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

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???