the long haul

School bus drivers say they will strike starting on Wednesday

The city school bus drivers union announced today that its members would strike starting Wednesday over the city's plan for new contracts with bus companies.

After more than a year of strike threats, city school bus drivers will walk off the job on Wednesday, their union announced today.

The work stoppage means that more than 150,000 students — including many with severe disabilities — will have to find their own way to school. All students affected by the strike who can get to school using public transportation will receive Metrocards, and the city will reimburse families who must drive or hire cars for the commute to and from school.

Still, city officials say they expect that the burden of providing transportation will lead at least some families to keep their children home.

The strike also means that the city’s streets will be clear of yellow buses for the first time since 1979, when the city ended a three-month strike by extending new protections for drivers.

The strike comes as the city prepares to seek contracts with bus companies in an effort to cut student transportation costs, which are the highest in the country. The drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 1181, wants a guarantee that current employees won’t lose their jobs even if the companies they work for do not win a new contract. But the city, citing a 2011 legal ruling, says it cannot make such a promise.

“Have you ever heard of a strike where one side is demanding something that the courts have ruled illegal?” Mayor Bloomberg said today during a press conference just before the union officially declared the strike. “It is just meshugana, as we say in Gaelic.”

Labor leaders from across the city state are arguing that the law isn’t as fixed as Bloomberg has portrayed it. “This is a completely avoidable situation that the city could solve in an instant if it only had the willingness to do so,” New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez said in a statement.

But for the union to reconsider the strike plan before Wednesday, Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello said, the city’s change in position “would have to be meaningful.” He said the strike would last “until the mayor helps us.”

But Bloomberg said city officials were prepared to dig in for the long haul.

“They should not be lulled into thinking we’ll change our minds,” Bloomberg said. “We will go and ask for bids, and in the meantime we’ll find ways to deal with [the strike] that are not unsatisfactory.”

The city’s stop-gap solutions include giving Metrocards to students who currently ride yellow buses; offering Metrocards to the parents on the youngest bus riders; having additional safety officers direct traffic at some schools; reimbursing transportation costs for families that front the bill; and warning the Metropolitan Transit Authority to expect extra congestion on subways and city buses.

Even so, the Department of Education is anticipating that at least some students who ride yellow buses won’t be able to get to school easily starting on Wednesday. Students who are less than two hours late to school won’t be marked tardy, and absences because of transportation issues won’t count against students’ academic records.

Some schools have asked teachers to prepare work for students to complete at home. At Brooklyn’s P.S. 231, a District 75 school for students with severe disabilities where virtually all students take yellow buses, teachers were told earlier this month to compile 10 days’ worth of assignments that students could take home in case of a strike, one teacher reported on Twitter.

“A lot of parents won’t be able to get their kids to school, or will miss a lot of work,” said Susan Valdés-Dapena, a Queens parent whose son rides a bus to his private school on Roosevelt Island, which he attends using state funding for students with disabilities.

But Valdés-Dapena said she was supporting the bus drivers anyway because her son, Patrick, has benefited from having experienced bus drivers.

Patrick Valdés-Dapena said he had a different reason for backing the strike. “I am a little bit excited about the strike,” he said. “It sort of seems like we’re not going to have school.” (His mother disagreed: She said she would drive Patrick to school.)

The bus drivers strike isn’t the only labor issue the Department of Education is juggling right now. The strike is set to start the day before a state teacher evaluation deadline that has had the city locked in negotiations with the teachers union, as well.

“We’re working on them simultaneously,” Lauren Passalacqua, a City Hall spokeswoman, said about the teacher evaluation and bus contract negotiations. “Both issues are priorities and it’s a balancing act.”

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.