pay back

No back pay coming for thousands of ex-UFT members

Updated Saturday, May 3, 10:51 a.m. — Thousands of city teachers and school staff members who worked between 2009 and 2014 and then left their jobs won’t get any extra money under a new contract agreement between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, even though a new contract applies to those years, union officials said Friday.

And in another cost-saving move, current members who worked between 2009 and 2011 will need to continue working in schools until 2020, or retire, if they want to collect all of their retroactive benefits for that period.

That’s because of the way the new contract has structured back pay disbursements from the first two years without a contract, when most of the other city’s public employees received 8 percent raises. Money from that time are going to be distributed in five chunks between 2015 and 2020. Rather than paying for the raises up front, the union and the city agreed to both kick the costs down the road and spread them out over several years.

Eligible UFT members who quit before the first scheduled payout, in October 2015, won’t get any of those payments. (They will, however, receive the first of a series of salary rate increases.) The city will cut a second pay check in October 2017, a third check in October 2018, a fourth in October 2019 and a fifth in October 2020.

Teachers will still receive smaller retroactive payments for the two most recent years when they ratify the contract, which could come as early as this month, according to the union. All members will also receive a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification.

Current members will also see salary rate increases of between 1 and 3 percent yearly from 2013 to 2018, and those who worked between 2009 and 2011 will see additional, 2 percent retroactive salary rate increases each year from 2015 to 2018.

But for the biggest retroactive payments, from 2009 to 2011, teachers get cut off after they quit, the union said. A UFT official could not say if this included teachers who become principals and a spokeswoman with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing city principals and assistant principals, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Credit: United Federation of Teachers

At least 4,000 UFT members, who resigned between 2009 and 2011, according to the union’s attrition numbers, will not receive any benefits from the new contract. Another 4,200 teachers left over the next two school years, although some many have started teaching after 2011 and wouldn’t be eligible.

In the past, UFT members received retroactive checks within months of ratifying their new contract. In 2005, for instance, top-paid teachers received a $5,771 lump payment for 28 months worth of back pay, according to the New York Times.

The new contract’s delayed payments speaks to the unusually large sum of money, an estimated $3.4 billion, that the UFT demanded in negotiations. But it also speaks to the city and union’s emphasis on rewarding teachers who stay in the school system. The contract also includes a new compensation system and bonus program aimed at retaining teachers.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a former UFT president, said on Twitter yesterday that the union would have have “liked it for all,” referring to the raises, but added that there is plenty of precedent to leave former union members out of retroactive benefits even if they worked during that period. 

But it’s still coming as news to many teachers who have already left the school system, or making plans to leave.

One fifth-year teacher who is looking for teaching jobs outside of the city said she was frustrated that she might not receive the back payments.

“I’m not happy about it,” said the teacher, who asked for anonymity because she did not want her school to know about her job search. “I put in the time, just like every other teacher in the city during that period.”

Andrei Berman, who taught in New York City schools during the 2009-2010 school year,  said the extra money would have been nice, but that he wasn’t torn up about it.

“To be honest, I can’t say I deserved it because I didn’t teach long enough to really be that deserving,” said Berman, who left teaching after two years.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.