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 (email@example.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.
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).
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 / firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
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
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.
Greetings everybody! It’s been gratifying to get your messages of support. Please accept my regrets if I didn’t get back to anyone. I can be reached by text or voice at 347-217-2219.
Take note of the following upcoming UFT workshops. When the sessions are fully booked you can often still sign up to get notifications when new dates are scheduled.
Tenure Workshop for Brooklyn High Schools, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, 4 to 6 p.m., UFT borough office, 335 Adams Street, Brooklyn. Register here.
Student Debt Relief: Now There’s a Webinar
The UFT has a Student Debt Relief Program which is meant to help members lower their student debt bills. As an employee working in public service, you may be eligible to participate in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness and federal Title I Loan Forgiveness programs. Understanding your options and applying for the right program is complicated.
The in-person information sessions have been filling up nearly as quickly as they are offered. The program is now expanding to include webinars that can be viewed on a personal computer. After watching a webinar, you can make an appointment to speak by phone with a loan specialist to discuss your individual situation. Use this online form to sign up for a webinar.
Below are couple more workshops focused on personal financial management.
Money Moves: A Financial Wellness Workshop for UFT Members, December 10, 2019 at 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, UFT Brooklyn borough office. All UFT members are welcome to attend. This session is designed to give you strategies for living within your means while saving to meet your short- and long-term financial goals.
All eligible members should have received a payment for Teacher’s Choice in their November 29, 2019 paycheck. The current funding levels by title are teachers, $250 / school counselors, $110 / school secretaries, $ 60.
Keep your receipts for school-related purchases made between August 1, 2019 and January 12, 2020. The accountability form that you need to submit by Jan. 17, 2020, can be downloaded here:
You probably know that you cannot include any sale tax on the accountability form. Did you also know you can avoid paying any sales tax in the first place by presenting a form to the vendor?
Note that contrary to what the UFT website says, the boycott of Staples is over. It was in effect from 2014-2017 in response to the U.S. Postal Service outsourcing its work to non-unionized workers at the retail giant. In response to a boycott by the AFL-CIO and national teacher unions, information pickets, and a court ruling Staples retreated from the arrangement.
UFT wins Regents Scoring Grievance
Recently an independent arbitrator ruled that the DOE improperly denied retention rights to a teacher in Queens for Regents scoring. The city had told her she could not claim retention in June because she had not done Regents scoring the previous January.
This was a dispute over retention rights and how to define a per session activity. Under the UFT contract teachers who have at least two years of continuous satisfactory service in a particular per session activity get priority for retention in the same activity for the following year.
The new ruling upheld the UFT’s position that scoring in January and June are separate per-session activities. The teacher’s retention rights were restored and she was awarded full back pay for the activity.
CUNY Adjuncts Win Pay Increase
CUNY campuses are the most accessible destination for ENYFA students enrolling in college. Unfortunately, the CUNY system has suffered from years of austerity budgets, rising tuition and low pay for the adjunct professors who teach most of the classes. The recently ratified agreement with the Professional Staff Congress provides for a significant salary increase for those at the bottom but little for longevity.
I’m linking to a range of views from the boosters and detractors of the agreement.
Last week at lunchtime I came across some high school classes lined up at the UA Court Street Theater for a showing of Harriet. They were excited about seeing a feature film on this 19th century abolitionist who participated in the Underground Railroad and led military operations of Union troops during the Civil War.
The following links lead to articles that analyze what is historical and what is imaginary in the movie. Overall the researchers found that the film is mostly well grounded in historical facts.
Movie viewers might wonder Tubman’s use of weapons (not shown in picture books), the role of black slave-catchers (who were relatively few compared to white slave-catchers), and the nature of Tubman’s “spells” which she believed to be prophetic.
Another commentator has a problem with the lack of a vernacular dialect. This is common problem with movies set in historical times. Film writers nowadays often don’t bother making the dialogue contemporaneous with the times. This review emphasizes the mysteries remaining with regard to Tubman’s endeavors which by necessity were shrouded in mystery.
Hopefully this movie will have a good run.
Further Reading: Fiat-Chrysler v. General Motors
Another November movie released was Ford v. Ferrari. I enjoyed the performance of Christian Bale, especially his struggle with the faulty door of his Ford GT during the first lap of Le Mans. This movie relates the story of the rivalry between the two car companies that was spurred by the Ford Motor Corporation’s hope that it could add luster to its new car models with an auto racing victory against Ferrari.
In the September News & Updates I posted some articles about the UAW strike against General Motors. The story at the time was about how the autoworkers were trying to recover ground from the huge givebacks the union had agreed to at the time of the government bailout of GM.
In recent weeks a lot more information has been added to the story, especially in the light of a federal corruption investigation of the UAW leadership which has led to the resignation of top officers.
Recently, General Motors filed an unusual lawsuit against its rival company Fiat Chrysler, which it accuses of making bribes to UAW officials, resulting in “unfair advantages” for the Italian automaker that cost GM billions of dollars.”
The UAW leadership allowed FCA to hire tens of thousands of workers who are paid less than workers hired before 2007 and have inferior health and retirement benefits. The UAW also allowed for a huge expansion of temporary workers.
Greetings from downtown Brooklyn! It is breaking my heart to have been away from ENYFA for over two weeks. Please know that I’m busy working on ways to obtain relatively quick relief from my reassignment, and I have an excellent attorney who is doing likewise. He often seems more interested in the specifics of my case than I am!
In any event I will continue to keep you informed about UFT-related matters, upcoming events and topics of interest to educators. Some of the information that follows may not be relevant to everyone at the moment, so consider saving it in an email folder for future reference. For other concerns and questions you can reach me by voice or text at 347-217-2219.
This week I restarted a dialogue with the principal on the topic of teacher coverages. Our school has some excellent regular substitutes who cover the classes of teachers who are absent. When they aren’t available our school often relies on ICT teachers to cover classes for absent content teachers. This policy is inequitable for the teachers most often called upon and it hurts our ICT classes. There are resources available that could be used to improve this situation.
The current UFT contract provides that every teacher in the school can be called upon to give one period for covering the class of an absent colleague during his or her prep time without compensation. A wider rotation of coverage assignments among teachers could be sustained through better budget planning which would allow for a fairer distribution of assignments through voluntary, paid coverages. It may take time to implement but it will relieve the burden of ICT teacher always having to fill in on days when we have staffing shortages. Trust me that I much prefer resolving teachers’ concerns at the school level, using the formal complaint process (which is every members’ right) only as a last resort and I look forward to resolving this matter through continuing consultation.
The DOE discourages the use of students to translate for their parents. It puts the children in an awkward position, whether the conversations concern the students themselves or a brother or sister.
However, attempting to not do this by using the available phone services comes with another caveat. A recent article in the Daily News points out that this option may prove more frustrating than useful.
Teachers should think ahead about who they can contact to translate with family members who don’t speak fluent English. We have fluent speakers of Spanish and Haitian Creole among the staff. Our Arabic and Bengali-speaking families often bring grown siblings and other relatives.
The new phone service is Linguistica International, 800-889-5921. If you are requesting assistance using your phone be aware that translating a conversation is called interpreting. The DOE reserves the term translation for the translation of documents.
Mental Health Resources for Teachers
The UFT has been expanding its Member Assistance Program (MAP) which involves professional counselors who can give you support with problems that might affect your mental health and perhaps put your job in jeopardy. The services are cost-free and confidential.
Any UFT member can request short-term counseling with a licensed mental health professional through MAP. The staff includes a psychiatrist who assesses and provides support with the counseling. You can set up an appointment with a counselor, receive a referral for outside mental health resources or learn how MAP can support you, by phone at 212-701-9620 or via email email@example.com.
Map also offers focused support for members and their families for gambling addiction and substance abuse. From time to time schedule sessions are offered for group counseling for other kinds of problems. Here are a couple announcements I recently received.
Currently scheduled sessions for managing grief and loss. Have you experienced a difficult loss in the last year? The UFT’s Member Assistance Program offers counseling groups on managing grief. Sessions are on Thursdays, from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. at UFT headquarters, 50 Broadway. For more information, email the Member Assistance Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-701-9620. Enrollment is limited so register ASAP. For a list of support group dates and to register online, see the How to Manage Grief and Loss flier.
The Member’s Assistance Program also offers art therapy for teachers in their 1-3 years.
Also, self-treated sick days are crucial to restoring and maintaining physical as well as mental health. Pedagogues may take up to 10 self-treated days a year without a doctor’s note. This is true whether the days are taken separately or some, or even all, are taken consecutively. You are limited to 10 self-treated days a year, even if you have more sick days in your CAR.
Note that paraprofessionals and some service provided are governed by a different policy. They are required to provide a note if they are absent three or more consecutive days.
For more information about absences, see the Your Rights section of the UFT website.
Further Reading: What Will Follow the Common Core?
You may be aware of the shifts away from the Common Core standards with new trends emerging in its wake. One likely trend may be a return to more emphasis on reading fiction. Recent studies have shown advantages to fiction reading. Here a recent piece on the need to restore literature to the ELA curriculum.
Settlement of the Chicago Teachers Strike
I have previously posted news articles and updates on the 11-day Chicago Teachers Strike. A new agreement has been ratified by the CTU membership with the inclusion of make-up school days for the days lost during the walkout.
Here’s an aspect of the continuing actions related to Chicago’s real estate developer, which has been enjoying similar benefits from New York City.
“The teachers union also shone a light on an opaque financing tool known as Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, that’s intended to funnel additional property tax dollars to “blighted” areas, but that critics say is akin to a “corporate slush fund.” On Tuesday, nine CTU members were arrested at the headquarters of Sterling Bay to protest the city’s decision to award the Wall-Street backed developer more than $1 billion of TIF subsidies earlier this year.”
English Language Arts Committee: Deepen Reading and Analysis Through Art and Design. Join Petra Pankow, Associate Director of Education Programs at the Museum of Art and Design, for an interactive workshop. Learn how to integrate art and design into your curriculum to deepen engagement and advance equity. Leave with tools that will enrich the thinking of all your students. Prepare to have fun too. Thursday, January 16th, 4:15pm-6:15 p.m. at UFT Headquarters, 50 Broadway, Manhattan. “Bring Ideas or Just yourself. Your contribution is your humanity.” Email Adam Kinory at Akinory@nycenglishcommittee.org
Good & Welfare
Let me wish everyone a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving Break. If you use the time for holiday shopping, don’t forget our transplanted artist-colleague Ms. Pigford who is about to offer a new line of decorated outlet and light switch covers at her Etsy online marketplace.
Thank you everyone who attended last week’s UFT meeting. It was gratifying to have a major part of the ENYFA school staff coming in before school to participate. We had a good discussion on the city’s plans to dramatically increase building co-locations during the next several years. In order to wrap up within twenty minutes we needed to postpone one of the points on the agenda (CTLE hours), so I’m including some information on that topic below.
School Delegate Election
Nominations for school delegate will be closed at the end of the day on Friday, November 1. Submit the name of a candidate (it could be yourself) to Mr. Oliver at email@example.com. He is the chairperson of the Election Committee. Please be aware that elected delegates are expected to attend the monthly UFT Delegate Assemblies which are held at 52 Broadway in downtown Manhattan and begin around 4:15 PM. The dates for the upcoming delegate assemblies will be November 20, December 11, January 15, February 12, March 18, April 22, May 13 and June 17. Our school UFT Election Committee will decide on a date for the voting.
Save the Date
For probationary teachers, the next tenure workshop will be on December 12 at 4 PM. I don’t yet have a link for registration.
Starting in July 2016, professionally certified teachers and Level III certified paraprofessionals have a five-year time period during which they are required to accumulate a total of 100 professional development hours. The sessions you attend for CTLE hours must be provided by a state-approved provider. ENYFA educators who are affected by this requirement should note that the Algebra for All and AP training sessions can count toward the requirement. Be sure to keep proof of your attendance.
Here is a current list of CTLE providers and their websites.
The UFT is also a state-approved provider. Workshops are being held at the UFT Brooklyn borough offices (335 Adams Street) this weekend on the following topics:
● ELL’s in the Mathematics Classroom
● High-Impact Literacy Strategies
● ICT Co-Teaching Models.
There are morning and afternoon sessions on each of these topics. Each session will set you back $30. Register here.
Election Day Professional Development
Last week I distributed a form for the new leave time that is allowed by city for voting in elections. I regret that it caused some confusion. Mr. Hornik felt that a document coming from DCAS was somewhat dubious for use in the school.
Here is what I understand from talking with members. Most ENYFA educators do not need leave time from their work day in order to vote. There are some, however, particularly teachers who commute from Nassau or Suffolk counties and who have been assigned to PD sites that need to take extra time to get to. They could use some extra time to get to the polls. Please inform me of any requests for leave time that are denied and I will plan to raise it at the next UFT consultation with the principal. I have leave time forms if you need one. The time must be requested two days beforehand.
Free Curriculum Fair this Saturday
There is another event for educators this weekend. It does not provide CTLE hours but the organizers are including lunch (for a donation) and it may be refreshing change having been organized mostly by teachers (rather than the commercial vendors who are playing an increasing large role in NYC DOE professional development). It is sponsored by the MORE caucus of the UFT, and it is advertised thusly:
“The morning session will feature a curriculum fair with curriculum and information from students’ groups, educators, community organizations, Community Education Councils (CECs), museums, cultural institutions, and book publishers.
“The evening session is a town hall and features CEC members, students and educators who will share in break outs what is going on in their districts and the social justice work they are involved with. Our goal is to build relationships, discuss the issues in our schools, and learn about how our organizations can work together.”
The CTU strike is continuing today but there is a tentative agreement. The deal must still be ratified by the membership and one remaining sticking point is the union’s demand that all ten of the instructional days lost during the walkout be made up.
The strike was disturbing for many since the union’s demands such as enforceable caps on class sizes were issues that Mayor Lori Lightfoot had herself campaigned for. The city’s lack of funding for support staff and services was a bigger issue than teacher salaries. According to the CTU president Jessie Sharkey, the tentative agreement “will move us closer to ensuring that our most vulnerable students receive the instruction, resources and wraparound services they need to thrive… This contract will put a nurse in every school, a social worker in every school and provide a real solution for thousands of homeless students in Chicago.”
The strike received national media attention, with candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for president, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden all supporting the teachers. Chance the Rapper made a notable appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend wearing a CTU t-shirt.
Here’s an article that focused on the experiences of a high school teacher during the strike.
Further Reading: The NAEP Results Aren’t Good News
This week’s major education story is the release of results of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Yesterday’s news articles reflected reactions across the political spectrum: a nasty bit of school-bashing by Ed Secretary Betty DeVos but also those who wonder why a decade of intense emphasis on math and reading hasn’t moved the needle at all.
School administrators have been working without a contract since April. The principals’ union is fighting for better school funding, limits on excessive paperwork and more latitude in decision-making.
There has never been a principals’ strike in New York City but I’m sure many will agree that our own admins would be missed if they went on strike. They both work very hard and deserve a fair deal from the city!