From an email that Gladys sent to the NYC Ed list; reprinted with her permission.
I am a NYC teacher serving the school system in the Absent teacher
reserve and a teacher for 21 years. But enough about me.
I have waited a long while to chime into the debate especially
when there are teachers who are in a wide range of teaching conditions out
there publicly or privately raising concerns. You know race, age, working from
pre k to 12 rich poor, nabes, varying degrees of COVID-19 infection rates/
hospitalizations and more. Not to mention we are entering the labor day weekend
where many of us are on vacation and families may engage in risk behaviors. I
can pray that there will not be a spike in infections but I doubt it.
Yesterday I ran into a parent who lives in a primarily immigrant
community telling him that students will return to school on September 21. His
smile dropped and I could sense his heart sank I explained that it was a good
thing because we can plan, be trained and see the "lay of the land"
to ensure your children and school community are safe.I said to myself,
well the union was for once negotiated a stay of reopening using a "threat
of a strike" . Well at least for now. He said, ok I am calling my
wife. He has elementary age school children.
I am happy if some schools were able to get what parents and the school
communitypetitioned from the get go (meaning fall start)
through the SLT process and their advocacy. This is not the case for all school
In person teaching as we knew it will not return.And yet, the
nation as well as the world are watching what we all do to reopen and some
hoping we fall on our face.The underfunded segregated largest school system in
the nation is now fully exposed. Much of the debate and commentary is about
what ifs and why nots and where is the money in the budget etc etc etc. We know
the answers to these questions, little to nothing. The HERO act is
floundering in Congress. State and city tax revenue are at an all time low,
well we are told that we are in trouble.
Many of my colleagues are retiring or quitting and we face a huge
staffing problem and this is citywide. For the first time,I am receiving so
many offers to interview for positions. Thank God I am assigned to the school I
served last semester. I am staying.
It was "nice" that the UFT took a position to
strike. I said to myself wow really? I sort of thought well it would be a
powerful negotiating tool and it worked. As for me I was not in favor of a
strike this time around only because I serve in a working class and working
poor communities in a time of a nationwide and world pandemic. This is my
second "rodeo" when it comes to living in our city who became the
epicenter of a worldwide pandemic. The suffering is immense.
I am glad that the unions were able to reach to an agreement for
now! I plan to return to in building work as scheduled and work the
problems that are presented in uncharted terrain and waters. And will voice
concerns when solutions are not presented or collectively reached.
Gladys M Sotomayor, MPA and NYC Teacher