Teachers at Hunter College Campus Schools Have ‘No Confidence’ in Administrators or their COVID-19 Reopening Plan

Updated: September 25, 2020
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96% Vote ‘No Confidence’ in Hunter College President Jennifer Raab

73% Vote ‘No Confidence’ in Hunter College Campus Schools Director Lisa Siegmann

New York—With days left before they are expected to return to in-person teaching in classrooms without windows and a building with a history of poor ventilation, teachers at the Hunter College Campus Schools have voted overwhelmingly that they have “No Confidence” in their school’s top administrators. 

Led by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and Hunter Schools Director Lisa Siegmann, the administrators have pressed ahead with flawed plans to reopen their schools for in-person instruction.  Raab and Siegmann did not engage with the teachers or their union’s health and safety experts in the development of the COVID-19 reopening plan. They have rejected the teachers’ demands for smaller classroom pods, proper air filtration and other protections afforded to students and staff at other NYC public schools, and have refused to allow an independent inspector access to the Upper East Side building on 94th Street. 

One hundred and thirteen of a possible 128 union members participated in the vote held online Tuesday, September 22. Ninety-six percent voted ‘No Confidence’ in Hunter College President Jennifer Raab (109 out of 113 votes). Seventy-three percent voted ‘No Confidence’ in Hunter College Campus Schools Director Lisa Siegmann (82 out of 113 votes).

“We want to return to in-person teaching in buildings that have been proven safe with adequate health and safety protocols and an independent inspection. But the results of the vote show we are united in our fight to protect the health and lives of our coworkers and students. We are holding our school leadership accountable to their legal and moral obligation to provide a safe workplace,” said Tina Moore, a teacher at the Hunter College Campus High School and chair of Hunter Schools chapter of their union, the Professional Staff Congress.

Remote instruction at the Hunter Schools began Monday, September 21. In-person and hybrid instruction will start September 29 for grades K-6 and October 1 for grades 7-10 (grades 11-12 will start the year all-remote). Most of the school’s 1500 students will then begin hybrid instruction at the 94th Street building, while grades 9-10 will meet in the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work.

The Hunter teachers have pressed all summer for a voice in the reopening plan and have called for a delayed reopening of the building until it is inspected and found to be safe. Raab and Siegmann have tried to pass off a memo from the contractor hired to repair the building’s inadequate ventilation system as an independent inspector’s report, and have violated  their own, inadequate plan by purchasing unproven chemical “air purifiers” instead of HEPA filters for the classrooms.

A State court will soon rule on a lawsuit filed by the union seeking a temporary restraining order, which asked the judge to bar administrators from compelling its members to return in-person teaching until real HEPA filters are installed in every classroom and an independent inspection of the building and ventilation system is performed.

“A vote of no confidence is a serious message about administrative failure, and votes with margins of 73 and 96 percent are definitive. There is still time for the Hunter College administration to do the right thing and allow an independent inspector to assess the safety of the buildings.  A meeting last night produced some movement; we succeeded in negotiating for regular COVID testing in line with DOE procedures.  But big issues, such as allowing an independent inspection, remain unresolved, and the PSC will escalate even further if we need to in order to keep these teachers, staff and students safe.”