Equal pay

De Blasio moves to settle school safety agents' pay discrimination lawsuit

PHOTO: Emma Sokoloff-Rubin
School safety agent Kangela Moore speaks in favor of a tentative contract agreement between the city and her union.

Safety agents who work in schools across the city will soon receive raises, as the de Blasio administration moves to settle two labor issues at once.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the city has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union that represents school safety agents. In addition to a 10 percent pay increase over the course of the seven-and-a-half year contract, the city has proposed a resolution to the 2010 pay discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of school safety agents, 70 percent of whom are women.

The new contract would bring the maximum pay for school safety agents in line with that of special officers, who have similar responsibilities but are stationed in hospitals and homeless shelters. Sixty percent of special officers are male, and special officers make an average of $7,000 more per year than school safety agents.

“We have a moral, human obligation to ensure that everyone is treated equally in all forms of employment,” de Blasio said at the Cobble Hill School for American Studies in Brooklyn.

With more than 5,000 agents stationed in schools, the New York Police Department’s school safety division constitutes the fifth-largest police force in the country. Their role in schools—including how much power they have to discipline students and who has a say in their training—has been the subject of ongoing debate, particularly during the mayoral election.

A.J. Garrett, an agent at P.S. 397 in Brooklyn, said the move toward equal pay is long overdue.

“We’re there for the kids. We counsel the kids, we talk to them, we protect them,” she said.

Under the proposed settlement for school safety agents, which is pending court approval, agents who have worked for at least three years will receive approximately $7,000 in retroactive pay, as will agents who retired in the last four years. Agents who left service in good standing will receive smaller retroactive payments. The payments will cost the city $38 million.

Local 237 represents both school safety agents and special officers. If ratified, their new contract will extend retroactively from September 2010 to March 2018. Union members will also receive a one-time payment of $1,000.

The gross cost of the contract is $145.5 million, but as with the teacher’s union contract, the city plans to cover a large portion of that cost by reducing health-care spending.

De Blasio and Local 237 President Gregory Floyd stood side-by-side at the press conference, reinforcing de Blasio’s image as a labor-friendly mayor concerned about equality.

“What this states is that school safety agents are looked at as vital part of our school system, and we do a vital job,” said Kanjela Moore, who has worked as a school safety agent for 22 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.