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The Department of Education views the Special Education Student Information System, or SESIS, as a secure web-based system for managing special education cases and information. It is used by building administrators, school psychologists, school social workers, special education teachers, general education teachers, related service providers, centrally based administrators and staff and various contract agency staff and independent providers. SESIS is supposed to manage the paperwork and data connected with special education from initial referral through placement. This includes all documents connected with the referral, evaluations, individualized education programs (IEPs), placement, and delivery of related services. When introduced, SESIS promised to integrate information with other DOE computer systems, reduce time spent on administrative tasks, increase time for instruction and services, allow immediate access to the latest versions of documents, and provide better collaboration between staff and with parents during the IEP development process.
To say that SESIS has not met its promise is a gross understatement. From its inception, the platform has been plagued with everything from glitches to major technical problems. Some of these problems are so significant that the program is not usable for hours and sometimes days. Members required to use the program face daunting obstacles including lack computers, fax machines, printers and other equipment; lack of bandwidth to use the program, particularly during the school day; inadequate or no training; inability to get questions answered and problems solved in a timely fashion; and lack of time during the workday to perform all of the required activities. Disappointingly, SESIS has also been accompanied by an increase in paperwork for many disciplines. Because of these issues, members were forced to work beyond regular workday hours to in order to complete their work and the union filed a union-initiated grievance.
In January 2013, Arbitrator Jay Siegel ruled that the Department of Education violated its collective bargaining agreements with the UFT by ordering educators to perform SESIS-related duties that routinely required them to work beyond their contractual work day. As a remedy, the Arbitrator ordered that the DOE negotiate with the union about SESIS and that educators who used SESIS be paid for work beyond their workday from September 2011 through December 2012.
The following events have transpired following the issuance of the award:
- In February, the DOE issued a memo prohibiting staff from working outside their regular work day on SESIS and unilaterally determined the additional time that certain titles would receive to do SESIS work.
- In March, the Arbitrator issued a clarification of his order extending the time educators would be paid until March 22, 2013 and ordering the DOE to rescind the February memo prior to conducting good faith negotiations with the union.
- In June, the DOE filed a lawsuit seeking to vacate (i.e., overturn) the Arbitrator’s clarification. The DOE argues that the Arbitrator did not have the legal authority to issue the clarification and exceeded his jurisdiction.
If you have performed SESIS-related activities at home because you have been directed to do so, you can file a grievance within thirty (30) school days from the time you were instructed to perform the activity.