First and foremost, I want to thank the many teachers who signed up to address the Board of Education and spoke so eloquently to advocate for a safe and prepared reopening of our schools. Your professionalism and dedication make all of us proud. For now, I want to highlight only two related topics:
– About Last Night. Last night’s Board of Education meeting was, by design, an orchestrated teacher-bashing frenzy triggered by our own Superintendent’s public statement that Rochester teachers and their union “are leading the charge to keep schools closed for City scholars who face educational disparities.” The school board decided to delay hearing from teachers until late in the evening and, even then, some Board members and top Central Office administrators turned their videos off in a deliberate demonstration of disrespect and disregard for what teachers had to say. The Superintendent and her allies tried to create the false image that parents have confidence in the District’s reopening plan despite the fact that more than 70% of families of RCSD students decided not to send their children back to in-person instruction at schools that they consider neither safe nor instructionally prepared. And they also promoted the false narrative that teachers and their union want to keep our schools closed. But Rochester teachers were never for keeping schools closed; we were always for the safe and prepared opening of our schools. And we still are.
– Ready or Not. Last Sunday, along with the District’s and RTA’s Chief Negotiators, I met with Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small in yet another attempt to resolve the issues impeding readiness for reopening our schools. We addressed the need for improving communication with teachers and for responding to the many unanswered questions, delaying reopening until schools are more safe and have a better instructional plan, reversing the District’s decision to end COVID-19 testing at schools, facilitating access to COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers who want a vaccination, accommodating teachers who have underlying health conditions or live with family members with such, providing the technology and demonstrations for simultaneous teaching, exploring and implementing alternatives to simultaneous teaching, and other issues. And while we all agreed that this was a productive meeting and we reached a near-agreement, the Superintendent suddenly notified us yesterday that she believes the schools are ready now and there will be no postponement of reopening of schools. With that reckless conclusion, the District is putting the teachers, students and families in harm’s way and in schools clearly not instructionally prepared.
We remain determined to continue our advocacy for making our schools truly safe and instructionally prepared for effective teaching and learning. Very soon, we will be reaching out to you with more specifics about our response to the District’s continuing refusal to heed common sense, to acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the overwhelming majority of families and teachers. Meanwhile, we will remain strong and united. Please reach out to your RTA Faculty Representatives, and to us, with questions and concerns.
Adam Urbanski, RTA President