Thursday, August 04, 2022

Beware of Swagger Bearing Gifts

It's clear to me that Mayor Eric Adams doesn't give a golly gosh darn about public schools. The Mayor is all about being photographed in the right places, tweeting about how wonderful he is, and hurling juvenile insults at anyone who dares question his divine judgment. He called people who criticized his school budget cuts "clowns," and continues to remind me of Donald Trump in more ways than I wish to consider.

Now, facing a lawsuit that has thus far halted his draconian cuts to education, the mayor is graciously allowing schools to use stimulus funds to pay teacher salaries. Don't get me started on why schools ought not to be responsible for salaries in the first place. Since they are (another great innovation from Mike Bloomberg), it may be helpful to some schools struggling to retain staff. Of course, as the article points out, said staff may already have found other placement. I'd be happy to leave a place that deemed me expendable enough to get rid of me, and I've no doubt others feel the same.

This mayor does not act to help schools. Altruism is not his thing, unless it involves the police, who do no wrong ever in Adams world. This may help him a little in his PR war, which, from everything I read, he's winning nowhere but the NY Post editorial page. They'll say, see, we've allowed them to use these funds for this, and therefore our decision to cut funds when we're rolling in dough is not so bad after all.

The first thing, though, that came to my mind when I read this, had nothing to do with school budgets. It had everything to do with contract negotiation. Don't doubt for a minute that Chancellor Soaring High, after making videos about just how much he appreciates teachers, will say oopzie, the federal funds have run out, so we have no money to fund raises for teachers. 

Now sure, you'll say, they are a bunch of bumbling idiots, blathering about this and that, and haven't got the capacity to plan for anything. That's true, but Adams took six million dollars from a charter PAC, and deteriorating public schools are a good thing for Eva Moskowitz. And what's good for Moskowitz is good for Adams' campaign war chest. Maybe, in a few years, someone not insane will not only oppose him, but also persuade New Yorkers that she isn't insane. Stranger things have happened.

Maybe he's got Moskowitz people telling him what to do. They didn't give him six million bucks just for the fun of it, and there's more where that came from. There are reasons they didn't just pump them directly into Moskowitz Test Prep Factories. These people abhor public schools, and we be perfectly content allowing our children to roam the streets like the kids in Salaam Bombay

So as we face an expiring contract and a mayor who's already stated he has no plans to offer raises for anything but productivity increases, expect them to say, hey, we had this money, but we won't have it next year. Expect Chancellor Soaring High to say gee, you guys are heroes, but we can't offer you enough money to buy a hero sandwich, let alone housing in one of the most expensive sectors in the country.

If rich people didn't have to pay taxes for public schools, they'd have even more money they don't need. That's what Mayor Swagger is all about, and it's on us to trust him as far as we can throw him. (Also, if you're planning to throw him, please post the video.) Let's not trust this latest phony move from this particular phony leader.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Let's Stop Trashing ATRs

Given Mayor Swagger's unwillingness to pony up and, you know, pay for education, schools are facing tough choices. Hundreds of teachers have been dumped into the ATR pool as a result. 

Why are people ATRs? Frequently, it's a result of being in the wrong place at the right time. Your school budget is cut, there are to be fewer bodies there, and yours is one of them. 

Today's Post attests to that. Where are new ATRs coming from?

About one in five teachers still without school placements were new hires last school year. Less than half were on probation at the end of the month.

This suggests that they were cut in reverse seniority order, as specified by our contract. There are plenty of reformies out there who'd like to change that, so principals or Tweedies could get rid of anyone they felt like. This is typified by Joel Klein's public demand to dismiss teachers on arbitrary and capricious grounds. We cannot afford that. 

I've seen many members get letters in file just because the principal felt like issuing them, and I know one who just ran to another school based on the fact she deemed she had no future in the one where she was, unjustly, given a letter and, even more unjustly, denied a per-session position.  Imagine if they could just dump you for being a pain in the ass. (Under that scenario, I'd have been working at Kinko's for the last ten years, and no one has suggested I'm a bad teacher in decades.)  

What's upsetting is the stereotype of the ATR as a bad teacher. Even more upsetting, the anonymous young teacher interviewed by the post perpetuates it:

“People are ATRs for different reasons,” said the Staten Island teacher, including those let go for ineffectiveness or misconduct, not enrollment losses. “We’ve gotten ATRs who got fired from their position for a reason. I’m not one of them, but now I’m grouped into that category.”

No ATR has been fired, full stop. Teachers who are fired do not become ATRs. What they become, in fact, is unemployed. I know a little bit about excessing. I was excessed from Lehman High School in 1985. I found a job teaching music. out of license, at JFK, and was there a year and a half before being excessed again. I then found a job teaching ESL at Newtown, was excessed again, and found another at John Adams.

I never became an ATR. I was just out of a job. I went to the hiring halls, and was told they could do nothing for me. One secretary brought be to a room full of people sitting in folding chairs. She told me those teachers were tenured, and that she had to place every single one of them before she even thought about placing me. 

The same teacher quoted above explains her situation:

“No one’s calling back,” she said. “I don’t understand. I’m rated well, my principal would say very nice things about me if they call.”

“I can’t prepare, but that’s what I spend my summers doing. Not to be able to plan for next year, and they’re just going to throw me into a position possibly, is ridiculous,” she added.

I certainly understand her frustration. I was in her position more than once, and each time was faced not only with those issue, but also the issue of losing my salary, health insurance, and place of residence. I didn't even have the option of scapegoating ATRs. As much as being an ATR sucks, losing your livelihood is a whole lot worse.

What I did was this--I put on a suit, sneaked past security, and walked into every school and department office that I though might hire me, a known quantity, as opposed to some person sitting around a hiring hall and waiting. That worked for me every time. 

Being able to keep my job without weeks of stalking administrators would have made me grateful. What really doesn't work for me is trashing ATR teachers. I'd feel even more awkward about it if I happened to be one. My job is to teach students from all over the world, and one thing I've learned in this job is that no stereotype is accurate, ever. 

We need to support our brother and sister ATRs. It's not their fault they're stuck in that pool. It's the fault of Mayor Swagger and Chancellor Soaring High. They deserve our wrath, our scorn, and our active protest, just for a start.