Sunday, March 29, 2015

An ATR responds to the Post's anti-teacher opinion column

Subject: Today's Post Opinion

Dear Mr. Cunningham,
(Editorial-page editor) 

  Do you really believe that the educational crisis in our country stems from the abundance of incompetent teachers or is there another agenda you are fostering?
  It is really not a sensible premise when it is seriously analyzed.

  Teachers have a Masters Degree-plus, in their subject areas. They must go through three years of probation in which they are observed multiple times. How then can there be so many incompetent teachers?
Rather, the problem in education stems from a system that socially promotes rather than holds students to high standards and accountability.  It is also a cultural problem of entitlement instead of valuing achievement. 

 Standardized testing is an important assessment that has revealed the low levels of student performance. Many would like to bury their heads in the sand by ending standardized tests.  However, holding teachers accountable for student test performance is unacceptable as there are many factors that contribute that are out of teachers' control. Testing has always been an assessment tool of monitoring how well the student has learned but at the end of the day, it is the student's responsibility.  Did the student pay attention in class, do homework, study for exams? Was the student excessively absent? All these are critical factors in the learning process.

  Making teachers scapegoats for the failing system will only weaken our educational institutions further. We are going down the wrong path and heading for the cliff.

  The one issue that I agreed with in your editorial was your opposition to weakening the NYC Discipline Code.  The main deterrent to learning in our public schools is a lack of student discipline. Charter schools seem to understand this principle that an environment conducive to learning must be achieved for learning to take place.

  Your paper is also way off base on the ATR issue. These educators should be placed in vacancies (they are employed by the DOE not the individual school) and evaluated like other teachers. Instead, they are stigmatized and vilified for being in the ATR pool. The City wastes over 100 million a year by its policy, as well as maintaining a central ATR unit with 30 roving supervisors.

 There is so much "wrong thinking" concerning education. If you want to "fix" the system, one must have the courage to address the real problems. Maybe, you should consult with teachers for real insight. 
James Calantjis
Public School Educator

Saturday, March 28, 2015

An ATR's letter to Mulgrew on phony mandated interviews

A letter to UFT president Mulgrew, whose union represents also paraprofessionals, who get placed when excessed from a school, but cannot ensure the same for excessed teachers.  Remember that this president has been reported as using WNYC's phrase "unwanted teachers" referring to ATRs while on the station, when the fact is that ATRs have higher salaries which principals will avoid in favor of new recruits. Fair Student Funding creates this incentive to hire new teachers. This is why ATRs will very rarely stay in a position beyond June. Somehow Mulgrew cannot bring it to himself to utter these facts.

To: Michael Mulgrew
Cc: Amy Arundell; Michael Sill
Subject: Mandated Interviews


    I have just returned from my "mandated interview" at A. Phillip Randolph H.S.  I was told by the secretary that all of the interviews had been cancelled last week.  We were all given letters, by the principal, to this affect.  This is not what I am writing you about.  It is the blatant effort of Tweed to paint all ATRs aka, The Walking Dead, as unhireable and therefore need to be terminated.  
   To back up this statement, a rash of senior teachers, in the pool, in the outer boroughs are being hounded and setup by supervisors for "U" ratings.  I have also learned, in confidentiality, that we are being deliberately sent on interviews that are nonexistent, which is a violation of Art. 16, paragraphs 2 & 3 of our contract.  
    You need to fix this now. Not in 2 months or 2 years, but now.  We have dedicated our lives to the children of the City of New York and we deserve better than this.  We are tired of hearing that the union can't demand that we in the pool (ATR) not be terminated.  You are the president of the UFT.  If they don't want to budge then there should not have been a contract until the city did come around and negotiated a viable, honest and respectable solution to this madness.
   I hope to hear from you concerning this latest in a very long history of abuse of the senior teaching staff in the city and union.   

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why the stakes are high in veteran teacher terminations: 'Retirement' without quality pensions

Harper's Magazine had a sobering August, 2014 article, "The End of Retirement," in which Jessica Bruder reported on retirees that had inadequate pensions. She encountered roving "elderly migrant workers" who work at Amazon warehouses or on farms.

Many of the points from the Harper's Article: Many of these workers were actually former members of the middle class, with management jobs in corporate America. These new migrants often travel in RVs, moving from job to job. The work is often too taxing for people their age, people in their 70s or 80s. Corporate America's shift from traditional pensions to 401(k)s has meant that workers have lost in the long run.

Some of the main points were earlier published in U.S. News & World Report, "A Disturbing Look at the New Retirement."

ATRs, and other teachers threatened with termination-- This is your future if the DOE field supervisors or other administrators. 

Notice how many ATRs with between 20 and 25 satisfactory rating years in the system and are suddenly getting U ratings? Termination before 25 years will keep these teachers away from getting full pensions necessary for a quality retirement. The opportunity to "hold down runaway pensions" is likely what is driving the effort to terminate teachers, whether by observation of ATRs in substituting situations or by Danielson-style teacher evaluation. Tenure remains, but states have an opportunity to evade their pension obligations. 

And where is the UFT on this threat? As field supervisors inappropriately give unsatisfactory ratings in subbing performances, ATRs are feeling abandoned. ATRs felt sold out by the Contract on Educators. Now they feel betrayed, as members report hearing UFT president Mulgrew buying WNYC's rhetoric and calling ATRs "unwanted teachers" on NPR, when the reality is that their salaries prevent them from being hired

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When a crime is a crime it is when the crime is not righted

"[Making mayoral control permanent] would build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range reforms that are needed.” --NYC mayor Bill De Blasio

This system has made me an ATR or as we who were infected by the bloombust reforms call us The Walking Dead, know full well how "reforms" have worked. As to what another mayor will do when this one leaves is of no consolation to me or my brother and sister ATRs. We will have been long retired and unaffected by what the next mayor does or doesn't do to a system that is so far gone that it is a hair's breath from being declared terminal. I came into the system wanting to do nothing else but teach. Yet, the city that I was born, grew up and educated in has done everything that it can do to destroy that once love I had.
My legacy (HA!) is that of being abused and disrespected by the system that I was proud to work for, once, long ago.     --"Walker"

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"I don't care about ATRs. I don't deal with ATRS and this is not my problem."

In the DOE we're supposed to be respectful to each other, working collegially. Unfortunately, some feel free to dish it out on ATRs, taking an attitude we'd expect more from Leadership Academy grads.

So after checking with my district rep and with Amy Arundell, I confirmed that the teacher's choice forms do, in fact, go to the payroll secretary at our current school and that this fact was relayed in the Principals' Weekly mailing. 
So I once again took the envelope down to the payroll secretary and told her as much. She said, "I don't know what you want me to do with that. You're not on my list. But if you insist, I'll take it and just put it in a drawer here and keep it. But I'm not going to do anything with it." 
So I said, "But if it just sits in a drawer, I'm going to have money deducted from my check, right? " She said, "Probably". So I said that she needs to find out where my stuff is supposed to go so that doesn't happen. 
And she said, "Listen. I don't want you to tell me anything. I don't want anything explained to me. I don't know about ATRs. I don't want to know about ATRs. I don't care about ATRs. I don't deal with ATRs and this is not my problem. I'm not calling or emailing ANYWHERE because this is YOUR problem, not mine. I don't have to deal with ATRs, so don't tell me anything, because I'm not interested. I'd rather not even know your name." 
So I emailed Amy and my district rep with a CC to the principal and included her quotes. And I ended by saying that I hope she doesn't speak to parents like that, and that I find this unprofessional and degrading.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Delegates that support ACRs/ATRs and educators will support these resolutions at Wednesday's UFT Delegate Assembly

Resolution for Full Union Representation for ATRs
Please raise for NEXT MONTH’S AGENDA

Whereas, the Delegate Assembly is the highest policy making body in the United Federation of
Teachers, and
Whereas, federal labor law requires that policy making bodies within a union be democratically
elected with each member entitled to a vote, and
Whereas, Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) are not entitled to vote in Chapter Elections unless they
happen to be working in a school that has a Chapter Election during a particular week that the ATR is
working in a school, and
Whereas, unions can set up reasonable rules as to who can run for office, but it is not reasonable that
ATRs including Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers cannot run or serve as
Delegates or Chapter Leaders simply because they belong to no Chapter, and
Whereas, the ATR position has now been embedded in the UFT contract in Section 16 of the 2014
Memorandum of Agreement, therefore be it
Resolved, that the UFT will immediately create a Functional Chapter to represent the interests of
ATRs, Leave Replacement Teachers and Provisional Teachers.
Movement of Rank and File Educators is the Social
Justice Caucus of the UFT- New York City’s Teachers union.
We are a positive alternative to the current union leadership.
Want to talk MORE?
Join us for a post-DA gathering at 6 pm, just a few blocks away at
the White Horse Tavern, 25 Bridge St.

Whereas, both New York State gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino vocally
support the privatization of education through the expansion of charter schools, and the Green Party
ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones oppose charter schools, and
Whereas, Andrew Cuomo has pushed through an expansion of testing statewide and the punitive linking of test scores to teacher evaluations, while the Hawkins/Jones ticket opposes an emphasis on
testing, and
Whereas, Andrew Cuomo implemented a destructive tax cap that has forced massive layoffs of teachers in upstate districts, and
Whereas, the New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers have declined to endorse
Cuomo because of his anti-education policies, and
Whereas the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, East Williston Teachers Association, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, Diane Ravitch, the Coalition for Public Education,
the Independent Commission on Public Education and three local NYC Democratic clubs have all
endorsed the Hawkins/Jones ticket, and
Whereas, the Hawkins/Jones platform of a Green New Deal calls for equitable funding for all of our
schools, reduced class sizes across the state, support for programs that promote desegregation in
our schools, an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies driving the school-to-prison pipeline,
and allowing schools to develop methods of assessment organic to the learning process, and
Whereas, Astorino and Cuomo are both millionaires while Hawkins and Jones are both union activists,
Hawkins in Teamsters, Jones in the UFT and PSC, therefore be it,
Resolved, the United Federation of Teachers endorses Howie Hawkins for Governor of New York State and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor. Be it further
Resolved, the UFT, through COPE, inform its members of this endorsement, the contrasts between the candidates on key education issues, and mobilize its members to support the Hawkins/Jones campaign.