Trevor Stokes may be a new chapter leader at Midwood HS in Brooklyn, but he has already proven he knows how to use the leverage of the union’s operational issues complaint process to make sure every classroom and office at his school has an air purifier.
Stokes, a science teacher, began hearing concerns about ventilation from members when the school year began.
Last year, when many Midwood educators were remote, there were enough air purifiers to accommodate the need. That changed in September when the school’s more than 4,000 students returned to the building.
The city’s own safety protocols require two air purifiers in every classroom, yet there were not nearly enough to go around at Midwood.
UFT members working in other rooms were also left out. “Guidance offices and related services did not have air purifiers,” Stokes said. “It didn’t seem fair.”
When Stokes asked the principal about obtaining the air purifiers, he hit a brick wall. “The principal told me it was not in the school budget,” Stokes said. When Stokes continued to press him over the coming weeks, “He kept saying he had no clue how to get them.”
In fact, the purchase of air purifiers would not come out of the school budget. Billions of federal dollars had been allocated to school districts across the country to help prepare them for the safe return of children to the classroom. Those funds could be used to buy air purifiers.
Stokes filed an operational issues complaint on Oct. 6. The union reached out to the superintendent and the district committee to work out a resolution and the city Department of Education quickly released the funds for the air purifiers.
Two days after Stokes filed the complaint, 93 air purifiers were delivered to Midwood HS and, by Oct. 12, air purifiers had been placed in every classroom and office in the school.
Speech therapist Tamara Reilly said she was impressed with the energy Stokes brings to his new role. “He is making every effort to reach out to all of the members,” Reilly said. “He is always willing to listen and hear the whole situation, and he approaches things very rationally.”