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Guidance Counselors Chapter Newsletter - November 2016

I hope you had a good start to the school year and a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I am honored to continue to represent you as your chapter leader.

Although we have many things to celebrate this year — including the hiring of new Single Shepherd school counselors in Districts 7 and 23 — we also face great challenges. The recent election has left many of us worried and upset about the future of our civil liberties, progressive legislation and public education. At the UFT, we have been discussing what we can do.

Though we are facing enormous policy shifts, we must remember to be thankful for all that we have and for the support we provide each other. We must take time to listen to each other's worries and concerns. We must also collectively find a way to manage the fears of our students and offer them hope. The American School Counselor Association has outlined a number of resources to help students after the 2016 election. I strongly encourage you to read them and use them as a guide for dealing with difficult conversations and to alleviate student fears.

We anticipate the change in national leadership, both at the executive level and in Congress, will deeply affect the work we do, but I believe we are up to the challenge. As school counselors, we must come together to protect public education and the labor movement. We have much to do this year and I am grateful that we have the opportunity do it together.

Let's continue to stand strong for our students, our schools and our communities. As always, if you have any questions or concerns on any topic, contact me at


Rosemarie Thompson
Guidance Counselors Chapter Leader

Know your rights regarding guidance counselor hours

I’ve heard from a few of you that counselors are being assigned to lunch duty or other administrative assignments under the guise of providing social and emotional support for students. These administrative duties are a violation of our contract. They are not your responsibilities as school counselors.

Article 6 of our contract states:

Counselors work six hours and 30 minutes exclusive of lunch every day.

Counselors are also governed by Article 7B. Counselors do not cover classes, or perform lunch or dismissal duty. Counselors are not covered by Circular 6. In addition, counselors may not tutor small groups during extended time. If you have been assigned lunch duty or any other administrative task, please contact me at Remember to contact me using your personal, non-DOE email address and include your school, level and district. Please do not email me from your work email address.

Our newsletter has a new look!

The UFT recently rolled out a new layout for our chapter's newsletters and emails that looks good regardless of the device you’re looking at. This responsive design allows you to more easily read important union information on your desktop, your tablet or your mobile device.

Do you have something that you'd like to see in our next newsletter? Send me an email at

We want YOU to present at our Guidance Counselors Conference!

Time to mark Saturday, March 18, 2017 on your calendar for our 13th annual Guidance Counselors Conference at UFT headquarters.

And while you’re saving the date, perhaps you’d like to consider leading a workshop? Our conference is an opportunity to showcase your work! The only requirement for submitting your idea is that you have already successfully presented the information to a group of students and/or parents. We’re looking for a vast array of topics that could include surviving the college admissions process, handling difficult family situations, managing bullying behavior in a peer group or building self-esteem. 

If you are interested, please complete the proposal form. The conference committee will review all proposals and contact you.

Submit a proposal online now »

We hope we’ll hear from you. But if not, we want you to come to the conference where you’ll have wonderful workshops as well as other professional development opportunities. And, of course, you’ll have plenty of time to network with each other. We’ll be sending registration information soon.

National School Counseling Week

National School Counseling Week will take place Feb. 6-10, 2017. This year's theme is "School Counseling: Helping Students Realize Their Potential." The celebration, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, highlights the tremendous role school counselors — such as yourselves — play in our students’ success.

For resources centering around National School Counseling Week, visit the American School Counselor Association website »

An amazing pair in Queens

Guidance counselor Cassandra Pitkin (left) and social worker Stephanie Liebowitz are the masterminds behind a successful character education program at PS 203, Queens.

School counselor Cassandra Pitkin and social worker Stephanie Liebowitz have an amazing story to tell. Their close relationship and strong collaboration translate to a successful character education program at PS 203 in Oakland Gardens, Queens, where they push into classrooms to facilitate social-emotional learning.

Pitkin, who was honored at the 30th annual School Counselor Recognition Day Awards ceremony, and Liebowitz have established a partnership that truly supports our dream of providing the type of public school educational experience that caters to the whole child. Here at the UFT, we commend them for their efforts to build a more collaborative environment at their school.

To find our more about these amazing educators, read the New York Teacher article »

School Counselors honored at annual awards ceremony

The 26 honorees gather around Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña (front row, center). Also pictured, UFT Guidance Counselor Chapter Liaison Bob Astrowsky, UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco (front row, second and third from left, respectively) and Guidance Counselors Chapter Leader Rosemarie Thompson (front row, fourth from right).

We had a wonderful Guidance Counselor Recognition Day Awards Ceremony on May 25 at the Department of Education headquarters. (It seems like a long time ago now that we’re wearing our winter jackets, but it’s important to give credit where it’s due.) Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña joined us in honoring 26 counselors, including Cassandra Pitkin of PS 203 in Queens, (see story above).

The chancellor acknowledged the important work that counselors do and said that guidance counselors are “the heartbeat of the school.” It was a fantastic way to celebrate the vital work we counselors do every day for New York City’s children.

See more photos from the ceremony »

Read the New York Teacher article »

Our honorees were:
  • Bronx: Denise Capasso, PS 277/PS 51; Martha Estevez, PS 32; Eury Padilla, MS 391; Jessica Torres, HS of Computers and Technology.
  • Brooklyn: Deborah Page, PS 159; Madeline Robles, PS 274; Erica Gonzalez, IS 220; Wesley McLeod, Mott Hall Bridges Academy; Kristopher Ebanks, Brooklyn Theatre Arts HS.
  • Manhattan: Ivette Cordero, PS 30; Elsie Madera, PS/MS 50; Jovanka Aquino, IS 143; Maritza Villegas, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.
  • Queens: Cassandra Pitkin, PS 203; Shaniqua K. White, IS 59; Gina Curcio, Collaborative Arts MS; Claudia Chapur, Robert H. Goddard HS.
  • Staten Island: Erika Lisiewski, PS 22; Helen Fuscaldo, IS 34; Lisa DeCarlo, Susan E. Wagner HS.
  • District 64: Kinah Ventura-Rosas.
  • District 75: Jean Cabral, Brooklyn School for Career Development; Jody Doman, Robert F. Kennedy School, Manhattan.
  • District 79: Diane Colon, Pathways to Graduation, Queens.
  • District 88: Theresa Evans, Queens Alternate Learning Center at MS 53.
  • Guidance Counselors Assigned: Marie Poulard, Family Welcome Center, Sutphin Boulevard, Queens.

New York State School Counselor Association conference

Thank you to those who attended the New York State School Counselor Association conference on Nov. 18-19 at the DoubleTree Hilton in Tarrytown, NY. This year's theme was “School Counselors Making A Difference.” I was happy to see so many school counselors who share a common vision at the two-day conference. I also believe this was a great opportunity for us to network with each other while sharing knowledge and resources. I am happy to represent you as a fellow school counselor and as the president of NYSSCA.

If you missed this year's conference, I hope you can join us next year. Please look for details about next year's conference in the coming months.

Guidance Expo 2016

I also want to thank those of you who attended the Guidance Expo on Oct. 18 at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. It was nice to see so many of you released from school to attend the Expo, which provides a great opportunity for us to share ideas and discuss issues that affect counselors. For those who couldn’t make it, we hope you can make it next year.

College counseling is our work

NYC high schools need counselors who provide information about college and preparing for college. In some cases, principals hire outside organizations for this service. The principals should offer these positions to guidance counselors.

We do not know the extent of this problem, so I'd like to hear from you. If you, or a school counselor you know, has inquired about or applied for a position as a college advisor only to discover that the school hired an outside consultant, email me at I will let you know what I find out.

Teacher's Choice increase in 2016–17

Teacher’s Choice for guidance counselors increased to $70 this school year. I hope the increase offsets some of your expenses although I know most of you spend far more.

As in previous years, to get reimbursed, you need to submit receipts. These receipts must accompany a Statement of Purpose/Accountability form, which you will find under key documents on the DOE’s Teacher’s Choice website. To qualify, purchases must be made between Aug. 1, 2016 and Jan. 15, 2017.

For more information, please see the Teacher’s Choice section of the UFT website.

Paperwork reduction standards

Our paperwork reduction agreement with the DOE states that we, as related service providers, are not required, whether by paper or electronically, to perform redundant, duplicative, unnecessary or unreasonable amounts of record-keeping concerning the performance of, plans for, or evaluation of students, unless it is necessary to comply with federal or state statutory or other legal requirements imposed on the DOE.

Our agreement provided relief for many of you who have long labored with unreasonable paperwork demands. I will continue to advocate for you to ensure that paperwork is reasonable and fair. Please notify me if you encounter any excessive requests, or if you encounter any difficulties in this area.

Repurposed time

As a reminder, our repurposed workday remains unchanged for the 2016–17 school year. I just want to review a few key points here:

  • The repurposing of time for professional development, parent engagement and other professional work does not apply to guidance counselors.
  • Our work hours have not changed. We continue to work our contractual time of six hours, 30 minutes, exclusive of lunch, five days a week.
  • Teachers are working longer on Mondays and Tuesdays. But our workday on Mondays and Tuesdays end at our normal time.
  • When the teachers’ day is shorter, we do not leave early. We work our contractual time and leave at the end of our work day.
  • Guidance counselors in single-session schools, where everyone reports at the same time, no longer have to attend faculty conference and departmental meetings. In lieu of them, we are required to attend two additional parent-teacher conferences. This applies only to single-session schools. Guidance counselors in multi-session schools and Districts 79 and 75 are not affected by this change, unless the school has adopted a school-based option to reconfigure its time.
  • The parent-teacher conferences are in:
    • September: Guidance counselors attend the full three hours.
    • November: Guidance counselors attend the first two hours and 10 minutes.
    • March: Guidance counselors attend the full three hours.
    • May: Guidance counselors attend the first two hours and 10 minutes.

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Related Topics: Chapter News