|Kathleen Murphy-Butler is a Newark public school teacher without a permanent position for the fall|
City struggles with what to do with hundreds of teachers on the payroll who don’t have permanent assignments
Bigger than Bridgegate? Christie’s $25 million in no-show Newark school jobs
This site has acquired a document, dubbed “Managed Choice,” that lists the names of 402 instructional employees who spend their days doing nothing and getting paid for it because they have lost their positions but cannot be taken off the payroll because most have perfectly good records. Ninety percent of the instructors are tenured. They are called “educators without placement”–or EWPS. They did not choose to be idle and they hate it–but it was Christie’s decision to put them there.
At a conservative estimate of an average salary of $60,000 per teacher, that represents some $25 million a year in taxpayer funds flushed down the sewer of corruption and ineptitude that is Christie’s control of the Newark schools. The figure is probably much larger because many of the EWPS teachers are experienced and at the higher end of the pay scale.
The list also does not include the scores of administrators who also have been transformed into “educators without placement”–or EWPS. That would add millions to the money wasted by Christie’s agent in Newark, state-imposed superintendent Cami Anderson.
Anderson’s administration faces a deficit of at least $57 million this year, a fiscal hole the Glen Ridge resident managed to dig for herself and the Newark schools in her more than three-year tenure. Christie, who constantly praises what a great job Anderson does, rewarded her wasteful spending and ineptitude this year by giving her another three-year contract. Christie owns the corruption in the Newark school administration. Unlike his claims about Fort Lee and the blockade of the George Washington Bridge, his stubby fingerprints are all over this scandal. He knows about this waste of public funds and he has encouraged it to continue.
One administrator EWP is Tony Motley, the former principal of the Bragaw Avenue School, an institution handed over to a privately-operated charter school chain whose principals have close business and personal ties to Anderson, former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, and former Mayor Cory Booker, now a United States senator. Motley, a vice president of the union representing school administrators, was one of five principals removed from their jobs early this year for raising questions about Anderson’s “One Newark” plan. He never got his job back.
A few weeks ago, Motley told me he did “nothing” in his EWPS rubber room at 2 Cedar Street, Anderson’s headquarters. At times, he worked on his doctoral dissertation, he said.
The EWPS list for teachers is dated July 31, 2014. Some of the names may have been removed from that list–others have been added. Earlier this year, the Newark Teachers Union estimated that at least 300 teachers were EWPs so the number is apparently growing. No precise tally as of this date is available but hundreds of teacher and other school employees, through no personal fault of their own, are drawing paychecks without working.
The document bears this warning in, appropriately, red ink: “**Confidential . Internal use ONLY. Please do NOT redistribute** Internal Candidates – Available for Managed Choice.”
It’s no surprise Anderson would want to keep this list confidential, a secret. It is evidence both of massive waste of public funds and her ineptitude–all on Chris Christie’s watch. Neither he nor his education commissioner, David Hespe, has done anything to stop it. They are complicit.
EWPS are not teachers who have been brought up on tenure charges–or suspended. Most of these educational employees are in good standing. The huge list of unused personnel is a direct result of what Cami Anderson’s backers in the media call her “bold and sensible” reforms–like, for example, so-called “Renew schools.”
Anderson is claiming “Renew schools” are doing well–and The Star-Ledger unquestioningly echoes the boast–but she refuses to release the statistics that would prove her right or wrong. What is known about “Renew” and other “redesigned” schools is that principals willing to back Anderson are given a free hand in firing teachers without cause and sending them to EWPS central. They hire their friends and the people they don’t like go off to rubber rooms and collect salaries without providing educational the services they are capable of doing–and licensed to do.
Worse, Anderson is committed to hiring scores of Teach for America (TFA) graduates–and, indeed, she has been hiring them while sending veteran teachers to EWPs centers. Anderson herself was a TFA executive and the organization supports her goals of closing neighborhood schools and expanding charters.
They can’t be taken off the payroll because they haven’t done anything wrong–they apparently just haven’t struck the fancy of principals who want to “renew” their staffs.
Anderson tried to rid the schools of these teachers last year when she sought to obtain a waiver of lay off procedures from the state education department. Hespe hid the request in his vest pocket, never accepting or rejecting it–but that doesn’t mean he won’t bring the waiver up again.
The expensive transformation of teachers into professional zombies hanging around the Limbos of schools and 2 Cedar Street reveals a pattern that proves it’s part of Anderson’s distorted policies. The dismissal of teachers is not random and is not spread equally among all schools in all wards of the city. Rather, many teachers have been let go from schools in the South, West, and Central Wards that have received the Christie regime’s special attention, while the North and East Wards generally are untouched:
- Louis Munoz Marin–25
- William Horton–25
- West Side–20
- Newark Vocational–17
- Barringer Arts and Humanities–13
- Newark Bridges–13
- Louse Spencer–12
- Madison Street–12
- Elementary school teachers–90
- Special education teachers–61
- Guidance counselors–23
- Physical education teachers–19
- Social workers–16
- Mathematics teachers–15
- Art teachers–13
- Technology coordinators–13
Anderson’s rubber rooms are only part of the story of how state control cheats Newark’s students and taxpayers from throughout New Jersey. Another side is the failure of Christie’s agent to provide appropriately licensed instructors for Newark’s children. In its next installment, this blog will introduce readers to a teacher who, after spending two years as a EWPS is now teaching outside his license–way outside his license.
'Youps': Newark's expensive, excess school staff
on February 26, 2012 at 6:55 AM, updated February 26, 2012
The Newark school district is paying $8.5 million a year in salaries and benefits to 84 youps: tenured teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and other personnel, including two vice principals and two department chairs, none of whom could get a principal to hire them into the reconstituted public school system.
The 84 are there because of staff reorganizations that began in September, in part, to save $7.9 million for a district with a dwindling student population. With more such changes just announced, we're going to get more youps.
Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson calls it the "excess pool." Those in the pool, she said, must stay on the payroll until they retire or leave for jobs outside the district because of tenure laws and union contract provisions. They aren't just sitting around, she said. They have been assigned to be long-term substitutes, an "extra pair of hands" in special education classes. I've seen a list of those in the pool -- no names, just data -- and most of them have six to 30 years of service which, given salary increments, would make them very expensive teacher aides.
I'd work 'em hard, hard enough to either get some direct benefit for the kids, or work the youps right off the payroll.
I asked the district for an assignment list to show where the youps were working. Haven't got it yet.
There used to be more than 200 in the pool. Most lost jobs because replacing half a school's staff is one of the reform options under the federal School Improvement Grants that seven Newark schools received.
Principals are supposed to interview at least two from the excess pool before hiring anyone else, Anderson said. In many cases, people aren't hired because they don't fit the need -- too many English teachers, too few vacancies in English departments, for instance.
But I hear anecdotes, like the one about the principal who had open jobs and wanted to fill them to help students prepare for the coming round of standardized tests. The principal interviewed two youps and decided it was better to have vacancies than inflict those teachers on the students.
It would be foolish to think all those in the pool are bad teachers. It would be just as foolish to believe there are no bad teachers among those left behind.
One of the problems, I've been told, is that principals don't always write up teachers the way they should, because of everything from friendship to a belief that nothing comes of it.
"Don't blame the union," Del Grosso told me.
He said there would be no youps if the district had gone strictly by seniority, letting nontenured teachers go first, then the tenured teachers, based on least seniority. That would have been within tenure law and contract language, and would have avoided creating the pool of tenured jobless that the district must still pay, he asserted.
Yes, but it might also mean good, energetic young teachers would be lost, while teachers who had burned out long ago -- or never had the right stuff -- would be retained.
DelGrosso said, and others also told me, they don't think the use of the youps pool has been well-planned.
Educators in the district pointed out that, since schools have lost reading coaches and tutors to budget cuts, why aren't English teachers (I counted eight) in the pool assigned to fill those slots? Can we put them to work after school? On weekends?
I'm all for reform. I've seen it come and go in Newark, too often with more unintended consequences than good, stable changes. I worry about the next phase of closings and consolidations proceeding, even though no one has done the analysis to tell the results of the first phase, other than youps.
They make excellent poster children for tenure reform, but is that enough educational bang for those 8.5 million bucks?