Under the leadership of UNITY/UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the union fights every day to keep our members, students and schools safe and healthy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its fearsome march across the country, leaving 50,000 New Yorkers dead and nearly 600,000 citizens across the nation.
Despite these grim numbers, we succeeded in keeping our schools safe beyond anyone’s expectations. We insisted on doctor-approved safety protocols and testing, and improved school ventilation systems. We provided thousands of members with appointments for a vaccination when appointments were next to impossible to get. The UFT fought to keep our schools among the safest institutions in the city, and we vow to continue our vigilance going forward.
Now, light appears to be glimmering at the end of this long dark tunnel. Our colleagues and students need our full support as we rebound from the disruptions and chaos of this year. And, as UNITY/UFT has always done, we have jumped into action instead of waiting to follow someone else’s lead. Following Mulgrew’s lead, we created a plan of recovery that says:
- Every school should have a team of academic intervention specialists and social workers or psychologists to provide targeted help to students.
- We should cut class size by a third in 100 of the city’s neediest schools as a pilot project. The goal: to use this as a blueprint citywide.
- The city should offer a free CTLE-granting webinar to all our members offering strategies to help assess students and respond to those suffering from stress or trauma. Thousands of UFT members have signed up for the UFT’s version of this program this spring: From Trauma Awareness to Healing-Centered Classrooms, which teaches teachers how to identify stress and trauma in students and in ourselves as well.
- High school seniors must receive extra support in college and career planning and in applying to college and for financial aid; these same students must have opportunities to complete missing work.
- The DOE must provide as much in-person instruction during summer school this year as possible. All current safety and testing protocols will remain in place.
As UNITY/UFT President Mulgrew recently said, “This pandemic has challenged us in so many ways, ways in which we never could have imagined, but now thankfully we see an end in sight and must be prepared for future challenges.”