It’s hard to imagine a more difficult year to be a teacher. Nevertheless, despite all the obstacles, teachers found new ways to teach, and students continued to learn. It was by no means a lost year. When it seemed like we couldn’t, we found strength to go on. Some of that strength came from the support and inspiration provided by our colleagues. I am grateful to be surrounded by such talented and giving people. Teachers were tested this year. We did more than pass. In fact, what Syosset’s teachers accomplished this year was truly outstanding, so much so that once again we set the standard that many others aspired to.  For that we deserve immense credit. I know I’m proud to call myself a Syosset teacher. To the 2020-2021 school year I say…Sayonara… Arrivederci… Namaste… Annyeong… Au Revoir… Adios…. I wish everyone a happy and a healthy summer.

2021-2022 School Year

All of us desperately hope for a return to normal next year. However, at the moment the details of just what that will look like are not at all clear. It seems likely that we will leave behind at least some of the safety measures that were in place in 2020-21. With updates to CDC/DOH guidelines, desks will certainly be closer together at all levels. High school students will return to a normal five day in-person instructional program. Teachers in middle and elementary schools will no longer need to stream instruction from one cohort to another within the building and the middle schools will return to a nine-period day. Beyond that it’s really hard to say.

The biggest concern I hear from members, and one that keeps me up at night, is whether students will be given the option to remain virtual next year. The STA leadership believes strongly that given current trends in COVID infection rates, updated scientific understanding of virus transmission, current CDC guidance, and vaccination rates in New York, there is absolutely no reason for anything other than a full return to in-person school next year. Further, we believe any instructional model that requires teachers to teach to both in-person students and virtual students simultaneously (best described as concurrent teaching) significantly reduces the quality of the instruction provided to the in-person students. I have engaged with many conversations with my fellow union presidents from around Long Island on how best to ensure that concurrent teaching is a thing of the past. Early this spring we worked together to make sure NYSUT’s leadership was aware of how critical this issue is to teachers, and we secured a pledge from them to lobby the State Legislature and Governor Cuomo on this issue. The governor of New Jersey has stated publicly that there will be no virtual option next year. Mayor DeBlasio, with the support of the United Federation of Teachers, has stated publicly that the New York City schools will be all in-person next year. We are waiting for the Governor of NY to do the same. This cannot mean leaving it up to local school districts; the Governor must prohibit the virtual option. Otherwise, boards of education will have a difficult time resisting the call from parents who want to continue to have their children learn from home. To date Governor Cuomo has disappointed us on this issue. At the present time I am working with fellow Nassau Presidents on a letter—one that STA will happily add its name to—that reminds parents of just how much is lost from their children’s in-person education when a camera is turned on in the classroom. The PR Committee of the long Island President’s Council is also looking for ways to get that message out, building on its “Learning from Home is Not a New Fad” campaign from the spring.

Negotiations Update

On Tuesday, June 15, the STA negotiations team met with the district’s team for another two-hour bargaining session where we continued to advocate for issues of vital importance to our members.  As is typical, there is an understanding among the parties that 1) we don’t share specific details from the negotiating sessions and 2) individual items that the parties may agree to tentatively aren’t final until overall agreement is reached. As a result of these norms, we cannot issue a detailed progress report at this time. Please trust that our proposals and priorities have been established through a careful distillation of the issues that are important to our members. Working through these issue takes a significant amount of time.

Our current contract expires on June 30, but thanks to the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law its terms and conditions remain in effect until a successor agreement is reached. While the salary grid does not change, members advance one increment (step) on July 1. You should know that we have bargaining sessions scheduled through the summer and we intend to steadfastly continue our work.

Paychecks Next Year

Please be aware that the first payroll of next year will be on September 10, 2021. As it was this year, unit members who elect to have money withheld throughout the year for lump-sum distribution at the end of the school year will receive 21/25ths of their annual salary between September 10, 2021 and June 17, 2022. The remaining 4/25ths will be distributed as a lump-sum on June 24, 2022. Please budget accordingly. Also note that your July health insurance premium is taken out of your June paychecks and your August premium is taken out of your September checks.

APPR/Tenure Bill Signed into Law

On June 7 the Governor signed into law (Chapter 112 of the Laws of 2021) legislation regarding the granting of tenure and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). The legislation relieves districts of the obligation to complete an Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) for each teacher this year. It also allows Superintendents to grant tenure to educators who, in their discretion, are eligible and otherwise qualified, except for the absence of an APPR rating for the 2019-2020 and/or 2020-2021 school years. This was definitely a win for teachers and one we should celebrate.

Bereavement Leave

Our contract prescribes that unit members will be granted up to three days of leave in the event of a death in the immediate family.

Teachers shall be entitled to three (3) days off with pay in the event of death of an immediate family member. “Immediate family member” for the purpose of this bereavement leave provision only shall be defined as spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law or other family member residing in the home.

We recently clarified with the district that this leave can be taken more than once in the same school year should a second death in the immediate family occur.

Vanguard Fiduciary Trust Company Added as a 403(b) Option

Over the winter the STA worked with the district to make the Vanguard Fiduciary Trust Company available to members as an option among several 403(b) investment providers. Some of our members had encouraged the addition of Vanguard as a lower cost alternative, and we were happy to help facilitate its addition of to the list of available providers. You can see the full list at OMNI.

The Syosset Teachers Association cannot offer members individual investing or tax advice and does not endorse any particular product or investment provider. Members looking for help in this area may wish to take advantage of NYSUT’s 403(b) Field Guide.   NYSUT has also negotiated a very reasonable rate for its members for a Full-Service Financial Counseling Program which offers up to six hours per year of consultations with a Stacey Braun Associates Certified Financial Planner (if you only want advice about your investment options there is also a more limited option for a reduced fee).

Lastly, a special thank you to our STA Reps and the Executive Committee for all your work throughout the year.


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