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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

ACRs/ATRs tell the truth of the situations after another New York Times slight

The New York Times again ran an article slighting ACRs/ATRs. However, the UFT leaders fail to publicly speak up for us and fail to dispel misleading generalizations of how staff became displaced. On the side many in our union who want our support buy the Campbell Brown sort of line that we are "bad teachers". Displaced staff speak up and give their accounts of why they are ATRs, and why they do not have permanent assignments or real appointed positions.

1) Based on DOE documents ACRs/ATRs have obtained, roughly 3/4 of displaced staff are in pool because of school closings or co-locations

2) Displaced as ACR/ATR due to fraudulent charges

a) any student charge will be validated if the principal or the investigator wishes, with principals freely soliciting fabricated stories made up on the spot

b) teachers surviving the accusation stage pay a mob-style shakedown fine and then return to the classroom

3) Vast majority of teachers (80%) at the last figure in long term assignments had satisfactory ratings (May 2011 Gotham Schools); others are getting their first U ratings observations while in rotation, with coverage (substitute) classes they just met, have no relationship with, do not have the power of entering a grade for them, do not have the parent or guardian phone numbers for them.

Positions are eliminated as UFT reading volunteer program undercuts literacy coach positions, as teachers are given college adviser duties for advisories, undercutting guidance counselors, as many guidance and social work positions over-all are given to outside private contractors.

4) Principals have played favorites and have replaced ACRs/ATRs with their own staff preferences

5) Not hired because fair student funding has encouraged principals to hire cheaper teachers

a) job fairs are a fraud

b) at the fairs established teachers are forced to compete with Teaching Fellows, Teach for America recruits and other new people

c) experienced educators are passed over for positions for which they are qualified, while unqualified teachers take their place

Instead of fighting the displacement process the UFT has repeated the DOE line that we need to retool our resumes or beef up our wardrobes. We are supposed to be protected by tenure. Why is the union cooperating with this tenure-crushing ploy that we need to reapply for jobs? This is a back-handed breaking of tenure. ACRs/ATRs did not leave their jobs. They were displaced as new hires took the places they would have had when new schools replaced old schools.

The union seems to have forgotten that by ignoring the hiring of Teacher for America recruits and other novice teachers, the DOE violated on-again, off-again hiring freezes, freezes that they used to insist on. The DOE opened the door for their displacement of veterans with the excuse that they filled shortage areas, then the UFT allowed that to happen for all licences.

Here are some of the stories of how ACRs/ATRs entered the pool. We tell them, since the UFT gives us no page in the union newspaper.

I am a guidance counselor, excessed by new principal because she said she had no money in budget to pay my salary, and she illegally lowered my caseload to 11 students. Yet she hired another gc for a few days a week, instead of keeping me for those days. Where is the help the UFT promised us? Several principals have said to me that no money in budget is no excuse.

The school that I taught in for twelve years was closed,and I was put into the ATR pool. In thirty years of teaching I have 1) been teacher of the year, 2) had thirty years of satisfactory ratings, 3) been one of the teachers that was asked to create the music curriculum that the city used, 4) helped several students get scholarships, 5) had the highest number of students from any one junior-high school in the all-city junior high school orchestra, 6) trained students that have gone on to professional careers in music. I have been completely ignored ten times when I have applied for positions that were posted via the DOE website. On the two occasions when I was asked to come to a group interview, all of the other candidates (who for the most part were much younger that me) gave up and said "there is no way that we can compete with this guy". However, I was never even invited back for the second round of interviews. So far this school year, as I have been traveling through the schools (which I don't mind so much really) I have come across three of my former students who are now teachers, and they all said that I helped to inspire them to become teachers (guess I haven't done such a bad job after all).

Then there is this testimony, which echoes disturbing stories that are coming in privately every few days: that ATRs are getting U ratings for observations of lessons in substitute situations. The UFT knows that the DOE wins nearly every U rating appeal, yet it agreed to this evaluation program from the outset, going along with the ploy that this was just a pilot program in just a few districts. What a way to end a career.

I am 64, after 18 years of service my school closed and was replaced by two new schools with young principals who in turn hired young, inexperienced teachers. During 18 years, I never received a U rating. Recently, I was observed out of my subject and grade, and I received my first U because I could not control three students. I was told that even though I did not know their names and they did not know me, I am supposed to be able to control them and teach, although their own classroom teacher could not control them. I will retire soon in Florida.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What happened to the UFT's age discrimination lawsuit for ATRs in 2009

There are so many interesting news items lurking in the past. Back in 2008 the UFT started a lawsuit against the DOE, on behalf of the ATRs. This was publicized in an April 10, 2008 article in the union's paper "UFT sues Tweed for age discrimination". The UFT argued that in creating the Fair Student Funding formula the DOE created a disincentive for principals to hire teachers. The UFT reported: "The lawsuit argues that the DOE essentially shifted from an age-neutral system to one that has a disparate impact on older teachers." Weingarten defended the ATR's reputation: "These are good teachers, mostly from closing schools. But rather than create a win-win situation, the system - despite repeated requests - refused to deal with these issues."

Yet a year later, the union dropped the suit. Today the age discrimination problem remains. By our survey of our members, which comprise one-tenth of the number in the excess staff (ATR) pool, 86% polled are 50 years of age or older.

Chaz's School Daze wrote on the issue:

Randi & Joel Do It Again - The UFT Secretly Dropped Their Age Discrimination Lawsuit When They Signed The Unenforceable ATR Agreement

It appears once again Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein negotiated an agreement that resulted in the UFT members getting the short end of the stick. JD2718 reports in his blog that an apparently secret agreement between the UFT and DOE resulted in the UFT dropping their age discrimination lawsuit as a part of the unenforceable ATR agreement that has so far resulted in only 16 ATRs given classroom assignments. Time and again the Joel Klein's DOE negotiates in "bad faith" with the UFT and refuses to live up to the negotiated agreements. Be it the ATRs, the "rubber room" or paperwork reductions. The reason is simple. Our union refuses to ensure that any agreement have enforceable provisions. Both sides leave enough "wiggle room" in the language to allow DOE to ignore the intent of these agreements. >

According to JD2718 the age discrimination lawsuit was discussed at last Monday's Executive Board meeting and he summarizes the following:

At last Monday’s Executive Board meeting a question and follow-up about the UFT’s age discrimination revealed:

-the suit was withdrawn, without prejudice, when the ATR side agreement was reached.
-to refile the suit, the UFT would need to collect fresh information.
-members individual suits were not withdrawn.

This is shocking. I was under the impression that the UFT dropped their original age discrimination lawsuit because of legal issues on the use of the data collected. In other words the NYSUT attorney didn't believe the age discrimination case would succeed based upon the information. Now it turns out that the UFT secretly bargained the age discrimination lawsuit away in the unenforceable ATR agreement. How come the UFT didn't report this as a part of the ATR Agreement in their press release? The reason is quite obvious to me. They were embarrassed and afraid to tell the teachers the truth that this is what the union gave up for the ATR agreement. Therefore, they kept the age discrimination lawsuit issue secret to the members. To my knowledge, no teacher who was part of the dropped age discrimination lawsuit was told the truth. They were all apparently told that the age discrimination case had no legal standing. Now that the truth is known, it now makes sense why the UFT is reluctant to file a new age discrimination lawsuit despite he influx of older teacher in the "rubber rooms" and the ATR ranks.

I can only say what my friend Woodlass said in her comments to the information provided in JD2718's article. SHAME, SHAME,. SHAME.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

“Places, Everyone!”- in Which the Former ATR Plays the Role of Obedient Minion. Or Not. And All the UFT Reps are Going By the Same Script.

The Teacher Under Assault's story tells us a UFT that is merely a service organization, not an advocacy organization. It shouldn't have to be this way.

So, where were we? Oh, yes, we were at the part of the story where the principal tells me that the students at the Middle School where I was subjected to constant racial taunts and epithets “Don’t know [I’m] white”. OK
. I guess looking at me (I am one of those people who burns in 15 minutes with SPF 512) didn’t give them a clue. Riiiiiiight. 

And where IS the UFT in all this? The fearless defenders of teachers’ rights has been hard at work…..

Wait, give me a minute to check my files….

Hold on, maybe it was an email…. Nope, not there either….

Ah, here we go! Nope, that was the result of yet another MRI showing ANOTHER back injury as a result of this latest bias assault….

Let’s see, it’s gotta be here somewhere. UFT, UFT, hmmm…..

Well, I guess they haven’t done all that much after all.

OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. Allow me to give a synopsis of what HAS been done to date. I have met with my district rep, borough rep, and my Victims’ Support person at my borough UFT office TWICE. Both times, my statement that the indifference to the students’ attacks and race baiting, coupled with the principal’s “they don’t know you’re white” comment are discriminatory and evidence of racial bias, led to a VERY quick changing of the subject and a reprimand to “stick to the facts of the case – that you were injured in the line of duty. We are not here to discuss the other issues.”

I insisted that under no uncertain terms do I have the intention of returning to teach in a building where the students are permitted to commit bias crimes while the principal empowers them by pretending they do not exist. I said that I need to know what can be done and who can be contacted to ensure that I do not return to this situation where I feel retaliation would be the order of the day from the minute I entered the building. I was given more paperwork to complete (they are great at giving me more homework to do whenever I squawk), and left with assurances from my borough rep that they were “working hard behind the scenes to get this resolved, but we really have no power. It’s up to the network and your network is based in another borough, not this one, which means we really have no clout in this matter.”

Um, really? There are only FIVE borough reps in the whole city. They all answer directly to Mulgrew. Did my borough rep mean to tell me that these five reps don’t know each other and never speak? That they can’t call each other and say, “Hey, it’s me from the borough next door, I need a favor”? They can’t get Mulgrew to sit with them or make a phone call to hash this out? I am sure the head of the police or firefighters’ unions would be more than happy to work on behalf of a member who was being beaten (literally) on the job. Or is it that NO ONE wants to talk about the fact that whites can be the subject of bias crimes and that teachers being beaten and abused by the very students for whom they are held “accountable”? Any mention of the fact that if I were a black teacher being taunted, called the “N” word and beaten by white students, I would have been pulled from the school and the principal reprimanded within a week led to an abrupt end to the meeting, with assurances that they were “working on it”.

Since then, everyone at the UFT has been following the same script.

I received a call about a week later from a UFT social worker. She wanted to know how I was doing after me recent diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the finding of yet ANOTHER back injury (on top of the ones that came from the first time I was plowed down in the classroom). So I laid out the basics and once again, insisting that what happened to me should be treated as a series of BIAS INCIDENTS, and that since the student said she could “do whatever [she] want to this damn white bitch” right before she pushed me down, the attack should be treated as a HATE CRIME. Immediately, her response was, “we are not here to discuss that right now. I just am calling to check up on you and see how you are as a result of this latest line of duty. Those other things are not part of the conversation right now”. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I heard the same line from my Borough and District Reps and Victims’ Support Advocate in my last meeting.

At my first Medical Bureau exam, I was met by a UFT rep to guide me through the process and witness my medical exam. Since we had a lot of time to kill while waiting, I began to share my story with her and share with her the emails and reports pertaining to my situation. I once again made the observation that, if I were a black teacher being treated this way by a white administrator and white students, I would have been pulled from the situation within a week. Her response? “We are not here to discuss that right now. At this point, we are only here to have your injuries assessed and make sure the Line of Duty is approved so you keep getting paid. These other issues have nothing to do with it.” Wow, that sounded familiar!

Recently, I had my second medical exam, and this time, the social worker who originally called me from Victims’ Support accompanied me to the Medical Bureau. Once again, given that we had much time to kill, I began to share with her some of the emails and reports I had compiled which showed the race baiting and bias incidents I was subjected to, and the lack of response or sensitivity on the part of administration. She wouldn’t ever read anything I shared with her, handing it back immediately and saying, “We are not here to discuss this right now. The important thing is making sure that your LODI request is properly submitted and approved so you can get the treatment you need.”

She, too, has been assimilated.

So it appears that everyone here has an assigned role – My district rep makes the occasional phone call to assure me that they are “working on it”. The Victims’ Support advocate answers the occasional email and gives me more paper to fill out when I get noisy. And the social worker holds my hand through the process and assures me that the Victims’ Support people are “very good at what they do” and that these racial issues are “irrelevant”.

And I guess my role is to be obedient, do as they say and realize that race is irrelevant here.

But what if I don’t?

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Is an ATR?

Here is a gem by Marc Epstein from our predecessor, NYCATR. It was first published on July 2, 2012 simultaneously at that blog and at Diane Ravitch's blog.

Dear Diane,
I am a 21 year veteran ATR teacher. I truly appreciate your blogging. I have been subjected to the most ridiculous and hostile work environment this past year, As it stands, any teacher can become an ATR at anytime. The troubling thing is that my “colleagues” shun us as though we are lepers. I guess its just not cricket to be seen talking to us. The prevailing meme is that we must be “bad” teachers.
The administration treats us like subs and even calls me a sub to my face. Imagine being informed in your email each week where you will be working the following week. At each school there is a different schedule, so forget dealing with your own children, holding a second job, going to school or even per session. The algorithm that the NYCDOE claims to use in the placement of the ATR underclass, includes distance from home as a major factor.
For thirty of the thirty four schools I was sent to, the travel time each way was two hours minimum. As an ATR I have no democratic rights. We have no chapter. The only proper description of the treatment we have received at the hands of the DOE and its HR enforcement arm, the UFT has been constructive discharge.
Every day is the first day of school. Both staff and students don’t consider me to be a “real teacher”.
It becomes a major battle to obtain a bathroom key. It is like being a migrant farmworker. Travelling from farm to farm. Each farm has its own idiosyncratic culture and rules.
This is the reward for twenty one years of service.
The younger teachers display incredible hubris. They think that they know how to teach despite having very little experience in the profession. When I was a beginning teacher I would see the older teachers as sources of advice. This is not the case anymore. Armed with the latest crackpot theories and jargon, the newer set think that they are better than us old dinosaurs who have become irrelevant.
Given the catastrophes that the business world has imposed on the global economy, I find it insane that the business model has been superimposed on education. Much like the economic downturn that resulted from business, this has happened in the last bastion of democracy, public education. In an ever growing fascist regime, education has been made part of the encroaching fascist takeover of this society.
Much like the 1917 October surprise and the Nazi Regime in Germany and the Chinese revolution of 1949, teachers have been persecuted.
These are savage and dark days.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Our force-located ATR's sojourn takes a dangerous turn

 Our force-located ATR from November 23rd gives an update on her dangerous sojourn. The details involve hospitalization from an assault by a student.
(Since this post went up the teacher is out of the school.)

From December 17:
Today, on December 17, 2013, I arrived to school 2.5 hours late (interesting number, because I started work at the school 2.5 months after the start of school in September). A blind gentleman and his seeing eye dog fell onto the tracks at 125th Street on the A,B and C line in Harlem. The delay of my train made me so late for work that I missed my first class, my second class, my prep, and 10 or so minutes of my 4th period class.
When I entered my classroom, there was an ATR covering my class. The kids were upset with me because they claim that I failed them. According to my directives from the principal and AP, my job was to enter grades on and make sure to input all work received. So, I did that. Skedula then calculates their grades. How hard can that be to understand? Well, the kids are of the "get over mentality". The kids say, "if we're in class everyday, doing your work, why don't we pass"? I told them that the marking period started prior to my getting the job, but all of their work from Oct. 21 - Dec. 6 counted. The other kids who did the work received credit, and those who did not do the work, got a zero for every assignment missed. 60% of the grade is classwork. They were in class, some anyway, many not, and did not do their classwork.

I told them two weeks ahead of the end of the cycle that I would be collecting notebooks to see what they had done while I was not their teacher. Few had done the work, many had a name on the page or handout and little else. Some had aims and do-nows, but no work. Some had name, aim, do now, and 1 vocabulary word out of 5 and the 3 questions were missing. To me that would be a 0 or a 55 or something between those 2 grades.

So, the kids were all cussing up a storm. They were upset with me, the "bitch" who "fuckin' failed me". I told them that if they wanted to know how their grades were calculated, that I would talk to them after class. 

They said "no, tell us now." So, I did what they wanted and I had their graded work, and a list of other work that they had done on a sheet of paper. So, I gave back the work, and stopped along each table to talk to the student. I told each student, this is what you gave me, and I gave them their work back, and then I showed them my sheet of work they had shown me. 

I then told them that there were 32 assignments consisting of Classwork, Exams, Participation, and HW. I gave them ample opportunity to find the work, to do the work when I was out with bronchitis, to get on an online website and do HW assignments that I set up. Every opportunity that was given, I gave them.

So, as I went from kid to kid, one kid called me a bitch for failing a "good student", someone he thought was a good student. Then, other trouble makers let me know what they thought of "my" failing their friends. So, I had gone around. 

Then, this one kid, continues to say "fuck you...on and on...then, when I went closer to him, I asked him to stop, "your behavior is not appropriate and I will submit a referral"..So, he continued with that same phrase over and over, then, out of no where, he says "I can kill you, I can stab you, I can shoot you"! I thought that he was out of his mind. So, I wrote this down on my pad. And as I was going to move back to my desk, he slaps my left hand hard, and knocks my anecdotal book to the floor. 

I go to pick it up, and he had, in his hand, a plastic bottle that he had been squeezing flatter and flatter. He had it clenched in his hand. And before I made it back up with the pad, the boy punches me in the back of my head, with the bottle in his hand. I felt and heard the sound of the punch and the bottle as it hit me in the head. I was in shock!

I had the pad in my hand, I got my cellphone, ran across the hall to the "dean's office" (dean was arrested last week when a kid accosted him and he tried to defend himself. The videotape shows the dean hitting the kid. But when the kid was beating the dean up in the classroom, there was no videotape. And everyone in the building acts like it never happened. The dean is no longer an employee of the NYC DOE. He is a 17 year vet, married, with 5 kids and a mortgage.)

The woman across the hall who works in the dean's office, asked me to identify the kid. When I went with her back to my room, while dialing 911, I pointed to him. The 911 dispatcher asked me what happened and I told her that I needed the police because of what this kid had done...I'm still on the phone with 911 and the boy I identified to the woman, gets up suddenly. Within 1 second, he flips my 60 pound desk upside down, took all of my stuff and shattered and destroyed all of my things. Debris was flying everywhere. It was chaos. He took the white board and rammed it into the wall, and he kept going. I had already given the info to the dispatcher, somehow got my coat and backpack, and was running to the principal's office for safety.

The kid was arrested, thrown in jail. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I was in the emergency room for 7 hours. I was given a CT Scan after being there for 5 hours. The results came back after another 1.5 hours. Then, I was released with a mild concussion. I got a note from the doc. I'm out until January. I will no longer work at that school. It should be shutdown, period! There is no reason why a failing school should be allowed to operate. If the kids are not going to school, and may come in high on weed, or drunk, or are violent, or have no school supplies, then maybe this idea of keeping it open is not a good one. Shut it down,now!

I must tell you that I have one more problem. I am now a victim 7 times over. I have been assaulted and/or threatened with violence 7 times over the last two years and 2.5 months. I forget to eat, I'm nervous going into the school. I fear the students. Seriously! I am so stressed out that I can't do things the way I used to. My poor 8 year old has a mom who looks unhappy most of the time. I am so stressed out I have to chant mantras to myself everyday, almost every class, in hopes that my day won't be ruined by some emotionally disturbed kids, or some of my kids may not have taken their meds, or a kid does something outrageous. 

Everyday I walk in, I walk in ready to teach, ready to have a good day. But then, reality strikes me when I enter the school's front doors, and run up those stairs, that attack my back and knees as I ascend them. I see the unclean place that I call work, and the faces of my students cutting classes, and the ignorance and anger mix together and my heart starts to race and I want to turn around and run out the door, but I can't. I have to work. I don't have the luxury of not working.

To top that all off, the administration seems to think that they hired me in September. I have not read enough UDL, Danielson, CCSS, learned to read IEPs, lesson plans the way the principal "encourages" us to write them (in fact, I have not found ONE person who even writes lesson plans in CCSS, BRIA fashion at all!!), I cannot meet the incredible high standards that they have laid out for me. I was never even given an IPC (Initial Planning Conference to sign off on how I would like to be evaluated, and all the things the principal would like to nauseam).

It all boils down to this...Teaching was my career. It has been ruined by, not a few students or administrators, but by many. I didn't sign on to be humiliated, abused, victimized, and depressed. No, no, I did not. Not. Not. Not.

My dream as an educator was to teach and to learn and to inspire and to excite and to help students envision a life where they too can teach, whether in a classroom, or a boardroom, or anywhere else. It has always been my dream to create wonderful students who will go out and lead our country into a future that allows everyone to thrive.

Before another teacher walks into another classroom, I suggest we picket the Mayor's Office and get legislation that puts thugs like the one who walloped me today into a closed school setting, where kids can be monitored, behaviors and bad attitudes can be modified to help the child live more happily and lovingly, those who need meds or therapy can get it right there on campus. We have got to come to our senses. By allowing students to harm the very leaders, we as educators are, is tantamount to having an Anarchistic Government. No rules! No consequences! No Values! No Morals! No Respect! Everything goes to hell!

From January 1:

I was assaulted at Bread and Roses high school on December 17, 2013, when a student with a plastic bottle in his hand, punched me in the back of the head. He then went on to ransack my classroom.

I was sent to the emergency room, and he was sent to jail. While the physical pain and injuries healed, the emotional trauma has not.

At this school, last year, three teachers were assaulted. Now, from December 3 -18, 2013, three teachers were assaulted. The dean was assaulted on December 3rd, I was assaulted on December 17, and yet another teacher has been assaulted on the 18th.

Six assaults in two school years. Six teachers hurt. How many of us need to be assaulted before an investigation is done on the school and the principal, Dr. Rodney Lofton?

I have called and sent emails to all of my representatives: Letiticia James, NYC Public Advocate; Jumanne Williams, City Council member from Brooklyn, where I reside, and Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President.

I gave them all of the phone numbers to the principal, Amy Arundell and Felicia Eugene.

I'm outraged that they would either by acting or failing to act, put me back in a school where I was assaulted, and a total of 6 teachers, including myself were assaulted.

I hope that I am moved before I step foot in that very violent school.

Unsafe! Unsafe! Unsafe!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Forced placement today; denied hiring opportunities yesterday. A look back to the truth on job fairs.

The blog has shared stories of some literally dangerous forced placements. An ATR that has been published on education issues described rotation and the truth behind the job fair experience.

Marc Epstein's article in the Huffington Post two years ago reminds us of how we were denied consideration in invitation-only hiring halls. Some DOE hiring fairs were specifically only for new teachers, while there was a "hiring freeze".

About six weeks ago I received a letter informing me that I was now a member of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool of the New York City Department of Education. That meant that because my school was being phased out and wouldn't be accepting new students my services were no longer wanted. Approximately half of the remaining faculty at Jamaica High School received the same notice.

We've now joined the pool of approximately 2,000 "ronin" teachers who were instructed to find jobs by entering an "open market" that lists available teaching positions on the internet, and attend "job fairs."

The term "ronin" (literally, "floating men") originally described samurai in medieval Japan who for one reason or another no longer had a lord to serve, and, hence, lost their employment. It's estimated that around 1600, the number swelled to over 400,000. (Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Kodansha, p. 1275 vol. 2, ISBN 4-06-931098-3)

For those unfamiliar with Japanese history, the ronin genre of movies became famous worldwide in the 1950s and 60s. Arguably the most famous of which were The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, directed by Akira Kurosawa.

I dutifully followed the instructions on the Department Of Education website and applied for jobs in my field. So did my colleagues. We didn't receive a single call for an interview.

I received an email informing me that a "job fair" was taking place at the Brooklyn Museum last week. Four Jamaica High School ronin piled into my car with our bar-coded invitations and traveled to the museum.

Faceless bureaucrats with name tags and Blackberries greeted us at the door. We were told to take the elevator up to a magnificent rotunda with desks arranged in a circle. School representatives were seated at the tables with signs indicating their school and positions available.

Our group consisted of two English and two Social Studies teachers. Although many positions were listed on the Internet during the "open market," there wasn't a single job interview in our field at the museum.

We ran into other ronin who had been dropped from our school the year before. They told us that all of the job fairs that they had attended had been a waste of time.

If you don't live in New York, you can read tales of Ronin-Teachers at a website devoted to chronicling their travails.

Aside from acting as a samizdat for people in our predicament, it reveals the dirty little secret that New York City really has no public left in the political sense anymore. That's because in another era an earsplitting roar would have erupted over the deliberate misuse and abuse of qualified public servants.

I felt like I was an extra in Chushingura, a Japanese play about the forty-seven samurai who took revenge after the forced suicide of their lord Asano Nagamori. Asano had drawn his sword in the Shogun's castle after being humiliated by the chief of protocol. Forty-seven of his samurai who had become ronin after Asano's death, waited two years to exact vengeance. (Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Kodansha, p. 404 vol. 1, ISBN 4-06-931098-3)

They found employment by taking on all sorts of demeaning occupations until they were sure that the secret police were no longer watching them, they carried out their vendetta.

When I was doing my graduate work in Japan, I observed that the story would be performed annually.

Every Japanese person knows the story. It's been presented in Bunraku puppet theatre, Kabuki plays, movies, and television series, in countless revivals for the past three hundred years. Nevertheless, everyone remains riveted by the story and enjoys the play for the staging and the performance.

In the end the ronin get their revenge and assassinate the chief of protocol, but the Shogun, not knowing what to do with these loyal samurai, at last offers them the only honorable Japanese solution. They are allowed to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) en masse.

Increasingly, the twenty-first century business model for running the country's largest public school system resembles something out of a Japanese medieval play. Feudal arrangements have displaced rational bureaucratic function.

Rather than the high-tech model that was supposed to usher in the new age of education innovation, we have an authoritarian regime bent on holding the teaching profession responsible for ten years of meaningless doctored test results. In addition to the human cost of a decade of poorly educated kids, the budget has doubled to $22 billion a year!

A kind of kabuki-charade plays out with a script that talks about "business models," "open markets," and "job fairs," while no honest method of staffing schools with qualified teachers who have become ronin is put in place.

Our union leaders celebrate when Mayor Bloomberg's phony threat to lay off thousands of teachers isn't realized. But when the Department of Education lifted the hiring freeze this summer so that schools can hire cheaper inexperienced teachers at precisely the same time that the ronin -- teacher pool -- is being stocked with older experienced bodies, nobody says a word. That includes the union and New York's vaunted press.

With the start of the new school year the editorialists will once again rail about unemployable teachers who are living on the taxpayer's largesse, while the mayor revives his campaign to terminate us.

At the end of the day the teacher-ronin 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?

The MBA types who now run our schools will tell you that if you can manage a muffler shop you can manage a McDonald's, a bowling alley, or a movie theatre, so why not a school? In this corporate universe teacher experience is as irrelevant as is the size of the classes.

But in our society ritual suicide is not an honorable solution. So I don't expect a mass suicide of ronin-teachers even if the mayor offers it as an option.

All of the teacher-ronin have received email notification to report to various schools the day after Labor Day. We can be utilized in any capacity, and have no idea if we will be teaching in our subject area.

The Department of Education reminds me of the "man on the street" who was asked by a reporter whether he thought it was worse to be ignorant or indifferent? He replied, "I don't know and I don't care."

The pity is Kurosawa is no longer around to make a movie about the New York City ronin-teachers that would give Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman a run for its money.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Forced and hostile placements for ATRs are happening now

Another ATR writes on her difficult situation, working in one particularly difficult forced placement. Is this how the DOE plans to eliminate us?

I’m sharing my story because I believe decisions the union has made, without including nor notifying ATRs, will severely impact their lives going forward. This specifically relates to forced placements for ATRs, a policy the union has stated they will recommend as a “solution” to the hundreds or thousands of displaced experienced teachers (and other professionals). From the union’s perspective they are protecting the jobs of displaced teachers. However, forcing a professional into a situation they did not choose and to which they strongly object for numerous possible reasons, is only a solution that appeals to the DOE, since it will surely result in an increase of resignations and early retirements. I have read on blogs and spoken with teachers who seem in favor of being placed –ANYWHERE. More power to them, I say. Everyone is different and we all have different objectives. If I were 1 or 2 years from retirement I am sure I could put up with anything and not care if I end up with 2 years of U ratings – since I would be leaving anyhow. But I still contend it is not the way to treat professionals in one of the most difficult jobs.

So here’s what happened to me, a teacher with over 7 years experience. I arrived at one of my weekly assignments, this one a poorly rated school, after traveling over 90 minutes. I learned a teacher was out on a leave and expected back in several weeks. I was expected to deliver lessons – 2 classes were outside my license. No bathroom key, no copy machine access, bring your own paper for bulk copies. The student behavior in some grades is out of control, in other grades there’s chronic truancy and students leave the building at will during the later periods. No consequences. No one in halls.

I was suffering a level of anxiety I had never experienced in my previous schools nor during rotation. I could barely work 3 days in a row.

I thought my last day had arrived and was relieved to see the email from ATR assignments directing me to another school next week. However, that was not to be. Over a day or two I was forced back to the school. The union says they did all they could do.

I have applied for a leave but it will not be long enough. So forced placements are going on right now and this is an example. If I somehow try to manage working there I am certain I will accumulate numerous letters in file and U ratings, as it has now become a hostile work environment. Being forced to work there will ensure I never get hired in a better school. So I may as well resign and save my sanity. But I don’t deserve this.

Am I a teacher or a soldier being shipped off to whatever war the army sends me to? Why don’t they look for an ATR from a neighboring borough whose commute may be shorter than my nearly 4 hours/day? Why don’t they hire a substitute if no ATR finds it a good fit? Because no substitute would take the job, that’s why. Substitutes have a choice, something they are taking away from ATRs.

On a related note, another arrangement to seriously question is the business of provisional hires. This did not exist in the past. You went on an interview and the school had to decide whether to permanently appoint you. With the union agreeing to provisional hiring for ATRs (which was voluntary and is becoming forced) it allows principals to hire us for a short time, then toss us aside regardless of whether we did a phenomenal job. Another example of how we’re treated as dispensable pawns on a chessboard.