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Notes from the 2/4/2021 Town Hall by Dan Leopold

February Town Hall with Michael Mulgrew

1)Introduced Senator Chuck Schumer: Thank teachers for everything we have done. He believes in public education. His family has grown up in public schools. We stayed open the whole year during this Pandemic. More urgent tasks of getting all teachers and school workers vaccinated. He fought for school dollars in Congress. He negotiated 1st cares bill 2.1 Billion sent directly to schools – the 2nd cares act got 6 Billion – more for vaccinations. Fighting for big teacher K-12 allocation bill. Teachers should get the vaccinations for free. Using Defensive Production Act to make more vaccines.


Told story about what his experiences on January 5th-6th. He was 30 ft away from the insurrectionists. He is going to make sure they go after everyone who was involved in the insurrection is arrested.

Q:The next crisis is undoing all the damage from crisis and trauma. It is going to require a lot of support and help. What should we be doing to get that message out?

A:We need more Federal help to bring us back and make us better than we were pre-COVID. Teachers should be the exalted profession in the 21st century. We need to undo trauma for the teachers as well as the kids.

2) TWO SNOW DAYS – We need 180 days of schools. Plan was submitted to the state. Snow days for this year will be REMOTE LEARNING DAYS. We don’t want to be working on days we have off. They still have to pay us for Spring break and we are going to arbitration. It protects our calendar and we don’t have to go past the calendar of the end of the school year.

3)The testing of our school system is heading better slowly. The positivity rate of the schools is .5 but we close hundreds of schools every day. We do that to protect everyone. If the virus is detected inside of the school there will be a period of time that the building will be closed. It is 20% testing per building. Middle schools – They need to increase the capacity. Adding 150 buildings which they currently do not have. We are not going to change the 20% testing per building/week. DOE says they are GOING to do it, but they have not done it yet.

4) We don’t get through this pandemic without HERD IMMUNITY. Otherwise, the virus will be around for many years. We are going to fight to make sure the UFT members who want one will get the vaccine as soon as possible. Thinking about rotating a vaccine site on weekends to help people with travel impediments.

5) TEACHER EVALUATIONS AND FEDERAL TESTING On Monday, DOE had to send a plan about evaluation. In NYS, teacher evaluation is a LAW – it has been for the past 10 years. The law requires we use scientifically research based system for teacher evaluation – it does not matter which one we use. No matter what we approve, DOE ruins it. DANIELSON 3C – Engaging students in learning – attendance during a Pandemic is a DOE issue, but it is not a TEACHER issue. It is not the teacher’s responsibility. They are turning 3C into did they log on or not, and how long are they being logged on – WE ARE NOT HAVING IT. We want training on what it is NOT SUPPOSED to be. MOSL is a school choice or district-wide option. Lots of teachers use MOSL off of things that teachers are not teaching. Two informal observations for tenured teachers 1 formal/1informal for the untenured teachers. Pre-conference observation still is in effect. Summarize conference at the end of the year is still in effect. State law is very clear – teachers must be observed. Last year, Governor made an executive order excusing us from observations.

–STANDARDIZED TESTING IS A FEDERAL MANDATE – If we receive Federal money, we need to do standardized testing. Federal Government want states to apply for waivers for the standardized tests.

6)BUDGETS – If we don’t get the CARES act, we are looking at layoffs for next year. We want more from the Federal Government. City budget is also in bad shape. Next town hall, will get more into budget issues. We all have to take care of each other, whether we are tenured or not.

7) Early Retirement Incentive – Trying to work that through. It will save the city a lot of money, and it can avoid layoffs

8) Mayoral and City Elections – 4 town hall forums looking at different candidates and 1 MAJOR town hall with all the candidates. Koch brothers are infusing money into privatizing public school, smaller class sizes – we need these mayoral forums to find out which candidate who will most likely NOT LIE about what they are promising to do once they get into office.

9)We are about to go out of one crisis and get into another crisis. We appreciate people thanking us, but when we are through this crisis, we are going to be so damaged. All the people thanking us will not want to hear from us then. When we finally get back into the classroom, our students will be suffering from learning loss – we are going to have students who are emotionally traumatized. This is not just about socio-emotional well being – this is emotional trauma and crisis – a whole different level. We will take on this challenge on, but we need more support. We need to build a system that will help the students deal with the trauma. It’s up to all of us to accept this challenge – not let it be the domain of the counselors, or the teachers, etc. At this moment it looks like we are only getting 2 Billion out of the 5.5 billion dollars we supposed to be getting from the Federal Government. 10)Next Saturday – big fundraiser for “We Feed NYC”

Q and A ———–

Q:Any more details or dates on when Middle Schools buildings are going to open up?

A:I am staying tight-lipped about what the Mayor is thinking because the buildings must have the testing capacity, and we need to have the vaccines. We should be given priority access. COVID building response teams need to be re-established. I don’t have a date yet. I am not sure if they are trying to move quickly to open up after February break. I think we need at least a 4-5 days lead time before buildings open up.

Q:What safeguards and parameters can we put in place to account of technological issues when observers come in?

A:We are associating with people who have not stepped in a school building since last March. Normally, we had to wait before someone got their official evaluation before we could appeal it – NOW we can file an operational complaint if an administrator is doing something they are not supposed to do – they have 5 days to fix it – if it is not fixed it goes STRAIGHT to CENTRAL.

Q:about prioritizing teachers who are working in schools

A:UFT is prioritizing teachers who are working in schools right now, but they are also matching remote teachers as well.

Q:What are protocols and procedures for buildings when COVID is found in the building?

A:1 positive cases – building gets cleaned but not closed 3 positive cases – building is closed until tracing is done 2 positive cases and tracing shows that cases has nothing to do with each other – then school goes into 10 day shutdown. If it a positive result, it comes back really fast. A big part is the anxiety of waiting for the test results that affects peoples emotional/psychologically well-being.

Q:Which specific bills to push to legislature to get the bills out of committees?

A:The Abatay and the Garnardis bill-both bills, meet the needs of our city. Other politicians are holding it up because what is working for us, does not work for their constituency and they are afraid they are going to look bad.

Q:How would evaluations look for fully remote teachers?

A:This is why we needed to setup a process for direct appeal to central. We need to make sure we put in the safeguards that recognizes we are working in conditions we are not supposed to be working under. We need a check and balance system on administrator stupidity.

Q:Is there a ballpark estimate when Mayor will open HS and will we get notice?

A:That is quite a way off because High Schools are being used as vaccination centers.

Q:Is it possible to increase the amount of tests to staff members?

A:When we moved to a surveillance system which is 20% a month to 20% a week, it was pushed that it was being done more random – there should be more students than adults being tested.

Q:If they open up our school buildings, will our remote accomodations be revoked?

A:At this point, I do not see that happening. Parents are not ready yet in big numbers to send their children back. I would be shocked if anyone asked us about that before July.

Q:Mental Health of teachers, we are experiencing something totally different daily?

A:UFT gave up trying to work with the city on this stuff. Give me a week or more. We need a program – something more holistic. It is hard to take care of kids, when we need to take care of ourselves.

Q:Grading Policy?

A:We don’t want children to be harmed because of the pandemic- that includes giving them a passing grade on mastery of material when they did not. We are not doing them any favors.

Q:My schools building doesn’t have PPE?

A:Send it to me immediately – there is no shortage of these materials – there are warehouses full of this stuff

Q:Is tenure requirements also changing?

A:It can be 1 year without an evaluation and 1 year with an evaluation, and the granting of tenure will continue. Last year was the first year WITHOUT evaluation. We are waiting for final word from the state – NO TEACHER WILL BE HARMED BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC.

Q:What is the status of the gifted and talented program?

A:The seats are available but they no longer have the criteria to do the tests. No single use test, and we are not doing the K-1st grade, 2nd and 3rd grade is in committee. Our position is is that every organization should have a G and T program. It should be recognition that a child has been in school for a period time and there is a recognition that they are working at an accelerated rate. Every single school in NYC has students like that – GandT programs should not be used as political rewards.

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sharon coughlin


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