The UFT in August won an important grievance filed on behalf of guidance counselors at a Queens middle school who were forced by their principal to cover for the teacher assigned to their school’s SAVE room, instead of meeting with students that they were supposed to be counseling.
According to the decision of arbitrator Jay M. Siegel, the actions of MS 210 principal Rosalyn Manning, who in October 2009 announced that all guidance counselors would have to cover one period in the SAVE room each week while the teacher normally assigned there took his lunch, violated an article in the guidance counselors’ contract that, among other provisions, guarantees that “counselors shall not be assigned to cover classes, represent the school in lieu of a teacher or supervisor or perform other duties normally performed by classroom teachers.”
While there was no retroactive remedy for the counselors who covered the SAVE room, the arbitrator has ordered the school to cease this practice moving forward. Union leaders say that because arbitration decisions set precedent, his decision should prevent similar situations from arising at other schools.
“If counselors in your school are being told to cover the SAVE room or any other class without a teacher present, you should speak with your chapter leader or UFT district representative,” advises Ellen Gallin Procida, the director of the UFT’s grievance department. “It is critical that counselors are not hindered from doing their work with students.”
“This victory is fantastic because it makes clear, once and for all, that counselors cannot be used to cover the SAVE room or any other class,” said Rosemarie Thompson, the chapter leader of the UFT’s guidance counselor chapter. “Principals across the city are being held accountable for properly staffing their schools’ SAVE room and other classrooms with a teacher. This decision is important for both counselors and our students.”