Here’s a brief follow-up to the Update from just two days ago:

– District’s Initial Response to RTA’s Survey. As you already know, two-thirds of teachers in Phase 1 of the District’s reopening indicated in our survey that they and their students are not receiving the necessary support for safety and instructional effectiveness. And 89% of teachers slated to return in Phases 2 and 3 responded that they do not think the District has the readiness level to effectively and safely resume the planned at-school and in-person instruction in February. Despite this, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small doubled down on the District’s plan and called out Rochester teachers and their union for “leading the charge to keep schools closed for City scholars who face educational disparities.” Once again, we had to learn it from the media first <>. Dismissing the collective wisdom of teachers, and not responding to the legitimate concerns of teachers, is not in the best interest of students. It also runs the risk of undermining teachers’ confidence in the District.

– Paid Time to Get Vaccinated? Acknowledging the frustration of teachers who are seeking COVID-19 vaccination and experience difficulty accessing it locally, we asked the Superintendent whether the District would grant teachers paid time off to achieve the vaccination – as already the case for cancer screening. Unfortunately, Dr. Myers-Small denied the request and replied that “Teachers all have illness and personal day allotments that we would allow them to use for this purpose. I am not sure if we allow for half days or quarter days but I would be agreeable to that so a full day does not have to be used. I have also been advocating for additional evening and weekend spots.” Governor Cuomo, on the other hand, included in his proposal a requirement for employers to provide paid leave for employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines “to protect workers and those returning to work, improve public health, and help the state’s economic recovery.” But this proposal would need to be approved by the state legislature as part of the state budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1.

– Unanswered Questions Remain Unanswered. Continued poor communication from the District has led teachers to submit lots of questions and requests for clarification. Despite our best efforts to get these questions answered by the District, the overwhelming majority of the questions remain unanswered. Many teachers have now resorted to Twitter <#RCSDAnswerMe>. When asked by teachers, for example, how are we to teach remote and in-person students simultaneously without the needed technology and support, the District’s response is, “Figure it out.” Or, “Google it.” Or, “If suburban teachers can do it, why can’t you?” Totally unacceptable. Also, suburban districts may have developed more coherent instructional plans, may have provided more of the needed technology, may have developed more of the safety protocols, and may have communicated all this more effectively to teachers and families. 

Teachers recognize that in-person instruction best serves our students – when it can be done safely and when teachers have the tools and the support to afford students a quality education. Our District is not yet ready to do that. We have a responsibility to continue our advocacy on behalf of educators and their students. We remain determined to do so and we will soon reach out to you again to suggest ways that you can help.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President