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'Bronx plan' has bottom-up approach to helping schools

New York Teacher

Betsy Diaz Murphy, a 1st-grade teacher and the chapter leader at PS 307 in Kingsbridge in the Bronx, said the plan in the proposed DOE-UFT contract to help Bronx schools with the greatest challenges holds a lot of promise because “it’s bottom up, not top down. And that is beneficial to teachers.”

For Erika Gabela, a science teacher and the chapter leader at IS 190 in Morrisania, the plan offers the chance to address high staff turnover in her school.

“It’s an opportunity for consistency for students who don’t have consistency at home,” Gabela said.

The Bronx plan will be open to up to 120 schools, not just in the Bronx. These schools will receive additional funds and strategic support to better address the needs of their students. Buy-in from both the principal and the chapter leader is necessary for a school to participate.

“It’s a chance to stabilize schools by empowering teachers who work in the most challenging situations in the most challenging school districts,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

A UFT analysis found that six of the 12 community school districts in New York City with the highest pedagogue resignation rates  are in the Bronx.

Eligibility would be based on several criteria, including staff retention, persistent vacancies, student achievement and the number of students with special needs, among other factors.

Each school will form a committee of from six to 12 people, half of whom are UFT members. The committee will be tasked with assessing the school’s needs, reviewing data and identifying strategies to transform the culture of the school.

Staff in a hard-to-staff license or title may receive an additional $5,000 to $8,000 per year. Both new recruits as well as incumbent staff members would receive the additional stipend.

Murphy said the Bronx plan could help her school develop strategies to manage the growing population of special needs students. “It’s been difficult for us to absorb the students and meet their needs,” she said. “Safety is also an issue.”

Gabela believes the plan can help attract and retain teachers at her middle school for the long haul of a teaching career. “By eighth grade, students don’t see teachers they recognize anymore,” she said. “Teachers seem to be disposable.”

She added that IS 190 is located in a high-poverty neighborhood, with children who are going through a lot of personal and family upheaval.

“Some teachers leave unexpectedly, and some leave because the stress has gotten to them,” she said. “We have challenging situations, and we need people with that mental toughness to succeed.”