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School Secretaries Chapter Newsletter - Spring 2017

I hope you enjoyed your mid-winter break. This year, our union faces new challenges and it is now more important than ever to support each other.

I want to address the issue of a constitutional convention. New York voters will be asked on Nov. 7, as they are every 20 years, if they want to hold a convention to revise and amend our state constitution.

We need to educate our colleagues about what this could mean to us. Opening the constitution for revision could jeopardize our pension benefits, our right to collective bargaining, our right to Workers’ Compensation, our right to a safe workplace and health benefits, and our right to have the state fund public education. We need our members, your families and your friends to vote “no” on the November ballot measure.

As we roll out our campaign to vote NO to a constitutional convention, remind members that when the stakes are high, UFT COPE is there to fight back against policy proposals that would hurt educators and their families. By contributing to COPE each month, we ensure that our voices are heard by lawmakers and decision-makers on the issues and policies that matter to us. Be sure to explain to members that COPE is funded entirely by voluntary contributions; we do not use any union dues for political action. Let’s get the message out that thanks to UFT COPE, we get results.


Mona Gonzalez
School Secretaries Chapter Leader


Our Functional Chapter Weekend


Nearly 30 school secretaries attended the UFT's Functional Chapter Weekend with Chapter Leader Mona Gonzalez (center) on March 4-5 in Rye, NY.

Our chapter, once again, participated in the UFT's Functional Chapter Weekend on March 4–5 in Rye, NY. Each year, members from the union's functional chapters gather for an enlightening day of plenaries and workshops about topics including public speaking, knowing your rights and how to effectively communicate. We were also fortunate to hear from union leaders including UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr; Amy Arundell, the director of personnel, payroll and special projects; Anthony Harmon, the UFT's director of community and parent outreach, and so many others. Overall, it was an enjoyable and informative experience for the school secretaries who attended.


Save the date: annual School Secretaries Luncheon on May 6

Our 31st annual School Secretaries Luncheon is on Saturday, May 6, at UFT headquarters. This is always a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the great work our chapter does. Keep an eye out for registration information and other details, which we’ll be sending soon!

In addition to recognizing secretaries from all five boroughs and Districts 75 and 79, we will present Laura Tamburo with the Annette Carlucci Celebration of Life Award and Marie Brauer with the Goldie Colodny Award. Laura retired in 2015 as a UFT special representative and is being honored for her advocacy and work on behalf of school secretaries. Marie works as a school secretary at PS 180 in Brooklyn. She is an active member of the chapter and sits on the chapter’s executive committee.

I hope you will join me in celebrating these two women who embody the passion and work ethic of the women for whom these awards are named.


Join our #PublicSchoolProud campaign

The UFT launched its #PublicSchoolProud campaign after the Delegate Assembly passed a resolution on Jan. 18 to celebrate the accomplishments of public schools.

With tax-credit voucher advocate Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, we will have our work cut out for us in the coming years. We need to protect public education and our rights as professionals.

As school secretaries, we see the passion and promise that overflow in our schools each day, and we must let the public know that our schools provide hope and opportunity to all of our students.

Here are a few actions you can take to protect public education:


Register for the Spring Education Conference

The Spring Education Conference will be held on Saturday, May 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the New York Hilton Hotel, 1335 Avenue of the Americas at West 53rd Street. The conference features a morning town hall, breakfast, workshops, exhibits and a gala luncheon. The Rev. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP and the leader of the Moral Mondays civil rights protest, will receive the John Dewey Award, the UFT’s highest honor. We hope you'll join us this year.

Participants will earn CTLE hours for attending the workshops. See the full list of workshop choices. The registration fee is $50. Register online to reserve your seat and follow up by mailing a copy of your registration form along with a check, made payable to UFT/Spring Conference, to: Denise Whitehead, UFT, 52 Broadway, 14th floor, NY, NY 10004.


Claim your tax deductions before April 18

According to the IRS, eligible educators may deduct up to $250 of any unreimbursed expenses spent in 2016 for books, supplies, computer equipment (including related software and services), other equipment and supplementary materials used in the classroom. Union dues may also be filed as a miscellaneous deduction. For more information about tax deductions for educators, please read our information item or see the IRS website.

For tax purposes, see this chart:

Union Dues – School Secretaries
Jan. 16 – April 16 - $42.63 each paycheck (eight checks) = $341.04
May 16 – Aug. 16 - $43.44 each paycheck (eight checks) = $347.52
Sept. 16 – Dec. 16 - $43.98 each paycheck (eight checks) = $351.84

You can deduct a total of $1040.40 in dues as a miscellaneous deduction this year.


Contractual rules about our workweek

Article 6A of our contract clearly outlines the number of hours in the workweek for all school secretaries. It also indicates how much time is designated for lunch and relief. Please use the information below to guide your work schedule for the remainder of the year.

Article 6.A. Hours

1. School Secretaries Serving in Schools

  1. A school secretary serving in a school will have an uninterrupted lunch period within the basic work day of seven hours and 20 minutes, equal to the length of the lunch period of teachers in the school.
  2. In single session schools, the day will start no earlier than 8 a.m. and end no later than 3:45 p.m.
  3. On professional development days, the school day shall be six hours and 50 minutes.

2. School Secretaries Not Serving in Schools

A school secretary not serving in a school will have a 37½-hour workweek exclusive of a daily 40-minute lunch period, and will have the summer hours applicable to the DOE’s administrative employees.

3. All School Secretaries

Every school secretary shall have a single relief period of 10 minutes during each day.

For more information about the work year, see the complete section in the contract »


Grief and loss counseling through the MAP

We all experience challenges in our personal and professional lives. In some instances, those challenges can be too difficult to face alone. One of the many important benefits we have as union members is confidential, professional and supportive assistance through the Member Assistance Program (MAP).

MAP provides short-term counseling to in-service UFT members by professionally-trained mental health staff and referrals to outside resources when necessary. These services may help you if you are having difficulty with a traumatic experience or a difficult loss.

If you are interested in these services, the winter–spring 2017 series of counseling sessions are held on Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. The remaining spring dates are March 23 and 30. For details and registration information, email or call 212-701-9620. Registration is limited. See this flier for more details.


After a family member dies, you’ll need time to make arrangements for a funeral or to travel out-of-town to attend the ceremony. According to Special Circular 16, the Board of Education's non-attendance policy for pedagogues, here's what you need to know about time off in the event of a death in your family:

E. Death in Immediate Family or Household

Non-attendance on day of death and up to three calendar days immediately following (excluding weekends and holidays but not beyond the ninth calendar day from the day of death) is granted by the principal in case of death of parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent, spouse or domestic partner, parent of spouse or domestic partner, or any other relative or step relative of staff member’s personal household. 

Additional time required as is necessary, for example, to attend funeral at a remote location. This requires an application (on Form OP 201) and approval by the community superintendent or, for city district staff, by the responsible assistant superintendent.

Note: Days which may be granted as non-attendance days are as follows (assuming no intervening holidays):

Day of Death School Days of Non-Attendance to be Granted
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday  
Monday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Tuesday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Wednesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Monday
Thursday Thursday Friday Monday Tuesday
Friday Friday Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Saturday Monday Tuesday Wednesday  

Additional time may be applied for and excused as absence without pay.


Peak load relief under our contract

The Department of Education, formerly known as the Board of Education, designates a number of days for peak work relief under our contract. These days are assigned, and may vary, according to the type of school in which you work, based on your assignment in a citywide program or if you work for the Committee on Special Education.

Refer to the excerpt below from Article 7D of our contract, which offers more details about the days available to you.

The Board will provide an average of 10 days per year of secretarial service for peak work relief for each non-Title I elementary school.

The Board will provide 15 days per year of secretarial service for peak work relief for each Title I elementary school, for each junior high school and for each high school.

The Board will provide, on request, up to six days per year for peak work relief for each alternative high school.

The Board will provide six days per year of secretarial service for peak work relief for each school in the citywide program and for each committee on special education (CSE).

Per diem substitute school secretaries, who are available for less than a full day’s work, may be assigned for peak period relief services.

The funds available for peak load days that are unused because of the unavailability of substitute school secretaries may be converted to per session hours on a dollar equivalency basis. A school secretary who is employed on the basis of such converted days is not filling a per session position for purposes of Article 7G.


Timekeeping procedures for LODI

While a pedagogue waits for the DOE to approve or deny a line-of-duty-injury (LODI) leave, secretaries are responsible for accurate timekeeping for that pedagogue. There are a few important things you need to consider when handling leave requests for pedagogues:

1) Make sure your timekeeping is accurate: Up-to-date, correct timekeeping is essential for the proper processing of a LODI. The DOE medical unit can only enter approvals and denials in the system if the school secretary has entered the pending code. The correct Employee Information System (EIS) timekeeping code for a LODI pending is 46PLD. Enter this code for the entire time the pedagogue is claiming LODI.

Entering this code allows the medical unit to immediately enter its decision, (once it has made that decision.) If the EIS code is not up-to-date, the medical unit then has to contact the school to have the timekeeping code changed, which delays the processing of the LODI.

2) Make sure the pedagogue is not overpaid: Sometimes, in an effort to be helpful, a secretary can cause a big problem for a pedagogue; the member can end up owing the DOE big bucks. How does this happen? The member keeps getting paid long after his or her CAR bank has run out of days.

The LODI pending code, 46PLD, allows EIS to generate paychecks to a pedagogue.  Paychecks should be given only as long as that member has CAR days in his or her account. (Pedagogues may continue to receive checks if they choose to “borrow” an optional 20 days.)

Once all days are exhausted, however, you should stop paying that member or a temporary stop should be placed on that member’s direct deposit account. We have had pedagogues who owe the DOE thousands of dollars because a LODI was eventually denied. Those members had continued to receive paychecks without the CAR banked time to cover them.

3) Note on LODI: Only pedagogues are entitled to LODI. Paraprofessionals are entitled to LODI in cases of assault.

4) Note on leaves: Only pedagogues may borrow 20 days from their CAR banks. Paraprofessionals and other members may borrow 10 days from the CAR banks.


Update on Self-Service Leave Application System

New rules for school nurses and therapists: As of this past Jan. 1, all school nurses and therapists must use the DOE’s Self-Service Leave Application System, known as SOLAS, to apply for medical and non-medical leaves. This rule was already in effect for non-managerial pedagogues and paraprofessionals.

Maternity leaves:  In the past, when a member applied for a maternity leave on SOLAS, she would see the option, “maternity/disability.” This caused a lot of confusion. This choice has been revised.

When a member applies for a maternity leave for up to seven days before the baby’s due date, she should choose the option “non-medical leave” on SOLAS. She will then see an option for “maternity leave.”

If a member needs more time off for a pregnancy-related health issue, i.e. more than seven days before her due date, she should initially choose, “medical leave” and then choose “maternity/disability.” This will not affect your six-week maternity leave entitlement, which includes health benefits and is paid based on your Cumulative Absence Reserve balance. (You receive eight weeks if you deliver by Caesarian section.)

Keep SOLAS information up-to-date: It is imperative that secretaries or timekeepers keep their timekeeping entries up-to-date. We find that many of the issues members have with their leaves are the result of inaccurate timekeeping and coding. You must verify timekeeping in SOLAS within 10 days of receiving the leave request. If you don’t, you may cause your colleagues a major inconvenience by delaying their requests and their leaves.

You cannot apply for intermittent FMLA leave through SOLAS: Eligible members, including ATRs, may take intermittent leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act under certain circumstances. But they cannot apply for intermittent FMLA leave through SOLAS. Members must complete a paper FMLA form and include all medical documentation. You must also work out your schedule (if applicable) with your principal.

To document the absence, secretaries should enter a medically-certified sick day and keep the approval form and any documentation on file. Employees must have worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months to qualify.

ATRs should send this form to The member will receive an approval letter, if the leave is approved. That member should then give a copy to the school where he or she is working.


Welcome to new members of the Executive Board

I am happy to announce that we have selected three school secretaries to join our chapter's Executive Board. Each of them has unique skills and qualifications to help us strengthen our chapter. Please join me in welcoming the following members:

  • Alice Mawere of New Utrecht HS, Brooklyn
  • Carol Marzano of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Brooklyn
  • Dawn Torpey of PS 180, SEEALL Academy, Brooklyn

I would also like to thank all of the Executive Board members who have worked with our chapter this year:

First Vice Chairperson Charlene Jones

Second Vice Chairperson Doreen Schafer

Corresponding Secretary Rosie Cortijo

Recording Secretary Patricia O'Reilly

Executive Committee members: Doreen Berrios-Castillo; Marie Brauer; Alison Kearney; Paula Morrison; Mary Scafidi; Rita Segarra; Erica Stewart-Young.

See a full list of our chapter's representatives »

Related Topics: Chapter News