A close-up look at NYC education policy, politics,and the people who have been, are now, or will be affected by these actions and programs. ATR CONNECT assists individuals who suddenly find themselves in the ATR ("Absent Teacher Reserve") pool and are the "new" rubber roomers, people who have been re-assigned from their life and career. A "Rubber Room" is not a place, but a process.
rehiring process, which is rare for tenured teachers, could lead to major staff
shakeups and recruitment challenges. When two other long-struggling schools
were forced to undergo that process last year, a majority of teacherschose to leave or were not rehired.
State officialshave saidthe
process is meant to replace any “unwilling or ineffective” staffers at these
schools, where the average graduation rate last year was nearly 27 points below
the city average. (At the one middle school in the group, J.H.S. 80 in the
Bronx, only 5 percent of students passed last year’s state math exams.) But
finding teachers to replace those who leave can be difficult.
Principal Caterina Lafergola
Last year, 24 of 38
teachers at Automotive High School in Brooklyn left after the rehiring process,
in most cases because they decided not to reapply. Now, about 40 percent of the
struggling school’s teachers are beginners, according to Principal Caterina Lafergola.
“Many of the schools
that are going through the rehiring have a stigma attached to them,” she said.
“It’s very hard to recruit strong candidates.”
The six schools are
Herbert H. Lehman High School, Banana Kelly High School, J.H.S. 80, and Fordham
Leadership Academy for Business and Technology in the Bronx; along with August
Martin High School and John Adams High School in Queens. Those six were
designated by the state last year as “out of time” because they have gone so
long without making significant improvements, joining Automotive and Boys and
Girls High School, which were identified a year earlier.
State officials have
made clear that the schools must make rapid gains or they risk being shuttered.
The schools, which are part of the city’s “Renewal” improvement program,
were forced to lengthen their days, and teachers were required to undergo
additional training during the school year and summer.
The pressure appears to
be taking a toll on some staffers. When principals at the six schools had to
reapply for their jobs last summer, at least one chose not to reapply and
others decided to retire, according to the principals union.
Now some teachers are
questioning whether they want to return. A teacher who has worked at one of the
high schools for nearly a decade said he has decided not to reapply because of
changes in the school administration and the added scrutiny on the school.
“You walk down the halls
and people are just saying, I’m not reapplying to this,” he said. “I’m not
coming back to this school.”
Some staffers have been
asked to submit resumes, letters of recommendation, and work portfolios,
teachers said. Then they must be interviewed by selection committees that
include the principal, teachers union representatives, and education department
The job uncertainty has
darkened the mood at some schools, said Jeffrey Greenberg, a math teacher and
union representative at Lehman High School.
“Normally this time of
year we’d be talking about how we’re going to get our kids to improve on their
Regents scores,” he said. “That conversation is not being done now because our
life, in many ways, is in front of us.”
According to an
agreement between the city and teachers union, any teachers who decide not to
reapply or are not rehired — and who do not find positions elsewhere — will be
assigned to another school in their borough that has an opening for which they
are licensed. Unlike teachers in the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve, who are
paid by the city as they rotate among schools until they find a permanent
placement, the out-of-time school teachers will remain at their assigned
schools for the entire school year.
If principals want to
remove an assigned teacher, a superintendent and teachers union representative
must sign off — an arrangementsome critics have compared toformer policy called “forced
placement,” where the city sent displaced teachers to schools without
principals’ input. But city and principals union officials say the new
process is different because the placements are not permanent, the city pays
the teachers’ salaries, and principals can assign the teachers any role, not
just as classroom instructors.
spokeswoman Devora Kaye pointed out that the city-union rehiring deal does not
stipulate that a minimum number of teachers be rehired, and added that the city
would organize recruitment events during the spring and summer.
“To effectively turn a
school around, there must be the right leadership, the right teachers, and the
right school staff to improve student achievement,” she said in a statement,
adding that the city is “working closely with each school during the hiring process
to support educators while holding them accountable.”
Update: This story has been
updated to reflect revised figures from the education department. About
420 teachers and staffers will have to reapply for their jobs, not 500.