under Governors Paterson and Cuomo state funding declined 18 percent when corrected for inflation and rising enrollment.  He argues it’s time to make better funding a priority.

A booklet published by the Professional Staff Congress shows that currently 77 percent of CUNY students are minority, forty-five percent are first-generation college students, 34 percent enroll part-time and 36 percent are immigrants.

A 2018 study examined the role of colleges in providing social mobility for those at the bottom of the socio-economic food chain.  CUNY schools took an amazing seven places out of the top ten for four-year colleges across the nation and five places out of the top ten for two-years colleges when it comes to making an improvement in their students’ economic status.

In the words of the Public Advocate, “CUNY knows what works and just needs the resources to do it.”

New Hearings on Mayoral Control

On Monday of this week the Education Committee of the NYS Assembly began NEW hearings on mayoral control.  Last spring mayoral control of the DOE was renewed until 2022.  The purpose of the hearings according to Committee Chairperson Michael Bennedetto is to lay the groundwork for a potential revamping of governance of the city schools.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters showed up to provide an overview of what has resulted from the DOE’s unchecked authority, including school closings, overcrowding, rampant co-locations and hundreds of millions wasted on tech boondoggles that have had to be abandoned.

Part of the reason that there are so few controls on the DOE is that mayoral control was established by state law remains mostly out of the reach of the City Council.  According to City Council Member Mark Treyger, chair of the Education Committee, although the school system takes up a third of so of the city budget, the Council has no say in the appointment of chancellors, and can’t pass any laws affecting DOE functions beyond requiring certain reports. “It speaks to a real imbalance in terms of authority and proper oversight over a critical agency,” he said.

Investigating the Investigators

In the City Council chambers, Council Member Treyger is planning to hold a hearing on the performance of the Special Commissioner of Investigation along with Ritchie Torres, the Oversight and Investigations Committee chairman.   The SCI, which is supposed to be uncovering wrongdoing in the DOE, has come under intense scrutiny after a whistle-blower on its own investigative staff sent a letter charging that the agency with blocking probes of misconduct by Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza and other DOE executives.

I would like to think more attention will soon be paid to the Office of Special Investigations, the DOE in-house unit, which is currently holding hundreds of teachers in an archipelago of reassignment centers throughout the city.  Questions need to be raised about what its real purpose is.

Since I was removed from ENYFA, I’ve come into the company of four other chapter leaders in the building I’m assigned to who were also removed from their schools.  There is Ms. A. who is chapter leader at a middle school in District 13.  She is awaiting a hearing on charges that she was stapling papers while she was proctoring a test and that she didn’t hold a restorative justice circle with her students when directed to do so. 

After Ms. A. made a complaint about conditions in the room where a dozen or so of us have to sit, she was relocated to a room on Court Street where she sits by herself all day without cell phone service or wifi.  Ms. A’s situation seems to fit a general pattern of union activists taken out of Title 1 schools with weak school leadership that are loath to collaborate with their teachers.  She’s a grandmother, originally from Trinidad and has been through it before, a previous round of charges that were not substantiated, and she has a good sense of irony about what bizarre things are possible given the present state of our profession.

Another reassigned chapter leader is Ms. T. who has responsibility for about 250 members who are adult education teachers in District 79.  She is busy all day communicating with members by phone and email, being unable to visit the work sites.  She also meets with her members at UFT offices.  It should be obvious to anyone who encounters Ms. T. that she was removed for doing her job as chapter leader.  She is extremely diligent and regularly leads a group of the reassigned teachers to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for lunch hour services.

I feel like I’m the bad boy in our group with my history of publicly criticizing DOE policies and even the shortcomings of OSI.  After OSI squelched an investigation of regents’ cheating that I had close knowledge of a while back, I spent several years pestering them with Freedom of Information requests to document their complicity in the cover-up.  Perhaps after that mischief it serves me right to have fallen into their clutches and be on the receiving end of accusations.  However it goes, I will try to learn from the experience so that I’m ready to help colleagues when they face anything similar.

Free Resources for the Classroom

From the Film Board of Canada here is the Indigenous Cinema Collection.  It’s a large holding with many films and clips in a vast range of themes and styles.

Educators can find a free reference guide and a series of four short videos to help them create a safe and supportive space for their immigrant students. An accompanying guide provides fiction and nonfiction titles for Pre-K–12, curricular materials, a film list, posters and handouts, information about advocacy groups and resources for families as well as supports for undocumented students applying to college. These materials are provided by CUNY and funded in large part by a grant from the State Education Department.

Opportunities for Students

Kids go free on Kids’ Night on Broadway: Tickets are on sale for Kids’ Night on Broadway, sponsored by the Broadway league. Kids 18 and under can see a participating show, including “Frozen,” “Mean Girls” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for free on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when accompanied by an adult paying full price for a ticket. A Kids’ Night on Broadway ticket also includes restaurant discounts, parking discounts and more. Select shows will offer in-theater activities for kids, including talkbacks and activity books. Use promo code KNBWAY20.

Paid law internship for high school students: Teachers in high schools are asked to encourage students interested in law to apply for the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, an intensive paid internship program that places New York City public high school students with legal employers for the summer and exposes them to the legal profession.

Applicants must submit copies of their transcript, working papers, a resume and a recommendation letter from a teacher or guidance counselor. They must also supply a document detailing their availability for an interview at the City Bar (Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., after school hours or during spring break). Students must also write a 300-500 word essay on why they would like to participate in the program and describe how at least one of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s accomplishments aligns with their goals. The application deadline is Jan. 3. For more information, see the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program flier. For full requirements and to submit an application, use the online form

There are now openings for BRIC Artists in Residence.  Although attendance at the information sessions are not required, they are an opportunity to speak directly with program staff and to see the Artist Studio space.

Upcoming information session dates are: Tuesday, January 21, 2020: 6:30-8PM

Please RSVP to these sessions HERE. All information sessions will be held at BRIC House, 647 Fulton Street, Downtown Brooklyn.

Good & Welfare

I hope everyone will have a rejuvinating break!