Monday, February 22, 2016

Fixing the ATR--We Lag Behind New Jersey

Reformy Chris Cerf has put a bunch of unassigned teachers to work in Newark. This is ironic, because he was part of Joel Klein's band of fanatic ideologues, and likely as not had a hand in the creation of the Absent Teacher Reserve. The ATR was one of the many hideous creations of the 2005 contract. The now-dead Edwize reported it was a temporary thing, failing to anticipate that Klein would hire new teachers while current ones remained in limbo.

Here in NYC, we have hundreds still in the ATR pool. Reformy Chalkbeat NY reports 1,083 ATR teachers currently working. This, of course, fails to consider the hundreds (or thousands) of provisionally appointed ATRs working all over the city, and hoping for appointments. Alas, the permanent appointments are few and far between. In my school, a few veteran teachers have been permanently appointed, and we hope this trend will continue. Some of us worked very hard to make this happen. Nonetheless this appears to be far from the norm.

Here's the thing--Bloomberg and Klein are gone, and de Blasio won by a huge margin running as the anti-Bloomberg. So why on earth can't he and the UFT come to an agreement about placing the ATRs somewhere? Now that there's precedent, in New Jersey under Cerf for goodness sake, you'd think we'd be able to work something out.

I haven't heard a peep from Mulgrew or his minions about this, but I do know that they're fine with reporting only the number of ATR teachers lacking even provisional placement. They're also fine with dumping seniority privileges which would have enabled teachers at closing schools placement in other schools. Mulgrew gets up in front of the DA and claims this is a victory because there are more transfers under his Open Market system than under previous ones. Mulgrew doesn't take into account that principals may be eager to hire lower-paid and more compliant new teachers than those with experience.

The current system is labeled one of mutual consent. Oddly, this means the principal can pretty much turn down anyone but teachers must take assignments. In fact, ATR teachers who miss two interviews can be and are fired. This is a real money saver for the city. They send out notices via the cumbersome and inefficient DOE email, and if you miss two messages they can dump you. That's pretty much it, and this firing system has proven more efficient than even the second-class due process that Mulgrew championed. Mulgrew is happy to suggest that any ATR who twice shouts in the hall ought to face a one-day 3020a process, but I've yet to hear of that being used. Why bother, when the city can pick them off for missing email?

It's time to end this charade. It's time to stop stereotyping people for the crime of working in closed schools. I'm sick to death of reading baseless assertions that ATR teachers are no good, and even more sick of seeing them judged by roving supervisors, at least one of which I've personally observed to be borderline insane. It's ridiculous, in fact, to observe teachers subbing and judge their merit. They have no chance to build bonds that longterm teachers have, and it is in fact these bonds that make classes what they are.

I know it's tough for Mulgrew to admit failure. In fact, he never does. What Mulgrew does is take new positions and pretend the old ones don't exist. For example, Mulgrew enjoyed a great victory when he negotiated all 22 areas of the Danielson rubric be observed. Bloomberg only wanted a few. Mulgrew enjoyed another great victory when he negotiated only a few.

So why not work toward getting all ATRs permanent placement? Mulgrew could pretend he never supported any other position and declare yet another great victory. The city could save millions of dollars. It's a win-win, and since Mulgrew never reads blogs, he could say he didn't hear about it here.

We need to let all our teachers teach. If the city wants subs, let them hire subs. Let's put all the ATR teachers back to work, let's have the ATR counselors offer much-needed help to our children, and for goodness sake, let's give the ATR assistant principals brooms and mops and let them do something worthwhile for a change. Everyone needs to contribute.
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