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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

'The Chief,' the paper of NYC labor, gives front page coverage to ATRs and their testimonies

The teacher and counselor members of the New York City Absent Teacher reserve know first hand the ramifications of the reformers' attack on senior teachers, and the attack on the schools in underprivileged (and now gentrifying) neighborhoods. As the schools get shutdown, trimmed down or are given the "Renewal" treatment by Bloomberg/De Blasio, the teachers there get punished for serving the needier students: they become excessed into the DOE's ATR pool.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Weingarten defended ATRs' reputation - We need that today

When ATRs were disparged nine years by Joel Klein and the DOE, then president of the UFT Randi Weingarten defended ATRs' 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."
She recognized that the school funding system helped prejudice against the hiring of ATRs. 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."
[Sources: 'The New York Teacher,' approximately April, 2008]
Saturday the New York Times published a front page attack on ATRs. As the NYC Educator blog pointed out in 'Doing to the New York Times What the Times Does to ATR Teachers,' the Times engaged in broad stereotyping. The blog piece pointed out numerous instances of gross failures in professionalism in the Times' piece. While every professions has their bad apples, stereotyping a class of teachers is wrong. It is improper and unprofessional for the Times to engage in stereotyping.

There was placement of ATRs in NYC schools up until the 2011 to 2012 academic year, with none of the concerted media attack we see today --something that the DOE and the UFT conveniently ignore today. There was no rotation, a fraudulent program whereby both the DOE and the UFT argued that this would help expose ATRs' skills to schools, enabling them to get picked up --when both entities knew that ATRs face slim chance of placement, given the financial incentive for administrators to go with inexperienced teachers. Rotation (jobs program of field suervisors for displaced CSA members) was a compromise that only came up because Bloomberg wanted to end Last In, First Out., similar to today: the media was running stories contending that veteran teachers were worse than newer ones, and were an impediment to ideal staffing. Again, Weingarten has argued at the national level that students do better with experienced teachers.

The treatment of ATRs was actually better under Joel Klein than under Carmen Farina. Oh, how new times create new thinking!

The teachers and counselors in the New York City Department of Education Absent Teacher Reserve are waiting for the UFT leadership's response to the attack on the dignity and reputation of ATRs.

ATRs, what would you write in response to the Times' calumny?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Do You REALLY Believe That? – In Which the Refurbished ATR Calls Bullsh** on all the Bullsh**

The plan was to enjoy my summer, clean out the basement, and go on a few college visits with my daughter. Yeah, storm clouds are brewing for ATRs, but I made a solemn vow to stay above it all, not allow it to claim any real estate in my head, and enjoy my time off. That worked for a little while, but now the school year is in full swing and the press in on the hunt for the next “bad teacher” story.
So the Times, the Post, and Chalkbeat started banging the drum against ATRs. How we need to “find a job”. How we are “without full time positions”. That there must be “reasons why (we) are not hired”. Nicole Thomas even went so far as to voice her fear that her child may actually be given an ATR for a teacher in her school, and is “very concerned”. And of course, Kate Taylor at the Times had to join the party with this beauty of a hatchet job, and the Editorial Board of the NY Post us up in arms that we may actually be teaching children soon (the horror – teachers TEACHING children!), so now I’ve got to set the record straight.
I feel you, Nicole and Kate. I do. I mean, WHY, ladies, would you want a veteran teacher who has been working with children successfully for YEARS, and who, you know, passed classes and exams and stuff, in “high needs” schools? Much better to have a newbie 23 year old with a sociology degree who wants to help the little brown children by doing some “good in the “hood” before heading off to becoming a charter school principal or investor at Goldman Sachs. And they all look so alike (matching ponytails and sloppy buns, sundresses, and flip flops) that they are virtually interchangeable! So much so that the kids won’t even know when one leaves after a month and is replaced by another one!
I’m going to let you in on a few ATR secrets, Ladies. Just between us. Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. ATRs do not have horns and tails. We do not eat young children for lunch (or dinner). We are not the child molesters you see on TV or on flyers in your local deli. We do not spend our evenings plotting how to milk the system and avoid helping children. Sorry to ruin it for you, but we do what other teachers do. We get up, fight traffic to get to work, do our jobs, and fight more traffic to come home and take care or our own families, get the car washed, pay the cable bill, and occasionally go to dinner and a movie. Yet, you make claims that are patently ABSURD about us. Given that I have a particular affection for both theater of the absurd AND the absurdity of life, allow me to point out the ridiculousness of the claims being made against ATRs.
Let’s start with the common fallacy that ATRs “lost a job”. That’s news to me and every other ATR I know. I’ve never been fired, suspended, disciplined, or laid off. I’ve never been on unemployment. I get up and I go to work every day. I am a tenured Reading Specialist with the New York City Department of Education. That is my job. I get paid from the NYC DOE twice a month because it is my job. The fact is that the DOE does not ALLOW me to do the job for which I was hired. My job is to teach children who struggle with reading, to read. But, when I go to work every day, I am given a sub schedule, or I cover teacher preps, or I am the second teacher in an ICT class. So, to say I do not have a job is absurd. I have one. I am just not permitted to do it. And that is not my problem. It is the DOE’s.
It is also said that ATR teachers are “without full time positions”. Again, this is not true. We go to work daily and teach full schedules. Five periods a day, every day. That is a FULL TIME position. I get paid my FULL TIME salary because, Nicole and Kate, I work FULL TIME. The fact that I am not being given work that correlates with my job title is, again, not my problem and not under my control. I cannot give myself classes or groups of students. Administrators do that.
My dear ladies, you insinuate that ATRs are guilty of crimes but are unable to be fired. That is an absurd statement. Any teacher who is found guilty during a 3020a is NOT sent to the ATR. What happens to them is called “FIRING”. Any teacher who is an ATR after a 3020a is there because the 3020a did NOT find CAUSE for termination. You know, it’s that whole guilty vs. not guilty thing. Like Law and Order. But with real teachers, not actors. Before the ATR they would be simply placed back in their classrooms. But the ATR now provides a very nice dumping ground for teachers a principal wants to be rid of. It’s brilliant, actually. Make some sh** up about the teacher, and even if they win the 3020a because the principal lied her behind off, you STILL have that teacher out of your hair (and off your payroll) because they will be dumped into the ATR. Never mind that many principals want to be rid of certain teachers because they have issues. Issues like, oh, let’s see…. maybe being in a position that the principal has earmarked for a crony, or maybe the principal has a bunch of sorority sisters she has promised jobs, or maybe the teacher is making too much money coupled with too much seniority, which makes it impossible to just excess the teacher. Maybe this teacher knows her contractual rights and insists on abiding by them. Maybe she tells other teachers what their rights are and calls bullsh** when she see it. Or this teacher may even be planning to run against the chapter leader you have in your pocket and may actually win, messing up your ability to ignore the contract. Any of those reasons are enough to get a principal to trump up bogus charges against a teacher. You see, my dears, principals can be vindictive, power drunk dictators who will stop at nothing to create a staff of syncophants. But you’d never know that from reading Chalkbeat, the New York Post, or the Times, because, according to these publications, all principals are above reproach, all the time, and want nothing more than to run schools where rainbow unicorns run the halls, and everyone emits rose scented farts.
Now, I’m sure your StudentsFirstNY friends, you’re The74 buddies, and your Families for Excellent Schools pals will disagree. Because when you are taking Gates and Walmart money and cozy up to Betsy DeVos, things get filtered through the prism of cash. But my dear ladies, have no fear. If your child is given an ATR teacher this September, she or he will be in good hands, regardless of who his or her parent is. We’ve been doing this a long time, and believe it or not, we’ve got this.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Come to an ACRs and ATRs workshop, this Saturday, 10/14

As you know, we are under attack this year as never before. We need to strategize on surviving this year.
Come to an ACRs (absent counselor reserve -guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists) and ATRs workshop,
this Saturday, 10/14, 10:15 am to 12:15 pm at PS 58, 330 Smith Street, Brooklyn. Two blocks north of the Carroll Street station G train --this weekend on a construction reroute: the D train as it replaces the F train in Brooklyn, including at the station. See the map below the following event flier.
Sponsored by the More Caucus-UFT.
The pertinent lines this weekend:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why won't the UFT fight for the ATRs? & other questions that ATRs should pose at the official UFT meetings

New York City is poised to do a multi-barrelled assault on teachers: ATRs are being put into the classroom at inappropriate time (mid-October) –holding some teaching positions as vacancies until then is wrong for the kids, as they will have to endure the rocky transition from one teacher to another, a little more than a month into the term. And ATRs are being placed without proper training in Danielson or the Common Core standards.

Secondly, Carmen Farina and Randy Asher (the new chief supervisor of ATRs) have openly declared that the city is aiming to drastically thin the herd, by possibly 50 percent. Sure, this is wrapped in language of "reducing" the pool; but ATRs have heard too many stories of able ATRs being harassed out of their positions. The "reduction" plan smells to the ATRs like a liquidation plan.

The buzz in the newspapers just seems too coincidental. Most of the city non-TV media outlets, including most of the daily newspapers, were running stories about problem teachers returning to the classroom. The one after another pacing of the stories suggests that the DOE might have ignited this with a press release of talking points. This is virtually designed to create a base of hostile parents resenting “those teachers teaching my child," which is sure to set up teachers for trouble in an already challenging assignment, being force placed in October.

The UFT totally failed the ATRs by letting this media smear campaign go on without an equally loud union campaign defending the ATRs. The union should have pointed out that the teachers in the pool that had faced charges (usually around one-fourth of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool) have been exonerated. The city’s placing “problem marks” on teachers is double jeopardy (a subsequent attempt to try and punish someone that has already been cleared of charges, something that is illegal in the United States to impose on the accused). Those ATRs that had been accused have been found as not deserving to be fired. The UFT needs to make the point that not all accusations against teachers are true and that the bar for getting teachers charged with something under Bloomberg was dropped really low. And, the UFT needs to acknowledge and publicize the fact that the majority of ATRs are from schools that had closed down or had lost numbers of teaching positions.

Randy Asher's own problematic history needs to be brought up. He was "managing" Brooklyn Tech High School while he was slow and inept to work on some creepy teachers that we were in need of punitive action. New York magazine reported his history in "Brooklyn Tech Student Sues City Over Creepy, Cross-dressing Teacher." Yet, the city cooperates with the principals union in making sure that truly problem administrators will always find a new job. So, instead of firing Asher or demoting him to an AP position or a classroom position, he is empowered with drastically "thinning the herd" of ATRs. This is very hypocritical for someone with such poor professional judgment in his prior DOE administration job.

In fact, now with Farina’s new get extremely tougher campaign the DOE is taking a very hostile tone by putting letters in files against teachers that have had bathroom challenges. This case involves the DOE actually penalizing a teacher that has bowel difficulties. It's bad enough having embarassing toilet "accidents;" but this penality is additionally humiliating. The bar has dropped even lower than the Bloomberg era.

Then, we have the issue of ATRs and supervision. How is it that ATRs are going to have double supervision (the UFT is cooperating with extension of the field supervisor pursuit of ATRs, even while they have been assigned for a half year or nearly a whole year to a regular assignment in a school). ATRs are going to be supervised by principals and by field supervisors. It is unfair in relation to regularly assigned teachers who do not have to essentially face two principals. And common sense will say that however the principal feels is how the Field Supervisor will treat the teacher. This is not neutral. The principal & Field Sup plan is a tag teaming and the UFT is expecting the ATRs to be gullible for falling for this.

The DOE and the UFT have had the side agreement in the works for assignment and supervision of ATRs settled for a few months now. Why did the union allow months to elapse before properly briefing us on the new changes? The union's very unprofessional procrastination on a very important task is irresponsible and is leaving ATRs vulnerable to a weak transition back to regular classroom assignments.

Here are just some of the other questions that ATRs should pose to the UFT's ATR liasions next week:

*Why did the union agree to these conditions of working under Danielson, Advance and Common Core, when we were often denied the professional development on these topics? To boot, we were often assigned to cover teachers that were getting training in these skill areas.

*When is the union or the DOE going to hold training sessions --on paid time-- on learning all the different evaluation related terms, such as MOSLs, baseline assessments; and preliminary evaluation interviews with principals? The UFT is setting us up to failure if it fails to train us on these very essential questions.

*Why doesn’t UFT stand up for ATRs when they are getting smeared in the media? The DOE talking point is "unwanted" teachers; yet, until the UFT gave up seniority transfers with the 2005 contract, forced placement was the rule. Read here and here. In fact, until Bloomberg/Walcott began rotation in the 2011-2012 year, ATRs were placed or "forced" on principals. The UFT forgets institutional history and allows the DOE and the media to frame the narrative. The UFT's reticence helps keep alive the DOE's and the media's myth that we can't get hired if we try.

*When will the UFT step up to bat on our getting seniority for job openings? The city hires new teachers when experienced ATRs are available.

*Why won't the UFT give us straight answers about how many ATR pool members get truly hired or picked up by schools? They dodge and refer to ATRs as being assigned. They always promote sending our resume around or shining in our performance. But ATRs know many of their own kind and no of hardly any that ever get picked up.

*Why is the UFT always holding these "informational meetings" at 4:00 on days when we're required to stay at schools until some time between 3:35 or 3:50? (And why was one almost held right before a major religious holiday?)

*The city is openly saying that Asher’s task is to thin the herd. Why isn’t the union challenging this?

*Why is the union still tolerating no guarantee of equal bathroom access and elevator key access as is given to any other staff in the schools?

*When will the union fight for ending the fair funding formula?
It is unacceptable that the UFT repeats the same myth as the city, that the only reason why principals won’t hire ATRs is because they are not fresh enough. The truth is that it’s the ATRs’ salaries that keeps principals from considering ATRs, and plenty of principals will openly admit it. The Chaz blogger has laid out some very good proposals for ensuring principals will follow requirements to truly hire us.  Of course, the essential change is that the UFT must return to funding for the whole school on the teacher unit principal. See this quick, clear explanation of teacher units that Bloomberg/Klein ended. The 2007 creation of the fair student funding is a huge incentive to hire the cheaper teachers and avoid experienced teachers. As such, it is an attack on seniority.

The Bronx and Staten Island UFT informational meetings for ATRs have happened. Here are the remaining meetings, all held from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at UFT boro offices: 

Manhattan, 52 Broadway
Tuesday, Oct. 10
Queens, 97-77 Queens Blvd.
Tuesday, Oct. 10
Brooklyn, 335 Adams St.
Wednesday, Oct. 11