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Chapter Leader UpdateChapter Leader Update for Dec. 17, 2020


a little girl in a pink dress hugs a woman. both wear face masks. there are two holiday stockings behind them.

TOYS AND GIRLS: Sarah Ibardolaza, an occupational therapist at PS 14 in the Bronx, and her daughter Milani donated to the toy drive at PS 14, one of the UFT’s United Community Schools in the Bronx, on Dec. 13, earning Milani a candy cane as well as milk, cookies and a chance to take a photo with her mom in front of a decorated fireplace.

Erica Berger
Erica Berger

TOYS AND GIRLS: Sarah Ibardolaza, an occupational therapist at PS 14 in the Bronx, and her daughter Milani donated to the toy drive at PS 14, one of the UFT’s United Community Schools in the Bronx, on Dec. 13, earning Milani a candy cane as well as milk, cookies and a chance to take a photo with her mom in front of a decorated fireplace.

This Week's Focus

Report issues with in-school testing to district reps

The city has committed to weekly testing of a random sample of 20% of students and staff in every school building that is open for in-person learning. This level of testing is our early warning system. Last week alone, 533 classrooms and 139 school buildings closed for at least one day as a result of positive test results. The overall positivity rate in schools remains very low: 20 positive tests out 10,000 COVID-19 tests conducted in schools on Monday, Dec. 14. Testing teams have been instructed to test only the 20% random sample at each site they visit; if they test everyone in a school who would like to be tested, the team will not have time to visit every school on its schedule that day. Please alert your district rep if your school encounters any issues with the randomization process, conducting weekly tests of the random sample, or receiving test results within 24 to 48 hours. Read this Q&A on the Issues for answers to commonly asked questions about testing.

Virtual workshops for chapter leaders on Saturdays

All chapter leaders are invited to attend virtual training sessions on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on topics typically covered in chapter leader training weekends in Rye, New York. As those of you who began attending these sessions in November can attest, all workshops have been updated to reflect the challenges we face this school year. New chapter leaders are encouraged to attend as many workshops as possible. The next three sessions are: Navigating Time and Attendance Protocols at the School Level on Saturday, Jan. 9; How to Maintain a Healthy and Safe School Environment on Saturday, Jan. 23; and What is COPE and Why Do We Need It? on Saturday, Jan. 30..

Register now

Paraprofessional roles and responsibilities

The UFT reached an agreement with the DOE on the rights and responsibilities of paraprofessionals working with remote students during the pandemic. The biggest change is that paras may now work independently with remote students individually or in small groups under the direction of the teacher. According to the new guidance, paras, at the direction of the teacher, may support individual or small groups of remote students with learning activities in a virtual “breakout room” while the teacher is working in the virtual “main room.” Under the general supervision of the teacher, the para may also help a remote student with asynchronous or independent learning activities assigned by the teacher. Where videoconferencing is deemed appropriate for these activities, the para will interact with the remote student in the teacher’s virtual classroom. The teacher does not have to be present in the virtual classroom when the paraprofessional is doing this work. Paras do not need to create and maintain their own virtual classroom. With this new responsibility comes additional protection limiting the discipline a para could face without just cause.

Read the guidance

Members can call the UFT during the winter break

Make sure your members know they can call the union with questions about their rights and benefits, including their Welfare Fund benefits, at 212-331-6311, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Wednesday, Dec. 23, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday, Dec. 28, to Wednesday, Dec. 30. The union’s offices will be closed on Thursday, Dec. 24; Friday, Dec. 25; Thursday, Dec. 31; and Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.

Chapter Leader Checklist

  • Got talent? Use it to help an important cause: The UFT will be holding a telethon-style virtual fundraiser on Saturday, Feb. 13, as part of our new campaign to support local, community-based food pantries that cannot keep up with the growing demand for assistance. We're looking for UFT members or students to perform in the event or head up an activity that viewers can watch. If selected, the member or the school would prerecord a short video for the event. Please submit this online form by Friday, Jan. 8, to let us know if you or anyone at your school might be interested in contributing their talent to this important cause.
  • Stay in touch with the UFT: For news alerts and important information about your rights and benefits as a UFT member, sign up on the UFT website, opt in for text messaging, "like" the UFT on Facebook, follow the UFT on Twitter and read the New York Teacher.
  • Secure personal items and equipment during winter break: Tell in-person members to protect themselves against theft during the break by securing all personal belongings and valuable school equipment such as laptops, camcorders and projectors.

Work in progress

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

  • Lobbying the state to pass an early retirement incentive for New York City educators
  • A sensible teacher evaluation and development system for this school year

You Should Know


Teachers can apply for the virtual content specialist position

After months of pressure from us, the Department of Education has finally issued the posting for virtual content specialist, which we negotiated to help teachers meet the challenges of this unique school year. Virtual content specialists will help their fellow teachers by creating and curating instructional resources, lessons, assignments and rubrics aligned to teachers' curriculum. They will also create and upload video mini lessons and facilitate professional learning for colleagues. The virtual content specialist is a part-time position for which teachers will receive a stipend of $12,500 per year. For this school year, the stipend will be pro-rated based on the length of time performing the job. See the posting for more information, including eligibility requirements and the link to the online form to express interest.

See the posting »

Trauma-informed PD for educators

Educators are encouraged to complete trauma-informed professional development to foster understanding of the learning needs of students who are coping with trauma and stress. The workshop materials are online and asynchronous, and educators should receive time during their workday to complete this training. Staff will earn CTLE hours for participation.

Health and Safety

Ways to maintain good ventilation for the winter months

There are several straightforward strategies members can use to maintain good ventilation and a comfortable temperature in their classrooms during the colder months. The DOE recommends a window opening of about 3 inches, but it is not necessary to open both the top and bottom of a window. Not all windows in a classroom need to be open; one window is typically sufficient to maintain good airflow in a smaller room, and two open windows will work for most larger rooms. Keep your radiators clear on top and bottom to maximize heat flow and keep any vents clear to make sure they can properly circulate air in your room. You can keep your classroom door closed, which helps circulation flowing through air vents and windows and also helps keep heat in your room. If you have any questions or concerns about building temperature or your school's ventilation system, alert your district rep or call the UFT at 212-331-6311 and ask to speak to a safety and health liaison from your borough or a representative in our Safety and Health Department at union headquarters.

See our FAQ and the winter ventilation plan »

Medical and Wellness

Navigating the holidays

The holidays are a time of joy — and for many, a time of stress and anxiety, too. The year 2020 has brought an array of new challenges, including how to celebrate safely during a pandemic. What is the best way to manage? With careful thought and preparation. In this episode of the UFT’s Classroom Café podcast, Jonathan Benz, a New York City-based behavioral health professional, shares tips, strategies and scenarios to help you plan for a safe and celebratory holiday season. The podcast, produced by the Member Assistance Program, is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and SoundCloud.

Listen to the podcast »

Salary and Personnel

A tip for accessing Zoom meetings

Some UFT members have experienced frustration when attempting to log in to Zoom meetings they’ve registered for. Please remind your members that they must use the same email address to join a union Zoom meeting that they used to register for it. The email address must match or the Zoom meeting host will not let the member in. If a member has trouble accessing the Zoom meeting, please tell the member to call the UFT at 212-331-6311.

Everything Else...

Learning Bridges expands hours and choices

Due to the UFT's advocacy, the DOE has expanded the hours of its Learning Bridges program at 70 of its 350 sites. Those sites will now open at 7 a.m. for early drop offs. DOE employees who apply will also be given three options now so they can choose a site near where they work if that is more convenient. Learning Bridges provides free child care for children in 3-K through 8th grade on days when the children are scheduled to participate in remote learning. DOE employees who have a child enrolled in a New York City public school are entitled to priority in the program.

Apply for a spot »

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