Colleagues,

It’s been a full year of unprecedented difficulties. Yet, you have gone way beyond the call of duty and proved your professionalism and dedication to your students . And while there’s finally some reason for optimism, it’s certainly not over yet. Several challenges remain including, but not limited to, the following:

– Continuing to Ensure Safety at Schools. As a result of our efforts on your behalf, we have seen progress in making schools safer during this period of the pandemic. But more needs to be done. That is why we will continue to engage independent Industrial Hygienists to make certain that air filtration remains up to standard; to avail additional access to vaccinations for those who want and need it; to advocate for voluntary COVID-19 testing; to press for accurate and transparent reporting on COVID-19 cases; to monitor appropriate accommodations for members who have a need to seek them; and to insist on proper social distancing, adequate PPE, and other safety and sanitation supplies and protocols. If you lack any of these necessary safety and sanitation supplies, please reach out to your RTA Faculty Representative about filing a grievance and then contact the RTA’s Action Committee <https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdzj9f542s2nzJsx8sG1Fqn14gJEM34SHvhz1uWo1N-XKSA3g/viewform> for prompt assistance and relief in the interim.

– Avoiding Layoffs and Program Cuts. Despite $87 million fund balance in reserve, and despite $287 million in additional aid from the recent Federal Stimulus legislation, and despite the fact that we’ll need more teachers and not fewer, the RCSD is determined to “rightsize the District” – a euphemism for ramming through unnecessary layoffs and program cuts.  And since they cannot truthfully show that they have a budget deficit, their predetermined conclusion for cuts and layoffs is predicated on a big lie: that the number of teachers has been increasing while the number of students has been decreasing. In reality, the number of teachers employed by the RCSD has been steadily decreasing for the last two decades. In the 2000-2001school year, we had nearly 4,000 teachers; today there are fewer than 3,000. That’s a 25% decrease. Yet, the District is planning more layoffs, more program reductions, more school closings, and more demands for concessions from employees – including give-backs in health care benefits. We are determined to expose their deceitful narrative about the budget and their already discredited efforts to fabricate a fiscal crisis. Together with our community partners, we will continue our fight to save our schools and to spare our students.

– Finding Alternatives to Simultaneous Teaching. By imposing the ill-advised “simultaneous teaching” model, the RCSD has undermined the education of both in-person and remote students. Resultantly, both teaching and learning suffer considerably. We are therefore surveying other school districts to identify preferred instructional alternatives and to propose them to the District. Meanwhile, we ask you to continue to email us with information about how simultaneous teaching is working out for you and to suggest your ideas and recommendations for ameliorating or replacing this approach.

– Insisting on an End to Bad Faith Bargaining. The RCSD has been exhibiting a persistent and disturbing pattern of refusing to engage in collective bargaining with  our union. Despite our best efforts to resume negotiations, including the intervention of the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) mediator, the District continues to stonewall. We have taken recourse to Fact-Finding, the next step available to us. But the current “leadership” of the District, by abrogating their responsibility to negotiate in good faith, is displaying a disregard for teachers and their union. By continuing this, the District is jeopardizing any prospects for trust and collaboration. 
Please continue to check RTA’s website <www.rochesterteachers.com> for updates on these and other relevant issues. Also feel free to contact us with any questions or if you need assistance.

Thank you for your continued solidarity and for all that you do every day for your students.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President