Published On: April 9, 2020
Dear BTU Family,
We hope this email finds you well and ready for the long weekend! We’ve had another busy week of negotiations and (virtual) meetings with state, local and national leaders. We are writing to provide some updates and clarifications on many of your questions and concerns.
  • This coming Wednesday, April 15 at 4:30 p.m., we will be having a virtual Town Hall instead of our regular April membership meeting. We hope to be able to review a finalized agreement with the district regarding employee work expectations by then but will have updates regardless. In order to be a participant, you have to be a BTU member and must register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Through an AFT Zoom account access, we are able to host an expanded number of participants, but there is a cap, so please register as soon as possibleto guarantee your spot. We strongly encourage all Building Reps to attend.Prior to the actual meeting, starting at 4:00, we will be holding a Zoom “troubleshooting and tips” workshop for anyone who has registered in advance and may need additional assistance before the Town Hall begins. There will be no further Zoom assistance once we begin the meeting at 4:30, so if you may need Zoom support please attend the workshop or contact admin assistants Nichole Staude or Matt Bouvier in advance of the meeting.
  • The Office of Special Education has sent a clarification to the guidance previously provided to ABA Specialists and Related Services Providers, including SLP’s. Please see the addendum sent to us today. While the documentation does need to continue, it does not currently need to be through the Google form and we are working with the district to revise and streamline the form in the interim.  We are also negotiating with BPS for reasonable and clear expectations regarding services and caseloads.  
  • We appreciate that legislators have recognized the urgency of the moment by waiving the 2020 requirement to administer the MCAS. This crucial step will enable educators and communities to fully focus on providing our students with the best and healthiest possible remote learning environments as we weather the COVID-19 pandemic. As we work to address the many pressing needs confronting educators, our communities, and most importantly our students and their families,MCAS cancellation is an important part of mitigating the pandemic’s impact on home learning challenges faced by Boston students, which are exacerbating inequities that already existed. We hope that Governor Baker will sign this bill soon.
  • We know that evaluation deadlines are coming up and that there are many questions regarding what is expected, which is why we have been pressing hard for a resolution to negotiations. We are hopeful that this will get wrapped up next week, but short of a signed agreement can share that both parties have exchanged proposals including the suspension of formal evaluations during the closure and waiving the requirement of uploading artifacts. More details will be forthcoming, but we have agreed that the uploading of any artifacts during the closure is voluntary.   
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public can only get in City Hall and the Boston Retirement System (BRS) office on Tuesdays and Fridays with appointments. BRS is not currently taking any appointments during the month of April and May with teachers who have a June 30 or later retirement date. BRS is only taking appointments for members in April and May for members who have an April or May retirement date. Teachers, unlike other city employees, can enjoy the 6/30 retirement date, but also have the option to have their salary paid over 12 months and therefore can file their Intent To Retire as late as 8/30. Please be mindful that BRS staff, like educators and most other City of Boston employees, are working remotely from their homes. BRS is currently operating only with a skeleton crew on Tuesday and Friday. Please contact Michael McLaughlin with any questions or concerns.
  • Last but not least, this week we sent a letter to DESE Commissioner Riley and the state board, responding to problematic statements made at last week’s BESE meeting where we testified in support of freezing the MOU between BPS and DESE.  We appreciate that after receiving the letter, he reached out within a day, was conciliatory about misstatements directed at the BTU and let us know that we would be receiving a more thorough response in the coming days. We were also sent the amendment on the MOU stating that the 60-day period for BPS and BTU to continue negotiating will now be delayed and commence on May 18, 2020, instead of March 12. Thank you to all who showed up during the BESE meeting and signed the petition to have our voices heard. We will continue to reach out to Building Reps at all schools impacted.
Please continue to submit your questions or concerns about the COVID-19 related school closure on our Google Form
For prior special bulletins and to stay up to date on the latest resources and volunteer opportunities, visit our COVID-19 webpage.
If you are able, please consider signing up to join the BTU Volunteer Corps. BTU volunteers have been stepping up daily to help fill the many needs created by this crisis and the need continues to grow.  Also, if you are a member, particularly in the RTC, that is in need of assistance that a local volunteer may be able to assist with, please contact BTU organizer Liliana
Note to volunteers: Please don’t forget to observe social distancing recommendations of staying six feet away from each other, hand washing frequently, wearing gloves when possible, avoid touching your face, and taking other precautions even if you feel very healthy. And be sure to remind folks you are with the BTU – wear a BTU shirt or button as you volunteer!
Finally, we hope those who celebrate are having a happy Passover and have a happy Easter celebration this Sunday. A reminder that tomorrow is not a workday – please take some time to take a deep breath, unwind a little and enjoy the long weekend!
We will be in touch when we have more to share soon.  
Resources, Supports and Action Items
  • A new loan program administered by the Small Business Administration and banks has been approved, called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). All AFT affiliates are eligible for a loan under this program, regardless of the number of employees or members. The loan may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. For more information, please visit the SBA website. 
  • The deadline to apply for the City of Boston fund is tomorrow for those at risk of losing their rental housing due to COVID-19. Please see the online application for more information. 
  • Sign the petition to urge the President’s coronavirus task force to make the production of masks and other PPE a top priority.
  • Superintendent Cassellius has clarified that students are able to one Chromebook for each student – not one Chromebook per household. See the request form for families.
  • Check out AFT’s new resource, Helpful Information and Tips for Dealing with COVID-19, developed with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 
  • Join ESP Consulting Teacher Anne Slater for weekly mini lessons on the writer’s notebook. Anne will demonstrate how to start a writers notebook and, in the coming weeks, model lessons on generating ideas for writing and growing ideas into a variety of pieces including poetry, non-fiction, memoir and narrative writing. Teachers can use these lessons as a springboard for further writing or simply include as a weekly choice. Open to teachers and students.

All of the staff at the BTU (pictured here at our virtual meeting this morning!) are thinking of you and sending lots of *virtual* love.  We continue to be #InThisTogether.
Be safe and be well. 
Jessica Tang and the entire BTU staff

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