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Chapter Leader UpdateMarch 5, 2023

UFT Vice President Janella Hinds stands, holding a megaphone, in front of a crowd of people holding political signs

DEFENDING PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Janella Hinds, the UFT vice president for academic high schools, delivered the union's message at a Feb. 21 rally to protest the governor's proposal to significantly increase the number of charter schools in New York City. (Zachary Lerner) 

This Week's Focus

A focus on working conditions in this month’s contract campaign

Make sure your members know a lot has happened since our last Day of Action in our contract campaign. DC 37 has reached a tentative agreement that will likely set a pattern for all city workers in this contract round, but we need to build on our momentum and continue to activate our members in the fight for a fair contract. This month, we will mobilize to get the community on our side as we negotiate to improve working conditions. We need more self-directed time and control over how we serve our students. The union will hold a mobilization meeting for Contract Action Teams as well as their chapters on Tuesday, March 7, and again on Tuesday, March 14. Please share the registration link and encourage your chapter to join. At this meeting, we will discuss holding a grade-in as a citywide action in late March as well as present a menu of other mobilization actions and resources for members to take back to their schools. We will also unpack the possible pattern set by DC 37 and what it means for our own negotiations. 

Register now

Aetna presents its proposed premium-free retiree health plan to the unions

Aetna presented an overview of its proposed Medicare Advantage PPO plan for all Medicare-eligible New York City retirees on March 2. Over the past two months, while the Municipal Labor Committee has been engaged in intense negotiations with Aetna over the new plan, the UFT has been at the table fighting to ensure that it fully meets our retirees’ needs. The UFT told the city repeatedly that it would not agree to a new premium-free plan that does not address all of its concerns. After aggressive negotiations, Aetna agreed to customize the new plan to provide the widest possible choice of providers, a restricted number of services requiring prior authorization, an array of new benefits and fewer out-of-pocket costs for members. The 100-plus unions in the MLC will vote on the proposed plan next week. If the plan is approved, it is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, 2023.

UFT rallies in support of bill to rein in hospital charges

Union leaders including UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, spoke at a City Hall rally on Feb. 23 in support of greater transparency in hospital pricing prior to a City Council hearing on proposed legislation to address the issue. The bill, sponsored by Council Member Julie Menin, would establish an Office of Health Care Accountability that would force all city hospitals to disclose what they charge for medical procedures and make it harder for them to engage in price gouging. The discrepancy in costs, Goldman said, “has amazed me, it has galled me. Transparency is a right for everyone who pays taxes and needs health care.” The city could be overpaying private hospitals by as much as $2.4 billion a year, according to a report commissioned by SEIU 32BJ. Hospital pricing and insurance company profits – big drivers of escalating city health care costs – have been black boxes that municipal unions have sought for years to penetrate with minimal success. 

Read the testimony

Nominate your chapter for a Trachtenberg Award

Nominate your chapter for the UFT’s Ely Trachtenberg Award, named for a UFT member whose rank-and-file organizing skills were crucial to building the union. The Trachtenberg Award honors UFT chapters and their leaders who show strong member engagement and advocacy. Hallmarks of award-winning chapters include holding regularly scheduled chapter meetings, empowering members to ensure contractual rights are respected, and having a high or growing proportion of members who contribute to COPE. Winning chapters will be honored and given their Trachtenberg plaque at the 2023 Teacher Union Day ceremony in November. See the online nomination form for more information about the selection criteria. Please note: Chapters that have received a Trachtenberg Award in the past three years are ineligible this year. The nomination period closes on April 28.

Nominate the chapter

Celebrate the UFT’s 63rd birthday on March 16

Thursday, March 16, will mark the 63rd anniversary of the union’s formation. Dignity and respect, professionalism, due process, competitive wages and health and pension benefits: Sixty-three years ago, those things didn’t exist for New York City public educators. It has been progress hard-fought and hard-won by our union. The anniversary gives you an opportunity to remind UFT members how far they’ve come as union members. You can show this two-minute video about the story of the UFT’s founding to set the tone for a conversation with your members at this month’s chapter meeting about why the union matters to them. If you bring a cake or make a card to celebrate the anniversary, please send a photo to

UFT urges lawmakers to reject charter school expansion

Union activists and parents began the midwinter break by joining UFT Vice Presidents Karen Alford and Janella Hinds at the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus weekend on Feb. 18 and 19 in Albany to warn state lawmakers that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to significantly increase the number of charter schools in New York City would come at the expense of needed space and resources for our public schools. In conversations in our schools and our communities, we will continue to drive home the message that public schools must receive priority over corporate charters. Hundreds of rank-and-file members will travel to Albany for the UFT’s Lobby Day on Monday, March 13, to tell their state representatives how an increase in charter schools will come at the expense of our public schools and to ask them to support the rest of the union’s 2023 legislative priorities.

Chapter Leader Checklist

To Do #1
Save the date for the March 15 Delegate Assembly

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 in person or remotely. Be on the lookout for your email invitation to the next Delegate Assembly on Wednesday, March 15.

To Do #2
Remind your paras about their special chapter election

By now, you should have posted the election notice for this spring’s Paraprofessionals Chapter special election on your UFT bulletin board. Paraprofessionals in good standing who want to run for one of seven vacant chapter positions must collect at least 50 paraprofessional signatures on the nominating petition (also available in all UFT borough offices). The deadline for submitting the nomination petitions and an optional candidate statement to the union is Wednesday, March 22, at 5 p.m. See the Paraprofessionals Chapter election section.

To Do #3
New chapter leader training on March 4-5

Chapter leaders in their first three years in the role who have already registered for Part 3 in the training series, please arrive at the Sleepy Hollow Hotel and Conference Center for registration and breakfast on Saturday, March 4, between 8 and 9 a.m. The sessions will continue on Sunday, March 5, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To Do #4
Fliers to share with your members

Here are fliers you can print and distribute in member mailboxes or post on your school’s UFT bulletin board.

Hub Highlights

File a Step 1 grievance from the hub

As chapter leader, you’re empowered to resolve many issues at the school level through consultation. But when consultation fails, filing a Step 1 grievance may be the best course of action. You now have easy access to the online Step 1 grievance form from the Chapter Leader Hub. After submitting the grievance in the hub, email or hand a copy to your principal to complete the filing. Remember, you can access the hub using your UFT website username and password. 

Enter the hub

Work in progress

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

  • Pushing the DOE to complete a plan on implementing the state class-size legislation. 
  • Ensuring paraprofessionals get duty-free lunch on field trip days.
  • Pressing the DOE to provide remote placements for members with medical conditions that put them at high risk from COVID.
  • Continuing discussions with the DOE on the 2023-24 school calendar.
  • Lobbying to block the governor’s plan to expand charter schools and pass legislation in Albany to remove the city’s obligation to provide space for charters in public school buildings or pay their rent.
  • Advocating to improve Tier 6 pension benefits.

You Should Know


Know your rights on program preference and professional activities

The DOE-UFT contract’s provisions regarding teaching programs and professional activity assignments give teachers a voice while providing for a more objective selection process. Each spring, all teachers should receive a program preference sheet to indicate the program (including grade/subject) they would like to teach in priority order for the following school year. Special education teachers should include grade/subject and type of class — such as integrated co-teaching, self-contained or SETSS — along with age range for each class. All teachers should ask for assignments in their license area; this is especially important for probationary teachers, who could have their tenure delayed if they teach out of license. Most secondary school teachers and eight-period-a-day elementary school teachers are programmed to have one or more professional activity periods. In an eight-period elementary school, teachers should be programmed for one professional activity per week. Middle school and high school teachers are usually programmed for five professional activity periods per week. By Saturday, April 15, your school’s chapter leader and principal should have met and consulted on the professional activities that will be on the professional activity menu at your school. Read our < href="…">Know Your Rights column on this topic for examples of professional activities and further details on the preference-sheet process.


Consider a mid-year conversation with your administrator

Mid-year professional conversations provide teachers and evaluators with a time to reflect on a teacher’s growth and whether the administrator needs to provide additional support to the teacher during the cycle of observation, reflection, feedback, support and development. These conferences are optional for teachers except those with a Teacher Improvement Plan. See your principal if you would like to hold a midyear professional conversation. The deadline for these mid-year professional conversations is Friday, April 28.


A discussion about student bullying

How do you help a student who is being bullied find their voice and power? In the latest episode of the Member Assistance Program’s Classroom Café podcast, author and attorney S.P. Brown discusses bullying and how to help students overcome conflicts and confront bullying. Brown’s book, "Kyrie’s School Blues," gives the account of a home-schooled 4th-grader’s rocky transition to the classroom. Jamie Lepow, a licensed social worker and a senior administrator in the DOE’s Office of Safety and Youth Development, joins the conversation.

Listen to the podcast


A career ladder opportunity for paraprofessionals

Any paraprofessional considering going back to school should know that the UFT supports its paraprofessionals pursuing higher education for career growth, skills enhancement and personal development. Through the LEAP to Teacher program, the UFT helps place paraprofessionals pursuing higher education in any field of study offered by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies in collaboration with participating colleges throughout New York City. LEAP to Teacher provides paras with a wide range of free, specialized support services over and above the union’s tuition support. For more details, see the Leap to Teacher section of the UFT website or contact a CUNY program counselor. The deadline to apply for courses in the fall of 2023 is July 1.

Help paraprofessionals avoid termination over certification issues

The DOE sent termination notices in February to paraprofessionals who have failed to complete their certification requirements. Please tell these paras that they should read the notice carefully for next steps. Then, they should log into their TEACH accounts on the State Education Department’s website and find out what they are missing. Paraprofessionals who have received notice of termination for lack of college credits can apply through Friday, March 31, for the Career Training Program for the summer semester. The program pays tuition for three to six credits per semester for undergraduate study at participating colleges and universities. Paras also received 2½ hours per week of release time and/or a summer stipend. Paras who have received a notice of termination and have specific questions should contact the UFT’s team of certification specialists — Monica Christie or Jeremiah Bornemann — at 212-331-6311. Members with questions about CTLE hours should read this UFT Q&A or call a UFT certification specialist at 212-331-6311.

Help pedagogues facing termination because of certification issues

The DOE also sent termination notices to teachers, school counselors, social workers and school psychologists who have not completed their certification requirements for their professional or permanent state certificate. These members should log in to their TEACH account on the State Education Department’s website to determine their next steps for becoming fully certified. Pedagogues who have received a notice of termination and have specific questions should contact a UFT certification specialist at 212-331-6311.


Be BRAVE Against Bullying Video Contest

Please tell your members about the UFT's Be BRAVE Against Bullying video contest for middle and high school students. The contest is a wonderful way to showcase students' hard work while sparking discussions about positive social behavior and mental health. Invite middle and high school students to create videos lasting three to five minutes on an anti-bullying topic for a chance to win cash prizes and accept an award at a ceremony at UFT headquarters on Tuesday, May 9. Contest entries are due by Wednesday, April 19. Download this flier to post on your UFT bulletin board.

Host a table at the Paraprofessional Festival & Awards Luncheon

Consider hosting a table with a group of paraprofessionals from your school for this year's annual Paraprofessional Festival and Awards Luncheon, which takes place on Saturday, March 25, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. School Leadership Team members may use funds allocated to the team to pay for registration fees by using a school-generated event purchase order. For detailed instructions on how to pay by purchase order, see this UFT purchase order memo. Remind your paras it’s the first time in four years that the union is holding a full-scale luncheon at the New York Hilton at 1335 Sixth Ave., Manhattan. In addition to the awards ceremony, the event offers CTLE workshops, a carnival with games and prizes, a bag full of wellness freebies, a chance to win raffle prizes, and breakfast and lunch.

Register now

Upcoming Student Debt Relief Program sessions

As you may be aware, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in two cases challenging President Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt owed by tens of millions of Americans, including thousands of UFT members. While we wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling, UFT members weighed down by student debt may want to take advantage of the Student Debt Relief Program, an exclusive benefit for UFT members only. The program can help members navigate their options and apply for the right programs to pay down their debt. Pedagogues can register online for a virtual information session on Tuesday, March 14, or Tuesday, March 21, to receive an overview of the range of programs available to them. After attending an information session, a member may make an appointment to speak by phone with a loan specialist to discuss their individual needs and create an action plan. For more information, see the Student Debt Relief Program page on the UFT website.

Recent Guidance and Agreements

Contact the UFT

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