Skip to content

Budget Crisis in the NYC Department of Education and Top Salaries

July 3, 2020 am31 12:31 am

I promised to ask, so I will.

Carranza makes almost three times top teacher salary.

Many of his deputies make two times top teacher salary.

Top teacher salary is $124,909 a year. It’s more than double starting teacher salary, $59,291.

So why do the people at the top make so much? Especially, when you think about it, in an organization dedicated to teaching children, these are precisely the people who do not educate children?

Well, they do need to make enough to survive in NYC. The DoE pays paraprofessionals between $27 and $43 thousand. I guess the DoE thinks you can survive on $27k a year in NYC.

And, by the way, paraprofessionals perform important work, every day. (and if you want to complain about a paraprofessional you once knew who did not work very hard, I’ll trot out a dozen stories about paras who work their asses off doing work you would not want to do – and if you have a second story, I have a dozen more. Don’t go there). But if you ask me, ‘if Carranza couldn’t come to work for three weeks, which student would be lost without him?’ – is there a shrug emoticon? Because a para being absent is a big deal. A teacher being absent is a big deal. But if Carranza and his deputies took two weeks off, we would not notice.

But look, I can be reasonable. I’ve made an argument to fire the lot of them, but I’m not going to push in that direction.

Instead, in recognition of the severe budget crisis we are entering, with further cuts from the state possible, let’s look at reducing the pay of non-school-based personnel not working directly with children to say, 25% more than the top teacher salary. That’s $156k, rounded off. Still, a whole lot of money, almost 6 times a starting paraprofessional.

What would that save? Three million dollars? It’s just 1/10 of 1% of the budget. But the message would be clear. And not doing it? That message is clear, too.

What do you think?  Should this be a petition today? Or would it divert us from greater struggles? I am galled that three mil is being thrown away like this. But we have a lot of fights.

Should there be a petition to cap NYCDoE executives at 25% over top teacher pay?


A Hybrid (Remote + Live Instruction) Model that Works

July 1, 2020 pm31 12:42 pm

A teacher described her niece and nephew’s school. A and B weeks. (not high school). Everyone knew the schedule, followed it. Worked. Everyone wore masks. And kids had the option of staying remote, but they did not, and they will go back live in September.

BS fantasy?



No. NYC probably cannot successfully do blended learning. Oh, we are still working on it. But most schools are waiting and seeing. The only progress I’ve heard of so far involves keeping over 50% of classes fully remote, or keeping over 50% of students fully remote (and everything’s worse in high schools).  We will find something, and it will be too expensive. Or too limited. And despite demands from politicians, A/B weeks for everyone? I don’t think so.

Not NYC. Read more:

I have family in Germany. today is their last day…they feel comfortable with everything that has been put in place.. One week in building and the next virtual. No parents allowed inside. Teachers and students wear mask, they have been very good at social distancing and washing hands. There is 10 children in the room plus the teacher and an aide. Majority of the parents have let their children return even with the option of straight virtual learning. My Cousin said she will let them do building again in September (ages 5 and 9).

I asked about numbers, and the answer:

only 10 all depends on the room size and she said the lowest she heard was 8…. with one teacher. she did mention a lot of furniture was taken our the rooms just desk. temperature checks for everyone and PPE equipment was supplied and well stocked

This is not “German punctuality” or neatness. This works because on a regular day there are 16 – 20 kids in those German classes.

This is not a post about COVID and hybrid learning.

It is a post about class size, and class, and race.

It is about schools that serve Black and Brown and Immigrant and poor students not being able to do what other schools do.

It did not have to be this way. The United States did not have to have a piecemeal approach to education, with public urban schools, parochial schools, public suburban schools, public rural schools, and private schools offering substantially different educational experiences in substantially different conditions.

But that is what we have. Northern urban schools were for the poor, the immigrants. Then for Black children. Everybody’s looking to carve out exceptions. Progressive schools. Special schools. My school. But at their heart, our urban school systems pack in poor kids. Used to churn them out without graduating. Now churn them out with a test-prepped diploma that does not always mean what we want it to mean.

And part of this system? Doesn’t matter how many kids we squeeze in a room. I mean, NYC does have limits. 32 elementary, 33 middle school, 34 high school. Numbers that would cause outrage elsewhere.

Want smaller classes?

Move. Plenty of places would never put 30 children in a class. But don’t move to another northern city. Move to Germany? That’s a lot to ask. Maybe a fancy suburb. Maybe a rural area. Or pay. Could you imagine the inside of a private school? With space.

But I’m not writing about individual solutions. It is way past time for this. We cannot continue to think of as “normal” 34 students in a high school class.

This is systemic. This is providing separate, unequal education to our urban students, mostly poor, mostly Black or brown or immigrant. This needs to end. Black Lives Matter! But it’s ok if Black educations are a matter for another day?

How much would it cost to get class sizes down somewhere near reasonable?

Reasonable? 20 kids in an elementary class? 25 in a high school class? Split the difference in between?

Cost? Cost to dramatically improving the education of one point one million New York City children? We all talk about cost. I do. And it’s disgusting. It’s racist, and classist. These are our children. Not potholes. Not tax abatements.

We need to hire many more teachers and paraprofessionals. Maybe 20,000 teachers. That’s a wild guess. I don’t know how many paras, can’t even guess.

We need more classrooms. We need to build schools. I don’t know the math for this one. There are 1800 public schools in NYC, but that’s not the correct number of buildings, which is less. I am certain that 100 new buildings is not enough. 300? I’ll throw out 300, but I could be way off.

So wait? Thousands of teaching and paraprofessional jobs? A massive multi-year construction project, spread across the five boroughs?  And better education for one point one million NYC children, mostly poor, many Black, many LatinX, many immigrant, mainly poor? Win. Win. Win. Win. And not little wins. All of these make New York City better, help our people, help our children.

The money? We will need a lot. Borrow it. Weren’t we able to borrow after 9/11? Defund the police? We saw the smoke and mirrors in the City budget passed yesterday. They nibbled. Not at the edges but at the edges of the edges. How about we replace the police, and eliminate their repressive functions. Let’s see what Minneapolis does, and – we are New York – do it better. Reduce the size the replacement agencies. Sell off the military equipment. Recoup a lot of money. Tax the rich. Seriously. No need to be timid. We can’t make them work for the common good. But you know what they have a lot of? Money.

And you know what?  If we did these things a decade ago, this would be a better city. And we would have a whole lot more flexibility with our schools today.

Whose fault is it that we did not? And that we do not?

Is it too late to hire the teachers and build the schools to make hybrid work in September? Unfortunately, yes.

Is it too late to join the fight against institutional racism by building more schools and lowering class sizes for New York City’s children? Absolutely not. Get on board.



Thank You Teachers and School Staff

June 28, 2020 am30 11:22 am

I often put qualifiers or reservations on UFT stuff. Not this time. Enjoy.

Meeting with Mulgrew about Reopening Schools

June 27, 2020 pm30 10:15 pm

Last Tuesday afternoon I attended a curious Zoom Meeting about reopening schools in September. Michael Schirtzer (teacher, Leon Goldstein HS, and UFT Executive Board Member, High School Division) organized it. He wanted to bring some hard questions to the UFT leadership.

There were six classroom teachers: Mike; me; the two co-programmers from Michael Schirtzer’s school, Gary and Marty; Emily James, teacher at a Brooklyn high school, recognized author of columns on teaching today, and advocate, most famously for paid parental leave; and Arthur Goldstein (Chapter Leader, Francis Lewis HS, and also a UFT Executive Board member).

And from UFT Central: VP at large for Academic High Schools Janella Hinds, Special Rep Anthony Klug, VP at large for Career and Technical High Schools Sterling Roberson, and President Michael Mulgrew.

Everyone looked kind of relaxed. From UFT Central Sterling was there on time, and we were chatting. I wondered if the others would make it. They all did. And stayed for a pretty full conversation.

Schirtzer moderated, to some extent. It mostly became a conversation. We all had different angles. But what we had in common is that we were thoughtful, and critical, and concerned first of all with the safety of our members.

My angle? You can guess it. I can program a school for “live instruction.” I can reprogram a school for “remote instruction.” But I know I cannot reprogram for hybrid instruction with the model from the DoE PowerPoint.

They proposed dividing schools in 2 and having A and B days or A and B weeks. No way to maintain social distancing with those numbers. Mulgrew at the Town Hall June 18 and Delegate Assembly June 17 had shown awareness of the complexities. First of all, you’d need A/B/C or A/B/C/D – and even then it might not work. There are issues with enough teachers (these models require more staff). And there are lots of little issues, many of which, when we begin to program, are actual road blocks. So I wasn’t happy when the UFT school survey seemed to ask Chapter Leaders to pick A/B, A/B/C, A/B/C/D or A/B/C/D/E.

Everyone else did raise important issues. No one recorded us. I was not taking minutes. So no slight intended to the others when I focus on what I tried to raise at the meeting, and the responses I got.

I tried to say multiple times that I thought Mulgrew’s presentations of the facts at the Town Hall and the Delegate Assembly were correct. Because I knew I would be critical, I wanted it clear that there was at least some agreement at the starting point.

Mulgrew underlined again and again, “safety first.” I think that is crucial.

Mulgrew at the Town Hall talked about a 4th grade – 200 kids, 8 classes. Remote it would be two cohorts (though he thinks two is unlikely) of 100, so 10 kids in 10 rooms – but where’s the extra two teachers? And who’s teaching the remote kids?  (his solution: we need to hire more teachers)

I like that, because it is simple, and clear. Fix that problem, and we are not done. But how do you fix that one? It’s a biggie.

I like my example for high school:  Imagine first period in your school. You’ve broken into 4 cohorts, so all those classes? They now have 8-9 kids each. They are perfectly programmed. And social distanced. Now let the bell ring – we move to second period. How are you going to keep one room from having 3 and another from having 14? This is high school. Mix and Match.

Simple and clear. Fix that problem, and we are not done. But first you have to fix that problem. (My solution: you can’t bring all the kids in for all the classes. Some classes or kids, probably most, have to stay remote)

I think that a “cohort” idea, breaking up a school into N pieces on an N-day or N-week rotation will not work in most schools. I am certain that it will not work in high schools.

Sterling responded (well, a lot) but the crux was that there were people who disagreed with me. I am pretty sure they are not programmers, and confident they have not created a program that works. Mulgrew said that there is one school that has programmed using this sort of cohort model.

I said I preferred live, but until we can go live, fully remote. But I understand that there may be incredible political, social, and economic pressure to go back. So we should be working hard to make a “least bad” hybrid model, because we certainly don’t want self-confident, incompetent principals imposing models on us – models that no one will know are horrible – not until September – when they lead to an inability to maintain social distancing, or just to plain chaos.

Therefore I am going to work on, and encourage schools to work on, hybrid models that might really work. For that reason I was going to ignore the DoE Power Point. And I would encourage other programmers and Chapter Leaders to do the same. I don’t think there was grumbling in response in the meeting (except for one teacher, who favors fully remote, and thought the hybrid work was a waste of time).

I talked about the Facebook NYC Programmers group, and Janella, I think, mentioned my participation in the UFT Programmers Focus Group.

What might work – that was the conversation that was most interesting.

I mentioned that I was building a dummy master for 9th grade hybrid / all other grades remote, and thought it might work (but that there were staff needs). One of the officers immediately retorted “9th and 10th“ – it was clear to me that this had already been the subject of conversation.

We talked about limiting live instead to certain subjects. Mulgrew suggested we look at keeping the core subjects fully remote, and bringing kids in for some of the others (that’s a longer discussion, but I believe that this could be an important strategy in some schools).

We talked about support services, or check-ins.

There’s an idea floating out there to open K-8, but not high schools, and use those buildings for the younger kids.

I know I talked about the particular complexities of high schools, where there are special classes and programs and lots of levels, especially juniors and seniors. But I think all the teachers in the room discussed the same issues.

Mulgrew wanted to know what we thought of getting waivers from the state to allow seniors to be programmed for what they need for graduation (and not necessarily a full day). Everyone though that was a good idea.

On the cohorts, Mulgrew suggested that breaking into cohorts might not mean bringing all the cohorts into the building (I was surprised, but pleased. I wonder if the school he mentioned that programmed with cohorts did this).

All of them emphasized that we should be creative, come up with the sorts of ideas that we were talking about, and communicate back what works.

I said that it was great that the people in the meeting heard it, but all programmers and chapter leaders should hear too.

Mike said that I could tell them.

I said that me saying “Mulgrew said…” is not as effective as Mulgrew actually saying it. He didn’t reply.

I’m skipping lots of stuff. I’ve focused only on the conversations I was directly involved in. But there was much more.

As we wrapped, Schirtzer asked if they would be willing to do this again. Mulgrew agreed. Janella reminded us that we can bring ideas to her and Sterling as well.



There is no easy calculation for September

June 22, 2020 am30 1:35 am

At Wednesday’s United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly and again at Thursday’s UFT Town Hall, President Michael Mulgrew made the point clearly:

“Socially Distanced Capacity” divided by “# of Teachers” ≠ “Number of ‘cohorts'”

If you listened in, you heard him explain. Say you have a fourth grade with 200 kids. 8 teachers. Given your capacity, you can fit 100 kids into 10 rooms. But where do the extra two teachers come from? And who is teaching the 100 kids remotely?

He made it simple. Honestly, that was enough for the DA. But the situation on the ground will be far more complex. Push-ins change student capacity. We are not talking about lunch. Which, I assume, is a time masks come off? How much time will teachers stay in rooms without breaks? How will bathroom flow (pardon the choice of words) be managed?

It’s wonderful to say “oh yes, entrance can be staggered” – but I know the people saying it have not tried to do it. Nor managed distancing in hallways that are half-full. Nor stairwells. Nor elevators.

But we don’t have to go there. Mulgrew made it really clear.

And he had to. The DoE had put out an absurdly dumb powerpoint that facilely made it sound like all schools could be divided in two. Wednesday Mulgrew said it – most schools would need three, or four, and that still might not work. And then he described that imaginary school’s fourth grade.

I felt better. The initial UFT response – if I called it “unclear” that would be very generous. It actually sounded like they were accepting the powerpoint. So hearing Mulgrew Wednesday and Thursday – good thing. I already knew things sounded much better at the High School meeting last Monday.

So what’s left?  We do a capacity survey in each school, chapter leader and principal. Report our findings to the UFT. And then scratch our heads and start thinking. This work is complex. Me, I have been part of a UFT programmers focus group. I also co-founded a Facebook NYC Programmers Group for wrestling through this stuff. We haven’t actually done anything yet – the group is 3 days old, has 80 members, 55 or so of them programmers. I figure we will need over 100 programmers (180 – 200 members) to have the critical mass to do this sort of work. End of the week should do it.

So everything was going right. Mulgrew corrected the UFT misstep. Programmers group started. Now the walk-throughs.

I blew a gasket when I saw the UFT survey. They recycled the

“Socially Distanced Capacity” divided by “# of Teachers” = “Number of ‘cohorts'”

nonsense. It doesn’t work. It’s misleading. It creates false expectations. It also creates the expectation that armed with the right number of cohorts, a principal could program a school. And look – that’s exactly what might happen. And in that school – and let’s face it – there are many with principals who are self-confident, arrogant, and dumb –  the resulting chaos and lack of social distancing would put our members at risk. Kids too. So much for “safety first”

Now I am stuck. I cannot complete the walkthrough survey until the UFT corrects the survey.

I have to recommend that you not fill it out either. Wait. Or tell your Chapter Leader to wait. The UFT can fix this, can put safety first where it belongs. I am giving them a chance.

NYC Programming Group

June 19, 2020 pm30 4:00 pm

Hey – this is like an advertisement.

I am a programmer (scheduler) and chapter leader. This summer we may have crazy programming issues coming up, and I’ve been kind of vocal about that. The DoE cannot program from the top. We need people in the schools who know their schools, who know how details work. If there are plans that will work in September, we are probably the ones who will find them. If there is a proposal that looks iffy, we are in the best position to evaluate whether or not it has a chance of success.

Gregory Levine, Program Chair at Long Island City High School agreed. We talked. He suggested making a group on facebook, so we did. Here’s the link, but I don’t know if you can get there directly with it.

Whether or not this group is productive depends in part on getting lots of good programmers together. Today we have 50 people, maybe 30 – 40 programmers. That’s not critical mass.

So the advertisement is this. If you are a programmer in NYC, join. If you are a teacher in a NYC school, ask your programmer to join. If you are a retiree, find the programmer you knew (if they are not retired), etc.

Thank you.

Sanity Through Math

June 16, 2020 pm30 2:52 pm

This has been a tumultuous three months. I have been overwhelmed, frightened, angry, excited.

The world has been horrible. My employer has been heartless. My union has been too often passive. My friends are distant.

And my work has been exhausting. The grading – absurdly slow. Lessons?  Maybe I’ve figured something reasonable out. I’m not certain, not about that. It’s taken me twelve weeks.

But math can be centering. Almost twenty years ago I registered for a too-hard-for-me math class at the Graduate Center (and one not-too-hard-for-me which I loved). This was the fall of 2001, and events in New York City interrupted class for a few weeks. Then we came back, and at the first session, Roman Kossak, the professor, said a few words about what had happened and then “sometimes when the world is falling apart around us, the best thing to do is some math.” Maybe he was right.

This morning I shared some enrichment work (mostly for my juniors, but optional for my seniors) and I included this cartoon (xkcd, by Randall Munroe):



Now, if you hover your mouse over it, you’ll get a bonus, some alt-text: I didn’t share all of it with my students.

But I do think there is something comforting about considering problems with right and wrong answers.

And at 1PM today I finished my mini-elective in Axiomatic Arithmetic. Super-hard work. One lunch-time session per week, for 17 or 18 weeks, we studied arithmetic. We learned some history about the push to axiomatize systems other than geometry. We relearned arithmetic (I channeled my professor, David Rothschild, as we learned to count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, including after the “point” using the symbols /, ∆, ☐, O as the four symbols for base four.) I taught them standard high-school level mathematical induction. And then we read 10 pages of this text I found on-line:

Now, you may say, 10 pages?  The heart of a course was 10 pages? Well yes. And the pages are small. It was 1/4 of a credit, maybe it should have been worth more. We read pretty much every word. We discussed almost every word. They submitted proofs. Strong induction. Slowly we developed a little bit of a comfort level. We proved everything. When we finally got to proving addition was commutative – wow!  Can you imagine defining multiplication? Proving distribution works? (twice, once from the left, once from the right. There you go, Randall Munroe).

And today?  The hardest proof of the course. We spent almost an hour of an extended session. (Feel free to skip ahead)

Theorem 1.21. Every nonempty subset S ∈ N has a smallest element.

Proof. Let S ⊆ N be non-empty, and define R = {x ∈ N : x ≤ y for all y ∈ S}.

Then 0 ∈ R since 0 ≤ y for all y ∈ N, in particular for all y ∈ S.

Since S is non-empty, there is a y ∈ S; this implies y + 1 ∉ R: otherwise we would have y + 1 ≤ y, which does not hold (we have y ≤ y + 1 by (1.7), so y + 1 ≤ y would imply y + 1 = y, hence 1 = 0 and s(0) = 0 in contradiction with N3).

Thus R contains 0 but R ≠ N; the induction axiom then implies that there must exist an x ∈ R such that x + 1 = s(x) ∉ R. We claim that x is a smallest element of S.

First, x ∈ R implies x ≤ y for all y ∈ S, so we only need to show that x ∈ S. Assume x ∉ S; then x ≤ y for all y ∈ S implies x < y (because we can’t have equality), hence x+ 1 = s(x) ≤ y for all y ∈ S, which by definition of R shows that x + 1 ∈ R in contradiction to the construction of x.

All 10 students understood some of this by the end. Most understood most of it. Some of the 10 understood all of it. In a crazy, crazy world, we had done something sane, correct, and difficult. As a teacher, I usually consider the greatest accomplishment to be getting someone who knows very little to learn a tiny bit more. That is super hard. I usually don’t count teaching bright kids as particularly challenging – although it can contain challenges. But this, this course, today’s work, breaks my rule. It felt like an accomplishment.

They are mostly seniors, and I kept them after, to say how much they – and the course – have meant to me. They were my students freshman year, and they did Algebra II (a full year in one term) with me. Some did other electives. I had a lot to say. And now, during the pandemic, we focused on deeply challenging math, week after week. I think they learned a lot. And this class in particular gave me some balance.

And so, for four years’ association, and for being part of a class that was important to me, I wanted to send them on their way with some words of wisdom, but wasn’t prepared, and the words wouldn’t come. Maybe we should have just done one more proof. It would have been easier than saying goodbye.



Who Wrote That Useless Powerpoint?

June 15, 2020 am30 10:51 am

I have variously heard that the school reopening powerpoint cost $1.2M, $1.5M, or $3M. Whatever, that’s a lot of money for a report that did not attempt to detail out a single school program.

Here’s the powerpoint: DOE Planning Overview for Principal Meetings.

They suggest A/B days or A/B weeks. Our capacity numbers say that most schools will need A/B/C/D. And because of the actual mechanics of being in an actual school, even that will not work.

There is not a template in that powerpoint that will open 1800 schools, or even a significant fraction. There is not a rough idea that can be turned into a successful program, not for any schools I can imagine.

Who stole a million or two from New York City, when our budgets are under incredible pressure?

McKinsey? That’s what I heard. Is that right?

McKinsey who sold us the Common Core?  Where David Coleman used to consult? Why would any responsible agency contract with them?  This is an outrage. Where is the accountability?

I was wrong. It is Accenture. Not tainted with Common Core. But they produced a horrible result in their own right.

Did the DoE really tell principals they are on their own? Yes

June 14, 2020 pm30 1:50 pm

How should principals schedule for the fall? After a powerpoint, a letter, and a list of “guiding questions” the best the DoE has is “As we develop guidance on how to create your school’s schedule for the fall, updated resources will be posted”

Keep reading.

This is the letter that the principals received. I’ve un-linked all links. Sorry.

The attached capacity estimates were often wrong. In some cases, every room was wrong. In most cases the number of usable administrative rooms was wrong; their capacities were pretty universally wrong. Many of the registers were wrong.

But what’s worst, there is no guidance. There was no workable guidance in the DOE Planning Overview for Principal Meetings (the powerpoint).

There is a list of Guiding Questions for Principals. I’ve posted it at the end. They provide no guidance. In fact, they look like some idiots around a table batted around ideas, and every time they hit something way too hard for them to answer, they said, “That’s too hard for us. Let’s ask the principals.”

There are promises that the “guidance” will be updated. I do not believe that they will update, or if they update, in the same spirit as what they have already provided, it will not be useful.

Look, what they are trying to do is hard. They must have tried, realized they couldn’t pull it off, and sent a detail-free document to the principals, saying get it done. The failure will be on the principals and the schools. And the cost, compromised safety, chaos, will be on students, families, and teachers.

I do not care how smart the author of this letter is – she was willing to put her name to this document. She should face consequences for such gross irresponsibility.


Dear Principals,

As you heard from Chancellor Carranza, the DOE is considering a variety of options for opening schools in the fall with modifications for social distancing. Our priority is and will remain the safety of our students and staff. As such, a key question that underlies all subsequent decisions is: How many students and staff can we accommodate in our schools under social distancing constraints, with the goal of ensuring that we safely serve our students and staff?

The Division of School Planning and Development is developing new school-level student and staff capacities factoring in social-distancing requirements. Using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Department of Health, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; data from the Principal Annual Space Survey (PASS); enrollment data; and prior capacity and utilization data, these capacity calculations aim to ensure that at least six feet of space can be maintained around each person in a classroom, and that there remains room for teachers and students to circulate.

Attached you will find preliminary capacity information for your school, as well as further detail about underlying assumptions at the end of this email. Capacity is based on room allocations per the PASS data (available under “Facilities” in the “Reports” section of your school’s profile at and currently planned 2020-2021 allocations; these calculations and allocations are both subject to change. In particular, we want to acknowledge the rapidly changing need for District 75 capacity as a result of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the provision of services for these students, and we appreciate your support in ensuring the needs of these students can be met.

As you develop an understanding of how many students you can accommodate in your space under social distancing, we recognize that programming amidst the current uncertainty will be a challenge. There are aspects of fall programming, such as organizing classes or course requests and making tentative teacher assignments, that you have underway. We also ask that you think through how different scheduling options could be implemented (see the School Building Re-Opening Preliminary Planning Overview PowerPoint [removed link]) and consider which scheduling option will be the most adaptive for possible changing circumstances in the fall. DOE will follow up with additional guidance on scheduling options in the coming weeks. Please also keep in mind that any classrooms that serve students six years old and younger must be inspected for lead and cleared for use for this age group.

We greatly appreciate your collaboration as we move this work forward together amid so much uncertainty.  Your leadership is critical in our ability to meet our students’ educational and social-emotional needs in a safe and supportive way. Also attached to this email is a set of guiding questions to prompt your thinking about how to approach this planning for your school and community.  To help us refine our system-wide thinking, please complete [removed link] to share your feedback and input on the space assumptions and programming options under consideration no later than Friday, June 26th.

You may submit specific space or facilities related inquiries at [removed link]. Information and answers to your questions will be posted on a rolling basis at [removed link].

As we develop guidance on how to create your school’s schedule for the fall, updated resources will be posted on our Academic Policy resources page at: [removed link].

Additionally, if you need access to your school building for an extended period of time, please submit a request for building access through [removed link] that will be sent directly to your Borough Safety Director (BSD).  Your BSD will ensure that a School Safety Agent is available during the time of your visit.


Karin Goldmark
Deputy Chancellor, Division of School Planning and Development


 Social Distancing Capacity Assumptions:

§  Capacity ranges assume approximately 65 square feet per person.

§  The student capacity of each room assumes one adult, with the exception of 3-K and pre-K classes (where we assume two adults) and District 75 (where we assume 3 adults); classes requiring additional staff would result in a smaller student capacity for that room.

§  Full-size rooms are at least 500 square feet; half-size rooms are 240-499 square feet.

§  Instructional spaces include any rooms currently used for instruction or students support services.

§  Administrative spaces include all offices, as well as teachers’ and parents’ rooms; it excludes storage and building support rooms, as well as quarter-size rooms (<240 square feet).

§  Estimated total school-level capacity calculations assume that 100% of full-size instructional rooms will be used for instruction, and that 50% of full-size administrative space could be repurposed for instruction.

§  These preliminary total capacity calculations do not assume use of half-size rooms for regular instruction, with the exception of District 75.

§  School-level capacity does not include public assembly space at this stage.  However, these spaces may be able to be repurposed for instruction as necessary.  More guidance on this is forthcoming.


Guiding Questions were provided in a separate document:

Guiding Questions for Principals


As you review your school’s capacity information, consider the following questions:


▪ What adjustments to the capacity assumptions are needed for your school community? Why are these adjustments needed? Please keep in mind that the capacity assumptions are based on the currently planned allocations for the 2020-2021 school year.

▪ Can you use non-instructional spaces to serve more students? Why or why not? If yes, which spaces?

▪ How might you use smaller, half-size rooms (240-499 sq. ft., typically used for special classes, students support services, or administrative needs) to serve students or to accommodate other needs, such as dedicated health care spaces?

▪ Are there particular spaces you believe cannot be used for instruction under the circumstances? If so, which spaces?

▪ What do you consider to be the best use of public assembly spaces (auditorium, gym, cafeteria)? If not instructional, why is this use of the space better than using the space for additional instructional space? How will you ensure social distancing in public assembly spaces?

▪ What supports would be helpful in implementing these changes to your space?


The following questions aim to prompt your thinking about the various considerations for programming and scheduling under these circumstances:


  • How would you approach programming your school schedule under social distancing constraints either on alternate days or alternate week schedules? Which decisions would you make first?
  • How would you decide which students were grouped together on alternate schedules?
  • Which instructional experiences would you prioritize for in-person instruction?
  • Are there groups of students you would recommend attend every day? Why do you think it is important we prioritize these students? How would you prioritize these group of students given space constraints?
  • What questions would you have about program services for students with disabilities and English language learners?
  • How would you arrange for the provision of in-person related services?
  • If your school serves 3-K and/or Pre-K, how will you ensure that you can continue to support these students in your building? What considerations are top of mind as you consider supporting this population in your building?
  • How would you adjust your school’s bell schedule/period lengths/length of school day?
  • How would you adjust plans for entry and dismissal, including working with other schools on the campus as applicable?
  • How would you approach providing instruction for students who are learning remotely on any given day?
  • What considerations will be necessary to create a schedule that can be modified over the year as public health guidelines are updated (for example, if we are able to serve more students at once)?
  • What questions and concerns do you think families would have? How can you incorporate family preference in your scheduling?
  • For classrooms that will be used to serve students that are six years old or younger, have those classrooms been inspected for lead in past cycles?
  • What additional information would you need to create your master schedule?


I’m Not UFT President but this is what I would have said:

June 14, 2020 am30 2:01 am

I did not send out a letter to the membership. I’m not the president. But it would have been far better than the letter that did get sent (copied at the bottom of this post. It is an embarrassment.)  Excuse my mediocre writing. But I think the ideas are solid:

Dear UFT members,

With this school year drawing to a close, we remain focused on finishing things out. We have two more weeks of classes, grading, and reports. I believe you have done an exceptional job in the face of nearly impossible circumstances. The mayor and governor don’t call you essential workers, but you are. Two more weeks. And while I am still trying to get you compensated for the Mayor taking your Spring break, he can’t touch your summer. Enjoy it. You’ve earned it. You’ve more than earned it.


Some of us, though, need to focus on September. We need to plan for next year. Chapter Leaders, Programmers, and other UFT members who are leaders and planners in your school, we need your help.

Safety First

My highest priority is keeping UFT members safe. I will not compromise on that. We are also desperate to return to some form of live class.  Society at large wants this. But I will not agree to return to buildings unless we are certain our members will be kept safe.

The Department of Education held discussions with the UFT and others. They are proposing reopening school buildings in September. They don’t think we can fully open – neither do I. They think we can follow the social-distancing guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control by using a hybrid model of learning.

The Department of Education does not currently have a Workable Plan

Armed with just the rudiments of this idea, not a plan, the Department of Education is attempting to move forward. They created a powerpoint for principals, and sent them a letter directing them to start planning (powerpoint and letter attached). But there is not enough in those documents to say that we have a clear framework. The ideas in the DoE’s powerpoint – I do not think they amount to a workable plan. I doubt as written they could be used to create a workable plan in most schools.

We have a Fallback

Our fallback position – and we do not want this to happen – but our fallback position is that any school without a detailed, workable plan should open in September providing remote instruction.

How can we avoid this fallback? That’s where you come in. We need our best minds on the job. Chapter Leaders and Programmers, work with your Principals and Administrators. Consider all options that occur to you. Do not feel limited by the powerpoint. Dig into the details. See what parts work and what parts don’t.

This is a full-court press. Expect that the work will be hard, and drag through the summer. You will hit dead ends, and keep going. We are trying to do something that has not been done before – have on the job teacher leaders and planners rethink how and when students enter schools, and how and when teachers teach them, for a system the size of the entire state of Rhode Island. We are creating a Manhattan Project for scheduling schools in a pandemic.

The UFT Will Coordinate Distributed Planning

I want you to share your findings, both what might work, what is promising, and where obstacles occur with X. X will be the UFT point person for planning for September. X will take an idea that has promise in one school and share it with other schools. Likewise, as we encounter surprising difficulties, X will share those out. X will link our best planning minds across the city, making sure that insights and progress are shared, and that we are not reinventing the wheel 1800 times.

As we begin to create plans that work, I want you to pull them apart, look for every weakness. We need you to use your unique knowledge of your school to find things that an outsider would not notice. Before we put our members in a building, we want to have considered as many angles as possible.

If in the next weeks, or more likely over the summer, your school does believe that it has found a plan that works, there will still be more to do. The UFT’s safety department will review the plan, and we will ask a public health expert to perform the same work in parallel. We will not allow UFT members to work under a plan that has not been approved by both the UFT’s Safety department and an outside public health expert.

Current Ideas

The Department of Education proposes keeping the number of people in each school building significantly lower and establishing practices and policies in schools that keep the intermingling of large groups of people to a minimum. These seem like necessary conditions.

A  hybrid model of learning might have students in schools for part of the time and continue learning remotely for the rest. A team approach is possible, with one set of staff members assigned to work with each cohort of students. The number of cohorts at each school might be determined by how many people your school building can safely accommodate combined with decisions regarding the use of nontraditional space for instruction.

Current Challenges

With social distancing restrictions in place, an A/B rotation is unlikely to work in many schools. Morning entry will be a logistical challenge. Lunch and bathroom use will be challenges. Stairways and elevators must be addressed. We believe the state will give us waivers on seat time, but that needs to be confirmed. Teachers will need time and space for remote instruction. The list of challenges is extensive, and in the coming days we will flesh it out further.

You might consider which services can most easily be provided remotely, or which are hardest to provide remotely. You might consider leaving some grades or subjects remote. If you conceive of a schedule that is non-traditional, but respects the spirit of the contract, let us know – maybe we could make it work.

What Else?

We are asking Chapter Leaders to compile a list of personnel who work on planning and programming for each school, with contact information. Your principal just received a capacity estimate for each room in your building. The DoE asked the principal to confirm or correct those numbers. Please review this with your principal, and participate with him or her in correcting the estimate.

The DOE, in consultation with the UFT, is establishing citywide testing and tracing infrastructure and resources, entry screening, the provision of personal protective equipment including masks for all staff and students, stepped-up daily school cleaning, myriad social-distancing measures and clear protocols for the communication and notification of new virus cases in schools. The UFT has recommended that all students and staff be tested for the coronavirus before the first day of school in September. The UFT will monitor the DoE’s performance closely. Teachers and students will not enter buildings where protocols are not being followed.

You have done phenomenal work this school year in the toughest of circumstances. Thank you for your tremendous work and dedication to your students.

Stay safe and healthy.

Wish the president had written this.


Dear Jonathan,

With this extraordinary school year drawing to a close, we must now turn our attention to planning the next one despite the uncertainty about what the future holds.

The Department of Education, in consultation with the UFT and others, is moving forward with a tentative plan to reopen school buildings in September with an abundance of safety measures in place to protect staff, our students and the families we all go home to.

But it will not be a traditional school year. To follow the social-distancing guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the number of people in each school building will have to be significantly lower and we’ll have to establish practices and policies in schools that keep the intermingling of large groups of people to a minimum.

That’s why we have gravitated to a hybrid model of learning in which students are in schools for part of the time and continue learning remotely for the rest. A team approach probably makes the most sense with one set of staff members assigned to work with each cohort of students. The number of cohorts at each school will be determined by how many people your school building can safely accommodate combined with decisions regarding the use of nontraditional space for instruction.

In a school system as large and diverse as ours, no one-size-fits-all model will work for all schools. With tools and guidance from the DOE, each school community will be tasked with designing the program plan that works best for its staff, students and families. We will be asking chapter leaders to initiate these conversations with their principals and quickly engage the entire school community so the best decisions are made.

The virus has put us in an impossible place, so no plan will be perfect. We will all need to be flexible. Things we have taken for granted, such as how and where we do our work, have already been upturned during this remote era. When we return to school buildings, we will not pick up where we left off in mid-March either. These changes must be made for safety’s sake.

How to staff this new hybrid model is one of the challenges ahead of us. Will certain educators be fully remote and others always on-site, or will most staff follow a hybrid model like their students? How will related service providers provide their support services to students with disabilities? Every building will need at least one school nurse, but our students will also need social workers and other mental health professionals who can help them recover from the trauma wrought by this pandemic.

The DOE has committed to offering accommodations to staff members with high-risk medical conditions in accordance with CDC guidelines.

The DOE, in consultation with the UFT, is establishing citywide testing and tracing infrastructure and resources, entry screening, the provision of personal protective equipment including masks for all staff and students, stepped-up daily school cleaning, myriad social-distancing measures and clear protocols for the communication and notification of new virus cases in schools. The UFT has recommended that all students and staff be tested for the coronavirus before the first day of school in September.

I will work ceaselessly as your union president to make sure policies and procedures are in place in September that allow us to fulfill our professional mission as public school educators while safeguarding the health and safety of our school communities. If I lose confidence at any point, I will not hesitate to speak out. You have my promise.

You have done phenomenal work this school year in the toughest of circumstances. I am confident that you will rise to the new challenges ahead. Thank you for your tireless work and dedication to your students.

Stay safe and healthy.


Michael Mulgrew signature

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Birthday Hits / It’s not only brutality

June 13, 2020 am30 11:32 am

Over on Facebook I’ve been interrupting my frustrations and struggles with the pandemic, and my poorly run school system, and the great sense of hope rising out of the revolt in the aftermath of yet another murder of yet another Black man, I’ve been interrupting those rollercoaster emotions once each day, by posting a song. I am choosing, in sequence, the top 20 from when I was born, then the top 20 from my first birthday, etc. I was born in the 60s – most of the music has been pretty good.

But last night I broke my pattern. I should have posted #19 from my second birthday (A Well Respected Man – love it) but instead I wrote:

When I turned two this song had not been thought of.

A few months after my birthday a bar in a small city in New Jersey got robbed and someone got shot, killed. White police arrested two black guys, white witnesses lied, prosecutor knew, and proceeded. All-white jury convicted them on murder 1, and the white judge gave them life sentences.

This was the United States, and framing and jailing black men was unremarkable in any way, except that one of them was a middleweight boxer.

A decade later a campaign for their release helped get them a new trial. This song is from that campaign.

That’s not the end. New Jersey prosecuted them again, convicted them again. It took another decade to get a federal court to step in. And New Jersey considered putting them back on trial again! Except their lying witness and racist case would not have played as easily in the 80s as they had in the 60s.

Rubin Carter and John Artis spent over 20 years in prison.

Our attention, the world’s attention, has been focused of late on protests that arose from cops killing a black man, a script that has been used thousands of times in this country.

But from vagrancy laws to drug laws to mandatory sentences and modern mass-incarceration, the United States has stolen freedom from — I don’t know — hundreds of thousands? of Black men.

Yes, we need to remove funding from the police. We should be replacing them. But we also need to work towards ending mass incarceration, offering real rehabilitation (drug, and other), and abolishing the prison system.

A Powerpoint is not a Plan / NYC Schools in September

June 13, 2020 am30 2:12 am

The New York City Department of Education issued a planning document for September, on June 9. They were very, very late. And, big surprise, it turns out not to be a planning document. It’s more like a poorly thought out framework.

The story gets worse, but for now, let’s look at their powerpoint.

Nothing special about the cover, except you should notice it is dated June 9 and “Preliminary.”


You might need to click this image to open it. But that dark blue stage, that’s May and June, except this document was not issued as a preliminary draft until June 9, not explained to principals until June 11, and that dark blue arrow? That’s all stuff we haven’t started, or have just started.

Removing implicit bias from the school system is a higher priority than removing implicit dishonesty, but we shouldn’t skip either.


The “Design Areas” are essentially a list of questions for principals, that many principals will treat as preapproved options:

1. Should there be enhanced health measures?

2. Should there be a trauma-informed transition back to school?

3. Should blended /remote learning continue?

4. When should in- person school start? When should 12- month programs start?

5. Should return to school be rolled / phased?

6. Should there be a split school schedule to allow for social distancing?

7. Should there be modifications to building operations

8. Should there be modifications to school support services?

1.1. Additional protective equipment and sanitation protocols

2.1. Two week long transition

3.1. Blended Learning should continue during phasing period

4.1 Allow for transition back

5.1. Phase by vulnerable populations

6.1. Assess social distancing requirements for capacity

7.1. Modified movement protocols

8.1 Pupil Transportation

1.2 Testing and health measures (e.g. social distancing)

2.2. Transition period is focused on trauma based care

3.2. Blended Learning should be integrated in school delivery model

4.2 Create a supportive return to normalcy

5.2. Phase by populations under- served by remote learning

6.2. Split schedules by day, week

7.2. Increased building supplies and cleaning operations

1.3 Health status monitoring protocols

2.3 Transition involving a return to ‘old’ classes and ‘hand-off’ to new ones

Combination of the above or alternative option

4.3 Acknowledge unknown health risks

5.3. Phase by grade level

6.3 Split schedule based on student/family needs

7.3. Set-up testing stations

8.2 School Food Operations

Combination of the above or alternative option

Combination of the above or alternative option

Combination of the above or alternative option

Combination of the above or alternative option

Combination of the above or alternative option

Unfortunately, “Continue Remote Learning” is not listed as an option in column 3. Most of us need that option.

The “Sample Deep Dive” is laughably not a deep dive. There is no actual look at the complexities of scheduling. Instead, a facile list of daily A/B, weekly A/B, and 2/3 A/B (with some remote) is offered.

An honest look at the capacity numbers (or a conversation with an actual person who works in an actual school) would have revealed that most of our schools need A/B/C or A/B/C/D. I was talking to a chapter leader earlier whose school, if they did this, would require A/B/C/D/E.

And not a detail is examined.


Finally we get to space utilization. The Department is going to be using 65 square feet per student as their guideline. But their calculation for this school looks strange.

How can 24 rooms have capacity of 230 – 280?  The DoE has the size of the rooms. If they can’t do division, they have calculators. And the average seems to be about 11 students per room. Have they remembered to include the teacher? They mention student capacity. I think these morons forgot to include teachers. Twelve students (the top of their range and one teacher would take 845 square feet. That’s not common in NYC. Have they picked an atypical school, or just made a mistake? Your guess.

DOE Planning Overview for Principal Meetings

The Third Letter

June 11, 2020 pm30 11:27 pm

This one is different from the other two. There’s a letter from DoE central staff. There’s a similar letter by a bunch of teachers (mostly) and principals.

And then, this. Jose Vilson, The Jose Vilson, is the first signature. Not surprisingly, the letter aims for systemic change, and spells out steps in some detail. This comes closer to my own views than the other two letters:

NYC Schools For Transformative Change

To Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chancellor Richard Carranza, Regent Betty A. Rosa, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro,

We are a coalition of teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, and other student-facing staff who seek to address and redress our school system. Many of us recognize the difficult work of educating the nation’s largest public school system, and, under the current pandemic, we’ve responded with grace, flexibility, and agility. We are proud to serve the students, parents, and communities of New York City, but we also recognize that now is the time for reconciliation with our school system’s past and a transformation – not reform – for our city’s future.

We think back to the life of Kalief Browder and how our schools were complicit in the dehumanizing experience he had that led to his tragic suicide. We think of the thousands of students who pass through metal detectors just to get our rendition of formal education while White wealthy students rarely have to experience such disgrace. We shake our heads at the lack of movement toward integration efforts across the city, such as the dismantling of specialized high school exams and middle school entrance exams. We can’t fathom the rationale for having more police officers than counselors in our schools. In one of the wealthiest cities in the world, we can’t make sense of cutting education budgets without taxing the half-empty high rises across the city.

Black lives matter, not just every four years or when it’s convenient, but all the time. Black families shouldn’t have to decide whether to send their child to school during a pandemic or keep them home without child care. Black parents shouldn’t have to worry whether the curriculum their child is learning in school devalues them as human beings. Black teachers shouldn’t have to work in schools that don’t treat them as professionals due to the color of their skin or their attention to anti-racism. Black people should know that the nation’s largest public school system believes in their children without question. Black lives matter before, during, and after school, and our schools should model that systemically, not just symbolically.

To that end, we, the undersigned, demand that the following seventeen changes be enacted and supported in the capacities of the offices in which each of you occupies:

1. Engage students in cultivating student agency and understanding their rights within schools. Give students voting power on elected community education councils, the Panel for Education Policy, and any other education decision-making bodies.

2. Move into sample testing in step with the NAEP (3rd, 7th, and 11th) with the elimination of other standardized exams from 4th through 6th grades, 8th through 10th grades, and 12th grade, including Regents exams.

3. Create School Peace Officers that report to the NYC Department of Education that serve to transform the idea of school safety for communities, especially in Black communities.

4. Assure that NYPD cannot use school facilities during school hours.

5. Couple the end of zero-tolerance policies with ongoing professional development for every adult in our school buildings centered on de-escalation, anti-racist conflict resolution, and socio-emotional health/development.

6. Fully invest in the NYC Department of Education’s own definition of Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education with an expansion of the Office of Equity and Access.

7. Require ongoing professional development for all DOE staff to eliminate racist pedagogies and practices from schools.

8. Provide funding to enable immigrant community-based organizations to develop and launch language services worker-owned cooperatives—including, but not limited to, one for African Languages of Limited Diffusion (LLDs) and one for indigenous Latin American LLDs.

9. Hire more teachers of color and create conditions for their retention in our highest-need schools coupled with the elimination of teacher accreditation exams. This also includes the expansion of the NYCMenTeach model.

10. Support the Black Lives Matter at School movement by integrating ethnic studies and anti-racist curricula and pedagogy year-round.

11. Triple the number of school counselors and/or social workers in schools to downsize their caseloads throughout the city to a maximum of 75:1 ratio.

12. Commission a panel for the longitudinal, quantitative, and qualitative study of the decimation of Black teachers and other educators of color in New York City public schools in the last two decades, report its findings, and share with the general public.

13. Decrease class ratios to 18:1 in elementary schools, 22:1 in middle and high schools with no more than 66 students per teacher.

14. Mandate a form of homeroom/advisory program in every school with a culturally-responsive, locally determined curriculum based on population and need.

15. Eliminate screening, including gifted and talented programs and specialized high schools.

16. Invest in our transfer high schools, vocational schools, and other non-traditional DOE facilities.

17. Fully fund schools according to the Foundation Aid Formula developed in 2007 by enacting a 2% wealth tax on every New Yorker making more than $50 million to fund any budget shortage and enact a “pied-a-terre” luxury real estate tax for absentee tenants of high-rise luxury buildings that often highlight the wealth disparity in our city.

With these demands, we can actually see a way forward for our Black students and communities who deserve a more robust, anti-racist, human-centered school system. We have to dismantle our complicity in the school-to-confinement pipeline. We can no longer settle for simple reforms that do not heal the root of our school system’s racial disparities.


Jose Luis Vilson, Teacher, NYC Public Schools
Matt Gonzales, Director of Integration and Innovation Initiative (i3), NYU Metro Center
Megan Hester, Director, EJ-ROC, NYU Metro Center
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Professor, Teachers College
Jodi Friedman, Assistant Principal, STAR Academy-PS 63
Wendy Menard, Teacher (retired), Midwood High School
Lynn Shon, Teacher, MS 88
zakiyah ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education
Sendy Keenan, Teacher, Frederick Douglass Academy High School

and almost 600 others! A complete list of co-signatures will be provided in the link below:

Now is the Time (whether you want it to be, or not)

June 8, 2020 pm30 7:00 pm

I attended a NYSUT virtual vigil just now. It was mostly local presidents. The overall thrust was for reform and electing better people, but especially as some hearkened back to the civil rights movement, or to their own personal experiences, there was a current of long-term struggle as well.

Interesting, for me, was Michael Mulgrew, who was brief and sharp – the speech was prepared, and well-prepared. This is not the rambling Mulgrew we see (or hear) at the Delegate Assembly. His opening (and check this out, I’m quoting Mulgrew approvingly) “There is an original sin that stains the soul of our country.” The message was not revolutionary, but a revolutionary message might have started similarly.

More interesting, the comments. Most echoed the speakers, highlighted important points. At first. But then the issue of the police came up. And dominated the comments for a huge chunk of the vigil.

NYSUT did not organize the event to discuss police. But the role of the police, the future of the police, that is what we – and by “we” I mean everyone who is trying to make change – that is what we are talking about.

There are people who want to talk about getting rid of Trump. But today the primary conversation is about police. Reform the police. Defund police. Disband police. Or in reaction, cherish them, value them, protect them – that’s the other side.

In the biggest NYC Teacher Facebook group discussion of police has been hot. Everywhere it seems, Black Lives Matter, and Police. And there is no resolution of the one without resolution of the other. Even if not everyone wants that conversation to happen. Even if some people want to keep the movement away from the hard questions.

The Open Letter for Radical Action on Behalf of BIPOC students and families

June 7, 2020 pm30 7:09 pm

There’s a letter, I’ll post it below, signed by 550 central staff members from the NYC Department of Education. They call for a lot of things. They use the Chancellor’s phrase “Equity and Excellence” – perhaps against him. 

They want culturally responsive curriculum, integration, an end to admissions screens, student and parent voice in decision making, fair grading, and, yes, to bring school safety out of the NYPD and into the DoE.

Here’s the New York Daily News headline:  NYC Education Dept. employees call on schools officials to cut ties with NYPD

They left 90% out. But they did pick the right item to divide folks. We know which side they are on.

Here’s the entire letter:

Chancellor Carranza,

We are a coalition of NYC Department of Education employees who work in Central offices. We are leaders from across offices and divisions, whose daily work consists of supporting the 1.1 million students of New York City and the exceptional educators who serve them. We are those who are tasked with carrying out the Chancellor’s mission of Equity and Excellence—a mission that we fully embrace.

We are proud of all we have accomplished, but the time has come for our actions to align with our words. This is the moment to dissociate ourselves from institutional racism and to affirm that Black Lives Matter. We must sow the seeds of a truly anti-racist Department of Education, in service of all our students and families, but especially of our Black students and families, who have borne the brunt of unjust education policies for centuries. Not just because this is the right thing to do, but because this is our duty.

We write this letter because we have pursued educational equity through the avenues open to us as members of this institution, and we will continue to do so. However, doing the internal work alone has not and will not make these policies a reality. So, we turn to you, Chancellor Carranza, to commit our collective efforts as the DOE takes radical action on behalf of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students and families. It is not enough anymore for our policy to pursue non-racism. We must be anti-racist and address anti-Black policies and practices head on. As leaders in educational transformation, we are ready to join in solidarity with a Chancellor who proactively implements anti-racist policy. We believe you can be that Chancellor. We are prepared to serve—to shoulder the risk and take on this work with you.

As Central employees, we join and echo the demands of our fellow educators who are in schools and in the field, caring for our children every day.  None of our asks are new; our calls to action are those of the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), our fellow educators, our colleagues in City government, and most importantly, our students and their families. We commit to carrying out the anti-racist policies spelled out below, as well as the many other practices necessary to implement meaningful change. In turn, we demand that our City invest the necessary resources to build an anti-racist educational system.

We are in solidarity with advocates and with our students in demanding that our Chancellor and Mayor enact the following:

  1. Place School Safety officers under the training and supervision of the Office of Safety and Youth Development and retrain them as School Peace Officers with a focus on deescalation, mediation, and restorative practices. Increase the number of guidance counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals in schools to meet these goals.
  2. Shift city funding from NYPD to fully fund education, youth, and community programming.
  3. Revise the discipline code, attendance policies, grading policies and student rights to address disproportionality and fully recognize the humanity and agency of our students.
  4. Eliminate admissions screens and tests that are used to sort and separate our students.
  5. Implement the student-developed 5Rs of Real Integration framework adopted by the DOE in 2019, especially alternative admissions methods that promote economic, social & racial diversity.
  6. Invest deeply in culturally relevant teaching aligned to the NYSED Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE) Framework.
  7. Utilize varied outreach efforts to meaningfully engage youth, parents, and caregivers in school decision-making processes, which prioritize families that have not participated in prior activities. We must continually meet families where they are and give them the opportunity for agency and transparency into their children’s education.
  8. Implement a system of accountability and transparency that empowers leaders to identify and interrogate racial disparities and inequitable hiring and staffing practices and include anti-oppressive approaches.
  9. Create more equitable and inclusive workplaces and job opportunities for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and employees with disabilities.

We were inspired when you were first appointed our Chancellor, and we were further encouraged by how you made it clear that you would not back off your equity agenda, even in the face of severe opposition. We were in solidarity with you then, and as a family who expects more from their own, we are calling you to your highest principles now. It is our responsibility, now more than ever to divest our Agency from institutionally racist practices and reimagine an education system that does not privilege some students over others.

We will be beside you when the department, and particularly our Agency’s leadership takes the next steps to advance equity and our collective promise to put all our children first.

In Unity & Service,

[followed by 550 signatures, and then:]


These recommendations would not have been possible without the incredible, and in many cases years-long advocacy, of organizations such as the below. This letter was drafted independently, but we owe huge gratitude to these and many others.

That Other Open Letter about School Safety

June 7, 2020 am30 11:05 am

The open letter by dozens of staffers in the New York Daily News? The one about moving school safety out of the control of the NYPD? Turns out there’s another letter, about budget, and priorities – and school safety.

This letter was started by a Brooklyn principal, and signed by teachers, principals, APs, counselors, coaches, Chapter Leaders, and some central staff. But mostly by teachers. Looks like about 950 signatures so far.

For the record, I just got the text. I’m looking it over. I have not signed. I have not decided if I will.

Here’s the full text (linked, and below):

As school leaders, the months that have passed since the COVID-19 crisis gripped New York City have been some of the most challenging of our careers. Our staff, our students, and many of our own families have suffered unspeakable loss, and yet we have not been able to come together as communities to mourn and support one another.

Not surprisingly, the virus has disproportionately ravaged New York’s most vulnerable communities, home to so many of our black, brown, and immigrant students.

As if a once-in-a-generation health crisis weren’t enough, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police reminds our students of the NYPD’s own sordid history of murdering and terrorizing black and brown New Yorkers; evidenced by the similar fates of Eric Garner, Kalief Browder, and Akai Gurley, and the dark era of stop-and-frisk.

Our students are civically engaged. They participate in and follow the protests that demand accountability and justice. They watch as the police–who they are asked to trust as their protectors–indiscriminately deploy tear gas, ram protestors with squad cars, pepper spray peaceful demonstrators and compliant journalists, and flash white power symbols to approving colleagues. The NYPD’s human rights abuses are on full display as they assert once again their indifference toward black and brown citizens’ immeasurable grief, and their intolerance for expressions of justified rage.

When our children finally return to the classroom, these crises will have left them in need of unprecedented levels of support from us, both academic and emotional. Instead, they will return to schools with budgets that have been gutted by over $827 million dollars. They will return to schools without adequate access to social workers, mental health and counseling services, restorative justice programs, arts programs, sports teams, and after school programming.

At the same time, the NYPD will see its budget substantially increased. When our students emerge from the collective trauma of COVID-19 and rampant police brutality, they’ll be met by faces wearing an NYPD uniform; on the corner, at the bus stop, in the subway, and at the doors of their schools. This will trigger feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety – not safety. After all, what evidence do black and brown students have that they can trust law enforcement officers?

The priorities of our city and state in this budget are clear. Children last, NYPD first. 

We would be remiss in our duties to our students if we did not use what power we have to join their efforts to convince those who remain indifferent that  “Black Lives Matter.” In light of that responsibility, we demand that the governor, mayor, and city council pass a budget that puts children first during this crucial time. That means drastic increases to public school and social service budgets, and sharp cuts to the NYPD’s budget. Increased school budgets should include funding for:

  • all schools to develop anti-racist professional learning plans specific to the needs of their school community; 
  • building an Ethnic Studies Curriculum that centers on the history of people of color and racism in America;
  • a restorative justice coordinator for every school to help dismantle the school to prison pipeline; and
  • hiring guidance counselors and social workers to achieve a 1:100 ratio, who can work directly with children impacted by COVID-19 and police violence. 

In addition, we call for:

  • abolishing culturally biased teacher certification exams
  • recruiting a teaching and leadership staff that reflects the diversity of our public school system
  • reviewing the approved vendor list and procurement policies to promote purchasing from black and minority owned businesses that support our communities  
  • placing School Safety officers under the training and supervision of the Office of Safety and Youth Development and retraining them as school peace officers with a focus on de-escalation, mediation, and restorative practices;
  • reinstating COMPASS, SONYC, Beacon and Cornerstones summer programs, and Summer Youth Employment Programs; and
  • restoring the planned 3-K expansion.

In Solidarity,

Police 3: Solidarity and Identity

June 6, 2020 pm30 2:09 pm

I’m writing about a little about police, as part of the larger conversation that is taking place. I wrote about why the police are such a welcoming home for “bad apples.” I wrote a tiny bit about the history of modern police departments. And today I’ll write about two more things:

1. In Buffalo, police were clearing a square, a cop came upon a senior citizen, and shoved the old man out of his way. The man fell, began bleeding, bleeding from his ears, was hospitalized, and is now in serious condition. The cop was suspended. And 57 Buffalo police officers who were part of that unit (Emergency Response Team) resigned from the unit, and asked to be deployed to other units.

I am less concerned with the casual brutality of the POS who assaulted a senior citizen. I am more concerned about the culture that led all of his colleagues to rally to his defense. No one who shares that culture should be allowed armed on our streets. But evidence suggests the ENTIRE PD shares that culture.

Here’s the video:

Here’s the link to the story about the unit resigning.

2. You know, in the classic cartoons, before going out and robbing and stealing, criminals put on a mask (not N-95)? That’s to hide their identities, so they can get away with doing bad stuff without getting caught.

New York City:NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: Following a night of often violent protests, police stand by as demonstrations continue against the death of George Floyd while in police custody on June 01, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Thousands of protesters took to the streets throughout the city on Sunday to express their anger over police brutality after Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on George Floyd's neck before he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Floyd's death, the most recent in a series of deaths of black Americans at the hands of the police, has set off days and nights of protests across the country. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Police in Philly are putting electrical tape over their badge numbers to hide their identity 

Chicago: Chicago police launched an investigation into an officer for ...

DC:Some law enforcement officers at protests have no badges and some ...

Best orders officers to show badge numbers, as Durkan rejects 50 ...

Random? No way. Orders from above? At least in some cases, yes.

How come so many cops do that? Not one or two. Not one department, or two departments. It is a general feature of police culture. Is it tolerated? Allowed? Encouraged? Promoted? Doesn’t matter. It happens. It is part of the culture.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

Neither issue, police standing in solidarity with brutality, or police hiding their identities, neither is an issue of “one bad apple” – they both point to structural, cultural problems with modern US police departments.


A little more about Chaz

June 5, 2020 am30 1:41 am

It’s been a month to the day since the world lost Eric Chasanoff to Covid, and a month to the day since the New York City teacher/blogger universe lost Chaz’s School Daze.

I wrote about Chaz in this space – my immediate reaction to his passing. Many others wrote, too. I submitted something to UFT Honors, and they used a few of my words. And then one of the editors suggested I leave a comment – and I did:

I also went back through more of his writing. I had forgotten that Eric had endorsed me for UFT Exec Board not just in the last election, but every time I ran. 2019. 2016. 2013. 2010.

Our views tended to coincide on contractual and labor issues. But we diverged, mostly on issues related to race, poverty and integration. In recent years I commented less, as his readership (at least in the comments) drifted towards the right.

But our first disagreement? I was in favor of demoting Pluto from planet status. Eric gamely defended the micro-planet (see comments).

Police 2: The early history

June 3, 2020 pm30 10:35 pm

Bodycams are not mentioned in the Constitution, because the technology did not exist, and police did not exist.

What? No police in 1776? Nope. (and not in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified.

So where did the police come from? And when?

The when is easier. Philadelphia – 1828. NYC – 1845. Baltimore – 1853. Boston – 1854. Chicago – 1855. Newark – 1857. Pittsburgh – 1857. Cincinnati – 1859. New Haven – 1861. Washington DC – 1861. Cleveland – 1866.

New Orleans stands apart – as it had a series of organizations, some of which may have constituted actual police departments, some which may not, on and off from the early to the late 19th century. The earliest, from French colonial times, were more of night watches than police forces. I would date the modern force to 1877, when a futuristic, integrated force was attacked by an all white force.

Before police?  many cities had “night watch” systems which variously guarded property (especially in warehouses and shipping centers) or protected public morals (anti-saloon and anti-prostitution). They were often rotating volunteers, often overseen by constables.  Police departments in the north did not grow out of the night watch system, but replaced it.

There were also private security guards. Shipping companies cleverly were paying for guards. They campaigned for a modern, professional police department so that they could offload the cost of security onto the public. And they succeeded. Now police patrols guarded the companies’ goods, and they did not have to pay guards.

And in the south?  Slave catchers?

A few years ago Time Magazine printed a fascinating article on the origins of police departments.

Police 1: There are good people…

June 2, 2020 pm30 7:46 pm

I hear it said. I have known some. There are good people who are cops. My neighbor. Good guy. You might know some, too.

But there is Chauvin. You’ve seen the video, or at least part of it. Cold indifference as he snuffed out a life. George Floyd’s life. Eighteen prior investigations. OK, so one bad apple.

How many departments have “one bad apple”?  Or better, do any departments not have one?  Armed, uniformed. How much damage could one bad apple do? We should not ask that question.

Do departments weed these guys out? throw them out? Not Chauvin. This is the public’s safety at stake. Does every PD wait until there is incontrovertible evidence that the apple is bad? Do some PDs wait until even after that? There were eighteen prior investigations of Chauvin. The club where he worked privately got complaints that he was excessively rough with people.

In fact, police departments, with uniforms, ranks and weapons attract, especially in a culture where Dirty Harry is glorified,  some people with violent, even sadistic tendencies. They are not screened out well enough at recruitment, and they are not weeded out. Problems seem to be systematically ignored.  While officially all police departments practice deescalation, clearly there are officers (in every department??) who do not. They are not weeded out for “failure to deescalate.” Videos of aggressive altercations inspire more nut jobs.  They are not isolated aberrations. They are attracted, and their tendencies develop are fertilized while in blue.

With the history of the treatment of Blacks in this country, and with the everyday use of force and harassment by police against Black people, and with the practice of policing minority neighborhoods more aggressively, there is an attraction for racists to join police departments. Which police department screens and rejects recruits for deep-seated racism and prejudice? Which weeds them out when racist tendencies are revealed? On the contrary, racists, surrounded by other racists, engaged in race-inspired violence and harassment, actually recruit more police to informal racism.

Police Departments, with their toleration of violent behavior, and their toleration of racism, become recruiting grounds for far right and racist organizations. Which police department actively rid themselves of members of the Klan, Nazi groups, and other ultra-right organizations?

Let’s say that most departments don’t actively encourage this culture. Probably a few still do. But even those that don’t encourage, they tolerate it.

So, yeah, I know. My neighbor’s a cop, and he’s a good person. And, I know, “it’s a few bad apples”…

But we are talking about an organization that doesn’t really try to keep out its bad apples, hangs onto its bad apples, and lets the bad apples spoil other apples.

So yes, there are good people in the PDs. That’s not the problem. The Police Departments are.


Dear Young People who are my students

June 1, 2020 am30 1:43 am

Dear Young People who are my students,

Sometimes life imitates art.

Late last night the Public Theater canceled a virtual event for Monday. “In this time of national trauma” they wrote in their email, “when the Covid crisis has so disproportionately impacted the Black community, when the injustices of our way of life have been made so clear, it just feels wrong for us to sail ahead… This is a time for mourning and reflection”

I had started to write your calendar. I stopped.

I thought about the letter from the Student Government, which I read yesterday:

“It is not enough to “not be racist”. We must ACTIVELY be anti-racist and be responsible citizens who listen and take actions as we fight for justice and equality. 

“We, the HSAS community, stand in solidarity with the Black Community. We urge all of you to do everything that you can to help the Black Lives Matter cause. We urge you all to commit to anti-racist practice and dismantle the white supremacy that blatantly exists in our society, anti-blackness in America and the police brutality that is continuously occurring in our country. 

Earlier today I reposted on Facebook the message of an alum from 2011:

 “To me, teaching is a matter of life and death. In black and brown communities, schools can honestly make or break your future. I do not take my position lightly—especially considering I am an Afro-Puerto Rican woman who chose to teach in the very same community I grew up in. I have many experiences in my own education where had I not had the proper support, i would probably not be where I am today. I know firsthand that the education system in this country does not actually care about our black and brown babies. So please. If you are an educator…—stop being silent on the issues pervading our communities.

And just moments ago another alum, class of 2009, gave me permission to share his words:

The system is broken and our law enforcement system has failed us several times. I have been a victim of unnecessary police brutality SEVERAL times. From walking to the store to get some food. To being outside of my home working on my car. I was stripped of my rights, slammed to the floor, attacked, searched and demoralized. Not because I committed a crime. I was treated this way because I was a black man who happened to look “suspicious”. I’m tired of cringing every time I see a cop driving behind me… This is the sad reality, truth, guilt, and shame we must carry with us as a country. We need change! What do you stand for? I’ll stand with those who stand up for the true message of this tragedy. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”

He closes with these words of Dr. King:

“In the End we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends

The murder of George Floyd is one crime, but represents for many the seemingly never-ending string of murders, central to the history of the United States. The racism that has been with us since our foundation, if it is allowed to remain, will guarantee that each month, each year, more names of Black men and women will be added to this list. This cannot continue. The pain needs to end. Enough is really enough.

I would like to think of ways to stand in solidarity with the victims of racism, in solidarity with Black teachers, Black students, and the Black community. I want to consider the way racism infects the fabric of our everyday life, including our schools, including this school, and what can be done about it.

When faced with complex issues, I like to remember these words of John Reed: “There are only two sides. And whoever is not on one, is on the other.” I know I must act. The silence that Dr. King speaks of is not only silence. It is complicity.

I am suspending my classes for today, for Monday, June 1, to allow time to mourn, to reflect, to speak.

Office hours will continue, 8AM – 10AM as usual, but not as usual: for you to express yourselves, to share thoughts, fears, doubts. To ask questions. To consider a better future, and how we might get there. I will be there to listen, to support you.

I will print a regular calendar for Tuesday, with a short assignment for seniors and a shortened assignment for juniors. The notes from Chapter 7, which were due today, are pushed back to Tuesday. I will send out instructions for requesting a college recommendation in Tuesday’s calendar (short version, I always say yes).

I hope you join me for coffee, and if not, hope you engage in reflection and discussion on your own or with friends and family,

Jonathan Halabi

June 4 – Mulgrew responds

May 31, 2020 pm31 1:26 pm

I wrote yesterday about the DoE demanding we assign work for June 4 (and for June 9 in elementary schools) while we were supposed to be doing professional development.

The Chancellor did not even bother telling us, and he was assigning us to give busy work. Inconsiderate. Disrespectful.

I also bemoaned the lack of official response from the UFT, over a full day after the news came out.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

Update – Sunday afternoon the UFT sent out a message to members over Mulgrew’s signature. He couldn’t stop the DoE’s stupid plan, but he took a shot at the Chancellor: “Educators may provide enrichment activities to students, but they should not be asked to give students busy work. Educators’ engagement with students is so much more than that, and those immense contributions should not be devalued.”

Members will be frustrated, but will appreciate the line about “busy work” – which is clearly what the Chancellor was asking for.

And me? I’m glad that it took only two days to speak to members. But there’s still room for improvement.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

Me? I will assign a week’s worth of work on Monday, with an intro. Students come to discuss the questions with me during the week, (they choose from my daily office hours) while they are working on it. I also do mini-lessons on some of the trickier content for small groups during office hours. I’ll tell them to keep working Thursday, but that there won’t be office hours that day.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

Here’s the whole of Mulgrew’s note:

Dear Jonathan,

The Department of Education has clarified what is expected of teachers, related service providers and other staff on June 4 and June 9. While students will be engaged in learning on both days, educators will be receiving professional development on June 4 and engaged in clerical duties on June 9. Teachers are not expected to engage students on either day.

June 4 is a professional development day for teachers, related service providers and other staff. June 9 is a clerical day for teachers, related service providers and other staff in elementary, middle and District 75 schools. On those days, students are expected to independently complete work set up in advance. The DOE will provide learning materials teachers may share if they believe they will be helpful.

The DOE clarified the expectations in a letter to parents.

Educators may provide enrichment activities to students, but they should not be asked to give students busy work. Educators’ engagement with students is so much more than that, and those immense contributions should not be devalued.

Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for our students and their families.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

June 4 is a PD Day – but…

May 30, 2020 pm31 10:20 pm

I thought that June 4 would be a non-instructional day. That’s how it is for high schools in New York City. Every year for two decades, since Brooklyn-Queens Day was extended to the whole city. In my school we do placement exams for our incoming 9th graders. There’s PD. Elementary schools also have June 9.

And Thursday a UFT leader confirmed it (and complained that the DoE was slow to tell us), yup, Professional Development day.

So it came as a surprise yesterday when I heard that June 4 would be instructional. There must be a mistake? I checked my e-mail. Nothing.

But on the chat pages I learned the truth – the Chancellor wrote, Friday evening, to parents and families, and not to teachers.

Apparently a letter to principals followed. The key paragraph: “June 4 will be an instructional day for students, meaning that we still expect all students to be engaged in remote learning even as you and your teachers are engaged in professional development. Teachers are not expected to engage students on June 4; instead, schools should set students up in advance of June 4 with independent work for the day, or provide students with centrally provided materials, which will be made available early next week.”

Simply put, give them work on Wednesday, go to PD on Thursday, and ignore kids’ e-mails on Thursday. I bet a lot of teachers could do that. But some of us cannot. And some of us will not. It is bad practice. Kids try new work, they need guidance. They may have questions. They can get stuck. For those of us who are teaching live – just how can we do both?

Friday night surprises. This is not this Chancellor’s first time dropping bad surprise news on us, indirectly, Friday, after hours. That’s when he let slip that he was banning Zoom immediately (which he walked back Monday, three days later, to a gradual phase out, and which has since been brought back). It’s also when de Blasio announced that Good Friday and Passover were work days.

Why do they do this? Because they are thoughtless. Because they have little respect for teachers and other school workers. Because they think they can get away with it. And because, so far, they have in fact gotten away with it.

There’s something else going on. People are asking, why isn’t the UFT doing anything about this? And others are answering that the UFT is fighting this. But that answer is not coming from Mulgrew. People are hopping mad, or frustrated, or too exhausted to complain, and nothing from the union President. What do I think? I think the UFT is fighting this. I think the central leadership is allowing the rumors that they are fighting to filter out.

But I think a better leadership would speak directly to the membership.

This has been an apparent problem on several occasions over these last ten weeks. Maybe the most frustrating was getting only a series of lawyerly-worded statements about live teaching, and pressing and pressing for weeks before we finally got an unambiguous “you do not have to live teach” from Mulgrew.

In that case, the lawyers were probably writing the statements.

This time? They might be delaying until they have spoken to the DoE and resolved this. Possible, but a lousy reason not to tell us what’s going on. Sometimes they are shy about communicating when they don’t think they have a win. Also a lousy a reason. Maybe they are debating what to say to the members. Well, ok, maybe, but it’s been over a day. Get to it.

Slow communication with members – or letting rumors reach members before official word does, that’s bad for the union.


Not Today

May 29, 2020 pm31 3:06 pm

I am in process of writing about lots of things.

  • Teaching graphing (for some classes of ugly functions)
  • Slamming the College Board, hoping to help sink them
  • Questions about teaching in September
  • Stories from my UFT Chapter
  • Cuomo and nursing homes
  • Thinking more about Chaz
  • Social distancing
  • Hikes
  • Keeping pressure on the UFT leadership not to sacrifice our safety (I hope it is not necessary, but, you know, trust. And verify)
  • Staying Healthy
  • Logic Puzzles

But not today.

And in the back of my mind was a post about the presidential election.

  • I was going to say, mostly to progressives, many of whom supported Bernie,
    * go ahead, defeat Trump. But if you do, that’s not enough.
    * And go ahed if it’s too much for you, don’t vote. But if that’s your act, that’s not enough.
  • I was going to say that you need to keep fighting on the issues, no matter your attitude to the election.
    Do not pause, I would have said, the fight for
    * taxing the rich, for
    * medicare for all, for a
    * fight against the destruction of the environment.
    * For bail reform and an
    * overhaul of the “criminal” justice system, for
    * fair wages, for
    * housing justice.
    Do not pause those fights, I would have said, they must be continued, everyday.

But I’m not saying that today. Not today.

Today all eyes are on Minneapolis. All thoughts should be on George Floyd – murdered by a cop showing callous indifference to the life he was smothering.

Thoughts should be towards Ahmaud Arbery, executed for “jogging while Black.”

Our voices should be saying their names. And other names. Why are there always so many names? Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. Look them up. Say them. Find the names. You cannot find them all. This is not a two minute exercise and on with your life.

There are thousands of names. There are names we cannot say. There are victims of police violence. And victims of lynching. And victims of a penal system that criminalized vagrancy to reenslave Black men. And victims of slavery. There are 232 years of names of Black people, mostly men – from the founding of this country. There are over 100 years more, from the founding of the colonies.

This land has allowed hundreds of years of acceptable violence, including executions, of Black people. And if the “law” looks away or the “law” does the killing, it amounts to the same thing. The “law” is ok with this violence toward Blacks.

I am not rallying for a few days, and moving on to the next cause.

I am remembering the victims whose names I know.

And I am committing myself, for today, and for the future, and for until this nightmare is ended.  I am committing myself to struggling to end it, until we end it.

March 13, March 17, May 26: me/school

May 27, 2020 pm31 11:50 pm

Friday, March 13. That morning was an activity day at our school, “SpringFest”. The school play (I’m the advisor) had also been scheduled for that morning, but Lehman College shut the theater the previous day. Plus, two of our actors, without understudies, were not feeling well (I don’t think it was COVID).

During SpringFest several of us distributed a petition, addressed to de blasio, Carranza, and Mulgrew and everyone signed.

And then we had remote parent teacher conferences (we’d SBO’ed that date – it was not the citywide date). Most teachers made their calls from home, but I stuck around. It was surreal.

The day ended at 3. This photo must be about 3:15.


The Mayor kept insisting he would keep schools open – Thursday, Friday (above), Saturday, Sunday, and finally Sunday afternoon, as he lost ally after ally, de blasio finally surrendered to the pressure. Students would stop going to school, but teachers were assigned in-school training for remote teaching Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

We will never know how the sickout planned for Monday would have gone. But teachers were nervous about their safety, even going in without kids.

The training itself was strange. There was no pre-packaged pd. No one knew how to do what we were about to try to do. The few people who had a clue were actual teachers. And even they mostly knew enough for their own class. Teachers who did not know much about what they were doing helped others who knew less, but we were all guided by central DoE staff who knew literally nothing. Staff learned how to use Zoom (which Carranza then banned 17 days later, and just unbanned in May). And we stumbled through the day, trying to maintain “social distancing” which we were just starting to learn about.

I focused on a few basics I thought I would need to teach remotely. And after that, why come back and put myself at more risk?

I took a photo of myself and left after the first day, and did not return.

Fast forward nine week. (with five weeks left). We know more. We will make it to the end. We are wiser. But exhausted.

The parking lot next to my school is a COVID-19 testing site, with state troopers and orderly lines of cars.

Our garden is overgrown. Litter is accumulating.

This is yesterday. And I am so ready to move on.