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UFT-DOE agreement on social-emotional screening

The following email was sent to members by UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Nov. 2, 2021: 

We are writing to inform you about the agreement we reached with the Department of Education in impact bargaining over the social-emotional screener.

In our previous discussions with DOE officials, they told us that the screener would consist of a manageable five to seven questions. When the DOE couldn't figure out how to proceed, it went out and purchased an assessment tool with an excessive 43 questions per student.

That decision clearly had an impact on our work lives, which is why we filed for impact bargaining.

We were able to negotiate time during your regular workday for you to complete the DESSA SEL screener — and your ability to do this work off school grounds at your discretion.

The SEL screening should be completed by Saturday, Dec. 4.

If you have already begun or completed this work, you must be given an equal amount of self-directed time, off school grounds if you choose, during the same periods of time as outlined for screeners in the agreement. Read the full agreement >>

Agreement highlights

For Screeners

1. School-based staff members who have been assigned to screen students will be given four hours to complete the screening for one class of students plus another 50 minutes for related training.

2. The class may be up to the contractual class-size limit but in no case more than 34 students.

3. Here are the options for when the work can be completed:

Option 1: In schools that use an 80/75-minute model or other 155-minute reconfiguration for professional development, parent engagement and Other Professional Work (OPW), screeners may use a combination of this extended time.

Option 2: In schools that have an SBO and use a 150-minute-per-week model when students are not in attendance, screeners may use a combination of professional development, common planning, Other Professional Work, and/or parent engagement time.

Option 3: In multi-session high schools only, screeners may use a combination of professional development, Circular 6, faculty and department conference time. In lieu of completing this work during Circular 6 assignments, screeners who prefer option #4 below should not be denied.

Option 4: In lieu of using time during the regular workday, if a staff member prefers and the principal agrees, per session can be paid to complete the screenings and the related PD outside school hours.

4. In all the above options, the screener can choose to do this work remotely and off school grounds.

5. In options 1-3, the screener should submit the schedule of this time to the supervisor for approval, which cannot be unreasonably denied.

For SEL Leads

For school counselors and other UFT members who have been identified as Social Emotional Learning (SEL) leads within their school, we were able to negotiate the following:

1. SEL leads may work remotely on Election Day and complete the first five hours of required training and begin the screening process for their own caseload of students.

2. The DOE will allocate 20 hours of per-session pay for each SEL lead to complete the 13 hours of training plus answer screeners’ questions.

3. In the rare circumstance that a SEL lead is unable to complete some or all of the required work, the lead will inform their direct supervisor and the work may be redistributed.

Please ask your chapter leader to file an operational issues complaint if your principal violates this agreement.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at 212-331-6311.

While we all agree about the importance of supporting our students’ social-emotional well-being, we don’t agree with the DOE’s choice of such a time-consuming screener — especially in a year where we are already spread so thin. While we are glad that we were able to carve out time to get this work done, it shouldn’t have been necessary. The adoption of this tool once again shows the DOE’s disconnect with what’s happening in our schools and classrooms this year.