JD2718 | Education, Math, Teaching, New York, Bronx, Union, Language, Travel

Web Name: JD2718 | Education, Math, Teaching, New York, Bronx, Union, Language, Travel

WebSite: http://jd2718.org





The sun is shining. People are in good moods, for obvious reason. The leaves are still on the trees, but in an array of greens, yellows, oranges, reds When we go to school tomorrow (many of us) the windows will be open, allowing the lovely New York City air to fill our rooms, replacing the air we exhale If someone is spreading the virus, it gets into the air, attached to droplets and aerosols and all those technical things that really just mean floating bits of virus. Now, just because it is present, that doesn t mean you get sick. That depends, at least partly, on how much is present, and how long it hangs around.That s where the lovely weather comes in. Open your windows, and a small difference between pressure inside and outside will move the air. The more times each hour you get a fresh batch of outside air replacing the air you and your students have exhaled, the safer you are.You are also on the safer side if the number of people in the room with you is low. I hear that only a quarter of NYC students are physically attending school the majority are learning on-line. And even those quarter they don t come every day. They might come every other, or every third, or less. That puts our schools daily somewhere under 10% of capacity which is pretty good for limiting the spread of the virus.You can also filter the air. Not really you the school can. But the filters would need to be HEPA or MERV-16, or at least MERV-13 to get the virus out. It sounds like most schools don t have these. And the schools that do, most have them attached to their air-conditioning systems. But not the heating systems.It is a lovely day today. Today we do not need to worry about what is about to happen to our classrooms. But we should. In the next two weeks we might have consistently nice weather. We might get lucky. But that luck will not hold for all of November and all of December. It will get cold. AC has already shut down, and heating systems will rev up, and circulate un-filtered air throughout our buildings, including your classroom.What do we do when it is too cold to open the windows, but too dangerous not to?Where is the plan?For his part, de blasio is trying to increase in-person attendance, and increase the risk. Being mayor makes him in charge, it does not make him smart. And Carranza does what he s told.There has been a lot of time for the ventilation and filtration systems to be installed. If they have not, then the building is not safe to occupy when it gets too cold to open windows.We need to rely on the UFT even though the leadership seems heavily invested in keeping buildings open. If you will have a ventilation problem when the heat gets turned on bring it to the Chapter Leader, have them escalate the issue within the union. Remind them they have an obligation to keep our students and their members safe. Remind them that even before Labor Day they knew: For most schools, maximizing outside air intake and eliminating recirculating air is a short term solution until winter, but with the mild outside weather now it is achievable and needed until the remainder of the MERV-13 filter shipment arrives. Should be an easy question. How many kids are in school? Turns out, schools have been open for a month, and no one seemed to know how many kids were in them.Open? Well, in this weird blended/staggered way, with most instruction taking place through Zoom. That includes kids who opted to stay home all the time. Kids who come in every other, every third, or every nth day, and receive half, two-thirds, or n-minus-one nths of their instruction remotely. And kids who come to school, go sit in a room, and log onto their classes.But the mayor and the leaders of my union say schools are open And certainly the buildings are open. And some staff are reporting.So how many kids? On any given day? NYC public schools have 1.1 million students. But lots have opted for remote. Those who are coming into school are coming in every 2nd day, or every third day, or less frequently than that. And some who are scheduled to come in stay home on any given day.Two weeks back I took a guess: 50 110k.There’s about 1.1 million students in NYC. About half have moved to fully remote. That leaves 550,000. Some schools are on a 2-day rotation, more are on a 3-day rotation. There are others on 4 or more. Call the average 3. That brings us to about 180,000 students each day. 6% of schools have been shut (Red Zone). 170,000. The City has been hiding attendance numbers. I’ve heard that several large schools have gone de facto fully remote. Bronx Science? Stuyvesant? Dozens of kids each day. What’s the real number? 110,000? 80,000? 50,000?But now the Mayor has filled in some blanks. In person attendance is 82.9%. And 280,000 students are attending school. We still don t know how many are on a 2-day cycle, how many 3-day, and how many longer. But at least a third are on 2-day and a third are on 3-day.That brings us to between 90,000 and 105,000 students in NYC school buildings each day. That s between 8% and 9.5%. When people in charge note that the virus is not spreading in NYC public schools, they don t mention that the buildings are under 10% of capacity.Being elected Mayor, or anything else, gives someone an office. It doesn t confer superior intelligence.Apologies for the pause in posting. I ve been exhausted by the world, by the country, by my city, and by my union. Glanced down at my phone to see who was texting. Today. Middle of the day. It was a former student. Now a teacher herself. Middle school. Why was she texting from work? She s teaching in person. The text cleared things up.QuarantinedShe was unceremoniously sent home, to quarantine. One of her students is positive.DisruptedSo she s already been tested, and with some luck will be negative. But the teacher is home. Class moves to fully remote. They are disrupted. But is this a surprise? They were already doing some weird in one day, out the next kind of thing. Maybe every third day? I should ask. And there was weird recorded lessons, or live stream I don t know the details. But the class was already disrupted.Every class in the city has already been disrupted. At best at best classes are 50% in person. Every third day is more common than every other day, and there are schools on less frequent rotations than that. Each school is different.Little side note: this does not mean that each school chose what it thought was best. The DoE s insistence on a full rotation with daily instruction outside of as well as inside of school, and the UFT s insistence on blended learning straight-jacketed most schools. Some were able to go through the necessary hoops to get exceptions accepted but remember how the first schools that decided they wanted to go remote were shot down? The schools chose, unless the Chancellor wanted them to choose something else.As September passed, a new disruption developed: many schools offer in building instruction via the internet. Students, mostly in some high schools, come to school, open a lap top, and zoom into their classes. At least they get a consistent daily experience. Bizarre, but consistent.Who cares about educational disruption?The Mayor, the Chancellor, and the UFT President have been focused on getting students and teachers into school buildings. There has not been any serious discussion of how education looks when a child gets to every third class, or has two teachers who may not be talking. I ve yet to hear of any PD for teachers on how to keep the three parts of a class on the same page, when they are coming different days for the in-person lesson.A fully remote program would be far less disruptive. But the Mayor, the Chancellor, and the UFT President have been focused on getting students and teachers into school buildings.Maybe the Disruption is Not So Bad (math time)There s about 1.1 million students in NYC. About half have moved to fully remote. That leaves 550,000. Some schools are on a 2-day rotation, more are on a 3-day rotation. There are others on 4 or more. Call the average 3. That brings us to about 180,000 students each day. 6% of schools have been shut (Red Zone). 170,000. The City has been hiding attendance numbers. I ve heard that several large schools have gone de facto fully remote. Bronx Science? Stuyvesant? Dozens of kids each day. What s the real number? 110,000? 80,000? 50,000?Disruption is disruption. But at 110, or 80, or 50 thousand we are not talking about Gotham-scale disruption. We are talking about San Diego, Austin, or Wichita scale.Normally I d end with a barb. Another day that. Today I just want my student to be ok. It could come in any grade. It could come up in almost any mathematics course in the United States today. But why? What is the Commutative Property and why do we study it? Has everyone always studied it?I may need some help from the mathematicians who read this blog. Which probably means Joel. Maybe Owen. Back in this blog s  heyday I had literally hordes maybe 8 or 9 who peaked in. How far I ve slipped.A Little Math (skip ahead)The real numbers (or, for most of us, numbers ) are commutative under addition. That means that a + b and b + a have the same value, (assuming a and b are numbers, or, in more technical language, real numbers ). When people say The Commutative Property and by people I mean People who are not Mathematicians they mean this fact, which educators label The Commutative Property of Addition. They label a similar fact The Commutative Property of Multiplication, ie ab = ba. Some teachers also teach students that division and subtraction are not commutative, which is usually fine, but sometimes puzzles children who are still wondering why five minus seven is different from take five from seven. There are other properties, and they matter just as much. And they all have longer names, or descriptions, than we remember, or than we usually use. We use shorthand. There s the Associative Property of Addition for Real Numbers, and the Associative Property of Multiplication for Real Numbers. There s the Distributive Property of Multiplication over Addition or a(b+c) = ab + ac. There s a special number called the Additive Identity (that s just zero) and another called the Multiplicative Identity (that s just one). And there s a few more fancy sounding properties for pretty simple ideas like Closure and Zero Product.Back to RealitySo here I am, last week, teaching kids a but about matrices. We are multiplying them, and I am stalling. This is a new operation, on a new object. They need more practice multiplying, more fluency, before I introduce what comes next. And instead of assigning all the odd exercises, I decide that I will find interesting things to do that will require some multiplying, and give them some practice. And so I decide that we will decide which properties hold for which operations for matrices.Those would be two by two matrices with real valued entries, but I m going to stop right there before I bore the both of you who already know this stuff and make the rest of you s eyes glaze over. But I also stopped right there for the kids.The QuestionCommutative Property? I ask. Why do we study the Commutative Property?And the clever answer so that we know 7 + 3 is the same as 3 + 7 is just so wrong, because little kids who can t pronounce Commutative (communative?) figure that out on their own. And I ask about the other properties, and the attempts to answer are noble, but universally wrong. They don t know.Would they be shocked to know that I have really old math books (1880s 1930s) on my shelf, and that they do not contain the word commutative ? No, not shocked, and not properly impressed by my old books. Barbarians. But I flip to the place where the properties should be, and I open the index for the books with them, and, not there.Getting to the Answer1960 I tell them. 1960 is roughly the dividing line. I type Спутник on the screen. Even the class without native Russian speakers gets it. Sputnik. Horrified to have been beaten into space by this beeping medicine ball, the United States vowed to close the Space Race by adding the words Associative and Commutative to every preteen s vocabulary. And by teaching us basic set theory at a very young age. The New Math. Kids got some fancy vocabulary. I did. By second grade I knew what each one of these symbols {⊂, ⊊, ∩, ∪, ⊄, ∈, ∉} meant. I knew them well. I don t understand why that didn t get me a job at NASA. Most of my current students did not recognize any of those symbols. Those who d seen any of them, it was the curly brackets. Or if they d seen any of the others, it was one or two, and in 8th grade or later.We do an etymology detour. Who can correct me?  I told them the S- in Sputnik is cognate with English Co-, that the -put- in Sputnik is related to path in English, and that the -nik means doer or -er or person. Thus Sputnik roughly equals with+path+person or more naturally, traveling companion. If you are good with etymology, I feel shakiest with put~path. Help a fellow out.One Last DetourBut before I get a chance to ask if Transposition Distributes over Matrix Multiplication, I have students in one class probing further. How could the US catch up in the space race? Wasn t this The New Math thing worth trying? Nope. I don t think so. The US does just fine going back to its bread and butter when it comes to science and technology importing scientists. And the kids talked about Operation Paperclip and Werner Von Braun.The New Math and Werner Von Braun in one discussion? Sounds like a Tom Lehrer playlist. Next week. I haven t asked a math question in a long, long time. Not sure if anyone who does them is still reading Can a Polygon Be Constructed?Under what circumstances is it possible, given n ≥ 3 segments, to form a polygon?Or, if you prefer, under what circumstances, given n ≥ 3 segments, is it not possible to form a polygon?The segments may be connected in any order.Can a Quadrilateral, but not a Trapezoid, be Formed?Are there four segments from which it is possible to construct a quadrilateral, but from which it is not possible to construct a trapezoid?The segments may be connected in any order. Thursday, two days ago, Bill de blasio announced NYC would not pay UFT members the lump sum payments owed them on time. Michael Mulgrew announced that the UFT would fight by going straight to arbitration.The arbitrator, on Friday, ordered the city to pay half the amount in two weeks (October 31 instead of October 15), and the other half July 1, 2021.The payment was the last and largest chunk left over from when Bloomberg refused to negotiate fairly with us. When de blasio came in we got a new contract, but some of the money owed us was pushed forward. And instead of being retroactive, it was made into lump sums more about that, later.This affects members who worked 2009-11. We should be aware that for the many members hired after that, they experienced the events of the last few days as a fight between City leadership and Union leadership, just as they have experienced much of the news from the last seven months. Does anyone know how many in service members have no financial stake in this? I am guessing 40-50%, but I could be wildly off.In my school only 5 or 6 members are not due a payment but we are probably not typical. At the other end of the spectrum, members who are paycheck to paycheck, or who had spent the lump sum in advance, or who had upped their TDA without backup, they still will hurt but now they are looking at making some of that up at the end of the month.UFTers are still getting the money owed them. Members were relieved. For most members who were owed money the delay is annoying, but they had worried about not getting paid at all.The Mayor sought to unilaterally delay payment. And he succeeded.The Mayor sought an indefinite delay. He failed.The arbitrator limited the delay, but did not order the City to comply with the contract they had signed. The Mayor got away with violating the contract, without penalty.One week before that last payout, de blasio announces the Department of Education is unable to make a lump sum payment to active and retired UFT employees as had been scheduled for this month The Mayor did not bother consulting the UFT leadership in advance (I believe). Our union leadership s overall strategy has been to earn a seat at the table and clearly here, it failed.A union s potential strength comes from its ability to unite our members in action. Our leadership, though, thinks that our strength comes from being good at politics and hiring good lawyers. If they were right (they are not) these events would never have unfolded. The best they could do under those circumstances was go the arbitration route and the limited loss (delayed payment) was the best they could possibly have produced.Why Lump Sums, not Retroactive Payments?I want to add a word about retroactive payments. Those would have been payments for all the money each UFT member had earned between the contract s start date and when the contract was signed (five years?), had they actually been retroactive.In Mulgrew s Thursday night video he says lump sum payment, retro payment, it s known by different names But he knows the right name. It is a lump sum payment.What s the difference? If you got fired, you would not get the pay. If you quit, you would not get the pay. If you left service with 30 years in at age 53 (that happens), but did not file for retirement until age 55, you would not get the pay. At least initially, if you moved from a teacher line to a principal line, you would not get the pay. And if you died in service, AFAIK, your family was not entitled to the pay. A final insult for the families of our Covid-19 victims from the Spring. All of these people would have received retroactive pay, had Mulgrew negotiated for retro. He did not.Why did the UFT leadership bargain for lump sums rather than retroactive payments? Because they could predict firings and discontinuances and resignations. Because actuaries could calculate how many teachers would die before 2020. And every payment so saved meant more money for the rest of us. Mulgrew and his lieutenants were trying to put the highest number possible on our increases even thought the monetary value had already been agreed upon with the City. They were focused on selling the contract, on getting the biggest possible yes vote. They should have focused on the needs of our members, and on fairness.This is why they backloaded increases. And why they chose lump sums, which eliminated those were fired, who quit, or who died, (and thus would not vote on the contract or in union elections) instead of retroactive payments.Back in 2014, Mulgrew was clear: Retro is not a God-given right.   When asked if the families of teachers who die before accumulating the full retro will receive the lump-sum payments, Mulgrew stated This has always been worked out.  Nobody s looking to hurt a family in distress.  We ll work it out.   This does not appear to have been true.For more, see this, and this, and this. Bill de blasio walked up to NYC teachers on a weekday this time.Think about that. Through this whole pandemic he has saved his announcements for Friday. After the work day is over. Or over the weekend. He is a coward. Schools closed? Sunday. Vacation lost. Friday. Zoom banned. Friday. Passover and Good Friday stolen? Friday. He skulks in the shadows.But not this time. He walked right up to us and stole money, in front of the whole world. It is a brazen, daylight robbery. Or at least an attempt. It is Trump-worthy.Over a decade ago, under that slimeball, Mayor Bloomberg, teachers worked under an expired contract. He wouldn t negotiate fairly. And we were not going to sign yet another concessionary deal. Teachers were still smarting (and still are) from the massive concessions that Weingarten and her lieutenants made on our behalf in 2005. So when the contract expired in 2009 we kept working .When Bloomberg left we negotiated with de blasio. In 2014 we completed an ok agreement the raises started right away, but de blasio complained that he did not have the money in hand to pay the back raises from 2009 11. The UFT leadership should have negotiated for full retroactivity. Instead they negotiated a series of precarious lump sum payments, with caveats attached. The City paid 1/8 in 2015, 1/8 in 2017, 1/4 in 2018, 1/4 in 2019, and the last quarter was due next week. Hmm, a bit more than that, since interest has been accruing. The last quarter was set to be the biggest quarter.So now, a week away from the last part of this deal, de blasio says no, he s not paying us what we worked for, what we are owed, what we unfairly let the city hold onto for a decade.Why is the coward brave?He figures that no one will open the city s books, and realize that the money is actually there.He figures that teachers will look bad demanding money on top of our regular pay. He figures it will look to outsiders like we are demanding a bonus.He figures that the world will not realize that this is pay that we earned, long ago, and that teachers were essentially forced to loan back to the City.He knows that only about half the current UFTers are due the money.I wish I believed he had miscalculated.A facebook friend wrote:I earned a salary in 2009 and I was only partially paid.NYC asked if they could pay me later for what I had earned, they asked me to wait until 2020, and I said Ok.Now, I will not get that salary that I earned 11 years ago, ever? Soon? And I’m told only days before? As if I didn’t have bills lined up for it?Addendum: teachers do not get bonuses when the city is soaring in revenues asking us to “help” the city when it is below revenue expectations is then inappropriate.Mulgrew wrote:Those payments are overdue wages that go back to 2009 and 2010, when then-Mayor Bloomberg refused to grant educators the same wage increases other municipal workers received.We are entitled to this money, and the city is obligated to make us whole.Because of a clause we insisted on including in the 2014 contract for just such a possibility, we are taking the city to immediate arbitration. With arbitration, we don’t have to file a grievance or go to court, which could take months or years.Our hearing before an independent arbitrator is already scheduled for tomorrow. At that hearing, we will demand that the city uphold the agreement it made with us.Over these last five months, members and delegates and chapter leaders and executive board members have asked Mulgrew about retro and he assured them each time that the money was there and that the payments were not in play. Either he knew and deceived the members, or he didn t know but how could he not know?The right answer: The money is there, we expect them to make the payment, but we have to be careful with City Hall we work with them but we never fully trust them we did not hear that answer. Why not? Was Mulgrew too busy working with de blasio and Carranza on blended lunch and instructional learning, and did not want to upset them by delivering such a blunt message to the members?Some points:Many of us do not live paycheck to paycheck but some of us do. And some of us have already spent the money that was due in a few days. Who will help them?The union encourages members to up their TDA % for a one time bump from the lump sum payment. Now those people who listened will not only not get their lump sum, but they will get a huge chunk of their pay taken out it is too late to fix this. Who will help them?The City has been wasting money 30 different ways over these last few months. Overpaid managers. Silly contracts. Hiring non-essential staff.Police are an issue. The City paid massive NYPD overtime to police peaceful protests. There has been no defunding of the police there has been a huge increase in police funding.The City knew about financial problems in May. Or June? They got worse with no stimulus package. But whatever the date, they could have approached the UFT. A few months in advance. A month in advance. To talk. Not with an ultimatum. Not one week in advance.By declining to engage with the UFT leadership, when it was possible, by publicly urinating on Michael Mulgrew, de blasio shows that he is neither impressed by the UFT s potential strength, nor appreciative of Mulgrew s concessions.Mulgrew s strategy of sacrificing UFTers rights in pursuit of a foolish reopening plan earned him (and us) no respect from the City. Concessions are bad. Concessions with no consideration? Who does that?In 2014, to win a larger ratification vote, Mulgrew made the payments look larger by backloading them, and by stringing them out for years. This was dumb.From now on, money up front. Don t let Mulgrew or the next Mulgrew sell you a bill of goods.Is there anything we can do beyond arbitration?This really is horrible, especially for those UFTers who were due the money and are in bad financial shape.But lump sums aside, the big fight that should be happening right now, is not happening right now. We still need to move our system to fully remote. And we are unlikely to succeed until the UFT leadership gets on board. Where teachers eat lunch is an easy question during normal times. Do you eat socially, in a teachers room? In a teachers cafeteria? Do you eat in an empty classroom? Do you bring lunch? Do you go outside? Buy something around the corner?But in a pandemic, the equations change. None of the guidelines and rules I have seen about teacher programs, safety, procedures, etc etc none of them mention safety for adult meals yet teachers are expected to remain in school buildings for 6 hours and 20 minutes.How is staff lunch handled in your school? I am really curious. Leave me a comment, or an email. What I have heard makes me think that most schools are ok. But not all.Does your principal demand you stay in the building? Talk to your Chapter Leader.Is there a teachers room? Do you know the socially distanced capacity? Talk to your Chapter Leader.Is there other space where you can eat socially distanced? Talk to your Chapter Leader.I have heard about schools where each of these is an issue. Please do not suck it up and deal with it your safety is important. Talk to the Chapter Leader if there is not a safe place to eat while maintaining proper social distancing.The NYC Department of Education is your employer. You are their employee. It is their responsibility to keep their employees safe. By not even addressing employee safety they have been grossly negligent.It is the Wild West out there. In normal times there are many schools where the union is unable to enforce the contract. And now? 1800 sets of norms in 1800 schools? But while it is hard, the stakes have never been higher. If something is wrong, go to your Chapter Leader. The issue may need to go to the District Rep, and even the Borough Rep.The UFT leadership is dead wrong for not advocating for full remote but they still have to protect their members us. If there is a safety issue including nowhere safe for staff to eat report it! I really am.I mean, good luck tomorrow. But many of us worked so hard! I poured my heart into stopping tomorrow from coming. It just wasn t enough. I wish I could have contributed more, but I don t have the reach, or the influence.My colleagues. High school. Middle school. This day should not have happened.de Blasio was dead set on opening. The Chancellor followed the Mayor s direction. And the UFT leadership has been saying since June that with the rate low we had to open.It was obvious to me, and to almost every teacher I know, that the right course of action was to go remote to announce it early, to give people time to prepare for it. And planning this takes time. But we needed to get the UFT leadership on board. That never happened.So now, if you have to go in, be careful.If things are off, talk to your Chapter Leader, report it. Call the UFT call center at 212-331-6311 directly. That s for missing safety supplies, iffy ventilation, protocols that aren t being followed, and even general disorder (which, in a pandemic, is a safety issue)Me? I have an accommodation to work remotely. I ve been coming in to work on the program, and consult with the principal, but tomorrow I m teaching from home.Is it possible to change minds this week? I dunno. If things go well, and let s hope they do, it will be hard to change minds immediately.  But we should not give up. All the facts, all the arguments are still there, still on our side. Eventually we will go remote. Let s hope it happens before people get sick. We should not be willing to give up. I am still fighting. This is not your fault. This was not your decision.Odds are, no one asked you, the person who knows the job best, what you thought. What you think.The planning for today, Tuesday September 29, the first day of elementary school in NYC, that planning has been dumped on principals. Some principals are smart and clever. But no principal has been trained in organizing a school to operate.I m not there, and I m excited and nervous for the first day. I am not the only high school teacher who is terrified of those little kids I do not know how you do it.I hope the little ones are used to seeing adults in masks by now. I know first day meltdowns occur, and hope you get lucky and have none. But thinking about that makes me tens.I m more concerned by procedures in those schools where the principal was not necessarily so great at the planning details. How smooth is the entry? Is social distancing more or less maintained? Have they figured out what to do with kids who come on the wrong day? Or has your school been absolutely excellent at making sure that parents only come on the right day? Is there a good procedure for moving kids to your room? I guess double lines are out I love double lines. I m hoping that once they are in your room they are in better hands, and the teaching (socially distanced of course) takes over and provides structure. Even us high school folks make classroom rules though probably not as creatively as you.All of those entry procedures (and dismissal, too), all of that was up to the principal to plan. 1800+ principals. How many of them got it right? And of the ones who got it right a month ago, how schools have the necessary staff to make it happen? The superintendent and executive superintendent signed off but they did not really look. How kids line up on their way in? How they get to classes? In most cases that s your principal s handiwork. In most, it should be okay.But I m worried about those of you in places where the morning brings chaos. Chaos, during a pandemic, is a safety issue. Chaos tomorrow will be a bigger issue than ventilation. If your school experiences chaos, have the Chapter Leader contact the District Rep and the UFT Hotline. And if the CL is not there, you can call the main UFT call center number 212-331-6311. (Why do we have a call center? That s like calling a government office, or the cable company).This is cruel. We all know that this system should be remote, needs to be remote. No one asked us. No one asked you. But if you are there tomorrow, I know you will do your best to take care of the kids, to take care of yourself. Please report any problems with safety or procedure (smaller things that can be handled by your school, bring them to the school leader and/or the UFT CL). And I know what you really love, teaching the little ones, and you will finally get a chance after almost seven months But be careful. And good luck. Teaching this way is not like real teaching. Maybe a pale facsimile. And that s not a real classroom. But I still need to find ways to have fun.This story needs some context. You may know that I stopped giving tests. But I live in a world, and teach in a world, with tests. One of my classes this term is one term advanced scheduled to take a Regents Exam in January a Regents Exam that will never happen.How do I avoid spending a horrible zoom-term prepping for an exam that won t happen? I need to convince the kiddos that it is not necessary. And how do I do that? I m lucky. My students are good at taking tests (that s the nature of the school). Their instructor in the Spring was good. He taught, pretty well, over half the material on the Regents. And the scoring scale is bizarre associating passing with earning one-third of the points. (Really. Look.)So I gave a Regents, in three parts, so that we don t have to do any more testing or test prep this term. They did a Part I during an asynchronous class (some of them ran over, but no biggie). They did a Part II (eight short answers) in a class period. And Parts III and IV are homework (Haven t looked at them yet, but after Part I almost everyone had passed which rose to 100% after Part II).Oh, the stupid zoom trick?They did Part II in class. A test that doesn t count. Establishing a base count. They d already passed, or just about. Relax, relax And I sent them to break out rooms to relax and work. 28 students. 28 break out rooms. And I popped in, room after room. Got to more than half. Saying hi. Asking them a bit about themselves. Chatting. meeting them a little. Just a small thing to make up a tiny bit for not actually meeting them. No one signed off on your building s ventilation being safe. The DoE report documented conditions. The UFT inspector documented some conditions, and asked the custodian, or whoever they found on duty, about others. no one signed off on your building being safe.This is a summary. The only new ground in this post is at the end, about heating. I wrote about ventilation twice before, here and here. And today everyone is caught up in discussion of the CSA resolution, which is important. But I am trying not to get so caught in the news of the day that I forget about the news of the year (we are not yet remote, and need to get there for the safety of ourselves and our students and our city).No one measured airflow in your rooms. (In 99% of cases). They checked that some airflow existed (toilet paper or streamers). They needed to measure. This is not an expense item. It is a time item. And despite DoE and UFT assurances from late June and early July, the process did not actually start until mid- or late- August.Spaces might be safer under certain conditions. Those conditions might include the position of the door, or which windows are open. A fan might be required. To my knowledge school personnel have not received any such recommendations.Ventilation that is filtered (HEPA or MERV-13 or higher) should be treated differently than ventilation that is not filtered at that level, or not filtered at all, or absent. School staff should have instructions about how to treat these spaces differently. To my knowledge school personnel have not received any such instructions.The DoE has not released ventilation guidelines*. The UFT has not released ventilation guidelines. We (members, chapter leaders) cannot evaluate our spaces against guidelines, because the internal guidelines have not been shared with us. We cannot point to a ventilation report that has marked our spaces as safe because the reports (DoE and UFT) do not mark spaces as safe.None of this means that your classroom is dangerous. it means we don t know. You don t know. And if you are suspicious, there is not a report out there saying you are ok; there is a not a person who decided that your room presents no risk or low risk. That is worrying.* DoE guidelines are vague and are not quantifiable. The existence of exhaust does not ensure adequate air-exchange. At crucial lines the DoE assures is that issues have been addressed, without addressing issues.Also, HeatingWhen it gets cold, heat gets turned on. Heat in most of our school buildings does not come through the same vents as our air conditioning. It comes through base boards and radiators. Most of our schools do not have ventilated heating. That toilet paper test? In most schools it would fail during heating season. Why do they do the toilet paper test? To see if air is coming into the room through a ventilation system so that they can surmise that the air in the room is being exchanged with outside air. They want to know, or should want to know, and we need to trust that there are N number of air-exchanges per hour. The more air exchanges per hour (the more quickly the air is changed out), the safer the space. When a roomful of air leaves, some of the droplets leave it with it. When new air arrives from outside, that s good. Air comes in through ducts that often carry A/C, and leaves through returns. And in my school, those same ducts carry the heated air when it gets cold.But in most schools, heated air does not arrive like that. Heat comes as in as warmth that radiates from radiators that s not a flow of air into the room. The air is not being exchanged. The air is not being filtered.is this a far off issue?  Last year the highs in late October were in the low 50s. Last year the high on November 2 was 50º, on November 8 was 41º, and on November 13 was 34º. That s not atypical for the last few years. Heating season officially starts October 1 in NYC, but there will almost certainly be serious need by mid-November. So this heat stuff will become an issue, probably between 4 and 7 weeks from now. That s close.We are starting school for elementary schools on Tuesday, and we do not have a plan to keep the air we breathe safe for a full month.Will opening windows work? Well, when it s cold, that will be uncomfortable. And I heard a high-level elected UFT official this past week mooting opening the windows a crack. But opening a crack lets less air in. On the other hand, outside pressure is higher in the winter, so even with a crack, perhaps a stream of cold air will rush in. But when a room has a cold draft, kids (and adults) will scoot away from the cold air remember, social distancing? Not a good idea.He also talked about pre-filtering air before heating it, and one or two other crackpot ideas. I did not hear anything that had a chance of working.Take away? Ask in your building if your heat is ventilated. And if not, ask them today (well, Tuesday) about the plan for cold weather, because it is about to arrive, and because there probably is no plan.Expert II brought a ventilation expert to my school. Thursday. He, and his student, and me, the principal, and a member of my consultation committee walked through a whole bunch of spaces. They brought instruments to measure airflow, not streamers or toilet paper. They measured, observed, took notes. And they made recommendations for needed repairs, for filter inspection cycles. And they made recommendations for occupancy once MERV-13 filters are installed, and them made recommendations for occupancy before MERV-13 are installed. (Differences involved position of occupants, opening windows and doors, spaces to leave empty, where to position purifiers, etc). Based on these recommendations we feel far better.Also, they explained some of the science. That also helps. I learned about vents and returns, and CFM and humidity and temperature, and air exchanges, and even about crack calculations. They talked about pressure differences, which reminded me of discussions of potential and voltage in high school physics. I was curious about how the air actually moved, and the expert described the shape of the flow, and where actual boundaries formed. His student quietly told me that he wished there was a way to make the air temporarily visible, so we could actually watch the movement.That reminded me of a project I proposed decades ago. I was in my second year of high school physics, and after studying some simple wave patterns on drumheads with some neat ideas about visualizing them, we talked briefly about fluid flow (It s complicated). I thought I might visualize some simple kinds of flow, and we discussed taking a small tank and using crystal of a magnesium salt that would dissolve light purple into water. I never got any further than talking about it, but for a moment Thursday I thought about getting some glittery purple dust into the vent, to watch it flow (not realistic, but inspired me to write this, about, in part, that high school class.)They also told us that we were fortunate our ventilation system was well-designed (I was surprised). We are also fortunate, our heating is ventilated, which is not the case in most schools. Most schools have ventilation disasters scheduled for the day the heat comes on. And no one is talking about it. We should come back to this.Anyway, why go to all that trouble of bringing in experts? Because none of the reports we had gotten said that we were safe, that the ventilation was okay. None of them, not the year-and-change old BCA report, not the DoE s current report, not the UFT report, none said we were safe. None told us where to avoid putting desks. None told us which windows to open, whether fans should be on, whether doors should be closed. And even the information that they did include, well, no. Trust the UFT report, when we the leadership is hellbent on opening? Trust the DoE report? What, am I and my members stupid?Expert III was at a market. Saturday. Bought some very tasty, very overpriced apples. On my way out I heard a guy telling his companions something about toilet paper. He was talking about school ventilation. He was explaining something. I focused he actually knew something. Excuse me I couldn t help myself, and then we began to talk. He was in a lot of schools. An inspector. For the DoE? Yes, but a contractor. It was one of his colleagues who got caught on video with the toilet paper on the stick.Toilet paper on a stick is actually useful it can tell you if air is flowing, or not. Binary like that. I agreed, but mentioned that in my school I d brought someone in with meters. My new expert got excited. That s what you really need! You need to know cfm! You did the right thing! He became animated. I explained that I didn t trust the DoE or the UFT on this, and he agreed vigorously.After the toilet paper on the stick incident, they were ordered not to talk to anyone who was watching them work. But, he felt, it was all for show anyway. If they wanted to get this right, they would have started in July. They would have measured. Then I asked about heating, and yes, most of our schools will have big problems, but his companions had been waiting patiently, but we d been talking almost ten minutes, so I said goodbye.But get that the guy who worked ventilation inspections for the DoE  thought I was right to bring in an outside expert, actually got excited.SummaryThe experts spoke the same language. They both value science. And they were not impressed by the politics that are taking place.To decide what to do with a space, they agreed that we should take air flow measurements. They agreed that the proper filters were important. And they both recognized that getting this right takes time.QuestionsAsk yourself this who told you the ventilation in your building was fine?Did they tell you which doors to keep open, and which to keep closed? Did they recommend placement of purifiers? Did they recommend places not to set up a work space? Did they tell you which windows to open?And did they warn you about what would change when the heat gets turned on? Sometimes a kid just rubs me the wrong way. I m not good at hiding stuff, but I really try to hide it. Sometimes I fail, but I do try.Then there s the kids I roll my eyes at, pick on a bit, even make fun of the ones who I have a soft spot for, who enjoy the attention. (Plus, it masks when someone really does get to me.) There was a kid who just graduated, call him Vez. Everyone knew he drove me nuts. I adored him. Occasionally we would have interesting conversations. Never about math. Though a couple of times he confessed that I made math not so bad. High praise. And then, mid-August, he s graduated, I got an email from him. I m surprised. I open it. He took a project from the spring, and improved it. (at the bottom of this post). So yeah, he got to me. But not like that, if you know what I mean. This post isn t about kids like Vez, the kind of kids I want in every class, but not too many of them I m talking about kids like, well, hmm.  There are those who insist that class stop any time they have a question. They do not accept we will come back to that. Rather than give me and their classmates a chance to explain, they argue. They are hard for me. There are those who just don t like the class, but like to demonstrate their distaste. I am pretty good at not reacting to them. And then there are those, well, like me, when I was a teenager.I was smart in high school. And a smart aleck. I liked showing off. I didn t work very hard, and made it obvious. I did participate, which most teachers did like. And I got super high scores on tests in most subjects. In Math and French especially my mixed work habits were easily forgiven. And in English and History I spoke up, and sometimes said smart things.But there was one teacher, junior year   I rubbed him the wrong way, and he was not good at hiding it. Physics. I actually loved the class. It was amazing how the math that I breathed intersected so wonderfully with the real world. And this was the first class where the teacher taught hard work, and did nothing to make it easy. (well, maybe that happened in math classes, but that stuff came so easily to me that I may not have noticed). The physics teacher balanced the difficulty, which he did not disguise, by grading on a scale that made sense:  25 was passing 50 was a C, 75 was a B.I think there were a handful of juniors in the class, the rest were seniors. In class discussions I participated, of course. And I did some of my homework, but not all. Maybe half. That s the kind of high school student I was. Other teachers just marked me down and moved on, appreciating the good participation. But not him. The lack of effort, the lack of hard work, it galled him. He seemed to praise right answers, but not mine. And he seemed to enjoy it when I was wrong. And while I got a lot right, I made mistakes.After every quiz the teacher made a histogram of our scores. He would mention the high score, and talk about the middle of the distribution a bit. Now, there were some really smart kids who did the work, and the work was hard. So while I got by without working hard, I was not the top bar. Generally I was in the top half, usually around the third quartile, maybe 6th out of 22, it s a little fuzzy. But one time, only one time, I was first. He mentioned my name, top score, and before the smile could form on my face, pointed out that the previous year Paul, a senior who I did not like, had had the high score, and the teacher shared that score, which was significantly higher than mine.I m not writing to complain about the teacher. Quite the opposite. I learned a lot. I loved his class. I just didn t understand why he didn t like me. And he liked other people. He wasn t a mean teacher. One senior, sweet kid, okay at math and science, pushed into the class I think by his parents, worked hard, but struggled, and the teacher was amazingly supportive. I just looked that senior up, he actually returned to work at our high school for a few years (he did not teach physics). Most of the juniors signed up for a second year of physics, with the same teacher. I don t remember much negative vibe from the teacher that second year (tiny class, by the way, just four of us). But I do remember he had a clear favorite and I just looked the kid up, Ivy-educated head engineer for a huge, well-known company.Anyway, I get it. Sometimes there s a kid who just rubs you the wrong way. And even if you hide it most of the time, sometime, with a particular kid, you can t hide it all the time. He didn t go too far, not with me, and while it bothered me then, that s long ago. I d like to think that I ve never gone too far, but I know I did, pretty badly, once. That stays with me.Anyway, I really was annoying. And I m surprised, looking back, that I only noticed one teacher s reaction. There must have been others, been better at hiding it.Footnote he retired from teaching, but still plays the tuba:Vez s Spring project:Vez s surprising (he had already graduated) Summer revision: It s been a hell of a day and a hell of a week and a hell of a last six months.Six months ago, today, I did not report to work. The risk was not worth the PD. Fast forward to last week and the week before, and our PD was teacher led, topics were chosen by polling teachers, and some was mandatory, but the sessions that were voluntary were still full. I wish the people in charge of PD at the Department of Education could come to a school that is doing bottom-up PD, and learn what the good stuff looks like.Today Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. There will be mourning and a nomination fight and a vicious 46 days until the election.Today I read that Jose Vilson resigned. Where is he going? I don t know. But I wish him adventures and success and the opportunity to break some stuff. Some stuff needs to get broken.Met my classes. Yesterday, actually. Yes I like being in class. And no, I don t like doing it on the computer. And yes, I wish it were in person, but not until conditions are ready. This feels like a ritualistic repetition, a prayer without meaning, a politicians of course I . recited at some point in each speech. It s true, all of it, but why do we all feel the need suddenly to say we like teaching? This is our chosen career. Maybe we should be.a little less defensive about it, all of us.But we practiced break out rooms and using virtual whiteboards, which, by the way, virtually suck. But kids like making hearts and arrows and writing POG and POGGERS frequently enough that the Old felt compelled to look it up to make sure it wasn t evil or dirty.After work today my feet took me to Fordham, where I found an alum at a small rally (maybe 100) for remote openings. Cool. And then a woman spoke and we looked at each other, and we thought we knew her. Sure enough, our Assembly Member, Nathalia Fernandez, making some noise and running for Borough President. We chatted for a minute, about schools, and my school (she says she will help with a diversity initiative), and a friend s school that an Assembly Member from the neighboring district is helping move to all remote So I wish there was a nice moral, or a summary, or a clear conclusion. But these are starting points, way points, premonitions of a tumultuous autumn. These are signs pointing to events to come.How WILL my online classes go, what political turmoil and violence will arrive in RBG s wake, where IS The Jose Vilson headed, and how WILL the fight for all remote in NYC proceed and will my union leadership join it? BackgroundSince June the UFT and the NYC Department of Education have been trying to find a way to open NYC schools with classes in the school buildings in September. It may have been a noble idea in May or June; it is a lunacy today.Back when we started, the obvious first adjustment would be to limit the numbers of children in a classroom, to provide for social distancing. Every version of every plan broke classes into pieces to accomplish this. Effectively, class size was being lowered. In a weird, pandemicky context, every plan was a class size reduction plan.Reducing class size creates more classes. 600 students with a class size of 30 that s twenty classes. Reduce class size to 20 that s thirty classes. Reduce class size to 15 forty classes. And reduce class size to 12 that s fifty classes.The Story BeginsHow do we go from 20 classes to 30 classes?  Here s one way: If each teacher has five classes, we could go from 4 teachers to 6 teachers. And in a system with 1.1 million students in maybe 40,000 classes whoa, that s a lot more classes, and that s a lot more teachers!How else could we go from 20 classes to 30 classes? Here s another way: If each teacher used to teach five classes, let them teach 7 each (we can find a way to cover the last two). Now, this is NYC. No one in their right mind thinks anyone would proposed increasing workload on a teacher by 40% Right?How else could we go from 20 to 30 classes? Here s one more way: If each class only met two days out of three, then the teacher, same number of periods, would be teaching more classes. A NYC teacher with 25 periods normally has five classes the same teacher would now have seven and a half (ok, no half class, but at scale that s how the math works).So, one problem, three solutions:Hire more teachersGive each teacher more workMake each class meet less frequentlyOver the summer, most DoE schools were preparing to give teachers more work. Teach 25 in person days, and post material for on-line classes, and do something live on-line as well. In addition, we learned in the spring that any live remote teaching took more preparation time than normal teaching and not marginally more, significantly more.The ridiculous staffing plan signed by the DoE and UFT in late August essentially created the need for many more teachers when both sides knew that no more teachers were being hired (well, a few, but nothing close to the 5 digit need they were defining). In addition, the agreement left fully remote teachers with the Spring exhaustion issue live remote teaching takes significantly more work than regular teaching.And then, this week, Carranza backed off the demand for live remote teaching for students who receive some in person instruction (most commonly, one day out of every three). That is the equivalent of making about half of our classes meet less frequently the third solution. It instantly reduced the staffing crisis but it continues to rely on in person teachers also prepping asynchronous remote which is not as onerous as live teaching remote on top of a full day, but it is hard. This adjustment leaves us with a mix of the second and third solutions, and the workload issues remain overwhelming.Where do we stand now?We are understaffed but not at a crisis level. Students will likely receive less instruction than Carranza promised. Fewer teachers will be given outrageous workloads but still enough that we should be very concerned. But this is only true if schools can adjust plans in light of the last minute change in instructions.Carranza s adjustment made a mess of school s plans, without time to adjust. I ll try to write about that later today.Last word apologies for the pace of my writing slowing in recent days the demands of the September 21 Avoidable Disaster on me were significant, and I was planning and programming jd Sometimes a situation can be complicated and murky.A month ago that s how the DoE s school reopening plans may have looked.Today? No. We know what s in the plans. There are six days to make side deals and little arrangements and come to understandings but we see the picture.Thus the line. The clear line.Are school s ready to open? Or close enough that we can make a few adjustments to get them there, and we should fight hard for those adjustments?Or are schools not safe to open? And we should be fighting to keep them remote.The majority of teachers I interact with, the vast majority, think we should go remote.What about you? Do you think we should fight to go remote? Or should we spend the next week fighting for a safe September 21 opening?Most Chapter Leaders I speak with they think we should be fighting for remote. Most union officials think we should be remote.But our union president? He is so focused on making a 9/21 in the building opening   It s time for him to say it.Should we be fighting for a safe 9/21 opening? Or should we be fighting for full remote? Which is our priority?The teachers think we should go remote. That s true. And that s what we need to hear our union president say. New York City public schools have been open for staff for two, three, now four days. And we have been busy dealing with problems.Our immediate focus was drawn to personal protective equipment (PPE) and associated cleaning supplies (disinfectant spray, wipes, sanitizer). That seems to be solved? Maybe. Took some schools (Hi there!) two days to get deliveries; many are still incomplete. But most stuff is in most places. There are still issues. In some schools principals are refusing to distribute sanitizer, wipes, and gloves. Various parts of deliveries were short. But for the most part, stuff has arrived.And then there was a storm over ventilation. Trust me, we will hear more about that topic. We are looking at a whole bunch of half-measures, many of which will no longer suffice on September 21 when kids arrive. Interior offices are a ventilation nightmare. (Stay out, if you can, unless you have been promised safety, in writing). And what spaces are safe, under what conditions, without HEPA or MERV13+ filters? And ventilation all goes to hell when the heating season starts. It is the height of irresponsibility to open schools in September, hoping that you will think of a plan for November. Who knows, and is remaining silent?And now? Three COVID-19 cases in school so far. Nope. Six cases. Nope. Eight cases. Actually, sixteen so far. And this was just day three. There will be a flurry of concerned news stories. Except perhaps the NY Times, whose ace reporter thinks cases will happen and we should get over it, when she is not retweeting a reopening proponent, without identifying him as such.But do not lose the big picture all of this is dangerous, all of it is unfair, none of it will work.Do not let each day s crisis, and there will be another, and another, and another, do not let this series of crises distract from the need to go all-remote, or the fact that the opposition comes from our Governor, our Mayor, iur Chancellor, (and for now, our union).We should not get so caught up in the issue of the day that we forget all the ways that going remote is the right decision, and not going there is wrong:Yes, keeping spaces sanitized will be challenging, even with the proper supplies.Yes, you were right to be nervous. Ventilation is a big problem. And everyone should know that the temporary solutions (might be good enough for now) won t work when it gets cold. People know and aren t speaking about this.And yes, sick people will come to school without knowing they are sick (it s already happening) and get more people sick. This system of not mixing kids through the day, and random testing it is designed to limit the SIZE of the outbreaks. It is not designed to stop the outbreaks from occurring.But there is more:The planning (pedagogical, scheduling, and logistical) was done by almost two thousand principals, many of whom are not qualified to do this planning. We should not have to watch the results the week of September 21 25 to decided that the impending disaster is actually a disaster.The blended learning models will provide WORSE education than fully remote, in most cases. This will be true in 100% of high schools (except a substantial number that have used an exception to essentially avoid implementing the chancellor s plan or, as I am currently hearing, never applied for an exception, but are simply disregarding their chosen model). And, we are in the hole. Instead of our most ambitious planners devoting this summer to preparing for fully remote, we have instead been engaged building a blended sandcastle, which we will watch wash away.Social distancing is hard to maintain for adults. It will be much harder with children. Carranza s plan teach them is just his way of shifting blame onto the classroom teacher in advance, for a problem that he created.  It will be massively problematic in the majority of our schools, at every level. Kids get close. Kids touch. Kids share things.School overcrowding in NYC is a real thing. Because of this the DoE planned not for a good number for each classroom, but for the maximum number that could support social distancing. They shifted their guidelines. They went from 65 square feet to person to 50 square feet per person, often forgetting to count the teacher. They advised  that 9 12 would be typical. I know, you should know, the Chancellor knows if schools are given choices, and put in impossible situations, they will choose the maximum allowable. And the repercussions? See social distancing above.Entry and movement plans are not easy to devise, and may be hard to maintain. Especially for 1800 principals without training. Imagine what happens when too many people enter at once. Or when the line extends around the corner or into the street. Or when a kid shows up on the wrong day. Or when twenty do, and there s no space There is another aspect to overcrowding: other space. Where will teachers sit when they are not teaching? And by sit, remember, that many teachers will have to run live lessons with kids at home. Where is this space coming from? Many schools, probably most, do not have adequate office space or empty rooms to allow teachers to work, while socially distanced. And, oh yeah, don t forget the worst ventilation problems? Offices.And then there is staffing. The UFT and DoE agreed to a staffing plan that created need for many more teachers at a time when there was no more budget. This will not work. Some schools are putting vacancy as the teacher s name for 5, 10, even 20 or 40 teachers. Other schools are not providing instruction while the child is remote (often two thirds of the time). And other schools are just waiting. Schedules are a mess. We do not have workable plans. And with all of our space eaten up, we cannot combine classes, or move them to the auditorium. Carranza brought us to the breaking point, and left us there, so that normal circumstance will do the actual breaking.Back to staffing, and workload. There is one more approach that many schools are choosing perhaps most schools. They do not have adequate numbers of teachers to run the school with the plan Carranza and the UFT agreed to. So they are giving teachers full schedules, and then adding remote classes. Instead of pushing the school to the breaking point, they are pushing the human beings who work there to the breaking point. The spring was brutally difficult to be a teacher. Workload was off the scale. We felt, many of us, most of us, physically exhausted. But that was not by design. Carranza is watching principals actually plan to do even worse to us full remote teaching load, plus extra hybrid remote classes. And the UFT agreed to higher class size limits for remote. Or full in school teaching load, plus hybrid remote.  They are pushing the workload off the scale. I wish I knew that the UFT was looking at teacher schedules.Unsafe conditions. Chaotic planning. Schedules that will not work. And unbearable workload. AND people getting sick. It s time to stop this nonsense before it goes any further. We need to go remote, now. Andy Cuomo took way too long in March to start shutting things down. Remember him overruling de Blasio s shelter in place ?But the Mayor wasn t better. In March Bill de Blasio kept the schools open when they needed to be closed.Chancellor Carranza heard reports of COVID-19 in buildings, and he and his cronies hushed them up, and didn t close the buildings.Someone, maybe everyone on the 14th floor of 52 Broadway knew we had confirmed cases in schools, and went to court to force the closures ok   But in the meantime allowed UFT members to walk back into those buildings.In May I examined their record from March, and suggested putting protection in place for September. It did not happen.Who is keeping you safe tomorrow?The DoE just released ventilation reports. For each room they askAre there windows? Can they be opened? Supply fan? Exhaust fan? Unit ventilator?Nothing about dampers, about air exchange, about filters. Nothing about how many windows open (well, at least one), nor how wide it opens. They don t even differentiate between offices and classrooms.They just want you back in school.The UFT has provided us with a protocol for dealing with missing PPE and cleaning supplies. Good. But where is their guidance on ventilation? COVID-19 is primarily an airborne disease.Where is their guidance on how to read the reports? The UFT s own reports intentionally did not evaluate ventilation. Where is the written guidance on MERV13 filters? The UFT seems to imply we are safe without them. I don t think that is true. Let s see it in writing With Mulgrew s signature at the bottom. (I know, not happening).They just want you back in school. (with random testing).de Blasio is on a mission to open schools. He just wants you back in school.And Cuomo? Remember Andy Cuomo? What a moment to disappear. Apparently his squabble with de Blasio doesn t extend to the health of teachers. He is fine with you back in school.So who is looking out for teachers and other school staff?No one is doing it for us we have to look out for ourselves, and for each other.Something is missing? Discuss it with each other. Have the Chapter Leader discuss it with the Principal. Have the Chapter Leader call the UFT hotline. No one is going to do it for you.Something seems wrong? Discuss it with each other. Have the Chapter Leader discuss it with the Principal. Have the Chapter Leader call the UFT hotline. No one is going to do it for you.You are being asked to go into a space that you suspect is not properly ventilated? Discuss it with each other. Have the Chapter Leader discuss it with the Principal. Have the Chapter Leader call the UFT hotline. No one is going to do it for you.We wear masks to protect other.We point out unsafe conditions to protect each other.We shut down unsafe spaces to protect each other.Who is looking out for teachers and staff?Ourselves alone! I need to vent. So do our schools.But how do we know if the ventilation in our schools is adequate?Bad ventilation is always an issue. During good times people claim bad air in buildings affects their health. But this is about COVID-19. What defects in ventilation put our students, and ourselves, at risk of the virus being spread?If we were just talking about students, we have until September 21 to answer those questions. But we are not talking about just students.Tomorrow, September 8, staff are due to report to buildings. In some schools that will be two dozen adults. In some schools that will be several hundred. The numbers are small enough that we can successfully maintain social distancing. We will have PPE, or if we don t, the UFT has established a useful PPE protocol:No PPE?Talk with the principal.Members wait outside.Call UFT Hotline 212-701-9677.But where is the Ventilation Protocol?[                      this space left blank but why?                   ]My main point today is this: The UFT has provided us a PPE protocol, but not a Ventilation Protocol. We should do our best to apply the PPE protocol to ventilation as well. I ll come back to this. But if there are ventilations questions, talk with the principal. Limit access to iffy spaces. Call the UFT Hotline. I m not sure about the waiting outside part.Note: Today I am addressing primarily chapter leaders and their designees. But members should be aware and informed, especially where the chapter leader has been reluctant to step forward.Where are the reports?The DoE reports are not yet available. They ve known this is an issue since May or June. They ve had all summer. This is willful disrespect to staff. This is willful disregard of our safety.What about the UFT Walkthroughs? aka School Safety Report ? Chapter Leaders were banned from watching the inspections.  But then the report arrived and didn t tell me useful information about ventilation.Ventilation (Page 4 of 16) (Consult with the custodial engineer. The intent is not for us to certify the building s ventilation system but to verify the following questions with the custodial engineers.)They specifically were instructed not to say whether the ventilation was safe, which is sort of what we need most.We do have reports from over a year ago BCA I think that s Building Construction Authority? but they are out of date. And I do not know how to read them correctly. But here they are. You can look up your school. Click Mechanical for the ventilation system.What do I know? I know that airflow is important.I know that the frequency the air in a space is replaced with fresh air is important (air exchange).I know that this is more important in spaces where people are generating more droplets and aerosols with more exit velocity (eating, singing, shouting).I know that fewer people = less riskI know that dampers matter.I know that HEPA filters are really useful, but that they are not practical for HVAC systems.I know that filters are rated by their Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) and that to get sneeze droplets we are looking for a minimum value of 13.But none of this tells me how to evaluate a report, or a room, or an office. I am smart enough to take a guess but what good is a guess? Do I know if a system brings in fresh air, or recirculates air within the building? Do I know if a small open window allows enough air in? Do I know if the MERV-8 filters are a problem with low occupancy? I can answer questions about cosines and permutations and matrices with certainty. I can only guess about air flow.If I am 70% confident that a room is safe am I willing to tell someone to go into it? With a 30% chance of being wrong? This is not about a colleague getting their clothes dirty it s about a potentially fatal disease.Maybe we could get advice?But I don t trust the UFT leadership on this because it so eager to open schools. (Why is Instructional Lunch safe? Because we need it to open schools. They are proceeding from their conclusion that schools will be safe, and deriving facts based on that. We should be skeptical). Plus they have offered on ventilation nothing. No UFT guidance on ventilation.And I do not trust the Department of Education because I am not stupid. And they have intentionally withheld their reports.I have contacted an outside expert but I know that path is not available to most schools and Chapter Leaders.What do we do?Minimum Level. Insist on masks at all times in the building, and social distancing. Open windows as possible, and all doors. Follow the PPE protocols, including keeping your members out if PPE is missing. (every item? Well, masks, sanitizer, sprayers every item, or almost every item)Iffy spaces. See if you can get agreement with the principal to shut down spaces with large question-marks. If not, advise people to avoid them, to minimize time in them, to be fully masked (preferably with N95) if they enter them briefly.Next Level. Even if you think you know, but you are not sure, that s a red flag. You should not be guessing when it comes to colleagues physical well-being. If the question is not a few spaces, but the building as a whole, or most of the building, this has been unfairly dropped on you, but it is on you. The UFT hotline on Tuesday is for PPE, not ventilation. I don t care. Talk with your principal. Call the hotline.Should members wait outside? I don t know what to say. I don t know who would be comfortable in the building, and I don t know who would be comfortable leaving it.Who can tell you the building is safe?Not the principalNot youNot a science teacherNot a UFT District Rep or Special RepNot a UFT safety investigatorNot a superintendentIf you have a potential issue the building should be cleared by an industrial hygienist, or someone with an equivalent level of training and certification.Remember, if you do not know, you do not know. Guessing games can be fun, but not when COVID-19 is involved.I am advising people to steer clear of a handful of iffy spaces. I am emphasizing masks at all times, and social distancing. Open windows, open doors. And I have an expert coming in, who I think my members and principal will trust. We should be able to relax a lot more (or not!!!) once we have heard from him. The UFT has a good protocol in place for missing PPE it came in an email over Mulgrew s signature Friday evening:Your school must have personal protective equipment  in place when staff return on Tuesday, Sept. 8. If PPE is not available, immediately discuss the situation with your principal, the custodian or the leader of your school’s COVID-19 building response team. If the issue cannot be resolved immediately, call the union’s hotline at 212-701-9677. The hotline operator will triage your call to a UFT staff member, who will promptly come to your building to confirm your report and take further action. UFT members should leave the building and wait outside.Those directions are for your school s UFT Chapter Leader. (unless they CL is recalcitrant, they are the one who should probably make the call)Chapter Leaders I hope you have been in contact with your principal, and know the status of the PPE. Even better if you inspect it yourself. If some or all PPE is missing, be ready to consult quickly with your principal Tuesday early early in the morning, with your committee if you have one, and then call the hotline if necessary. If you have not been in contact with the principal, please email today. Seriously today. Don t wait. They get bothered by the DoE at all hours for nonsense and this is actually important.Chapter Leaders if you did not update your members late last week, please do so before Tuesday. Let them know what to expect, especially if there are immediate problems.Members I hope your Chapter Leader has been updating you. If not, you should check with them what the status of the PPE is.Members Tuesday morning, if you have questions about PPE, find your Chapter Leader before you enter the building.Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the UFT has a list:Schools need the following equipment and supplies on Sept. 8, 2020.Cleaning supplies for daily and nightly cleaningSupplies of gloves, disinfecting spray (or wipes), towels, hand sanitizer in each roomNo-contact thermometers for temperature screeningUFT Walkthrough Reports. I m generally a fan of distributing information quickly, but our report was kind of hard to read, and might be confusing. The investigator visited the school quite briefly, and mostly asked the principal questions and wrote down his answers. I did send out a narrative description with highlights and issues of immediate and imminent concern yesterday. I think that will provide more context for the report, which I will send out today.Me. We do not have PPE in our school. The principal has been actively pursuing the DoE, who now say it will be delivered over the weekend. Crossing my fingers for Tuesday! August 19 and August 20 the United Federation of Teachers leadership began work towards a school reopening job action. NYC and the NYC Department of Education had been mostly uncooperative all summer. Disagreements about safety were not close to be resolved. The Department wanted minimal testing requirements, the union wanted stringent testing requirements.There had been cooperation over the summer but the results were generally bad for teachers and schools: Blended learning with impossible constraints, 1800 plans written by 1800 principals (with training in pedagogy, not in safety planning), Instructional lunch, and just now more roles than teachers.So August 19 and 20 the UFT holds a press conference, announces safety non-negotiables, and begins organizing meetings. First chapter leaders were invited to borough-wide meetings. Then members were invited to meetings in smaller groups.My union is run top-down. Central gives instructions to the boroughs, and often directly to District Reps. District Reps give directions to Chapter Leaders some of whom follow them and that s all that s really expected. In a few chapters there is actual discussion, but in many the CL doesn t even communicate information from the Central, and in most the CL just communicates from Central. There is not much two-way flow of information. The idea of Officers and Reps serving members is paternalistic, at best. (with very notable exceptions if you almost jumped out of your chair when you read those words you are probably in that minority. And we are incredibly thankful to the handful of you)So Chapter Leaders, then members got invited to meetings. And the stakes, possible job action, questions about personal safety and safety of our students, were high. Very high. Higher than at any other union meeting most of us have been to. Ever. And the reaction was not what they leaders expected. In the UFT, instructions are given, chapter leaders follow them, or ignore them. But here there were questions. Lots of questions.Do we have to strike? (Quite a bit of nervousness)Why aren t we demanding full remote (Quite a few challenges to Central s We want to go in, but safely strategy)What s the timeline? (Central had not prepared a timeline. These were designed a bit like pep rallies)When s the vote? There was no answer.What steps should chapter leaders take? The answers were absent or nebulous, came from a variety of sources, but not central. I was asked to organize a chapter meeting, but not yet. And there was no follow-up to say now (passive voice there, intentionally so) (Central had not prepared next steps. These were designed a bit like pep rallies)The process gets repeated in the member meetings, but attendance is gooooood but not excellent. And members might ask fewer difficult questions, but there is a clear enthusiasm gap (larger when considering the significant numbers who did not come).What happened?  That s easy. You should not run a union top-down. You cannot organize a strike top-down.By August 27 and 28 it was clear to many that this was not going right. Instead of vagueness about a schedule for voting, discussion was filtering to the members that it would be Exec Board 8/31 and Delegate Assembly 9/1, and there was not time for a membership vote. After the DA , the move would be to court for an injunction against an unsafe opening.I was worried about what was going on. I wrote to Mulgrew and the officers, urging them NOT to skip a membership vote:I understand that there is consideration of strike authorization votes at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly. I also understand that there may not be a membership vote. I hope I am mistaken.  That would be a serious error.There is the issue of democracy. but I think that is relatively minor.But the issues of member engagement loom large. Organizing a vote increases member engagement, and member buy-in. It also provides real-time feedback from the field. Are chapter leaders organizing? Is there resistance? What are the issues?The activity around organizing a vote makes a strike more effective.For members who are already on board, it makes a smaller difference; the vote increases enthusiasm.  But for members on the fence, skipping the vote sends the message that the leaders don t trust the members, or don t care what they think. It will harden the pockets of resistance.I don t know if support in the field is at 95%, 85%, 75%, 65% or 55% but even at 85% we need to win more people over.A membership vote makes us and any potential job action stronger.I hope that I was indeed mistaken that a membership vote is planned. But if that is not the case, I would thank you to consider the matter carefully,And then on Monday August 31 the vote at the Executive Board was for both strike authorization, but also for 24 hours more to negotiate. And Tuesday morning de Blasio and Mulgrew and Carranza announced a deal.Why the deal? From the mayor s side, there really are serious problems with the plans. September 10 (which had been scheduled to be the first day with kids) was looking like a disaster. He bought time, and he bought labor peace without much cost.From the UFT leadership s standpoint, the strike threat was not nearly as effective as they had presumed it would be, and they did not have confidence they could pull off a job action. Under those circumstances a deal might not have been such a bad move.An alternate explanation comes from Mike Schirtzer, one of three non-Unity Caucus members on the Executive Board, and the only one to vote against the deal:It was the very threat of a job action and litigation by our union that forced this mayor to come to the negotiating table to address the issue of keeping our children and educators safe. Before that point he wouldn t budge.I agree with most of Mike s reasoning, and appreciate his willingness to speak openly about it. But I don t agree with his assessment that the threat was effective (and I dismiss the UFT leadership s similar assessment as self-serving)What would have happened if the UFT had moved forward towards a job action?  Given the very tight tolerances for scheduling (unworkable, actually) a school might not be able to function, even if everyone shows up. But 30% staying out (beyond those with accommodations) might have shut a school. And the real number would have been higher. But how much higher? Some schools, maybe not all, but probably most, would have been unable to function. A strike, even with the preparations looking half-assed, would probably have shut the system.A strike might have shut the system, would probably have shut the system, but without any guarantee. And a few entire schools might have kept working a few at first. With time a weak strike (and there would have been time) could have easily become weaker.But even if a strike had been effective in shutting the system, a weak strike would have done incalculable damage to the union in the long run. It would have divided us. It would have made member bitter at member, and further diminished trust in the leadership. A short term win was possible. But a long term, expensive loss was in the cards.Couldn t there have been a better threat?Yes. But that would have required a different approach.Open discussion. Organizing for a job action requires that members talk to each other. Members need to convince themselves, and convince each other. Most of our chapters do not engage in open discussion of union issues. That should change. But that s hard. The UFT has developed a culture where asking hard questions or disagreeing is treated as disloyal. It will take a conscious effort to end that. I mean, in fact, it is disloyal to the membership when one of us knows there is a potential problem, but says nothing. But how do we get to the place where showing loyalty to the union and the membership comes before showing loyalty to an officer?Time. Any kind of organizing takes time, but especially when we need to get 100% or close to 100% on board. Starting August 19? Come on. And it is not just now. Union decisions have to allow members time to figure things out. To talk. To schedule. But three weeks to go from zero to strike was not adequate.Sharing information. Real discussions require real information. And holding information back from the membership should be considered incompatible with leadership. It s not just now. This organization speaks to the Mayor, to the Chancellor, to the Press before it speaks to members. That s bad. At the Chapter Leader meetings two weeks ago CLs asked what s next? and DRs said they didn t know because UFT Central was not sharing information. At the DA Peter Lamphere asked where we could read the agreement. You know what? The UFT leadership has asked members and delegates to vote on agreements in the past, when we did not have them to read. (Here s an example) That s wrong.Knowledge of strike organization. No one in the leadership of the UFT has led a teachers strike. Almost none of the school-based membership have been involved in a strike. We went into this without experience. But other AFT locals have had those experiences. All layers of our leadership, in better days in the future, should learn from locals with strike experience. For officers and reps arranging trips and seminars should not be too hard. Workshops in NYC for chapter leaders and chapter activists would be useful. And they, in turn, could bring the knowledge back to chapters.Goals. This gets really specific. But the UFT leadership s goals were wrong. Early on, maybe late May or mid June, they decided that NYC schools could open in September. I have written about the fixation on blended learning, and on compromising all sorts of stuff to make it happen. The UFT leadership, before this talk of job action, had already given up on the one clear issue that had a chance of uniting the membership: keeping our schools remote. Look, members agreed with Mulgrew that the schools should be safe and that we needed better testing but those were not enough.So they cut a deal. We cut a deal.What s in the Deal?Random testing, of a pretty big chunk of staff and students (UFT had wanted 100%, before school began)Delayed opening, teachers 9/8, remote for sign-in purposed 9/16, full instruction 9/21(Vagueness warning) some ability for a chapter to have safety issues addressed before going into a schoolIs this a sellout?This deal? No. Each one of those points is something we should want. Better testing. More time to prepare for the year. And some ability for chapters to walk out.We can be disappointed that it is not nearly enough. It is not.But we also know that we averted a risky strike that could have weakened us in the long run.Of course, there is more. We still have plans that won t work. We have unnecessarily risky maskless instructional lunch. We have 1800 plans devised by 1800 principals, some of whom I wouldn t trust to tie their own shoes.We also have to address the individual school safety issues. This has been dumped onto individual chapters potentially dividing the strength of the union. We need to see how aggressively UFT Central and the Borough Offices pursue violations, and how actively they encourage and support chapters standing up.Are we done?This is not the last deal for this year. If schools open September 21 there will be huge problems and issues all over the City. But we have a few more days. We want to teach. We want the teaching to work, as best as it can under these circumstances. And we want to keep all of us, ourselves, our families, our schools, our colleagues and our students, safe. We will ultimately need to be remote.Update they denied MOST, not allIt appears that the New York City Department of Education has denied every request most requests for accommodation by a school nurse even those with serious risk factors (eg. immunocompromised) and multiple risk factors.The DoE needs nurses in every building to open.The drive to open is folly. Political folly. de Blasio s political folly. The only big school system in the country to open. Whether or not it is safe. Whether or not it is possible. And as the DoE finds obstacles, which they have and they will, since it is not time to open, they dump the problems on principals, or they ignore them, or they come to some horrible compromise with the UFT (insert reference to instructional lunch here.)One big obstacle de Blasio faced was not enough nurses. We were 400 nurses short earlier in the summer. They promised to hire them. Mulgrew said schools would not open without them. But I do not think any have been hired. This will be an issue Tuesday. It will be a far larger issue September 21. The DoE is sending teachers into unsafe schools on Tuesday, hoping there is not a big backlash. But the day the kids come back?In any case, they are short nurses. And they had 80 100 current nurses asking for accommodations. And they considered what the right thing to do was. And they considered what they would need to do to support de Blasio s political folly. And given the choice, to act morally or act politically, they chose politics.That does not explain why they waited until the Friday before school to deny the eighty nurses. You might think cruelty, but I m inclined to believe they are more practical than cruel, and that waiting so late meant that nurses had no time to appeal. Or to sue.And then there s the union. There s been an unhealthy obsession with opening, even at too much cost. We have 1800+ principals without engineering degrees trying to design safety systems. We should have been screaming about that. Our union accepted Instructional Lunch. For the members. Come on.And today is a big test. We should expect the UFT to fight for accommodations for its nurses. Safety of ALL members is important. How does today s agreement solve the staffing crisis caused by the Chancellor s Blended Learning Guidance from last week?Do members still have to supervise maskless instructional lunch ?What do we do if there is not space for teachers who are not teaching?What do we do if there is not a nurse?What do we do if our school does not have PPE?What do we do if our school does not have a plan for kids who come in on the wrong day?What is up with childcare for UFT parents? (for their kids in public schools on hybrid schedules)How is ventilation being measured?What happens if we disagree with the DoE about whether a room can be used?What happens if our room is full (socially distanced) and the principal sends one more kid?What is the checklist on the UFT Safety walkthrough?How can chapters see the reports from the UFT Safety walkthrough?Why are Chapter Leaders banned from the UFT Safety walkthrough?Today s agreement buys us seven days. It is not enough. 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