At James Madison HS in Marine Park, Brooklyn, teachers began the school year under a flurry of new paperwork mandates.
The principal created a new formal requirement that the teachers had to write up minutes in a specific format following their teacher team meetings and then load them onto Google drive, said Chapter Leader Maria Bucca. The teachers also were asked to create a pacing calendar and write curriculum maps and load those, too, onto Google drive. The principal also required that teachers write down their responses after visiting each other’s classrooms.
The new mandates were “redundant,” said art teacher David Mahl. “Education is a complex and rigorous challenge that should not become bogged down in paperwork.”
Inspired by the launch of the new paperwork process at the UFT’s citywide chapter leader meeting on Sept. 14, Bucca took action. She wrote down the principal’s paperwork demands that appeared to violate the paperwork standards negotiated by the DOE and the UFT in 2015 and arranged a one-on-one meeting with her principal to discuss her concerns. Then, she filed the union’s paperwork reduction reporting form and received the support of union representatives.
Within weeks, the principal had addressed all the issues brought to her attention.
“This was a true collaborative resolution,” Bucca said. “Teachers will now have time to share valuable professional practices and have real conversations without the burden of unnecessary paperwork.”
More than 100 chapter leaders so far have used the new form to report paperwork issues at their schools, marshalling the power of the UFT to help find school-level solutions, sometimes within days. The process also allows the union to document the issues so it has proof if it needs to bring them to the attention of the Department of Education.
“We’re all happy Maria spoke up for us,” said Mahl, speaking for the UFT chapter at Madison.
Mahl noted that teaching teams at Madison had worked for years without a formal paper trail. “This year,” he said, “we found that because of the minutes we were required to keep, we were doing more paperwork than actually discussing educational and student issues.”
Debra Poulos, the UFT’s director of contract empowerment who designed the new protocol, said the new reporting process has empowered chapter leaders to stand up for their chapters and enforce their contractual rights.
“In many cases, chapters are seeing quick results,” Poulos said. “They are no longer suffering in silence.”