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Chapter Leader UpdateChapter Leader Update for Oct. 15, 2020



BACK IN BUSINESS: Although she now must wear a mask, Elsie Benedicto, a teacher at the Queens Adult Learning Center in Long Island City, is ready at UFT headquarters to provide homework help to students and parents who call the union's Dial-A-Teacher hotline at 212-777-3380 from Monday to Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.

This Week's Focus

SBO online voting process has begun

If your school chapter plans to hold a school-based option (SBO) for the 2020-21 school year, you should inform your district representative immediately. You will receive the SBO voting list for vetting and your SBO ballot will be reviewed and approved prior to the vote being scheduled. The UFT will continue to use Election Buddy, an online voting platform, to conduct SBO voting. The UFT will set up your online election in Election Buddy once you return the vetted voting list with updated information and submit your approved ballot using the correct format. You will be asked to suggest dates for your chapter's SBO vote, and you will be notified of the date selected. Please inform your chapter's members of the date of the vote and let them know they will receive the ballot via email or text message. Voting is from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the chosen date. You will receive your SBO vote results after the voting has been completed. Chapter leaders will receive support with completing the SBO certification and ratification form. Read more about SBO options for the 2020-21 school year in the chapter leader section (you must be logged in to access it) of the UFT website.

Further guidance on remote work

The UFT negotiated joint guidance and an FAQ so every school would be on the same page about the precise meaning of the provisions in our Sept. 25 agreement on remote work and other topics. The original agreement and this guidance clearly state that a person who has no on-site responsibilities may work remotely. The guidance includes a list of duties — including lesson plans, grading and office hours — that can be completed remotely. A maximum of 20% of UFT-represented staff with remote-only responsibilities may be kept in the building on any given day. Certain responsibilities of on-site staff, such as lesson planning, grading and office hours, can be handled remotely. That 20% should be made up of staff who would prefer to perform their remote responsibilities from the school building. If not enough people want to work from the school building, the guidance says that in-person days for remote staff should be equally distributed. If your principal feels there is a need for someone to stay on site during these times, the principal can require that. But if that requirement persists, and you doubt that there is an actual need, you can file an operational issues complaint on that member's behalf.

Read the guidance

Voting early or by absentee ballot in the Nov. 3 election

To make sure New Yorkers stay safe during the upcoming general election while encouraging participation, all registered voters in New York State can vote by absentee ballot, vote early or vote in person on Nov. 3. New York City residents can request an absentee ballot online from the NYC Board of Elections. On the application, you should check "temporary illness or physical disability" as the reason you want an absentee ballot. The definition was expanded to include the threat of COVID-19. You must request a ballot no later than Oct. 27. The ballot itself must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the Board of Elections by Nov. 10. The early voting period for the Nov. 3 election runs from Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, to Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Use this tool to find your early voting and Election Day polling site in New York City. Residents in other parts of the state can use the Board of Elections' online portal to request an absentee ballot or find their location for early voting and Election Day voting.

Learn more

Report issues regarding mandated English as a New Language instruction

As part of its advocacy for English language learners and their educators, the UFT has a confidential complaint process to report issues of English language learners not receiving mandated services. The language and educational services requirements, stipulated under Commissioner's Regulations Part 154, remain in effect for children in both the blended learning and fully remote settings. If an educator in your chapter believes that any requirements under Part 154 are not being met or parents' rights are not being respected, the educator should file an ELL complaint and one of our UFT liaisons will contact the educator directly. Parents have the right to choose either a bilingual or freestanding ENL program, and students must receive the mandated minutes of ENL instruction as determined by their language proficiency levels. It is especially important at this time that English language learners receive the support they need and to which they are entitled. Also, ENL teachers have the same rights and responsibilities as other teachers including number of teaching periods, provision of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, class size and caseload. If ENL teachers in your building have not been programmed appropriately, you should speak to your district rep about filing an operational issues complaint on their behalf.

Report an issue

Streamlined Chapter Leader Update easier to navigate

We redesigned the Chapter Leader Update for the 2020-21 school year. Our new streamlined format allows you to easily access what you need to know for the two weeks ahead. If you prefer to open this newsletter while you are on the go, we've made sure it is easy to read on your mobile devices. We hope you like the improvements!

Chapter Leader Checklist

  • Ensure pre-screening protocols are followed: All DOE staff, visitors and families seeking to enter a DOE building must complete a health screening before entering. This health screening must be completed on each day of arrival, and results will reset daily at midnight. Upon entering the facility, you will be asked to provide the results of your screening either by showing your phone or a printout of the results. If an individual answers one or more of the health screening questions on the app that causes a red icon and text, that person may not enter the building. Instead, they should save the screenshot with their results and go home.
  • Status check on operational issues: Union representatives are reaching out to every chapter leader who filed an operational issues report concerning blended learning programs and schedules. The goal of the check-in is to ensure that the union has the most up-to-date information about the reported issues and that the district representative has all the supporting documentation to facilitate resolution. Issues that are unresolved will be addressed at the district or central level. They can also be escalated to the schools chancellor and the UFT president.
  • Use non-DOE emails for Zoom meetings: Please tell your members they must use a non-DOE email address — preferably the one on record with the UFT — when they sign up for a remote union event on Zoom. The software will not allow a DOE email address to register for our events.
  • Set up your UFT consultation committee: Make sure that you have a UFT consultation committee that meets monthly with the principal to consult on matters of school policy and questions relating to contract implementation. Please continue to file a consultation committee report after each meeting. This committee should discuss and attempt to resolve workplace issues at the school level before they escalate. When an issue cannot be resolved by the committee, you should bring that issue to the attention of your district representative and consider filing an operational issues report with the union. Find out more about the role and responsibilities of the UFT consultation committee.
  • Check with your DR on mobile testing: The city is sending mobile testing units to about eight schools in hotspots or emerging hotspots each day. Your district rep will notify you if the unit is scheduled to visit your school. If that is the case, please alert your members about this opportunity to be tested. The mobile unit testing is voluntary, but it is a valuable way to keep school communities safe. 

Work in progress

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

  • Roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals in 2020-21 school year
  • Lobbying the state to pass an early retirement incentive for New York City educators
  • Virtual content specialist posting
  • Operational issue reports related to blended learning programs and schedules

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You Should Know

Contract Empowerment

Final 30 minutes of para workday

The UFT secured the DOE's agreement that all paraprofessionals may leave school at the same time as teachers. While schools are operating in the blended learning model, paraprofessionals will not be required to stay in the building longer than six hours and 20 minutes. In exchange for the shorter on-site workday, on days when paraprofessionals are not working directly with a specific student or class, they can be asked to help with tasks at the school such as assisting with arrival and/or dismissal including busing, assisting with health screening, reaching out to families or doing other administrative tasks.


First five-year CTLE cycle ends in July 2021

Teachers with professional certification and paraprofessionals who hold a Level III Teaching Assistant Certificate must complete 100 Continuing Teacher Leader and Education hours every five years to maintain their certification. The current cycle — called a registration period — began in July 2016 and ends in July 2021. The New York State Education Department determined that, despite the pandemic, educators have had sufficient time before the COVID-19 pandemic to earn CTLE credits and complete most of their certification requirements. LearnUFT and the UFT Teacher Center will be holding virtual workshops for CTLE credit throughout the school year for members who need more hours. Remember, teachers with permanent certification do not need CTLE hours although they must register on the State Education Department website. Call a UFT certification specialist at 212-331-6311, if you have any questions or concerns.

New Classroom Manager position for paras

Schools can now post a new career ladder position for paraprofessionals during the remote era. Discuss with your principal if your school needs such a position and if the position is posted, alert paras in your chapter about this opportunity. Paraprofessional Classroom Managers will receive a stipend of $1,750 per term for performing additional duties during their contractual workday. Under the general direction of a pedagogue, Paraprofessional Classroom Managers can manage classrooms of students while students perform independent work, eat during non-instructional lunch and participate in synchronous instruction with a remote teacher. All full-time paras are eligible for the position (the DOE is correcting the posting template to make that clear). 

Medical and Wellness

Managing Stress and Trauma Recovery workshops

The UFT's Member Assistance Program has forged a partnership with the Center for Trauma and Stress Education to bring UFT members a six-week training series on managing stress and recovering from trauma. These unprecedented times have caused many to feel anxious and overwhelmed. UFT members can learn how to manage a conflicting range of emotions; adopt coping skills to ease anxiety and stay connected with others and implement mental health strategies to improve your work and home life. The workshop series is free to all UFT members. The six-week session on Thursdays begins on Oct. 22 and the session on Mondays begins on Nov. 16. Attendance at all six sessions is required. See the flier for times and dates for each session.

Register for the workshop series »

Navigating the return to work

The start of this school year poses challenges, concerns and stressors that are unique and different from any other school year. In the latest episode of the UFT's Classroom Cafe podcast, three UFT members share their experiences and perspectives on returning to their school buildings and on teaching remotely. You can learn strategies for dealing with your own feelings of stress, anxiety and fear from these intrepid New York City educators. Classroom Cafe is produced by the union's Member Assistance Program. Subscribe to this UFT podcast on your favorite podcast provider to make sure you don't miss any of the upcoming episodes.

Listen to the podcast »

Political Action

Last chance to be counted in Census 2020

Help the UFT and our state affiliate, New York State United Teachers, elect candidates who support our issues. This pivotal election will affect decisions on affordable health care, the economy, funding public education and protecting Social Security. We are seeking volunteers for our virtual phone banks. Please send an email to these union political action coordinators if you can help:

Salary and Personnel

Apply for a study sabbatical by Oct. 23

Eligible teachers who want time to study to enhance their teaching skills have until Friday, Oct. 23, to submit an application on SOLAS for a study sabbatical for the 2021–22 school year. Friday, Oct. 30, is the deadline for a principal's recommendation to the superintendent. Coursework must be rigorous and related to one's teaching assignment. All teachers are eligible for a one-year study sabbatical after 14 years of service. Junior high or high school classroom teachers with seven years on the job may also apply for a six-month study sabbatical for the spring semester only. During a study sabbatical, whether six months or a full year, teachers earn 70 percent of their salary. Members can read the current guidelines and eligibility requirements for the various sabbatical leaves in the DOE 2020 sabbatical memo.

Apply for a sabbatical »

Election Day is an all-remote workday

Tuesday, Nov. 3, is a fully remote school day for students and staff. UFT-represented employees do not have to report to their school building that day. Staff do not need to ask permission from their principal to work remotely that day.

Read the DOE guidance to principals »

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