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Posts tagged ‘COVID-19’

Share Your Views: The Road to School Equity After COVID-19

The move to distance learning has exposed huge inequities among our school districts and often between students in the same district. Some students don’t have laptops or Internet service. Others face food insecurity or issues related to health and safety.

Teachers are invited to join a special CEA online forum, The Road to School Equity After COVID-19, to share how the pandemic has magnified inequities and focus on identifying strategies, policies, and ideas to put Connecticut on the road to enhancing equity for all students.

Forum: The Road to School Equity After COVID-19
Tuesday, June 2, 4:00 – 5:15 p.m.
Register for the online forum

The interactive forum will feature State Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, who will listen to your concerns regarding equity issues and will use that input to help inform decisions regarding reopening schools.

Forum attendees will also break into smaller groups led by teacher leaders for further discussions and ideas to enhance equity as we reopen schools.

What Will School Look Like in the Fall?

A virtual panel hosted by Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut discussed the need for safeguards and protocols to be in place before in-person schooling resumes.

Connecticut’s elected officials, health experts, education stakeholders, and others agree that when school resumes this fall, it is unlikely to look like school pre-COVID. Safeguards will need to be in place to protect students and staff against exposure to a virus that has no available vaccine and is still not well-understood. Protocol will need to be developed to assess and remediate against learning loss, trauma, and other by-products of the global pandemic.

But what will those safeguards and protocols be, and will they be consistent from district to district? Those were a few of the questions raised during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the nonprofit Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut.

As the state works on guidance and plans for reopening schools, SEEK is looking to teachers, administrators, parents, and others for potential strategies and concerns, particularly when it comes to students with special needs. Panel discussants, who answered questions submitted via Zoom, included CEA President Jeff Leake, Old Saybrook Superintendent of Schools Jan Perruccio, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy, Connecticut Counselor of Administrators of Special Education (ConnCASE) Executive Director Dave Scata, and Norwalk parent advocate Geraldine Fleming. SEEK board members Andrew Feinstein and Jennifer Laviano moderated. Read more

Survey: Tell Us About Distance Learning Inequities

photo-of-girl-smiling-while-holding-tablet-computer-4144103Teachers are rising to the challenge and educating their students in the most extraordinary circumstances.

As disruptions to daily life continue, teachers are doing all they can to help ease the transition for students and families. The move to distance learning has exposed huge inequities among our school districts and often between students in the same district.

We want to hear about those equity gaps. What are your students and their families facing?

Take Survey ►

Some students don’t have laptops or Internet service. Others face food insecurity or issues related to health and safety. Please take a few minutes to tell us what is happening in your district. We want to hear how these issues are impacting teaching and student learning. Your answers can help us shape decisions regarding the reopening of schools.

The survey is completely anonymous. You do not have to identify yourself, unless you would like to provide contact information to discuss these issues further.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on how the pandemic is impacting public education.

Funniest Home Videos—Teachers Share Trials, Tribulations, Tips, and True Stories from Distance Learning

A virtual forum hosted by CEA brought elementary school classroom teachers, special education teachers, media specialists, literacy coaches, school social workers, and others together to share tips, tricks, and challenges—and a few laughs—related to distance learning.

Among the hurdles teachers reported:

  • “Different schools and districts are comparing themselves to each other, but we don’t all have the same capacity and resources.”
  • “If we have to do this in the fall, we need time—teachers need time, teams need time—to really plan and make this work. We are already finding ourselves working long days and nights, often until 11 p.m.”
  • “The level of documentation for special education teachers is through the roof. It took me four hours to update my assignment log and parent contact log. I’m working 10-to-14-hour days, seven days a week. It’s a good thing my own children are grown, but many of my colleagues also have school-age children at home.”
  • “Some Facebook groups have become pretty hostile, so set your boundaries.”
  • “One student told me she left her apartment yesterday for the first time in eight weeks. How can that be good?”
  • “My own son has regressed a little bit during this time, needing me—his parent—around all the time.”
  • “I’m afraid we’re either going to see a zillion new referrals for special education in the fall or none at all. And neither is a good scenario.”
  • “Student engagement has not been tackled or figured out, so grading is going to be a challenge.”
  • “There is a huge difference in live versus asynchronous learning within and among districts. Some districts have legal guidance prohibiting certain things, such as live video conferencing, while others allow it. There’s no consistency.”
  • “As a school media specialist, I’ve been on the tech end of it, rolling out Chromebooks, figuring out how to get them handed out, helping students and parents learn how to use them, getting families access to Wi-Fi. Not every parent or child has the same facility with technology. Not every family has the same access.”
  • “I had a parent say this about his student: ‘I had no idea he would be like this. I am so sorry.’”
  • “You can definitely tell that some students are getting a lot of help from parents while others are left on their own.
  • “In the beginning, we were told that we didn’t have to track students’ assignments, but now we are having to track all of this and to pick standards for grading first-graders with all these varying degrees of help at home.”
  • “Sometimes you are seeing students who were having trouble composing a complete sentence and are now submitting whole opinion pieces with an introduction, body, and conclusion. I had a parent admit to me that she’s been doing all of her second-grader’s work all week.”
  • “What is this going to look like in September, if we are still doing virtual learning and I have five-and six year olds that I don’t know? At least with this class, I had more than half the school year to get to know these little ones. I just am so concerned about what’s going to happen when these very young children are new to this, and I’ve never met them and have to teach them this way.”

Read more

What Will School Look Like When the COVID Closure Ends?

Governor Lamont and the Commissioner of Education have made it clear that when in-person schooling resumes it is unlikely to look like school pre-COVID. A variety of proposals have been made to protect students and staff, including masks, temperature checks, smaller class sizes, gradual opening, half days, and more.

Register now for a May 19 webinar where CEA President Jeff Leake and other education stakeholders will explore these proposals and discuss their ramifications.

They will particularly emphasize how the measures that have been discussed could impact special education and the parents of children receiving special education services.

This webinar will be co-moderated by Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK) of Connecticut Board Members Andrew Feinstein, Esq. and Jennifer Laviano, Esq.

Panelists include:

  • Jeff Leake, President, Connecticut Education Association
  • Jan Perruccio, Superintendent of Schools, Old Saybrook
  • Dave Scata, Executive Director, Connecticut Counselor of Administrators of Special Education (ConnCASE)
  • Geraldine Fleming, Parent Advocate, Norwalk
  • Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE)


America’s Schools Would Get Billions in Relief from HEROES Act; House Set to Vote Today

On the eve of a critical vote that could provide $100 billion in direct funding to America’s schools, the National Education Association hosted a tele-town hall urging teachers and other education supporters to ask Congress to pass the HEROES Act.

A $3 trillion COVID relief package proposed by Congressional Democrats, The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act would stabilize education funding so that cities and towns—already reeling from the current health and economic crisis—would not have to cut their school budgets.

More than 12,000 teachers and education supporters participated in Thursday’s call, which featured guest speakers Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.

Rise together

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia introduced NEA’s We Rise Together campaign and issued a national call to action, warning that that as tax revenues vaporize in cities and towns, we could face a 35% reduction in educator jobs from pre-K through higher education, with areas such as music, art, sports, and foreign language first on the chopping block.

As budgets are lost to the global health crisis, she said, “We are at risk of not having an entire village of educators serving students when we return to school.” She added, “There’s something we can do about that. Rise together and act.” Noting that a bill to support businesses passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, Eskelsen Garcia said, “The HEROES Act should too. Schools are the foundation of their communities, where students are safe and have a fair shot at making their dreams come true. Go to to see how you can stand up for students.”

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle echoed Eskelsen Garcia’s call to action, saying, “We need hundreds of thousands of emails to rain down on our members of Congress. So get everyone who likes or loves you or intends to keep living with you to rise together with us. Our students are depending on you to do what’s right. Let’s bridge the gap we know is coming.”

Pringle urged teachers to text the word ACTION to 84693 in order to get alerts about important legislation affecting education and instant action steps to take.

Voices for teachers

Calling Kamala Harris a powerful champion of public education and our students, Eskelsen Garcia asked the California senator to address town hall participants in last night’s call.

“Thank you for paving the path for our future,” said Harris, who has proposed an average increase of $13,500 in salaries for teachers, pointing out that they earn 11% less than similarly educated professionals.

Characterizing COVID-19 as both a health crisis and an education crisis, she pointed out that 55 million students are currently at home.

“Our educators are participating in educating not only their students in this remote environment but often their own children as well, carrying a heavy burden,” Harris said. “Your job is difficult enough, and

now you have a pandemic that has exposed deep, pre-existing inequities in our education system. We need immediate funding to expand access to broadband at home, to support EL students and students with disabilities, and to ensure that in the fall, schools have PPE for a safe working and learning environment and the funding and flexibility to develop modified school calendars.”

Harris said passing the $3 trillion HEROES Act is critical to ensuring that schools are properly staffed with teachers and support staff when they reopen.

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, a former Connecticut teacher who became the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, called the HEROES Act a “bold, aggressive plan to infuse much-needed funds into our education system so that municipalities don’t have to consider cutting teachers or services when they plan their budgets.”

She told town hall participants, “Everyone talks about how much they love teachers and says they’re our heroes, but legislators need to show it, not just say it. They need to support direct funding for education, which the HEROES Act will provide, prioritizing our schools to be sure they’re not left behind. Reach out to legislators and show your unity,” she urged.

Hayes expressed deep concerns about high numbers of students experiencing trauma during the pandemic and then returning to schools “that are stretched and underresourced.”

She said, “You cannot support students without supporting teachers. We need to come out with that rallying cry.” She added, “Kids will need the arts, humanities, and academic enrichment more than ever when they return to school, and the HEROES Act acknowledges that and provides the funding.”

The House is expected to vote on the HEROES Act today. Go to or text ACTION to 84693 to push for passage of this critical bill, and ask likeminded friends and family members throughout the country to do the same.

Teachers in Farmington Successfully Organize to Prevent Concessions

Organizing can be more difficult when members can’t meet face-to-face with each other, or with town officials, but that’s not stopping teachers around the state. Farmington Education Association (FEA) members are a recent example of what’s possible when teachers commit to working together.

Thanks to teachers in Farmington and the community of parents and residents who support them, the Town Council gave up pursuing concessions for next year, and the town also agreed to greater transparency in its public meetings going forward.

“We want to thank our FEA Council and all of you for tirelessly working together to make this happen,” FEA President James McNamara wrote in an email to members.

FEA just negotiated a new contract last fall but the town came asking for concessions in order to guarantee a zero percent tax increase for the coming fiscal year. Read more

School Is Where the Heart Is

The coronavirus may have closed school buildings, but it has also revealed the determination and resolve of educators to help their students.

This pandemic has also exposed a great divide. Some students have been disproportionately affected, and, unless we act, they will face steeper obstacles in the future because of it.

That’s why NEA is launching a national advertising campaign aimed at advocating on behalf of students, their families, and the nation’s public school teachers.

We cannot let this pandemic deprive our schools and communities of the support they need to serve students now and when this crisis is over. The nation’s recovery from COVID-19 will run through our public schools, so we need to make sure we prioritize students and educators in coronavirus relief legislation.

Watch the ad below, and then visit for resources for educators, parents, and communities to address the crisis and its impact on education.

Safety Is Top Priority as Connecticut Plans Future Reopening of Schools

CEA Executive Director Don Williams and AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel are among members of the Reopen CT Advisory Group who participated in a roundtable today about plans to reopen schools.

At a virtual education roundtable meeting of Governor Ned Lamont’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, public health officials and education stakeholders discussed issues surrounding school reopening plans. While school buildings will remain closed through the end of the school year, questions centered on what the summer and fall will look like.

Education Commissioner Dr. Miguel Cardona emphasized that a safe reopening of schools in the fall is the state’s chief priority, noting that if health and safety are not maintained, Connecticut could face a new wave of school closings.

“Safety must be our priority moving forward—for years to come,” he said.

CEA Executive Director Donald Williams, who also participated in the roundtable, echoed Dr. Cardona’s sentiments. Read more

Science Teacher Finds Novel Way to Help Healthcare Workers

When Brookfield High School science teacher Heather Biancheri learned of the impact COVID-19 was having on members of her community, she did what many fellow educators around the state began doing: helping those most vulnerable with food delivery and more.

“I began volunteering to deliver food each week to senior citizens to keep at-risk people safe at home,” she says. She also used social media to help educate others about the pandemic.

Brookfield High School teachers Stephanie Vivas and Heather Biancheri collect PPE for their charity, PPE Donations for CT. (They note that they ensure social distancing and that the photo was taken before masks were mandated in Connecticut.)

Soon, however, the 17-year veteran teacher stumbled upon a unique and critical source of support she could also provide. With schools closed and science labs standing empty, Biancheri realized she had a surplus of much-needed gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment that were in short supply at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. She knew other science teachers were also sitting on PPE gold mines in their schools.

“I considered the amount of PPE that would be easily collectable from our school labs,” she says. “Realizing that no one had begun to undertake this process, this is where I began my journey to support our community.” Read more