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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guest Post: The UFT Needs To Do More To Assist ATRs

  August 11, 2012
1) The UFT is to be applauded for its efforts to defeat the DOE's efforts to vilify veteran teachers and send teachers in the 24 turnaround schools into the ATR pool.  The arbitrator said that the DOE was wrong in making teachers reapply for their positions.
However, we call upon the president to extend the same commitment of protection to teachers that have been excessed prior to this June.
This tactic of closing down schools is an old one under Bloomberg, Klein, Black and Walcott. The only thing that is different with the present instance is that the DOE was trying to close schools and circumvent the messy PEP process that resulted in organized community opposition and lawsuits.
There is now court precedent on our side.  In New York state on July 24, Judge Joan Lobis sustained the arbitrator’s position by saying that teachers’ contracts must be respected. (290 82nd 338)  In Louisiana on June 20, Judge Ethel Simms Julien used the same reasoning to say that 7,000 post-Katrina school employees were wrongly fired in New Orleans. (As this last example is in another state, this can be deemed “persuasive” in a legal argument application for our state.)

While the teachers in the 24 turnaround schools have been saved, it is important to not forget the teachers new to the ATR pool from schools that the DOE has successfully shut down and the prior generation of ATRs.  The UFT must insist on a hiring freeze until ATRs have been placed, as it did on September 12, 2007.* 

The excessed teachers are not the causes for "failing schools." The schools the DOE targets for closure disproportionately have low income students, high percentages of special education and ELL students.

1-a) Stop the Lockout
It's time that Mulgrew and the UFT defend all of the ATRs and fight for their placement, just as hard as they fought for the preservation of the positions of the teachers in the 24 schools slated for "closing."  

ATRs are being locked out of positions.
i) ATRs go unhired while novice teachers, many fresh out of college or education school, are placed in positions.  We call for the termination of the new replacement workers and for their replacement by ATRs.
ii) Adding insult to injury, workers with the title of teacher are the one class of UFT professional that is forced on a weekly sojourn.  The DOE is placing guidance counselors, social workers, librarians and paraprofessionals in full-school year assignments. 
iii) ATRs are asked during job interviews to demonstrate their competency in new teaching protocols: Common Core, workshop model, Danielson Method.  Novice teachers are given preferential treatment with summer training in these areas.  We call for the termination of novice training and for the offering of training to ATRs.

1-b) No to ending careers with buy-outs
The UFT leadership’s talk of a buy-out is a caving in to the DOE's harassment of ATRs.  Mulgrew did not defend the ATRs' teaching integrity when the DOE spoke of the ATRs as dead-weight during the May news reports of buy-out talks.

1-c) No to observations of ATRs
Observations of ATRs beginning in the 2011-2012 are another product of a side agreement to contracts.  It is inappropriate for teachers to be observed with students that they have just met, with students that know that the lesson is just a sample lesson.

2) No more side-agreements to contracts
The UFT must stop making agreements to the status of ATRs outside of the contract process.  In these side agreements the city is biting off, in piecemeal fashion, contract protections of senior teachers.  As an example, on April 15, 2010, and in the summer of 2011 the DOE and the UFT made an ATR agreements without any input from ATRs or other rank and file members of the UFT.  These side agreements are made without the sort of membership vote to which contracts are subjected.  Yet, the agreements carry the same powerful weight that contracts carry.

3) Dues equity for ATRs: Elected reps of ATRs’ choosing
Furthermore, the UFT must stop its opposition to the ATRs' practice of their electoral rights.  ATRs have no venue by which to vote for representatives that come from their ranks to express their interests.  Other distinctive groups, such as paraprofessionals and career and technical school teachers have their special divisions.  ATRs, with ranks at an estimated 830, equal the size of teaching staffs at about ten large schools put together.  For the reasons of parity, ATRs must have elected representatives at the boro level. 

The UFT held during the 2011 to 2012 year that ATRs could vote in whatever school that they were serving for a given week.  This is disingenuous. How can an ATR within a few days size up the main issues at a given school and properly weigh the strengths and weaknesses of two or three candidates at the school?  It is further unfair to the staff in the school in question.  ATRs, as outsiders, in close races could tip elections, affecting the outcome for the staff to be represented at that school. 
The UFT needs to recognize that we are not in a temporary status.  It knows, full well, that principals are not inclined to hire them, due to their senior salary level.  There is no valid rationale in opposing chapters and representatives with the argument that giving ATRs representation will institutionalize their status.  Given that many ATRs have been in this status for more than two years, they already have an institutionalized status by default.

New York Teacher, Sept. 20, 2007. 
*"Dispelling rumors that their jobs might be in jeopardy, Weingarten made clear that teachers who find themselves working as ATRs maintain their salary benefits and cannot be fired or laid off thanks to a job-security guarantee that the UFT secured in the 2005 contract.

"At a Sept. 12 [2007] labor-management meeting that Weingarten requested on the treatment of excessed teachers, UFT officials called for a moratorium on new hiring until vacancies are filled by current ATRs in the district or high school superintendency provided they have the appropriate license.

"'Filling vacancies with ATRs meets both federal and state requirements related to having a 'highly qualified teacher' in every classroom,' said Weingarten.'"
"DOE officials agreed at the Sept. 12 meeting to modify the new school financing system to encourage principals to hire ATRs. The school will get filled for the first year as if the teacher were a new hire and for the second year at 50 percent of the teacher's actual salary before assuming the cost of the actual salary before assuming the cost of the teacher's actual salary in the teacher's third year at the school.
"UFT officials also urged the DOE, in the next open market transfer period, to require that principals grant interviews, in seniority order, to ATRs with the appropriate license to fill vacancies before new recruits are interviewed or hired. Principals should also be required to put in writing why the ATR was nor hired for the position, the union said.
"The UFT also demanded that all ATRs be allowed access to all DOE job fairs.  The union made the demand after receiving word that the DOE barred ATRs from attending job fairs for prospective new teachers last spring."    New York Teacher, Sept. 20, 2007.