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Thursday, January 4, 2018

The NYC Department of Education Failed To Place ATRs as Planned

Aixa Rodriguez

The New York City Department of Education is an institution trying to move forward without a strategy or the necessary information to reach set goals successfully. And, no one wants to admit this fact.

As the City School Board - the Panel For Educational Policy - remains under Mayoral control (in my opinion a total mistake), the buck stops at Mayor de Blasio.

The political environment of NYC is structured in such a way as to assure incumbents their jobs until they die, or reach term limits, at which point their best friend is "voted" in. We continue to have a pay-to-play state. De Blasio's extensive payola machine in this state guaranteed him a second term as Mayor, despite a first term that looked like he was bought by rich "I-want-somethings" who were willing to pay to get what they wanted.

One of the biggest problems that I see in the Department of Education is that huge amounts of public dollars are placed on well-funded but unworkable, bad ideas of someone who has caught the mayor's ear for some unknown reason. But no one has to care if the idea works or not, because there is employment immunity (I do not mean tenure, I mean political protection) and the dollars don't come from any individual pocket. Many people are very careless with money that comes from the public tub... see below.

The UFT doesn't seem to be interested in changing the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) situation, an embarrassment for sure. How unfair to displace professional people and make them roam from school to school to teach subjects they were not trained to teach? How disrespectful is that?

No one who can do something about this situation actually cares enough to make changes. Sad.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Advocatz
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Karen Sklaire
ATR Teachers: Pool’s Stigma Shaped Meager Results: 41 Back in Class

  • Updated 
After much controversy, the Department of Education’s plan to place 400 Teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve into schools was a bust, with just 41 Teachers placed in schools that had vacancies.
But that was no surprise to Aixa Rodriguez, Gina Trent and Karen Sklaire, three of the Teachers in the pool.
                                                   Blaming the Blameless?
In October, this newspaper reported that some Teachers in the ATR feared the stigma of being in the pool would make Principals reluctant to hire them. In that article, Ms. Rodriguez said she’d heard that some Principals were hiding vacancies; she said recently she believes that was one reason why the number of Teachers matched to schools was so low.
“They blame us for being in this position. There’s no way to absorb us,” Ms. Rod­ri­guez said in a phone interview.
Ms. Trent said that because ATR Teachers have been vilified for years, “I knew they would have trouble placing us.”
There were 1,202 teachers in the ATR pool on the first day of school this year. As part of a goal to reduce the cadre, the DOE said it would begin matching ATR Teachers to vacancies that were still open by Oct. 15.
The plan immediately met pushback by pro-charter-school groups, including StudentsFirstNY, which rallied worried parents at City Hall. Even though the majority of Teachers ended up in the pool because their schools closed or had drops in enrollment, some parents and education advocates were concerned about the quality of candidates. About a third of the pool’s Teachers have gone through a disciplinary case; 12 percent received unsatisfactory ratings.
Barred From ‘Renewals’
Days before the agency began looking at the vacancies, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that Teach­ers from the reserve pool would not be placed in the city’s Renewal program for struggling schools.
But the DOE found a lower number of vacancies than anticipated, partly because a few of the vacancies were temporary and enrollment decreased at some schools, which meant they didn’t need more Teachers.
“I think a lot of schools hired as quickly as they could so they wouldn’t have to take in an ATR Teacher,” said Ms. Sklaire. The Drama Teacher was excessed in June after her school’s enrollment declined.
One hundred and thirteen Teachers from the pool were hired prior to Oct. 15. An additional 205 Teachers were provisionally placed on a quarterly basis, and can be hired permanently if they receive an Effective rating or higher during evaluations.
“We’ll continue working with our school leaders and ATR Teachers to supervise and support ATR Teachers, and we’ll address any matches that aren’t working for schools,” said Randy Asher, who was hired to shrink the reserve.
Thrown in Cold
Ms. Rodriguez, an ESL Teacher, was placed at a Bronx high school until the semester’s end in January. She said that another Teach­er had been teaching her class for the first weeks of school.
“I was given no curriculum or guide and had no idea what the class had been doing,” she said. Because she missed out on developing relationships with students and staff at the beginning of the school year, she said, she felt “a mixture of guilt and frustration” that the semester was ending.
Ms. Trent, an English Teacher who has been in the pool for 10 years, said she was also provisionally placed until January but wasn’t given a class. “We are supposed to be used to assist other Teachers but that’s not happening here,” she said, adding that she and another ATR Teacher often work in the library.
Because the DOE announced that the placements would be until June, Ms. Trent was surprised to find out hers would end so soon. That experience isn’t new: she said that many ATR Teachers, who earn an average salary of $94,000, had been told they’d be hired permanently but weren’t because the DOE wouldn’t subsidize their salaries after the first year.
“So many of us have been lied to,” she said.
In addition to frustrations over the DOE’s failure to place as many ATR Teachers as anticipated, there are also concerns about how the closing of 14 schools, including nine Renewal schools, would expand the pool. More than 400 Teachers will be affected.
“It’s going to increase the pool. We’re just creating more ATRs,” Ms. Sklaire said.
About 70 percent of Teachers ended up in the pool because of a budget reduction or declining student enrollment, or because of a school closing or phase-out, like Ms. Rodriguez.
Her former school, Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies, faced a sharp drop in enrollment and joined the Renewal program for the 2015-2016 school year. She became an ATR when her school closed in 2016.
New schools will open in place of some of those set to close, and at least half of the positions in them are supposed to go to Teachers from the closed schools, according to the United Federation of Teachers.
But at a Dec. 18 press conference, Ms. Fariña had said that there have been cases where that hasn’t been true: at I.S. 584, which replaced a shuttered middle school this fall, “nowhere near” half of the Teachers came from the previous school. The majority of Teachers who were put in the reserve after their schools closed in the 2016-2017 school year have been placed, according to the DOE.
Do Better Next Year?
“We’re confident that we’ll be able help Teachers at closing schools secure new positions for next year,” said agency spokesperson Mi­chael Aciman.
But to Ms. Rodriguez, that means Teachers already in the pool will have more competition to be hired at a school. “It’s not good for me, it’s not good for Teachers coming from the closing schools, and it’s not good for schools that could have good Teachers,” she said.