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, March 7, 2018

Hey DOE, are 35 lives worth less than the cost of a classroom key?

Recent weekend copies of AMNY reported that De Blasio wants active shooter drills for the schools by March 15. The major question looms: will ATRs and other itinerant teachers (traveling "specials" teachers or per diem substitutes) be supplied classroom keys in time? Or will the DOE continue to ignore the safety gap for ATRs?

Where is the UFT?

ATRs have long had the indignity of being told that since they were not staying at a school for a long time they were not eligible for bathroom keys, elevator keys, teachers lounge keys and yes classroom keys. Across NYC certified teachers, professionals with experience have had to telegraph their need to use the restroom by requesting to borrow keys. If lucky they are able to get a colleague to lend them the key to make a quick copy. When it comes to elevators, and classroom keys they are so routinely denied that it has become an inside joke to ATRs. Teachers tell colleagues entering into the ATR pool not to return their elevator keys at the end of the year so that they will have them in other locations. 

Teachers have had to make a nuisance of themselves to get a basic thing. Classroom keys are the most necessary item that is routinely denied. Teachers end up having to rush to catch an outgoing teacher or hope that a passing pedagogue will pity them and pretty please open the door. Teachers in the ATR pool report being reprimanded for having kids standing in the hall, when they had no keys. 

Lockdown drills have taken a whole new meaning now. With the seedy safety situation in schools having been revealed as subpar, it is clear that active shooter drills and lockdowns will continue to be a part of school cultures. But what about the kids being taught by an ATR denied keys? How much time is wasted because the DOE insists on treating these pedagogues as pariahs? Should kids just go to another classroom in an emergency? Should an ATR on a prep not be able to seek shelter with a classroom key? And the same can be said for substitutes and often for specials teachers lacking the specific room keys.

The DOE should immediately review all the lockdown procedures in schools, ascertain the problems with locks, master keys and solve them so that every DOE staffperson in a school building is equipped with keys for every room that she or he would be in during the course of a day.

Once assigned to a school, an ATR should receive keys, should get a mailbox, a school email and a teacher manual with all procedures and protocols. The safety of our students should not be put at risk because a whole set of teachers is being bullied by the DOE. If the school leaders cannot commit to these things, how can they honestly guarantee that a tragedy does not happen to DOE students and staff?