It's still January — Not too late for happy new year!
I hope you had a wonderful vacation with time to relax with your family and friends. It's been a productive school year so far. The union has addressed many issues on behalf of our chapter.
We've been working with the DOE on the chancellor's literacy initiative and the new speech evaluator positions. You have brought to my attention a number of issues related to these new programs and positions, and your union has relayed your issues to the DOE in an effort to jointly resolve them. We are also working with the DOE to get more clarification on the screenings that your schools are asking you to do. I'll keep you posted as these conversations progress to ensure clarity on your rights and responsibilities.
Your union communicates with you in a number of ways. One of the most important is through our meetings, both citywide and at the district level.
Our executive board and speech liaisons meet every month with UFT central staff at UFT headquarters to discuss chapter issues such as mentoring, clinical fellowships, payroll, materials, IEP paperwork and computer work. Then, those executive board members and speech liaisons report this information back to members at their district meetings.
I bring citywide issues to consultation meetings with the DOE and report back to you through these newsletters, other emails, news stories on our chapter website and in person at membership meetings.
Mindy Karten Bornemann
Thank you for your donations
Thank you for your generous donations in December. We collected dozens of toys for homeless children. Children happily received their gifts at the annual UFT Coalition for the Homeless party.
Your chapter needs you: Volunteer as a speech liaison
Our chapter is always looking for energetic, articulate volunteers. If you would like to attend monthly meetings at UFT headquarters to hear announcements pertinent to our chapter firsthand, bring your school's issues to the table and report back to members at district meetings, then I invite you to become a volunteer speech liaison.
We need liaisons in Queens in Districts 24, 25, 26 and 27, and in the Bronx in Districts 9, 10 and 11. We could also use more liaisons in District 75 in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn.
If you are interested, let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speech hotline for quick communication
Our speech hotline number is 1-212-598-7774. You can call this number Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.
So far this year, chapter members have called the hotline to raise questions about the Standard Operating Procedure Manual (SOPM), observations, shortage areas, supervision, tenure, F status, seniority rights and licensing.
Katherine Lewis, Branda Caquias, Lisa Arian and I respond to your inquiries and strategize together when more complex issues arise. The hotline is the fastest way to communicate with us.
You are welcome to reach out by email, but please remember to send fromyour personal, non-DOE email address to my UFT email address: email@example.com.
If you have a school emergency or questions related to salary, health, Welfare Fund benefits, pension or certification, call your UFT borough office for a speedy response.
Thanks for coming to our professional development
We had two well-received professional development workshops this year in the Bronx and Queens: "Lively Letters and Words You Can See" and "Understanding Challenging Behaviors." I've heard from members that they're using "Lively Letters" in their schools to improve phonemic awareness and phonological processing skills. Other members report that they are using new behavioral strategies to understand the effect of toxic stress on brain development how to help students cope with pressure.
Thank you for coming to our professional development workshops, and I look forward to seeing you at similar events this year!
Good news about mandated services
The Principal's Weekly recently reminded principals that mandated services may not be canceled except in extraordinary circumstances. The newsletter cited federal law that says programs and services on a student's IEP, including speech therapy, are legally mandated and necessary for that student to make progress. Therefore, special education teachers and other providers of these services may not be assigned to other duties such as proctoring or scoring exams.
An extraordinary circumstance that would allow providers of IEP-mandated programs and services to be assigned to another duty is a circumstance that cannot be foreseen by a principal or supervisor. We interpret this to include a blizzard, for example, or a large number of staff absences due to illness. Scheduled tests are not extraordinary circumstances.
Signing in and out of classrooms
The DOE agrees with us that forcing speech providers to sign students in and out of classrooms is duplicative of SESIS encounter attendance. We are also concerned that the two records may conflict and that the process adds to the time it takes to pick up and deliver students.
We are pressing the DOE to issue written guidance to principals on this topic. In the meantime, please let your union know if your principal or supervisor requires you to sign students out of a classroom. The time entered may conflict with encounter attendance in SESIS, which takes into account picking up and delivering students. If you are required to sign students in and out of a classroom, contact the speech chapter at our hotline or by emailing me with your school and district so we can bring the issue to the DOE and get it resolved.
New teacher networking events
The UFT Member Assistance Program (MAP) is holding dinners in each borough for new members to relax, unwind, and get information about pension, safety, health, certification, licensing and more. There is still time to register for the Queens, Bronx and Staten Island events.
- Date: Thursday, Feb. 4
- Time: 4–6 p.m.
- Location: UFT Queens borough office at 97-77 Queens Blvd. Directions »
- Date: Thursday, Feb. 11
- Time: 4–6 p.m.
- Location: UFT Bronx borough office at 2500 Halsey St. Directions »
- Date: Wednesday, Feb. 24
- Time: 4–6 p.m.
- Location: UFT Staten Island borough office at 4456 Amboy Rd. Directions »
Preregistration is required. RSVP online now »
Grievance win for District 75 on Staten Island
Several members who work in a school with unserved students filed grievances after their supervisor turned down their request to apply for a shortage area. Some of the members won at step one and will receive back pay. Others, however, were forced to go to the next step in the grievance process with the assistance of the UFT Staten Island borough office.
I suggest that you email your speech supervisor if you want to work in a shortage area for additional compensation. Although it is not a requirement, it is helpful to put the request in writing and to make sure you receive confirmation in writing. This way, if you are forced to file a grievance later on, your have documentation of your request and confirmation.
Persistence pays off in District 75's 37 1/2-minute case
This is another story that shows us how much persistence pays off! I'm pleased to announce that six District 75 speech chapter members received $14,000 which they were owed by the DOE after years of fighting. The win couldn't have happened without hard-headed doggedness from our union leaders.
In 2007, the UFT won an arbitration against the DOE after the DOE forced speech providers to work during the 37 1/2 minutes of extended time that was added to the workday for some UFT members. The arbitration yielded around $320,000 in compensation for many of those speech providers who were harmed, but unfortunately a handful of our members were not made whole.
We continued fighting for that handful of speech providers. The wonderful Ellen Gallin Procida, the director of the UFT Grievance Department, didn't give up in working with me to get our members their hard-earned money. And finally, we've won! Once again, we see that perseverance and pressure from the union, together with the grievance process, works.
Supreme Court case threatens public sector unions
As we celebrate what unions do for their members, we must remember that now is also the time to protect unions.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case on Jan. 11 and will issue a ruling by June. A decision against the California Teachers Association would reverberate throughout our nation's municipal unions, threatening their financial solvency and their ability to work on behalf of their members. And these repercussions won't be limited to organized labor — Handcuffing unions means silencing the biggest voice for working men and women in the U.S.
What this case is about: Rebecca Friedrichs and the plaintiffs contend that their first amendment rights were abridged because they must pay “agency fee” payments to the union as a condition of their employment, and that since everything unions do is political in nature, they are being coerced into supporting political positions. They contend that they don’t necessarily agree when the union negotiates a raise for them, because they think the money should be spent elsewhere. They say that because the union is negotiating with the government that is ipso facto political speech.
What’s really going on: Billionaire right-wingers, in the same club as the Koch brothers, created this case to destroy labor unions. The Center for Individual Rights, the law firm that the Koch brothers help to fund, know unions are the last great defenders of the middle class. These billionaires want to enrich themselves at the expense of the middle class and are intent on privatizing schools and other public services. They created the case, found bucket-carriers as their plaintiffs and rushed the case through the federal court system.
While we wait for a decision, I urge you to make sure you are enrolled as a UFT member. Membership is not automatic. You must sign up. Members are entitled to a vote in union elections and contract decisions, and have a unique voice in professional life.
Not sure if you're a member? Look at your paycheck. If there's a "U" on it, you're a union member. If not, you're paying an agency fee but are not a full-fledged member. Stand up for the union and be counted as a voice for your fellow workers: Join the union today!
Clarification on lesson plans
Chancellor Carmen Fariña and UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued a joint letter to clarify the UFT and DOE’s stances on lesson plans: How lesson planning relates to a teacher’s professional choices and his or her vision in writing a lesson plan. The letter notes that lesson plans are a professional responsibility and that supervisors may not mandate specific elements for inclusion. Lesson plans' format and organization, including whether they are written on paper or electronically, should be left to the discretion of the teacher. As has always been the case, supervisors may ask to review lesson plans.
The SESIS arbitration continues. I testified on your behalf along with other brave speech teachers from our chapter. The focus of my testimony, based on what you have told me, was that it remains impossible for many of us to complete our SESIS-related work within the contractual workday.
We have limited time to complete SESIS-encounter attendance, progress reports and IEPS, and this paperwork is only a portion of your daily and weekly activities on behalf of students.
The success of our case will depend on the information that you provide about your current and past struggles to complete your SESIS responsibilities in an accurate and thorough manner. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any information related to this topic, especially if you are experiencing pressure or if you are threatened with disciplinary action related to the completion of encounter attendance and IEPs.
You should inform your supervisor and other relevant DOE staff that, while you must enter necessary student information in SESIS, you may not do so outside of your regular work hours, or during a lunch break, without prior approval from your supervisor.
New guidelines in PERB case
In settling a recent arbitration before the Public Employees Relations Board, the DOE and UFT agreed upon the following language:
The Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York ("DOE") will continue to make best efforts to recruit and hire a sufficient number of qualified full-time individuals to meet the district's need for Occupational Therapists ("OT"), Physical Therapists ("PT") and Speech Teachers ("ST").
In August of each year, the DOE will canvas OTs, PTs and STs who have recently retired, are on leave, or can otherwise reasonably be anticipated to be interested to determine whether they would want to work part-time/F-status and, if so, what their availability is.
The DOE's need for OTs, PTs and STs will continue to be met according to the terms of the following cascade in descending order of priority:
- OT, PT and ST services are first to be provided by full-time UFT-represented DOE- employed staff ("District Staff");
- only when there are no full-time District Staff available to provide such services will the DOE use part-time/f-status District Staff or contract with non-bargaining unit providers.
We are hopeful that this language will open up opportunities for retirees and others who want to work F status or part-time work.