On Wednesday, March 25, FEA officers Fedrick Ingram, Andrew Spar and Carole Gauronskas hosted a statewide town hall for FEA members to discuss COVID-19 and its impacts on public education.
During the 90 minute webinar (the transcript is below the video), FEA officers answered member questions and shouted out the great work going on in FEA locals. They were joined by NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT President Randi Weingarten.
(Please note: We are working on this transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.)
Fedrick Ingram: This webinar, like many others is a first for us and trying to adjust to a different mode of operation and communication with FEA members. So, as we move through this, we’ll try to make adjustments as technology is sometimes unpredictable.
Before we get into the substance of this call, let me first tell you how proud I am of the work of education employees from around the state. And the work that I’ve seen over the past week. We’ve heard and seen the many selfless acts of giving from our hardworking members from across the state.
Last week, as districts closed to students on campuses, our parents were met with a renewed level of appreciation for your work and your efforts. But here’s the deal. We didn’t leave them, and we didn’t leave them alone. With very little notice, so many of you jumped right into this new world of distance learning, virtual schooling, and an almost complete redesign of lesson plans, course objectives and assessment.
I saw almost immediately people like, in Miami-Dade County, elementary school teacher Cassandra Holmes on Twitter. Transforming her living room into a virtual reading area for her students. And just yesterday, another super music teacher, Pam Richardson, in Pinellas County, is preparing to receive students virtually next week.
And then the countless numbers of unsung heroes, the cafeteria workers, our professional secretaries and bus drivers who have redefined their roles in almost every way to put meals on wheels. To feed our most vulnerable students, breakfast and lunch around the state. Custodians, the custodians who have worked to clean and sanitize school buildings and work areas so that we can all return at some point to an environment that is healthy and safe to work right.
And then there is the amazing work from our local leaders, our union presidents and vice presidents, secretaries, treasurers and executive board members from across the state, from the countless negotiating sessions and agreements across the state to the phone calls and emails, to and from members all over the state to the social media presence that has kept all of us informed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok.
The leadership displayed during this crisis has been monumental.
Listen, we even had one of our union leaders in Bradford County secure 50,000 pounds of food that had been turned away from closed resorts. In Orlando, countless families and many educational support professionals benefited from these high level leadership opportunities.
And Angie, I want to give you a big shout out in Bradford County for that. Thank you so much. And as you know, this virus has impacted our local communities, the entire state of Florida and the nation and the world. Tonight we wanted to start with information from the larger vantage point, and work down to the state, county and school district issues, and most importantly impacts or potential impacts to you and your family.
With that said, we have two very special guests on tonight’s call who will give you the national landscape. I am so honored always to have the leaders of the American labor movement Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association. Let me tell you they have been working round the clock with Congress, and people from all over this nation, in fact, internationally.
And for that, I’m very thankful on behalf of the 145,000 members here. I want to give both of our national leaders, big shout-outs. And thank you for being here. I know that you’re in the comfort of your home offices at this point. And so this is our new world. Randi Weingarten, thank you so much for being on the call, and Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
Thank you very much. I’m going to turn the floor over. Oh, it’s Randi Weingarten who is going to give us the national landscape as it relates to the American Federation of Teachers. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Randi Weingarten: Thank you so much, Fed. Can you hear me?
Fedrick Ingram: Yes, we can.
Randi Weingarten: All right. So, some of us who were born in the dinosaur age — using zoom and using things in our ears — all of this is a completely different way of operating and working. But you know, there’s going to be a whole lot of life lessons in all of this. I am so honored to be with my dear friend Lily. I’m honored to be with all of our FEA leadership and membership.
Fed and Carol and Andrew have been on phones with us day and night. But what you just said about the bus drivers, the teachers, the people who, and, and it was pretty amazing to watch you work with your commissioner on closing schools, and then to see. The governor — I don’t know, maybe something was wrong with his Wheaties today —, but what he said today about opening schools and all of this stuff, that’s a little kooky in terms of what we need to do. But watch within a three-day period, a school’s closing, grab and go lunches, the, bus drivers and teachers, the rural kids the getting help, childcare for our health care providers, kids. And then on top of all of that, trying to figure out how to do virtual learning and remote learning.
Randi Weingarten: We’ve made a lot of people like, by the way, in terms of that, which is, you know, try to figure out how to do capstone projects or term papers or things like that. And we can deal with that a little bit in questions. I want to just do three quick things. Number one, I want to tell you the kind of stuff that the AFT has tried to do over the course of the last three, four weeks.
The first press conference we had on coronavirus was February 2nd. We have watched the administration squander the time that we needed, but even in light of that, we have focused on three things, the health and safety of our members, our communities, and the wellbeing of everyone.
Randi Weingarten: Number two, focus like a laser on the health and safety of our healthcare workers. We have 300,000 in our union, who are working every single day with people who are getting sicker and sicker. And number three. The work that people have done to try to buffer the economic impacts of what’s happened because of the economy basically coming to a halt. And we had been working with Senator Schumer and others, and I know NEA has as well, to try to make that rescue package about workers and about saving school districts and schools and unemployment as opposed to doing the work of corporations.
And we can talk about that a little bit more. I do actually want to just end with a couple of things. In this moment of time, the people that we are most focused on are the healthcare workers. And if you look at my Twitter feed, you’ll see the second piece is a petition to try to get the defense production act opened so we can get more protective equipment for people.
So, we can get them the masks. The equipment that they need, because all across America, including in Florida, we are running out of these things, and we need to put the pressure on the federal government to get this stuff done. In fact, I have a conference call with Governor Hoban tomorrow, who is the head of the National Governors’ Association, to also try to put pressure on him.
And I know the four union — meaning NEA, ASCME, SEIU and [AFT] — are doing something in terms of the trying to put pressure on the Chamber of Commerce. So please, if you would sign the petition that we were doing with Move On from nurse Donna, who’s one of our members to get ventilators and get this protective equipment. But I end with a prayer for our healthcare workers who are on the front line with all of our other essential workers. And I want to end this way. You all know my wife’s a rabbi, but I think that at this moment, I want to end with a prayer. And that is this: May the one who blessed our ancestors, bless all those who put themselves at risk to care for the sick. Physicians and nurses and orderlies, technicians and home health aides, EMTs and pharmacists and plus, especially all of you who are on the phone and all those we know who are caring for people all across America. Bless those who navigate the unfolding dangers of the world each day to tend to those that have sworn to help.
Bless them in their coming home and bless them in their going out. Erase their fear, sustain them, source of all breath, healer of all things. Protect them and restore their hope, strengthen them and restore and so that they may bring strength. Keep them in health, that they may bring us healing. Help them know again a time when they can breathe without fear.
Bless the sacred work of the hands. May the plague pass from among us and speedily and in all of our days and let us say amen. Bless all of you. We will get through this together. Thank all of you for the work that you’re doing and thank you, Fed and Carol and Andrew.
Fedrick Ingram: Listen, thank you again Randy, thank you so much for that. it means a lot to me, that you took some of your time to be with us, and we appreciate the prayer. You know, for those who don’t pray, I ask that you just meditate or, or think softly about all of us going through these tumultuous times. Thank you for your work. We appreciate your efforts.
Listen, I know in the spirit of normalcy, it’s a happy anniversary to you today. And so I know that you’re having a Zoom party somewhere.
Randi Weingarten: Having a zoom anniversary party in a few minutes. So thank you.
Fedrick Ingram: Fantastic. Listen, we won’t hold you on the phone. Thank you so much. We appreciate you being here. Again, happy anniversary.
All the best to Sharon, and on behalf of UFT, we appreciate you being here with us. Okay, thank you. Thanks.
Lily Eskelsen García: Happy anniversary.
Randi Weingarten: Thank you. Lil, Thank you!
Timestamp / 11:40
Fedrick Ingram: And without further ado, I want to introduce the president of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Thank you for taking the time.
I know that you just came from a conference call, tele-town hall, national tele-town hall, that we were all a part of here in Florida. And many of our members were also a part of that as well. So, thank you very much for switching right over, giving us a few minutes of your time.
To kind of tell us a little bit of the national landscape from the NEA’s perspective again, here in Florida. Let me just say for everybody, we’re blessed to be a merged state and we’re proud to be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. And so, without further ado, thank you very much, Lily, for being on the phone with us.
Lily Eskelsen García: And thank you Fed and your team for, for your leadership in this, you get it that you have an advantage having to having two nationals, because Randy and I work very well together, and we are always on the same page, especially in national issues. No one has ever dealt with something like this.
We cannot say, “Oh, the last time we … .” No, there was no last time. This is, this is new territory, and we hope we never, ever, ever have to do it again. We hope that there are no lessons that we have to learn because we’re going to repeat this.
I have no soft thoughts for, for some of the things that we’re going through because they were so preventable. I’m going to talk a little bit about politics here. But I do want to say, and, and we did have 1,500 people on the last call. A lot of them, local presidents or local board members who usually don’t go to a national conference or have a national presence. Some of the things that we’ll, that we’ll want to continue is a Zoom call, a conference call with hundreds, and I’m watching the participant numbers. You guys, over 700 people on this call right now saying, give me some good information because I am in leadership, with a circle of influence, and I would love some information.
What’s going on at the state level, what’s going on at the national? And seeing that if you’re a local leader, if you are a rank and file member, you’ve got friends that are going to ask you, do you know what’s going on? And you’re going to know more than, than folks that don’t answer a call like this.
First let me tell you the bill that we kind of hoped would, would have come to pass today on that very, very important, um, stimulus check that would go to a lot of our members. Because the way it’s written now and still isn’t finalized, they’re hoping that they’ll get it signed into law by late tonight if possible, but we thought it was late last night, so everybody’s like on edge, but it would mean $1,200 for a single person, $2,400 for a couple filing jointly, $500 per child in a family. It would go as a straight check to you. It would be phased in up until the, until $75,000. If you make $75,000 or more in your paycheck as a single or $150,000 or more as a couple filing a joint, you would not get a check.
And so that covers a whole lot of our members and probably 100 percent of our ESP members. And so to have this stimulus check in their hands is very important to us. But the kinds of things that have already passed — paid sick leave. A lot of our folks do not have a benefit called paid sick leave. Right.
Family, medical sick leave, um, that would now be required that districts provide for many of our members. And it wouldn’t be in lieu of what you might have in your contract. It would be in addition to what you have in your contract. Unemployment insurance, extremely expanded, adding, up to 13 weeks, depending on your situation.
If you’re full time, part time. If you get sick, if you have to care for a sick a person, if you were laid off, if your school, is closed — those are the kinds of things you can find information on the details as they are being developed. As we analyze the legislation that has already passed in the legislation that we’re hoping will pass any hour now, you can go up to NEA.org/Coronavirus. So anything that is happening because of this health crisis, you will find on there. We’re getting a lot of questions on what’s our policy on distance learning. We know there are ways to do this well, we know there are terrible ways to do this. And by the way, we know that something that works for kids who have a nice tablet at home and nice WiFi and parents who can hook them up, will not work.
For some of our kids that don’t have WiFi, that don’t have a tablet, some of these kids are homeless and their parents are living in crisis. So, we don’t want a district to just check that box and go, whoa. You know, this is what we’re doing for our kids. It’s a YouTube thing.
Good luck to you. We have to be the voices in the room in those locals sitting down with superintendent saying, what are you doing for our kids that don’t have access to technology and WiFi? All of those things. You are going to find suggestions. What other people are doing? NEQ.org/Coronavirus. And by the way, I just have to say this because I got a question on the other call.
Alright, so Donald Trump is saying that it’s all going to be back to normal by Easter. Do we think it’s all going to be back to normal by Easter? Short answer? Oh, hell no. There is no doctor, there is no professional, there is no scientist that is advising the federal government or your state government that in mid, oh, in mid-April we’re going to be out of this. Everyone is saying on their best advice, we are going into this crisis. We are now looking at opening up convention centers to put hospital beds in convention centers. We have a president of the United States that is throwing out this date with no regard to what the professionals are saying.
And it is shameful, and it is irresponsible. And so we are begging everyone to ignore this irresponsible shameless president who says, well, I think it’ll be Easter. No, it won’t. And my sixth-graders would know that, listen to the professionals, and I want to end with this Fed because I think that there are lots of people out there who are opportunists.
And they don’t like elections. They really don’t believe in our democracy. And I’m going to say to the folks on this call, if you weren’t on the other call, here’s, here’s what I told them is we are going to make sure that people can show up and exercise their right to vote. I believe that there are going to be folks who try and shut down our elections in November.
We are monitoring voter suppression, which was shameful enough in the, in the last election, and we are going to challenge any attempt to limit voter rights to use this crisis as a way to say, well, you know, maybe we should wait until January or next election — maybe we should not have a vote, maybe we should make it more difficult for people to vote, maybe we should put off our national election. Um, I know that you are in Florida looking at voter suppression. When it happens, you speak out. You know that you’ve got two national affiliates that will come in with any legal help you need, any technical assistance you need to challenge voter suppression.
We want to make sure that we, the people can vote, that we can vote early, that we can vote absentee without restrictions. That we will have a fight on our hands in many places and Florida, you know, you were ground zero for voter suppression. Even after you passed a bill to let people who had had done their time with a federal offense, and you made sure that they had the right to vote and people tried to shut that down.
Our democracy and this election have to be protected, and I know that you’re going to be there to do that, and I want you to know we’re going to be your partners. Sorry, it’s been awhile.
Fedrick Ingram: No, no problem. Listen, thank you so much Lily for first of all, your fight, your tenacity and your insight, your comprehensive knowledge about what’s going on.
And so we appreciate that. This is with love from Florida and, not only with love, but it’s with fight. It’s with a fighting love that we will not only support our members here in Florida, but the support for us nationally. Knowing that we’re in this network of mutuality through the NEA means a lot.
For me, for Andrew, for Carol, all of our leaders around the state, thank you so much for your time and your efforts. I know you have a million calls as well.
Lily Eskelsen García: God bless you and everything that you are doing, not just for the kids and our members and the communities in Florida, but all across this country. We do have a fight on our hands, and we are up to it. So, thank you all.
Fedrick Ingram: Absolutely. And as Lily says, “go fight and win”.
Lily Eskelsen García: Go, fight, win! You take care.
Timestamp / 22:45
Fedrick Ingram: Thank you so much. So thank you all again for hearing the national landscape. We appreciate that. Again, go to NEA.org backslash Coronavirus for any information from the NEA, in any national landscape of a business that you may have. And we’re going to ask that you sign on to the petition that Randi Weingarten talked about on Move On, Move on.org. We have ascertained that, and we’re going to put that out on the FBA Facebook page and the Twitter page tonight. And so we’re asking that you sign on to help the work of the AFT, in terms of the congressional work that they’re doing as well.
I want to turn our attention to the state side issues that we have. We have been guided and focused over the last 12 days by four principles. And those four principles are health and safety of our students, that is number one, the health and safety of our students. We believe that the right decision was made to close schools, and to take a look at opening schools to students on April 15th. But again, we believe that we should be guided by science. We should be guided by the CDC. We should be guided by the state regulatory agencies over healthcare, not by political processes. And so we are, we are holding firm, not only to April 15th, but we’re looking into the future for that. Carole will talk about that in just a few minutes. Number two, our health and safety of all employees. Listen, of course we want our educators to be safe, but we all know that public education takes a village. It’s the custodian, the secretary, a paraprofessional with the bus driver, the cafeteria workers and all those folks who help our systems go.
And so we want the health and safety of all employees to be job number one for our administrators as they ask us to continue our work efforts and ask us to continue to educate students. We have to have the health and safety of those who take care of those students every day. Number three, the continuous education of our students.
And that also includes food service because, as you all know, food service has become job number one over the last 12 days to feed children, and educate children in the same breath. And so, again, as I mentioned earlier, you all jumped in with two feet with distance learning and remote learning styles and, and lesson plans. And you’ve done that. Andrew’s gonna expound on that just a little bit as we move forward in the conversation. And then finally, the short term and long term economic impacts of the coronavirus. What is happening. What has happening with payroll, what is happening with people, working and getting paid?
Are we going to go to the end of the school year? You know, is money going to be taken as money going to be given? And so we’re going to talk a little bit about that, just for the few moments that we have left. I’m going to turn over the call to a Carol and let her talk about our, our principle number one, which is the health and safety of our students.
Carole Gauronskas: So, thank you, Fed, very much. This is a first of its kind for us, and so I’m going to work my way through it, but what I really want to talk about is, for support as an education staff professional, our concern is what do we do. Our teachers have plans — they do lesson plans, they’ve got all that.
But what do we do? So across the state, we are finding new ways of communicating with our students, with our coworkers. And so you may be asked, if you’re a clerk or a para, to put packets together to help the school get packets to students. Drivers are delivering food across their county, getting breakfast and lunch to children who can’t get to their schools to pick up those items.
They’re also dropping off those packets. But what we want to encourage is the safety. Of all of us doing that. And so how do we do that in each of the schools that we work in? And especially for, for someone who’s never used a chemical who may be asked to clean. You’re a clerk or an extended day aide, and now you’re being asked to help sanitize a building.
Well, we need to do that with safety first and foremost. We want to make sure that you’ve got the training so you know what chemicals you’re using, that you’re healthy, that you can do that with your health on being. If you’ve asthmatic or if you’re allergic to something, all of these things need to be worked out.
And I know our leaders, our fearless leaders across the state are meeting with superintendents and they’re meeting with HR, making sure that those safety areas are first and foremost talked about so that no one is harmed coming back into a building. We’re setting up scheduling so that, if you are required to go back into your school buildings, that you are on a time basis. You set up, um, a list, making sure that there’s a time and a place in which you can be in the building that will not go against CDC guidelines.
And then these are adhered to regardless if we do this till the 15th of April or the end of the school year, because we don’t have those answers on how long we’re going to be out. Some of our paras that are tech savvy are certainly going to be asked to help support instruction for the teacher and being online and answering questions for children who have never worked from home on a laptop or on an iPad or a Chromebook.
These are all new things for everybody. Food service is certainly going to be busy. They’re going to be in a cooking breakfast and lunches and getting those things out to bus drivers and to parent pickup lines. And so there will be a lot of, you know, I think we heard it earlier on the NEA call.
Gloves will be handed out so that there’s no cross community, cross contamination, but these are all unchartered waters. And so, another thing, the training. This is a perfect time for our districts to listen. We’ve asked for professional development for support staff.
It’s online. We should be making sure that if you want to go from a food clerk position to a para professional, well, here’s the path, a continuum growth. Here’s the path to get there. And so a lot of the districts are now letting us know that professional development will be readily available.
For those who we can’t find a job but who still want to contribute, there’s going to be, I know for me as an ESE paraprofessional in my district, we are going to be able to do a ton of autism and special needs, trauma informed programs online. That will be checked by the district, obviously. But what I do say is reach out if you’ve got concerns and you’re a support staff person, reach out to your districts, your, your, local union teams and let those concerns be heard. Don’t stay silent and then walk in and, and, and be terrified that you’re doing something, that your health will be affected.
So I know there’s going to be a lot of follow-up through here, but that’s what I can impart as an education staff professional. Really, the teachers know what they’re doing and we just want to know what we can do to continue to support children going through this unchartered territory.
Fedrick Ingram: Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m going to turn it right over to Andrew. , we have several questions in the queue. Immediately following Andrew’s a short presentation, we’re going to go right to questions and answers and try to get to as many of your questions as we possibly can with some, some, some very short answers so that we can adhere to time as well.
Okay. I’ll turn it right over to Andrew.
Andrew Spar: Thanks, Fed. And I am, I am going to keep it short, just to make sure we can get to those questions. So, you know, the, the question that even some of the questions that we’ve seen already in, as Carol said, first and foremost, we’ve got to be concerned about the health and safety of everyone in our public school system, which includes all of you getting food to our students. And so that has to be paramount. And so we’ve seen a lot of districts move towards this online learning platform or variety of platforms. And we’ve had a lot of questions. What’s going to happen with student promotion? Are they going to be able to go on to the next grade?
What happens if students are, were struggling? Are they automatically going on to the next grade? All of those things are gonna operate as they normally do from what we understand at this point. It’s going to be a decision that you, as the professional, the people at the school, your administrators as well as the parents make jointly.
We know the super, the, the governor, when he talked about the school closures and talked about waiving a lot of the statutes and not grading schools, he said at that point that parents could retain their children if they so chose. And again, we are saying that should be a joint decision that is made with you as the professional, the support at the school as well as the parent.
There’s been questions about teacher evaluation. And so we want to let you know that right now, the commissioner of education, the Department of Education has waived the requirement for teacher evaluation. And they’ve also waived the requirement for teacher pay to be based on an evaluation., so those are in place right now.
And I gotta tell you — and I know Fed mentioned it earlier — our local union leaders have done an incredible job. They have been on the phone. Many nights with us, we’ve been talking and sharing across the state some of the things, and they are of course, working with districts to try to make sure we address all of these things in the local with the school district.
Every school district is handling things slightly different, but absolutely, we want to make sure that our interests are looked out for our students., interests are looked out for and that we’re continuing as much as possible educating our students. And one of the things that our national unions have said you heard a little bit is this idea of giving us the flexibility as professionals to do what is best for kids.
So whether you’re a teacher who is planning lessons and would rather use the, like a platform like we’re using now, such a Zoom, or whether you want to use a platform that your district has, you should be allowed to do that. You should be able to do what is best for your kids. What about those special education students?
How are we making sure that our ESE students that have the greatest needs are getting those supports? It’s very challenging at this point. This is where our professionals can be really helpful too in helping work with those students who need that additional support virtually or on the phone or through a variety of ways.
We have got to be smart about how we do this. We have to be reasonable about how this is approached, and we have to make sure that as much as possible, is able to be done from home to ensure the safety of everyone involved in our public school system.
And so we’re going to continue to do that. That is what our local leaders have been doing. They have been under an incredible amount of stress and pressure, just like so many of you, and trying to balance and make sure that these issues are looked forward and they had been doing an amazing job. So with that, Fed, if we can, let’s, let’s open it up to questions. I’m just going to remind everyone you can raise your hand, and we will see that. And that’s one way for us to be able, to call on you and get you to answer a question live. You can also put questions in the chat below the Q and A below., we have quite a few questions there.
And Fed, one of the first questions I saw, if you want to take a stab at this as the governor today made a comment about how closing schools may not be an effective way, and kind of indicated that maybe we should open them, um, shortly thereafter the 15th, or no, we know they’re closed to 15. You want to respond to that?
Fedrick Ingram: Well, yeah, sure. Let me just try to let people know that we should discern between politics and, and science.
What we know that social distance is, is something that is working. It’s not only working here in the state, but it’s working across the globe. And so for a politician or anyone to speak out of turn in that way, that says that closing of schools would not help — listen, that’s somebody who was not adhering to the science that we’re hearing from doctors not only who are in the administration, in the federal administration, but these are doctors nationally. They are saying, time and time again, that social distancing is one of the surest ways not to have what’s called community spread. And what I will insist that all of our members do is to make sure, one, that you are in a safe environment or should be in a sanitized building that is clean.
It should have some supports around social distancing. It should have sanitation, in a sense where you can wash your hands readily, because we, or you should be provided with an opportunity to have hand sanitizer. Those are the kinds of things that you should look for as we have administrators to ask you to go back to school.
And listen, you are working. You will have to go back to school. At some point you will have to show that you are doing work. And so there has to be that effort. But for a governor to say, that closing of schools has no scientific value, I think that it is unfortunate. Those are unfortunate remarks to make.
Timestamp / 37:00
Andrew Spar: Very good Fed.
Just along that line, and then we’re going to get to one of our speakers, one of the people who wants to raise their hand, which is a Jude Bruno. We’ll get you in just one second before we do that. Fed, along those same lines, someone asks, what happens if they make us go back? And then we get COVID-19. Is that considered worker’s comp?
Fedrick Ingram: Is it considered workers’ comp? So, what we’re asking people to do is when you go back to school, first of all, make sure that you’re in a safe environment. If you happen to contract COVID-19 you need to do like any other situation. You would have to report that to your administrator.
I do not believe that it is workers’ comp at this point, I believe you would have to take sick days. But again, you’ve heard our national leaders saying that they’re trying to get most of, any person who has contracted the virus covered through these federal legislation that is coming, that has not been signed into law yet.
But we certainly think that something is coming, hopefully soon.
Andrew Spar: Very good, and Fed, I’ll just add to that. We also have in statute, what we call illness in the line of duty, and we think that may apply as well. So in addition to those federal days that just mentioned also the illness in the line of duty days, that’s covered in statute as well.
Fedrick Ingram: Yup. And, let me also say one more thing because we have local leaders that are negotiating different terms for their districts.
So I would in turn tell all of our members to make sure that you stay in contact with your local CTA’s, with your local federation, whatever it is that they are saying is the closest contact point to you. So if you’re in Miami-Dade, of course, it’s the United Teachers of Dade. If you’re in Duval County, it’s Duval Teachers United. Wherever you are, make sure that you stay in close contact with your local union.
Andrew Spar: So we’re going to go to one of the live calls or one of the live questions here, and it looks like Ashley Marino. We’re gonna release you to talk. I think Anthony’s going to do that.
Fedrick Ingram: Hi Ashley. Are you there?
Ashley Parrino: Can you hear me?
Fedrick Ingram: Hey, we can hear you, Ashley. How are you?
Ashley Parrino: I’m good. How are you?
Fedrick Ingram: I’m doing fantastic.
Ashley Parrino: I don’t believe that I had a question. It was more of a statement. I mean, I believe that, you know, being able to social distance ourselves and be still be able to provide, um, education to the students, no one loses in that situation. We’re safe. The kids are safe, the faculty are safe, and I mean, we’re still doing what we are, what we need to do. We’re teaching our children still, and there’s multiple personnel that can contribute to helping, you know, the students one on one and things like that.
I don’t really, I think this is a great way, you know, because putting people all together is what’s going to spread it even more.
Fedrick Ingram: Yeah, that’s correct. And thank you so much, Ashley, for your comments are what we are really referring to. There are administrators who are asking teachers to come back to work and convened department meetings, and they’re convening staff meetings, and those are not things that are, that are conducive to the CDC regulations or the healthcare professionals that we hear. And so that’s what we’re really eyeing and guarding. Again, people will work and we have to educate our students. And that is first and foremost priority. But we must make sure of the health and safety of the folks that take care of kids every day.
And so they should not be in groups, um, you know, that are bigger than 10. They should have social distancing guidelines throughout. They should have sanitation stations around the school where people can actively wash their hands all the time. And some of those things we’re not seeing.
Andrew Spar: Great. Thanks. Fed., Carol, I’m going to let you take this next question off the chat here, because it’s specific about ESE and since you were a paraprofessional in the ESE classroom, this is a concern about, um, the additional support needed for our intellectually disabled students who cannot have direct instruction by sitting in front of a computer.
So what are some of the thoughts that you have on that.
Carole Gauronskas: This is one of the hardest fields, one to find someone to work in. EOC paraprofessionals are an integral part to the classroom with ESE students. This is going to be based on district and what the district has available. I’m working with the neediest of children, whether it’s going to be, um, online, which we hope it can be, or in a very small setting, but the para is, at this time, working closely with their teachers. I know what we would be doing at my elementary school, and I worked with emotional, behavioral, disabled children, um, who don’t always sit very well in a classroom. Um, just even beside their classmates or one-on-one with a para. It’s going to be the constant contact [00:42:48], and working with parents, and that’s going to be the biggest challenge because I’m trying to get everyone coordinated, the teacher, the parent, the student. It is going to take a lot of individualized effort on the part of the district and the school. And I would say make sure you reach out to your local leader to specifically find out what they’re doing for our special needs children.
They need the services in the schools, of your speech pathologist, your PTs, your OTs, um, yeah. And that’s going to be a challenge. And I don’t honestly know if the state has come up with a plan or if there’s a district out there that has come up with the best plan because our children all have different needs.
So it’s a great question. And I’d say reach out to your local leader and to ESE departments within your district to get those your district for answers.
Andrew Spar: Thanks, Carol. So let’s go back to a live call. Jonathan, you are going to be next. Jonathan.
Fedrick Ingram: Hey, Jonathan, are you there?
Jonathan Schuman: I’m here, okay, can you hear me now? Anyway, my name is Jonathan Schumann. I’m a with Brevard County Federation of Teachers. And my question is, is first of all, I’m a bio scientist educator, so I know a lot about biological systems. I know about viruses too, and I know they mutate. I know they change their structures.
Okay. Which of course, a vaccine is dependent upon when they finally come up with one, the longer we take to get this done, the more opportunity we have for this thing to switch out on us. So I’m really concerned about allowing any opportunity for this thing to take hold in the community and extended duration in the community.
So we have to continue to put up a fight against them opening up the doors to the world and allowing that virus the opportunity to infect our kids and ourselves. I have a, I’m also a caregiver. My wife’s a four-time cancer survivor. I’m, I’m going to get sick and have a hard time with this virus. If that should ever happen, she will obviously die and I can’t allow that virus to go home.
So anyway, I’m wondering the question is what have you done to set in motion, set up a system or whatever in motion to get the contacts, to get the support and media, et cetera, and from our political allies to put up a front against anybody that tries from the top to open things up prematurely.
Fedrick Ingram: Well. Thank you for that, Jonathan. We appreciate you so much. So, so, so there’s a couple of different avenues that we have taken. Obviously you heard from our national officers, and so they are fighting this on a national front in terms of school closures, in terms of ensuring that our, a high level of politicians like our governors, our commissioners of education or commissioners of instructional education in other states, ensuring that they are led by science.
That’s a hard lift, in many cases because some of our folks are live by politics, and so we’re having to fight on two fronts. One is the national landscape, and you, you know, everybody on this call has watched television and knows the back and forth. We have certain people who say they want the country open in the next 10 days or 12 days, which I think is certainly not what is actually going to be happening, with the escalation of what we see in the coronavirus. So stay state-wise, we are in constant contact with the Florida DOE. We have stated all of our points. We have people who are talking to not only the commissioner, but those around the commissioner of education, and we’re also talking with, with our state side politicians, from our us senators all the way down to our state representatives and, and inclusive of our County officials. All of these political folks are going to be important in, in pushing this decision to keep our schools closed until we find a rational decision that is guided and led by the science community, and the healthcare community, in which we can open up schools and, and do it in a practical way of where people are safe, where we’re not adding to community spread and where people can still adhere to the CDC requirements of hand washing and social distancing. So thank you very much.
It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a fight to keep schools closed for a rational time. They’re not going to give us anything. And so, but we are here working in Tallahassee, working all across the state and talking to you. We’re going to ask you to spur action if that needs to happen as we get closer to April 15.
But thank you so much.
Andrew Spar: And our locals have been doing an amazing job with, with staying in communication with each other and with us as we continue to go down this path. Fed or Carol, whoever wants us to take this one, this question is about the digital divide for our students. So those students who may not have technology at home, even though districts are providing equipment. We’re hearing in some districts it’s not enough for every child who needs it. Or the internet is too spotty in some areas of our state. What do, what do we think we should be doing as it relates to the digital divide and how can we all advocate together on that?
Fedrick Ingram: Yeah. So, so, so this was hoisted upon us about 10 to 12 days ago.
It was not only hoisted on us, it was hosted on the internet itself. So let me just talk about the internet and the capability of the internet. We deal with millions of people on WiFi, millions of people who were not two weeks ago, on the internet, and how, you know, there is a high expectation that we don’t have the bandwidth statewide to support that. And so we’re talking with cable companies. We’re talking with, you know, the, technology folks in and around the state, one to support, the number of people that are now, or that will be gearing up starting Monday, because we know that 45 districts are now on spring break.
On Monday when everybody in the state turns their attention to distance learning, to WiFi systems that they need, we anticipate some problems too. Every child does not have a computer. That’s just a sad reality of where we are. It is beyond gender, is beyond color is beyond race. What we always tell our lawmakers is that poverty matters.
And now they’re starting to see what we’re talking about. There have been districts that have been racing to get a device in the hands of every child, where there is, you know, what, what we call digital deserts, where there is no WiFi, where there is no connectivity. In some of our rural areas, connectivity is a problem in a normal sense.
And so that’s going to be, you know, one of the things that we face. Listen, we don’t have a fail-safe answer to the digital divide. We just, we know that there is on. If you’re in a rural place, in many of our places that have been ravaged by hurricanes, in the Panhandle, they’re having problems with WiFi.
They’re having problems with getting online. If you’re in some of our urban settings, you know, in their high poverty Title I areas where people are challenged with money and finances. Um, and, and, and, and sometimes don’t have lights, let alone WiFi. That’s going to be a problem as well. And so we’re working with that.
The other side of that is we’re working in trying to make sure that teachers and, and our para educators, have the devices that they need, have the WiFi systems that are necessary on their end. In some cases, that’s not, you know, not the case. In some cases, many of our para educators can’t afford to have a WiFi set up in their house or connectivity in their homes.
And then, you know, what do we do about the costs to our educators as well? And so those are issues that we’re working on. I will tell you that our local leaders stepped up to the plate. Some of our school districts are partnering with a local cable companies, to, to, to provide more access.
And so I will tell you it’s a work in progress, but we are aware of the myriad of issues that are out there with the digital.
Timestamp / 51:45
Andrew Spar: Hey, great. Thanks. Fed. So just so everyone knows, we have almost 110 questions and people waiting to ask a question. So we’re going to try to get through as many as we can.
Some of them are very similar, so hopefully that will cover it. But we’re going to go to Robert now who has a live question. So Anthony, if you would,
Fedrick Ingram: Hey, Robert, are you there?
Fedrick Ingram: Robert?
Fedrick Ingram: I see Valerie Huger in the queue. Can we …
Andrew Spar: Yeah, let’s do Valerie.
Fedrick Ingram: Hey, Valerie, are you there?
Valerie Huger: Hey, I’m here.
Fedrick Ingram: Hi. Can you tell us where you’re from and, and, and state your question?
Valerie Huger: Well, I am actually new to the area. I am in Okaloosa County right now. And I actually have a lot of questions, but my main concern is that I’ m a para and I have Type I diabetes and we are supposed to be reporting back to school on Monday.
However, you haven’t been getting much guidance , none of the parents actually as to what would be going on. So who do we get those answers from when we can’t get them from our administration?
Fedrick Ingram: Okay. If I heard you right, it sounds like you are a high risk employee that is being told to go to report back to work on Monday.
And so what I would ask you to do is make sure, I think that you’re a little muddle in there. And so we have a very strong and active union in Okaloosavand, and, and their president, Jordan, will certainly be able to help you. And I know that she’ll be available via email or text or phone call on tomorrow.
What I will tell you is this is your safety is paramount to that. And if you feel that you are at risk, you know, know that you have some safeguards. You are being guided by the CDC. You are being guided by health professionals, and your administrator should certainly be adhering to all of those guidelines. And if they’re not, then you provide that to your local district. I’m sorry, your local union. And they will be able to fight that battle with you .
Carole Gauronskas: And Fed. I think she’s a para from Okaloosa. I would absolutely reach out to Patrick Strong. He is working closely with Jordan and the Okaloosa school district to make sure that everyone is safe in their job descriptions going forth on Monday.
Andrew Spar: Okay. The next one I’m going to actually take, cause it’s a question about what about music teachers and art teachers and um, those who teach a little bit, subjects that are not necessarily allow themselves to be so, um, geared towards the online platforms. And so, look, there are some programs out there and what we’ve been hearing from a lot of districts is we’ve got to make the best of this situation.
Um, so as a music teacher and Fed is a music teacher, so I’m sure he can add as well. There are things you can do even as art teachers. So for example, an art teacher might do a video of them teaching a concept or a drawing skill set, and ask the students to then do a project and take pictures of it and show it back to them.
If you can do that through an online capability, music, there are programs out there, some districts have programs out there that allow for an online capability. But certainly you can do some things about instrument if it’s general elementary music, which is where I taught at the elementary level.
You can certainly do things dealing with a note and, and name recognition. I know my daughter who’s in elementary school is still practicing her recorder and able to record that and do her work that way. So there are certain things that may be a little bit clunkier if you will, but it’s certainly, there are ways to do it.
Fed, you want to add anything to that?
Fedrick Ingram: Yeah. What I would tell all the teachers on this phone call, go to share my lesson dot com., it is sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers. It’s free lesson plans. Free lesson plans. Share my lesson dot com and you can go search through that. It is probably, at this point, the biggest national resource of lesson plans that any teacher can go to.
It is absolutely free. You make your account. It can help give you some guidelines. They even have new, um, a technology base, lesson planes that, that they’re taking people through. There are all sorts of things there. I could not imagine trying to reinvent, myself, um, you know, in, in, in doing a band class remotely, but don’t forget, there are things like music appreciation, there are things like ethno-musicology. There are things like, um, music history and music theory. Those things you can still do. And those things are very sound kinds of ways to educate students. But again, I don’t want to go through the detailed process of just music teachers. ShareMyLesson.com is the biggest — and free national resource and treasure trove of lessons that anybody can find in the nation.
Andrew Spar: All right, next we’re going to go to a live question. And that’s Steven.
Fedrick Ingram: Hey Steven, are you there?
Steven Kornya: Yes ma’am. Thank you very much, Steve Kornya, Seminole Education Association. I, I think you’ve emphasized about the difference between politicians and people who believe in science.
And right now, if you look across the state, you’ve got the governor saying he thinks that we should go back as soon as possible. You’ve also got some counties locally, Osceola and Orange in which their local mayors had just issued a stay-at-home order. Ultimately, if it comes down to it, who is going to have the final authority to open the schools?
Will it be the county? Will it be the school board or the county? Will it be the superintendents? And if my members feel unsafe about going back, if they don’t feel that the schools are practicing proper, safe distance and they don’t feel the opportunities for hand washing are in place. What right do they have to say, no, I don’t feel safe. I’m not coming in until you guarantee me a safe workplace that we won’t be participating in the spread of the virus.
Fedrick Ingram: So I’m going to take part of that, and I know Andrew will take the other part of that. The ultimate authority, in our school system, as it relates to public schools is the governor.
The governor can, as he did earlier this month, close schools for students. He can waive instructional days or, and/or time. He does that through the office of the commissioner of education and the Florida Department of Education. And so that is the ultimate authority, although your superintendents and your school board members have lots of authority as to the mechanics and the work of the school district. Andrew, do you want to expound upon the second part of his question?
Andrew Spar: I didn’t honestly, Fed . I was reading that other questions. I didn’t hear it.
Fedrick Ingram: Oh, no problem at all. And so, I believe what, when he was talking about, um, was what rights do, does one actually have, to actually say no, if I’m not, you know, if I am at, just don’t feel secure with a working condition that is maybe either not sanitary or all my administrators trying to put me in a room with more than 10 people, what rights does a person have?
Andrew Spar: It’s interesting you say that because that was among the questions I’m reading. And so here’s what I would say.
That seems to be a dominant theme. Our school is going to open after April 15th, since we’re close to that point, we don’t know the answer to that at this point. What we continue to do and what I think everyone should continue to do is listen to the health professionals. We already have some school districts — we mentioned this earlier — some school board members, some two superintendents who have said, we’re not going to open school for the remainder of the year. And so I think a lot of our school boards are going to be in that position, and they do have the right to do that. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to continue to lead with our local leaders. They’ve been doing an incredible amount of work. They are going to continue that. They are right there with you. Always. Always, always talk to your local president about concerns before we even get to that point. I’m right now in a lot of places in this state. There’s actually stay-at-home orders in Orlando and Gainesville in Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade, I believe.
There are those stay at home orders; others may come. So in those cases, you shouldn’t be going to the school. Many of these schools and a lot of our local leaders worked extremely hard in a lot of our districts to make sure that you only had to go in if you needed to get material. Um, and that they’re looking at ways to make sure that everyone is working from home as much as possible. There may be some things that can’t be done from home. Right.
Fedrick Ingram: And Andrew, let me also insert this. Put everything in writing. Yes. It put everything in writing. If you have a preexisting condition, you need to make sure that your administrator knows that, and you put it in writing.
And then when your administrator gives you a response back, a proper response to your administrator would be to regurgitate whatever they told you in a, in an email. Let me understand, Mr. Administrator or Mrs. Administrator, this is, look, this is what you told me because I am a person who is susceptible because of my age or because of preexisting conditions or because I take care of my mother at home.
You’re asking me to still go into a faculty meeting. I want to make sure that that is the understanding that I have from you. So you have to give your local union and the Florida Education Association something to work with, whatever it is, any directive that you have. Make sure you save every email.
Make sure you save every directive, and make sure that whatever correspondence you’re giving to an administrator, that you put it in writing and make sure that you get the response back in writing so that we can help navigate these waters. Listen, we don’t want to bump heads and in these times right now with administrators, but we will defend our members when something is not right. There are CDC regulations. There are health care representatives that are telling us that we must be in a safe environment. A safe environment means that you have to have a station to wash your hands, that you should not be in a faculty meeting with 30 other colleagues, that you should have a simple solution to social distancing and that if your, your, your building has not been cleaned and sanitized in a way that it wasn’t two weeks ago, then that’s not a safe environment. And so we’re going to hold true to that and we’re going to defend our members. We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that people are safe and that they can work and that they continue to be employed and be paid.
Carole Gauronskas: Fed, can I interrupt real quick? I want to just remind everyone when we talked about share our lessons. and getting PD ESPS out there, education staff professionals. There is professional development on share my lesson, through AFT and through the NEA.org websites. There is a ton for education staff professionals to do PD at home and be able to show your district that you’ve done it, and I just wanted to make sure I shared that.
Andrew Spar: So we’re going to go and do another question from that is live and it is Sharon. Sharon, you’re on.
Fedrick Ingram: Hi Sharon. Are you there? I think you’re on mute here. Sharon, are you there?
Andrew Spar: Trying to get her unmuted, but it’s not working.
Fedrick Ingram: If you hit the unmute button, which is on the lower left hand corner of your square. Okay. I think we’ve got to move on, Andrew.
Andrew Spar: Yeah, okay. So Fed, I’ve seen a lot of questions that people are asking, again, about how we how we support kids if they, if their parents aren’t ensuring that they get online. And so what do we do with kids who aren’t doing the work is really the question there. If they’re not getting online once we start the online stuff, and if the parents aren’t responding to teachers.
Fedrick Ingram: So there’s no fail-safe answer to any student that is either, you know, refusing to do the work or can’t do the work or doesn’t have access to the work.
This is, this is uncharted territory. So I would ask that you really work very closely with administrators. Know what the situations are to the best of your ability. If a kid is refusing to do the work or if the kid doesn’t have a computer, those are two different circumstances. And at some point we’re going to have to make some very valued teacher judgments, and this is something that we asked to have all the time. And so just, I’ll answer another question while I’m answering this question. So that, you know, all tests, all high stakes tests from this point in the year have been canceled. They’ve been canceled by order of the governor, and have been enacted by the commissioner of education.
And so we have all the documentation to show that you can find that on FEA web.org. We have all of the Florida Department of Education documentation that has been given over the last 10 days. I will tell you, um, that I will air on this, on the side of caution. There is, there is not a fail safe way to do that, but you’re going to have to make sure that you communicate telephonically as we always do with our parents, to see what’s going on with the student.
And this is going to require you to keep a log, a phone log, evaluative tools on whatever platform your district is using. So there we found out recently that there are a multitude of platforms that you could use. Everything from Zoom to Microsoft Teams to Blackboard, to Canvas. There are many of these platforms.
So just like you do for any other student in any other place, you’re going to have to document. You’re going to have to make sure that you can show or not student work. You’re going to have to make sure that you have a phone log, and treat that student as though they were in class, with the exception of those students who simply don’t have the resource tool to actually get the work done.
Timestamp / 1:07:45
Andrew Spar: Yeah. So Fed it is almost 8:15 at this point. So maybe two more questions. I know there’s a lot more in the queue. We’ll let everyone know: We are going to put this out and we are going to try to respond to all the questions. I think a lot of them are duplicated, so we did.
Andrew Spar: But let’s go to Greg next, um, at, for a live question.
Fedrick Ingram: Hi, Greg, are you there?
Greg Gshris: Yep, I’m here. This is Greg Gshris from Oseola County. I am fully concerned with them trying to open our schools back, but I also, after spending time in Tallahassee, I think I pretty much know that the current political powers that be with the department of education are opportunistic people.
And I’m concerned about what do we do once this is over and we finally go back? I’m concerned that they’re going to use this as an opportunity to stay while we have a teacher shortage. So we really can just go to virtual and pile in huge classes and very large amounts of student to teacher contact as a way to then shut her some of our brick and mortar public schools.
So this is my concern is that, have you guys even thought about once this plague and scourge is over. Where, where do you think they’re going to land on from here?
Fedrick Ingram: Yeah. So it’s all hypothetical. Thank you, Greg, for that insight.
And we have thought about that a little bit. Listen, what this has really taught me is that nothing, nothing replaces the magic that happened as between the teacher and the student. No, there is no computer. There’s no virtual school. There’s no remote learning that, that can actually replace the time and attention of looking eye-to-eye, to a student and a teacher knowing whether the light goes on or off.
Rather, you need to provide more resource or not, or there needs to be more time spent or not. Nothing replaces that. And so we’re going to fight like heck to make sure that all lawmakers understand the value of, of who we are. I will tell you this, that I know that parents have a new renewed respect for who we are and what we do and our public, because after spending two, three days home with your own child, not only having to have those conversations, but educate, but teach, but learn teaching and learning and the reading process and the math process and the science process. Those things take time. They take patience. It takes skill and knowhow.
And so I think we have redefined who we are as educators. I do not believe under any circumstance that we will be in some way to go to virtual school full time. I think there’s still too many digital divides. There are too many digital deserts out there. There are too many people who do not have the technology that is necessary. And next week we haven’t even passed the test yet of can the internet throughout the state of Florida support the millions of people who will be going on virtually next week. And so we, we believe that we’re going to have some blackouts. We believe that we’ll have some technical difficulties, difficulties from time to time.
But in no circumstance and under no prescribed terms, do we believe that we will have some move towards virtual education? If that is a move, we are going to have to be the firewall, not only to protect our students, but to protect the profession in which we all love.
Andrew Spar: All right. I’m so bad. I have a two-part question here.
I guess this is going to be the last question of the night, and I don’t know if you want to take a stab at it or you want me or Carol to, but the question, there’s two questions here that keep coming up. One is about unemployment for some of the hourly folks, and so maybe we should talk a little bit about the funding mechanism.
But there is unemployment in the state of Florida and there is federal legislation around that as well to enhance it. And the other part is around sick leave again, which I know we talked about earlier, but maybe ended a little bit on that. And this is more related to if they do bring us back, I don’t know when that’s going to happen at this point or when a decision will be made on that.
Probably not until we get much closer to April 15. Um, and like we said, there’s a lot of work still to be done there. A lot of information from doctors and experts. Um, but if we did, and you’re in a high-risk category and you have no sick leave, this was specifically a bus driver that actually asked that, um, they have no sick leave left.
What happens if they’re in that high-risk category? And again, I think the federal legislation may be addressing that as well.
Fedrick Ingram: Right. So the first part of your question is unemployment, and then I will defer to you, Andrew, to kind of talk about some of those federal regulations. Let me talk about the teacher aspect as it relates to unemployment.
Teachers in the state of Florida are not unemployed. Full time paraprofessionals are not unemployed. All of our districts have received all funding. All of our districts have received all funding that will fund our school districts till the end of this school year.
Okay. So let me repeat that one more time. There is no school district that has not received their full allocation to keep people employed throughout the rest of this year. Now, hourly employees are slightly different, and I’m going to let Andrew talk about that, but I want to tell you that our first mission has been to protect our members health and safety.
But number two is to make sure that every single person is employed to the end of this school year. Our school districts have the money to pay employees to the end of the school year. How they do that is going to be how the work relates to getting paid is going to be different from county to county.
Some people on total remote learning or digital learning. Some people are going to do partial in and out. Some people are changing times in which people come in. We’re asking again that you check with your local school districts to make sure, not only your local school districts, but your local unions, to make sure that you get all the pertinent information into concerning negotiations or contracts, MOU, Lou’s, LOAs and MOU is, I’m sorry, I use all these acronyms — memorandum of understanding, a letter of understanding, a letter of agreement between the union and the school districts. Andrew, you want to talk a little bit about sick leave and hourly employees?
Andrew Spar: Yeah, absolutely. So first I’m going to talk about both in the federal law. So the federal law is enhancing unemployment benefits.
So if someone did, and again, the district would have to say, you’re not going to be working, and the districts are funded through the end of the year and the DOE told districts, we are not going to mess with your funding so you can pay all your employees as if everything were normal. , so the DOE did direct that to the districts and our local unions have been, presidents have been awesome in the work to make sure that everyone is protected on that.
So if you have a question specifically on that, contact your local union, but if you have a spouse even that was laid off and they work outside of education, or a child who was laid off and works outside of education or anyone else, you know, the federal law that, that, um, they are working on right now.
When that gets passed, that has an additional enhancement of unemployment benefits and runs it through the end of July. , so that’s going to be really beneficial to anyone out there who is in that situation as it relates to sick leave, what the law says. And they already passed the sick leave law aspect that was passed.
That was the second piece of legislation passed as it relates to Corona virus. That law was passed then says there are 10 days available in addition to any lead. You might have. Districts have to use that 10 days first, and that’s for if you are quarantined, if you are a high risk or you have a corona-related illness.
So that would be available to anyone in that situation for at least 10 days. , so again, hopefully, decisions will be made based on what the doctors and experts are saying and the scientists are saying, and we will make decisions in that way. That’s hopefully what our state will do and what the federal government will do which will ultimately protect us first and foremost.
That’s what we’re going to do. And I know our local unions are continuing to have conversations about high-risk people. And making sure they do not get put in a difficult situation. So with that, I’m going to turn it back over to Fed and Carol for any closing comments. Really appreciate everyone being on this evening.
We may do another one of these in the future as things continue to develop. I am again, Fed go head. Awesome job, everyone.
Fedrick Ingram: No problem. Thank you, Carol. I, I’ll, I’ll let you make some parting comments and then I’ll make some final statements.
Carole Gauronskas: You know, I just, I’m, I’m a very prayerful person and I know that, um, I will be sitting here and praying that come Monday when we all go online, when all of our students are expected to be going online.
That you know, there is a calm in all of us that, um, when we get frustrated that we just take a breath and we … soft thoughts, I think is what fed said earlier, that we will get through it. We will get through this and it will look different. It will be different from many of us as education staff professionals.
But I know we’ve got it. Every one of us makes changes the life of a child, and it’s going to be a little different how we change that life in the next couple of weeks, but we’re gonna make a difference. And, and listen, our parents are going to be in there with us, our administrators. We’ll drag them along with us because we know what we do.
Carole Gauronskas: We know what to do. We’re, we’re educators. We know it. We’ve got it. And so I’m, I’m wishing you all the very best. Take care of yourselves. Take care of your families. Um, and, and just take a breath.
Fedrick Ingram: Thank you so much. And listen, I want to just end by saying this. There is hope. We are going to be OK.
We are in the greatest country on this planet. There is no place that I’d rather be, rather than in my home state, my hometown, where I was born, where I was educated, where I’ve worked all my life. This is a time, and we have been put here for such a time as this. In fact, we’re in a union and I want to remind everybody on this call.
We as unionists have always found ourselves in a time of crisis. We have always found the best of who we are in a time of, of controversy in a time that we had to fight for each other. I’m reminded in 1929 with, with the great depression, it was the American labor movement. People who just worked every day that were trying to, trying to pay bills.
People talk a lot about World War II in the manufacturing that we did. Those are union folks who did that, who built planes, who built trains, who built cars, and who educated our folks. Those were all UAW folks. Those were Teamsters. Those were construction workers. Those were people who said, you know what, we are not going to allow this to, to fail. Teachers do not fail. Unions do not fail. And so I’m asking each and every one of you to look after each other. Ensure that when we fight, we fight together. We’re not fighting each other. We cannot become enemies to ourselves. There’s an old African adage that says, if there’s no enemy within the outside can do us no harm.
And so I’m asking you all to redefine, as you have, not only our classrooms, not only the way that we educate students, but redefine our attitudes about getting through this. , I pray, and I believe in God and, and I respect people who don’t. and I respect all of the differences that we have.
And so with everything that I have, I am asking you, to make sure that we hold our public schools, as the crown jewels that they are, they saved my life. , and I say that all over this country because I mean that it’s teachers like you, it’s paraprofessionals like you as bus drivers, bus drivers who would become so important to the very existence of students each and every day.
It’s secretaries that are on the buses giving food to kids who can’t eat. That’s who we are. That’s what we do. And so thank you all for being on this call. ,We’re going to fight. We’re gonna fight back. Don’t take misinformation. Don’t be discouraged by what you hear on TV, even if it’s coming from the highest offices in the land.
Don’t be discouraged about what’s going on. We are better than that. We are better than that, and we always find true in truth. And so we’re going to do that. We’re going to teach our students to the best of our ability. We’re going to get to the end of the school year. We’re going to prepare over the summer, and we’re going to start our school year like we always do.
That’s what we do as educators. And as unionists, we fight and we fight like hell. And it will be a long time before we give up anything in any rights towards anybody. Every single member of the Florida education is important. That means you, we’re talking to you. And so, thank you all very much. We appreciate every parent, every businessperson that is supporting us, every politician that is supporting us.
For those who do not, we will make sure and we will ensure that we will always remember it because we still will vote. Because that is the key to making an insuring that every student and every classroom and every public school has what they need. Thank y’all very much. We appreciate you.
Andrew Spar: Goodnight everyone.
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