Each time that I start to write a newsletter, it astonishes me how much is going on and how much I need to report to you. This newsletter addresses the issues with Governor Cuomo and why it is urgent that you pay attention politically to the challenges ahead of all of us.
Although I said that I would never use Twitter, the fight with the governor is so important that I now have the handle @speechleaderuft. So follow me on Twitter. It is one more way for us all to keep in touch and updated on all of the UFT events and activities.
The Chancellor’s literacy program has brought a lot of positive attention to our chapter, but there are problems around the issues of time and collaboration. We also are continuing to work to address issues around redundant paperwork and to ensure that supervisors and administrators use proper procedures for observations and ratings.
We hope that you are preparing to enter our annual Better Speech and Hearing Month contest. The deadline is in March, and we want to ensure that you have time to submit an entry for you and your students. Each year, this celebration of our work gets bigger and better. Please consider nominating yourself, a colleague and your students. Use the online nomination form.
The hotline number is still the best way to get in touch with me and ensure a speedy response. Don’t wait until issues get too difficult: call for advice and direction at 1-212-598-7774. You may also invite me to your school or to your district meeting so I can speak to your entire district. Please give me some advance notice for these meetings.
Please check our chapter website where you will find all of our past newsletters and other important information in the You Should Know section.
We will soon be posting our speech and language goals as aligned with the Common Core standards.
I hope to see you at our upcoming meeting or at one of our workshops.
Mindy Karten Bornemann
Deadline for Teacher's Choice
The deadlines for Teacher’s Choice come earlier this year than in previous years. The deadline for making all qualifying purchases is this Saturday, Feb. 28. Make sure that you spend the money that you are given. The deadline for submitting the Teacher’s Choice Accountability Form to your principal or principal designee is Monday, March 2. All program participants will be required to submit their receipts as proof of purchase. These receipts must accompany the Teacher’s Choice Accountability Form. In order to qualify, purchases could have been made as early as Aug. 1, 2014, but must be made no later than Feb. 28, 2015. For details, see the UFT website.
For additional information or assistance from the Department of Education, please contact the Teacher’s Choice program at 1-718-935-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. At the UFT, contact Michael Sill at email@example.com.
Chancellor’s Literacy Program — Update on Phases 1 and 2
As reported in our last newsletter, Chancellor Fariña has instituted a new literacy program to provide support to non-mandated students and their teachers. She recognizes that speech therapists have many skills related to phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and other foundational reading skills. Phase 1 of this initiative was supposed to be limited to a 12-week program in schools that were selected by the chancellor. Speech teachers and classroom teachers attended professional development on programs such as “Sounds in Motion” and “Fundations.” They were then asked to use these programs with selected preschool and kindergarten classes.
We met with the DOE to discuss training, materials, schools selected by the chancellor’s team, caseload reduction and supports for our chapter members. While many of the issues presented in our initial meeting were addressed, others were not. Our chapter has continued to press the DOE on problems related to the program's implementation, including caseload backfill, missing materials, and teachers not all receiving the training. Administration support for the program was also an issue in some schools. No extra time has been built into the program for implementation and planning, and this has been a major issue for our chapter’s members. Many speech teachers report that they have been forced to choose between planning for their therapy sessions and planning for the literacy program. Also, no pre- or post-assessments have been conducted to see if the program is successful.
We recently learned that another 75 to 80 schools have been chosen to receive literacy training for phase 2 of the program’s rollout. As your chapter leader, I have been pleased that many initial problems were corrected before the phase 2 rollout: materials were delivered to schools, principals and speech supervisors were consulted, and the training was well-received. The DOE has also offered a solution for members who did not want to stop working with their own students during the three periods required for the literacy initiative. Speech teachers participating in the literacy initiative will be able to receive shortage-area pay to provide services during their preparation periods. A few speech teachers that did not start in November because of the problems that arose in phase 1 will begin in phase 2.
Upon our urging, the DOE is also moving forward with additional training and is offering some per-session money for those who may need extra time or support to implement the program. This is being done in consultation with the speech supervisor or a principal.
But the UFT was disappointed that there was no evaluation mechanism in place to see how the phase 1 group was working before the DOE rolled out phase 2. In addition the union still does not know how the Chancellor’s team selected the schools and materials for the literacy initiative. We are also very dismayed that those who were in phase 1 will have to continue with the program. We were originally informed that it would only be for 12 weeks. We have also learned that not all classroom teachers received the same training as the speech teachers. In schools where this occurred, speech teachers and classroom teachers could not consult and collaborate on this program, which is problematic.
This is not a voluntary program, but any speech teachers who feel inadequately prepared to participate — such as if they did not get training or materials or if no one was identified to help serve their speech students — should discuss it with their speech supervisor, especially in schools where there are multiple speech teachers. We will continue to monitor the program and look forward to reviewing the evaluations from participating schools. If you are having any trouble with the program or want to discuss any aspects of it, please call the hotline. Our chapter also suggests that you contact your speech supervisor first for his or her support.
Governor Cuomo and YOU
After 10 years of Bloomberg’s disastrous education policies, we are moving New York City schools forward based on what we know will help our students. We have come too far. We cannot let Governor Cuomo take us backwards. If the governor’s education agenda is implemented in this year’s budget, it will hurt our students and drive teachers from the profession in droves. Whether you are new or a veteran, you cannot afford to stand on the sidelines. This fight is our fight.
The governor is following the agenda of the billionaires who bankrolled his re-election campaign, promoting failed ideas that school districts elsewhere in the country are turning away from:
- Individual merit pay
- Extending teachers’ probationary period from three to five years
- Eliminating teachers’ due process rights (See, for example, the item below on your rights in regard to summonses and investigations.)
- Raising the statewide cap on the number of charter schools and eliminating geographic limits, which could mean up to 250 new charters for New York City, many of which would seek to co-locate in our already overcrowded school buildings
- Putting low-performing schools into state receivership and empowering the receiver to abrogate members’ union rights in those schools
- Using student scores on state tests to count for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation
- Holding desperately needed school aid hostage to the above agenda
Cuomo is to blame for the failed implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards, and now he is trying to convince people that teachers are to blame for his inaction and lack of leadership. We won’t let that happen.
The governor holds most of the cards in the budget process in Albany. He is pushing his education agenda by attaching non-budget bills to his executive budget because he knows that state lawmakers must vote the entire package up or down. If the state Legislature fails to pass a budget by the April 1 deadline, the governor can pass executive orders, which are very problematic for us, too.
The charter-school backers who have cheered Cuomo’s proposals will outspend us dollar for dollar in this fight. But we have something that they lack: members and parents who care deeply about our schools. Now is the time to act. See how you can help.
Speech teacher featured in New York Teacher
Our own Abigail Wray, one of our newest District 15 liaisons, is featured in the Feb. 5 issue of the New York Teacher newspaper, on page 47. You can also find the article on the UFT website. Abby’s excitement and enthusiasm for our speech therapy programs make all of us proud. Congratulations, Abby.
Your speech chapter leader has joined Twitter — follow me!
Thanks to you, our Twitter campaign against Governor Cuomo’s education policies is going strong. Over 65,000 tweets have gone out using the #AllKidsNeed hashtag, and more than 23,000 tweets have used the #InviteCuomo hastag.
I am now tweeting as part of our new campaign against the governor with the handle @speechleaderUFT. Look me up on Twitter and follow me. We want to keep the pressure up, so please join the conversation! Your tweets have an impact because elected officials and journalists are all on Twitter and take the temperature of public opinion based on what they read. Snap a photo of some part of your classroom (no kids please), share it on Twitter with the hashtag #InviteCuomo and ask the governor to come see you work with your students. Retweet your colleagues’ #InviteCuomo tweets.
Use the hashtag #AllKidsNeed to tell the governor and the public the impact of unfair funding. Read what your colleagues are saying using this hashtag and retweet their #AllKidsNeed tweets.
Remember, you must use the hashtags if you want to be seen and heard. Not on Twitter yet? Sign up now. Need some guidance about who to follow on Twitter? Consider starting with some of the people and organizations that I follow and then as you find others on Twitter see who they are following.
Please also complete the postcards that are being sent to your school chapter leader and mail them to the governor and your Assembly Member. We also have launched an online petition for you to sign and share.
We need parents to show their support for public schools in this fight! Here is a flier for parents in both English and Spanish that you can hand out during informational leafleting before and after school. You can also work with parents in your school to ask your local Community Education Council to pass a resolution opposing the governor’s proposals. These materials and more can be found on our Fight Cuomo! campaign page.
Know Your Rights
How to handle a summons
We get calls on the speech hotline from members who have been summoned to report to the principal’s office for an interview that may lead to disciplinary action. If you are summoned to meet with the principal or other supervisor and the meeting can lead to disciplinary action, you are entitled to have union representation. If you are summoned, you must attend but should ask if the meeting could result in disciplinary action. If the answer is “yes,” “maybe” or even “I don’t know,” you should insist on having a union representative present and should not answer questions until and unless your representative is with you. An interview that is not held in accordance with these procedures cannot be made part of your personnel or school file, and any statements you make at such an interview cannot be used against you in any DOE proceeding.
If the meeting is related to general school matters such as attendance, lateness, or school policy, then the elected school chapter leader or district representative should attend with you. If the meeting pertains to speech therapy practices, paperwork or student attendance then you should call our speech chapter for assistance. Please note that you may need to postpone this meeting to make arrangements for me, as your speech chapter leader, to attend. If you are summoned, please call our hotline number immediately at 1-212-598-7774 and also send an email to me at Mbornemann@uft.org.
The procedures are different if you are summoned to a meeting outside your school. If you are summoned to meet with the DOE’s Office of Appeals and Reviews (OAR) or the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) you must contact your UFT borough office, which will send a representative to attend the hearing with you. Do not speak to any investigator at any time even if the investigator claims the matter is about a colleague or other staff member. All too often these officers will try to contact you at school and claim that it is just for general information on a case when in fact they are looking for information from you. Take their business card and call the borough office as soon as possible for important guidance and support.
If you are summoned by the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI), you should not answer any questions unless you are accompanied by an attorney, which your UFT borough office will help arrange for you. The allegations investigated by this office involve criminal activity, financial fraud or other serious matters. Not following these steps could end up hurting you in the end.
Corporal punishment and verbal abuse
It is very important that you understand the regulations on corporal punishment and verbal abuse. They are as follows:
Regulation of the Chancellor A-420 — Pupil Behavior and Discipline — Corporal Punishment: According to this regulation, "No corporal punishment shall be inflicted in any of the public schools, nor punishment of any kind tending to cause excessive fear of physical or mental distress. Violation of this bylaw shall constitute grounds for dismissal."
New York State Commissioner of Education - Regulations of the Commissioner: Section 100.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner defines corporal punishment as any act of physical force upon a pupil for the purpose of punishing that pupil.
Corporal punishment shall not mean the use of reasonable force to protect oneself, to protect another, to protect property or to restrain or remove.
Regulation of the Chancellor A-421 — Pupil Behavior and Discipline — Verbal Abuse: Verbal abuse of students is not corporal punishment, but it is behavior that is prohibited by Regulation of the Chancellor A-421. Verbal abuse includes:
- Language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
- Language that includes words denoting racial, ethnic, religious, gender, disability, or sexual orientation which tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
- Language that tends to threaten physical harm; and
- Language that tends to belittle or subject students to ridicule.
Sometimes speech teachers and other professionals are questioned because students misunderstand words that are used or are confused by jokes or comments. Always be mindful of what you say to students and how you say it. Students and other staff members can occasionally misinterpret well-meaning words. If there is any accusation of verbal abuse or corporal punishment, contact your school chapter leader who will alert your district representative also.
If you are called into the principal’s office regarding any accusation of verbal abuse or corporal punishment, you should follow the guidelines above regarding investigations. Insist on having a union representative present and do not answer questions until the union representative is with you at the meeting.
Understanding false accusations
UFT members have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct or physical abuse involving students. If you are falsely accused of any of these or other crimes and it is determined that the allegations were knowingly false when they were made, the DOE must remove all references of the allegations from your school personnel file, restore any lost pay with interest and, unless there are extraordinary reasons, permanently reassign the student from your class.
Through our agreement with the DOE, disciplinary actions will never be used to retaliate against whistleblowers, and any employee who knowingly makes a false allegation shall be subject to discipline.
For new speech teachers…
…I want to urge you to attend a five-part series of new teacher workshops, which will take place each month in the UFT borough offices. It is recommended that new members attend all five sessions, but each session can be attended independently of the others. The first workshop is on March 5 and will cover licensure. See the New Teacher Workshop page for details on each of the workshops and to register. These workshops are an important resource for new members.
Reminders about SESIS
All related service providers and any other staff in your building who work on SESIS should know that the DOE has sent information to principals about the times during which UFT staff may work on SESIS during their workdays. The item was in the Principal's Weekly and is posted on our website. For speech teachers, the DOE has agreed that speech teachers in single-session schools can do SESIS work during the 155 minutes allocated each week for professional development, parent engagement and Other Professional Work. If you do not get adequate time to do daily SESIS encounter attendance and other SESIS-related work during your workday, you should contact your speech supervisor and principal. If this does not lead to a resolution of the problem, speech teachers should call the speech hotline at 1-212-598-7774.
Tenure and ratings
Principals may not use the teacher tenure framework as a rubric to assess functional chapter members’ performance or make tenure decisions. The tenure framework only applies to tenure decisions for classroom teachers. Beyond the speech chapter tenure workshop we offered in December, you can get more information at your UFT district meeting or from your UFT district representative, superintendent, principal or speech supervisor. These meetings and conversations may also help you to better prepare for your portfolios and tenure process. Many of you have reported that the portfolios may be changing and are not so extensive. So, attend your district meetings to see what the expectations are in your district. For our recent article on evaluations, check out our November/December newsletter.
Save the dates!
Wednesday, March 11: Speech Chapter Meeting at UFT headquarters. Guest speaker is UFT Special Representative Jeff Huart on investigations and your rights.
Saturday or Sunday, May 1 and 2: Guest speaker Jill Fahy on foundations and therapy strategies for executive functioning.
Saturday or Sunday, June 6 and 7: Guest Speaker Karole Howland on strategies for reading comprehension.
All registration will be online for speech chapter members only.