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Friday, February 26, 2016

The Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) Funny Business Continues With the Support of the UFT and the DOE

NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina
So....of course the numbers remain the sameATRs or Absent Teacher Reserve personnel,  are mostly (not all) tenured educators who need something called (and here please excuse me for using some foul language never used by the DOE) "due process"ATRs have no rights. They are, as Eric so aptly calls these folk, second class citizens in the education world.

In my experience - watching and doing 3020-a hearings for teachers as well as helping teachers find some way to fix NYC DOE errors for the past 13 years - I do not see a single person from any group, whether it be the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) or the employer, the NYC Department of Education, lift a finger to help any teacher in need of anything, much less for ATRs. Except, interestingly enough, at 3020-a, where the 'good' arbitrators are seeing that ATRs cannot be disciplined simply because there are no authorities or guidelines to evaluate tenured substitute teachers.

The UFT website keeps the bizarre statements up that ATRs benefited from the new contract. Bulloney.

Yes, I know this is a sweeping general statement, but prove me wrong.

The main rule for termination at 3020-a is that the Respondent, or the person charged must be either unable to improve (for incompetency charges) or impossible to remediate (after charges with incompetency or misconduct). In other words, if you are an ATR and the Field Supervisor observes you 3 times during the school year at your various schools, and says that you are a disaster and cannot ever be satisfactory (see below - ATRs are still evaluated under the S/U system), then an arbitrator can terminate you.

No they cant. Not in the real world.

And if someone tells you "that is the way it is..." then you know that they didnt fight the absurdities the UFT and DOE are putting out there. Absurdities exist because people accept them, or do not fight them. The answer to "Why not?" is mysterious, except that I understand that many people rely on reps, attorneys, and others who simply dont know or dont care to know any facts.

First, we all know that there are few facts in an observation. Observations are subjective views/ opinions of someone, and if this someone (principal, Field Supervisor, AP, etc.) says you are rotten, then the argument is that there is no objective data, the judgment is a personal opinion and this opinion is wrong because......

Then you back up this personal opinion by arguing that this subjective view cannot be used for a termination by saying hey - this evaluator harassed me, discriminates against me, wants me off the school budget, etc, and obviously sees me through colored lens with the intent to harm.

Second, evaluators, to be credible, must have a position within the school that allows them to make informed decisions about you, the teacher, and the pedagogy you use in the classroom within your license to students who are able to learn what you teach. If you are an ATR special education teacher assigned to a high school physics class with 34 general education students and you are evaluated by a Field Supervisor who says you cant teach and will never be able to teach, this is nuts. Similarly, if you need to have brain surgery and the hospital assigns an orthopedic resident to do it, would you say that the doctor assigned is incompetent? Absolutely. (Well, you would unless you have secret suicidal tendancies, but that is beyond my pay grade).

Third, in my opinion, everything the NYC DOE does is based on money, not merit. When a teacher is given a U/developing/ineffective APPR, your salary is frozen except if  you are between salary step 1a-8a and not at the end of the salary steps or BA-MS-CA+30.

You still get your longevity raises, but the bottom line remains: the principal benefits from giving you a bad evaluation despite your performance. A plane could fall from the sky and make a hole in the roof of the school, and you will be blamed and charged. Often the only criteria for being charged is your salary. That's what a good legal team hired to support you, proves at 3020-a and in grievances/U-rating appeals so that you overcome the U/ineffective/developing rating. The evaluator is not credible/has no authority/violated standards and guidelines.

However, except for testimony saying that ATRs are NOT substitute teachers, they really are. They fill vacancies when a teacher is absent. James Quail doesn't agree, here is his testimony on 6-15-15 at a 3020-a:

"A. A substitute teacher is usually a
16 person who comes into a school and may work maybe one
17 day a week. They may not have any prior training, and
18 they may come out of college. They may work two days
19 a week, and they're a substitute teacher. Many times
20 they're looking to get a license, a regular license.
21 An ATR is usually a person with tremendous experience,
22 who comes in as a finished teacher, a polished
23 teacher, an educator who has I call it a tool kit of
24 resources at their disposal. Part of that tool kit is
25 experience. And my opinion, as a supervisor,

experience is a key factor in teacher performance.

.....A. There are no substitute teachers in
the Absent Teacher Reserve."

And in answer to the question what are the responsibilities of ATRs:

"A. Primarily to provide continuous and
24 meaningful instruction to students when they are sent
25 into the school to support that school......

Their responsibility is primarily the
14 same responsibilities teacher that they go in there.
15 The Principal assigns them to a position to cover
16 classes, and they teach similarly to what a regular
17 general education teacher would teach. And part of
18 their responsibilities, we feel, is to support that
19 teacher in seeking out a permanent placement, and
20 returning back into a regular school......

A. I don't do the assignments as a

15 supervisor....

I don't observe the teacher if they're
not teaching in their licensed area."

I'm confused, so if you understand what he means, please email me. (

James' wife, Maria Quail, works at the NYC DOE on Zerega Avenue in the Bronx. Mr. Quail uses her office to copy papers.

Anyone who knows an ATR , and the way evaluation has been set up underTeaching in the 21st Century (explained below with Component A or B)  knows that Field Supervisors cannot judge any ATR's performance and testify at a 3020-a against the ATR to get the charged educator fired. Field Supervisors were given the role of observer/supporter, notterminator/evaluator:

Here is an email from Field Supervisor Ayo Mendez to a new ATR:

From: Mendez Swavy Ayo (04M050)
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 2:42 PM
Subject: RE: Initial Site Visit at

Dear ,

Thank you again for meeting with me today- it was a pleasure. As per our conversation today, I am here to support and encourage you in your continued growth in your instructional practice, finding permanent employment, and improving your attendance.

To demystify, any questions you may have on your instructional focus as a teacher in the ATR Pool, I have attached a copy of the Chancellor's Instructional focus for the 2013-2014 school year.

I will also make outreach to you in the next week or two to schedule your formal observation.  In the meantime, here is a link to the Common Core Standards which will be very helpful in your preparation for your planning:

 Again, I thank you for the visit and will be making outreach to you in the very near future on the date and time of your formal observation.


Ayo Mendez,MSW,MSEd
Office Of Teacher Recruitment & Quality
Field Supervisor/Assistant Principal
65 Court Street 306A
Brooklyn, Ny 11201
BB:(646) 483-3129
Fax: (718)935-2417

From: Mendez Swavy Ayo (04M050)
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 8:31 PM
Subject: Initial Site Visit at

Dear ,
You should have received an email informing you that a Field Supervisor from the Office of Teacher Recruitment & Quality will be visiting with you shortly. I am pleased to inform you that you have been assigned to my caseload. The purpose of my initial visit is threefold:

•         To introduce myself to you and survey your professional development needs, as well as note your individual placement concerns.

•         To convey the Department of Education’s instructional and professional expectations.
•         To work with you in further developing your placement plan and seek your input in expediting the placement process.

I look forward to listening to your concerns, sharing our common expectations, and supporting your efforts to secure placement and continuing to serve students throughout the year and moving forward.

I am working with your assigned school to visit you tomorrow Wednesday, October 2nd in the afternoon. Please let me know if you will not be available. I can be reached at the following email address: or at cell phone number: (646)483-3129.
Thank you,

Ayo Mendez,MSW,MSEd
Office Of Teacher Recruitment & Quality
Field Supervisor/Assistant Principal
65 Court Street 306A
Brooklyn, Ny 11201
BB:(646) 483-3129
Fax: (718)935-2417

There is nothing in the above notices that Ayo Mendez would be evaluating the new ATR and testifying at a disciplinary hearing. In fact, I was so convinced that the Field Supervisors in my client's 3020-a hearing were out of line that we, the Attorney and I, kept Ayo Mendez in cross-examination two days (1 day direct testimony, 1 day cross-examination), James Quail three days in total (1 day = DOE direct, 2 full days cross examination), and Mark Ryan testified for a full day as well. I learned alot, especially that the Field Supervisors do not follow the guidelines and think that they can rate a teacher on what they saw him/her doing in the classroom for a few minutes, never asking anything about the students, whether the students have IEPs, 504 Plans, SOHO reports, etc. The Field Supervisors are not members of the school community and ATRs are substitute teachers. There are no regulations which can approve disciplinary observations of a substitute teacher by a Field Supervisor.

Then the responsibilities changed. Below is a recent email sent to an ATR:

ALERT: the second paragraph now gives Field Supervisors the right to make "recommendations" to the appropriate District Superintendent for "final ratings and/or tenure" [for probationary staff].

Who gave any notice to ATRs about this change? How does such change in the authorities of rating officers occur without anyone saying "hey, wait a minute!"

UFT? Where are you?

Hey, wait a minute. Stop this mess.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice

City fails to reduce number of teachers still unassigned to schools


Friday, February 19, 2016, 9:49 PM

The city failed to substantially shrink a costly pool of teachers who are unassigned to any school in 2015, according to figures released by Education Department officials Friday.

The city’s so-called Absent Teacher Reserve consists of teachers who have been removed from their permanent jobs for a variety of reasons and instead work as substitutes.

The arrangement has drawn criticism because the unassigned teachers usually earn far more than typical substitutes.

The latest figures released show there were 1,083 such teachers employed by the city as of January 2016, down just slightly from 1,102 such teachers a year earlier.

Education officials wouldn’t say how much the pool costs the city.

But previous official estimates have put the average annual cost for each mothballed educator at around $100,000.

Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa said the city remains focused on providing quality teachers to students.

City bolstering ATR evaluation 

process, but challenges remain

PUBLISHED: September 14, 2012 - 12:54 p.m. EST
A year after starting to rotate teachers without permanent positions into different empty slots weekly, the Department of Education has settled on a way to evaluate them.
But the plan, hiring administrators to observe and coach the teachers in multiple placements, could be stymied if the department cannot find enough available evaluators who are up to the task.
Last year, when the city launched the rotation system for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, it left up in the air the question of who would be responsible for evaluating them. Previously, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year, so principals could rate them as they did any other teacher on staff.
For almost all of the roughly 830 teachers in the pool at the end of last year, district superintendents ended up issuing the annual ratings with input from potentially dozens of principals who supervised each teacher — in most cases, without conducting the formal observations that teachers are required to receive each year.
But in Brooklyn, which had about 250 ATRs last year, the city took a different approach. It interviewed and selected five administrators who had also lost their positions to budget cuts or school closures to visit the teachers in their classrooms and give them feedback about their performance.
The “field supervisors” each took on a caseload of between 20 and 30 ATRs, observing them several times throughout the year and conducting four training sessions for them as well, according to department officials. Ultimately, the administrators rated each teacher as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory at the end of the year.
Union officials said they were initially skeptical that the administrators would balance support with tough feedback, given the city’s repeated demands that it be allowed to fire ATRs, whom former chancellor Joel Klein characterized as “teachers who either don’t care to, or can’t, find a job.”
But the officials said they received few complaints from teachers participating in the pilot and found that the administrators selected for the task largely were conducting the observations in good faith. Some ATRs whose first observations netted them an unsatisfactory rating even had that label reversed after follow-up observations documented progress, the officials said.
Ultimately, 60 of the ATRs evaluated last year were rated unsatisfactory overall, according to city data — a rate three times the citywide rate but hardly suggestive of a broad effort to push ATRs out of the system, particularly because a higher portion of teachers in the pool had previous U-ratings. Teachers who receive two U-ratings can be fired, and one low rating can make it harder for teachers to land a permanent position.
Now the city is planning to expand the observation system piloted in Brooklyn to the rest of the ATR pool, which today numbers about 1,822. The number is likely to shrink by the end of October, when schools set their student registers and more teachers receive offers for permanent positions.
Amy Arundell, a teachers union representative who oversees personnel matters, said the union is in favor of the pilot’s expansion.
“We’re supportive of the DOE creating a structure whereby folks in the excess pool get the same kind of support that all teachers across the system are supposed to get,” she said in a statement.
But union officials said they have been told the expansion is contingent on having enough administrators on hand who are both capable of the unorthodox task and contractually able to complete it.
Currently, there are 200 administrators in excess in the city, according to department officials.
Teachers in the ATR pool who were rated last year said they were not satisfied with the way they were evaluated.
One teacher who attended a hiring fair on Thursday said she did not remember being observed at all, but she received a satisfactory rating anyway — a designation she said felt completely arbitrary.
“Whatever they ask you to do, you just do it,” she said of the assignment process, which had her teaching middle school at times and preparing her own lesson plans when someone she substituted for did not leave instructions.
A middle school teacher starting his third year in the pool said he was part of the Brooklyn pilot last year. Even with an observation, he said, he found the system “unfair” because his supervisor had little information about his performance before issuing a satisfactory rating.
The strong mark came “only because I happened to get an honors class on the day that he observed me,” said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous. He said he was observed twice but not offered any extra training.
Connie Pankratz, a department spokeswoman, said the city was short on manpower last year, so it focused the observations on teachers who had been reported for problems such as poor attendance. This year, the department intends to observe every ATR at least once, she said. But she said she did not yet have concrete details on how the program would roll out and who would staff it.
The evaluation strategy, which Pankratz said had been developed with the union’s support addresses one problem posed by the rotation system: Each ATR does not have a regular set of supervisors. But it does not tackle some of the other system’s other challenges. Because many of them receive assignments outside of their license areas, or at schools that only need help with administrative tasks such as record-keeping, judging their teaching quality is trickier.
That reality was reflected in the ratings issued last year, union officials said, noting that most of the U-ratings were for attendance issues. A low rating attributed to incompetence in the classroom would be easily challenged if the city could not show the teacher had been observed and given chances to improve, or if the teacher was handling classes he or she was not licensed to teach, the officials said.
The teacher who participated in the pilot last year said the lack of formal observations and support might have been for the best, because he said during the year he encountered some capricious principals and was sometimes placed in jobs outside his license area.
“One principal didn’t believe in ATRs, so he had me sit with a teacher all day long,” the teacher said. “You could be an elementary teacher and still be put in a seventh-grade class.”

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