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UFT Town Hall Minutes

August 14, 2020 am31 12:18 am

I’ll say something substantive, about a meeting that really was not very. But that’s tomorrow. For now, a friend took notes – and offered them for sharing:

UFT Town Hall Meeting Minutes August 13, 2020

Michael Mulgrew


  • Welcome and thanks.  We’re getting into crunch time! GOAL: Little bit longer report, but still majority questions.
  • All eyes on schools at all times.  Horrors of colleagues in school districts that have no business opening. 
  • Our mayor seems to be ready to open schools— WE are not ready.
  • Spoke to him for the first time since March.  Mugrew said we don’t feel safe.  We don’t think your plan is workable.  We don’t have what you’ve ALREADY agreed to. We will follow CDC guidelines. Mayor put a timeline on principals to pick a schedule. 
  • Have your CL send your district rep any programs/ schedules that imply a mix of hybrid/ remote scheduling. 
  • These schedules the DOE put out were more suggestions– not really “agreed upon”. 
  • Hard to open school on time with this lack of clarity.
  • No one is teaching 6 period/ no one is teaching 5 in a row.  This all still needs to be worked out. 
  • We dealt with all the steps since March: to close schools, to get remote learning up and running, we got grade fairness, we dealt with evaluations.  Now we are getting medical accommodations!
  • In APRIL, we said: if you want to open safely in September, we have to start planning together NOW.  He ignored it in May and June.  Only in July did he begin to engage. 
  • CSA President:  This isn’t going to work.  We must make sure the mayor doesn’t try to blame us or pit parents against teachers.    CSA and UFT agree: we cannot open NYC schools safely on September 10. 
  • Mayoral “dog and pony show” with the press, highlighting one school with appropriate PPE. 
  • Still decisions to be made but WE WILL NOT BE PUT IN HARM’S WAY AGAIN.
  • NYC in a much different place.  Our daily infection rates are less than 1%.  Many graphs we see with high numbers are about percentage positive rates– we ARE close to the 1% daily infection rates.
  • Parents are our allies/ families have to deal with the dilemma– do I send my child to school, can I afford my house? Do I know my child is safe? 
  • We as teachers are in a difficult dilemma.  What if the mayor insists we go in when it isn’t safe? 
  • SOLUTION:  Push the city to do what no other school district has done, hold their feet to the fire. Mr. Mayor, you want your schools open?  You need to do YOUR job!
  • Final decision will not be made until right before the beginning of the school year. 
  • 100 trained people to do “Covid” visits.  Will check ventilation/ PPE/ Signage/ Custodians/ equipment and personnel (not in place in most schools) Will return to the schools in the couple of weeks before schools open and take appropriate measures to make sure the city cannot open them up. 
  • Must be smarter then them and do our work better than them.
  • Can we open? No, I do not believe that.  It’s all about the evidence. We have to show WHY it isn’t so.  And the mayor must be able to show why it IS SAFE enough to open. 
  • Tough problems: HEROES ACT/ stimulus package has completely imploded.  Without this $$, we don’t believe we can afford to open safely.  City is preparing departments for layoffs.  
  • Other avenues to pursue.  We don’t want any of our members to face being laid off. Taking care of our profession and our livelihood.  Being put in jeopardy.
  • It is NOT hopeless though.  We have a plan.  Working together, working with Albany, working on budgets, will execute quickly since we have a little time (October re: budget stuff)  Multiple crises at a time! 
  • Must communicate and stick together!  What we see in the media is insane!
  • Our national union is in court today over our 2000 colleagues in quarantine in Florida; similar in GA.  Huge positivity rates different than us. 
  • Could we be breaking the Taylor Law? Maybe.  I’ll make sure everyone knows the ramifications. Also have legal avenues to pursue.  Taylor Law makes it illegal to strike (unless we can prove “clear and present danger” to open every school.  If we do this, employees that participate can receive disciplinary actions or financial penalties. Mulgrew has penalties, he can go to jail, but we have to decide if this is what we need to do. 
  • OUR medical professionals are telling us we CAN do this with the rates we have, but we have to be SO CAREFUL.  We still don’t have agreement on a testing protocol (then must be customized for every building, which is why Sept. 10 is feasible.  If you’re testing, screening, distancing, PPE, you may/ would be able to pull this off.  
  • Mayor says we have a lot of time?  We have a month and a LOT to do. 
  • Mayor says today there WILL be a nurse in every building. 
  • Serving lunch in classrooms is different from restaurants how?  All people, students and teachers facing the same direction– not satisfied with this answer. 
  • Another Town Hall in a couple of weeks.
  • 2 great challenges: SAFETY AND LIVELIHOOD. Not opening schools without safety.  Without additional funding, layoffs could come.  
  • We will make decisions at the appropriate time. We are going to take care of each other. 
  • Parents will listen to US– the teachers that they trust, not the mayor, not the chancellor.  We can’t break that trust with them. 
  • I guarantee you that all decisions are being made from independent doctors advising us.  Only school district who got through the last recession without a layoff.  
  • Understands the anger/ fear/ anxiety.  Will meet again in a couple of weeks.


  •  Q: Medical accommodation: haven’t received word on if it is approved.  Ones who have gotten approval indicate it said through Dec. 31, 2020.  What happens after?
  • A:  It’s a legal thing: pushed them to change the process for medical accommodations to speed it up.  Lawyers said, “people don’t have medical accommodations forever, so they should reapply”.  We’re pushing back as a waste of time, regardless of whether we are remote or in the buildings. We will figure this out. 


  • Q: REMOTE LEARNING: don’t know what this looks like.  Will remote teachers with medical accommodations have a larger remote load? Being on a camera? How will grading work? 
  • A: 30% of students have opted out.  Only about 15% teachers have applied for medical accommodations. Yes,remote teachers will need to stream live for their students but will not attempt to replicate a normal school day.  We have a teacher shortage PLUS layoffs threatened.  We don’t have enough teachers to staff both remote and hybrid.  Will adhere to traditional class size requirements with remote.


  • Q: Ventilation/ filtration: my bldg’s report was 3 (fair), too old for HVAC system.  Which forms say where we are at?  How will info be made public? How will we handle it if it isn’t safe?
  • MANY schools with old and poor ventilation systems. What was acceptable pre-Covid is clearly not acceptable now.  Many schools will not be able to open.  Because these are safety reports, they must be transparent– why we can go into schools to check things out.  Don’t need and HVAC system to have proper ventilation: windows better. Don’t think because you have an AC blowing cold air in the room that your room is properly ventilatedL you need outside air.  Could lead to big fights.


  • Q: Mayor said by October 1, 200,000 city workers could lose their jobs. Does this include us?
  • A:  Yes, we’re in that pot.  Our economy has been decimated by the virus.  Closed establishment means they are not paying taxes.  We’re facing a huge deficit.  Had a surplus before but things are not looking good now without federal stimulus. 


  • Q: How are we going to prevent kids from using their masks properly/ maintaining social distance, etc?
  • A: An agreement:  (we have to train them first how to follow these new rules, IF we get to open schools; these new procedures).  If they can’t follow the safety procedures, they have to go home. Simple– not messing around. The more challenging a situation, the more PPE needed. Our own nurses will do training around PPE, if we go back live. Shields might be more common than we thought; all teachers might need them.


  • Q: What happens when parents don’t come to pick up sick children or children who can’t follow the safety protocols?
  • A: Not a behavioral issue but a safety issue.  Still working out protocols.  Kid might have to be put in a “save” or “isolation” room when kids are sick or being problematic in terms of safety.  We have to push it with the DOE to tell the parent– they need to follow the rules or they can’t be in school.  DOE has plenty of employees, let them deal with it, especially since Tweed members with teaching certificates can be compelled into teaching service.


  • Q: Can we have a buy-out to mitigate layoffs? 
  • A: We have requested and had conversations with the municipal labor council about this.  Talks are progressing. First, if we open, we want to use this “other avenue” for funding.  City is going to ask for things back– we will NOT give things back, with all the new and extra work we do. Figure out a new funding source, and at the same time, get to the place where a buyout can be favorable.   Our retirement chapters have found solutions that are acceptable, pension-wise, so we will see what happens.  If we do this work, we can combat layoffs, and also hire new teachers with buyouts.


  • Q: Blended learning: in person teacher will not do remote learning? Principal seems to say you must teach live– understaffed school… might have to bridge classes of different grades which will require double planning?  We need some ammo against principal about what the union has agreed to in terms of contractual obligations.  Is there something in writing?
  • A:  Hasn’t even been brought up.  Don’t want to entertain it. We’re not trying to recreate the school day, but we will have synchronous instruction. Live streaming? Many Ps being pressed by Superintendents to do this.  If schools can figure out a way to do this where people are ok, and it works, maybe. Live streaming lessons with students and a camera is not super effective–you can’t get much worse than that. A teacher CANNOT do both remote and in person. There might be teachers who will go into the building to “tape” their lessons.  Many asynchronous “taped” lessons can be super effective.  Live streaming is not ok UNLESS teacher says it’s ok! (It’s not ok!) 


  • Q: Got a denial for medical accommodation.  Said there wasn’t a “diagnosis” listed, even though there was.  Some discrepancies in the way different applications are being handled.  
  • A:  Send UFT an email immediately. The DOE used to take months to process a small number of medical accommodations– and now they are processing SO MANY. An online form to process issues with this. 


  • Q: Concerned about instructional lunch (HS speech teacher).  “Facing the other way” is not a good way to avoid particle spread.  If asked to teach during lunch, can I decline if I am not comfortable? (call dropped)
  • A:  With a mask, eyeballs are still open.  If people are eating maskless, they NEED to have a shield to protect their eyes as well.  Staff have to be able to decline if they don’t feel comfortable. If you move kids to a DIFFERENT place for lunch, you’ll need even MORE staff to monitor/ be put at risk.  Instructional lunches can help speed up their school day so we can all spend as little time as possible in the building.  That’s why the prep period is at the end of the day, so we can prep wherever we need.


  • Q: Art teacher.  For clusters: how many cohorts are we able to come into contact with in a day or in a week? P mentioned cluster teachers doing both in-person AND remote, and the in-person could be instructional lunch.
  • A:  For you as a cluster teacher, working through these issues.  Take issue when mayor says everyone will be in a POD: this isn’t something that is feasible in NYC.  This is why testing/tracing/ PPE is essential.  As an art teacher, how do you deal with materials? Do you have access to an ionizer so every supply you use can be sanitized? Need to work through these details.  Is there a way you could do a combination of in person and remote? MAYBE, if you don’t have a full in-person schedule..  For most, it’s all one or all the other. 


  • Q: CAR days if we have to quarantine?
  • A: Nope, answered this, they do not come out of your CAR. 
  • Q: How are we as educators going to be able to help our own teachers in remote learning if their schedule doesn’t match up with ours?
  • A: We should be able to find ways to take care of our own staffs as schools.  Mayor announced a few weeks ago the idea of childcare for the city of NYC.  If schools are open, we are the essential workers needing childcare.  Haven’t heard much detail since then about it, but need to ratchet up this line of questioning. 


  • Q: Social worker:we travel to various DOE and community programs every day. Some have up to 13 locations.  Is it safe for this to happen?  Will schools even want to welcome this?  When we ARE in schools we are in classrooms.  Is this feasible?
  • A: As an itinerant, we have asked/ DOE said they would limit the number of sites per person and have their own cache of PPE.  Will come up with a plan to ensure how this works because it is risky, bringing in anyone from the outside in terms of contact tracing. 


  •   Q:Told in spring that we had to work through spring break.  Will be compensated whenever, that’s fine.  Now they are saying we are all ready to start.  WHERE IS THE CALENDAR??  Waiting until after they open up the building, and then there will be no holidays and breaks. This makes no sense; we’ve worked harder in the last 6 months than we ever have. Are they hiding the calendar because there are no days off?
  • A: I don’t believe we are going to be ready.  Mayor has made a mistake by not engaging earlier.  You have to put out the calendar.  “We might have to change it”… no.  You’re not changing passover, you’re not changing Kwanzaa, the dates are the dates. WHat happened in the spring was horrible, especially the religious observances.  We were in the midst of his pandemic where rates were over 20%– imagine if we opened up then– this is what is happening is FL. The UFT does not submit to the same bureaucracy as the DOE.  We do NOT trust the DOE.


  • Q: Partner is a teacher that was granted a medical accommodation. What is the story with someone who LIVES with an immunocompromised person/ medical accommodation?
  • A: Don’t take a leave yet!  No promises– but the number of students choosing remote is huge and will continue to go up as other states open to crazy and horrible stories.  More families WILL choose remote.  We are thinking about how to handle people who are primary care-givers who live with people with medical conditions to be able to teach remotely. Do we have the legal rights? Maybe not, but we are dealing with HUMANITY.  We want to see what can be done to accommodate for this. 


  • Q: Federal IEP compliance; students mandated for ICT compliance/ ratios:
  • A: DeVos doesn’t care if your kid has an IEP.  We in NY are going to try to meet all IEP needs.  An ICT teacher has to have access to both a general education and special education teacher.  PROBLEM;  don’t have enough SPED teachers already in order to be able to meet their needs.  Do NOT let principals split your class into IEP/ non.  Is there a SPED remote teacher that can pair with a gen ed in person?  Kids must have access to both.


  • Q:  Paraprofessionals: how will they be impacted by how many students needs support plus contractual obligations?  What if the kid you are assigned is remote?
  • A: Working on these issues.  Trying to ensure no one loses their jobs.  Plenty to do. Paras picked up so much work and found so many ways to support students and teachers. 


  • Q: CAR days and self-quarantining: what if you are exposed individually by someone outside the classroom or are just not feeling well?
  • A: If the quarantine is due to Covid, CAR days are not affected.  If a contact tracer has put you into quarantine, it won’t come out of your CAR.  If you’re sick, it just has to come out of your days.  Teachers in GA have to use their own sick days if you are in quarantine, and if they run out of days, they lose pay.  Disgusting ways teachers are being treated in other places. 


  • Q: D75.  Face shields for everyone? Can teach kids to wear masks.  My school with severe autism and masks might directly interfere with their disability.  Is there greater PPE available for us? 
  • A: We have had no decisions with the DOE about D75, because the mayor drug his feet on talking about the nuances of our schools.  Our medical professionals understand these issues and know what kinds of PPE are needed. There is NO way to go back into these schools safely without MUCH PPE; these parents know these students are NOT doing well in remote learning.  This is all much more expensive and higher volumes of PPE. We have to go into schools and know what kinds of safety precautions each school needs– no such thing as a cookie cutter school, especially D75.


  • Q: Teacher evaluations?  Hearing from my P we will be having 2 evaluations.
  • A: Don’t know. We’re busy figuring out how we can open safely.  If we open, we will have to figure this out.  We have no agreement on ANY evaluations– our contractual agreements are completely invalid in this situation. 


  • Q: With the number of children remote/ in person/ parents opting in/ opting out/ different times to opt in? Changes in rosters and such? 
  • A: Hasn’t been clear guidance even to principals now on the 13th of August. Yet, they were told to “program”.  We usually have initial programming done in June, preferences, et cet.  Everyone is under a lot of pressure.  If principals get crazy on us, we have to push back.  Parents can’t “opt back in” until Thanksgiving– can’t have too many people popping in and out of remote/ in person at random.  UFT doing everything we can to tamp this down.  We are still saying IT IS NOT SAFE.  He said 25% chance, and it gets worse each day that goes by without clarity. Good meeting with CSA.  Got the nurses we have needed for years today. Going to get uglier as we get closer because that’s the only way stuff can really get done.


  • Q: Family member is hesitating to apply for accommodation as it is her tenure year.  Might get assigned a different school, and if she’s not in the building, might it affect her tenure?
  • A: No way we can solve all the problems.  Don’t want to have teachers serving students in another building. We will make sure no harm comes to a teacher (ie an untenured teacher denied tenure due to a medical accommodation).


  • Q: Last Q: If we go all remote, is there any training to guarantee continuity  across the city? Any word on retro?
  • A: We will have to coordinate together and have to have an extended period of training for any scenario. All teachers MUST have coordination with their colleagues before we teach.  Schools MUST have a standardized curriculum– might be multiple teachers teaching the same content so we all have to be on the same page.  All schools must have educational platforms with scopes and sequences up and running– we’ve got people that have been working on this since May!  Our retro and our raise?  Let’s put it all together.  City will come to us to ask to give stuff back– we expect that we will.  We have another plan, another way to try to solve that problem.  Why would we, after everything we’ve been through, what we are walking into in September, we do not give them a DIME back.  If you wanna change my mind, I’ll listen.  We’ve worked too hard for this– it’s OUR school system, not the mayors.  WE know their families.  We will continue to go above and beyond, but we do not work for free. We are the ones who kept our school systems going and we are going to keep it going and keep it safe.  More challenges, but we will get through this as we take care of our students and each other.  Thank you and please send in your questions.  Get some relaxation in because come the end of this month?  Buckle up. 


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