When Staten Island Technical HS Chapter Leader Ray Ferrigno realized the Department of Education had no plans suitable for reopening the city’s specialized high schools in September, he spent the summer devising a workable program with his consultation committee that became a chapter-approved SBO.
Ferrigno began in June by expanding his school’s UFT consultation committee to include a teacher from each department so each department’s needs would be represented in the discussion and someone would be able to explain to each department what changes were being proposed and why.
Working together with the principal, the committee hammered out a school program in which all Staten Island Tech teachers (except for those with medical accommodations) teach on-site classes in the morning and teach remotely from home in the afternoon.
The new program extended the school day to nine periods and divided up the week so teachers met each class every three days. The schedule also ensured that all students, whether on-site or remote, received the same lessons. Teachers could use the midday lunch periods to get home in time to teach remotely.
“Working with no guidance, it took hard work to pull this together,” said Ferrigno, an AP physics teacher who has served as the school’s chapter leader for six years. “We had a lot of conversations about how to accommodate our special needs students, the UFT contract and the pandemic challenges.”
Ferrigno’s collaborative approach resulted in overwhelming support for the SBO. Members of the chapter approved it by 95.4%. “While the plan was contentious and met reasonable resistance at first,” Ferrigno said, “teachers have now moved into it comfortably.”
Social studies teacher Nick Macula said the program approved by the SBO met the needs of everyone in the school community. “The schedule meets the needs of teachers, students and the school,” Macula said. “It allows for the flexibility necessary to provide the special courses we offer at this school.”
Staten Island Tech was able to adapt quickly to the city’s decision to keep high schools fully remote through the end of 2020 because the plan was designed for both scenarios. The morning students who were on site are now remote learners like the afternoon group, and teachers are teaching the same classes and students.
“The smooth transition to all remote is another strength of the plan because there has been no need to juggle students or classes,” Ferrigno said, “and we will be able to switch back easily when we reopen.”