Date: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015
Time: 4–5 p.m.
Location: 400 First Avenue, 5th floor
In attendance: Helen Kaufman, Assistant Superintendent; Cecilia Cortez, UFT HES Chapter Leader; Janet Katz, Staten Island HES related services teacher; Donna Kafko, Brooklyn West HES related services teacher; Judy Cohen audiologist, Manhattan; Marcia Gelband, audiologist, Bronx.
Policy on inclement weather
Ms. Cortez asked about the inclement weather policy for HES related services providers.
Ms. Kaufman answered that the DOE does not have a weather policy. Ms. Kaufman said safety to staff and services to children are the two most important considerations. If one day of services to students is missed because a teacher is unable to travel that day due to weather, the teacher should be able to make up the sessions before the end of the year.
Ms. Cortez referred to a day in which Mayor de Blasio had made an announcement about inclement weather. The DOE cancelled extended day that day and all school teachers were sent home once students were dismissed. It was also reported that student attendance was at 50 percent that day.
Ms. Kaufman said that if an HES teacher misses more than one day because of inclement weather, it will result in a loss of personal time. If the teacher needs to leave, he or she can leave but the time is treated as personal time. In such a case, the teacher should contact his or her HES supervisor. Even if a principal tells a teacher to leave because of weather, the teacher must check with her or his HES supervisor. We cannot have 1,000 principals telling HES teachers what to do. The teacher is an HES employee, paid by HES.
Similarly, if bad weather leads a teacher to stay in one school, the teacher has to call his or her HES supervisor for approval and make up the sessions during the school year. Teachers can't make the decision on their own to stay at a school and miss sessions at other schools.
No policies or Chancellor’s regulations are in place on inclement weather.
Ms. Cortez asked about TRAC timeliness. Some HES supervisors are approving TRAC after a week of submitting the paperwork. Other HES supervisors do it the next day, which delays TRAC checks. Teachers depend on this money. It is important to have TRAC approved right away by HES supervisors as it has to go to two other people for final approval.
Ms. Kaufman said the reason for the delay is that monthly timesheets must be checked against what is in TRAC, which might take time. She said she will check with specific HES supervisors to make sure they do it right away and will ask supervisors to speed up TRAC approvals.
Audiologists and hearing testing
This issue from last month’s agenda was revisited — the lack of audiologists in District 6 in Manhattan and its effect in HES and the lack of referrals.
Ms. Kaufman said she will reach out to try to get audiologists in District 6.
Ms. Cortez suggested that school psychologists should be made aware of who to contact and what to do if child has a hearing loss. She said we should have a list of what to do in the event a student is identified with a hearing loss, a procedure for every school psychologist on how to proceed when encountering hearing-impaired students.
Ms. Kaufman stated that there is no such procedure.
Ms. Cortez asked about how to create a procedure.
Ms. Kaufman said it is a very hard and long process to create a procedure, and that it has to come from the DOE. She said she, along with Ms. Judy Cohen, an HES audiologist, have attended many meetings trying to create a procedure on what to do in the event there is a student with a hearing loss and they have been unsuccessful.
She said that as of now the only thing we have is that if a classroom teacher suspects a student has a hearing loss, he or she is to inform the parent so that the student gets a hearing test. Then the school psychologist starts the process of creating an IEP for that student. If a teacher suspects that a child in a school has a hearing loss, the child should be referred to an audiologist.
NY Eye and Ear accepts Medicaid. If no insurance is in place, CSEs can test children. After the hearing test, the child can be referred to the school psychologist.
Ms. Cortez said that because we have no HHVI, there are no organizations that do this anymore. There are the CSE audiologists who help HES teachers a lot.
Ms. Kaufman said it is a parent's right to make a determination as to whether they want hearing services for their children or not. As of now, 2,200 students are identified as having hearing loss in New York City.
Ms. Kaufman also suggested that HES providers should help to identify hearing-impaired students in their schools. She suggested HES providers should talk to the faculty about hearing loss.
Ms. Cortez suggested that HES could create a workshop for community school psychologists to inform them about new hearing-impaired students. Ms. Kaufman said it has been done that in the past and it could be done again.
Need for additional HES providers
Ms. Kaufman said there are not enough teachers to serve all of our students including in pre-K.
Ms. Cortez stated that when she contacted Hunter and Colombia graduate programs, both reported that they are doing very well and have graduate students. They are not shrinking at all.
Ms. Kaufman stated that she has not found new HES providers as of now. She said District 6 in the Bronx does not have enough teachers for school-age children.
Ms. Cortez asked about the RSA referral process.
Ms. Kaufman said the DOE gives contracts to agencies if schools can't service the children. If agencies can't serve them, RSAs are given. The majority of children who are contracted out are not public school children.
Ms. Kaufman said she would pay HES teachers per session to provide services in school buildings after hours to children who can't be seen during the day. Any HES providers who are interested should let their supervisor know.