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Chapter Leader UpdateNov. 5, 2021

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Snapshot

Getting out the vote: Raphael Tomkin, the chapter leader at PS 333 in Manhattan, attends a rally in Verdi Square on the Upper West Side for outgoing Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — who won a City Council seat on Nov. 2 — an example of why Tomkin will receive a Marsh/Raimo Award for political activism at Teacher Union Day on Nov. 7.

Getting out the vote: Raphael Tomkin, the chapter leader at PS 333 in Manhattan, attends a rally in Verdi Square on the Upper West Side for outgoing Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — who won a City Council seat on Nov. 2 — an example of why Tomkin will receive a Marsh/Raimo Award for political activism at Teacher Union Day on Nov. 7.

This Week's Focus

A pension milestone for paraprofessionals

After a decades-long lobbying effort by the union, we are proud to announce that all UFT-represented full-time paraprofessionals — both on the job today and in the future — will automatically become members of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) under a bill signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul. From now on, all UFT-represented paraprofessionals, like teachers, can look forward after retirement to a monthly pension check for the rest of their lives. Gone are the days when a paraprofessional would reach the end of a long career to find out at a pension consultation that they had not enrolled in TRS and would have no pension. Under the new legislation, the approximately 1,800 appointed, full-time paraprofessionals who do not already belong to the pension system will be automatically enrolled in TRS as Tier 6 members as will all paras hired after Oct. 28, 2021. A defined-benefit pension is a cornerstone of retirement security for UFT members. Eligible paraprofessionals do not need to take any action. TRS will be contacting you in December. Paraprofessionals who have already enrolled in TRS are not affected by this bill. This legislation does not pertain to substitute paraprofessionals; they continue to have the option to join the Board of Education Retirement System. 


UFT contributes to historic City Council victories

We proudly celebrate two UFT members, Eric Dinowitz and Rita Joseph, who won their respective City Council races for District 11 in the Bronx and District 40 in Brooklyn on Nov. 2. These two were among the 43 candidates the UFT helped to elect to the City Council this year. At least 30 are women, making this year’s election historic: For the first time in history, the majority of City Council members will be women. As expected, Eric Adams was elected mayor, Jumaane Williams was re-elected public advocate and Brad Lander was elected city comptroller, all with the UFT’s support. Three UFT-endorsed candidates for borough president — Vanessa Gibson in the Bronx, Mark Levine in Manhattan and Donovan Richards in Queens — won their respective races as did Alvin Bragg for Manhattan district attorney and Eric Gonzalez for Brooklyn district attorney. Candidates endorsed by the UFT and NYSUT won in two special elections in New York City: Cordell Cleare in Senate District 30 in Harlem and Yudelka Tapia in Assembly District 86 in the Bronx. 


Digital classroom setup pay is being issued this week

The $225 that the DOE agreed to pay teachers and related service providers for setting up their digital classrooms for the 2021–22 school year is being issued this week. Many members saw the money in their bank account on Thursday, while it will appear for others on Friday or over the weekend, depending on the bank. School officials at first assured the UFT that the money would be paid in a supplemental check last week, but its payroll division was unable to hit that date.


COVID policy for visitors to UFT offices

Visitors, including UFT members, to any UFT office must provide proof of vaccination or evidence of a negative COVID PCR test taken within the last 72 hours. Children under 12 do not need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test but those over age 2 must remain masked throughout their visit to the UFT office.


See you Sunday for Teacher Union Day

Dignity and respect. Professionalism and due process. Competitive wages and benefits. On Nov. 7, 1960, those things didn’t exist for teachers in New York City public schools. On that date, brave members of our newly formed union went on strike. Join us virtually this Sunday, Nov. 7, 61 years later, when we commemorate that landmark job action and pay tribute to current union leaders including 89 school chapter leaders who will receive Ely Trachtenberg Awards for building strong and vibrant UFT chapters. See all the 2021 honorees. In-person registration for honorees and their guests has closed. All other UFT members are invited to join virtually. 

Register now

Chapter Leader Checklist

  • Training for new chapter leaders rescheduled for Nov. 14: UFT chapter leader training, Part 1, will take place on Sunday, Nov. 14, from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. New chapter leaders and those elected within the last three years who have not previously attended the training series are invited to attend either online or in person at UFT headquarters. This all-day training session, the first in a four-part series, will cover the rights and responsibilities of chapter leaders at the school level, grievances and operational issues, the different types of school investigations and how to maintain a healthy and safe school environment.

    Register now
  • PROSE application process has begun: Applications are now being accepted from schools interested in joining the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program in the fall of 2022. The program’s founding principle is simple but profound: Solutions for school improvement can often be found within that school’s own community. If your school is interested in developing school-based solutions and has the ability to collaborate to implement them, you should apply. Schools that join PROSE, now in its eighth year, have opportunities to implement new ideas, share their work with other schools and develop sustainable school cultures that respect all members as professionals. For more information about PROSE, see the PROSE section of the UFT website or send an email to PROSE@uft.org. A PROSE school liaison would be happy to set up a meeting with your school. The deadline to submit an application is Jan. 28, 2022.
  • Enroll new hires in the union: More than 5,000 new teachers and other staff have been hired this school year. Please invite new hires to your chapter meetings and ask them to enroll in the UFT by completing the online union enrollment form or by filling out an enrollment card if they haven’t done so yet. You can check the nonmember report in the chapter leader section of the website to see if all new hires at your school have joined the union. Ask your school secretary to give you a heads up when a new hire comes on board. If you don’t have any enrollment cards, please let your district representative know. 
  • Shine a spotlight on an impressive new teacher at your school: We want to showcase the great things happening in New York City public schools and honor UFT members’ accomplishments. Does your school have a teacher in their first three years on the job who is already leaving their mark on your school? Is one of your new teachers using skills they honed in a prior career to benefit New York City students? We are looking for dynamic new teachers to feature in the Building Your Career section of the New York Teacher and the union website. Use this online form to nominate a teacher in their first three years on the job as a New York City educator. 

Work in progress

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

  • Fighting for $500 vaccine incentive for all vaccinated members
  • Tenure criteria for school secretaries
     

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You Should Know

CONTRACT EMPOWERMENT & ENFORCEMENT

Time carved out for social-emotional screening

When the DOE suddenly switched to a 43-question social-emotional assessment tool, after our previous discussions about asking a manageable five to seven questions about each child, the UFT filed for impact bargaining since its decision clearly had an impact on our work lives. Our members told us that they preferred time set aside in their workday to do this task over after-hours per-session pay. We negotiated that screeners will get four hours to complete the DESSA SEL screener for their designated students, plus 50 minutes for the professional development — and the ability to do this work off school grounds at their discretion. The SEL screening should be completed by Saturday, Dec. 4. If you have already begun or completed this work, you must receive an equal amount of self-directed time, off school grounds if you choose, during the same periods of time as outlined for screeners in the agreement.

Read the full agreement


HEALTH & SAFETY

DOE updates its policies regarding positive cases in schools

When a teacher tests positive for COVID-19, the entire classroom no longer has to quarantine. Vaccinated close contacts of the adult who tests positive do not need to quarantine unless they have COVID-like symptoms. As before, students who are wearing face coverings and have maintained at least three feet of distance from a fully masked student who tests positive for COVID-19 do not have to quarantine. However, those students are still considered close contacts and should monitor their health for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if they become symptomatic. Students who have been directed to quarantine for 10 days may take a COVID-19 test and with a negative result may return to school on Day 7. The DOE also issued more specific criteria for a school-wide closure and a clearer definition of who is considered to be a “close contact” to someone who has tested positive.

See our school safety FAQ

Up to four hours of release time for vaccination

We’d like to clarify the release time policy for members getting a booster shot or their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. DOE employees are now entitled to up to four hours of release time. The original DOE memo indicated two hours, but the timekeeping codes allow up to four hours. Members are also eligible to receive paid time off for related side effects if symptoms develop within three days after receiving their shot.

See COVID-19 absences FAQ

Schools will host vaccination sites for younger kids

If your school has students aged 5-11, they can now receive a free COVID-19 vaccine at school! Schools will host pop-up vaccination sites for these students one day during November. The NYC Vaccine Command Center will assign a vaccine vendor to your building. These children must be accompanied by a parent, a legal guardian or an adult designated by the parent or guardian to receive the vaccine. If someone other than a parent is with the child, the school must call the parent for approval. Read more about the school vaccine sites and view the schedule.

 


MEDICAL & WELLNESS

Open enrollment period for health benefits is November

This fall’s open enrollment period for health benefits for in-service members has changed. In-service members can enroll anytime from now to Tuesday, Nov. 30. All changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Learn more

Enroll now for city programs to help defray medical, drug and child care costs

The city’s Health Care Flexible Spending Account Program and the Dependent Care Assistance Program allow you to save some of your pay before taxes for certain out-of-pocket medical, drug and child care costs. When enrolling in these two programs, participants determine an annual dollar amount, and deductions are withheld from the participant’s paychecks throughout the year to meet that amount. It is important that you estimate your annual expenses carefully prior to choosing this annual contribution for the coming plan year because you lose any money you don’t use. (The Health Care Flexible Spending Account Program has a short grace period.) You can enroll in either of these two programs until Friday, Nov. 19, for plan year 2022. Detailed information and enrollment and claim forms are available on the program’s website or you may contact the program at 212-306-7760.

Learn more

Subscribe to Classroom Café podcasts

Classroom Café, the UFT Member Assistance Program’s podcast series, focuses on an aspect of well-being for educators in every episode. This school year, the podcast has new episodes on helping kids avoid substance use, prioritizing mental wellness during the pandemic and supporting students as they make the transition to in-person learning. 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 latest episodes


SALARY & PERSONNEL

Register for pension workshops

The UFT Pension Department offers virtual workshops throughout the school year to help members understand their pension benefits. Topics include enrolling in Medicare, Tier 4 and Tier 6 pension calculations, pension options and more. While you may register for individual workshops, the Pension Department encourages you to attend the series. Upcoming November workshops include Tier 6 Milestones, Final Average Salary Calculations and CAR days on Tuesday, Nov. 9, and Retirement Options, TDAs, SHIP, COPE and RTC membership on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Both are held online from 4 to 5 p.m.

Learn more


EVERYTHING ELSE

Nominate an outstanding teacher for $25,000 FLAG Award

The FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence is accepting nominations to honor extraordinary New York City public school teachers. One teacher from each borough will win a $25,000 cash prize plus an additional $10,000 for their school. Students, parents of students, colleagues and school administrators may nominate teachers. Nominations are due by Wednesday, Dec. 1, and awards will be announced in June 2022.

Learn more

Fight bullying with the union’s BRAVE initiative

The UFT BRAVE program, an anti-bullying initiative, has become more relevant than ever as many of our students returned to in-person learning this September after 18 months at home. BRAVE, an acronym for Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education, provides educators, parents and students with the tools, knowledge and support to confront and prevent bullying. BRAVE offers workshops at schools to help you strengthen your school community and improve academic achievement. To request a UFT BRAVE workshop at your school, please submit a UFT BRAVE Workshop Request Form.

Learn more


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