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Paraprofessionals Chapter Newsletter - June 2016

I am happy to announce the culmination of many months of negotiations with the DOE: We have a new position to tell you about! It’s called the Lead Teacher Assistant, and not only will successful applicants be a true assistant to a teacher but this position is the beginning of a professional career ladder for the 24,000 paraprofessionals in NYC public schools.

UFT Michael Mulgrew announced the new position in late May, and the response has already been overwhelming. More than 200 of you have called wanting to know more. We don’t have all the details yet, but please read the item below and see if you’re interested in pursuing this. I’m terribly excited about the possibilities and am delighted to have been part of creating these opportunities for you.

I am also happy to tell you that the DOE, with the UFT as a partner, has made it easier for you to become a teacher, if that’s your goal. Under another new agreement, you may take some paid time off to student-teach! And there’s more: The DOE will reimburse you for the price of your teaching certification application, up to $400 for your certification exam and up to 12 graduate credits! (If you pursue a bilingual teaching program, the DOE will reimburse you for another 12 credits.) Please see the details below, and contact me if you have questions.

I would also like to thank those who sent me feedback about the e-newsletter and our new text messaging system! We will continue to send out newsletters via print and alert you via text about issues concerning paraprofessionals. To receive the latest updates for paraprofessionals, you can text “paras” to 30644.

If you have any questions at all about all the benefits of union membership, send me an email at

I wish you a safe and restful summer. I look forward to connecting with you next year and continuing to serve as your chapter leader.


Shelvy Young-Abrams
Paraprofessionals Chapter Leader

UFT negotiates new lead para title

The UFT and the Department of Education announced an agreement in late May that creates a new position that is the beginning of a professional career ladder for the 24,000 paraprofessionals in New York City public schools.

The new position, called the Lead Teacher Assistant, will be a true assistant to a teacher and not be solely driven by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of a student with disabilities. Paraprofessionals who apply for and are accepted into the new role will be supporting all aspects of instruction in either a general education or special education classroom. The Lead Teacher Assistant may, under the direct or general supervision of the teacher, work with students individually or in small groups, either in the main classroom or a separate room.

“This new position recognizes the capabilities of paraprofessionals, gives them more responsibility and taps into their leadership potential,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “It’s a way to elevate the work of our dedicated paraprofessionals and acknowledge their contributions to our students.”

Much like teacher leaders, the new leadership positions for teachers that were created in the 2014 contract, Lead Teacher Assistants will support their colleagues by offering professional development, visiting other classrooms and demonstrating their own classroom work for fellow paraprofessionals.

Those with the new title will receive an additional $5,000 per year above the applicable paraprofessional salary.

“A lot of paras are doing magnificent work,” said Shelvy Young-Abrams, the chair of the UFT’s Paraprofessional Chapter. “This will create a path for those who would like to do more while remaining paraprofessionals.”

The prerequisites for the Lead Teacher Assistant position are a bachelor’s degree and any other conditions set by a central UFT-DOE committee. The principal will select from a pool of eligible candidates determined by a joint UFT-DOE committee. It is up to your principal to budget money for this new position in a particular school.

The position will be posted each spring and prospective candidates will be required to apply each year. Lead Teacher Assistants will be required to receive training in at least one of a number of instructional programs (such as Great Leaps or Reading Rescue) determined by the DOE in consultation with the UFT.

We expect the position to be posted late next week on the DOE website. Stay tuned for details on the application process as well as the specific timeline for the selection of candidates for the 2016–17 school year. For now, please check out the Lead Teacher Assistant Q&A in which we answer your questions.

Help for paras to become teachers

The Department of Education, with the UFT’s cooperation, has agreed to provide additional support for paraprofessionals who want to become teachers.

If you are a para who is interested in a teaching career, the DOE will now provide a limited number of paid 40-day leaves of absence so you can complete student-teaching requirements.

The DOE will also reimburse you for the full cost of your teaching certification application, up to $400 for certification exam and full reimbursement for the cost of up to 12 graduate credits (and an additional 12 credits if you pursue a bilingual teaching program).

“Paras will now be able to student-teach without having the hardship of being without pay,” said Shelvy Young-Abrams, the chair of the UFT’s Paraprofessional Chapter. “Most can’t afford to take a leave without pay and that hinders them.”

Change in certification process for Level III paras

  1. The certification process for Level III paraprofessionals is changing as of July 1, 2016.

  2. Level III paraprofessionals must register during the month of their birth. For example, if your birthday is Nov. 25, you must register in November 2016. If your birthday is in May, you register in May 2017.

  3. On the day you register, a new cycle of professional development begins. From that day forward, you will have to take 100 hours of professional development in a five-year period. In other words, your registration triggers a new five-year cycle.

  4. How to register: Login to your TEACH account to register on the New York State Education Department website and enter your username and password. Follow the directions to complete the registration process.

  5. If you were hired before Feb. 1, 2004, you are not required to do the procedure as outlined above.

If you have any questions about this new process, you can call 212-420-1830 or your educational liaison at your UFT borough office. You can also contact Nanette Rosario-Sanchez, the UFT special representative for certification and licensing, by email at

It takes a team!

Parafest 2016

(From left) Para Avivit Jamil and teacher Antoinette Vinci stand in front of class Y21 after meeting UFT President Michael Mulgrew on a May 26 school visit to P 771, a co-located District 75 site in Brooklyn.

Open Market Transfer period is underway

The Open Market Transfer period is now underway for all members who are considering transferring schools. It provides all pedagogues and paraprofessionals access to job openings throughout the city through an online registration process.

During the transfer period, which runs from April 15 to Aug. 7, you do not need a release from your principal to change schools. You may even apply to schools without current openings, and your application will be kept in an electronic file in the event an opening occurs. I suggest following up all electronic applications with a hard copy mailed, emailed or dropped off at the school. The Open Market Q&A on the UFT website offers more information about the process.

I also encourage you to tailor cover letters and resumes to align your application with the mission, vision and programs of the school to which you are applying.

If you've moved recently ...

Don’t miss out on important union communications. We make it easy for you to update your contact information.

You can download and fill out the UFT Personal Information Change Form. Send to Membership Department at UFT, 52 Broadway, NY, NY 10004. You can also contact the UFT membership department by phone at 212-598-6855 or by email at

If you are currently signed up as a union member on the website, you can update your information online on the UFT website.

Para-turned-teacher tackles new challenges

South Bronx teacher Ivan Borras

Teacher Ivan Borras, of PS 384 in the Bronx, listens to 8th-grade students read aloud on June 2.

The students in Ivan Borras’ class at PS 384, the Entrada Academy, have a number of strikes against them. In addition to their individual disabilities, they live and attend school in the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the country. That is exactly why Borras, a para-turned-special education teacher, is intent on bettering their odds.

“These kids already have adversities,” he says. “I want to make certain their education isn’t one of them.”

Borras has drawn on his own roots — as a Bronx native from a poor family and a paraprofessional — to make that happen.

“We didn’t always know where our next meal was coming from,” he says of his own childhood of deprivation and dysfunction. “At one point, I was homeless. That’s why I teach in the South Bronx.”

Four years as a para — watching and learning from veteran teachers, planning lessons, gaining confidence and becoming comfortable working with disabled students — prepared Borras in ways nothing else could, he said.

“It gave me a firsthand feel of what it was like to be a teacher in a real classroom,” he recalls. “I remember being a substitute para and being able to step in and literally lead a lesson. I remember that feeling of, ‘Wow, I ‘m good at this. I can get through to these kids. I knew I wanted to become a special education teacher.’ ”

Now in his seventh year of teaching, Borras has won the national Marva Collins Excellence in Teaching Award from the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children.

In the classroom, he relies on both experience and intuition. “I take the emotional temperature,” he says, “when they walk in — their body language, their agitation levels — are they calm? Is this one being particularly aggressive? Does that one put his head on the desk and not speak? Then I start putting them in groups, or I let one of them move around to help him stay calm, or I tell them a story to try to get them to connect and focus.”

Reaching and teaching special education students requires hand-holding, hard work, tough love and devotion. Oh, and something else: A para.

“Paraprofessionals are crucial in a special education class,” Borras says. “It’s like having a second teacher in the classroom. In my opinion, paraprofessionals are extremely underrated and under-appreciated — but not by me. To me, they’re heroes.”

Helping hands with stage makeup

P4 students in Queens presents the Lion King.

Paraprofessional Lucia Andreakos, left, works on student actors' face paint with speech teacher Joyce Prasso before a performance of The Lion King KIDS at P4 in Queens on June 2.

Share your #UnionProud stories

Many of us have a story of how the union has made a difference in our lives. Now we have an amazing new online platform to share these stories! If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read our #UnionProud stories, subscribe to read new ones as they are added, and share your favorite stories on social media. Have your own story to tell? Please let us know by filling out our Union Loud and Proud testimonial form.

Honor roll

Congratulations to our chapter's newest graduates!

(To be listed on the honor roll, call 212-598-9295 or send a fax to 212-785-4639 with your name, the school you work at, the type of degree you received, i.e associate of arts, associate of Science, or bachelor’s degree and the college you attended.)

Jabari Ajamu



Lehman College

Tanya Cintron



The School of Professional Studies

Mikal Costantino



Touro College

Lorna Eubanks



The College of New Rochelle

Stephanie Frazier

R 37


Touro College

Lacherly McDonald



Mercy College

Joseph Nohavicka



Mercy College

Julio A. Sepulveda



City College

Amardeep Tanda



Empire State College

Erica Walton



Monroe College

Jannis Whitley



Mercy College

Related Topics: Chapter News