Hello, ATRs are suing

Thursday, December 17, 2015

NJ ATR fought her set-up tenure termination and won

Earlier this year a Newark teacher fought her tenure termination and won in state arbitration. The infamous Cami Anderson, who had overseen schools in New York City correctional institutions, and then ruled Newark Public Schools, sought to tighten the pressure on our displaced teacher counterparts, "Educators Without Placements," (EWP). Remember that the righteous Anderson was driven out of office after intense protests by Newark Public Schools students.

Bob Braun's Ledger:

How Newark set up a tenured teacher to fail

Tenured Newark school teacher LaRhonda Ragland—a former member of the Alvin Ailey dance company and a New Jersey Nets cheerleader—was set up to fail  by the  state-run school administration, a state-appointed arbitrator has ruled. In a 41-page decision reinstating the teacher after the district tried to fire her, the arbitrator described how Ragland, a single mother with a teenaged child, was declared an “educator without placement” (EWP)  by the administration of superintendent Cami Anderson, then transferred from  Maple Avenue School to Arts High  where she was given non-teaching duties to perform. She was assigned to teach  only when administrators wanted to evaluate her–then gave her poor evaluations.
“The District set Respondent (Ragland) up to fail and simply marked time until it could file tenure charges against the teacher,” wrote state-appointed arbitrator, Timothy Brown.
Brown described how Ragland, who had appeared in the Off-Broadway show “Jam the Groove,” was made a hall-monitor and some-time substitute teacher of non-dance subjects at Arts High where administrators made it clear early on in her stay there that she was not welcome.  She was only evaluated for the few days she was assigned to teach high school-level dance classes, something she had  not done in her previous nine years in the Newark public schools.
“It is fiction to believe that Respondent would succeed in observations of
her teaching high school students at a high school devoted to the arts
when Respondent had previously taught dance only at the elementary
school level and had been assigned hall monitoring and substitute
teaching in non-dance subjects at the arts high school,” Brown concluded.
The arbitrator made it clear that the administration wanted Ragland to fail.
“By its actions and inactions….the District pursued a course of
conduct that assured that, rather than conduct observations of a dance teacher teaching a
dance class of the teacher’s students, the District could conduct observations of a
substitute teacher/hall-monitor attempting to teach students for whom the teacher had no
teacher-student relationship. The outcome of such observations were effectively
determined before they began….”
Throwing tenured teachers out of their jobs and making them EWPs has been a favorite strategy of the state administration under Anderson. By the beginning of this school year, Anderson had assigned more than 400 teachers to EWPs positions in the apparent hope that many would quit rather than be paid for doing nothing.
Many, however, did not quit and Ragland’s experiences shows what happens–they face being set up to fail by being assigned to jobs they are not trained to do.
The arbitrator also found the administration had no intention of helping Ragland overcome whatever problems she may have had in her difficult transition from an elementary school teacher to a EWPs position in high school. Such efforts to help teachers with alleged problems are required both by the new teacher tenure law and the district’s contract with the Newark Teachers Union (NTU).
“TEACHNJ”–the new teacher tenure law–”contemplates that, before he or she may be terminated from a teaching positions (sic), to improve the performance of the struggling teacher, such a teacher will receive a real – rather than feigned – prolonged effort to provide guidance and mentorship from the most advanced and knowledgeable educators in the teacher’s school: the principal and high-level administrators. Here, the District, through its administrators at Arts High School, predetermined that Respondent would never improve and could not be successfully reformed and arbitrarily withheld such efforts from Respondent, ” the arbitrator wrote.
Brown, the arbitrator, describes just how unwelcome the school administration made Ragland feel. He wrote, ” Only a week or two before her first observation,
Respondent was unambiguously advised in a disciplinary write-up from
principal (Lynn Irby-Jackson) that ‘…you are a EWPS teacher…you are not
an Arts High School dance teacher…’ Such
reflects Respondent’s status as an outsider at the school and the
Principal’s view that Respondent was not at the High School for
purposes of teaching dance.”
Brown also noted that the principal called Ragland “functionally illiterate” and said she was “outraged” that she was allowed to teach at Arts. Clearly, whatever the motive Anderson may have had for sending her to Arts as a EWP, Irby-Jackson didn’t want her there.
The NTU, which has represented Ragland and nearly a dozen other teachers brought up on tenure charges by Anderson, has won all its tenure cases this year and has repeatedly called on the superintendent and state Education Commissioner David Hespe to stop the efforts to fire tenured teachers,
The other cases were thrown out because Anderson insisted on using evaluations in both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 years as admissible against teachers under the new anti-tenure bill, TEACHNJ. However, both law and regulations considered that first year to be a “pilot” year and evaluations conducted then could not be used.
Under the anti-tenure law, any teacher who receives two years of bad evaluations must be brought up on expedited tenure charges.
The arbitrator in the Ragland case cited that reason for dismissing the tenure charges against her but he also pointed out that the district failed any effort to try to help the teacher improve.  The efforts, he said, were “feigned,” and not real.
Ragland, 44, was raised in Chicago and began her dancing there. She moved east in 1993 and worked professionally as a dancer until 2005 when she was hired by the Newark public schools as a an alternate route teacher.
Robert Pickett, the West Orange lawyer who defended Ragland, called the arbitrator’s  decision “a major victory, not just for Ms.Ragland, but for all teachers who must rely on the new tenure law to keep their jobs.”
Pickett said he already has demanded that Ragland be reinstated “in a position that is consistent with her license and her experience.”
Ragland said she would not comment on the case.
(If events like this trouble you, you might consider signing this petition: If events like this trouble you, you might consider signing this petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-for-the-resignation-1
Ras Baraka did).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

In the season of ATR liquidation, some sobering realities of how excessed teachers in other cities are much luckier

The DeBlasio-Farina liquidation of the ATRs via U ratings by field supervisors for ATR performances in subbing settings within student strangers, is in full swing, accelerated over the rates seen in Bloomberg's last term, as we've analyzed this month (for instance, here) and as the Chaz blog has reported here. The UFT? It is completely silent. As we've pointed out, its leadership backed observations as soon as rotation started in fall, 2011. Remember, Weingarten, yes, terrible for agreeing in 2005 to the end of the seniority transfer and agreeing in 2007 to Fair School Funding (aka Fair Student Funding), at least sued the DOE for age discrimination, and spoke forcefully of our worth as educators. Words you'll never hear in public from Michael Mulgrew or Leroy Barr.
Clearly, life is far worse for ATRs today, compared to the first two terms of Bloomberg.

The UFT loves to allude to excessed teachers' find a job in a few months or get terminated condition in Rahm Emanuel's Chicago. UFT really must thank their lucky stars that Chicago teachers are just a few months to "find a new job" after they get excessed from school closings or other causes. But the UFT is a just employing a deception that deflects from the rosier status for excessed teachers elsewhere in the nation. As you see from this linked comparative study of excessing nationally, the trend is that districts place teachers and that SENIORITY HELPS teachers.
This Thanksgiving, be conscious that even though you might "feel happy you have a job," keep in mind that the trend in many other U.S. cities is towards placement. This ultimately links with the observations issue, because is that there is NO parallel situation of veteran teachers observed out of license or in subbing situations and losing their licenses over this. Take time to carefully read this survey of over 100 cities and their teacher excessing practices. Visit the original site at the National Council for Teacher Quality to see the graphics. And remember: the NYC DOE places excessed paraprofessionals; so why can't the DOE return to pre-2011 practices? Have DOE outcomes really improved since the DOE adopted the rotation policy?
Remember; the U ratings for subbing performances are real: they are sending teachers into 3020a termination hearings.

From the NCTQ site:

April 2015: Transfers and Excessing

Welcome to the Teacher Trendline, NCTQ’s monthly newsletter designed just for school district officials (subscribe here). Each month we use data from NCTQ’sTeacher Contract Databaseto highlight the latest trends in school district policies and collective bargaining agreements nationwide. The database contains teacher policies from 118 school districts and two charter management organizations, including the 50 largest districts, the largest district in each state, Broad Prize winners, Gates investment districts and members of the Council of the Great City Schools. State-level teacher policies from all 50 states are also included.Send feedback to teachertrendline@nctq.org.
Whether by choice or circumstance, teachers change schools within districts regularly. This month's Teacher Trendline will examine what teachertransfers and excessing looks like in the 118 districts in the Teacher Contract Database.
Voluntary transfers are often initiated by teachers for personal or professional reasons. Teachers may want to transfer to another school for a wide variety of reasons, such as philosophical differences with a principal or a desire to teach in a school closer to home. For most teachers, there's little risk in seeking a voluntary transfer: until a transferring teacher has been assigned to a new position, he or she does not give up the old one.
In some districts, teachers who voluntarily transfer are given priority during the hiring process. While about half of the districts in the Teacher Contract Database do not address this issue in contract and/or board policy, 41 percent of districts give priority to internal transfers for vacant positions. 

 [See original article for chart.]

The eight districts that do not formally prioritize internal transfers over new hires for vacancies are Burlington (VT), Dayton (OH), Fargo,Fulton County (GA), Nashville, Newark, Prince William County and St. Paul.
The 49 districts that do give preference to internal transfers for vacancies sometimes face criticism around this practice because this prioritization can have the unintended consequence of prolonging the hiring process, pushing potential new hires out of districts’ human capital pipeline. Some districts try to avoid this challenge by getting a head start on the hiring process and/or limiting the time in which transferring teachers receive priority.
Boston, for example, provides a limited window of 10 days in which permanent teachers who are transferring can have priority in applications. Duval County (FL) gives priority to internal transfers until May 1. Voluntary transfers in Los Angeles only receive preference until April 15. In San Diego, internal transfers receive "priority consideration" for vacancies; however, in priority schools, positions not filled by February, relatively early in the hiring cycle, are opened to outside candidates.
As opposed to voluntary transfers, excessing is a process where teachers are involuntarily forced to move schools because they no longer have a position in their current school. Teachers are excessed when a school has to cut or change the composition of staff due to any number of issues including, but not limited to, a drop in student enrollment, budgetary cuts or programmatic changes.
Districts negotiate a number of ways to identify teachers for excessing, but the most common method found in collective bargaining agreements is still seniority. Of the districts in the Teacher Contract Database, nearly half (48 percent) use district-level seniority as the primary factor for excessing teachers. Another 16 percent use seniority in addition to other factors, like school need or teacher performance.
Only 13 percent of districts do not use seniority as either a primary or significant factor when excessing; of these districts, five percent use seniority as a tie-breaker if all other characteristics between two teachers are equal.

 [See original article for chart.]

West Ada (ID), one of the districts that use seniority to identify teachers for excessing, utilizes both school- and district-level seniority in the excessing process. In cases where there is a surplus of teachers within one school, West Ada teachers are identified for excessing based on building seniority; district seniority is used as a tiebreaker if all other factors are equal.
Placement after excessing
Usually, excessed teachers are not out of a job, as the district is contractually obligated to find them a new position.
Mutual consent, a process in which teachers and principals mutually agree on a teacher’s placement within a school through an interview process, is practiced in 12 districts in the Teacher Contract Database. Of those, Douglas County (CO) and Boston allow only tenured teachers to be a part of the mutual consent process.
In 14 districts, excessed teachers are placed in schools in order of their seniority based on their preferences. In the five districts where excessed teachers are placed in schools based on multiple factors, four of those districts (Cleveland, Jefferson County (KY), Kansas City (MO) andOklahoma City) use seniority as one of the factors for assigning excessed teachers to new schools.
 [See original article for chart.]
 When mutual consent is used to place excessed teachers into new positions, as it is in 12 districts in the Teacher Contract Database (Boston,Denver, District of Columbia, Douglas County (CO), Harrison District Two (CO), Minneapolis, Newark, Palm Beach County (FL),Polk County (FL), Providence, San Francisco and Seattle) there are times when teachers are left without a match. The policies for what happens to those teachers at that point in the process are listed in the table below.
 [See original article for chart.]

Monday, November 23, 2015

The field supervision program deceives on its pledge to help place teachers, so why does the UFT support the DOE's program?

The United Federation of Teachers backs the New York City DOE's observation program of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve. Read this 2011 post which reported the UFT's Secretary Michael Mendel's endorsement of observations of ATRs in rotation. Yet, the UFT ignores the fact that the field supervisors do not help ATRs find jobs, in spite of the script that field supervisors recite on their first meeting with ATRs under their supervision, “my job is to help find you a position.” The DOE and Unity-UFT cannot point to any evidence of how the field supervisor's work contributes to ATRs' finding positions. All together, the UFT is complicit with the DOE. Given the facts of the observation program in actual practice, the field supervisor's function is to harass veteran teachers into quitting. It is no wonder that ATRs are coming together for class action lawsuits.

If field supervisors are finding teachers to be satisfactory two, three, four years in a row, why are they not taking these assessments and using these judgments to help refer ATRs jobs for positions? As there are no sincere efforts to place ATRs, it is inherently evident DeBlasio-Farina are continuing Bloomberg's attack on senior teachers. Thus, term one of mayor DeBlasio's administration is to the right of the first two and a half terms of Mike Bloomberg's administration (that is, 2002-2011), when that mayor placed excessed teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, etc. 

So, the question is, why is the UFT so adamant about backing the field supervision program? It has never criticized the program in principle. The closest it has come to criticize the program has been when Amy Arundell has complained in yearly ATR informational meetings of a few bad apple field supervisors. The UFT has not sent to every ATR notice of their rights to be observed under the conditions of "Teaching for the 21 Century." The UFT has not posted notice of this on their website. True, the UFT has posted the document but it has failed to give the link the prominence that it warrants. Is it any wonder that the ICEUFT blog in "Queens UFT to ATRs: We'll Fight YOur Unsatisfactory Observations Only When Admin. Tries to Terminate You," called the observation program a colossal fraud? As the ICEUFT blog pointed out these observations violate the spirit of Article 8J of the contract. (Note that since that March 12, 2014 post it has become evident that the DeBlasio administration DOE has increased the rate of U-ratings based on observations. Furthermore, the DOE has initiated 3020a termination proceedings against many victims of these pedagogically unsound observations, with not a peep of protest from UnityUFT.)

It could be that the UFT is trying to play nice with the sister union, the supervisors' union. If the program field supervision/observing ATRs under substituting situations is eliminated, then the roving administrators stand to lose their positions. The UFT is known to play friendly with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA). See, for example, this notice of a UFT/CSA District 26 social. The UFT's support for the field supervision program gives critical support for this jobs program for excessed and retired administrators. Shouldn't the UFT advocate for ATRs first and play chummy with the CSA second?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Proof that DOE/UFT expects ATRs to countermand administrators, and proof that the UFT advocates for the DOE, not for teachers or parents

There is clear proof that the DOE's field supervisors have given U ratings to ATRs out of license and has expected ATRs to usurp the authority of the local administration. The Chaz blog's “Halloween Special - Horror Stories From The ATR Pool” showed several examples of DOE professional misconduct toward ATRs. See the case of the science teacher U-rated doing a coverage in a foreign language class. This rating is outrageous. How can a teacher be rated on carrying out the lesson that was not their own creation, carrying out a lesson that is out of their professional license? The DOE took the position that the teacher should have switched from carrying out the lesson that the teacher left, and switched to a lesson that was in the subject within the teacher's license.

Additionally, the idea that teachers must interject with a lesson confounds the nature of teaching and learning. Lessons are given sequentially, in context of prior lessons building knowledge up to the current lesson. Concepts depend on a previous lesson. For example, there are classes a, b, c, d, e, f, g. Knowledge builds sequentially. The student in class “d” has been through classes a, b, c. The student would be bored with having to repeat a lesson. Yet, if the teacher is bringing in “g” or “h” the student is frustrated with a lesson that is sequentially too far along. This is why we see at the high school and college level the term, “prerequisite.” Certain topics are needed before others can be introduced. The DOE's insistence on teachers dropping in from above and interjecting their own topical agenda, displacing the agenda of students, fails to understand this fundamental point of pedagogy.

Also, there is the issue of Units. Besides the issue of lessons within a unit, there is the issue of lessons that are of different units. Despite the efforts of the city to have uniform unit schedules, it is obvious to ATRs that in all the subjects, math, science, social studies, foreign language, English, different schools and different teachers are in different units, following their own calendar. This is the United States, not France, where lessons all over the country are on identical topics, no matter the city or town. Here again, we see the DOE expects the ATR to drop in and deliver a lesson that is in great likelihood out of place. Foreign language students might not know the words on weather. Chemistry classes could be covering molecules instead of solvents. History classes could be covering Africa instead of India. ATRs are expected to capture the attention and cooperation of students. However, is the DOE considering that it is frustrating for students to be getting different topics from what they are expecting.

Isn't it clear that the obvious objective of the lesson, in the DOE's eyes, is not to carry out the local administration's lesson, but to carry out the ATR's own intruding lesson? This is an expectation that pressures the ATR to challenge and undercut the authority of the school, the authority of the teacher. And it misserves the students. Just as parents are recognizing that the point of standardized tests are not to judge students, but to judge teachers, parents ought to recognize that the DOE's aim is not to give students a substitute lesson, but to turn students into guinea pigs for a gotcha game against teachers. Why should students consent to being guinea pig tools of the DOE instead of students of the topic that they came to class for? Principals, the absent teachers, parents and students themselves ought to feel insulted and unrepresented in this absurd DOE policy.

The second outrage is that the UFT has backed the DOE at every step of this that should offend every one of the parties mentioned above. The UFT at the the once a year group forums for ATRs and in its instructions to ATRs backs the DOE in this mandate that the ATR intrude on the student's scheduled topic and intrusively bring in their own topic. The UFT has not taken the position of opposing field supervisors on principle, nor has it opposed on principle the idea that field supervisors can get away with observing teachers out of license. In its failure to oppose the observations it is obvious that the UFT is backing the DOE's position and opposing the ATRs' position.

Just why does the UFT support the DOE instead of its own members? Isn't this ironic, as the ATR UFT members are paying dues to an organization that backs central DOE, against the interests of the substituting teacher, the absent teacher, the local administrators, the students and the parents?

Is it any wonder that teachers are pursuing class action lawsuits against the DOE? Isn't it obvious that the union isn't representing them and that they are having to resort to representing themselves?

Monday, October 26, 2015

UFT to ATRs: your job in schools is to prep for the field supervisor; you need to advocate for yourselves

Another big topic at the UFT's official ATR meetings was observations and field supervisors.

For other topics this month in these meetings, see the postings here and here.

When you break down what the UFT's official representative says to us: your mission comes to this: your duty over all else is to be ready for demo lessons. The other tricky thing is that she is telling us that we have to do the UFT's and the DOE's work in correcting local administration misdeeds.

We are supposed to have demo lessons ready for use in case our field supervisor appears.  All UFT instructions to us are shaped around the eventuality that a field supervisor appears.
(Of course, this conflicts with the nominal purpose of our work: substituting for absent teachers in the absent teacher's subject. See this blog posting about how this naturally sets up a conflict with the students.)

Reflecting the steady theme that our main mission is to prepare for field supervisors is Amy Arundell's statement to one member that asked, how is it fair that we are judged on a lesson out of our subject, that another teacher has left, and how are we to be responsible for sub lessons that are imperfect? Her answer was that in the event that the students are distracted and off-task, then we should switch subjects and assignments and bring in our own sub lesson.

What is highly problematic is that we are judged on following certain guidelines given to ATRs. Yet, these guidelines are only distributed at the ATR meetings. And many ATRs were unaware of these meetings or the high value information disseminated at these meetings. These guidelines are not sent to all ATRs from the UFT or the DOE via email or US mail. They are not posted on the DOE or UFT websites. Wouldn't this call the absurdity and offensiveness for all to see if they were posted this way?

Thus, the DOE & the UFT treat these stipulations as the real contract. But only a fraction of the ATRs are at these ATR meetings. So, we are subject to what the DOE/UFT treat as the official contract, a contract that most ATRs are not informed of. Never mind that these stipulations of supplanting nominal class topics with our own lesson agendas or the overriding mission that we make all of our attention for the likelihood of being observed by the roving field supervisor are not in the general DOE-UFT contract or in the (between official contracts) periodically renegotiated DOE-UFT side agreements on ATRs.

Adding to the contradictory messages is the DOE/UFT line that the field supervisors are helping us find positions (which is why they ask us for our resumes). This is a highly doubtful mission of the field supervisors, because as all parties know, it is extremely rare for teachers to get placed, due to Fair School Funding, which Unity Caucus-UFT agreed to in 2007.  See this blogpost explaining how post-2018 contractual conditions drive principals to be risk-aversive and avoid hiring ATRs. With all of the observations happening it is more likely a Russian Roulette.

These are all serious concerns as the DOE has issued U ratings to ATRs based on sub setting observations.

As always comes up in these meetings the local (school) DOE administrators --usually at new, small schools-- violate the agreements. One of the most common violations is assigning ATRs to duties outside the contractual agreement, or duties such as standing hall duty if there is no sub assignment. The UFT rep at the meetings tells us that we must challenge the local administrators. This puts us in an awkward position. We could be brought up on insubordination charges or at least labeled as having a bad attitude.

Members will be relieved to know that two particular field supervisors have been removed, but the UFT cannot inform us who they are.

One major detail is that not all ATRs get field supervisors. A common thread among those getting them is that they are upper ranges of years with the DOE. It has been revealed by some retired principals that the DOE has certain spreadsheets flagging staff by salary, and that targeting is concentrated on higher salary staff. Another factor in play as to whether teachers get targeted by field supervisors is whether teachers have taken many sick days. This is problematic because this creates an inducement to not stay home and shield staff and students from one's illness. Also, it intimidates teachers and other excessed staff from giving attention to ailing children or parents. The latter is particularly a problem for the middle aged ATRs who are tending to rising needs of aging parents. What an awful thing to do- pressure people to keep a distance from parents in their parents' last years.

Basically, the UFT is telling us that we have to be our own advocate. In fact our appointed advocate has said so much: "You have to stand up for yourselves!"  This is problematic. The UFT must have high-level meetings with  the DOE to enforce these. When the DOE wants something done it makes sure all principals comply, such as training in security procedures. (By the way, parents would be interested in knowing that ATRs are routinely denied keys. In emergencies teachers are supposed to lock rooms. But this is not an option for ATRs, since they are usually denied keys.)

Besides, ATRs have enough stress, preparing for lessons for kids we don't know and trying to fit in, in alien territory, to have the added job of advocating for ourselves.

Hey, UFT, do your job and advocate for us. Don't expect us to do it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

UFT to ATRs: NYC has many new teacher schools and principals are saving bundles

At one of the UFT's once a year boro ATR meetings Amy Arundell said that there many schools across New York City where the DOE has has hired mainly or only new teachers. She added that many of these schools are renewal schools and that because of these hiring patterns test scores are suffering and that this adding to their phase-out status.

And at the latest UFT delegate assembly president Mulgrew said that the union has taken in 6,000 new members. That means thousands of displaced roving teachers could have had stationary teaching assignments. But unlike Randi Weingarten, Mulgrew has never pushed for a hiring freeze, and has never advocated for the ATRs, pressing the city to hire them. See this age discrimination lawsuit the Weingarten waged, to get the city place ATRs. Read this Chaz post from that time. On the new teachers, Mulgrew at last week's DA said, "we're going to do the new teachers." Whatever that meant.

The union is only too happy to have the dual dues income stream of dues paying new teachers and dues paying wandering ATRs. This is more favorable for the UFT over the pre-rotation pattern of the city hiring more subs than today. Subs don't pay the full union dues that ATRs pay. New teachers have the posts we could have had, and the UFT has dues from both new and old teachers.

Where are the kids in all this? Arundell pointed out that the students and their Regents test scores are suffering. ATRs see that thousands are suffering in another way. At schools across the city schools drag their feet and do not hire teachers for vacancies --including in Regents classes. They ask the ATRs passing through: when will we get a teacher? Will you be our new teacher? Will you be entering the grades? Will you speak to our parents? ATRs honestly have to say that they don't know.
Bloomberg/Walcott's and now DeBlasio/Farina's policy has been driven by spite against veteran teachers; it has not been productive. Children, as we see, are the victims.

And when the city starts placing ATRs in "provisional" positions what they mean is that they are placing teachers in positions only for the four to six weeks that they will be in the school. Students ask the same questions of the teacher. ATRs, for their part, ask students about past teachers that year and learn that they have had a revolving door of different teachers different weeks or months. Of course, many students feel bitter, abandoned. No wonder many lack motivation. Who gets blamed? The ATR of course.

Realistically, how well do you think that teachers can get students to put their all into their work under these situations?  The students treat the ATRs as extended time subs. And more than a few students have been upset when they find that the teacher they finally warmed to in a month is going to be replaced the next week by an entirely different teacher. The UFT claims to be the union that cares about students and families. Where is the advocacy this time? And readers, imagine that your child were in such classrooms. Would you appreciate DeBlasio's continuing this Bloomberg era policy against placing teachers on a permanent basis?

She made this revelation after acknowledging a point that critics have long made: "There are many schools where principals are making a lot of money" by filling their schools with new teachers. For example, see these postings at the Chaz blog here and here. This conforms to our point that Fair School Funding which the union agreed to in 2007, is creating administrator bias against hiring ATRs our other senior salary staff. (The union let the city jump into FSF. Quickly it meant big trouble.) However, she said that the principals were not being truthful.

Here is the nuance: principals will hire people for the first year because the city pays their salary, but beyond the second year they will have to pay for them out of their own budget. It's only in that preliminary time frame that the principals are off the hook. 
This is explained in August 8's Chaz School Daze

Despite, all the restrictions the union and the DOE imposed on the ATRs, the union made a point to tell the ATRs in their October meeting that the ATR Agreement will help get them positions as principals will employ them for the school's average teacher salary the first year, with the DOE paying the rest and for free the second year. What a great deal! Except, they didn't tell the ATRs the fine print attached to the ATR Agreement. You see the free second year comes with a major string attached. The free second year comes with the permanent appointment of the ATR to the school and that means the ATR's seniority will be taken into account if the school does any future excessing. That's right. Once the Principal picks up the ATR for the second year, they are permanently appointed, with full seniority rights. Therefore, few principals are willing to take a chance, unless they get a special waiver from DOE Central to keep the ATR a second year without permanently appointing the ATR.

Where does this all come from? We can't find this online in the UFT contract? Chaz explained:
The ATR pool of teachers range from a maximum of 2,600 at the beginning of the school year, to 1,000 near the end. Does that mean the 1,600 excessed teachers received an appointed position? The answer is an emphatic no! Most of the 1,600 ATRs are either provisionally appointed for the year or on a long-term leave replacement assignment. Almost all of those teachers will be back into the ATR pool at the end of the school year. Unlike the CSA (administrators) and DC37 (secretaries), the UFT members, except for paras, are rotated throughout the year. The union negotiated a two year ATR agreement that ends in the 2015-16 school year and must be renegotiated for the 2016-17 school year and beyond, otherwise, it reverts back to the 2007 ATR Agreement. How has it worked? In my opinion, terribly! Few ATRs have landed permanent positions and the ATR pool is as large as ever. The union had touted that if a school picked up an ATR for the second year, the ATR was free for the school. Then why don't principals take the DOE up on their generous offer? The answer was that there are strings attached. First, let's look at the two year ATR agreement the union negotiated with the DOE. without any input from the people affected, the ATRs. The union agreed to the DOE's demands that ATRs must go to mandatory interviews in their Borough (not Districts) and missing two would result in termination. That ATRs have no right to refuse an assignment or position and if they don't show up by the second day, they are terminated. If two consecutive principals or in consecutive years, find the ATR's behavior not to their liking, the ATR will be subject to a termination hearing. In other words, the union agreed to reduced "due process rights" for ATRs. Oh, did I forget about the one day 3020-a hearing for the ill-defined problematic behavior? How about the ridiculous "flyby observations" by the DOE field supervisors assassins that have resulted in quite a few "unsatisfactory" ratings and some 3020-a charges this year? The result was that the ATRs became second class citizens.
The UFT needs to fight for the termination of the Fair Student Funding formula. DeBlasio needs to start being a mayor that does not show contempt for veteran workers as Bloomberg did. Actions speak louder than the words of pretenses of progressive. Career-threatening dubious U ratings from field supervisor observations, under substitute settings, grown to a record level under DeBlasio/Farina. DeBlasio, we're reading your actions. Right now, your labor and DOE policies are looking little different from Bloomberg's.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

UFT to ATRs: We're not going to advocate for you -- On the eve of the Friedrichs decision the UFT talks like this?

The UFT held official ATR meetings at the boro offices in recent weeks. As pointed out earlier, there were many problems with how the meetings were timed. They were inappropriately timed for actual teacher schedules.

The way that the meetings were conducted were problematic. These were informational meetings, with Amy Arundell speaking in a yelling tone for about an hour. She repeated some points several times. Her taking up most of the time with a one-way delivery was similar to the way that President Mulgrew takes up over an hour with his running monologue at the Delegate Assemblies that leave little time at the end for member questions. As one commenter reported, her response to one member was, "OK, Mr. glass is half-empty." Is this any way for a representative to speak to a member? Shouldn't a union (or rather, Unity caucus) that staunchly refuses to allow members for represent themselves speak in a more cordial manner? Or is the union so arrogantly confident of its power that it doesn't need to consider how it speaks to members?

While the UFT could be facing the end of the union in terms of dues income, the UFT is acting in as cavalier a fashion as it ever has. Is it any wonder that Arundell speaks so flippantly? This is a union that takes a King George III approach to representation on the question of ATR representation. With this kind of attitude is there any way that the union expects to successfully appeal to ATRs for dues if the Friedrichs decision turns government employee unions into open shop unions? Is the UFT planning to cut us loose?

The comments below speak to the reactions that many ATRs have had about the UFT's position during these meetings, that the UFT is acting more as an arm of the NYC Department of Education, just echoing the DOE's line. ATRs have consistently said that observations of ATRs in subbing situations are deeply problematic and illogical. (On the issue of ATR observations, see here and here. Here is the UFT's justification of the observations. What clearer case do we have that the UFT is operating as the arm of the DOE?) Instead of hearing our concerns, the UFT representative has spoken in a scolding tone to the ATRs, delivering what the ATRs must do. It's interesting that past guideline sheets that the UFT gave the ATRs spoke of rights and responsibilities. This year's sheets just spoke of ATRs' responsibilities. Why the change? This is a union that speaks to the members, rather than being influenced by its members.

The DOE has succeeded in imposed on ATRs conditions that are imposed outside of the contract. Related to this comment:  "Why is there not an official document from the UFT and DOE stating these expectations for ATRs? Instead, there is collusion between the UFT and DOE to allow harassment of ATRs behind the scenes." nowhere in the contract is there anything about conditions under which ATRs can be observed. It's not surprising that this is the case, because the UFT would probably not be able to logically justify the inappropriate conditions that it allows and that it directs ATRs to follow, through directives in the informational meetings.

The following is from an email addressed to UFT ATR rep Amy Arundell, UFT president Michael Mugrew, Queens boro rep Rona Freiser, Queens High Schools district rep James Vasquez and alternate district rep Washington Sanchez. Following that letter is an ATR's analysis of the UFT's position in the meetings.

 Dear Ms. Arundell,

 If this account of the ATR meeting is correct, the UFT is not advocating for us. This position sounds like it came directly from the DOE.

 These are unrealistic expectations set up for  ATRs to fail. How absurd is it to expect teachers covering classes to have lesson plans when the reality is that they don't know what their assignments are until they arrive to work. In addition, the school's expectation is for the teacher to implement the lesson that was left by the absentee teacher, which is usually only a handout.Many times, there is no absentee materials, in which case you "baby sit" the class. In four years as an ATR, I have never been asked to have a lesson plan for a coverage by a school.

 Why this disconnect between the school reality and these expectations? Would you be able to teach a lesson to a class out of subject or teach a different subject and have the students cooperate? In addition, is it not so that if a teacher who is observed out of license, that lesson can not be used in a final evaluation? 

  It seems the UFT wants to be" politically correct" rather than confront the DOE in advocating for ATRs.

 Why is there not an official document from the UFT and DOE stating these expectations for ATRs? Instead, there is collusion between the UFT and DOE to allow harassment of ATRs behind the scenes.

 Ms. Arundell, it is assumed you are a mouthpiece for the UFT position. If not, you should be replaced as the ATR liason.

To Mr. Mulgrew I say, do the right thing  and have the courage to advocate for the ATRs who are being subjected to stressful and unrealistic working expectations.


James Calantjis
HS Educator

Hi all, 

I went to a Queens UFT ATR meeting several days ago.

Instead to oppose the shameful treatment of ATRs by their field supervisors,  UFT actually agrees with all of the DOE inhumane demands as:

1. Field Supervisors may conduct unannounced, informal observations. These may be done even if you are covering a class out-of-license.
 (As [an arts] teacher, I'm required to actually teach [a foreign language]!?!)

2. If your Field Supervisor and you agree on a time to be formally observed, but on that day the needs of the school dictate that you must cover a class out-of-license, you can still be observed, but the observation must be informal. 
(What a sudden psychological shock that can cause a heart attack!)

3. Field Supervisor may request a copy of your lesson plan, in conjunction with an observation. You should always have a copy of a lesson plan, either one you wrote, or one that was left for you. 
(But, an absent teacher almost never leaves his/her lesson plan; usually they leave only a handout, if so.)

4. Whether you are observed or not, if you are covering a class out of license, and you are not provided with a sub-lesson plan, you may teach a lesson in your license area. 
(This is crazy for several reasons - that the students will not listen to you since a) you teach a different subject b) they treat you as a substitute teacher whom usually they do not listen at all!)

Comments about these UFT recommendations???

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why does the DOE insist on putting ATRs in the position of usurping topics for students' classes?

Following on some other questions that we posed to the UFT, ATRs should also pose to these questions to the UFT this week at meetings:
Why is New York City DOE expecting ATRs to displace the subject agenda of the classes that they cover? Why is the UFT acting as the glove to the DOE's hand on this policy? It's a disservice to both students and teachers.

This week the UFT is holding informational meetings in which it tells ATRs what the DOE expects of them. In previous years the UFT told ATRs not to worry about the field supervisors, that the only ATRs getting U ratings are ATRs having attendance or conduct problems. However, in the 2014 to 2015 school year numerous ATRs got career threatening U ratings. As noted recently, because of the rash of the U-ratings that teachers suddenly received after two decades of unblemished services, some ATRs have begun pursuing lawsuits. The UFT, incredibly, has staunchly backed the expectation that ATRs be evaluated in subbing contexts. In a vastly under-recognized problem that the union is ignoring, many decent teachers are receiving U-ratings with students that they have just met. Read this Chaz blog post and this post too. Just how will the UFT defend its record if the Supreme Court's decision on the Friedrichs v. CTA case goes the wrong way for teachers' unions? "Be thankful you've got a job" doesn't cut it when the UFT is asleep at the switch on the issue of inappropriate field observer observations that become U-ratings for the year.

It is a good occasion then, to closely examine the awkward and contentious role that ATRs are put into as they impose their lessons that are often irrelevant and disruptive to students' daily class schedules.

For the general public and for ATRs new to the rotation process:
In normal school systems and in the NYC DOE before rotation of ATRs began in 2011, schools had teachers provide their assistant principals with timely lesson plans that fit in with the sequence of topics in the calendar of lessons that teachers had with classes.

However, since the DOE began rotating excessed teachers, it has expected ATRs to bring in lessons of their own into classrooms. So, in the Bloomberg and not really post-Bloomberg era, administrators and regular classroom teachers usually have no lesson for the ATRs. This means that not only are the students missing out on an education by the absence or their teacher, there is no appropriate lesson for the ATR substitute teacher to deliver to the students. The students' sequence of learning is disrupted.

Just what does the DOE expect for the ATR to do in this situation? The DOE official policy is that when neither the school administration, nor the absent teacher leaves a lesson the ATR should bring in their own lesson. And given that most ATRs are displaced specialists of some sort, an art teacher, an earth science teacher, an English teacher, a math teacher, a reading specialist, a social studies teacher, they have very specialized backgrounds and very specialized lessons. However, often the subject specialty does not match the subject that the ATR is covering.

Thus, the application of the DOE rules means that in art class the ATR following the DOE field supervisor mandates must intrude with their own lesson. This means that students enter their third period art studio class fully expecting to do some drawing. Yet, the English Language Arts teacher must deliver a Common Core lesson, engage the students and get some written work from the students. If the ATR does not impose her own lesson, she will risk running into trouble with her field supervisor. Not surprisingly, this introduces tension between the students and the teacher right off the bat. The students will say, "This makes no sense. This is an art class, not an English class. I'm not going to do this." The ATR that wants to stay on good graces with the field supervisor she will tell the students, "Just please do my lesson. I'm only following orders."

Just imagine the kind of conversation that this can lead to when the kids go home?
"How was school today? What did you do in art class?"
"We didn't do art. We had to read some English teacher's Common Core reading passage and work in groups on a graphic organizer."

Even if the period's subject matches the ATR's subject expertise this leads to conflicts. We are not in France, where every class across the city is on precise the same topic on September 29. Earth science ATRs can have a fine lesson, only to be told "we learned that last week!"

Isn't this a great disservice to students? The UFT claims to care about students and families. Then why does it aid and abet the hijacking of students' scheduled topics for the purpose of ATR's demo lessons in preparation for field supervisor fly-by observations?

Isn't this a disservice to teachers? Can't the UFT understand that teachers don't like disrupting students' schedule of lessons with irrelevant topics to students' scheduled topic for the period? This is no insignificant matter, particularly as many field supervisors are giving out career-endangering U-ratings.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why is the ATR pool still growing under deBlasio? Plus some questions ahead of the upcoming UFT ATR meetings

What's happening with the growing ATR pool?

It is unconfirmed that the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool has grown to as many as 4,000. What is driving the increasing number of excessed DOE staff? Despite the end of Bloomberg era closures, the growth of new schools and the growth of charters continues. As newer schools grow, taking more students, more classrooms, more teachers, existing schools lose students, lose space and lose staff. For those not in the know, the ATR pool includes guidance counselors (colloquially called ACRs, as they number in the hundreds), social workers, psychologists, librarians, besides strictly instructional staff. And by the way, the UFT has failed to unionize or demand that the DOE permanently hire various professionals such as part-time or itinerant nurses and guidance counselors. The UFT tolerates this privatized staffing, euphemistically called "service providers."

The DOE/UFT tell us that people are leaving the ATR pool. The DOE and the UFT both play the same numbers games, not giving us straight numbers about the ATR pool.

Members need to ask the UFT directly:

--How many people have been appointed from the pool, into schools?  That is, how many people have truly, permanently, left the ACR/ATR pool?
--How many people are filling a maternity or illness leave position?
--How many people are are in a position only for a semester or only for the current academic year?
--Given that the Fair School Funding formula, also known as the Fair Student Funding formula, has been the reason that principals themselves cite for not permanently placing or hiring staff out of the pool, why is the UFT not aggressively fighting the Fair School Funding formula?
--Why is the UFT not fighting for an amendment to the contract to bring seniority rights into hiring practices?
--Why is the UFT not fighting the well-known practice of DOE administrators to hire new staff over members of the Absent Teacher Reserve?

Does the UFT really want all ATRs to attend their meetings?
New excessing will occur in October, as class registers stabilize, after schools have accounted for student attendance patterns. According to the DOE's arcane excessing guidelines the excessing is concentrated in batches of staff in certain licenses, for example, a school can be found compelled to excess three teachers because of declined enrollment. As a result schools, can lose vital staff such as special education teachers, librarians or guidance counselors.

The timing of the meetings at the end of September and very early in October is not the best for the excessed staff. Many teachers and other DOE staff across the city will lose their positions in schools and will enter the ATR pool, yet they will not be introduced to the DOE's protocols for ATRs, as they would receive in the official UFT meetings for ATRs.

Here again are the official ATR meetings that the UFT has scheduled for the next two weeks:
Note that many of the meetings conflict with DOE staff obligations at schools. The 2014 contract introduced new obligations for teachers and other staff to stay late at schools. At most schools these dates fall on Mondays and Tuesdays. 

We hope that your year is off to a good start. As promised, we are contacting you to let you know that the UFT will be holding informational meetings for ATRs in the coming weeks. Whether you are new to the ATR pool or not, we want to make sure you have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.
Here are the dates and locations. Note the changed dates and times, since the announcements earlier this week, following complaints:


  • Date: originally, Monday, Sept. 28. Rescheduled to Wednesday, Sept. 30, due to complaints about Sept. 28 falling on Sukhot (the UFT has not shared this change thru mass email; details and of this change have spread by word of mouth)
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Queens borough office at 97-77 Queens Blvd. Directions »


  • Date: Monday, Sept. 28, still, despite = Sukhot
  • Time: 4:30–6 p.m. Note the later start time, but not the later finishing time.
  • Location: UFT Bronx borough office at 2500 Halsey St. Directions »


  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 1
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway Directions »

Staten Island

  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 1
  • Time: 4–6 p.m.
  • Location: UFT Staten Island borough office at 4456 Amboy Road Directions »


  • Date: Monday, Oct. 5, difficult for many teachers because 2014 contract compels teachers to stay late on two days, usually Monday and Tuesday; and at many schools faculty conferences (a late day, UFT brass, in case you didn't know) fall on the first Monday of the month
  • Time: 4:30–6 p.m. Later starting time, but original finishing time, asinthe Bronx meetings.
  • Location: UFT Brooklyn borough office at 335 Adams St. Directions »