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UFT efficiently tackles issues through consultation process

New York Teacher

When UFT President Michael Mulgrew broached the topic of bulletin boards during a consultation meeting, Schools Chancellor David C. Banks was dumbfounded. He said he had not given new instructions about bulletin boards to anyone.

But complaints about teachers being evaluated based on hallway bulletin boards had bubbled up in the monthly consultation committee notes filed online by school chapter leaders across the city.

Seven weeks after Mulgrew brought up the issue with Banks at their monthly consultation meeting in February, the Department of Education issued guidance clarifying that hallway bulletin boards are not part of a teacher’s evaluation, school supervisors cannot require particular formats and there must be a reasonable interval between bulletin board updates.

“When chapter leaders file their consultation notes each month, we can do a quick analysis and see if there’s a problem in a district, geographic area or citywide, and bring it right to the chancellor,” Mulgrew said. “It’s an effective way to hold the DOE accountable and ensure our contract is being enforced.”

The UFT consultation committee, led by the school chapter leader, meets monthly with the principal to discuss and attempt to resolve issues at the school level. The chapter leader is supposed to file consultation committee notes in the Chapter Leader Hub after the meeting. As of May 7, more than 14,000 issues were raised in consultation committee meetings this school year, 539 of which were escalated to the district because they were not resolved at the school level, according to UFT records.

The UFT analyzes the summaries each month and zeroes in on the top three unresolved issues in each borough. District representatives use this information to raise and help resolve issues with their superintendents. If the issue can’t be resolved at the district level, it can be added to the agenda for the consultation meeting between Mulgrew and the schools chancellor.

Other top issues that chapter leaders grappled with this school year were enforcing the contract provision that elementary school teachers no longer have more than three consecutive teaching periods or four work assignments, the need for enhanced instructional supplies and problems with excessive paperwork.

At MS 371 School of Earth Exploration and Discovery Harlem, Chapter Leader Shahid Wright used the consultation process this year to seek additional space for middle school students and staff at his school, which is co-located with PS 129.

The issue was escalated to the district level, where UFT District 5 Representative Zina Burton-Myrick raised it in consultation with the district superintendent. Wright’s school learned earlier this spring that MS 371 would have access to two more rooms. The space issue is ongoing, but the consultation process yielded results, Wright said.

“We’re trying to get the entire floor so that we can fully operate as a middle school,” he said.

Mulgrew said the consultation process gives UFT members leverage in the workplace to resolve problems. He said many administrators are choosing to fix problems before they escalate to the superintendent or the chancellor.

“We’re seeing a lot of that, and I’m proud,” he said.

Related Topics: Chapter Leaders