Colleagues,

Here’s a brief update about several topics currently salient and a couple announcements about workshops available to you:

– Layoffs. The original number of proposed teacher layoffs was 168. That number was reduced to 155 and then, just hours before our December 19 Rally to Spare Our Students, to 109. Since then, the number of layoffs was further reduced to 95, disproportionately at the Elementary level (83 Elementary, 8 Reading, 2 Speech, 2 English). Because of the steady stream of teacher resignations and mid-year retirements, we expect more laid-off teachers to be recalled. Our goal is to get the District to recall all of our colleagues now on the preferred eligibility list. 

– Displacements. Approximately 150 teachers were displaced from their positions as a result of the disastrous mid-year cuts recommended by Superintendent Dade and adopted by the Board of Education. The majority of the displaced teachers remained in the same schools; the rest had to go to a different school. Thousands of our students suffered disruption to their learning because of this ill-advised and irresponsible District strategy. It is the teachers’ extraordinary professionalism, dedication and, love of students that is responsible for the students’ ability to survive the trauma inflicted upon them by the District.

– RCSD’s Budget Deficit. We still do not know how the District accrued such a huge budget gap. The NYS Comptroller’s audit has not yet been completed and the Federal government’s investigation into potential fraud is still ongoing. Meanwhile, the District is seeking millions of dollars from New York State in “spin-up” money – an advance against future entitlement in State aid. RTA, along with New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and advocacy groups such as Alliance for Quality Education, will participate in lobbying in Albany for the needed additional funds on January 14 and thereafter.

– No Concessions. In response to the recent RTA survey of members, more than 60 percent of teachers indicated that they do not support any concessions of contractual benefits. The remaining respondents said they would support some reasonable concessions but only if the District made significant reductions in Central Office bureaucracy and only if the teachers salvaged by the concessions would not be laid off later anyway. The District had repeatedly refused to accede to either assurance. Besides, when the school board voted to approve the disastrous mid-year cuts, any consideration of concessions became moot.

– Negotiations. Bargaining for a successor agreement was interrupted last September by the announcement of a multi-million budget deficit. We have now called for a resumption of negotiations and the District agreed to meet for bargaining. Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Wednesday, January 15. We will keep you informed about the progress in negotiations.

– Student Loan Debt Clinic. On Tuesday, January 28 the NYSUT Regional Office will host a Student Debt Workshop. The session will be held at the NYSUT/RTA building (30 N. Union Street) from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Here’s the link to register: <https://studentloans.nysut.org/workshop-rochester-1-28-20>. The workshop is free to RTA/NYSUT members.

– NYS Teacher Retirement System Workshop. Any RTA/NYSUT member, who is also a member of the NYS Teacher Retirement System, is encouraged to attend a free workshop sponsored by NYSUT’s Rochester Regional Office. This session will also be held at the NYSUT/RTA building (30 N. Union Street) on Thursday, January 23, from 4:30 ’til 6 pm. If interested, please use this link to register <http://www.cvent.com/d/yhqr2g>. Pizza will be provided. Space is limited, so register by no later than January 16.

The last several weeks have been very difficult for all of us as we struggled to avert the devastating and disruptive mid-year cuts advocated by the Superintendent and approved by the school board. Despite the strong protest from teachers, students and parents, Superintendent Dade and the Board of Education determined to implement this irresponsible strategy. Still, thanks to your unswerving support and advocacy, the teacher cuts and the disruption for our students were somewhat diminished. And we will not relent in our effort to restore all our laid-off colleagues. 

Later this month, the RTA Representative Assembly will consider what we could all do to continue to respond to the current crisis. More than ever before, though, it is important now that we resist any divisiveness that would undermine our union and weaken our solidarity. Remaining united is imperative if we are to remain strong advocates for our schools and all our students.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President