NEWS YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE!

news you can actually use

OCCTA DECLARES IMPASSE

On October 30, 2020, OCPS sent a “News You Can Use” message that was clearly intended to underscore the District’s “us against them” position that OCCTA has experienced since June 2020.  This message is surely at the top of the growing list of offensive, disingenuous and misleading messages sent by OCPS.

This school year, OCPS teachers have faced one unilateral decision after another, a series of bad faith bargaining sessions, irresponsible and dangerous mandates, and misinformation compounded with a lack of transparency. Once again this year, OCCTA has had to declare impasse. This time regarding salaries.

We applaud every teacher for all of the extraordinary work each one has accomplished to ensure the success of every student. The challenges that OCPS educators continue to face every day of this school year are beyond any that we have ever experienced.  

We are a union. We bargain for every member of our bargaining unit. We do not leave anyone behind.  The District is asking OCCTA to sign an agreement that would omit FLDOE certified Pre-K teachers who earn under $47,500 from receiving a raise, while every other member of the bargaining unit will be raised to a base salary of $47,500. It would cost the District $211,000 to include every Pre-K teacher, who are excluded from the state-funded raise per state legislation. It is important to raise their salaries now because after this year the Pre-K teachers who make under $47,500 will be stuck with the lower salaries as they watch their peers’ salaries climb. Merit pay will determine the pay in future years. 

The District is attempting to create a separate pay scale in our contract. What Pre-K teacher will agree to accept a Pre-K position at a lower pay level than other teachers next year? Why not teach another grade level or go to a District where certified teachers are treated equitably? How many Pre-K teachers will walk away this year if their salaries are not raised with the rest? We cannot afford to lose even one more great teacher.

The District saves money every week because they have not replaced all of the teachers who have resigned or taken early retirement. In fact, their Chief Information Officer, Scott Howat, was quoted by FOX 35 News as saying the teachers who resigned or retired were not all being replaced because the student enrollment numbers were down by 6,000 or more students as compared to last year. (See this link: https://www.fox35orlando.com/video/864521?fbclid=IwAR2rzW2P0BTmKjoZl4sHC_D6fSzLDbCrcpg3DA2vv1CSQhf1co6hyWM1pEQ)

Additionally, every year OCPS routinely over-budgets teacher salaries in that categorical line item and then the money is put back into the reserves account.  The $211,000 from the District’s $1.2 Billion teacher salary budget amounts to 0.0176%. The District cannot honestly say that it cannot afford to contribute this insignificant amount to include the deserving Pre-K teachers in this one-time salary bump. It is not because the District cannot; it is because the District will not. There is a distinct difference.

The District is trying to put a spin on their refusal to contribute any District funds to salary negotiations this year. The District has more than enough money to contribute this small amount.   OCPS has the second highest fund balance among all school districts in the state. (Download the chart at this link: /z/-df.0.0.0.10829.0CA9740CF150B459FAB13E60A4D4EB7417EFF506C0F4C1C721C242A1B8BE097E)  Other state school districts with far less money than OCPS, and with much smaller fund balances, contributed millions in district dollars to ensure equity among all of their instructional personnel.  

In the District’s message it was stated that the District “should not use nonrecurring funds to pay for recurring salaries.” The District can and should use these funds. It has in the past. The District claimed last year that the reserves (nonrecurring funds) would be needed to offset huge losses in the insurance plan. Those projected losses never materialized. The District argued that “State categorical dollars are the only funds being used for raises at this time, which exclude VPK teachers.” They are the only dollars that this District has made the deliberate decision to use for raises at this time; other districts have contributed millions from their own coffers.

The District double-speaks.  On one hand they are willing to sign an MOU stating that if any funds become available they will consider funding the Pre-K teachers, and on the other hand they say to expect budget cuts and expect teacher layoffs. Which soundbite should we listen to?

We must ask, “What does it say about a school district that would choose to spend $6 million a year of taxpayers’ money to pay 260 administrators a 25.41% retirement while teachers and other employees lack the salaries required to pay essential bills?”  Many teachers have to work two jobs to make ends meet, while at the same time they struggle to keep up with the unreasonable workload that far exceeds their contracted 7.5-hour workday. No other Florida school district has 260 administrators receiving this perk. None. (Please see the list of those who receive this retirement package at this link: /z/-df.0.0.0.10903.0DAAF528FF9F8F2C4E7202A809C392B2AE7021345AE585745FE8DE57257320EB

OCPS leaders have deliberately created a class system to reward obedient administrators and punish the disrespected teachers. In the disingenuous “News You Can’t Use” message that the District sent to employees on October 30th, the District stated that they offer this costly perk because it is a state law and they are permitted to. They state that it is an effort to retain and recruit administrators. It is a state law that employees can extend their DROP for three years with approval of the superintendent. In other Districts this is routine and employees in their 5th year of DROP are offered a form to complete to extend their DROP to submit for approval. Not in Orange County. In OCPS, administrators are coveted and teachers are regarded as disposable, replaceable labor units. The District claims it follows laws because they are there, then it should follow all of them.  It is time to prioritize retaining and recruiting teachers –not just administrators. Teachers are the heart of a school system. We demand respect and fairness.

Another District argument that OCCTA has heard over and over and over at the bargaining table was, “We are not giving any other bargaining unit a raise, so we will not give OCCTA bargaining unit any money above the state allocation.”  While we do not bargain for any other bargaining unit, including the educational support professionals, we do believe that they have certainly earned a raise, no matter how small. Like teachers, other non-management employees, including paraprofessionals, secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and others have gone above and beyond in this time of crisis.  The teachers and support staff professionals are the OCPS employees with boots on the ground –not the administrators in the bronze tower or front offices. The teachers and support staff professionals are the heart of every school.

Whether the District elects to spend any funds this year for raises is the District’s choice.  The District must own its decisions and stop blaming Tallahassee. The District must own its priorities and admit it has created a system where administrators are elevated (perhaps to be obligated and obedient to their leaders as much as to retain and recruit them) and teachers and other employees are at the very bottom of their list of priorities, and denied any respect or appreciation.

The District concluded their message with this statement: “We hope to work together to preserve jobs during these challenging times and provide the categorical raises to teachers as directed to the State.” The District has made unilateral decision after unilateral decision this school year. Is that the District leaders’ idea of working together? The District created the “us vs. them” climate and reinforces it at every bargaining meeting as it spews out meaningless rhetoric and repeats the same tired soundbites. (Watch the CBLT videos that are on the OCCTA Facebook page.)  The District has the power. It makes the choices. It makes the excuses. It establishes priorities. Again, it must own every anti-teacher, dis-unifying, mean-spirited action.

OCCTA has requested that the District bring the salary impasse directly to the School Board rather than go through a special magistrate so we can ensure that raises are in the pockets of teachers as soon as possible.

Teachers, it is time to use your outdoor voices! Now is the time for all educators to speak out with one united voice! Unilateral decisions made by OCPS have negatively impacted your working conditions and threatened your health and safety. Unilateral decisions made by OCPS have negatively impacted students’ learning conditions and threaten their health and safety. The district can bypass a special magistrate hearing to expedite impasse and bring the case directly to the School Board. We ask you to appeal to the school board members to request that this be done. 

Please take the time to email your school board member today!

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING NOVEMBER 10th

BE THERE! SPEAK UP!

You cannot afford to miss this meeting. We need to take a united stand against the District’s continual bad faith bargaining, outrageous claims and harmful decisions! Your job, your working conditions, and your salary depends on you speaking up!

You can comment by email or in person. For protocols for school board meetings see the OCPS website at School Board at this link (OCPS website under School Board tab.)

Sending Written Comment You may send written comment to the school board by emailing publiccomment@ocps.net by 5:00 p.m. the evening before the scheduled meeting. Put “School Board Public Comment” in the subject line of the email.

EMAIL LEADERS

When you email leaders, your email becomes part of the public record. We are in a which side are you on moment! Go on record to express your opinions and concerns.

School Board:

Others you may want to email about COVID-19 related issues:

Mayors:

Health Department:

Medical Advisory Committee:

Send an email to publiccomment@ocps.net (Put “for Medical Advisory Committee in the subject line)


October 29, 2020

impasse

Watch the bargaining meeting video:

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Compare the reserves (fund balance) of all the Florida Districts at this link. OCPS has the 2nd highest fund balance in the state -over $85 M, but claims it doesn't have $211,000 to include VPK teachers in raises.

STATEMENT FROM PRESIDENT DOROMAL -October 29, 2020 Bargaining Meeting

We are here once more at a bargaining meeting where we find ourselves unable to effectively bargain because the District has again failed to follow through with agreements. The District agreed to provide counters and responses well before the meeting so we could review them.  When did we get the information? At 8:55pm last evening. Your excuses, your calculated delays, your deliberate acts to obstruct our ability to effectively bargain on behalf of every member of our bargaining unit has become intolerable.

It is difficult to sit at the table where the District has intentionally made sure that the two sides are extremely unequal partners. OCPS has created a school district in which teachers and other instructional personnel are treated as disposable, replaceable labor units.  You have created a top-down, authoritative system in which school and district administrators and management have been strategically placed in an upper class within OCPS. All other employees are beneath you in every manner possible and are routinely and purposely denied respect, dignity, gratitude, value and appreciation.

The District has made it very clear that the members of our bargaining unit will receive crumbs from this table, while the District administrators and management receive full meals with multiple desserts.  Desserts like a 25.41% retirement package that costs taxpayers $6 million a year or $100,000 a week. Yes, $100,000 a week goes to over 200 OCPS elite who are given this bonus at the expense of every lower class employee in the District-made class system.

Even though OCPS has the 2nd highest fund balance among all school districts in the state, it has refused to spend $200,00 to raise VPK teachers to $47,500.  Other Florida School Districts with far less money in their reserves accounts have reached deep into their pockets to spend millions to give their teachers more equitable pay raises.  (See this link.)

District leaders refused to expedite impasse to bypass the special magistrate to ensure teachers have the peace of mind that they are working in safe schools. This District certainly gives the impression that it doesn’t give a damn about its employees’ peace of mind, health or safety. How did OCPS respond when asked about the number of teachers resigning or retiring because they feel unsafe at their work sites, feel unappreciated and disrespected? It manipulated the data to downplay the numbers. It reported numbers from 2019 to include 2 more weeks than those from this school year. According to your own school board records, there have been 611 members of our bargaining unit who have resigned or retired since July 1st. But instead of saying that you regret that great teachers are leaving, you will take steps to make them feel safer, you will start to listen instead of talking at them, the message from OCPS was, “We have only 29 more resignations than we had last year.”  Your heartless message was received loud and clear by every member of this bargaining unit.

There are 611 teachers who have resigned this year and the District stated it is not hiring more because 6,000 students have left the district. That leaves hundreds of thousands of dollars the District is saving in salaries yet it cannot find $200,000 to include VPK teachers in salary raises to $47,500.

Elizabeth Panogopoulos from Cypress Creek High School recently resigned. She stated, "It was a difficult job already and then during the pandemic they refused to listen to any of us and any of our suggestions and instead went full steam ahead with a plan that we all said, "This isn't going to work." Is she just a number to you?

Ashley Craig, Teacher of the Year from Riverside Elementary School, wrote, "After 5 years of working for OCPS as a fifth grade teacher, I am walking away from education. I do not make this decision lightly. Education is my passion, I love teaching and inspiring. I always want to know that what I do matters. I am walking away from education for many reasons, and I wish I could say it’s mostly the money. It isn’t, though this will be the assumption.

I’m walking away because:

I am not valued as a professional.

I am expected to give until I break.

My students deserve a happy teacher.

I work over 50 hours a week with only 37.5 hours paid.

I am really good at what I do, which means I get thrown all the work.

The politics of education have taken over the relationships of education.

Children are viewed as test scores and data points, not individuals.

Imagination is not valued or fostered.

The way we teach is not developmentally appropriate for children’s abilities.

I am evaluated (and paid) on proficiency of students.

There are empty promises from the district (classrooms are not cleaned, children are not disciplined, time is not given to prepare).

My lessons are dictated and often ineffective.

There is little reward for the effort given, I am consistently pouring from an empty bucket.

The district does not value my work, and knows I am replaceable. So I will stop giving them all I have. Tomorrow they will hire someone new. It is a hole that can be filled. Like my students, I am a number, a data point, not an individual.

I am heartbroken to leave this profession. However, I want my students to know they should value themselves. They should put their needs first, and seize the opportunity when it presents itself. October 29, I will be teaching my last lesson. Giving my last hug to my students and saying my last “Have a great weekend!” Having the last parking lot conversation with colleagues and mentors who have spent countless hours with me. This will be very difficult, however, I look forward to new opportunity. I am honored for being nominated teacher of the year. I am grateful to have made so many great friends. I couldn’t imagine a better group of hardworking people to be around, but at the end of the day, we ALL deserve more than this.

Until the government can see the value in public education, I will take my skill set and become a master in another craft. This is a bittersweet moment. I am excited for my next challenge and opportunity. I know my worth, and am tired of not being valued for what I bring to the table. In the midst of a chaotic year, we are treated as though this is business as usual. This is not normal for anyone. I look towards exciting new challenges and learning a new company. In the meantime, please hug a teacher tight, they need it."

No OCPS teacher should expect hugs, fairness, or appreciation from any district leader or anyone at this bargaining table. Any hugs will come from parents and the public.  

The CTA team will now go back to caucus to continue looking at the counter proposals you sent last night and to prepare responses. We do not require you to go over your proposals line by line.  We got the District’s message loud and clear from the written words and from reading between the lines.

 

TOP OCPS SALARIES 

October 15, 2020

The vast divide between the salaries of the top administrators and the teachers, whose contributions are undervalued and unappreciated, is enormous. Not only do the District leaders' salaries show a wide divide, but their elitist retirement package is a luxurious, tax-payer funded expense. There are 239 OCPS administrators whose excessive 25.41% retirement costs $6M a year. District leaders claim it is allowed by the state. Yes, it's allowed, but it is not mandated. OCPS leads the state in opting to spend millions on this  "allowable" deal. OCPS chooses to spend $6M to ensure loyalty of their administrative team. The vast majority of other school districts do not offer this "bonus" and of those that do, most have only a handful of administrators receiving it. 

Who pays for this loyalty enticer? The teachers and other education personnel whose low salaries don't reflect their professional expertise, loyalty and dedication. The District's "let them eat cake" attitude is getting old. $6M is a slap in the face to those hardworking OCPS employees who are told "zero money for raises this year".

The District can afford to spend $6M this way, as it speaks of laying off teachers? Notice there is no talk of laying off unnecessary administrator positions? "Expect layoffs in January", they say. OCPS may want to look first in the bronze tower when considering cuts. End the costly 25.41% retirement package before considering cuts.

The Orlando Business Journal published the top OCPS salaries.  (Read the article at this link.)

From the article:

"In total, the district has 23,833 employees on its compensation list, including instructors, administrative workers and more. The list includes varying schedules of pay, contracts and other differences between departments and positions.

The average annual pay by OCPS is roughly $43,292.

Orange County Public Schools' three highest-paid employees are:

Superintendent

Barbera Jenkins: $347,615

Chief Facilities Officer

John Morris: $216,500

District general counsel

Amy Envall: $205,000

See the list of the 239 who get the 25.41% Retirement Package: Download File (Pension recipients.xlsx) 


Evaluation Proposals

September 27, 2020

teacher load

The District’s evaluation proposal consists of two changes – changing the timeline and limiting the number of observations. While the District claimed that those two minor concessions were being considered to “help teachers”, we would argue that those concessions would likely be of more help to evaluating administrators than to teachers and all members of our bargaining unit.

This school year is more stressful and unpredictable than any other that teachers have ever experienced. There are constant changes in procedures, policies, and teaching methods –all being made unilaterally by the District leaders without bargaining and without consulting the union. In too many cases, the number of students assigned to teachers has changed weekly and in some cases, daily. Teachers are asked to teach using untested and challenging methods including teaching face-to-face and virtual simultaneously. In other words, teachers are asked to teach two classes at once!   Overall, there have been unrealistic and unreasonable expectations heaped upon teachers this school year.  Therefore, it is OCCTA’s position that it will take a major reduction in evaluation procedures this year for the process to be fair.

OCCTA’s proposal at this link would allow time to consider changes as the year progresses. We do not know what to expect during a pandemic with medical experts predicting COVID-19 cases could increase as flu season comes and social distancing policies are relaxed. The only thing that is certain this year is that nothing is certain.

We need to discuss and bargain what concessions will need to be made if a teacher contracts COVID-19, is in quarantine, if students keep changing and other conditions take place that would put a teacher on an uneven and unfair playing field as far as evaluation. We also intend to bargain timelines and procedures, including video recording and virtual observations, which is not now permitted by contract.

OCCTA initially proposed the following:

  1. The parties will continue to meet to bargain over modifications to the evaluation system suitable for the 2020-2021 School Year.
  2. The focus of evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year will be for coaching and will not be counted toward summative scores unless mutually upon agreed by the evaluator and the teacher.
  3. For the 2020-2021 School Year, teachers may not receive an overall rating below their overall rating for the 2018-2019 School Year and all teachers shall receive at least an effective rating. Ratings may be higher than the teacher’s 2018-2019 rating based upon 2020-2021 School Year evaluations.

The District’s proposal  at this link focuses on changing timelines and removing one observation, which may or may not help a teacher’s score.

We know that at least three other Districts submitted a proposal calling for a hold harmless clause, including St. Lucie and Indian River. The District argues that that was not allowed.   Bargaining will resume on September 30th at 1:00pm.


Is COVID-19 Spread in OCPS Schools?

September 26, 2020

OCPS continually states that no teacher or student has contracted COVID-19 at the school or worksite. Some teachers who have tested positive say they are not so sure that is true.  Some question the accuracy of the District’s dashboard (at this link) and policies and the department of Health’s accuracy in contact tracing. Some examples:

  • One teacher was in her room before face to face classes started when a custodian entered and inquired where a certain student sat. He stated that the student had tested positive and cleaned only that student’s desk. The teacher was quarantined and had herself tested. She tested positive. She does not show up on the OCPS dashboard, however 5 students are confirmed as positive. The teacher who tested positive received a quarantine letter from the Department of Health, which stated in part, “You were identified as being exposed to the case. You will need to quarantine at home until ____and may return to work thereafter. The teacher was not required to have a negative COVID-19 test before returning.
  • A teacher tested positive and received a quarantine letter from OCPS. Later another teacher on the teacher’s team also tested positive and was quarantined. Only one of the two teachers is listed on the OCPS dashboard under that school.
  • A teacher was told by her administrator to turn in her seating chart from a specific period because a student tested positive. The case was not listed on the OCPS dashboard. She further stated that the school had two cases, however the dashboard listed them days after teachers were notified.

Data from schools also suggests that COVID-19 is spreading in schools.  Consider the following:

Avalon Middle School: There are currently 53 active quarantine cases involving teachers and students at Avalon Park Middle School (4 employees and 49 students). Reported on September 16th were 35 active cases (3 employees and 32 students); reported on the 17 were 18 quarantine cases. Since September 9th, over the span of 16 days 7 have tested positive for COVID-19 (2 employees and 5 students). The pattern certainly suggests that there is spread within the school.

One Avalon Middle School parent sent OCCTA the following message on September 18th after hearing that her child was quarantined:

 “CONFIRMATION that the dashboard is WRONG. AMS says two cases. It is actually at least five. (She sent a photo –below-  of the dashboard as it appeared on September 18th. The OCPS dashboard only had 2 cases posted – 1 student and 1 employee.) Wanted to grab it before it could update. This is the false AMS data on the supposedly real time dashboard. No transparency. 81 quarantined at Avalon Middle.” 

avalon

OCPS Dashboard on September 18, 2020

It wasn’t until September 23rd that the OCPS dashboard showed 81 active quarantine cases at Avalon including 5 teachers and 76 students. On September 26th that information for September 23rd was not included on the dashboard.

avalon

OCPS Dashboard on September 26, 2020

Chain of Lakes Middle School:

Teachers from Chain of Lakes Middle School have been sending photos of hallways and other shared spaces with evidence of no social distancing. One suggested that COVID-19 is spreading in the school.  Three teachers and 16 students are now quarantined.

On August 28 a teacher wrote:

“Our principal ( Chain of Lakes Middle ) is refusing to order subs this year. They are shoving all of our f2f kids with an absent teacher, in one classroom. This is a photo of the hallway with that room today. All the students pictured, were sent to the computer lab in this hallway. This photo was taken today, 8/28/2020 around 7th period. This has been going on all week and has not been an isolated incident.” (Photo below)

chain of lakes hall

On September 8th one teacher wrote:

I know one of my colleagues emailed you with a picture of the students crammed in the hallway at Chain of Lakes Middle School. I’d like to document another instance of this. It is happening every day in my hallway. They are shoving classes (I heard today there was 8 in there) in a large computer lab type room. Our principal isn’t paying for subs this year so if a teacher is out, the kids are crammed in there.” 

On September 15th an anonymous person sent this message:

“This is Chain of Lakes Middle School during one of the many fire drills we’ve had since school started. 

There is a class in one the pictures that is called the 613 room and they have up to 30 - 50 kids daily due to no subs or lack of teachers. They group ALL the grade levels together 6 – 8.

This happens EVERY fire drill. We’ve had about 3 - 4 drills this far. They are more concerned if the fire drills than proper distancing.” 

 

fire drill

On September 24th the principal sent the following message to 7 teachers:

“Good afternoon Teachers,

You all have had a Covid-19 positive documented student within your class. Please see your period below and send me the seating chart with the information requested earlier that we may submit to the Dept. of Health. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks”  

colm

 

Other schools that suggest there is community spread within the school building:

Meadowbrook Middle School – Pattern of spread between employees with three confirmed cases: one employee on September 17, one on September 20 and one on September 21.  Seven employees were quarantined on September 24

Zellwood Elementary School – Pattern of spread between employees. Two employees have been confirmed as positive: one on September 16th and one on September 18. Eight employees are quarantined: 3 on September 18th and 5 on September 21st.

Winter Park Technical SchoolPattern of spread between employees. One student confirmed positive on September 10th. One employee confirmed positive on September 19 and two on September 22nd. Five employees were quarantined on September 24th.

Windemere High School  -  Teachers at Windemere High School have been contacting OCCTA since face-to-face classes started to complain about the lack of social distancing.  The school has three confirmed student cases one each on September 14, 17 and 18th.  There are currently 50 active quarantine cases with five teachers and 45 students.

Windemere High School hallwayswindemere


AUGUST 28, 2020

COVID-19 Positive at OCPS?

MEDICAL LETTER

OCCTA is fighting for the safety and health of every student, teacher and community member. We are greatly concerned with the District’s plans, procedures and policies concerning reopening of schools that were created by the District with no input from the union or teachers. We are especially concerned with the District’s lack of urgency, lack of honesty and lack of transparency in releasing data and documentation on positive cases of COVID-19 in schools.

The court-ordered documentation that the District provided to OCCTA was late, sloppy and incoherent. Instead of identifying names of worksites and schools, the lists contained dozens of names of job descriptions and departments. The first list delivered after the deadline and a second updated list that was delivered 6 days later, both lacked requested information. How could there possibly be effective contact tracing with such a sloppy and unorganized system? How can health and safety of individuals be protected?

This week the union heard from several teachers who tested positive for COVID-19. We also heard from teachers who work at schools where positive cases have been identified. All are concerned that neither their schools and/or the District did not notify faculty, staff and/or parents in a timely manner, or at all. One teacher who tested positive, notified the school principal. Days later parents and teachers at the school still had not been alerted. Other teachers expressed similar concerns. At one school the person who tested positive had been in a face-to-face faculty meeting and it was not until days later that some of those present were alerted. How does it make sense to withhold information that could put health and lives at risk? Is this being done under orders of the Commissioner of Education?

The District has sent the letter seen here to teachers who have tested positive. Several expressed concern with the line, “You are to not to . . .discuss reasons related to your Medical Relief of Duty status.” The District should not, and cannot, make any attempt to restrict a person’s constitutional rights or freedom of speech. Most teachers who have tested positive feel a moral obligation to inform others so they can take steps to get tested, protect their health and prevent community spread. Those employees who test positive absolutely can speak up if they have COVID-19. If you are afraid contact OCCTA and we will announce the school or worksite.

What is this meaning of this line,"Since you are being paid during this time, you are to remain available during working hours." What? A person is sick and they are to remain "available"? For what?

Also disturbing were the comments made by Dr. Pino at a press conference yesterday. He explained that if a student is COVID-19 positive only some parents would be notified depending on a seating chart provided by the District. Is this for real? Students move in a room. They pass others to get to their seat. They get up to retrieve materials or to use the restroom. They pass others when they leave. In some classes there are no windows. In most OCPS schools the ventilation is poor and filters are not up to standards required to block COVID-19.

Considering this District has ordered hundreds of instructional personnel and teachers with approved ADA accommodations back to schools or worksites we condemn the lack of enforcement of social distancing and mask policies, and the lack of urgency in notifying teachers, students and the public of schools and worksites with positive COVID-19 cases. OCCTA is continuing to notify each principal where violations of social distancing, mask policies and the safety and health of employees and students is at risk. We are filing grievances in cases where corrective action is not being made. If you are a member and you believe your health or safety is at risk contact us immediately at orangecta@gmail.com with your full name, school or worksite, and contact information.


August 26, 2020

District Fails to Provide Complete Documents Regarding COVID-19 Cases

Press Relase

On July 31, 2020, OCCTA filed a lawsuit against Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and the District’s refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community.

On August 17, 2020, Judge Donald Meyers, Jr. ruled in favor of OCCTA and ordered OCPS to turn over "a list of names of all worksites where there are and/or have been employees, students, visitors, vendors, or any other individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 1, 2020 . . ." The order called for the District to turn the documents over to OCCTA within 48 hours of the August 17, 2020 hearing. (Read the Final Judgement at this link:

/z/-vf.0.0.0.9657.AD1206F6FC5BB7EF61E942F0656256F131C5F2DB3FB78B44A069506C29573AFD

The District not only failed to meet the deadline, but turned over an incomplete and convoluted record to OCCTA. The record contained the names of 192 schools and worksites. It also contained hundreds of names of job descriptions and departments rather than the names of the worksites and schools. After a local media outlet published the incomplete list, teachers and parents contacted OCCTA to inform us of names of schools and worksites that were omitted from the record. (Read it at this link:

/z/-vf.0.0.0.9658.A74880E0E4894E18EBA23D040A5BBDFA5B601743B125BCCCF73E81E3B2B4CC3C

.)

OCCTA attorneys contacted OCPS Attorney John Palmerini on multiple occasions to demand the correct information. Finally, on Monday, August 25, 2020, six days after the records were due, Mr. Palmerini sent OCCTA another incomplete set of records. (Read it at this link:

/z/-vf.0.0.0.9659.40F9DAC8300F44E46BA8419E8455563EEA054BCDE3A467CD62CF1495E1A58274.)

OCCTA condemns the District’s lack of transparency and failure to respect and adhere to the judge’s order. The District has continually failed to collaborate in good faith or work with OCCTA to find real solutions and make comprehensive plans. It continues to fail to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

OCCTA is gravely concerned about the health and safety of every OCPS student, employee, their family members and community at large. We were notified that a teacher tested positive for COVID-19 multiple times. She notified her principal who contacted the OCPS Department of Professional Standards, which monitors and oversees procedures and policies for those employees and students who test positive for COVID-19. The teacher reported she did not have a fever, but continued to have shortness of breath and difficulties breathing. After hearing of her test results and symptoms, the OCPS Department of Professional Standards sent her the following email message: “I cannot advise you to stay at home or come to work. You do not meet the criteria for relief of duty with pay. If you still feel sick and decide not to come into work, you will have to use your own leave.” The teacher reported to work, even though she had not recovered and tested positive.

An elementary school teacher emailed OCCTA to report that she was not feeling well so she went for a rapid COVID-19 test, which came back negative and she reported to work. After developing more symptoms, a second test came back positive, so she notified her principal. The teacher is concerned because as of Wednesday, OCPS still had not informed teachers or parents. The teacher believes that the class was exposed on Friday, August 31, 2020 and stated that the administrators are following orders from the District.

A middle school teacher contacted OCCTA on Friday with this question: “What is the procedure when someone at work tests positive? I was just told that someone who was in the office area with me tested positive but no one has formally notified me. Will students and their families be notified before they send their kids to campus tomorrow?”

Here is another concern: “We have a teacher that had a student test positive today. The student was in her classroom yesterday. She was told that contact tracing will be done, but that she is to tell no one about it and that she is to report to school as normal tomorrow. She was told that someone would contact her. She was also told that she will be given a script to use with her students tomorrow. She is very concerned since this student was just in her room yesterday and tested positive. She is worried that if more kids get sick that there could be repercussions for her. She is also afraid of testing positive herself.”

OCCTA has heard from others who reported that they or others tested positive for COVID-19 and their school was not listed on the documents the District gave to OCCTA. Others also reported positive cases at their schools or worksites and no notification went out to staff or parents. OCCTA believes that it is especially important that positive cases be revealed immediately and to everyone who was in contact with the person who tested positive.

This is especially important because OCPS does not protect many teachers who have health issues or family members that they care for who have health issues. They have applied for and received ADA accommodations. However, their administrators told them that there are no virtual positions so they may resign, take extended leave or accept a face-to-face position. Some have fearfully consented to teach face-to-face because they need insurance to cover medical expenses.

Today we learned that ESE teachers, counselors and other instructional personnel who had been given ADA accommodations and allowed to work from home are now being required to report to their schools or worksites.  Even teachers who have no face-to-face students are being required to report to their schools and teach LaunchED from their empty classrooms. This includes fearful teachers who have received ADA accommodations.  If you received approval for ADA accommodations, and are being required to report to a school or worksite and fear for your health and safety, contact OCCTA at orangecta@gmail.com to file a grievance. Include your name, the name of your school or worksite and immediate supervisor or principal.

At least 5 teachers have resigned since Friday alone. How many more teachers is this District willing to lose?

On August 25, 2020, it was reported by The Hill that since Florida schools opened for face-to-face instruction, there have been 9,000 new COVID-19 cases for children under age 18.

We demand that the District reveal the names of each worksite and school where positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified on a daily basis, so teachers, parents and the public can make a fact-based decision as to whether or not they will report to work or school. The District’s behavior demonstrates a total lack of compassion, common sense and consideration for the safety and health of the workforce, students and community.

It appears our attorney’s letter to OCPS inspired the district to release at least some information regarding COVID-19 cases to parents and teachers. The list is not complete, according to teachers who have COVID-19 or know of peers in their schools that do.  One teacher said this about the District’s message: “And now tonight OCPS sent out the following email, and STILL the teachers who were in a meeting with our confirmed teacher have not been contacted. The email from the county also states that all of the principals informed the parents at the schools, that did not happen in our case either.”

OCCTA will continue to fight for the health, safety of each student, parent and educator. The District and its leadership must and will be held accountable for the inevitable consequences of their reckless actions.

 

Palmerini letter

palmerini 2

 


August 24, 2020 - FEA Press Release

Florida educators win temporary injunction against executive order

TALLAHASSEE —

The Florida Education Association (FEA) appreciates that Circuit Judge Charles Dodson has granted our motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order. Districts’ hands will not be tied as our lawsuit moves forward to examine the order’s constitutionality.

As demonstrated in his ruling, Circuit Judge Dodson clearly recognizes the magnitude of this case and the importance of protecting students and educators. “Accordingly, our Florida Constitution requires the State to ensure our schools operate safely. Defendants, however, through the Order and its application, have essentially ignored the requirement of school safety by requiring the statewide opening of brick-and-mortar schools to receive already allocated funding,” the judge’s order  states.

“We appreciate that Judge Dodson acknowledged the crucial importance of protecting the health and wellbeing of kids and school employees. We have seen little sign that is a top priority for the DeSantis administration. Commissioner Corcoran appears more focused on threatening teachers and districts,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “This is only a temporary injunction, but we plan to press ahead in court. Local communities should have the freedom to make the best decisions for reopening or keeping open local schools. Our districts should not be ruled by reckless edicts from on high. Safety must come before politics.”

The leaders of FEA’s national affiliates spoke out on this victory for students and educators.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten:

“This is a remarkable victory. Today, Judge Dodson saw Florida’s unconstitutional executive order for what it was — a cynical edict that put fealty to President Trump over the wellbeing of children and educators. The judge ruled that decisions about reopening should be made locally, not dictated by the state, either directly or through funding decisions. He found for educators who have been trying to keep kids, families and our communities safe since April.

“We agree with the judge that teachers are the foundation of public education and that public school classrooms are the best place for kids, but safety has to come first. Still, it is almost incomprehensible that educators had to go to court to force Governor DeSantis and his education commissioner to comply with the constitution and start caring about the people they’re sworn to serve.

“The good news is this decision, if not appealed, will allow us to work with districts and the community to negotiate a safe reopening based on safety and science, rather than politics. We expect the state to appeal – but make no mistake, if a stay is granted then Gov. DeSantis will be responsible for the mounting toll on the community of his arbitrary and capricious agenda.” ‚Äč

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Today’s decision by Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to grant FEA’s motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order is a victory for students and educators from being forced into unsafe school buildings. Our number one priority is and has always been the health and safety of students, educators and their families. Across the country, schools are struggling to physically reopen safely because of the Trump Administration’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their lack of leadership — and kicking the can down to governors to implement an ad hoc patchwork — has created chaos, uncertainty and, frankly, cost lives. Gov. Ron DeSantis, like Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, has shown he has no plan to solve the real issues facing public schools during a pandemic, and the rhetoric out of his administration is appallingly reckless. And the court ruling also acknowledges that school districts should be able to make decisions without the fear of lost funding or other retaliatory actions. We already know that this pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities facing our most vulnerable students, in particular students of color and children living in poverty, and threatening to withhold funding unless school buildings reopen is nothing more than a bullying tactic. Schools need significant funding in order to provide quality distance education, and quality distance learning requires substantial investments. Distance learning means ensuring students receive the meals, technology, and internet connectivity to fully participate in their education like they would in a traditional school day — as well as providing professional development to help educators shift to online or remote instruction. The 3 million members of the National Education Association will continue to fight for the health and safety of students, educators and their families as schools and college campuses return to in-person learning.”

About the suit:

The constitutionality of executive order 2020-EO-06 is the heart of Florida

Education Association et al v. Ron DeSantis, as Governor of the State of Florida et al

(link is external) case number 2020-CA-001450 in the Second Judicial Circuit, Leon County. As mandated by the state’s Constitution, Floridians have a right to “safe” and “secure” public schools.

We do not believe the education commissioner has the legal right to compel districts to open campuses for in-person learning without regard to the health and wellbeing of students and staff, and under the threat of lost funding. The suit seeks to invalidate his emergency order.

It is by no means clear that schools, or the whole of our state, are safe in the midst of this pandemic.

Privately determined and local safety measures, such as businesses requiring masks and individuals choosing to wear masks or simply stay home, have pushed overall positivity rates and case numbers down. The governor needs to step up and show more leadership to protect all Florida residents, especially as we face the possibility of another surge in infections when the weather cools — and as more students and employees pack into our schools.

Right now, the situation is precarious:

Districts that have opened in Florida are struggling with the coronavirus. We’re seeing cases and quarantines for students and school employees in several counties, with more reports coming in every day.

Martin County, the most populous Florida county to reopen for in-person learning in the first half of August, has been forced to quarantine nearly 300 students and several educators. From Aug. 5 to Aug. 19, the Covid positivity rate in Martin County was 21 percent for kids under 18.

Other districts that have opened for in-person instruction and faced immediate problems with cases and quarantines include Seminole, Bradford, Okeechobee, Manatee and Wakulla.

The statewide 14-day average positivity rate stands at 13.5 percent for children under 18. No Florida county had a pediatric positivity rate under 5 percent as of Aug. 19. Several counties, such as Martin, have rates over 20 percent for children.

Eight Florida children have died from Covid-19, and nearly 600 have been hospitalized since March 1.

Overall, more than 10,000 Florida residents have died of the disease.

We believe school boards should be free to ensure that their own schools are safe, whether in opening initially or in closing during a virus outbreak. State officials need to understand that there are restraints on power — Florida’s Constitution must be honored, and the people in our schools must be protected.

# # #

The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.


REAL FACTS!

August 13, 2020

OCPS put out “Facts For Teachers” through an August 12, 2020 “News You Can Use” message.  We want to share some real facts for teachers.

FACT – What Do Medical Experts and Scientists Say About Reopening?

Although this fact was not even included in the OCPS “Facts for Teachers” message, OCCTA believes this should be the number one consideration in making a decision on when to reopen schools. 

On July 29, 2020, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) released “FCAAP Recommendations Regarding School Reopening”, a white paper intended to guide Florida’s school superintendents as they prepare their school districts to reopen. They stated, “This guidance is pursuant to FCAAP’s recent letter to Governor DeSantis, outlining its position that schools should be allowed to decide how and when to open on a case-by-case basis based on COVID-19 infection rates in each school district.”

Much of what is written in the FCAAP white paper mirrors what the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association and our affiliates FEA, AFT and NEA have repeatedly stressed -  it will not be safe to return until the positivity rate is under 5% and there is a consecutive 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases.

Additionally, the academy laid out specifics on screening, social distancing, PPE and other sanitation procedures, considerations for vulnerable demographics, the role of school nurses, school sports and returning to school after a potential COVID-19 exposure.  The FCAAP recommended 6-foot social distancing guidelines, not 3-foot (or less) which OCPS leaders consider acceptable.

A contributor to this white paper is Michael Muszynski, MD, FAAP—Pediatric Infectious Diseases who sits on the OCPS School Board’s Medical Advisory Committee. At the August 12, 2020 OCPS Medical Advisory Committee meeting, Dr. Muszynski was adamant about keeping schools closed for face-to- face instruction until it was safe to reopen. He discussed the fact that the governor and president had no mask mandate which guaranteed “it [COVID-19] will percolate along.”  He also stated that it was difficult “to put children together for six hours a day to see what the hell happens." He emphasized that science parameters are real and cited the example of New Zealand that had quality contact tracing and testing programs. He said, “We are stuck deciding what children we should put at risk” and 9-19 year olds spread to each other and to adults. He said if made to choose, he would reopen for special needs students only.

What do other experts say?

  • Harry Heiman, a clinical associate professor of health policy and behavioral sciences at Georgia State University said, “Even if children are less likely to get seriously sick, every child that I know lives in a home with an adult. The idea that you can safely reopen schools and not in fact worsen spread is not based on science. It’s based on wishful thinking.”
  • Sanjay Gupta –Why I am not sending my kids back to school. He said, “It is also important to remember that a school community is made up of more than just young students. According to one recent analysis, nearly a quarter of teachers working in the United States school system are at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19, either because of age or pre-existing conditions. I was particularly struck by the stories of worried teachers around the country who said they were writing out their wills in anticipation of returning to school.
  • Dr. Fauci who stated, "There may be some areas where the level of virus is so high that it would not be prudent to bring the children back to school. So you can't make one statement about bringing children back to school in this country, it depends on where you are."
  • Dr. Birx stated, “If you have high caseload and active community spread … we are asking people to distance learn at this moment, so we can get this epidemic under control.”
  • UF researchers said that COVID-19 is airborne up to 16 feet.
  • COVID-19 cases of children increased 137% in Florida in last month.

FACT – What other Florida school districts are doing?

OCPS said, “Hillsborough County decided last week to have their first four weeks of instruction online. As suspected, the Florida Department of Education stated this did not comply with the Emergency Order requiring brick and mortar schools to be open in August. It has been confirmed that such failure to comply with the Emergency Order will negatively impact their funding.”

The Hillsborough School Board and District leaders took a stand to do what they believed was necessary to preserve the health and welfare of students and employees. Other school districts are not reopening in August for face-to-face instruction, including Miami and Broward. Their plans were accepted by the FLDOE and you can read all of the district plans at this link.

OCPS could open schools brick and mortar for special needs students and others who require individual accommodations to be provided in very strict compliance to CDC guidelines and the FCAAP guidelines. The state has mandated that VPK meet for face-to-face instruction. OCPS has an obligation to split these classes so the recommended guidelines can be followed as far as masks, PPE and social distancing. 

FACT – Protocol for COVID-19 cases

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failure to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

FACT – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The District stated, “Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided to teachers, including face shields and masks. Gloves and gowns will also be provided for certain ESE classrooms. The school board will adopt an emergency policy regarding face coverings Aug. 11. Students will be required to wear face coverings with very limited exceptions. (Manual section 1). Additionally, OCPS has established a standard protocol for protective equipment. Schools and classrooms should not deviate from this protocol by providing desk dividers or other customizations.”

OCCTA is hearing from many teachers that PPE is not being provided or that inadequate supplies have been provided. Some have no hand sanitizer, some have no disinfectant wipes, some were given only five masks.

At the August 6, 2020 bargaining session OCCTA gave input on the manual. We also asked for clarification on sixty points in the manual, including masks and PPE. The manual was created without any input from OCCTA or teachers, and apparently with no real input from medical experts. 

We specifically asked for medical grade masks for teachers, such as N95 masks, since the District announced there would be exceptions for students not having to comply with the mask order.

We are encouraged by the OCPS School Board’s Medical Advisory Committee recommendations, including that students and employees be provided three or more masks a day because they get dirty and wet from wear. They also stated that there is no medical reason for not wearing a mask and the only students who could be “exempt” would be autistic or other special needs students. Dr. Nielsen expressed if all students did not wear masks, teachers, staff and other students would be at risk. The panel members also stated those not complying or unable to keep masks on should be made to take distance learning.  OCCTA agrees.

The committee members discussed many of the mask issues that OCCTA had asked the District about and submitted in writing to the District on August 6, 2020, based on the COVID-19 Policy and Procedures Manual. We asked if teachers who were medically at-risk or had family members that were medically at-risk would have to teach face-to-face in classes where there were “medically exempt” students who did not have to wear masks to protect their own safety and health. We asked where would “mask breaks” take place, who would supervise them and if, and how, social distancing would be observed. We asked about the grade and brands of the masks being provided and how many would be provided for teachers.

OCCTA also made clear that gloves and gowns should be provided to those teachers that request them.
It is concerning that the District stated, “Additionally, OCPS has established a standard protocol for protective equipment. Schools and classrooms should not deviate from this protocol by providing desk dividers or other customizations.”  Why would the District not want teachers or administrators to equip classrooms with desk protectors as has been the norm in other Florida school districts? At the August 6, 2020 bargaining meeting OCCTA requested that desks and tables in classrooms that had face-to-face instruction be equipped with dividers/shields.  From OCCTA’s proposal:

“In accordance with CDC guidelines, the District will “install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.”

The District is also not adhering to recommended social distancing guidelines of 6-foot distancing, and admitted it will make exceptions in classrooms (even those that are small, windowless and not properly ventilated) to seat students for face-to-face instruction. At the School Board’s Medical Advisory Meeting on August 12, 2020 the superintendent stated that the language “where feasible” came from the state. This is the state that ordered schools to recklessly reopen in the middle of a pandemic with no regard to health or wellness.

By contract, you have the right to safe working conditions:

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions
K. The Board agrees to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, including the provision of safety equipment. The District shall investigate complaints of harmful indoor air quality and take measures to reasonably accommodate employees if necessary. No employee shall be disciplined for refusal to work in an unsafe or hazardous situation where there is an eminent danger to the employee’s health, safety or well-being, provided that this shall not be applicable in any circumstances where the health and safety of students otherwise clearly require employee intervention.

If you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at orangecta@gmail.com so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT Face-to-Face instruction

The District stated, “About one-third of our students are signed up for face-to-face instruction, currently scheduled to begin Friday, Aug. 21. Another 17% of teachers want to use their classroom to deliver LaunchEd@Home to their students. In some of these instances, those teachers may have a number of face-to-face students in their classroom.”

From OCCTA’s bargaining proposal:

“Teachers will not be required to perform both on-campus face-to-face and distance learning LaunchED@Home simultaneously. The parties will negotiate a process to determine teacher assignment of on-campus face-to-face or distance learning LaunchED@Home that allows for teacher choice where feasible; and teachers who are at increased and/or high-risk for serious complications from COVID-19, as established by the CDC, or are caring for increased and/or high-risk household members will be considered first for available distance learning LaunchED@Home positions at their worksite.” 

LAUNCHED

The District stated, “All of our options are driven by parent choice and student registrations. ESE staff members that provide services for specialized areas (Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Vision, Deaf/Hard of Hearing) will review student IEP goals with parents and determine which services can be done remotely.” 

During a regular school year if a course is full or if a teacher is not available, that course is not available for the student/s. Yet, during this crisis, the District feels compelled to meet every choice for every student, even if it means a teacher with underlying health issues will have to teach it face-to-face.

FACT –Teaching Assignments

The District stated, “While about 30% of our teachers indicated a preference for face-to-face instruction, administrators are challenged with matching teacher assignment preferences to student registrations. These efforts will continue over the coming days, and there may be opportunities for teachers to voluntarily transfer to accommodate some preferences. Keep in mind, we have agreed to first try to allocate work-from-home assignments to those teachers with approved medical accommodations or 65 or older. Individuals who cannot be accommodated are provided information regarding other options. (FAQ)”

The District gave parents a choice for the three options; they gave teachers a preference. Many OCPS teachers are parents and selected LaunchEd as the selection for their children for themselves. However, many are now being told that their “preference” for LaunchEd cannot be honored because they are needed to go into a classroom to teach LaunchEd for some face-to-face students. The District unilaterally decides whose preference is honored, whose is changed and why. OCCTA has heard from teachers who applied for and received ADA accommodations because they or a family member that they care for has health issues and are at greater risk if they contact COVID-19, being told that they must transfer to another school, resign or take leave to avoid going face-to-face.

OCCTA has learned that one principal has directed that every teacher be in the classroom whether they have students or not.

Again, if you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at orangecta@gmail.com so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT – Cleaning of Schools

The District stated, “Hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes will be provided for teachers. When students begin attending for face-to-face instruction, August 21, more extensive cleaning protocols will be in place. Common areas will be cleaned throughout the day. Secondary school classrooms cannot be cleaned during the brief class change periods but cleaning supplies will be available. Per contract, we cannot require teachers to clean surfaces during those breaks but voluntary cleaning by staff or students is allowed.”

OCCTA asks, “When will hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes be provided for teachers?” We are hearing from numerous teachers that they do not have these supplies. What supplies will be provided on August 21? Can we really trust that they will be? During the summer the District claimed that they would provide PPE and plexiglass barriers for the 11-month psychologists. They were given an inferior barrier that could not be used and had to wait to work with students until the correct ones were delivered.

OCCTA asked the District to explain the cleaning procedures and how many times restrooms, classrooms will be cleaned during the day. We are waiting for a response.

OCCTA is concerned with this statement: “Secondary school classrooms cannot be cleaned during the brief class change periods but cleaning supplies will be available. Per contract, we cannot require teachers to clean surfaces during those breaks but voluntary cleaning by staff or students is allowed.”

The District is suggesting that our contract be violated because they will not provide the needed personnel to clean classrooms between classes. “Voluntary” with the District usually means “voluntold”.  Teachers have to prepare for the next class between classes. They do not have time to properly clean and sanitize.  The District could modify bell schedules to allow for more time so someone can come in and clean. Will teachers be reprimanded if they cannot clean between class periods and a student contracts COVID-19?  Please follow the contract.  If the District cannot guarantee that classrooms will be cleaned between classes, then classrooms will not be safe. The following contract language applies:

CLEANING DUTIES

Please follow the contract language, which states:

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions

Q.An employee shall not be required to perform the following duties:

  1. Clean instructional or work areas, such as bathrooms, floors, windows, or sinks on a daily or periodic basis.

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions
K. The Board agrees to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, including the provision of safety equipment. The District shall investigate complaints of harmful indoor air quality and take measures to reasonably accommodate employees if necessary. No employee shall be disciplined for refusal to work in an unsafe or hazardous situation where there is an eminent danger to the employee’s health, safety or well-being, provided that this shall not be applicable in any circumstances where the health and safety of students otherwise clearly require employee intervention.

If you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at orangecta@gmail.com so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT Duty-Free Lunch

The District did not mention this issue, but OCCTA is hearing that teachers who opted for face-to-face are being told that they will eat lunch in their classrooms or be called on to supervise lunches. Teachers do not have to eat lunch in their classrooms with their students.  It poses several problems that we brought up at bargaining. First, teachers have a duty free lunch of 25 minutes. Second, if you are in a confined space with students who have removed their masks, you are at a serious risk for contracting COVID-19 if a student is infected. The exceptions cited in this contract would not apply, including field trips and an unplanned emergency. Clearly, the District has had ample time to plan for a duty-free lunch for every teacher.

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions

V. Each school shall provide:

  1. Appropriate space for use as a non-student employee lounge.
  2. A room or private area for exclusive use by non-students during the duty-free lunchtime.

ARTICLE XIV DUTY DAY

A. Except as otherwise provided in this Contract, the employee duty day shall be seven hours and 30 minutes including a duty-free lunch, or 37 ½ hours per week  total.

M. Employees shall be scheduled for a minimum of 25 minutes for lunch, which shall be within the scheduled lunch periods for students except on field trips on in unplanned emergencies. On student contact days, in work locations where there is no lunchroom or in job assignments which permit flexible lunch schedules, an employee may be given approximately one hour for lunch by mutual agreement with his/her administrator.  In such cases, the workday for the employee may be proportionately extended to provide for equity with other employees, without violating this Contract. On any non-student contact day, employees shall have a lunch period of one hour which may be off site.

N. An employee may leave the work site, upon receiving permission, during his /her planning time and duty-free lunch.  No reasonable request shall be denied.

If you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at orangecta@gmail.com so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT – COVID-19 Testing

The district stated, “Testing cannot be mandatory for students before they return to school. The DOH has indicated they want to make free testing available for children but they must build capacity. We will encourage parents to take advantage of testing. Employees are also encouraged to take advantage of testing opportunities.”

OCCTA’s position is that the recommendations of the CDC and those outlined in the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) released “FCAAP Recommendations Regarding School Reopening” in their chart “COVID-19 When a Student, Faculty or Staff Member Can Return to School” must be explicitly followed. Testing must be made mandatory and is necessary to protect the health and safety of others. If a parent refuses to test their child, then he/should be assigned to a distance program.

FACT – Impasse

The District stated, “Last week CTA declared impasse on impact bargaining matters. While this means the parties may have a hearing in front of a neutral third-party special magistrate, the district is not required to delay decisions regarding reopening of schools, face-to-face, August 21 for families who have made that selection. Many of the matters upon which CTA declared impasse conflict with FLDOE requirements (i.e., opening school) or are appropriately addressed in the COVID-19 Health and Safety Manual, management direction or board policy (i.e., face coverings).”

On August 6, 2020, OCCTA declared impasse after reaching a deadlock with the Orange County Public Schools (“OCPS”) regarding the District’s unsafe re-opening plan. The OCPS proposed plan threatens the health and lives of the over 14,000 educators represented by OCCTA, their students, their families, and the community at large.

Teachers want to return to on-site instruction more than anyone. However, we must re-open brick-and-mortar safely. In the middle of the uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, the District is forcing thousands of teachers to engage in face-to-face instruction while refusing to listen to the advice and guidance of health experts across the state and the nation. The District has rejected the implementation of all CDC recommendations proposed by the Union. Instead, the District ambiguously proposed to rely on the recommendations of local health officials and “industry guidance”—without any commitment to follow even those recommendations and without the ability to answer what it would do if those recommendations conflict with each other or with the CDC and other national health authorities.

Further, other than vaguely stating that Dr. Raul Pino, Interim Director of the FL DOH in Orange County, spoke at two Board meetings, the District is unable to confirm affirmative assurance from any health expert that it is safe to open brick-and-mortar schools on August 21 or that it is safe to ignore the guidance of the CDC.

The District has failed to meaningfully engage with stakeholders including educators, parents, and health experts. The District has failed to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of students and educators regarding the safety of the OCPS community. The District has failed to bargain in good faith. The District has failed to listen to the science. The District has failed its students and educators.

With students scheduled to return to in-person instruction in just one week, there is no time to allow the District to continue to stall at the bargaining table. The Union was left with no choice but to declare impasse to get these serious disputes resolved before it’s too late.

OCCTA and the thousands of teachers it represents implore the School Board to act with urgency to protect the lives of our students, educators and community.

FACT – Who to Contact with questions or concerns

The District stated, “Please discuss any questions or concerns with your principal or area superintendent, or use the Labor Relations Employee Digital Hotline.”

If you are a union member, always contact OCCTA at orangecta@gmail.com  with questions or concerns. 

 


 

OCPS- History Will Be Your Judge

August 10, 2020

A status hearing was conducted today to set dates for the lawsuit OCCTA filed against Orange County Public Schools. (Fox 35)

The court hearing dates have been set as follows:

Friday, August 14, 2020 - Two hour hearing at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the threshold of legal issues

Monday, August 17, 2020 at 1:30 - A 3.5 hour evidentiary hearing on CTA’s claim for injunctive relief to enforce public records law (if the judge decides on Friday that an immediate hearing is appropriate)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 - A full-day evidentiary hearing on CTA’s claim to enjoin the District from unsafely reopening schools until an arbitrator makes a determination on the grievance. (if the judge decides on Friday that he has the authority to hear that claim)

The District still has not responded to our class action grievance that was filed on 7-24-2020. We asked for it to be "expedited and submitted to an arbitrator immediately to be heard and decided within 72 hours of this grievance."  

When it came down to making a decision about reopening schools, District leaders had a choice. It seems that our District leaders felt that the implicit threat of losing funds outweighed the threat of losing lives.  The District choice was funds over lives. Even at the hearing today, the District's attorney John Palmerini said that the District would lose FTE funding if the District did not consent to a brick and mortar reopening.  

The State responded to the School Board’s waiver request with the response that the local district has the authority to make decisions on reopening schools.  To quote the letter: “. . . the decision to open or close a traditional public school in Orange County rests with the School Board of Orange County. As a result, the waiver you have requested is unnecessary.”

Still, our leaders acted as followers, not leaders. It is difficult to watch District leaders defend their choice, as we listen to some lament that they "cannot sleep at night" because of the difficult decision and situation. Please do not ask for our pity. We do not feel pity for you because you had to make a difficult decision. That is what leaders are called on to do. You will have to live with and take responsibility for your decision that will surely be at the expense of the health and safety of innocent people. 

Other school districts and local and state leaders are not following, but they are leading as they base decisions on not what they are allegedly told they must do, but on what is the right and moral thing to do.

What is the current status as far as COVID-19 cases in Florida?  NBC News reported  that "Florida shattered its record for weekly hospitalizations, making it one of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the nation." 

It was reported today: "There is a 90% spike in positive COVID-19 cases among children in the U.S. . . .Some health experts like Michael Osterholm, a director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, are concerned another big spike in cases is on the way."

"We think we're going to see an explosion of cases in September that will far surpass what we saw after Memorial Day and this is just going to continue increasing, getting higher and higher in terms of numbers."

We are calling on educators, parents and community members to join us today as we remind our School Board members and District leaders to reverse the dangerous decision to reopen schools on August 21, 2020.

Why Did OCCTA File a Lawsuit?

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

Since the start of this pandemic, OCCTA has been fighting hard to keep our students, our educators, and the community safe. The District has not only failed to collaborate in good faith with us to work on real solutions and comprehensive plans, but it has failed to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

We should be working together on planning for the safe and effective re-opening of schools in Orange County. Instead, with just a few weeks to go, we are still in the dark about the District’s plans to keep students and teachers safe. Since the District leadership has shown that they will not stand up for the health and safety of this community, we have no choice but to challenge their illegal actions in court.

Every educator wants to get back to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.  That time has not arrived. We have a moral obligation to protect every student teacher and employee.


The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association Condemns the Attempts of District Leaders to Censor Our Messages

August 7, 2020

The OCCTA contract requires the President to send emails for the District to “review” before she is allowed to send them to the bargaining unit members using the OCPS email. Yesterday, the District rejected the email below from the union President.

Letter to Bargaining Unit Members

OCPS “Legal” claimed that OCCTA's email communication is "derogatory to the board." Truth is derogatory? What is derogatory? Putting the lives of students, teachers and the community at risk is derogatory. What is derogatory? Censorship is derogatory. What is derogatory? Non-transparency is derogatory. What is derogatory? Making unilateral, reckless decisions outside of the bargaining table is derogatory. What is derogatory? Refusing to disclose the schools and worksites where employees or students tested positive COVID-19 is derogatory. What is derogatory? Day in and day out disrespect for teachers is derogatory.

Preusser email

Take Action! Please email the school board members and let them know how you feel about your current situation. Let them know how you feel about censorship and what your definition of derogatory is. 

School Board Member Email Addresses:

Teresa.Jacobs@ocps.net

Angela.Gallo@ocps.net

Johanna.Lopez@ocps.net

Linda.Kobert@ocps.net

Pamela.Gould@ocps.net

Kathleen.Gordon@ocps.net

Karen.Castordentel@ocps.net

Melissa.Byrd@ocps.net

Barbara.Jenkins@ocps.net

 


OCCTA DECLARES IMPASSE

August 6, 2020

Today after weeks of unproductive bargaining with the District, the union declared impasse. Meeting after meeting, the District team came to the table unprepared, surface bargained at best and showed no interest in hearing teachers’ views or compromising.

What is Impasse? Either party can declare impasse when it becomes clear that there is no path to reaching an agreement.  Typically, the issues will be brought to a special magistrate for a ruling and then to the school board for a decision. OCCTA hopes that the District will waive a special magistrate hearing so we can go directly to the school board to resolve these life and death issues. We will continue to attempt to bargain in the meantime.

If you watched the bargaining sessions, you could understand that the parties are hundreds of miles apart. (Some bargaining sessions are posted on OCCTA’s Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/OCCTA7448 )

At every bargaining meeting, the members of our bargaining team have read passionate emails from concerned teachers. The District's bargaining  team members never responded. Not one word. Not one empathetic statement. Not one expression of compassion or understanding. They never responded to the emails from teachers who pleaded for adequate PPE or any PPE. They never responded to the emails from teachers who begged for schools to be kept closed because they were terrified to risk their health or their family’s health.  They never responded to the emails from the teachers who said they were ready to walk away from the profession that they loved. They never responded to the emails where the teacher expressed concern about showing up at their school only to discover it was closed for cleaning due to an employee having tested positive for COVID-19. They never responded to any one concern or plea. Not one.

Below is the statement from President Doromal:

Today, August 6, 2020, the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (“OCCTA”) declared impasse after reaching a deadlock with the Orange County Public Schools (“OCPS”) regarding the District’s unsafe re-opening plan. The OCPS proposed plan threatens the health and lives of the over 14,000 educators represented by OCCTA, their students, their families, and the community at large.

Teachers want to return to on-site instruction more than anyone. However, we must re-open brick-and-mortar safely. In the middle of the uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, the District is forcing thousands of teachers to engage in face-to-face instruction while refusing to listen to the advice and guidance of health experts across the state and the nation. The District has rejected the implementation of all CDC recommendations proposed by the Union. Instead, the District ambiguously proposed to rely on the recommendations of local health officials and “industry guidance”—without any commitment to follow even those recommendations and without the ability to answer what it would do if those recommendations conflict with each other or with the CDC and other national health authorities.

Further, other than vaguely stating that Dr. Raul Pino, Interim Director of the FL DOH in Orange County, spoke at two Board meetings, the District is unable to confirm affirmative assurance from any health expert that it is safe to open brick-and-mortar schools on August 21 or that it is safe to ignore the guidance of the CDC.

The District has failed to meaningfully engage with stakeholders including educators, parents, and health experts. The District has failed to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of students and educators regarding the safety of the OCPS community. The District has failed to bargain in good faith. The District has failed to listen to the science. The District has failed its students and educators.

With the start of the 2020-2021 School Year only 4 days away, and with students scheduled to return to in-person instruction in just two weeks, there is no time to allow the District to continue to stall at the bargaining table. The Union was left with no choice but to declare impasse to get these serious disputes resolved before it’s too late.

OCCTA and the thousands of teachers it represents implore the School Board to act with urgency to protect the lives of our students, educators and community.


OCCTA FILES A LAWSUIT AGAINST OCPS

July 30, 2020

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

Since the start of this pandemic, OCCTA has been fighting hard to keep our students, our educators, and the community safe. The District has not only failed to collaborate in good faith with us to work on real solutions and comprehensive plans, but it has failed to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

We should be working together on planning for the safe and effective re-opening of schools in Orange County. Instead, with just a few weeks to go, we are still in the dark about the District’s plans to keep students and teachers safe. Since the District leadership has shown that they will not stand up for the health and safety of this community, we have no choice but to challenge their illegal actions in court.

Every educator wants to get back to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.  That time has not arrived. We have a moral obligation to protect every student teacher and employee.

To view the lawsuit: CLICK HERE

For a summary of the lawsuit: CLICK HERE