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COVID monitoring, testing to continue

New York Teacher

UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the Delegate Assembly on March 23 that while members should not let down their guard regarding COVID-19 protocols, the situation continues to improve.

“We’re moving toward hopefully the endemic, a term I’m hearing from doctors,” Mulgrew told the delegates assembled in Shanker Hall at UFT headquarters, “but we’re not there yet.”

Mulgrew said his caution was due to a new subvariant of the omicron variant, BA.2, which is a more transmissible version that is showing up in more than half of people who test positive for COVID.

“Last week, after 80,000 tests, we went from 0.11% to 0.15% testing positive,” he said. “It was our first increase in almost 11 weeks.”

Monitoring and testing will continue, he said. Nothing has changed regarding cleaning protocols, in-school testing and UFT members’ access to personal protective equipment and test kits.

“You slowly loosen restrictions while you continue to closely monitor if the virus is growing, and then take appropriate actions,” he said.

Mulgrew said he strongly recommended that members continue to ask for an at-home rapid test kit and take the test twice a week.

The UFT president also reported that the city Department of Education has begun a restructuring under the new administration. The tier of executive superintendents has been eliminated, and all superintendents were asked to reapply for their jobs.

“Superintendents are being vetted thoroughly,” Mulgrew said. “All of a sudden superintendents are getting nervous because there have been a whole lot of observations in schools.”

He advised chapter leaders to be up front and ask their principal if they are feeling renewed pressure from the superintendent. “We can’t have this right now,” he said. “We need to get through this school year.”

Mulgrew said it appeared the DOE was returning to “pre-Bloomberg days, with superintendents with lots of staff.”

Delegates watched a presentation on the new online Chapter Leader Hub, which went live on April 4. The site was created with the input of a focus group of chapter leaders, he said. It contains important forms, resources and school-specific reports for each chapter leader on union membership, COPE contributions and grievances. It also contains the chapter leader handbook and other training materials in digital form.

“You will no longer need to keep four binders in your classroom, only to find you’ve lost the important pages,” Mulgrew told the chapter leaders in the audience. “We wanted this tool to be driven by what you need.”

Mulgrew also reminded the delegates that as soon as the 2022-23 school year calendar is finalized, voting on school-based options (SBOs) will begin in earnest.

Last school year, he said, schools passed close to 5,000 SBOs to modify the contract to meet school needs.

“It’s the most utilized part of the contract,” he said. “That’s our voice at the school level.”

In response to a question from Jeff Andrusin, the chapter leader at PS 169 in Manhattan, a District 75 school with several sites, Mulgrew assured chapter leaders they would be able to once again conduct their SBO votes using the ElectionBuddy online voting software.

“Chapter leaders have reached out and said it has proven to be easier,” Mulgrew said.