I hope you are having a great school year. We’re getting close to spring, and the school year seems to be flying by.
It is my pleasure to serve as your chapter leader. Since our special election in late November, we are on our way to having our revitalized chapter serve our unique needs as vision educators.
I’m committed to seeing that the interests of our chapter are vigorously represented to the Department of Education and within our union. I’ve been busy pulling a lot of things together and advocating on your behalf.
I also look forward to communicating with you on a more regular basis. This is our chapter’s first email newsletter. Our new Vision Education Chapter website is also up and running. This section of the UFT website is to help you find information and news you need. Please check it out and let me know of any suggestions you have for items or information that we should post on our web pages.
I also want to encourage you to attend the chapter meetings at your school sites whenever you are near one to learn of issues that affect our schools and our union.
Please keep me posted on any issues of concern to you as itinerant related service providers, classroom teachers, resource room teachers and paraprofessionals. Our chapter is only as strong and helpful as you make it.
As always, I am here for you. Feel free to contact me or your borough representative with any issues, concerns, questions or suggestions. You can reach me by email at email@example.com. Or you can call me at 1-212-598-6841. I am at this number at the UFT headquarters on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m.
Thank you for all that you do.
Vision Education Services Chapter Leader
New director of Educational Vision Services
Our first year with a new director of Educational Vision Services is underway. Gregory Santamoor brings his accomplished resume and expertise in the field of blindness and visual impairments to EVS. Gregory has served as both a teacher and principal at the Lighthouse Guild and Helen Keller Services for the Blind.
Gregory is now responsible for fulfilling the varied roles of principal, as required in our contract. On a personal note, while he was working among us as an EVS teacher, I found Gregory to be a knowledgeable and resourceful colleague. He remains willing to lend a hand in his specialized areas of expertise when asked.
As we have all noticed, the climate throughout the entire DOE has shifted recently under our new mayor and chancellor, who have ushered in a new attitude of collaboration.
Our new contract and the unwavering team spirit that it reflects help to ensure that our voices as educators will have a genuine influence on issues that affect our schools.
We intend to keep that spirit alive as we as chapter members work together with Gregory and our longtime supervisors Maria Fridas and Giovanka Brignoni.
Consultation meetings are underway
Consultation meetings are the mechanism by which our chapter members can have a true voice in the workplace. I have begun holding monthly consultation meetings with the director. Of course, the unusual citywide nature of our chapter and everyone’s unique schedules and logistics make these meetings especially complex to coordinate. But, we remain committed to making them happen. I rely on you, our vision teachers and paraprofessionals, to let me know the issues that are of greatest concern to you.
Our first consultation, in January, focused in part on how lesson plans are the tool for the teacher to use in delivery of quality instruction and how they may be written in any fashion that best serves the teacher. We also discussed the use of the new Functional Vision Assessment template as an evaluation tool to aid you, the professionals, in conducting evaluations of your students’ visual functioning in their school settings.
At the same time, we began reviewing our SBO compensatory time positions. These may include development of a new position - several part-time evaluator turnkeys who can do the FVAs for new incoming students in various parts of the city. These teachers may also serve as staff developers to those teachers who request additional 1:1 guidance about students with eye conditions that may be unfamiliar or particularly challenging for the provider to evaluate. Details are being worked out in the form of a job description in time for submission for an SBO vote this spring. If approved by you, the part-time positions will be posted so that all qualified teachers may apply, if they wish.
Paperwork reduction initiative
As you know, excessive and redundant paperwork and electronic paperwork are of particular concern to all of us. A joint UFT/DOE central paperwork committee, established under our contract, last fall established a new set of systemwide standards to reduce and eliminate unnecessary paperwork, including electronic forms of paperwork. For our chapter, any issues over paperwork that are not resolved at the school level will be handed over to a district committee to work out the details.
Please take a moment to send me your concerns and opinions on these matters. I want to know about any specific paperwork that you are asked to complete during the year which you feel is redundant so that I may bring your issues to the table.
Join the fight against Gov. Cuomo’s destructive education agenda
I recently attended the UFT’s lobby day in Albany on behalf of our chapter. As our union continues to stand up against the governor, I want to encourage you to join the fight now to protect our public schools. Our governor should be focused on improving teaching and learning conditions in our schools. Instead, he is pushing an education agenda that punishes the neediest kids — like our students — and the educators who serve them.
Actions you can take now:
- Sign up for the campaign right away so that you will receive updates about actions and developments.
- If you haven't already, like the UFT's Facebook page. Then, share the UFT's Facebook posts about Cuomo's agenda with your network of friends and preface them with comments of your own.
- If you haven't joined Twitter yet, now is the time to sign up! And then follow the UFT on Twitter »
- Use the hashtag #AllKidsNeed on Twitter to highlight the inequities and share your vision for public education.
- Use the hashtag #InviteCuomo on Twitter to invite Cuomo to your classroom. Governor Cuomo has almost never stepped foot in a New York City public school classroom. We are proud public school educators. Let's invite him in!
- Use the search engine on Twitter to search for #InviteCuomo and #AllKidsNeed and then retweet the messages you like.