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To deliver the best education possible while ensuring members are able to meet the need their personal needs and the needs of their families.

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We know what a table is when we see it, because it whether it's tall or short, metal or wood, etc., if it bears the properties we typically associate with tables, we can easily identify it as one. While there have always been minor differences from one district to the next, we all worked off the same idea of what school is. Watching reopening plans take form across the Island, it's clear that there's no longer a singular, unifying version of the thing that used to be known as school.  At this point, I think if we propose to reopen as a Starbucks with social distancing, it may be approved by SED.

Just looking at the last few days on LI, I've seen districts with plans to bring all students back full time. I've seen districts with plans to keep all students learning remotely, with the exception of those who really struggle to do so. I've seen districts suggest that if you use barriers, you can go about your business as usual. I've seen districts with all high school classes running remotely, while elementary and middle are onsite, etc.

Each plan will have its pros and cons, and each will reflect the needs and capabilities of its community. Like many districts throughout LI, NY and across the country, we'll most likely reopen in some form of hybrid plan that divides our students into two cohorts, currently referred to as the Blue and Green groups. There are a million details to work out between now and September, but in listening to members, participating in meetings, and reviewing guidance, it's most critical we anchor to the following goals and principles:

  1. Protecting teachers' rights to exercise professional judgment in determining how to deliver instruction, including whether or not they would like to use technologies such as streaming to meet the needs of remote learners.
  2. Balancing quality instruction with manageability for the people who have to make it happen.
  3. Balancing the importance of safety with the belief that students learn best when they are in school.
  4. Supporting students and staff for whom returning to school physically poses a serious health risk.
  5. Being sensitive to how the increased personal challenges of reopening, such as childcare, impact staff.

While working to achieve these goals, we also aim to be mindful of the potential long-term implications what we do to live, work and educate through this crisis don't have long-term consequences for our contract, our professions, or for the nature of school as we know it. We also do all this work and commit all these resources not knowing if we will open in September, or for how long we will stay open if we do. Easy, right?

As our plans start to materialize over the next week or two, it's really important not to lose sight of what matters. I have friends in other districts already counting seconds, comparing plans and cherry-picking what they like and don't like from each district. That type of behavior sets everyone up for failure. I truly believe the principles we've outlined above are the most critical, and we'll tenaciously to uphold them and deliver a plan that honors them.

That said, in addition to sharing my minutes for this week's meetings with you again, I'd like to expand on some of the above items in a little detail. The numbers below correspond to the principle/goal statements listed above....

  1. All districts are struggling with how to ensure that students are engaged in meaningful instruction even when they're at home. While many teachers and administrators see streaming as a vehicle for accomplishing that, it poses a lot of concerns. Our position has always been that, as professionals, our members have the right, the training, and the expertise to determine what works best for their classes. We believe that neither administration nor the Association should tell teachers how to deliver their content. As such, we have adamantly communicated that while it may be used at a teacher's discretion, we oppose mandating streaming. Although plans are still being development, we have worked with administration to identify a number of alternative methods to effectively deliver remote instruction.
  2. Some studies suggest that students may have suffered a 30-40% loss in academic progress last spring alone. It's really important that we do everything we can as educators to help our students succeed in the coming year. That said, this year will pose challenges none of us have ever experienced before professionally. We've communicated to administration and through our committee meetings that, in addition to being empatheticsympathetic, or thankful for those challenges, the district has a responsibility to support its employees so that we can all succeed in our collective mission.
  3. When I talked to civilians about remote instruction this spring, I often used two words: miraculous and tragic. Though what we all were able to do without notice in spring was incredible, we also all learned first hand that remote instruction is no substitute for school. For that reason, our district has prioritized bringing kids into school as much as we can, as long as it's done safely. Guidance from SED sets that goal as well.
  4. It's important for members to plan on and prepare for return to work in September. If the Governor gives us a green light the first week of August, that's what the vast majority of us will do. That said, we're aware that there are some members for whom returning to work may pose a significant risk. Next week, the District will be sending letters home (by paper mail, I believe) to all employees. Those letters will include information about rights afforded to workers under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and in accordance with guidance set forth by the CDC.
  5. Reopening schools in hybrid models is going to pose a lot of challenges for families with school-aged kids at home. We know that holds true for many of our members. NYSUT, AFT, and NEA also get it, and we're all working to identify the scope of the problem so we can create or lobby for solutions. Please answer the survey below so we can get a sense of how many of our members may experience this challenge personally when and if schools reopen this coming school year.
Note: Inline survey from email is not included in this archive post.