ATRs, the unrepresented -- no elected representatives in the UFT

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.
"To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another."
Thomas Paine, First Principles of Government

Friday, December 20, 2013

NYC DOE holds Danielson training, but rotating ATRs need not apply

ATRs, the NYC DOE is holding a Danielson professional development workshop. Problem is, twice in the document there are statements that bar most displaced teachers.

...teachers who have used the Framework as a reflection tool for more than a year, ...
and referring to the new evaluation system,

These trainings are available to regularly appointed teachers rated under Advance and their UFT Representatives.

Notice also, the Saturday-exclusive schedule will exclude observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists. This is not the first such instance. Will this continue under the new mayoral administration?

"A Deeper Understanding of the Danielson 2013 Framework for Teaching": Professional development for teachers  

Who should attend? This day-long session is designed for teachers who have used the Framework as a reflection tool for more than a year, including those teachers involved in the teacher effectiveness pilots and those who have attended previous full-day NYCDOE trainings led by the Danielson Group. (Schools are encouraged to send two colleagues as a team to promote professional dialogue and peer support.) This session features video of high school classroom practice. 

When are the upcoming sessions? (Click on the borough to register.) Saturday, January 11 from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Visit the Advance Professional Development Calendar for additional dates.

What will this training cover? In this session, you will:
  • Explore how to use the Framework to support your development through reflection and conversations with your peers.
  • Prepare and share your reflections on an observed lesson (differentiated by grade band) in order to deepen your own knowledge of the Framework and to support your peers in engaging in professional conversations.
  • Study authentic artifacts of teaching practice and consider ways to demonstrate your own practice in Domains 1 and 4.
How to register: 
Please contact with any questions.

These trainings are available to regularly appointed teachers rated under Advance and their UFT Representatives. Please remember that your principal's approval is required to attend school-day sessions. Eligible staff who attend Saturday and winter break sessions will be eligible for per session.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another blog's overview of ATRs, their history and situation: "A Look Inside the ATR Purgatory"

A journalist's history and analysis of the displaced teacher situation in New York City:

Originally from NYC's Best, Brightest, and Worst, May 19, 2013 

Life in Limbo: A Look Inside the ATR Purgatory


Polo Colon, 63, is wearing a spiffy brown suit–accessories include suspenders and a matching fedora. He orders camarones fritos, aguacate, and maduros (fried shrimp, sliced up avocado, and fried plantains)–all in Spanish, of course. He points to the small park outside the diner window, and describes the diversity and convenience of his neighborhood – Bushwick. He grew up in the area, attended Bushwick High School, and raised a family of his own there. Bushwick is his stomping grounds, he said. 
Just last week, Colon– a teacher in the New York City public school system since 1971–was asked to sign in at the middle school he was teaching at for the week rather than slide his attendance card across the board. For someone outside of the public school system, different ways of clocking in may seem meaningless, but it is telling of the hierarchy within the school’s staff: teachers with a permanent job assignment at a school can merely slide their card into the “present” box, whereas visiting teachers must sign in. 
“I told her [the secretary] that I’m only doing this for her,” he said.
For Colon, someone who has been a teacher for over forty years, being asked to “sign in” isn’t customary. But as a teacher in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, the practices he would normally be awarded are expired.
Colon is one of approximately 800 ATRs roaming the New York City public school system. These teachers are no longer treated with respect – not by the United Federation of Teachers, and not by the Department of Education. The ATR pool is comprised of fully licensed, fully certified teachers who have lost their permanent job positions, typically because of school closures. They find themselves roaming from school to school on a weekly basis, essentially being assigned the work of a substitute teacher.
These teachers, who have devoted years of their lives teaching students in New York City’s public school system, are treated as dispensable and are reminded of their expendability everyday.
The absent teacher reserve serves as an intermediary between the guarantee of a permanent position and actually being laid off. Teachers in the ATR pool receive the same salary and benefits, but their new job description fits that of a substitute teacher. They are no longer employed by one public school, but are employed directly by the Department of Education, and float from school to school on a weekly basis.
In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg jeopardized the jobs of over 4000 teachers, with his contested policy of shutting down “failing” schools.” Through bargaining between the United Federation of Teachers and New York City’s Department of Education, the Absent Teacher Reserve was created in 2005, for teachers who found themselves in the “rubber room”– either unable to find a permanent job because of a closing school or because they were targeted for termination.
Sam, who chose to use a different name, has been a teacher in New York City for twelve years. One year after he transferred to a different middle school, it was shut down, and he became an ATR. “I’ve been an ATR for three years, and with this colocation situation, where the DOE uses one building for three to five schools, the original school loses teachers because it loses space for its students,” he said.
 Many of these ATRs are just like Colon, who has been a teacher for over forty years–teachers who have devoted years teaching, and are now unemployable.  This is because of the Department of Education’s “fair market funding formula,” [fair student funding or fair school funding] according to Norm Scott, a former New York City public school teacher. Scott, now retired, worked as a public school teacher from 1967 until he officially retired in 1997. Even after that, he continued to work in New York City public schools until 2005, coordinating robotics programs at schools in his district.
 “You could have a school full of $100,000 teachers, or full of $50,000 teachers. What Joel Klein (the former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education) did was penalize schools by limiting the number of teachers with these salaries and put a penalty on schools that hired these people,” Scott said. [The NYC DOE replaced the teacher unit formula with Fair Student Funding in 2007.]
Sam described the ATR position as a way to “deprofessionalize the profession, to weaken job seniority, and job security,” with, what is often, “a humiliating rotation.”
Colon began his career as a teacher in 1971, as an assistant preschool teacher at a daycare program in Harlem. “I just enjoyed it,” he said. “As a musician, I could do music and art with them–I just love watching children develop and helping them to develop.”
Soon after, Colon got married and had two daughters. Because of his family, Colon decided to further pursue his career in education. He became certified in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Education (degrees for teaching in preschools and elementary schools) and he earned a Common Branches License for teaching core subjects. He even completed the School Administrative Supervision and School District Administrative licenses for principal certification.
 In 1989, Colon began working at P.S. 120 in Bushwick. After seventeen years of working there, in 2006, he launched an investigation against the school’s new principal, Liza Caraballo. He accused her of violating the No Child Left Behind Act and the New York City Health Code.
 After the incident, Colon was assigned to a rubber room in downtown Brooklyn. He explained that the rubber room was full of teachers who had been charged with various things and were on their way to termination, but were still employed by the DOE.
The room was set up like a cafeteria, with long, six-person tables. Teachers could spend weeks or months there, but in many cases they were stuck in the rubber room for years. Since there were no students to teach, and no assignments to do, teachers would sit at the tables and either linger and waste time, or try their best to be productive.
“People wrote books–actual books,” said Colon. One woman, he explained, got a PHD, allowing her to get another teaching license.
Colon spent three years in the rubber room, seeing his colleagues come and go. He is finally able to work in schools again, and as an ATR, he is given weekly assignments,  never in one school for too long.
Marc Epstein taught history at Jamaica High School in Queens for 16 years, and in the 2011-2012 school year, he received a letter from the Department of Education informing him that he–along with half of his fellow teachers at Jamaica–were now a part of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool.
Epstein, who has continually written about violence in public schools, wrote a piece called “New York City Ronin Teacher,” which, after being published in the Huffington Post, found its way onto the blogs of ATRs, ATR community pages, and the websites of education reformers.
“At the end of the day the teacher-ronin [ATRs] are expendable. After all, when you go to the movies and buy popcorn, does it matter who puts the popcorn in the box, or if there is a new person behind the counter every three weeks?” Epstein wrote.
Sam recalled when he was told he would become an ATR. “It was a really curt debriefing. ‘Okay, we’ve lost some numbers, we had to let some people go,’ – that’s how it went,” he said. “it was a debriefing but it was a little too curt for my taste.
Feeling like a substitute teacher is inevitable for an ATR. Teachers aren’t even able to make their own classroom lesson plans.
“100k a year to do nothing,” said Colon. But he remains optimistic because he loves his students.  “I see myself as a specialist that comes in. I have to impress on [students] that I’m not just a sub.”
One of Colon’s greatest concerns as an ATR is that he finds the DOE takes no issue in violating its own health and safety codes. For the last few weeks, he has been teaching in middle schools, for which he does not have his license. He has reached out to the DOE and UFT in regards to the matter. All of his complaints have been ignored.
“We often get put into things that are outside of our licensed area,” said Sam, in reference to his weekly rotations. “We’re either doing the best we can under challenging curriculum if we’re working outside of our licensed area, or we’re bringing lessons that have been made up already for the grade level.”
However, ATRs also face struggles outside of the classroom.
“A lot of us struggle with the idea of being a substitute. Substitutes don’t have multiple years of experience, and aren’t entirely certified unless they’ve retired already,” said Sam. “But students don’t really refer to us as that–staff does. So we take that as a professional slight.”

[The NYE DOE and the UFT agreed on rotation in late June 2011. Guidance counselors and social workers began rotation in Fall 2012.]
Since the implementation of the ATR policy, forums and blogs have popped up all over the internet, not only criticizing the creation of the absent teacher reserve pool, but condemning Bloomberg’s idea of education reform. NYC ATR and NYC Rubber Room are two of the more well known blogs that cover news from the absent teacher reserve pool, and allow teachers in the pool to communicate with their fellow co-workers in the same situation.
Teachers in the absent teacher reserve pool do not have their own classroom, their own students, or their own community. And they have resorted to the internet to–a majority of the time–anonymously sending in accounts of their struggles in their new positions, just to cope.
Colon is not bitter despite what he has been through in his final years as a teacher. He is optimistic and is looking forward to finally retiring in Spring 2013, so he finally has time to pursue his musical interests.
However, the future for other ATRs remains bleak. The DOE recently implemented more teacher evaluations, especially for ATRs, which the UFT has supported. Norm Scott, who has worked alongside ATRs, explained the tension within teachers in schools.
“You walked into a school [as an ATR] and you were branded as being a loser,” he said. “They created this ATR system for teachers who could not get jobs and they vilified them. Each year it was a competition with the next round of ATRs, so people are being attacked as incompetent teachers.”
New York City’s Department of Education has hosted several job fairs, advertising them specifically to the ATR community. However, the job fairs are not only for ATRs, but for anyone interested in a teaching position. Sam, who is still stuck in the system, emphasized the union’s failure to support teachers in his situation.
 “We go to these job fairs and its really a show. What goes on is that they hire quite openly and are very solicitous towards the people who are just finishing up their education studies and they literally give a cold shoulder and left handshake who have fifteen and twenty years in the school system,” said Sam.
“We have gestations of being sold out not just by the city, but by the union,” he said. “What they should be doing is respecting the contract.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

“They Don’t Know You’re White” – In Which the Former ATR is Told That Being Called a “White Bitch” is NOT Racist

Life in Limbo returns as Teaching under Assault, the attacked teacher from an usafe Queens middle school provides another installment. As you'll recall, she had little support from the DOE or the UFT after injury-causing incidents.

Let’s backtrack a bit, to the day before my second trip to the ER at the hands of my middle school students.  The day was going like any other typical day here at MS Anarchy and Mayhem.  In other words, kids were coming into the classrooms at random to high-five and fist bump friends, responding with “Shut the fuck up bitch”, “It’s ‘cause I’m black, right?” or “Calm your white titties” when the fact that there was a CLASS going on was brought to their attention.  Shoes were thrown across the room. Students helped themselves to things on my desk.  Hand and body lotion was applied and perfume sprayed during the “Do Now”.  Students walked in and out of the room to see friends in the hallway, and opened the doors for intruders to enter and perform obscene dances.  Rap beats were drummed using desks and pens, while other students rapped obscene lyrics about me and about each other.  I heard the sound of tables and chairs being overturned in the classroom next door twice, along with more rapping to the beats as the teacher next door tried to get the class to quiet down.  I encountered running groups of students in the hallway as I walked to the ladies’ room.  

It was in this oasis of tranquility that I sat down to check my email on my VERY OWN classroom computer! (Pardon the capitals, but I haven’t had an actual COMPUTER in my room in SEVEN years, so I am just giddy over it. No printer, but hey, these things take time, right? And even if I had a printer, it would run out of toner by Thanksgiving anyway, but I digress). 

So there was an email summoning me to the principal’s office. Given that I had recently been reporting the violent and threatening incidents happening around me, I wrote back that I would like to have my District Rep, who had been in the building with me earlier in the day, present and could we fine a mutually convenient time. My principal responded that I must come that afternoon and that “union representation is not necessary, as we will be discussing instruction”.  Not wishing to be insubordinate, I went.  

When I went to the meeting, I was first reprimanded for not notifying my principal of the issues and asked why I did not.  I responded that everything was documented with the deans and the APs who are responsible for the classes involved.  I also said that I was surprised that none of the deans or APs, with whom I communicate with daily, saw fit to mention this situation in school safety meetings or as a matter of course. We agreed that I will include the principal in all correspondence of this nature from now on.

Then the conversation turned to "instruction" - sort of.  The principal said that she had to wonder how students "have the TIME to even get into this kind of trouble. There must me some kind of issue with your planning because the students seem to have a LOT of time on their hands and that must be what is causing the problems.”  I responded that there is ALWAYS work ready for them to do and that I plan for a full period of instruction, however, when the students enter the room, overturning chairs, fighting, and screaming, and then refuse to leave the room, line up outside, and enter properly, well, it's hard to get things going.  She responded, "Maybe you have WORK, but is it ENGAGING? Are you differentiating? Do they LIKE the work you give them?  It sounds like they just don't like the work you are providing and are acting out because of that. I think we need to work on your ability to engage students and on your classroom management.  It sounds like you have problems establishing routines and norms in your classroom.”

On the issues of the bias incidents that I was subjected to, she said, '”You know, I have to say that I don't think our students are astute enough to pick up on that issue. I doubt they even know you are white.  I think they just see that calling you 'white bitch' or 'white this-and-that' upsets you, and THAT's why they say it, not because they understand what it means.”  She said that "If they see that it doesn't bother you when they call you these names, then it would have stopped, but the fact that it bothers you and gets you upset and running to the deans and THAT's why they keep saying it. It all comes down to engagement and RELATING to the young people, and this seems to be what is causing your problems."

So, now this is all MY FAULT?  I brought this on myself because I am not "ENGAGING"???? REALLY???  And the kids can call me "white bitch" and tell me to "move my white ass" or that I "smell white", but they don't know I'm white and don't mean anything by it? REALLY????  I maintain that if the racial makeup was reversed, she wouldn't DARE say these things, nor belittle them to this extent. I feel as if I have been violated again - a classic "blame the victim" argument that is completely FALSE.  I am the VICTIM here --the VICTIM of bias crimes and ASSAULTS and I get told about MANAGEMENT?

The meeting ended with a promise to come into my classes the next day and discuss “appropriate behavior with the young people”.  She showed up once, for the ONE Honors class I teach which gives NO trouble at all, and prattled on about how she has “high expectations for everyone and that no one should allow themselves to be distracted by the behavior of others”.  Later that day, I left in an ambulance.

Hey, thanks for the help.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

An Open Letter to Dissent Magazine

As teachers in the ATR Chapter Committee and UFT members, we offer our congratulations to Dissent magazine for sixty years of progressive commentary and debate. Some of us are longtime readers and most would agree that the magazine has provided a strong voice in defense of teachers and against the neoliberal assault on public education. 
We write this letter because the magazine's choice of venue, the UFT headquarters, for its sixtieth anniversary celebration makes us wonder about a few things. 

We are concerned that the host of the celebration, AFT President Randi Weingarten, has done less than an adequate job of resisting the corporate school reform that Dissent writers have eloquently deplored. 

A headline in the current issue reads, “Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy.” Joanne Barkan reports that a flood of corporate profits coming through the mega-foundations has helped to dictate public policy and distort the priorities of public education. She argues that it threatens to completely stifle the creativity of civil society and our democratic values. She also observes that the mainstream media are mostly “failing miserably in their watchdog duties.”

We agree that such watchfulness is warranted. That is partly the purpose of this letter. There seems to be a serious disconnect going on. The progressive press is all too circumspect with regard to unions officials who have benefited from the largesse of foundations and are promoting the goals of the financial elite. 

In an era of union-bashing one might be tempted to be polite about such shortcomings. However, the teacher union's alignment with the corporate school reform agenda is an essential part of the picture. It is a little hard to understand the situation otherwise.

In recent years the AFT and NEA have accepted tens of millions from the Gates Foundation to support the Common Core curriculum and initiatives around teacher evaluation. In March 2013 Weingarten, as president of the AFT, co-wrote a piece with a Gates Foundation director that appeared the New Republic as “sponsored content.” The main thrust of the message was that there were problems with teacher evaluation systems because of a too-hasty roll-out. While expressing concern about the problems of the evaluation being set up clumsily, Weingarten boasted that the AFT's model for teacher development and evaluation is being used in scores of school districts across the country. The language of the statement is replete with managerial terms like effectiveness and performance.

Weingarten has promoted the value-added evaluation, rightly called “junk science” in a way that may take years to undo.

Similarly, she is also trying to save the Gates-funded Common Core curriculum from a groundswell of parent opposition. She complains about the inadequate quality of standardized tests or materials, while implicitly affirming the need for standardized business-model solutions in general. 

As a 2009-2010 report for the Broad Foundation: We decided at the onset of our work to invest in smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten. That investment was money well spent. A few years ago Broad awarded the UFT a million dollar grant to set up two charter schools in New York City. 

We believe unions have a vital role in reclaiming public education. As member-financed institutions they have the potential to act as a counterweight against the power of the corporations. This is obviously undermined when a union leadership takes corporate funding and acts as a mouthpiece.

Of course, it is up to union members to elect leaders who follow better principles. Our point is that the media influences teachers and for a magazine to critique the pernicious influence of corporations and then celebrate its anniversary with Randi Weingarten it is disappointing. It seems a little like somebody mourning the scarcity of wild herd animals in North America and then having dinner with Buffalo Bill. Thank you for reading this. Please rethink the omissions!


ATR teachers and other Department of Education workers,
New York City

Who We Are

Over 2,000 New York City employees are currently working with the status of Absent Teacher Reserve teachers or ATRs. We are teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and speech and hearing therapists. Many of us were displaced by school closings, co-locations and shrinking enrollments. Others were excessed because of budget cuts and administrative decisions to eliminate programs in their license areas. Instead of having regular assignments we move in weekly rotations that many of us find demeaning and unproductive, a plan that the UFT agreed to in a hastily called Delegate Assembly meeting on the last day of school in June, 2011. We consider our status one of age discrimination, as our internal survey indicates that over 85 percent of us are over 50 years of age.

Our ranks also include whistle-blowers banished from schools by improper excessing or on trumped-up charges of misconduct. Some of us have successfully had charges overturned but remain ATRs because DOE policy does not allow for a return to our schools even following favorable judgments. Absent Counselor Reserve workers (guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists) have been displaced by out-sourcing their work to “service providers.”
Dozens of schools have been closed and replaced with Gates-funded small schools. Concessions in the 2005-2007 UFT contract took away seniority rights for teachers and the Fair Student Funding formula for school budgets began to penalize schools that hired senior teachers with higher salaries.

The UFT does not officially have a chapter for ATR teachers. Unlike teachers permanently assigned to schools we lack any union delegates or chapter leaders to represent us.

ATR Chapter
c o m m i t t e e
/ Visit

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ATRNYC sends de Blasio a letter of concerns

ACRs/ATRs from the Chapter Committee went to mayor-elect de Blasio's Transition Tent and entered this statement. We had in mind the larger range of displaced DOE staff.

Dear Mr. Mayor-Elect, We are writing on behalf of all NYC displaced teachers and guidance counselors, otherwise known as ATRs. There are currently over 2,000 displaced teachers and guidance counselors roaming weekly. These are mainly veteran educators who throughout the Bloomberg administration have been pushed out of closing or down-sizing schools in an effort to save money. The city is spending over $150 million per year on this program, wasting tax-payers' money by not having teachers work in an on-going basis. 

We ask the city to reinstate the seniority transfer system that existed for decades until 2005. If this cannot be done, we ask that ATRs be appointed to schools where teachers are needed before new candidates straight out of college are hired, as is current practice. We also wish to see the reinstatement of the prior payroll structure where teachers were paid from a central fund, rather than a school's budget. This new system has politicized hiring by putting principals in a position of not wanting to hire them simply because they are more expensive. On reinstatement we expect to get the full training that other teachers and counselors received. 

Thank you and we look forward to your help.