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Chapter Leader UpdateFeb. 3, 2022

Closeup of a masked teacher with two masked students as the students hold objects traditionally used in celebrations of the Lunar new year.

YEAR OF THE TIGER: Prekindergarten teacher Ting Velez-Chung conducts a lesson about Lunar New Year, which marks the start of the Chinese lunar calendar, with students at PS 1 in Chinatown.

This Week's Focus

Dispute with DOE over vacation days

Vacation days appeared in UFT members' accounts on Feb. 1 as ordered by the independent arbitrator in our spring break grievance. UFT members who worked the full seven days (April 9-17) of the spring break should have had four CAR days converted to four vacation days and an additional three more vacation days. However, members who currently have fewer than four CAR days in their banks only received three vacation days because the DOE claims these members do not have enough CAR days to complete the conversion to vacation days. We disagree with the DOE’s interpretation of the arbitrator’s decision. Our position is that according to the arbitration ruling, members are owed a vacation day for each day they worked during the 2020 spring break and should not be penalized for having a lower CAR day balance due to maternity leave or illness. We are fighting to get those members the full value of the time worked and have asked the arbitrator to intervene in the dispute.

Arbitration victory in union-animus case against principal

A UFT school chapter in Queens stood up to — and stood together against — a hostile principal and won. An independent arbitrator on Jan. 19 ordered Melissa Haidary, the principal at PS 186 in Bellerose, Queens, to “cease and desist any discrimination” of UFT members on the basis of their association with the union and their participation in union activities. “It was a long and arduous journey, but it was worthwhile,” said special education teacher Patricia Mahalko, one of the 39 teachers who came together to file the union-animus grievance in 2018. The 41-page decision was the culmination of a years-long battle and resolution process. “It’s an important lesson,” said UFT Queens Borough Representative Amy Arundell. “The language in the collective bargaining agreements doesn’t live on its own. When members enact them, these rights become more powerful.” Watch the video on the UFT website.

Mulgrew spells out the union’s state budget priorities

UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded Gov. Kathy Hochul's commitment to fully fund our public schools when he testified on her executive budget on Jan. 26. “We are pleased to see that the promise to fulfill the needs espoused in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity has been kept, and we are no longer playing political football with our state’s school aid,” he said. The UFT called for a $100 million investment for community schools across the state, additional funding earmarked for the union’s United Community Schools initiative and greater transparency and accountability for charter schools. The governor proposed a four-year extension of the current form of mayoral control in her executive budget. Mulgrew testified that the current version of mayoral control does not work for school communities, and he called for the restoration of more checks and balances in school governance.

Read the full testimony

Federation of Nurses/UFT chapter ratifies new contract

Federation of Nurses/UFT members who work as registered nurses at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York on Jan. 27 overwhelmingly ratified a two-year contract that preserves all their previous benefits and provides a minimum 7.62% pay raise over the next 14.5 months for full-time nurses. "In an incredibly difficult time, you have been extraordinary," UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, who leads the federation, told the nurses who joined an informational Zoom call before the vote. Under the approved contract, all full-time base rates will increase by $1,500 as of March 1, followed by a 3% pay increase on April 1 and another 3% hike on April, 1, 2023. "The best thing we were able to achieve was a more competitive salary," said Raquel Webb-Geddes, the chapter chair. During the pandemic, other institutions have given their front-line workers a one-time "hazard pay" bonus. The Visiting Nurse Service of New York instead acknowledged what workers have done during this difficult time by adding money to each member's base pay, said Webb-Geddes, "which has more value and longevity than a one-time bonus." 

Chapter Leader Checklist

  • New chapter leaders should sign up for Feb. 12 training: We encourage new chapter leaders to join us in person at UFT headquarters or online on Saturday, Feb. 12, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., for the second part of our four-part chapter leader training series. This all-day training session offers workshops on teacher evaluation, time and attendance, how to navigate school budgets and the consultation process. We would like new chapter leaders to attend all four training sessions, but if you missed part one, you are still welcome to attend part two.

    Register now
  • Delegate Assembly invitation coming soon: As your school’s elected union representative, your participation at Delegate Assembly meetings is a crucial part of the UFT policymaking process. You may attend the next Delegate Assembly, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16, either in-person and virtually. You’ll be receiving an email with a registration link in the coming days.
  • Post the UFT Election Notice on your UFT bulletin board: We want all UFT members to know about the upcoming union elections and the opportunity they have to run for union office and to vote in the election. Please print out and post the 2022 UFT Election Notice on your bulletin board.

Work in progress

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

  • Resolving dispute over vacation days for members with low CAR balances
  • Fighting for state funding for UFT initiatives and other education priorities

You Should Know


Rapid test and mask availability

During the week before the midwinter break, the DOE will distribute at-home rapid test kits to school staff and to the families of students in 3K through Grade 12. Students and staff are strongly encouraged to take an at-home rapid test prior to returning to school on Feb. 28. All students and staff must continue to wear masks on school property regardless of vaccination status. The DOE has confirmed that at-home rapid tests and KN95 masks for staff are available through February. The Biden administration is also providing four free at-home test kits per household in the United States. All you have to do is provide your address. Orders usually ship in 7-12 days.

Order free tests

Clarification on isolation for staff who test positive

Following the CDC and state health policy, if an individual has COVID symptoms and tests positive (on any kind of COVID test), the individual must isolate for a minimum of five days with Day 0 the day they test positive or the day that symptoms started, whichever is first. After five days, the individual may return to work only if they have been fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and symptoms are improving. If a staff member is still experiencing symptoms that are not improving, they should continue to isolate from Days 6 to 10 and are still eligible for excused leave at full pay without the use of CAR days.


New York State waiver denied

The federal government has denied New York State’s application for a waiver of the mandate to administer standardized tests this school year. The UFT is working with state education officials on the next step in the process. We believe the focus should be on the educational and social emotional gaps that need to be closed. Standardized test results will not accurately reflect the real teaching and learning that is taking place in our schools and could be detrimental to both students and staff. We will keep you posted as the situation develops.

Families now have access to special education information

Starting Jan. 31, families may now view their children’s Academic Intervention Services (AIS) and/or Special Education Recovery Services (SERS), including SERS-related services, in their NYC Schools Account. The information can be seen in the “student profile.” Read the Principals Digest item about the new information available to families.

Prepare for encounter attendance upgrade

An encounter attendance upgrade is set to go live on Monday, Feb. 28. This upgrade promises to simplify recording and scheduling services by pre-populating more fields on the encounter attendance service record based on student mandates. To prepare for the upgrade and to avoid losing information saved in service session notes that are not certified, all school staff responsible for recording service delivery in SESIS should certify all saved (orange-colored) service records before Wednesday, Feb. 23. View the DOE guidance on the encounter attendance upgrade.

Medicaid compliance training requirement

Occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational and physical therapy supervisors must complete the state-mandated Medicaid-in-Education compliance training for the 2021-22 school year by Feb. 25. Staff in these disciplines will receive an individual email link on Jan. 31 for the web-based training. Principals have been advised to provide staff time and access to a computer to complete this training. Read the DOE guidance. Additional information about privacy training is available to read as well.


A UFT-sponsored helpline for students and their families

The UFT’s Positive Learning Collaborative has forged a partnership with Vibrant Emotional Health to create a phone and chat helpline that offers free, confidential mental health support to students and their families. Please help us spread the word about this important service to students and families who could benefit from this service. The helpline is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight, and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Call 212-709-3222

Text "PLC" to 43961

(Please note: message and data rates may apply)

Financial aid for COVID-related funeral expenses

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering financial assistance to those who have paid for funeral expenses due to COVID-19. Those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 after Jan. 20, 2020, can apply for retroactive reimbursements. Applicants can receive up to $9,000 per burial. More information is available on the FEMA website. If the relative of the deceased or the deceased person is a UFT member, attorneys from the UFT Legal Service Plan can assist with the application and documentation needed. The plan’s UFT-dedicated line at 212-331-6325. See the flier for details.

New DOE employees may now choose their health plan

As of Jan. 1, 2022, new DOE employees are no longer required to enroll in the HIP HMO Gold Plan for the first year of their employment. New York City employees hired on or after Jan. 1 may enroll in any of the city’s health plan options. School staff hired in the first four months of this school year had to enroll in the EmblemHealth HIP HMO Preferred Plan and must remain in that plan for the first 365 days of employment.


UFT assistance for members being terminated

The DOE has recently notified unvaccinated members who did not take the severance option and did not extend their unpaid leave of absence that they will be terminated effective Feb. 11. The UFT believes that these employees are entitled to due process provided for by law or in the applicable DOE-UFT collective bargaining agreement. The UFT will be calling all affected members this week. Tenured pedagogues who have been notified of termination should request a 3020-a hearing. Paraprofessionals and administrative employees should file grievances for wrongful termination, and untenured pedagogues should file an appeal. To initiate one of these actions, the member should fill out this online form. Members can also get a copy of this form by calling the UFT.


UFT School Counselors Conference on March 12

School counselors are invited to join their colleagues at the UFT’s 18th annual School Counselors Conference on Saturday, March 12, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s conference, which will be virtual, is School Counselors: Emotional First Responders. A panel of counselors will share how they helped support students in the transition back to in-person learning. The keynote address will be by an academic expert on emotional intelligence. There will be two brief mindfulness exercises and a networking session for counselors to connect and share strategies with their colleagues.

Register now

Register for the Early Childhood Conference on March 19

Educators serving students from 3K to Grade 2 are invited to register for the UFT's 14th annual Early Childhood Education Conference on Saturday, March 19, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members are welcome to attend in person at UFT headquarters or participate virtually. All participants can earn four CTLE hours by attending the plenary and two workshops on evidence-based practices for engaging our youngest learners. The cost is $35 for teachers and $25 for paraprofessionals. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, participants must register in advance for in-person attendance and bring proof of vaccination.

Register now

Contact the UFT

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