“Rochester teachers and their union join the rest of the community in mourning the tragic deaths of our two recent graduates, Jaquayla Young and Jarvis Alexander, killed during the recent horrific mass shooting in our city. Fourteen others suffered gun wounds. We re-commit ourselves to teaching all our students that such senseless violence is always wrong and that it is possible to live in peace.”
As we enter our second week with students, albeit fully virtually, I want to update you on some current issues:
– Negotiations. Citing busyness and lack of funding, the District failed to agree to contract negotiations meetings with us over the summer. We argued that this does not absolve them from their obligation to engage in collective bargaining with us. The mediator assigned to us by the NYS Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) agreed. Therefore, our stalled negotiations are now scheduled to resume early next month. Our goal is to achieve a fair successor agreement as soon as possible. We will keep you informed about the progress of these talks.
– Retroactive Pay. In addition to failing to meet their obligation with collective bargaining, the District has thus far also failed to meet their obligation to pay teachers the agreed-upon retroactive difference in pay that was negotiated on June 11, 2020. We first filed a Class Action Grievance, then an Improper Practice charge, and most recently a Notice of Claim to file a lawsuit. In all of these filings we are seeking compliance as well as interest on all the money withheld during the entire period of delay. The District has until October 14th to comply.
– Building Protocols. If you were surprised or offended by the tone of the last section in the “Building Protocols During Remote Learning,” you weren’t the only one. The tone of that section, entitled Expectations of Working Remotely, appeared to some as unprofessional and threatening. When we brought this to the attention of the District, we were assured that this was not the intent of the memo and that future memos will reflect a more trusting and collegial tone. As usual, please continue to use your professional discretion and common sense when interpreting Central Office memos – be they about the loss of WiFi connectivity, returning phone calls or other logistics. Contact us at the RTA if we can advise or assist.
– Virtual Walk-throughs. Just to clarify, the RTA/RCSD Memorandum on Reopening Schools For Remote Learning (see attached) specifies that “Administrators will notify teachers no less than 24 hours in advance of any interest to conduct a virtual walk-through of an assigned class. The walk-through will be no more than 15 minutes in length.” These walk-throughs were never intended to be either evaluative or daily. Nor does the agreement require that teachers make their supervisors co-hosts in their virtual lessons. Most principals understand that and adhere to the agreement. In the rare instances where that is not the case, please bring it to our attention.
– Funding. Good news: the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), our state-level union, filed a lawsuit against New York State over reductions in state aid to school districts. The litigation is seeking the release of money already withheld and an injunction against future delay or withholding school funding payments. Following NYSUT’s filing of the lawsuit, the State has reversed course on the withholding of the payments. The Governor’s budget director announced that the State will wait until after the November elections before determining whether to slash spending. He also said that it’s “premature” for school districts to lay off workers in anticipation of any reductions in state aid.
– BENTE Layoffs. Despite the fact that the State is no longer withholding 20% of scheduled aid to school districts, the RCSD is still proposing to lay off more than 200 members of the Board of Education Non-teaching Employees (BENTE) workers. This despite the fact that BENTE presented a very comprehensive and thoughtful plan to deploy these colleagues to deliver meals to students, make home visits and perform other functions that support our students and their families. We are urging school board members to vote “no” on this cruel proposal (see attached letter). The Board of Education is scheduled to vote this Thursday on this cruel proposal.
Adam Urbanski, RTA President