Published On: January 6, 2022
We hope you all are staying as safe and healthy as possible this week. We know it has been an incredibly challenging week and truly think you all are heroes for stepping up every time those who are supposed to support us and keep us safe let us down. Words cannot express the gratitude you deserve. 

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to keep us informed of the various issues that are happening in our schools – your communication is appreciated and critical. We have been doing our best this week to look into and respond to all of the myriad challenges presented to our educators and families and wanted to share many important updates and action steps:

  • We continue to find the state’s plan for in-person learning both lacking in practical guidance and execution. For example: We have learned that many of the masks DESE sent out were in fact not tested (despite DESE claims) and were not medical grade. The expired tests – while “extended and usable” – were not clearly communicated as such. We need to take action to hold the state accountable. Let us know if you are willing to take action by speaking up for safe schools by filling out this form.
  • Additionally, the MTA, AFT-MA and BTU are working with our legislators to call for an investigation into the Baker administration’s handling of the KN95 mask debacle. MEJA is also partnering with us to test masks from DESE. An expert will be testing masks distributed by DESE from across the state, including masks we submitted from Boston, and sharing information about recommended mask usage. We will share that on our social media when it becomes available. 
  • We have heard from legislators that Governor Baker and his team did not appear at an oversight hearing in mid-December that was meant to underscore the need for better preparation for the Omicron surge. This is yet another example of the Governor’s administration being uninterested in keeping the public safe from COVID-19 and holding themselves accountable in the same ways others are. We are calling on Governor Baker to show up and respond to the COVID Oversight Committee invitation to Gov. Baker to answer questions about the Omicron response next week. If you’d like to email the governor, visit this web page.

  • The Boston Public Health Commission shared new guidance yesterday regarding quarantine protocols, including that staff members who test positive for COVID-19 and show no symptoms should isolate for 5 days if they are vaccinated and 7 days if they are not vaccinated, and need to provide a negative test to return to school. You can read the full guidance here.
  • The BTU Negotiating Team met with BPS yesterday to begin impact bargaining on the new city vaccine mandate. The team meets again tomorrow, following master contract bargining this afternoon and evening. We know there are concerns about the mandate and also exemptions and our Field Reps are working hard to follow up on those concerns and process. Under the advisement of our legal counsel, we continue to work with other public sector unions to explore different responses and strategies to best meet the needs of all of our members and will take necessary steps as needed.

  • Just a reminder – in accordance with paragraph 13 of the MOA we signed with BPS in September, all BTU members who contract COVID-19 or whose family members are affected by COVID-19 are entitled to 10 days of leave without use of sick or personal time. Members who contract COVID-19 themselves are entitled to an additional 10 days of such leave if necessary.

  • Clarification on the two PD hours for mask and test kit pick up: Two hours of professional development will be given back to you whether or not you went in on Monday. If your school has not shared how that time will be given back, please contact your Field Rep so we can follow up. We also strongly advocated for a pause not just on additional PD, but also any new initiatives and assessments that are being given, including state assessments and NAEP.  We know everyone needs some reprieve. Please alse see the additional demands we have been advocating for on the graphics below and feel free to share them!

  • Students across the City have been organizing and sharing their concern over returning to school with such high transmission rates. A group of students have created a petition supporting remote learning and flexible grading policies. We support our students’ collective action and encourage our members to sign on.

  • We want to hear from you about what collective actions you are wiling to take with fellow union members in regards to the Omicron surge. We encourage you to take our BTU Member Omicron Survey and share your thoughts. Responses are anonymous but to verify BTU membership, you will need to enter your BPS ID to take part in the survey.  
  • We hope to have more information, updates and next steps at our monthly BTU membership meeting next week, Wednesday, January 12 at 4:30 p.m., including fact sheets and information from the MA Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. Please remember to register for the meeting in advance
Lastly, while I have come back early from planned maternity leave and have been working part-time since December to help support our members through these latest crises, I am still catching up and appreciate your patience and understandng as I transition and resume leadership of our union over the next couple of weeks.  

I would like to give a huge thank you to EVP Erik Berg and the entire BTU staff for their tireless and often thankless work, particularly over the last couple of months in my absence. They are a committed team working as hard as they can to respond to members; get answers; explore solutions; organize; implement and enforce policies and solutions; and, yes, even substitute teach these past few weeks! 

We are constantly in awe of the incredible commitment of our BTU educators and we are honored to serve you and our Boston families during these difficult times. Enjoy the much deserved snow day tomorrow!

In gratitude,
Jessica Tang

President, Boston Teachers Union

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