In the proposed contract, the UFT has negotiated an expedited process to bring relief sooner to teachers facing oversize classes and to address more quickly unresolved violations that must go to arbitration.
Under the new procedure, oversize classes that previously were often not reduced to comply with contractual limits until early spring will now be addressed earlier at the school or district level and, in most cases, outside the formal grievance process.
UFT Grievance Director Ellen Gallin Procida cited the importance of adhering to class-size maximums in the contract for the good of both students and teachers. “Through this accelerated process, any oversize class issue that can be resolved will be resolved much earlier in the term,” she said. “For those cases that must go to arbitration, the arbitrator will be empowered to craft the remedy.”
The expedited procedure begins with the same first step as before: During the first 10 days of school, chapter leaders and principals will work together to resolve class-size overages.
But under the current process, the union filed class-size grievances on day 10 that went straight to arbitration, which could grind on for months. Under the new process, any remaining oversize classes will be turned over to the UFT district representative and the superintendent to try to resolve over the next 10 days.
Julius Adams, the chapter leader at PS 98 in Douglaston, Queens, said he is hopeful class-size problems will be addressed quicker and more amicably at the school level if the principal knows unresolved issues will land on the superintendent’s desk.
“No principal in his right mind who knows it has to get done will let it go higher,” Adams said. “Principals don’t want issues to get out there. It makes more paperwork for them and more grief.”
Under the new process, remaining oversize classes that the superintendent and the UFT district representative cannot resolve by day 21 will be turned over to a class-size labor-management committee. That central committee will meet at least three days a week every week until it has reviewed the remaining oversize classes in every school.
The new process is different for a “chronically out-of-compliance” school — a school that has had oversize classes for four or more of the last six years, including the most recent year. The central committee will meet no later than the 10th day of school to determine a school-specific solution for each of these schools. The central committee will reconvene in June to update the short- and long-term plans for each of these schools to head off trouble in September.
Schools for which the central committee fails to find a solution will be fast-tracked to arbitration. Under the new process, the arbitrator will have the authority to determine the appropriate remedy.
At PS 153 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Chapter Leader Joann Savage said the problem of an oversize 4th-grade class with too few desks and computers last year was not addressed until March and then with no remedy.
Savage, who is facing the same issue this year, said she hopes the proposed contract’s expedited timeline and new line of accountability will provide faster relief and long-term solutions.