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Chapter Leader UpdateSept. 21, 2021

Two masked women stand with arms outstretched at the head of a classroom in front of an electronic board reading "welcome to pre-k"

WELCOME BACK: Teacher Sheri Gargano (left) and paraprofessional Diane Berger greet their prekindergarten students on the first day of class on Sept. 13 at PS 236 in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. (Erica Berger)

This Week's Focus

Review DOE policy on COVID-related absences and leaves

The DOE's Sept. 10 personnel memo on absences and leaves for the 2021-22 school year details this year’s policies for time off for vaccination or vaccine side effects, when you or a close contact tests positive for COVID-19, or when you have to take care of a quarantined family member. Review the memo and check out the UFT’s FAQ on COVID-19 absences so you can better answer your members' questions.

Read the personnel memo

Bookmark the coronavirus info hub on the UFT website

Looking for a copy of the arbitrator’s ruling on the vaccine mandate? Want to review the DOE’s safety protocols for this school year or the rules governing any pivot to remote instruction? All COVID-related DOE documents and guidance as well as a comprehensive FAQ for the 2021-22 school year can be found in the coronavirus info hub on the UFT website. It should be your first stop to find the latest information about COVID-19 and New York City public schools. 

Go to the info hub

Create your team for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks are back this year! Brooklyn is holding its walk on Sunday, Oct. 10, and all the other walks will take place on Sunday, Oct. 17. We are asking chapter leaders to create a team to allow their chapter members to fundraise together and support each other. You don’t have to personally participate to create a team. If someone else in your school community is traditionally responsible for creating your school’s team, please remind them to create it. Every UFT team should have “UFT” in its title so we can compile the total amount that UFT members raise. It’s a great event to build chapter spirit and solidarity. 

Teacher Union Day on Nov. 7 goes hybrid this year

Teacher Union Day offers an opportunity to celebrate our union’s recent accomplishments while remembering the brave educators who put everything on the line in the 1960 strike that forged the union. This year, recognizing the need for social distancing, we are holding a hybrid event on Sunday, Nov. 7. Honorees and their guests only will be invited to the in-person celebration at UFT headquarters. All other UFT members, chapter leaders and supporters can register for the virtual event. Please save the date on your calendar and stay tuned for registration information.

The next Chapter Leader Update is Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Chapter Leader Checklist

  • Pre-registration required for tomorrow’s citywide chapter leader meeting: Chapter leaders can attend the citywide chapter leader meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 22, in person or remotely. To adhere to social distancing rules, chapter leaders planning to attend in person must register in advance, too. We sent a reminder email earlier today to those who had not yet registered. 
  • Organize your consultation committee: Make sure that you have a UFT consultation committee that meets monthly with the principal. This committee has a critical purpose: to discuss and attempt to resolve issues at the school level before they escalate. When an issue cannot be resolved by the consultation committee, bring it to the attention of your UFT district representative. After each meeting, please file an online consultation committee report. Find out more about the role and responsibilities of the UFT consultation committee
  • New members on payroll: Check with your school’s payroll secretary to make sure new members of your chapter are on payroll. Newly appointed pedagogues and paraprofessionals who were placed on payroll by Sept. 1 should have received their first paycheck on Sept.15. If payroll processing is completed between Sept. 2 and Sept. 17, these new hires should receive their first paycheck in the Sept. 30 payroll. New H Bank members, including therapists, nurses and supervisors of nurses and therapists, who were placed on payroll by Sept. 20 should receive their first paycheck on Oct. 1. If payroll processing was completed between Sept. 21 and Oct. 4, the new hires should receive their first paycheck in the Oct. 15 payroll. New UFT members who missed the first payroll should contact the UFT at 212-331-6311 regarding the possibility of a supplemental check.
  • Mentoring for new teachers: Every new teacher in your school without prior teaching experience is entitled to mentoring. The mentor should be an experienced classroom teacher, coach or lead teacher, ideally in the new teacher’s subject area. The mentor will provide a minimum of two periods a week of confidential, non-evaluative and nonjudgmental support. Consult with your principal for a list of new teachers and their mentors. As a chapter leader, you must be a member of your school’s New Teacher Induction Committee, which ensures new teachers receive mentoring. If new teachers in your school have not been assigned a mentor or if you have questions about the mentor program, contact your district representative. For more information, see the mentoring requirements for certification on the New York State Education Department website.

Work in progress

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

  • Roles and responsibilities for delivering medically necessary instruction
  • Guidance on the teacher evaluation system for the 2021-22 school year 
  • Implementation of the city’s new quarantine policy after a student tests positive 

You Should Know

Health and Safety

City to ramp up COVID testing in schools

Under pressure from the UFT, the mayor announced on Sept. 20, that, starting next week, the city will increase the frequency of COVID testing in all schools — elementary, middle and high school — to weekly, up from every two weeks. The mayor also announced an ill-considered change in quarantine policy for schools. Under the new policy, students who are masked and three feet apart will not have to quarantine if a fellow student tests positive in their class. Among the questions we have about the new quarantine policy: Does it apply to classrooms unable to adhere to the 3-foot rule? What’s the procedure for teachers to report when students aren't wearing their masks correctly? Will full classrooms ever be closed? If so, what will be the criteria for closing them? We are demanding that the city answer our questions before the new quarantine policy takes effect on Sept. 27. “Maybe in the mayor’s universe, all children keep their distance, wear their masks correctly and leave them on all day, but in the real world of our schools, this just isn’t so, particularly in the many schools that are overcrowded,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.


DOE outlines its academic intervention program

The DOE has rolled out an Academic Recovery Program that includes additional guidance for special education students, English language learners and multilingual learners. The UFT emailed special education teachers on Sept. 14, with the details. To summarize:

  • Schools must have an Academic Intervention Services team or its equivalent.
  • AIS teams should include a range of teachers, including ENL/bilingual and special education teachers, as well as related service providers. These teams will coordinate recovery for all students, including students with disabilities and multilingual learners.
  • The first of three rounds of diagnostic screening begins in September.
  • Based on the screenings, AIS teams will make decisions on student interventions as well as schoolwide curricular adjustments.
  • For more guidance and to see the menu of approved intervention programs, go to special education guidance for the 2021-22 school year on the UFT website.
Guidance on state Identification Test for English language learners

Many English language learners were fully remote last school year and did not take the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test, which helps determine proficiency levels and instructional mandates. We anticipate many students will need to be assessed this fall as a result. The State Education Department updated its guidance for the 2021-22 school year and will allow schools to administer the New York State Identification Test for ELLs (NYSITELL) to these students during September. Teachers who administer the test after school or on Saturdays will receive per session pay. In addition to bilingual and ENL teachers, certified teachers who have been trained and who have knowledge of language development and culturally responsive instruction, may administer the NYSITELL. The DOE says its borough offices will provide training modules. Please note: Schools must ensure that ELLs do not lose mandated minutes of ENL and/or bilingual instruction because their teacher is administering the NYSITELL. Read NYSUT's Fact Sheet.

Pedagogical support for overwhelmed tenured teachers

Are you a tenured teacher overwhelmed by classroom issues? The Peer Intervention Program is a collaboration between the UFT and the DOE to provide pedagogical and professional support to tenured teachers who want assistance. PIP is a voluntary program that offers confidential one-on-one support from experienced, specially selected educators who will create an individualized professional development plan with you. Over the years, the program has successfully helped thousands of struggling teachers. Teachers can find more information, including an online request for assistance, on the Peer Intervention Program section of the UFT website.

Salary and Personnel

Appeals process begins on exemptions and accommodations

The deadline for UFT members to file an application for medical accommodation or an exemption to the vaccine was Sept. 20. Members whose applications are denied may appeal the denial in SOLAS within one school day. Arbitrators are reviewing all appeals; they either issue a decision based on the documentation alone or request a virtual factual hearing. Virtual hearings are being scheduled now for appeals. The union is reaching out to all members who have been scheduled for a hearing to ask if they want union representation at the hearing. If the member’s hearing is scheduled during the school day, the member should be given coverage from their school for the time it is scheduled and a private area to participate in the hearing. Members who have filed an appeal may call the special appeals hotline at 646-770-1917 with questions related to their appeal or hearing. Wednesday, Sept. 22, is the date of the hearing scheduled by the state judge who signed a temporary restraining order in the case brought by the Municipal Labor Committee, to which the UFT belongs, challenging the city’s mandate of COVID-19 vaccination for all city employees.

Pension series to begin in October

The UFT Pension Department offers workshops throughout the school year to help you understand your pension benefits. All workshops are virtual. Topics include enrolling in Medicare, Tier 4 and Tier 6 pension calculations, pension options and more. While members may register for individual workshops, the Pension Department encourages them to attend the series. October workshops, with registration links, will be posted on the UFT website in the near future.

Fall workshops on paid parental leave

UFT members preparing to welcome a new child into their lives are invited to attend a virtual Pathways to Parenthood workshop to learn about their parental leave benefits. These UFT workshops are for any DOE-employed member who is about to give birth or adopt a child. Workshops are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23, and every Thursday in October. Register here. More will be scheduled in November and December. For more information about these benefits, see the paid parental leave section of the UFT website.


Come “Let’s Talk About It” this fall

Join the UFT Member Assistance Program’s new virtual wellness series to learn coping and healing skills for your professional and personal life and let the union help you meet challenges caused by COVID. Sometimes, it feels as if educators are expected to be superhuman, able to leap remote and in-class teaching in a single bound, while crafting differentiated instruction for both! The normal challenges of teaching are amplified as we enter the 18th month of the pandemic. Finding connection and support is vital. Each MAP session is led by an expert on the topic. You will share, reflect and grow with your fellow educators, and leave with tools, ideas and a new outlook to take you through the school year. Upcoming topics include: free to be stress-free, time management and financial well-being. Register here.

Everything Else

Save the date: Oct. 28 - UFT Middle School Division’s Virtual Anti-Bullying Conference

Stay tuned for registration information, so you may reserve spots for your middle school students.

Contact the UFT

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