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UFT Press Conference on the 2010-11 School Calendar

On June 28, the UFT held a press conference concerning Chancellor Klein’s letter to parents on the issue of the school calendar and the opening day of schools in September.

Read Mulgrew’s statement after the jump.

Good afternoon.

I’d like to point out a disturbing pattern.

When things go wrong in the schools, it’s never the administration’s fault.

Class sizes skyrocket — we’re told that principals have to make their own decisions about class size.

Kindergartens have waiting lists — people live in the wrong neighborhoods.

NAEP scores are flat — the state tests are the ones that count.

The court finds the DOE violated the law in closing schools — the judge is mistaken.

The school calendar is wrong — the UFT made us do it.

We need to set the record straight about the starting day of school next fall.

Parents should be outraged that Chancellor Klein has refused to exert the authority he has to properly manage the school calendar.

The Chancellor today blamed the union for his decision not to make Wednesday, Sept. 8 a professional development day. That decision means that, despite requests from some parents to delay the first school day for children until Monday, Sept. 13, the first school day for children will be Wednesday, Sept. 8.

The first day for teachers remains Tuesday, Sept. 7, and teachers will be in school on Wednesday whether students are present or not.

As you might have expected, Chancellor Klein’s letter to parents ignores the fact that the Chancellor does not need to get the union’s agreement to make Sept. 8 a professional development day. It also ignores the fact that a number of schools earlier this year sought to change their individual schedules to start school for children on Monday, Sept. 13 — and were denied by the Klein administration. If this was not a good idea then, how has it become one now?

The union has suggested calendar changes in recent months, involving both the last day of school this year and the first day of school for students next year. Most recently we suggested this in a meeting with the administration on May 12. As in previous such meetings, we were told that the calendar was unchangeable.

Our conversations with teachers and parents in the schools indicate that communities feel very differently about the possibility of changing the first day for students next fall. We have suggested to the Chancellor that he let each school make its own decision about whether or not to start on Monday, Sept. 13, as permitted under the school-based option in our contract.

The Chancellor’s letter claims that letting each school make its own decision would be “chaotic.” But for years the system operated with different school schedules for different boroughs, and schools across the system have been permitted to create professional development days at other points in the calendar. Previous managements have been up to the challenge of managing the logistics of transportation and food service. I’m sorry to hear that Chancellor Klein feels that his managers lack this competence in this instance.

The UFT has tried to ensure that the school calendar works for families and teachers, but the responsibility for that calendar is the administration’s alone.

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5 Comments:

  • 1 Paul Rubin
    · Jun 28, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I’m failing to see why the UFT’s policy is that the chancellor cannot unilaterally swap 9/8 and Brooklyn Day. Why must it be on a school by school basis especially when it’s almost a certainty that if asked, 90% of the schools would vote for it if they were simply presented with the option. Many schools didn’t vote on it simply because it seems ludicrous. It’s a citywide issue and should be resolved citywide. Teachers and students would have the same number of regular class days and teachers the same number of staff development days. And while sure it’s nice to discuss the following year’s agenda in June, the only thing on every school’s agenda is likely to be how to deal with budget cuts that should leave us all gasping for air especially since we’re being told next year’s cuts will be more draconian than the ones that should cripple us altogether this year.

    I see this as bad PR for the UFT at a time when we’re already being scapegoated in the media. The only valid concern and neither the chancellor nor Mr. Mulgrew addressed it was whether the city would include in this side agreement a written statement that this change was a one shot deal because of the truly odd nature of the scheduling situation and doesn’t set the precedent of turning Brooklyn Day into a regular classes day forever more.

    Perhaps a compromise that turned 9/8 into a professional development day and left Brooklyn Day as is ON THE CONDITION that no snow days be used in 2010-2011. Both sides should realize that attendance on 9/8 is going to be a mess and we’re literally going to have to waste 9/13 redoing everything that should have happened on 9/8 and that truly sucks for kids and teachers.

    Admittedly this sort of scheduling nonsense should never happen just as today’s half day should never have happened. With all the brain power at central, there had to be a better way. Late June class days should be avoided wherever possible just over heat issues alone. Somehow it really seems like neither side is presenting the full story about why an obvious solution is being avoided at all costs and that’s just nuts.

  • 2 Rsell67
    · Jul 6, 2010 at 8:51 am

    To Paul Rubin:

    First off, promising not to take snow days is a promise that can’t be given. What happens in the event that the weather is so bad, there is no choice?

    Secondly, there are snow days built into the schedule already, and they are rarely used. The Chancelor could easily use a snow day for 9/8.

    On the topic of a 9/8 and Brooklyn / Queens Day swap. Why would we give up a staff development day for a day with a full schedule with students? What has the DOE done to deserve our giving this away?

    Why worry about 9/8 being the first day for students? The first day is usually nothing more than orientation, it is one of the easiest days of the year and the most fun. We get to meet our students, they get to meet us, and it is almost always a good experience.

    Finally, many students will likely be absent on 9/8 anyway. So again, why give up our June PD day for this day?

  • 3 Paul Rubin
    · Jul 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Nobody is asking for promises about snow days. They are built into the schedule and in the rest of the country, if they get used up, minor modifications are made to the schedule to compensate. Asking this chancellor to give to essentially make 9/8 an emergency snow day has a snowball’s chance in hell at succeeding so why even bring it up?

    And we wouldn’t be giving up a staff development day for a full schedule. We’d be swapping staff development days. Same number of days with kids. Same number of days without. The union’s position that the one in June is more important is absurd. Every teacher I discussed this with would rather have an extra day to prepare their rooms in September than worry about a day in June when we’re pretty much done.

    And instead of 9/8 being the first day, 9/13 would have been the first day. Now we’re going to have a first day with a bunch of kids absent and 9/13 is going to become a bit of a wasted day especially in schools where the parents keep their kids home in droves in protest.

    I don’t even begin to get your point of view on this or your logic.

  • 4 LD24
    · Jul 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Brooklyn-Queens day was established by law for schools in those boroughs by Nelson Rockefeller.. It was only recently that the 3 other boroughs were added into this day called Chancellor’s Day and all students are not in attendance. This became a contract change in the 2006-2009 DOE-UFT agreement. Many parents and students don’t want this PD day on their calendar. Regents, finals and childcare issues are a concern and would rather have one less day at the end of the calendar than one day in the middle of the week. The DOE & UFT have to hold hands and short of singing Kumbaya together need to go to Albany and request that this date be taken off of the books that celebrates the beginnings of Sunday School Education. Not to begrudge a celebration that has been around since the early 1800′s; it should be held on a Sunday, not a potential instructional day. Teachers have complained that the start date does not allow them enough time to prepare for their new students in September. Is anyone listening to the parents, the students or the teachers? A win-win situation will occur when collaboration between both the DOE & the UFT with input from the parents. Education is core service provided by tax dollars and the stakeholders input should be weighed in as much as the Administartion and the Service providers.

  • 5 Politics, Politics
    · Jul 14, 2010 at 4:38 am

    I agree with Rsell. Let the kids come in on 9/8, then, if the city insists. It’s simply politics and we are there anyway. The day in June is not interchangeable with an early day in September, we need Brooklyn Queens Day very much to finish records for the year ending and to prepare for the year ahead. By the way, is there anyone who really doesn’t know they could knock off a couple of those sweaty days at the end of the year without harm to the curriculum? Onward and upward.