Here’s a brief update about some current issues:
– Reopening Plans. Despite the rising rates of COVID-19 contagion in our region, there’s still no definitive answer from the District as to whether their plans for reopening of schools for hybrid instruction will change or remain as initially announced. Superintendent Myers-Small indicated to us that the District is exploring options, that no decision has been made, and that media reports to the contrary are not accurate. While much of this is a matter of management prerogative, the District cannot unilaterally determine to depart from either our contractual language or from the provisions in their most recent Memorandum of Understanding with the RTA. We will challenge it if they do and we are also reserving the right to negotiate the impact of any changes on the terms and conditions of your work.
– Vaccinating Teachers. Starting this week, New York State will begin scheduling about 3.2 million New Yorkers in the next category (Phase 1B) of those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. This includes education workers, first responders, police, firefighters, EMS workers, people 75 years old and older, and others. Governor Cuomo suggested that unions play a role in helping to organize the vaccination process for those whom they represent but it is not entirely clear yet what that role would be. We expect, however, that the primary responsibility for managing and administering the vaccines locally will continue to rest with the State, with Monroe County officials and with the Monroe County Department of Health. Dr. Mendoza, Monroe County Health Commissioner, said at a press conference last Friday that the sign-up links for vaccination will go live soon. As soon as we receive that link, and other pertinent information, we will communicate it to you and also post it on the RTA website <www.rochesterteachers.com>.
– Snow Days. The District announced in a recent communication that teachers will be expected to provide remote instruction to students on inclement weather days during the current school year. The memorandum mentioned that access to technology would be available at schools for those teachers who do not have it at home. Some members have contacted us to inquire whether that means that teachers will be obligated to travel during snow days. We have reached out to the District to confirm that this is not their intent or understanding. The District confirmed that, indeed, it is not. Consistent with past practice in our District, nobody should be put in harm’s way during difficult or dangerous weather conditions. Please contact us if administrators at your school indicate a different expectation.
– Independent Inspection of Ventilation. An industrial hygienists firm, hired by the RTA, completed an independent inspection of the ventilation systems at 15 schools that opened for Phase 1 of the Rochester City School District’s hybrid instruction. Independent inspection of all remaining schools and work locations will be completed before February 8. Completed inspection reports have been, and will continue to be, shared with the RTA Faculty Representatives at the respective schools and then posted on the RTA website. Thus far, the ventilation systems at the sites examined have been deemed by the independent inspectors to meet the requisite standards and codes.
– Negotiations. Even after months of mediation, assisted by the NYS Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the District continues to frustrate our efforts to achieve a successor collective bargaining agreement. We have therefore appealed to PERB to transition to the next recourse available to us: Fact-finding. PERB has now confirmed receipt of our request and we are preparing our case with the requisite documentation. Our current contract continues in effect until a new agreement is successfully negotiated. If you have questions about our negotiations, please feel free to contact RTA’s First Vice-President and Chief Negotiator John Pavone <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
– Rochester Teachers Care. This week’s Rochester Teachers Care video < https://youtu.be/mvz6zb-Gt5k> features the exemplary work of Amy Levine, a Pre-School teacher at School #52. Please contact Aimee Rinere <email@example.com> or Matt Lavonas <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you have suggestions for highlighting the accomplished practice of any other of our many dedicated and outstanding colleagues.
We will continue to keep you informed about the progress of our efforts on your behalf. Meanwhile, please visit our website <http://rochesterteachers.org/6436-2/> to view answered and unanswered questions or to pose your questions for the District. And, as always, contact us if you have concerns or if we can be of any assistance.
Adam Urbanski, RTA President