Hello, ATRs are suing

Friday, January 13, 2017

DeBlasio administration elevates DOE admin to cull the ATR or what?

The Daily News yesterday posted the news that Randy Asher, previously the principal at Brooklyn Technical High School, where his son attended, will get a new $185,298 job with the mission of thinning the ATR herd. You can expect that with that $25,000 raise over his principalship he will have an incentive to make big changes for the ATRs.

Now, we have to call this for what it is: a De Blasio appointment. He has mayoral control. What he wants, happens. The News reported Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina as making the appointment, but we really know who chose this.

The Ben Chapman story is really bad reporting. It doesn't pursue exactly how the city will decide who to hire and who to not hire. Is this thinning the ATR herd to be a culling by dubious means, bogus charges or bogus observations? Interestingly A major problem is one of licensure. Many people in the pool have seen their licenses become irrelevant, as the DOE has slashed the positions of librarian, trades teacher, music teacher, languages other than English or Spanish, with the decision that no one is interested in music anymore or no one is employed as a cosmetologist or an electrician any more. Yet, the city blames the teacher for the fact that it has seemingly destroyed the positions for the far foreseeable future.

Then there are the people in the humanities fields. The DOE has an oversupply of English and social studies teachers. There will be many people in these positions who will not be able to find a job as easily as the math or science teachers.

The Daily News writer really naively uncritically bought the interpretation of the chancellor or her press agents. This article is little more than a press release. If Chapman did a more proper job he would have pursued the question of how the salary differentials are huge incentives to not permanently hire the high salary ATRs. He should have recognized the issue of Fair Student Funding (see here at the Chaz blog for instance), which means that teachers are not funded as units as they were before 2007, but by the school out of a restricted budget. Therefore, the principals are disinclined to hire veteran teachers such as ATRs. The present rotational farce could be eliminated by placing teachers, as was done until fall, 2011. So, we see an example of how De Blasio is a continuation of Mike Bloomberg and actually worse than the first nine years of Bloomberg.

We do not know the devil in the details. Will the DOE-UFT tell teachers to find a position in five, six, ten or twelve months, as happens in Chicago or Washington --or else lose their position?
Why has no one ever compared the New York City teacher excessing situation, in contrast to the practices in other cities? Is it that the truth would be embarassing --that experience, seniority, is a help, not a hindrance, in retaining a position. See the numerous descriptions at the site of the National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ), most recently in 2013, at "Tr3 Trends: Teacher Excessing and Placement."
And where is the union in all this? Why didn't Chapman get any quote from anyone in the union or in the union's opposition caucus, MORE?

How will the union respond to this? The changes appear to be circumventing the DOE-UFT contract and any speedy terminations will circumvent civil service protections. 

This is probably just a PR move destined to serve the mayor and the union. Bill De Blasio can claim that he's helping the unfortunate ATRs and getting rid of the "unfit" ones. And Mike Mulgrew can claim victory of saving ATRs' jobs. The union will likely fail to challenge any of this, as it seeks to maintain cordial relations with the administrators' union, and as it seeks to maintain a chummy, uncritical relationship with the administration of mayor de Blasio.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ATR Workshop, independent, sponsored by the MORE caucus UFT, November 19

ATR Workshop, sponsored by the MORE UFT caucus.

Saturday, November 19 at 1 PM - 4 PM
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 5th Ave, New York, New York 10016

History: How the DOE and UFT created this mess starting with the 2005 contract, the 2008 ATR rally, the UFT wine and cheese party, the 2011 deal where ATRS were sacrificed (weekly rotation) for no layoffs, the 2014 agreement plus recent updates.

Know your rights and lack thereof; how to deal with roving supervisors; survival techniques.

We will have an extensive Question and Answer session with former chapter leaders/ATRs on hand to assist you.

Fighting back. What do we want? What can we do to pressure UFT and DOE for change?

Special guests: blogger Chaz's School Daze, Chapter Leaders/Delegates: James and Camille Eterno and UFT Executive Board Member Arthur Goldstein.

Saturday, Nov. 19, 1:00 PM-4PM
CUNY Grad Center, 5th Ave between 34th and 35th St. Bring ID. Room 5414

Sponsored by MORE/UFT and Independent Community of Educators

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Official UFT meetings for ATRs are coming soon, starting this Tuesday

Initially, this semester there was no news of UFT ATR meetings, but there was news of career training meetings, "Success Strategies for ATRs," that we would have to pay $10 for. This fiasco was covered by the Chaz blog a short while back. Why should we have to pay for a training? This is our union. We should be getting meetings and trainings, without special fees.

Now, the UFT has announced that it is granting official meetings for ATRs, a month later than usual. But similar to previous years, some of the meetings are being scheduled on days when there are mandatory school meetings we as NYC DOE teachers must attend, for parent-teacher conferences. The latter are absurd in themselves, as we only know these students short term, and often just days before the meeting.

Does the UFT really not want ATRs to attend informational meetings? They don't want us in the same place, so that we can see that these are AARP gatherings? Or for the reason that too many of us might have important questions?

We should ask for honest responses on what the DOE-UFT side agreement to the contract stipulates to us -what does the sunsetting of the ATR side agreement mean for any changes for us this year, on whether anything has changed in conditions that we can expect with field supervisor meetings and observations, on the union's progress in opposing the Fair Student Funding (FSF) fiasco (the true reason why we are not truly hired at schools), on what the union is doing to combat the media smears against ATRs, on what the union is doing to make sure that schools can tolerate actual safety threats to teachers. Chaz recently discussed the FSF policy and certain media talking point myths against ATRs here. (In addition to opposing ATRs for monetary issues, the DOE does not want ATRs because they as veteran teachers carry an institutional memory of the DOE BOE pre-Bloomberg when schools functioned better and teachers were treated with more dignity.)

When will the UFT stop playing along with the DOE's fictions, like we don't get hired because  any issue other than our higher cost? When will the UFT stop playing along with the DOE script that the field supervisors are here to find us positions when the UFT knows full well that their function is to meet a quota to terminate us? When will the UFT publicly call out that the field supervisors ultimately play no useful function for the students or for the teachers? The UFT knows full well that the DOE each year hires five to six thousand new teachers a year when it can draw from the pool? When will the UFT confront the DOE's preference to keep certain positions unfilled, with a rotating teacher every one to four weeks, rather than place a teacher, many of these classes being in Regents exam subjects?

Usually the union likes to focus on what the schools can or cannot do with ATRs or issues like bathroom keys, but we should also press issues that cut to our ability to keep our jobs. Why won't the UFT enforce the contract and force schools to humanely furnish us with critical keys or secure lockers for our belongings?

Informational meetings will take place in each of the UFT borough offices:
Brooklyn, 335 Adams St.
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Bronx, 2500 Halsey St.
Thursday, Nov. 3, 4 to 6 p.m.
Manhattan, 52 Broadway
Monday, Nov. 14, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Queens, 97-77 Queens Blvd.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Staten Island, 4456 Amboy Rd.
Thursday, Nov. 17, 4 to 6 p.m.
You are welcome to attend the session that is most convenient for you. We hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

ATR's letter, on legal issues we face

A letter by an ATR to attorney Maria Chickedantz:

Dear Ms. Chickedantz,

   I thought I would present my views on the ATR issue to you by e-mail, for discussion at the April 20th scheduled meeting.

   I recently retired after 25+ years as a secondary high school Social Studies teacher. From March 2011 until my retirement, I was an ATR, rotating among Queens High Schools.

   I contend that the DOE treatment of ATRs has been arbitrary and capricious, violating the UFT contract and resulting in discrimination in the work place.


1) There is no written policy by the DOE stating expectations and responsibilities for ATRs. The schools do not expect us to teach lessons or have lesson plans, yet many of the DOE roving supervisors do. As ATRs, we are substitutes, and are expected to carry out lesson materials that are left by the absentee teacher. It is accepted that it is the school's responsibility to provide lesson materials if none is left by the absentee teacher. Yet, there are roving supervisors who expect to see ATRs with generic lesson plans, teaching classes, even outside their lesson areas, which is unrealistic, setting up the teacher for failure. 

2) Again, without any written policy, the DOE allows the roving supervisors to observe an ATR in a teaching capacity, with a class and students the ATR is not familiar with. Again, this is arbitrary and capricious, setting the teacher up for failure. These observations have nothing to do with our job duties as ATRs, covering classes for absentee teachers. It also violates the UFT contract, Article 7A, which stipulates that teachers must have programs with specific subjects and classes. Since ATRs do not,they can not be fairly evaluated as teachers.

3) The evaluation system by roving supervisors is arbitrary and capricious because not every ATR is assigned one. In the three years roving supervisors  were in place, I had one only one year.

4) Principals and DOE abuse ATRs by using them to cover teaching  assignments with out hiring permanently. Principals are not charged for ATRs that are used provisionally and thus save money by dismissing them at end of semester.

5) Even though there are generally over 1000 ATRs in any given school year, the DOE discriminates by hiring between 4 and 5 thousand new teachers annually


DOE must place ATRs in available positions on a permanent basis by seniority, before hiring new teachers. In this way, they can be fairly evaluated like other teachers.This also solves the problem of an ATR pool for the future.

Thank you for your consideration in possible litigation on behalf of ATRs. The UFT does not choose to advocate for us.


James Calantjis

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The saga of the tortured teacher continues, this time with a city pay-out. But what lessons is the city teaching the wrong-doers?

The New York Post published the story of part of a saga of an ATR, "Teachers abused by students wins $125k settlement," where she got a payout for enduring terrible abuse at Catherine & Count Basie Middle School (MS 72). While she was a regularly assigned teacher she was assaulted by students on a number of occasions. She was subject to multiple episodes of very profane verbal abuse by her students, and she was subject to threats to her personal safety off the campus of the Guy Brewer Boulevard, Queens school. Students misbehaved in ways that not only threatened the teachers but other students. The administration's response was to disregard the abuse and to blame the victim. It is fortunate that Ms. Perez won an award for what she endured. Yet in this instance the city covered for the wrong-doers. But what lessons is it teaching, as the principal, Omotayo Cineus is still sitting comfortable in her position?

This story alone is terrible, yet it is significant. This kind of abuse and administrative accommodation of harassment of teachers goes on widely in the NYC DOE system, but the administrators overseeing bogus statistics or other sorts of improper conduct remain safe in their positions, as in these cases and as in this principal, who would be in hot water in a just system, but this being the DOE, proper punishment is doubtful. This case is significant because the DOE has lost and the case has gone public. These two factors now give added momentum to similar claimants, as the case shows that DOE administrators act as though they can get away with anything, yet in this case the DOE was defeated.

The facts that principal abuse of teachers goes on, and that the DOE tolerates this, as noted in the above blog cross-references, by keeping the abusers in power, and by paying the penalty for their abuse, demonstrates that the DOE is OK with this abuse. From these facts we can ask, what kind of message is the DOE sending to students? What kind of message is the DOE sending to the public? What kinds of values do mayor DeBlasio and Chancellor Farina have when they accommodate this kind of abuse and neglect? Are they subscribing to the idea of inspiring excellence by tormenting staff, because this bullying is what their system is practicing.. This school is hardly an isolated bad apple in the DOE. How does the DOE value humane compassion for its teaching staff? How does the DOE value the teaching profession? How does the DOE plan to retain staff? How does the DOE plan to inspire good behavior in students and how does the DOE plan to inspire students to pursue the teaching profession?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot – in Which the Refurbished ATR Makes a Personal Discovery

It was supposed to break me. It was supposed to frustrate, humiliate, and degrade me into quitting, or at least doing something foolish that they could use against me.
I dared to speak out. I dared to document, challenge, and call BULLSHIT when I saw it. I filed lawsuits (and recently won a six figure settlement). I named names and showed proof. I made phone calls and forwarded documents. And in the end, I was returned to the ATR pool (with no actual documentation that I am an ATR, but that’s another blog for another day).
They thought that playing ATR Roulette would frustrate me. It sounds frustrating, doesn’t it? A new building, new staff, new work hours, new students, new grade levels, new parking situations and new commutes every few weeks, well, that has to be enough to break a person. Especially when you get to a place and are assumed to be incompetent even though you have nineteen years in and a clean file. You are asked if you have ever taken attendance. You are asked if you have ever been in a fire drill. You are told that the Smart Board is “only for teachers” and that “subs always mess it up”. You relinquish your name and become “The ATR” or “The Sub”. Kids see you and gleefully say, “Oh, look, a SUB!” The teachers you are helping don’t ask your name or even bother to glance at you, simply telling the class, “That’s the sub who will be here while I’m gone” as they run out the classroom door. Teachers with one year in are giving YOU directions and telling YOU how to teach a reading lesson (even though you are a Literacy Specialist with a Master’s in Literacy and fifteen years in the job). And the clincher – after a career spent almost exclusively with grades seven and eight, you are sent to teach everything but those grades – pre-K one day, fourth grade another, and on and on.
But let me tell you, DOE. Your plan backfired. Spectacularly. Not only have I not been broken, but I have become a stronger, better teacher and stronger better person for your efforts. I am a better teacher than I have EVER been – and it’s all thanks to you and your ATR pool.
You thought the constant changing of schools would be frustrating. Let me tell you, while there are a few oddball commutes here and there, I have found parts of my district that I never would have found had it not been for the monthly spin of the ATR Roulette Wheel. I have friends and colleagues in almost every school in my district. I know which schools are wonderful places to be, and where to avoid at all costs. I have a keen sense of what works in a school, and can see how vile administration can wreck a place by creating an atmosphere of intimidation. I’ve been able to support colleagues who have been beaten down and targeted, and provide welcome assistance when I can. I’ve truly learned how to HELP, and do it willingly and joyfully. And I can do this BECAUSE, at some point, I move on, thanks to the system YOU have designed.
I’ve developed the best poker face ANYWHERE. When I am in a train wreck of a school, with a nasty, back-stabbing staff and insane administration, I can look on with bemused detachment. I can take solace in the fact that in a few weeks I move on, and take pity on those who have to stay. I keep my game face on, and count the days until I leave the train wreck behind. I can even do this when the DOE sends supervisors and other officials to “coach” us. You’ll never see me sweat or smirk, but what I’m thinking is another story. But you’ll never know.
Thanks to the ATR pool, I’ve been moved out of my comfort zone – and discovered that I can do ANYTHING. For years, I taught in middle school. Mostly grades seven and eight. I never thought about teaching any other grade, especially the “Littles”. As an ATR, you teach whatever grade you are given. I bet, DOE, that you thought that would drive me nuts. Well, let me tell you – I have been able to see great teachers in action at every level and have learned much from them. As a result, I can walk into ANY classroom – from Pre-K to tenth grade – and teach something. On the spot. Immediately. And I can be successful doing it. I have become an absolutely FEARLESS teacher. And I owe it all to you.
I have become the BEST classroom manager I have ever been. Nothing like being “the Sub” to make classroom management a huge log roll. But, I’ve learned to walk in my own experience and authority, keeping my “teacher” presence and confidence in place. I can settle a Kindergarten class I have never seen before in less than a minute. I can have a sixth grade class ready to work in less than two – even though I have never seen them before. I can build a relationship with a group of students in a day or two and keep it going until I move on.
I have become mentally agile and unbelievably resourceful. There’s nothing like having a class of twenty five first graders looking at you when you discover that nothing has been left for you for the day. But thanks to you, I can “read” a classroom, find what I need, and make the day productive by simply making inferences from what IS left. Being an obsessive “planner”, I have discovered that I am, in fact, capable of thinking on my feet. Thank you for that.
Most of all, I have learned to appreciate my own skills and to stand up for myself. I now insist that colleagues address me by name. I call out secretaries, school aides, and paras when they speak to me like I am an idiot, or when they speak about me to each other as if I am not there. I’ve learned to demand professional treatment and respect. I’ve stood up for myself when fellow teachers have treated me as a subordinate, or worse. I don’t let them get away with it anymore. I’ve learned when to stand up and call bullshit, and do it politely, but without fear. I have become a force to be reckoned with.
So, DOE, thank you for this. Thank you for placing me in this situation where I have become the strongest, most effective, most resourceful teacher I have EVER been. I know this wasn’t your plan. But that’s ok – because of this I have learned that I am made of strong stuff. That I am a survivor and that I am amazingly competent and capable. Hit me with your best shot, DOE.
I’ll hit it right back.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

An ATR goes vs. a NY Post hit piece on ATRs

A retired ATR response to a negative letter in the New York  Post for hit piece on ATRs.

Dear Mr. Benjamin,

Your opinion piece today on "Rubberrooms" is misinforming readers and disparaging ATRs. 

The NYCDOE has allowed ATRs to be discriminated against by not permanently placing them in vacant positions. Even though the DOE says it has placed 500 ATR teachers into regular positions,  the reality is that most of these teachers were placed provisionally and then dismissed at the end of the school year, going back to the ATR pool. In this way, principals were not charged the full cost of these teachers to their budgets. In effect, the DOE allows principals to manipulate and misuse the ATR pool. That is why, they do not want to give out specific information about ATR numbers and placements.

In addition, the NYCDOE hires four to five thousand new teachers every year while the ATR pool stays at around one thousand teachers on average. Therefore, if you are an ATR, you will likely not be hired on a permanent basis due to principals wanting to save money on their budgets by hiring new teachers.. It has nothing to due with teacher quality.

It is a mistake to disparage these teachers as "dysfunctional and ineffective", associating them with "Rubber Rooms." Most of these teachers were excessed from their schools. Some went through 3020a hearings because of their whistleblowing to protect student, parent or teacher interests at the school level. There are many ineffective and vindictive principals who use the evaluation process to punish teachers who want the UFT contract adhered to or report Special Education violations or speak out about ineffective school leadership teams, for example.

Instead of disparaging teachers for being in the ATR pool, they should be  placed in vacancies and fairly  evaluated for their  performance as other teachers.  The DOE is costing taxpayers over 100 million dollars a year, as you reported, when the simple solution is to place these experienced teachers into permanent vacancies.

The idea that ATRs are "bad" teachers"  and negatively affecting the schools they are being sent to without any  evidence is an absurd and  biased opinion that is scapegoating good, experienced teachers, who through no fault of their own, are trapped in in the ATR pool .  

 I would welcome the opportunity to write a published rebuttal to your " Post Opinion."

James Calantjis
Middle Village,NY