The Department of Education has paid $4.5 million to more than 14,000 UFT members in the second round of payments to compensate members for the hundreds of hours beyond the normal school day spent logging data into the Special Education Student Information System. The back pay was ordered by an independent arbitrator following the UFT’s landmark arbitration victory last January.
The additional back pay for SESIS-related work between September 2011 and Dec. 31, 2012 went to UFT members that the DOE inadvertently failed to pay last spring, including ESL teachers, teachers assigned (those based in DOE administrative offices), educators who had changed their names and educators who had since retired or left service. Last April, 30,000 SESIS users shared a total of $38 million. The payments are based on the amount of time members spent logged on to SESIS outside the regular workday.
Following up on the inquiries of members who claimed they had not received payment in April even though they had done after-hours SESIS work, the UFT prodded the DOE to correct its omissions.
Special education teacher Deborah Bilz Scott of PS 153, Queens, was startled to learn that her Nov. 30 paycheck would be $21,330 fatter. “Even before we got the money,” she noted, “I was thrilled the union was fighting for us on this issue.”
She spoke of the many hours she spent logging in information on attendance and individualized education programs for 25 children and how it ate into her weekends and evenings. “My children are grown, but I can imagine how difficult it must have been for teachers with young children,” she said.
SESIS was launched in September 2011 to consolidate information about all students with disabilities in an online data system for better tracking for Medicaid reimbursement and coordination among service providers. But technical problems hobbled the new system right from the start. Member complaints poured in.
The union filed for arbitration after the DOE refused its request to provide adequate equipment and bandwidth, set aside time in the workday to do SESIS work and give more training. As members logged in to do the work early in the morning, at lunch, after school, in the evenings, on weekends or on holidays, the union argued that the DOE, in essence, lengthened their workday.
The second payment for after-hours SESIS work completed between Jan. 1 and March 22, 2013, ordered by arbitrator Jay Siegel in his March clarification award, has been delayed by the DOE’s court challenge of that award.
Grievance Department Director Ellen Gallin Procida said the UFT “will continue the battle” as long as issues remain to be resolved in the SESIS arbitration. “There are still some members who have not been paid for their work through Dec. 31, 2012, and we are working to get those people paid as well,” she said.