Hello, ATRs are suing

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Teachers appeal to the union, in defense of an ATR

EdNotes reported that teachers at a MORE caucus leaning school were upset with how an ATR was being treated by the field supervisor who was visiting the ATR at the school.The teachers gave the ATR teacher their backs by signing letters of support for the excessed teacher! The union needs to wake up and show the same level of commitment that Mike, EdNotes and the teachers at this school did for this ATR.

ATRs experiencing the DOE railroading and inadequate UFT defense need to get involved in the class action lawsuit.

Teachersat Elementary School Support ATR With Letters of Support

There's an ATR in my school that is going through hell 
with his field supervisor.  My CL had the UFT Dist Rep come to our school to meet with the ATR when his field supv scheduled a meeting with the ATR and was planing to bring another field supv with her.  I suspect she was bringing back up bc the last time she was at our school the ATR asked me to be present (CL was unavailable at the time).  She refused to have a discussion with him in my presence (as his union representation). My heart goes out to this guy bc it seems clear to me he is being set up for a U rating.  He comes to our school and is given whatever coverage is available and he truly does his best to assist our kids as best he can under these circumstances.  We can look out for him as long as he is at PS -- but we can't do anything about his field supv ratings and once he's gone I'm assuming he won't find the same support elsewhere.  Is there anyone he can contact to help him navigate the bullshit?... This is the first ATR we've had that has told me their story.  I'm always welcoming to them and let them know we have an honest CL they can reach out to but since they don't know me they rarely open up like this guy did.  He overheard a conversation I was having about the state of our union and gambled I could be trusted.  This guy said PS --- is the first school he's been in where he feels some union strength-.... Thanks for everything you guys do----teachers would have no avenues to follow if it weren't for people like you. .... email to MORE activists from former chapter leader
This was sent to Mike Schirtzer and myself from a trusted supporter and source. (I'm not using her name or school to protect the ATR who could be traced - she would be fine with using her name.)

She noticed a very competent ATR being harassed in her school and jumped in to support him along with her colleagues. That school has 40 people signed up to be MORE members. (They could have even run their own slate in the UFT elections out of their school alone.)

Having his story reinforced by a trusted teacher and former chapter leader is immense. Our advice to her was to gather support within the school for the ATR by writing letters about his work in the school for him to use in a defense and she did exactly that.

She put me in touch with the ATR and we spoke for hours and I got the full story of the actions of his field supervisor and her cohorts. His story is very credible. And there might even be religious persecution issues on the table.

During our conversation he mentioned others in some schools, including principals, who praised his efforts. I suggested he start gathering names and numbers and possible statements. If they bring him upon 3020a charges, there will be a list of witnesses for him.

We hear so many complaints from ATRs about the treatment they get from colleagues in schools they are sent to. One ATR I spoke too calls the field supervisors "failed supervisors." The apparently awful James Quail, a former principal and district superintendent from my district whom I've known since 1970, is the grim reaper of field supervisors, pops up in the picture. 

We hear a lot about the gotcha mentality of ATR field supervisors - the DOE wasteful jobs program for retired principals.
We also hear lies and slanders from people with their own political agenda that MORE is not supportive of ATRs when in fact the members of MORE who have influence in their schools bend over backwards to be supportive, as this story confirms.

The ATR told me that this school had the most serious sense of union of any school he has been in since he became an ATR. And there is no little irony that the school leans toward MORE instead of Unity for support.

The MORE contact, upon seeing an ATR who had impressed people in the school come under attack by a new field supervisor (the old one found no fault), took action by writing letters of support for the ATR and sending them out to come point people at the union and possibly the DOE with more people to come if the harassment continues. They also gave the ATR copies. And she went in when he met with the Field Supervisor at one point and at another with a district rep. 

When will the UFT say something about the enormous waste in paying field supervisors to observe people functioning as substitute teachers? Do they observe regular subs? Did anyone in the history of this school system spend time and money to observe subs?

This is the letter that has been sent to Amy Arundell at the UFT who has contacted me -- and repeatedly - that she will get involved. I give Amy the benefit of the doubt and will track the outcome.
Dear Amy Arundell,
Mr. X is an ATR who was sent to our school for one of his temporary assignments. He arrived at school each morning and performed his duties as a substitute teacher in various classes depending upon which of our teachers was absent that day. He made the best of a very difficult situation. Although he did not know our students and did not know what grade or type of class (self-contained, ICT, bilingual, general ed) he would be assigned to cover, he engaged the students and we were happy to have him as part of our school community. He was punctual, respectful and eager to assist our school community on each day he arrived in our school.

As you are aware, ATRs are given sub assignments no different from day-to-day subs, yet they are observed and are expected to teach as if they have the same familiarity with the class as a permanent staff member would be expected to have. This unfair process allows for abuse on the part of field supervisors who too often act as if they are observing a teacher who has spent months with the children they are teaching rather than someone who has met a class for the first time and may have zero experience with that particular grade or may be teaching a class out of their license area.

We are writing to you, the UFT rep who is assigned to assist ATRs, to express our concern that Mr. X is being set up for failure by his field supervisor who, in our opinion, has been less than professional and fair with him. This concern was brought to the attention of UFT District --- Rep,  who promptly came to our school and met with Mr. X and his field supervisor Ms. Y as well as an additional field supervisor, who was invited by Ms. Y. The fact that Ms. Y felt it necessary to invite a co-worker to attend reeks of intimidation. It is the reason we asked [the dist rep] to come to the school when this meeting was scheduled. It was clear to us that Mr. X was about to be unfairly tag-teamed by two field supervisors as an act of intimidation. There is no other reason for two field supervisors, paid by the tax payers, to do the job of one field supervisor.
Mr. X has finished his rotation at PS X. But we have told him to think of PS X as his home school and to keep in touch with us regarding his treatment elsewhere. We are asking that you initiate and maintain contact with Mr. X and ensure that he is not scapegoated out of a job in order for a field supervisor to make her bones with the DOE. Based on how Mr. X conducted himself at PS X, it is clear to us that the man deserves to keep his paycheck and benefits. We believe in having a strong union that looks out for our most vulnerable members and it is our hope that you will demonstrate that such strength still exists. We thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

CL, PS X Chapter Leader
------, Former PS ----- Chapter Leader
Dear -------

We the undersigned support our union brothers and sisters who are ATRs. Our current and former chapter leader keep us informed on union matters and we realize that ATRs have lost their permanent positions through no fault of their own We realize that our school could be phased out in the near future and we too could find ourselves in an ATR pool where we will be vulnerable to lose our jobs, pensions and health benefits. We feel strongly that ATRs be protected and we ask that Mr. ....... be treated in a manner we would expect to be treated under such circumstances. It is our hope that Mr. ........ is not left hanging out on a limb without support now that he has left our school. We hope that our union stands by him and protects him from any injustices that he may face in his future as he travels from school to school as an ATR. It is what we would want our union to do for us if we had to walk in his shoes. 
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
PS ..... Staff Members (signed below)

A reminder: ATRs that are seeing themselves heading in the direction of a U rating for the year are urged to contact DOEatreducators@gmail.com, about joining a class action suit.