Alaa Yousef was elected chapter leader at Park Slope Collegiate in Brooklyn this October, and her first action was to use the operational issues complaint process to get her members paid for instructional lunch periods from Sept. 13 until Nov. 1. Then her principal stopped the payments, and Yousef’s fight began anew.
In September, the UFT agreed that instructional lunch — a period when students are programmed to eat lunch while receiving instruction — would remain an option this school year in schools where space constraints make it impossible for students to otherwise eat lunch safely. Under the agreement, teachers programmed for instructional lunch must be compensated at the rate of one coverage per day.
Teachers at Park Slope Collegiate were assigned to instructional lunches in September, but the principal failed to compensate them, instead insisting these periods were not covered under the new DOE-UFT agreement.
“There was disorganization and misinformation at the school,” said Yousef, an English language arts teacher. “Teachers were exhausted at the end of the day.”
Her initial attempts to work it out with the principal got nowhere. Yousef met with her UFT rep, who guided her through the operational issues complaint process. “Within hours of getting the complaint, the superintendent realized we were correct,” Yousef said.
Members got back pay for previously worked periods and were paid for instructional lunches until Nov. 1. “We were clueless about this,” said social studies teacher James Sehring. “We needed strong leadership. Alaa did her research and learned the contract to advocate for us. I’m super-impressed and very grateful.”
After Election Day, students were allowed to go to the schoolyard after eating; teachers were instructed to escort them to the yard and watch them. Yousef emailed the principal after confirming that the teachers’ new duties still qualified as instructional lunch. In early December, Yousef learned that instructional lunch payments had stopped. She re-sent her email but the principal “still hasn’t responded to me,” said Yousef.
She is now working with her UFT district representative to document the situation and reopen the complaint.