Dear BTU Family,
We hope everyone has started to settle in and find new routines to adjust to the “new normal.” Yesterday, Governor Baker announced that Massachusetts schools will be closed at least until May 4. We know that the extension of the current period of remote learning, which is likely to be extended further, generates both new challenges and questions.
We had a negotiating session earlier today with BPS and are awaiting their written counterproposal. We also received the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidance earlier today. Our state affiliate, AFT-MA, was at the table during this discussion as was the other statewide union, MTA. We appreciate the collaborative efforts from DESE and other stakeholders to create new recommendations.
Our goal has been and continues to be to get an agreement with BPS in place as soon as possible. We will be sending an advisory tomorrow to assist building reps with individual school challenges, and have the following updates to share as of today:
- The Executive Board “met” last night, and per guidance from the AFT and BTU by-laws, voted to cancel our April Membership meeting. The cancellation will not count against rep attendance records.
- In lieu of our Membership Meeting, we will be holding a virtual Town Hall in April for Building Reps and other interested members. This will give us some time to prepare, test out and determine how to adapt our meetings virtually to comply with Robert’s Rules, voting, and other necessary logistics for the formal membership meeting. Details will be forthcoming.
- Per diem subs will be assigned to a specific school to support on Monday. They will continue to receive pay in the interim. Please contact Para/Sub/ABA Field Rep Colleen Hart if you have not received an assignment or have questions about this.
- Originals and re-evals for special education are on hold.
- We would like to remind everyone that, except for March 17, all other days of this closure period – while not considered formal school days – ARE still working days for all BTU units. Everyone (including paraprofessionals, substitutes, etc.) should be checking their work e-mails regularly. If you do not have access to appropriate technology to do so, please contact your field rep so that they can help to advocate for what you may need.
- Currently, anyone on leave IS drawing from their sick days and personal days, with the exception of March 17. You are not required to work remotely while on leave and assigned long-term subs will continue to cover your class. When you return from leave, you are expected to work remotely. We are advocating for days used by high-risk members before March 17 to be returned, but there is no agreement yet. If you have questions about returning earlier or any other leave questions, please contact your field rep.
- We are aware that there are many questions about the impact of remote learning on the evaluation process. This is a topic of negotiations and we hope to have clarity and answers as soon as possible.
- We are still awaiting a response from BPS on the Eligibility and Placement Specialists proposal we gave to BPS two weeks ago.
- Lastly, Governor Baker has issued an executive order extending licenses for certain licensed professionals, including licensed educators. The order states that “a license that is in good standing as of March 18, 2020, and that has expired or will expire during the state of emergency, is now extended and will remain valid until 90 days after the end of the state of emergency.”
Please continue to submit your questions or concerns on our Google Form.
Again, we are awaiting more guidance and details from DESE and are working to get an MOU for work expectations as quickly as we can. For prior special bulletins and to stay up to date on the latest resources and volunteer opportunities, visit our Covid-19 webpage.
Please sign up to join the BTU Volunteer Corps if you feel you are able to. BTU volunteers have been stepping up daily to help fill the many needs created by this crisis. Next week, we will be assisting BPS in getting Chromebooks out to our students experiencing homelessness and housing instability as well as making meal deliveries.
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.
Thank you, everyone, for continuing to step up and for doing everything you can do to both maintain educational opportunities and to maintain a semblance of normalcy and stability for our students, families and each other.
We will be in touch when we have more to share soon.
Tech Supports and Professional Development Resources
- Thank you to the 200+ educators from 78 schools who took the Telescope Network’s Needs Assessment Survey telling how they can support educators and families in this new learning climate. Please see the report summarizing what has been shared so far and including advice from other educators.
- Additionally, the Telescope Network is planning virtual professional learning opportunities in response to the big trends in the survey so educators can share knowledge and network around common challenges. Find a menu of events and sign up links.
- The First Book Marketplace has created a brand new Supporting At-Home Learning page to highlight categories, digital learning resources, and free downloadables. Use these resources and opportunities to support remote or virtual teaching, or to distribute to families alongside other critical response materials.
- BPS has compiled mental health resources for educators on their website, including guidance on remote instruction, countering coronavirus racism and stigma, and a list of resources from the National Center for School Mental Health.
Additional Covid-19 Related Announcements and Action Items:
- Public schools cannot afford another decade of neglect If we come out of this in a major recession or depression, many politicians will want to cut funds for K-12 public schools, colleges and universities, public hospitals and other public services. Visit AFT’s website and tell your members of Congress: Give states the fiscal stabilization funds they need to fight the coronavirus and avoid economic consequences.
- Project Bread is advocating for and supporting the expansion of federal nutrition programs, including SNAP (food stamps) and a school meal model that would allow families to pick up lunches and take them home. Their Food Source Hotline is 1-800-645-8333. They can provide information in 160 different languages, and will remain open through any quarantines, and their child nutrition outreach team is available to support schools in figuring out models to feed kids, should their schools close. Please call them directly as needed.
- Join AFT Massachusetts (our state affiliate) on Thursday, April 2 at 4:00 p.m. for a COVID-19 update. AFT MA leaders will discuss the impact the virus is having on our schools and communities, share how the union is responding, and answer your questions. We’ll also spend some time saluting our front lines first responders often overlooked, like nurses, school cafeteria workers, custodial members, and paraprofessionals. If you have questions you’d like us to answer on the call, please email them ahead of time to email@example.com, and make sure to RSVP here.
- Due to the current situation, we have extended the application deadline for the Teacher Leadership Fund by one month. We are excited to announce that a portion of the funds will be set aside specifically for teams to address challenges that arise from the COVID-19 related closures. More details to follow. Office hours and 1:1 supports are available by appointment by firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also host virtual office hours on April 2nd from 4:30-5:30 at this Zoom link. For complete information about the TLF and the application process, see here.
We continue to be #InThisTogether.
Be safe and be well, and please do remember to take time for your own self care and that of your loved ones, too. Friday looks like it will be a wonderful day to take a (solitary) walk or maybe this weekend would be a good time to try a new hobby, get back into an old one, or make a date with a friend living alone to check in over a virtual drink or dinner!
Let’s turn these lemons into lemonade.