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Chapter Leader UpdateChapter Leader Update for Jan. 22, 2021


Heather Albro

THIS IS OUR SHOT: Heather Albro, a special education teacher at P396K @ PS 56 in Brooklyn who signed up for her COVID-19 vaccination through the UFT vaccine program, shows off her vaccine card after being immunized at NYU Langone Health on Jan. 15.

THIS IS OUR SHOT: Heather Albro, a special education teacher at P396K @ PS 56 in Brooklyn who signed up for her COVID-19 vaccination through the UFT vaccine program, shows off her vaccine card after being immunized at NYU Langone Health on Jan. 15.

This Week's Focus

How the UFT vaccine program works

About 4,000 UFT members have been immunized so far through the UFT vaccine program, with many more having scheduled appointments. The union is matching interested members with a health care partner based on the availability of the vaccine, their current assignment, their home address or work site, and their willingness to travel outside their area. As providers tell us where they have available vaccines, the union works to match members who live or work close to those sites. While priority is being given to in-person staff, those willing and able to travel outside their area may sometimes get matched first due to the location of the available vaccine.

To join the UFT vaccine program, members must submit the vaccine survey that was sent to them via email. If members did not receive the survey, they can fill out this form  to request one. Once members are matched, they will get an email telling them how to schedule an appointment with that vaccine provider. To ensure no vaccine is left sitting on the shelf, members will be given a time limit to schedule their vaccine appointment. Due to the large demand and the national shortage of vaccine, the union cannot match all interested members at this time. The union will continue to connect members with vaccine providers as more vaccine becomes available.

All members are free to seek appointments through other means while waiting. We are asking members who get an appointment through another organization to notify the UFT vaccine hotline at 212-701-9677 so another member can be given an opportunity to be matched.

Read our vaccine FAQ

Optical benefits become more accessible on Feb. 1

As of Feb. 1, the process for checking your eligibility and accessing your optical benefits will become easier. The UFT Welfare Fund has eliminated paper optical certificates and introduced a new digital process for providing eligible UFT members with their free or discounted eye exams, eyeglasses and contact lenses. The optical benefits remain the same, but the UFT Welfare Fund has enhanced ease of use and the speed at which claims are paid. You will no longer need to request and wait for an optical certificate to be mailed to you and there will no longer be a three-month expiration date to worry about. Starting next month, you will confirm your eligibility with the Welfare Fund’s optical benefits partner, General Vision Services (GVS), and then obtain services from a vision provider. The union will send an email to members with detailed information about the new process just before the change takes place.

Congratulations to the Trachtenberg Award winners

Congratulations to the 28 chapter leaders who received the Ely Trachtenberg Award for the 2019-20 school year on behalf of their chapters. Each November, the UFT hosts Teacher Union Day to honor the union activists of today and commemorate the anniversary of the union’s strike in 1960 to gain collective bargaining rights. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our union had to postpone its regular celebration but held a special virtual ceremony on Jan. 14 to recognize 28 chapter leaders who exemplify how the union can empower and organize members to use their professional voices to advocate for our students, for the safety of our school communities, and for public education. If you lead one of these strong and vibrant chapters, we encourage you to pull together a group of your members to celebrate the award as a virtual chapter-building activity.

Educators now lead education policy at every level

Career public school educators now hold the top education leadership positions at the local, state and federal levels, paving the way for a new era in education policy in 2021. President Joe Biden’s pick of Miguel Cardona for education secretary, the appointment of Betty Rosa as the interim New York State commissioner for education and the appointment of Lester Young as chancellor of the state Board of Regents all bode well for our members and our students. The UFT will work with these leaders as we pursue education policies that strengthen our profession, protect the safety of our school communities and improve the quality of education for every student in New York City public schools.


Spread the word about our We Feed NYC fundraiser

One in 4 New York City children will go to bed hungry tonight. Please donate today and help us get the word out about our We Feed NYC virtual fundraiser to feed families in need on Saturday, Feb. 13, from noon to 4 p.m. Every dollar raised will go to support local food pantries struggling to keep up with demand. Enjoy student performances, celebrity guests, cooking demonstrations, wellness and mindfulness presentations and more on Feb. 13. Attendance is free, but we hope you will support this vitally important cause with a charitable donation. Share the event website link,, with your social networks on Facebook and Twitter. Every New Yorker is welcome to attend.

Chapter Leader Checklist

  • Report safety incidents to your administration and the UFT: It’s imperative that UFT members promptly report school safety incidents. For line-of-duty injury and Workers’ Compensation claims, prompt reporting is essential. All safety incidents and injuries must be reported to your school administration within 24 hours. Members should use the online UFT Safety Incident Report to notify the union about the incident, too. All UFT safety reports are confidential. A UFT health and safety specialist will follow up within 48 hours of receiving an incident report. 
  • Warn members about predatory student-loan relief companies: Please alert your members that the only company that has a partnership with the UFT to provide student debt relief is the National Student Debt Forgiveness Center. The UFT has learned that other companies have been presenting themselves to members as having agreements with the UFT to reduce their student loan debt. Beware: None of these other companies are affiliated with the union in any way and may charge upfront fees and hidden monthly fees. You can find out about the Student Debt Relief Program and register for an upcoming webinar on the UFT website.
  • Virtual training sessions for chapter leaders: All chapter leaders are invited to register for the final two virtual training sessions on Saturday, Jan. 23, and on Saturday, Jan. 30, each from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The training sessions are on topics typically covered in chapter leader training weekends in Rye, New York. New chapter leaders are encouraged to attend as many workshops as possible. The final two sessions are: How to Maintain a Healthy and Safe School Environment on Jan. 23; and What is COPE and Why Do We Need It? on Jan. 30.
  • Members not receiving UFT email: During the pandemic, it's more important than ever that members receive UFT news and information via email. Members can now log in to the UFT website, go to My Account in the top left corner and subscribe (or resubscribe) to emails. It’s as simple as checking a checkbox.

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

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You Should Know

Health and Safety

Up-to-date school safety data

The UFT wants its members to have access to the most up-to-date and accurate information about COVID infection in our schools and our communities. To that end, we are sharing the number of New York City classrooms and schools that close each day in response to positive cases, plus we provide a look-up chart to find out which schools have gone remote in response to COVID outbreaks. Our database also relays the state’s most recent seven-day positivity rate for the city.

See our school COVID response database


Black Lives Matter at School week in early February

During the first week of February each year, education communities across the nation commemorate Black Lives Matter at School week. The AFT has long stood in solidarity with social justice issues and offers compelling resources to aid educators as they participate in a week of teaching and active discussions. ​Especially in light of the events of recent years, the UFT encourages educators to review the AFT offerings and other available resources from Black Lives Matter at School, a national coalition organizing for racial justice in education. Review the discussion guides, lesson plans and themes for each day of the week and engage fellow educators, students, parents and community organizations. In October 2020, the UFT commissioned a diverse task force of members to affirm the lives of Black students, families and educators, and in December, the UFT Delegate Assembly passed a resolution to support Black Lives Matter and the movement's 13 guiding principles and national demands.

Medical & Wellness

Managing substance use

Feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety have been heightened during the pandemic, creating the perfect storm for an increase in substance use and other addictive behaviors. In this episode of the Classroom Café podcast, Anthony Rizzuto of the Seafield Treatment Center on Long Island, who is a master social worker, alcoholism and substance abuse counselor and national speaker, discusses how these stressors can affect you and your loved ones and how best to cope with them. He'll give you strategies for managing emotions without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms and explain how you can support others without enabling their addictive behaviors.

Listen to the podcast

Political Action

Join the UFT's first mayoral town hall

Many candidates have thrown their hats in the ring in the New York City mayor’s race ahead of the June 22 primaries. The union is organizing a series of town halls for members to hear from some of the contenders. Join UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Feb. 2, at 5:30 p.m., for the UFT's first 2021 mayoral town hall. In this forum, President Mulgrew and UFT members will interview the first group of mayoral candidates about their vision for New York City.

Register for the Feb. 2 town hall

Salary and Personnel

Updated guidance on quarantine after travel and COVID-related leaves

The DOE has updated its policies on paid and unpaid leave time related to COVID-19 and quarantine requirements after travel in the wake of changes to federal, state and city guidance. DOE employees can no longer receive paid leave to quarantine due to travel — they must use their CAR days. DOE employees caring for an individual who is self-quarantining because of heightened risk associated with exposure to COVID-19 are eligible for two weeks of excused leave at partial pay. Partial pay equals two-thirds of your regular rate of pay, not to exceed $200 per day or a total of $2,000. To qualify for this excused leave, you must demonstrate that this individual depends on you for care and you cannot work remotely while providing that care. You may also use CAR days, annual leave or sick leave instead of excused leave at partial pay, but the time off cannot exceed a total of two weeks.

Read the full updated guidance
Tax forms posted online

In-service DOE employees can access their W-2, 1127 waiver and 1095-C tax forms online on the NYCAPS Employee Self Service web page. DOE employees who asked for electronic delivery of their tax forms will receive them via email by the end of January. The tax forms will be mailed to all other employees at the address on file at the DOE. Also note, UFT members who received parental leave payments from the UFT will not receive a UFT-issued W-2 on those earnings. Those earnings will be documented on their DOE W-2 form instead. Members who are not on payroll, including retirees, will have their tax forms mailed from the city Office of Payroll Administration.

UFT can help paras who have not met certification requirements 

The DOE recently sent termination notices to paraprofessionals who have not completed their certification requirements. These paras must log in to their TEACH accounts on the State Education Department’s website to find out what they are missing. Paraprofessionals who have received notice of termination for lack of college credits can apply between Feb. 1 and March 31 for the Career Training Program for the summer semester. The program pays tuition for between three and six credits per semester for undergraduate study at participating colleges and universities. Two and a half hours per week of release time and/or a summer stipend are also provided to support study. The State Education Department says it will take at least 16 weeks to process and evaluate applications. Paraprofessionals who have received a notice of termination and have specific questions should contact the UFT and ask to speak to a certification specialist at 212-331-6311.

UFT urges fairness in upcoming test proctoring assignments

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) will be administered to all 8th-graders at their own middle schools in Districts 1-32, 75 and 79 on Wednesday, Jan. 27. In discussions with the DOE, the UFT emphasized the need to provide reasonable notice when assigning teachers to report to schools based on the number of students taking the exam. Teachers and other staff who have no responsibilities in relation to this admissions test should not have to report to the school building that day. Proctors will have per-session opportunities including a 90-minute training session and any proctoring time that extends beyond normal school hours. Private school, charter school and home-schooled students will take the SHSAT at central DOE sites on weekends along with any interested 9th-graders in public schools. The union’s Specialized High School Task Force in 2014 recommended universal administration for the SHSAT to expand opportunity and equity for students who have been historically underrepresented in these elite schools.

Come to virtual pension workshops

The UFT Pension Department is offering a series of workshops on a range of topics to help members understand their options at retirement. All workshops are held via Zoom. The next three sessions are Health Benefits at Retirement on Wednesday, Jan. 27; Annual Benefits Statement Booklets, Death Benefits and CAR Days on Wednesday, Feb. 3; and Pension Milestones and Final Average Salary calculations on Wednesday, Feb. 10. While members may register for individual events, the UFT Pension Department encourages members to attend the series.

DOE to recoup unspent Teacher’s Choice funds from last year in March paycheck

Each year the Department of Education recoups Teacher’s Choice allotments from educators who did not submit a DOE Statement of Purpose/Accountability form and accompanying receipts. The DOE sent an email this month to educators who received Teacher’s Choice funds for the 2019-20 school year but neglected, according to their principal or supervisor, to properly account for their spending by Jan. 17 of last year. Those members were told that the DOE will make a payroll deduction in the March 15 paycheck. UFT members who feel they were reported in error should have their school send an email, including their full name and file number, to by Feb. 11 confirming that they compiled with the program requirements.

Everything Else...

UFT presents Black History Month film series

As we celebrate Black History Month in February, the UFT invites you to a virtual film screening and discussion on Thursdays at 4 p.m. You can register for a single film or for as many as you’d like. On Jan. 28, the film is Endgame: AIDS in Black America (part one), which explores the disparities unleashed by HIV/AIDS on the Black community. On Feb. 4, UFT members will see Endgame: AIDS in Black America (part two) plus Saving Grace: Confronting HIV/AIDS, a documentary that explores the lives of members of the Black community in south Florida who live with or are affected by HIV/AIDS. On Feb. 11, the film is The Mighty Times: The Children’s March, an Oscar-winning short film about the civil rights marches in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s that highlights the bravery of young activists involved in the Children's Crusade.


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