Colleagues,

Here’s a brief update on some current issues:

– Remote Teaching From the Classroom? It appears that the current position of the District is that teachers report to schools and teach from their classrooms even if all their students are remote. Not if we can help it. At best, this should be a choice that a teacher makes, not a mandate. Unnecessarily jeopardizing the health, safety and lives of teachers is indefensible. We are now working to dissuade the District from that reckless notion and we should know by next Tuesday whether common sense will prevail. We will then communicate to you, as soon as possible, the results of our efforts.

– Protecting Your Safety. Anticipating a potential transition to some form of hybrid model, we are making arrangements to ensure that you and your students will have the needed protocols and conditions for a safe environment. That is why we have invested in securing expert and independent services of environmental hygienists to examine the ventilation systems at every school and worksite. With assistance from our national union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), we will do the same to confirm that safety protocols and availability of PPE conform to optimal standards. Meanwhile, if you have questions or concerns, please contact Margaret Sergent <mmsergent@rochesterteachers.com> who serves RTA’s liaison on matters related to health and safety.

– Negotiations. After more than six months of trying, we are concerned that there has been little progress in the stalled negotiations for a successor contract – despite the best efforts of the mediator appointed by the NYS Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). The District seems determined to continue delays and to refuse to either make any substantive proposals or to respond to our proposals. The procedural recourse available to us is to appeal to PERB and request Fact-Finding since Mediation is being frustrated by the District. The RTA Representative Assembly may also consider additional recommendations for “No Business As Usual” with the District unless and until good faith negotiations are restored.

– RCSD Budget. The Rochester City School District continues to mismanage and misrepresent its budget. After we disproved their manufactured crisis claiming a $199M deficit, they are still poised to fabricate a case for justifying more teacher layoffs and more reductions of services for our students. With assistance from fiscal experts from our State union, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), we are continuing the analysis of their budget and to expose their exaggerated deficit projections. Much of this will be playing out in the weeks after the holiday break. In collaboration with the Rochester Community Coalition to Save Our Schools (ROC-SOS), we have developed a comprehensive campaign to protect public education in our city and to spare our students.

– RTA Zoom Meetings. In an effort to increase opportunities for two-way communication, we have launched a schedule of timely zoom meetings with various segments of our membership. Several have already been held with individual schools. We have also just held a zoom meeting with the 95 Special Education teachers slated to transition to hybrid teaching on January 4. We will hold a similar zoom meeting on Monday with the 310 Special Subjects and Support Services teachers also scheduled to transition to hybrid learning during Phase 1. A full plan for future zoom meetings will be announced soon. Meanwhile, if you have suggestions for a dedicated RTA zoom meeting, please make it known to your RTA Faculty Representative or contact RTA’s Aimee Rinere <arinere@rochesterteachers.com> or Matt Lavonas <mlavonas@rochesterteachers.com>.

– Rumor Control. During these uncertain times, there are increasingly frequent and inaccurate rumors spread especially through FB and other social media. Such misinformation, often promulgated by uninformed sources, is unhelpful and causes unnecessary alarm and confusion. It is the responsibility of your duly-elected union to keep you informed and we are doing our best to do so – through our website <www.rochesterteachers.com>, through these regular Updates, through your RTA Faculty Representatives and through the above-mentioned zoom meetings. And, of course, you can always contact us at the RTA if you have questions, concerns or if you need accurate information.

Thank you for your unswerving solidarity and confidence in your union. We will continue to keep you informed about our efforts on your behalf.

Have a good weekend.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President