Colleagues,

Here’s a brief update on some current issues:

RCSD Budget. The District’s managers are experiencing difficulties producing a credible and transparent budget for the upcoming year. Despite significant increases in State and Federal revenues, and a fund balance of $135 million at the end of the 2020-21fiscal year of which $104 million is unrestricted (according to fiscal analysis experts at the New York State United Teachers), they are still claiming deficits and a need to take $30 million from the fund balance and still proposing school closings, maxing out class sizes, staff reductions, and eliminating programs and services for our students. Ironically, the State-appointed monitor Shelly Jallow is the principal advocate for these draconian cutbacks while at the same time hypocritically criticizing the District for “ not even attempting to do what is best for the students.” Undeterred by the fact that the District has unprecedented increases in funding, Dr. Jallow and the District’s Chief Financial Officer Carleen Pierce are insisting on “rightsizing” the District and decimating programs and services for our students.

– Negotiations. The District’s budget fiasco is also now impeding our negotiations for a successor contract. District negotiators already canceled a scheduled bargaining session and informed us that they will not be making any finance-related proposals until their budget office can cost them out. That could be a while. Meanwhile, Dr. Jallow is urging RCSD negotiators to “say no to employees” and to seek concessions in salary, health benefits, and other areas. We remain determined to continue to advance the economic and professional interests of our members and to advocate for better addressing the needs of our students – including lower class sizes and more social and emotional support services. The next negotiations session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13.

– Resignations. We are witnessing a huge spike in the resignations of teachers this year. Due to the uncertainty and lack of adequate working conditions, 132 teachers have resigned already – a much higher number than ever before (see graph below). Most are taking positions in surrounding suburban districts. And while the entire nation is experiencing a severe teacher shortage, our District is still entertaining the notion of possible teacher layoffs and seeking concessions from teachers in the current negotiations. Unbelievable.

– Over-testing. At a time when students are already stressed and need more instructional time, the District is subjecting them to more meaningless tests. For several months we’ve been urging the District to eliminate those student tests that are neither mandated nor useful to students or teachers. Kathleen Black, the District’s Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, kept promising that she would “circle back” and respond – as she typically does to avoid answering questions or concerns. When she finally did respond, the answer was no. “It is what it is,” she said. She accused teachers of tolerating student failure for far too long and of lowering expectations of them. And when we asked if she would meet with teachers to get their perspective on the harm that over-testing is causing students, she replied that she cannot commit to that. So much for responsible and responsive leadership.

Ukraine. Thank you to the many teachers wearing the RTA-provided ribbons to show solidarity with the beleaguered and brave people of Ukraine. Please see your RTA Faculty Representative if you did not receive the ribbon or if you need more. Visit the RTA, NYSUT, or AFT website to access information about making donations for humanitarian relief. And go to AFT’s Share My Lesson website for related lesson plans and other resources. Thank you for all that you do for students. We will continue to keep you informed about the progress in our efforts on your behalf.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President