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Chapter Leader UpdateChapter Leader Update for May 12, 2020

We will be sending this new streamlined version of the Chapter Leader Update every two weeks for the remainder of the school year.

The next Delegate Assembly is Wednesday, May 13

This Week's Focus

Use expedited operational issues process to resolve contract implementation issues

Since the formal grievance process is inoperable due to our extraordinary circumstances, the UFT negotiated with the DOE an expedited timeline to resolve issues through its operational issues process. The DOE and the UFT also agreed to expand the scope of the operational issues process to include any issues related to remote learning, student support and contract implementation for all chapters. The expedited process provides two school days for the principal to resolve issues at the school level and two school days to resolve issues at the district level. If the issue cannot be resolved at the school or district level, it can be escalated to the central level committee, which meets every week. If functional chapter members at your school have any work issues with the administration, you should use this process to seek resolution on their behalf. For functional chapter member issues that are not school-based and concern a district or citywide policy, the issue should be addressed by the appropriate functional chapter leader using a similar expedited operational issues process. Please remember to use the union's online operational issues process (you must be logged in to see this page) to report all issues that you attempt to resolve with your administration.

Extension of certification requirements due to the coronavirus

In 2016, the state Board of Regents enacted new certification requirements and deadlines aligned to a five-year period for members to complete their requirements by 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state Board of Regents, at its May 4 meeting, approved four changes that provide certification flexibility, including the creation of a new one-year emergency COVID-19 certificate. Certification expiration dates have been extended from Aug. 31, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, to provide candidates with the time needed to work in schools and complete the requirements for the professional or permanent certificate. The expiration date of the conditional initial certificate has been extended from Aug. 31, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2021, to provide candidates with the time needed to complete the edTPA, which requires working with students. An additional year gives candidates the time to establish a relationship with students, teach lessons and assess student learning, and prepare the edTPA submission once classroom routines become more consistent. To review all four changes, please refer to the certification extension guidance document posted on the UFT website. The UFT is also reaching out to members in danger of termination for failure to complete certification requirements to make them aware of the state extensions.

Zoom back in the mix as an acceptable technology tool

Zoom is now available as a safe platform for remote learning, meetings, tele-therapy and remote delivery of related services. At the DOE’s request, Zoom made important changes to its platform to address the DOE’s security and privacy concerns. There is no cost for schools, teachers or service providers to use Zoom, but all staff and students must use the new DOE central account, which has pre-set security configurations, to access Zoom. DOE employees must sign onto with their DOE user credentials to use the full complement of Zoom features. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza made the announcement in a May 6 email to DOE employees. Members may, of course, continue to use the technology platform they are currently using with their students. Chapter leaders should not call chapter meetings or participate in any other union meeting via this DOE central Zoom account. You would need to use your own personal Zoom account for such meetings.

UFT and DOE agree on new process for special ed program preferences

For many years, the DOE and the UFT have disagreed about how supervisors give assignments for special education classes, particularly integrated co-teaching and SETSS classes. This situation was recently brought to a head when the UFT and the DOE put out differing guidance on the preference sheet process. To resolve these issues, the DOE and the UFT agreed on May 6  that special education teachers may express a preference for SETSS and ICT positions and general education teachers may express a preference for ICT classes. Additionally, the DOE and the union have agreed that a supervisor should keep assignments to an ICT teacher at the lowest number administratively possible. Schools that have already used a posting for one of these positions this year do not need to restart the process. If you have any questions, please contact your UFT district representative.

Work in progress

The UFT is working on the following issues with the DOE and other city, state and federal-level entities as appropriate:

  • The 2020-21 school calendar
  • A process for filing reorganization grievances
  • Clear excessing protocols and procedure
  • A plan for how to reopen schools in the fall to keep staff and students safe

You Should Know

  • Changes to the absentee ballot process for June 23 primary: To make sure New Yorkers stay safe during the upcoming primary elections and encourage participation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered changes to the voting process. Cuomo’s executive order calls for the state to include a postage-paid return envelope when it mails absentee ballots to eligible voters. The absentee ballot application is available online and may be submitted by email, fax, or mail to the county board of elections where you are registered to vote. You may also request an absentee ballot by phone to the local board of elections. You do not have to go to the board of elections to request or return an absentee ballot application. On the application, voters should check “temporary illness or physical disability” as the reason they want an absentee ballot. The definition was temporarily expanded to include those affected by COVID-19 and/or face the potential of contracting the virus. More information is available on the NYC Board of Elections website. Voters outside NYC may download a document with the information about county offices statewide. You may download an absentee ballot application in English or Spanish. An absentee ballot application must be postmarked by June 16, 2020. The ballot must be postmarked by June 22, and received by the Board of Elections by June 30. See who the UFT endorsed in the June 23 primary  on the UFT website, which is updated as additional endorsements are made.
  • Last chance to fill out SBO survey: Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 13, by 6 p.m. is your last opportunity to fill out the quick UFT survey to tell us your chapter’s plans for voting on school-based options for the coming school year. By completing this SBO survey, you will enable the union to finalize the online voting process, which will include assistance from the UFT with setting up the SBO voting in the Election Buddy platform. As you prepare SBO modifications for the 2020-21 school year, remember to discuss with your fellow chapter members and principal any current SBOs you are thinking of renewing as well as proposed SBOs. If you and your principal both agree, you should create an SBO ballot. Your UFT district representative must approve your SBO ballot before a vote is conducted.
  • New policy for accessing a school to pick up belongings or materials: The DOE released an updated policy on May 6 for staff who voluntarily want to enter a school building during the school shutdown. You must have a confirmed appointment from your Borough Safety Director. A school safety agent and a member of the custodial staff must be present during a scheduled visit. The principal or designee should complete the online form to request staff access with a minimum of 48 hours’ notice. Staff must sign in and out of the building. People not on the approved list will not be allowed in. While there are a number of steps in the process, the most important for UFT members are: All staff must wear a mask to enter a school and they must keep it on the entire time they are in the building. Staff should bring ID and their own pen to sign in and out. Students may not enter a building for any reason. Teachers should limit themselves to that which they can carry out by hand or in a small box. The administrator will identify the entrance that staff will use to enter and exit the building so the school safety agent can set up a sign-up desk. Staff must tell the principal the room(s) they need to access. Please note: This is not the time to clean out offices or classrooms for the summer. The DOE will issue further guidance regarding packing up classrooms and offices for the summer.
  • New tenure agreement for some dually certified teachers: The UFT has negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the DOE that benefits dually certified teachers of library, performing arts/drama or special education who are assigned to a special education position. Effective May 1, these dually certified teachers who want to change their appointment can voluntarily switch to one of these licenses and have their probation period reduced to one year. In addition, if their probation in the new appointment is discontinued, teachers can revert to their former license without any loss of seniority. A principal cannot force teachers to change their appointment. Many dually certified teachers were reluctant to change their appointments because it meant as much as an additional four years of probation in the new license area. This agreement removes that stumbling block.
  • New UFT podcasts on navigating work during an anxious time: The UFT’s Member Assistance Program is creating a series of Classroom Cafe podcasts to discuss the self-care and coping strategies that they have been sharing with members in virtual counseling groups and on the website. In episode 1 of this new series, listen to Tina Puccio, the director of the UFT Member Assistance Program, and licensed counselors Lindsay Levine and Jenice Acosta discuss strategies to deal with the fear and anxiety triggered by the coronavirus crisis. In episode 2, learn strategies about creating boundaries, setting routines and virtually supporting students in the remote era from Doreen Ng, the director of mental health at the UFT’s United Community Schools initiative, and Christopher Chin, the director of the union’s Retiree Social Services Department. You can listen to these podcasts on your favorite podcast channel.
  • Participate in your district’s Chapter Leader Community: The new online Chapter Leader Community allows you to share ideas with other chapter leaders in your district and find answers to questions about union rights and benefits. Already registered? You can enter your Chapter Leader Community here. Having trouble logging in? Read our Login FAQ or call the UFT contact center at 212-331-6311.

Helpful Links

Updated guidance on May Parent Teacher Conferences