The union, which represents New York City’s school principals, said Sunday it had lost confidence in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to reopen schools and called on the state to take control of the school system from the mayor take over – a drastic move that poses new barriers to the city full of reopening efforts.
The mayor has postponed the start of face-to-face lessons twice, and the vast majority of the city’s 1.1 million students have already started the school year remotely. Hundreds of thousands of students will report to the classrooms this week. Elementary school children are expected to begin classes in person on Tuesday, followed by middle and high school students on Thursday.
Even so, Mr Cannizzaro said the builders would report to the buildings as planned this week and not think about a strike. “I think parents should be confident that every child who arrives at a building receives the utmost care,” Cannizzaro said.
But thousands of school principals “must now look employees, parents and children in the eyes and say that they have done all they can to provide a safe and high quality educational experience, but given the limited resources made available to them, it will getting harder, “he said. The union’s board of directors unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Mr de Blasio and school chancellor Richard A. Carranza on Sunday morning.
Miranda Barbot, a spokeswoman for the city’s Ministry of Education, defended the reopening on Sunday. “For the past six months we’ve worked with our work partners to navigate completely uncharted waters and achieve our common goal of serving the students this fall,” she said. “We will continue this work to ensure a safe, healthy and successful opening for all.”
Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the State Education Department, said the department is “aware of the situation” and is “overseeing the reopening of New York City.” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democratic compatriot who frequently collides with Mr. de Blasio, does not control the State Department of Education.
Sunday’s announcement highlighted long-simmering tensions between school principals and teachers’ unions. Mr Cannizzaro said the school principals union was not informed of an 11th hour staffing agreement reached Friday between City Hall and the United Federation of Teachers that would allow more teachers to work from home when they were Teach students who study from home. The pact forced the school principals to change the schedules again over a holiday weekend.
For weeks, the employers’ union has been warning of a major personnel crisis triggered by a deal signed between UFT and the de Blasio government at the end of August. This deal essentially saw schools form three groups of teachers: one for dealing with students at a distance, another for teaching hybrid students in the classroom, and a third for teaching hybrid students at home. To do this, the schools would have had to double their teachers – during a hiring freeze and with the threat of mass layoffs.
School principals across the city said the teachers union and city requirements were simply impossible to meet, and many school principals said that only by circumventing these rules would they be able to deliver effective teaching.
Mr de Blasio’s efforts to reopen schools in New York City, which have one of the lowest virus positivity rates of any major American city, have been plagued by political opposition and bureaucratic mismanagement. City administrators, seldom involved in major political battles, have been raising the alarm publicly and privately about the reopening for months.
But the mayor largely pushed their concerns aside for many weeks, despite hundreds of school principals saying they couldn’t fully staff their schools and they couldn’t answer urgent questions from their teachers, parents and students about the reopening efforts.
While the teachers’ union announced earlier this summer that schools were not ready to open due to safety issues, including outdated ventilation systems in aging school buildings and the lack of school nurses, the city was able to meet most of the UFT’s safety requirements. This union now supports the city’s reopening plan.
The past few weeks have shown that the city has been able to resolve the UFT’s security concerns, daunting as they are, but through the mystery of occupying two school versions, one in-person and one online.
Mr de Blasio has added thousands of educators to city schools in the past few weeks, mostly replacements and educators from a pool of redundant teachers. But Mr Cannizzaro estimated the city could need more than 1,000 one-to-one and distance-learning teachers by Tuesday, and more when middle and high schools reopen later in the week.