Chapter leader shoutout

Kudos to Freddie Cole, P 754, the Bronx

For using the grievance process to defend members’ rights

Freddie Cole, P 754, the Bronx Teachers serving severely emotionally handicapped students have a weekly program of 22 teaching periods, eight preparation periods and five professional periods per week, according to the UFT–DOE contract. So P 754 Chapter Leader Freddie Cole was taken aback when, in February 2017, the principal of his multi-site Bronx high school in District 75 unilaterally assigned 24 teachers of seriously emotionally handicapped students to three more teaching periods each week — and three fewer preps.

“It was an attempt to rewrite the contract without renegotiating it,” Cole said.

When the principal refused to reduce the teaching load to the contractual limit, Cole immediately filed a grievance.

Cole, who has been chapter leader at P 754 for six years, held several meetings with the affected teachers to allay their fear of retaliation.

“He encouraged and reassured us,” said Trevor Long, one of the 24 teachers. “He put himself out there so we felt protected.”

Cole’s grievance culminated in an arbitration victory in November 2017 that has a direct impact on all District 75 teachers of severely emotionally handicapped students.

The arbitrator sided with Cole, noting that “to best address those students’ needs in the classroom, their teachers should be given fewer teaching programs.”

The arbitrator ordered that the teachers’ programs be immediately restored to 22 teaching periods. She also awarded shortage-area pay to the teachers for the three extra periods each week they were required to teach during the 10 months that the case worked its way through the grievance process.

“The decision makes us feel validated and recognized for the tough job we do,” said Long.

Cole, who spent 25 years in the print/graphic design field before he began teaching 20 years ago, said the arbitration victory demonstrated the power of the grievance process. “You can stand up to and challenge the administration,” he said. “This decision helps the whole district.”

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