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.

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