Editorials

Fighting the unfair burden of SESIS

The new Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) put in place by the Department of Education has great potential as a central database for educators of students with special needs to have quick access to pertinent student data and information. But in typical DOE fashion, the agency has turned the initiative into a massive problem for UFT members by not providing them with the time, equipment, training or support they need to make it work. The SESIS tasks are so time-consuming that they are seriously interfering with the instructional work that our members do to help our students overcome their learning challenges. 

The financial stakes are huge. If the DOE can fix SESIS, city schools would be eligible for about $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement from the federal government.

The UFT has been trying for months to push the DOE to acknowledge the problems with its implementation of SESIS, but our complaints have met with unreasonable resistance. Educators are being told by supervisors to “just get it done” even if it means they have to complete work on their own time during lunch breaks, preparation periods, after school or at home. They also are being forced to use inadequate and outdated equipment with limited or no training on how to use the system.

Faced with DOE intransigence and apparent indifference from many principals and supervisors to members’ complaints, the union filed an improper practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board for failing to bargain with the union before implementing this new system and a union-initiated grievance charging the DOE with improperly extending the work day. We are seeking compensation for members for any SESIS-related work they have done outside the regular work day. We will not let up until the DOE cleans up this mess.

The next time the DOE decides to overhaul a key school operation, let’s hope that it has learned not to rely on people with no educational experience to devise the plan since it’s our members on the ground who are left holding the bag and it’s our students who get hurt.

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