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Saturday, October 8, 2011

ATR Nomads Angry and Not Accepting Their Union-less Title

At union meeting, jobless teachers decry ATR deal “shell game”

Tensions ran high at the United Federation of Teachers Brooklyn office on Tuesday, as union officials volleyed questions, demands, and some cries of exasperation from nearly 100 teachers without permanent positions.
The union office was hosting the second in a series of meetings for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve— the large pool of teachers whose jobs were eliminated when their schools closed or cut costs.
The union is holding the meetings to explain changes to the way teachers in the ATR pool are deployed, based on an agreement struck this summer between the UFT and the Department of Education that stipulates that ATRs must travel to a different school each week. The first weekly assignments are set to start going out today.
But union officials spent much of the meeting deflecting criticism from teachers who charged that the constant upheaval would not make use of their expertise and make them less likely to land permanent positions.
Amy Arundell, a UFT special representative, told the roughly 100 teachers at the meeting that the point of moving teachers weekly is to position them for jobs that could open up at the schools where they are temporarily assigned. The previous arrangement, in which members of the ATR pool often stayed at one school for an entire year, allowed principals to use them as free labor, she said, without necessarily incentivizing them to offer the ATR teachers permanent jobs.
Above frequent interruptions from the standing-room-only crowd, Arundell told teachers they must report to their new assignments next week, even if the principals at the schools they were assigned to for September tell them to stay put. She and several teachers in the room said some principals are asking ATRs to ignore their DOE placements and stay on, in violation of the agreement.
She encouraged the teachers to “be proactive” with the principals and press them to find money in their limited budgets to create permanent positions.
“Otherwise, you can’t stay,” she said. “Unless a principal tells you, ‘I hire you,’ Central DOE won’t know that a principal wants to keep you. You know that saying, ‘Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?’ That’s true here.”
That logic sounded hollow for a Manhattan-based teacher who said after the meeting that the normally “pro-teacher” union had agreed to a deal that does not put ATRs’ best interests first.
“This weekly assignment nonsense is meant to aggravate people so they get disgusted and leave,” she said.
During the meeting, attendees called on the UFT to create a chapter just for ATRs and to file a discrimination lawsuit against the city on their behalf. But the union officials present, which included LeRoy Barr, the UFT staff director, rejected those requests, arguing that discrimination is difficult to prove and that chapter leaders at the schools where ATRs are temporarily assigned are equipped to advocate for them.
Arundell urged teachers to contact their temporary chapter leaders with complaints about hostile principals or requests to teach subjects out of their license.
But several teachers complained during the meeting that they had reached out to the UFT and the DOE with complaints, and received no response.
“It may be news for some of you, but there is not union representation in every school,” one teacher called out from the audience. “I was at one school that had no chapter leader.”
Several teachers complained about being assigned by their new principals to lunch duty or clerical work, which Arundell said was not part of their contract. Others spoke of being asked to take on subjects they are not licensed to teach.
One Manhattan-based librarian, who came to the Brooklyn meeting because the Manhattan meeting is not until next week, said her current principal is using her as an assistant to two kindergarten teachers at an elementary school because the school’s library is closed.
“I take the kids to the bathroom every period. That’s about all I do. My principal said to me, ‘I don’t want you here. You’re not going to work anyway.’” She paused for emphasis and whispered, “I think it’s because of my gray hair.”
Teachers throughout the room clapped when one attendee called on the union to file a class-action lawsuit against the city. Union officials shot down the idea, saying that courts require a high burden of proof for discrimination suits that the union would be unlikely to meet.
“But it’s happening everywhere,” another teacher called out. “Stop the shell game that’s taking place.”
Several teachers in attendance said they would like the union to create an ATR teacher chapter to represent them — something the union officials said was not likely to happen.
As the 2.5-hour-long meeting wrapped up, Vincente DeSiano, an elementary school teacher in the ATR pool, collected names and contact information from the roughly 40 people still present, after union officials said they would not provide information about who had attended.
“We have power that we don’t realize,” DeSiano said. “I want us all to be able to share information with each other and see how we can help the situation.”

Experienced v Newbie Teachers in Memphis: A Sign Of The Times

but who is, will be, has, or wants to do something about it?


Betsy Combier


Friday, October 7, 2011

Tempers Flare at Jobs Fair as Experienced Teachers Told No Jobs

NYCity Eye
Memphis surplus teachers crisis instigated by policies of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Dancan
Published verbatim from democraticunderground. Indents are article excerpts that the original post cited. Article excerpts have been broadened to include full articles or letters cited. {Bracketed parts} are from this blogger.

"Gee, Arne. How do you feel about the tempers flaring at the Memphis schools job fair?" {From 10/7 post at democraticunderground, which drew from the "Memphis Commercial Appeal."}

This is your education reform in action, Arne Duncan. Does it make you proud to see all those long-time teachers in their 50s unable to get jobs after devoting themselves to their careers? 

I hope they do file those age-discrimination lawsuits..I will be among the first to offer financial support. 

They are being laid off and replaced by trainees from TFA. Yes, this is your reform in action. Proud of it, are you?

Tempers boil over at Memphis City Schools job fair, "Commercial-Appeal" news story link.
Police were called to calm a disturbance at a Memphis City Schools job fair Friday when about 70 experienced teachers were told there were no openings.
"When I heard that, I turned around and told all the teachers in the auditorium that we need to file a class-action suit," said Dennis Paden, 54, an 18-year classroom veteran with a master's degree.

"Most of the teachers, if not all, were over 50. Several were in wheelchairs. It's a classic case of age discrimination," said Paden, who was told to leave the fair at American Way Middle because he was causing a disturbance and being belligerent.
....Teachers said the flare-up reflects anger over changes that allow the district to hire new teachers over senior staff to help meet "curriculum needs."
One of the comments after the article hits the nail on the head.
"As a result of the teacher shuffling, all sections of physics at Ridgeway High were dissolved this week ... Students were told Friday, a week before the quarter ends, that physics classes would no longer meet."

Ridgeway, isn't that supposed to be one of the better schools in the MCS?

How could an accredited high school not offer Physics? Isn't that sort of like educational malpractice?

As for Dennis Paden, I'd have him teaching my children any day. We can use passionate, interesting history teachers out in the new suburban schools. We could also use someone like him at my children's private school (that is within about a 10-minute drive of his home).

Who's Dennis Paden? Here's his letter today about being treated disrespectfully and being without a job in spite of glowing references. He says the superintendent calls them "lemons:"Letter: "MCS mistakes prove costly," from the Commercial Appeal today:

I am one of the many Memphis City Schools teachers whose official status is "surplus teacher." Supt. Kriner Cash derisively refers to us as "lemons." For him, it may be a joke. For cash-strapped taxpayers it is no laughing matter. By my conservative estimate, his misuse of resources will cost you in excess of $6 million.

Last year I taught advanced placement U.S. history, African-American history, economics, U.S. government and two regular sections of United States history. My other duties included coaching the debate team and serving as head coach for our varsity baseball program. It was a grueling schedule that I accepted as a professional challenge. I did not complain. I was proud to be a team player. At the end of the year when my principal told me that my A.P. class would be discontinued and that as a result of other staffing cuts he needed my slot to hire a football coach, I was stunned. I was placed on the surplus list and have yet to be hired at another school despite glowing recommendations, a master's degree in my subject area and a résumé packed with career experience in virtually every area related to the social sciences. My evaluations contain no deficiencies.

Being a vocal critic of reforms that too often label children, teachers and schools as failures as a result of high-stakes testing, I can understand how I may have rubbed some the wrong way. However, when I meet with other teachers in surplus status, I find they too are highly qualified and were solid contributors in their last assignment. So, what gives?

It is curious to me why so many veteran teachers have been relegated to the sidelines in exchange for less experienced and, in most cases, less qualified Teach For America personnel. According to Deputy Supt. Irving Hamer and John Barker of MCS, it is data that drives all MCS educational decisions. Where is the data that says inexperienced Teach for America personnel are worth the millions of dollars spent to lock proven veterans out of the classroom?

Dennis Paden

In my opinion as a retired teacher, and in the opinion of those teachers I speak to who are still in the is past time for the person in charge of all this mess to be fired. 

From day one Arne Duncan started by attacking teachers' unions. He only went to charter schools, he hung around with the reformers and praised documentaries like Waiting for Superman in which teachers were treated insultingly. 

I am sick inside over the way teachers are being treated. Memphis is one of the worst. My thoughts go out to them.{Of course it's totally unscientific, but here's the letter grade that readers gave the record of placing MCS "surplus teachers".}

Commenter wrote:
Similar stories in many districts. This is just sick.

I'm working with a handful of TFA replacements this year. It's disgusting that anyone with a brain thinks they can waltz in and do a comparable job - or even do better - than the experienced teachers they are replacing. 

It's like an alternate universe where up is down, in is out and everyone smiles and pretends the kids are okay.
          Another commenter wrote:
          I'm mentoring my third TFAer. This sucks.

The first two quit; one in the middle of a semester, the other before finals near the end of the year. Most of these people do not belong in front of classrooms. I have only met one TFAer I would consider qualified to teach, and honestly that is because she went back to school and actually took some classes on her own about education, educational theory & practice. Many TFAers believe the hype about themselves as "saviors" and do not feel like they need the sufficient educational background in order to practice the teaching discipline. It's sad for our students who deserve top tier, qualified instructional professionals.

Piece by piece our public education system is being dismantled by a Democratic administration. That should make us all very angry.

Another commenter wrote:
football coach wasn't it

a master's certified teacher to teach history or a football coach to teach history, in the usa it is an easy choice, football is more important than history in the usa... in france the schools do not waste any resources on sports, all sports teams are run by the towns/regions and have fuck all to do with the schools, in school you have physical education class and that is it for sports.
          Another commenter:
          Article from Aug. .They fired the teacher of the year. 

They applied for money from Bill Gates, and it had strings attached.
{Ed.: SOE Talk is an outlet for students, prospective students and alumni of the Johns Hopkins School of Education.}

By Jane Roberts, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn. (MCT)
When Memphis City Schools accepted millions of dollars from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness, it agreed to tap new pipelines for attracting teachers.

But after at least 190 teachers with no experience were hired over 100 teachers with lots of it, school board members wanted to know Monday if jobs were earmarked for some of the new teachers—and what they are supposed to tell angry constituents.

“Out of North Memphis, I’m getting this phone call: ‘How can you let the teacher of the year last year go when you’re hiring people who don’t have experience?’” board member Sara Lewis said after the meeting. “That needs to be explained to people. People don’t understand. Our issues are (getting) accurate and adequate information.” While Supt. Kriner Cash did not say whether some positions were intentionally left open for Teach for America and other talent partners, he said the process for filling positions was “open and transparent,” and he reminded board members that he has said if any highly qualified teacher is not permanently placed, he will see to it himself that he or she will be.

When the district applied for $90 million from the Gates Foundation in 2009, its proposal said that 30-35 percent of new hires would come from talent pipelines that produce high-quality teacher applicants. In 2009, the district expected it would hire 190 teachers from those sources this year alone. Next year, the number jumps to 235.

With only 5 percent of MCS graduates ready to succeed in college, Cash said the district has to do something different.

“We are trying to change and improve that rate,” he said. “We also have some of the highest numbers of students who are not proficient. … We have to do everything we can to give principals a choice—that is what research shows—give them the latitude to hire staff they need to move the needle.”

The issue boiled over after weekend media reports that the board would be voting on a $1.4 million contract Monday to hire more teachers from an outside group, Memphis Teacher Residency.

This year, MCS signed a contract to place 100 TFA corpsmen, paying their salary plus $4,000 per person to cover training and recruiting costs.

Since 2009, MTR has placed 45 teachers in public and private schools in the area. The residents complete a one-year master’s degree in urban education through Union University and work four days a week in the city schools in supervised mentorship. They also receive a living stipend.

“MTR does not have a contract that requires MCS to hire our residents,” said director David Montague. “What I would like to think is that our teachers are attractive enough that principals hire them because they want them in the building. I would love for them all to get hired in Memphis City Schools, but they are not going to get hired because they have to be hired.”

Memphis Education Association president Keith Williams told board members that displaced teachers had been upstaged by “outsourced labor,” reminding them that new teachers have no record of their success in the classroom. Williams went further, saying they also have no relationships in the city.

Cash said MEA has been part of the discussions, saying, “We are working together on this issue.”

But he was clear that he has little power over anecdotal evidence, and board member Rev. Kenneth Whalum agreed, saying he could do nothing for teachers who say they are being mistreated but insist on anonymity.