As we approach the end of the school year, I want to thank you for making my first year as your chapter leader a great one. I received many encouraging comments and suggestions about how to improve our chapter. I also want to thank all the staff who served on committees and supported me in many ways.
This year, I had the opportunity to represent our chapter before the UFT leadership and at monthly Delegate Assembly meetings. I brought our chapter’s needs and concerns regularly to these meetings to ensure you have all the support you need to do your job effectively and support our students.
It has been an honor to serve you, and I am proud of our chapter and all that we have accomplished this year. Thank you for all that you do for our students and each other. Truly, you are the reason that our vision education chapter is vibrant. As you may know, the UFT refers to our chapter as Vision Education Services. Please note that we will continue to operate under this chapter title, which is similar to the Department of Education's title, Educational Vision Services.
I want to thank our EVS director Gregory Santamoor for all the work he does in helping to build our chapter up and for how he addresses our concerns. I also want to thank our assistant chapter leader Milton Williams for working alongside me this year and our delegate Naima Hall for representing our chapter with me at monthly Delegate Assembly meetings. It has been an honor serving as your chapter leader this year and I look forward to continuing our efforts to strengthen our chapter next year.
If you have any suggestions, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 212-598-6841. You can also reach me on my cell phone at 646-887-7173.
I hope you have a great summer!
Vision Education Services Chapter Leader
First Braille Challenge hosted by EVS
Educational Vision Services hosted our first NYC Braille Challenge, an academic competition for the visually impaired, at PS 343 in Queens on Jan. 30. The sponsorship from EVS was in part due to the hard work and vision of our supervisor, Maria Fridas. It was a tremendous success, serving both our students and parents and I'd like to thank everyone who attended to support our students.
Our director, Gregory Santamoor, was on hand to coordinate all the teachers who proctored the exams and he also reached out to all the different groups who supported the event.
We’d also like to thank supervisors Maria Fridas and Giovanka Brignoni, who worked with our students and their families, and our teachers and paras, who proctored and scored each exam.
District 75 Superintendent Ketler Louissant and Assistant Superintendent Helen Kaufman attended as well.
While the students were competing, parents attended parent workshops presented by the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, the NY State Commission for the Blind, The NY State Deaf-Blind Consortium and The Lion’s Club. EVS also provided information on how to transition students into work and day programs.
I want to extend a special thank you to The Lion’s Club, which provided lunch for all the attendees.
The winners for each grade are below:
Maya Graves – First Place
Kevin Morales – Second Place
Milo Sherman – Third Place
Adam Aftyka – First Place
Maisha Rahman – Second Place
Elijah Jackson – Third Place
Angelique Hernandez – First Place
Syeda Manahil Jafri – Second Place
Agiemai Sowe – Third Place
Gabriela Mendonca – First Place
Laurel Hilbert – Second Place
UFT Lobby Day
I was happy to join more than 1,100 UFT members who traveled to Albany on March 9 for the union’s annual Lobby Day. We met with state representatives to fight for funding for special education and share the challenges we face as vision teachers in District 75. We also successfully lobbied local elected officials for an increase in school funding and expansion of the Community Learning Schools initiative. It was a very productive day and I know our voices as District 75 educators were heard.
Students experience Broadway play with audio description
This year, we had another opportunity to see a Broadway musical with our high school students, courtesy of the Theater Development Fund. On April 20, EVS members and students enjoyed the Broadway hit, “School of Rock.”
“School of Rock” is a musical comedy based on the hit film about a guitarist who becomes a music teacher and introduces his prep-school students to the hard rock music he loves. TDF's Theater Accessibility Program provides audio description services at select Broadway performances throughout the year for those who have low vision or are blind. Each student who attended the “School of Rock” performance received a small device with headphones so he or she could hear a live description of the musical provided by a specially trained person who describes what's happening on stage during pauses in the dialogue. As someone with a visual impairment, I thought the experience was fantastic. The audio description allowed me to experience all the visual drama that I would have missed by just listening to the dialogue alone.
I would like to thank the Theater Development Fund for making the theater not only affordable but accessible to all students and adults. I also would like to thank Diane Pena for her leadership in organizing the trip. We hope to provide these opportunities to our students next year and in years to come!
Our annual camping trip
Another great event was our 16th annual camping trip May 19-20 at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. This event would not be possible without the leadership of Diane Pena and Pablo Calero. This was my second year attending and it was a pleasure to be a part of such a powerful experience camping with our students. It was also great to see former supervisor Patsy Taylor again this year.
As in past years, the Gateway Marina, across Flatbush Avenue, gave our students access to their facilities. They’re right on the water and we conducted marine experiments and learned about the preservation of the environment. The students interacted with marine life, prepared food, cleaned up, organized their tents and had lots of fun around the fire toasting s’mores and singing into the night.
If you haven't already attended our camping trip, I encourage you to email me at email@example.com and let me know if you would like to attend next year.
Meet the President for functional chapters
Nearly 100 functional chapter members gathered on May 4 at UFT headquarters to listen to and speak with UFT President Michael Mulgrew. We explained a number of concerns to Mulgrew including SESIS, professional development, student attendance and obtaining more resources for the work we do with students. I asked Mulgrew about how we can make SESIS more accessible. He listened and graciously offered me the opportunity to help with testing any new process that we implement so that we can ensure that it is accessible and easy for our members to navigate. I will follow up with more information about SESIS accessibility when it becomes available.
I would like to thank my assistant chapter leader Milton Williams for attending. For those of you who couldn’t make it, we missed you and hope you can make it next year.
We’ve had productive meetings this year with Gregory Santamoor, the director of Educational Vision Services. On the behalf of the consultation committee and our chapter, I thank him for being gracious and reasonable in all our consultation meetings. We have addressed many of your concerns this year through our collaborative efforts:
We protected our “duty-free” lunch and have a similar meeting designated the “Round Table Forum.”
We elevated the status of our paras by giving them an opportunity to share their concerns. They now can fill out a preference sheet for their future placement.
We addressed SESIS and having enough time to complete our attendance information.
We received clarification on caseload dissemination and how to communicate with our supervisors.
We reworked our SBO positions and got all five positions ratified at the June 9 vote.
All these and other issues can be found on our chapter website. Consultation committee minutes are now posted.
Next pay raise – You should have received your next pay increase of 3 percent in your May 15 paycheck. We still have three more raises in May of 2016, 2017 and 2018. We also still have our retro payments coming in October of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
New Lead Teacher Assistant role for paraprofessionals – The UFT and the Department of Education have reached an agreement that creates a new paraprofessional position, the Lead Teacher Assistant. This new position will be a true assistant to a teacher and not be solely driven by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of a student with disabilities. Lead Teacher Assistants will support all aspects of instruction in either a general education or special education classroom. The application deadline is Friday, July 15. For more information, read more about the position on UFT.org »
Our Vision Education Services website
Please visit our newly-updated chapter website to keep abreast of current union news and updates. We've added a Resources page that lists helpful links to organizations and services that are related to blindness and visual impairment. If you have any suggestions as to possible resources you would like added to the page, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up with the UFT
It was great to welcome our newest members to the chapter at our most recent professional development day. If you know any members who did not receive this email, please forward it to them and encourage them to sign up on the UFT website so they will receive future alerts from me and our union leadership.
Please make sure that the UFT has your current information. If you move or change your telephone number, notify the Department of Education and UFT. (Download a Personal Information Change Form.)
If you have any concerns regarding your membership, please contact the UFT's membership department at 212-598-6855.
Sign up for text messages
The UFT is now delivering text messages directly members’ mobile phones to alert you about weather emergencies; remind you about rallies and other union actions; and update you on vital news. UFT text messages are only occasional. We promise not to inundate you. Most messages will still be sent by email.
You can sign up to receive UFT text messages, by texting “UFT” to 30644 from your mobile phone, or you can sign up online.