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Scheduling and the UFT Town Hall

July 22, 2020 pm31 3:46 pm

Yesterday’s UFT Town Hall was in some ways a breath of fresh air.

Mulgrew shortened his report, and devoted much more time to questions and answers than in the previous Town Halls.

The questions themselves were more focused on broad concerns: safety, schedules, procedures, September.

But some of the answers were concerning. And since I am working on scheduling, that is what stood out the most to me. I have spent more time speaking to more programmers in more schools over the last 4 – 6 weeks than I have ever done before. I think I have some sort of contact with over 100 schools now (weighted towards high schools, but middle schools and elementary schools as well. I don’t know anyone programming D75). And combining my programming work with what I’m hearing from other programmers, well, some of Mulgrew’s comments rang “funny.”

Five Points, with some Commentary

Carranza’s models did not get mentioned

The NYCDoE (Richard Carranza, Chancellor) put out a list of scheduling options for schools to choose from.  Schools right now are struggling to find a way to make one of the three models work (two more options for D75) or working towards begging for an exemption. I have been clear – I don’t think they will work in any school. I am more confident about high schools than elementary schools, but in talking to other programmers, there are very few who are getting anywhere (and those who are mostly are doing sketchy stuff). I do not believe Mulgrew mentioned Carranza’s models, or that schools are frantically trying to choose (initial choice is due Thursday.

You will be in-person. or remote. not both.

Mulgrew clearly stated that teachers who are teaching in-person will not be teaching remotely as well. He described a teacher teaching the in-person portions of a class, and coordinating with the remote teacher, who teaches the remote parts. I do not know a single programmer who is planning for the scenario Mulgrew described – and I know a lot of programmers who are planning. There is no evidence in the ‘plan’ that Carranza sent out that there is any agreement about this at all.

1, 2, 3, 4, Lunch, Coordination!

Mulgrew suggested that some schools were finding success scheduling periods 1 – 4, then lunch (I assume he meant a grab and go kind of set-up, but he didn’t say), and that the teacher would use the rest of the day to coordinate with the remote counterpart. Let me first say, this is less unrealistic than what Carranza put out, but unless you have something that’s actually REALISTIC, you don’t get points for being less unrealistic. And second, I do not know a single programmer who is planning with the model Mulgrew mentioned – and I know a lot of programmers who are planning. There is nothing from Carranza that would encourage this sort of planning.

60% chance of being remote. Details at the last minute.

Near the end of his opening talk, Mulgrew guestimated a 60% chance we would be remote, and a 40% chance of being hybrid. Those numbers may be, today, correct. He said not to expect a decision until the end of August or the beginning of September. And today, de Blasio said there would not be an answer until the beginning of August. They seem to be working off the same script.

Preparing for blended and for remote.

Mulgrew repeated that we are working on blended, and that we are working on remote. I’m sure that there are people who do not work in schools who are talking about some big-picture things involving full-remote teaching. But the hardest planning that is going on is at the school level. And we have a mandate to work on hybrid. That’s what we’re supposed to be working on. I don’t know any programmers working on a full remote schedule, unless their school is going to ask for an exemption to go all remote (and Mulgrew strongly discouraged that yesterday). Teachers are in the dark – but most are assuming that they need to do some in-person and some remote teaching – unless they have a medical accommodation. Working on blended and working on remote? I’m going to label that one false.

What’s actually happening?

Schools are scrambling to select one of Carranza’s models. They are running numbers, having trouble making anything work. In the main, they are making plans to assign teachers in-person and remote teaching (50% to 100% over-scheduling teachers) counting on the mayhem of September to save them from grievances. Elementary schools are also more freaked than high schools about safety. Little kids are harder to control. Little kids touch. Little kids get dropped off and picked up. And little kids might get dropped off on the wrong days.

High schools are a little different. Many are working on applying for exemptions. Most are planning to have the teacher of record for a class do both remote and in-person teaching, largely by making the remote asynchronous (and honestly, just be homework or project work). Teachers faced with this are a little freaked, because the in-person lesson will be different for each of the three (or four) groups. Some schools are coming up with really crazy stuff. And some are planning to do the right thing, and apply to be full-on remote, despite Carranza/Mulgrew’s warning that they will be rejected.

No one I know of is working on the 1-4, Lunch, Coordination model Mulgrew projected. No one I know of is working on having the remote and in-person teacher be different teachers, as Mulgrew insisted must happen in most cases. And no one I know of is working on both blended plans AND remote plans, unless they are slyly not writing blended plans at all

What could Mulgrew have said? (but didn’t)

  • We should go fully remote.
  • We told the Department we should go fully remote.
  • We thought we could make blended work. But we have tried. We do not think it will work.
  • We told the Department of Education that we have been trying hard to make these blended plans work, but we cannot. We have asked them to drop this approach.
  • Teachers desperately want to go back to school… as soon as it is safe. We do not have a plan to be safe in September, so we are trying to convince the Mayor and Chancellor to back down.
  • Schools have been asked to submit preliminary plans before they have any idea how many teachers will receive accommodations, or how many students will opt to remain fully remote. We do not believe schools should have to make submissions without that information. We do not believe that information will arrive in time for schools to be able to create functioning schedules. We have informed the Department of this, and are therefore requesting they drop the drive to a blended model.
  • Teachers cannot plan for one brand new mode of teaching (blended) and one mode of teaching that we have 3 rough months experience with (remote). The only way to be ready for September is to pick the more likely one, remote, take the other off the table, and give you time to plan and prepare. Remote in the spring was not great, although we improved as time went on. Let’s devote ourselves to making sure remote teaching is much better in September than it was in June.
  • Let’s make the best possible decision today – for full remote – and let our teachers, counselors, therapists, paras, secretaries, AND our principals and APs do the best job possible to make it as good as possible.
  • We told the mayor that a decision in August is too late for teachers to change gears. Teachers can do two things at once – they often do half a dozen – but remote vs blended are totally different brand new pedagogies.


It was, actually, the best Town Hall so far. Mulgrew kept his report shorter, and fielded more questions. But there were many, many more questions than he could get to. The UFT should set up an open board where questions can be posted for all members to read, and answers given. But answering more questions is not enough – the answers need to be good.

Grade for Town Hall:  B-

Subscore on scheduling: D+

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Samuel Noel permalink
    July 22, 2020 pm31 4:40 pm 4:40 pm

    Excellent report and analysis. Something that has to be considered is the number of teachers who will retire, resign, or take leaves of absence. There just may not be enough personnel to run this hybrid model. Based on what’s not being said, people are bound to make decisions at the last possible moment.

    • July 22, 2020 pm31 6:28 pm 6:28 pm

      Thank you Sam. I have no doubt we are headed for a mess. The questions: how big? how many people will become sick as a result?

  2. anonymous permalink
    July 22, 2020 pm31 5:43 pm 5:43 pm

    Sorry if I missed this somewhere, but does anyone know if Open Market is extended this year? It seems like waiting for a buyout + waiting for plans = potential late openings.

    • July 22, 2020 pm31 6:27 pm 6:27 pm

      It didn’t come up at the Town Hall, but I’ve seen DoE stuff that continues to use the August 7 end date. Way back (June?) the UFT said (probably Mulgrew at a DA or Town Hall) that they were asking for an extension… but what I saw from the DoE was later. I’m thinking (but do not know) they said no.

  3. Bennett Fischer permalink
    July 22, 2020 pm31 9:41 pm 9:41 pm

    Thank you so much for going so deeply into the weeds of the City’s so-called hybrid model of school return. In this, and previous posts, your rational exposé of the practical – indeed, life-threatening – shortcomings of the City’s vague, unfunded, plans for a September reopening are clear and sobering. A “must read” for every teacher, administrator and parent. Keep on keepin’ on!

    • July 25, 2020 am31 11:41 am 11:41 am

      Thank you, Bennett. The kind of planning I do (and have done) gives me a different angle – I try to share it.


  1. 1st NYC school planning all-remote for September – more will follow | JD2718

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