ALBANY, N.Y. Nov. 9, 2020 — New York State United Teachers today launched NYSUTCovidTracker.org, a new website designed to help track coronavirus-related health and safety concerns in schools across the state.
As COVID-19 cases rise across the country and in some parts of New York, the website is intended to crowdsource reports of health and safety violations and concerns identified by school staff members, parents and community members. It includes a mapping tool that shows district-by-district information reported to NYSUT to help community members easily identify the issues in their region.
“A consistent flow of information about the safety of our schools is critical for educators, students and families, and this website is designed to help us all stay vigilant as the school year rolls on,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Though we know some districts are working closely with their staffs to put health and safety first, problems still exist around the state. By empowering educators and community members to report their concerns, it’s our hope that we can elevate the voices of those who otherwise may go unheard.”
As the winter months near, capturing the concerns of union members across New York about issues like insufficient ventilation, mask policies, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols is critical. With some districts shifting reopening strategies and others dealing with outbreaks in their communities, NYSUT believes these issues must be brought to the fore so more informed decisions can be made through public input.
“Communities should receive not only real-time COVID-19 infection data, but also a fuller picture of the issues educators are raising with their administrators,” Pallotta said. “We must continue to err on the side of caution. Identifying hot spots can help us do so.”
Originally the Preferred Group was going to collect the dues directly from the retirees. However, that is not going to happen this year. All retirees will need to send payment directly to the Brewster Teachers’ Association. Dues can be made payable to Brewster Teachers Association and mailed to the following address:
Attention: Kristin Field, BTA Treasurer
20 Farm to Market Road
Brewster, NY 10509
An open letter to the school communities in Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland Counties from the leadership of teacher and staff unions:
We feel compelled to write to you in a shared voice, as there are universal elements to our concerns about re-entry into the schools this September. It is important to note that this is a discussion about re-entry, not reopening. The education of children is, and has always been, our top concern. One truth that cannot be ignored as a necessary precursor to any successful model of instruction is a safe learning space. Though we will open this September for instruction, the only question is the modality of that instruction.
All districts in New York were required to create a re-entry plan that addressed three options: full virtual, hybrid, and full in-person instruction. The hybrid model is the most popular one for re-entry this September, but it poses significant risks. The hybrid model requirement gained traction in the state early on, but unfortunately, most of what we have recently learned about Covid-19 and children calls the safety of this model into question. These risks are not a reflection of inadequate efforts by any one district or administrative team in protecting the children and staff in their schools. Rather, they are inherent inadequacies when a system designed around instructing students is tasked with creating learning environments that will protect children and teachers during a viral pandemic. Additionally, there has been a failure in state and federal governments to ensure that adequate testing, PPE, and HVAC filtration systems are readily available. The requirements for the district plans were provided by the Governor’s office and the State Education Department in the middle of July and they were to be completed by July 31. The Governor even added new testing and contact tracing requirements in the first week of August.
To create truly safe reentry plans districts would require more time, direction, and resources. It is telling that neither the state nor federal governments have provided additional resources to help ensure a safe re-entry. Districts have been on their own.
Educators approach every task with a “can do” attitude. Throughout the months of July and August, teams in each district leaned in and got the job done. The plans were made and it is truly impressive work. The problem, however, is that they are plans to meet government requirements for safety; they are not necessarily plans to make the schools as safe as they can be. The limits of these plans could be seen close to home this summer when the Greenburgh-North Castle school experienced an outbreak of Covid 19, despite meeting or exceeding all Department of Health guidelines and having a very small student population. As anyone with any experience planning school events can attest, even the best plans on paper never match what happens once actual students are brought in. Every plan assumes a well-behaved student body that will follow all directives and maintain masks and social distancing, even during hall passing. Plans assume we will be able to hire enough leave replacements, substitutes, and monitors to supervise students in the next three weeks. This will not occur. When schools reopen with the potential of being understaffed, it will make an already unsafe situation even worse.
In every survey conducted about reentry, the most important condition people have is that the schools be safe. The phrase “Maslow before Bloom” is never more applicable than the current situation. It is irrational to expect students will be able to learn in any reasonable manner, when their teachers and classrooms are constantly conveying the need for vigilance in mask- wearing and social distancing. The constant need for vigilance cannot help but be internalized as fear and anxiety. At best, schools will be more similar to a well-meaning prison than an actual rich learning environment where thoughts can be shared and joy can be expressed.
Before we can return to schools we must be sure that every reasonable precaution has been met in order for schools to be safe. The goal cannot be to just mitigate risk, but to create the safest possible learning environment. Many of these requirements go well beyond the capability of an individual school district and require action at the state or federal level. We may feel powerless to secure what is necessary; that, however, does not change the reality of its necessity.
To ensure that in-person instruction begins safely, every school district should be putting into place the following measures that create the highest health and safety standards for our students, teachers and staff:
Hybrid Model Risks
New Information on Children and Covid 19
Marcia Heffler Dobbs Ferry United Teachers
Edward Caperna USWOM
Michael Lillis Lakeland Federation of Teachers
Nate Morgan Hastings Teachers Association
Vanessa Vaccaro Ossining Teachers Association
Tom McMahon Mahopac Teachers’ Association
Jennifer Maldonado Hendrick Hudson Education Association
Elisa Rosen Hendrick Hudson Education Association
David Wixted Scarsdale Teachers Association
Anthony Nicodemo Greenburgh North Castle United Teachers
Mary Claire Breslin New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees
Samantha Rosado-Ciriello Yonkers Federation of Teachers
Brenda O’Shea Somers Faculty Association
Andrea McCue Haldane Faculty Association
James Groven Irvington Faculty Association
Judith A. Kelly Teachers’ Association of the Tarrytowns
Chris Tyler Harrison Association of Teachers
Jeanne Whelan Tuckahoe Teachers’ Association
Roseanna Cutietta Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Federation of Teachers
Rick Tivnan Brewster Teachers' Association
Carene Domato Mt. Vernon Federation of Teachers
Melissa Barreto BOCES Teachers’ Association
Jeff Yonkers NYSUT ED 16 Director
Sean Kennedy Yorktown Congress of Teachers
Lisa Jackson Carmel Teachers’ Association
Janet Knight Mamaroneck Teachers’ Association
José Fernandez Peekskill Faculty Association
Amy Geiger Katonah-Lewisboro District Teachers’ Association
Kathleen Fox Edgemont Teachers’ Association
Miriam Longobardi Chappaqua Congress of Teachers
Jennifer Cole Greenburgh Eleven Federation of Teachers
Jim Nolan Mount Pleasant Cottage School Teachers Association
Kara McCormick-Lyons White Plains Teachers’ Association
Alyson Tina Ardsley Congress of Teachers
Ryan Odell Putnam Valley Federation of Teachers
Catherine Armisto United Staff Association (PNW BOCES)
Vincent Kennedy Katonah-Lewisboro Support Staff Association
Jennifer Moore Croton Teachers’ Association
Melinda Merkel Rye Neck Teachers’ Association
Jim Agnello Bronxville Teachers’ Association
Kevin Budzynski Elmsford Teachers Association
Clare Delongchamp Eastchester Teachers’ Association
Vanessa Van Deusen Graham School Federation of Teachers
Brenda Wright Cornwall Teachers' Association
Virginia Campbell Mount Pleasant Teachers Association
Michael Groarke Bedford Teachers’ Association
Sparrow Tobin Board of Directors NYSUT ED14
Laura Beck Orange-Ulster BOCES Teachers Association
Ray Hodges Monroe-Woodbury Teachers Association
Theresa Uhelsky Minisink Valley Teachers Association
Jon Wedvik Clarkstown Teachers Association
In the past, summer in the Tarrytown region has typically been synonymous with training. With our Summer School program and the Summer Leadership Conference, union leadership training and professional development have always been a priority. These days, it is not business as usual. That said, I am pleased to announce the on-line summer training schedule for the Tarrytown Regional Office.
This summer, we will be offering 27 different webinars. There are up to the minute topics such as Distance Learning Issues and Union Leadership in a Virtual World. We will also address issues in the news with Racial Justice for Educators and Combatting Racism to Build Union Power. There will also be webinars to address the importance of politics with a Lobbying 101 webinar and Navigating Political Discussions Among Members. To help support your newer officers and building reps, we will be doing Building Rep, Negotiations and Grievance training in one-hour blocks. All webinars will be done at no cost to the local or the individual.
Most webinars will be offered twice over the summer to accommodate everyone’s schedule. The training will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays of each week, beginning July 7. All will start at either 9 am or 4:30 pm and will run approximately 1 hour.
As we all shake off the fatigue of the past 100+ days, I am sure that many of you, and the other leaders in your local, will venture out of the house and perhaps take a vacation. This training format will allow for everyone to participate, no matter where they go. At the bottom of this e-mail, you will find a link to the Tarrytown Learning Center website, where you will find a short summary of each webinar offered, as well as the registration form. Upon our receipt of your completed form, registrants will receive a confirmation e-mail and, the day before the session, a link to join the webinar. Please feel free to contact me or your LRS if you have any questions. Please also forward this link to the other leaders in your local.
Link To Summer Training
Date: October 30th, 2019
Time: 4 PM
Location: Little Sorrento 3565 Crompond Rd, Mohegan Lake NY
Will you retire in the next ...1...5...10 years?
As you enjoy an informational dinner seminar learn how you and your loved ones are affected by the Pension Options in the NYS Teachers Retirement System.
• Strategies to help maximize your NYS Pension
• Costly mistakes to avoid
• Why early planning is essential
• Elder Care issues & Estate Planning
Peter Knapp, CLU® is a noted financial speaker and will present his extensive
knowledge on the subject. His 30 years of advocacy throughout NYS has made him an invaluable resource for teachers.
Please call 914-460-1218 or email Peter.Knapp@hudsonfg.com to make a reservation.