|Aixa Rodriguez, an ESL teacher who has been with the DOE since 2005. After her school closed, she |
spent some time in the Absent Teacher Reserve before being hired by a new school for this fall.
Excessing teachers is not new. Closing schools is not new. What was new, when Mike Bloomberg came into his position as Mayor of New York City, was the streamlining of the trashing process for tenured teachers. It was the idea that teachers were protected by tenure rights that someone up the line in the food chain disliked.
Bloomberg spoke often about Jack Welsh and the firing of 10% of the workforce to keep employees on the ball, always worried about "being next". The City was, in 2003, under the spell of management/administrators of public agencies to get rid of the riff raff, the employees who sit around and do nothing all day. Bloomberg was led to believe (I honestly do not think he checked this out himself) that tenure gave tenured employees the right to do nothing because they could never be terminated. This is, was, and will be, fake news.
But fake news and false claims work. Especially if someone knows how to use the dark web, how to hack into computers, or who has malicious intent to make up lies about someone. Most people still believe what they read and see on the internet.
So what happened in 2003, and I was fortunate enough to be there to see it, was a full scale attack on tenured teachers and "failing" public schools, so that massive numbers were thrown into big warehouses around NYC (in 2008 there were 8 main warehouses). Some remained for 1 year, others 7-15 years, and a few are still sitting in rooms where they are not given any work, not called a rubber room, but still the same thing. A reassignment room where you are told to sit until further notice is a rubber room.
I started visiting rubber rooms in 2003-2004 when my friends David Pakter and Polo Colon asked me to visit them at 25 Chapel Street, 10th floor. I was there several times a week, and stayed all day, chatting with the teachers there about their stories, their schools, and their administrators. The UFT went to the rubber rooms I think 1 time/year, but everyone at the UFT knew that I was talking with the members, because I also attended 3020-a hearings at the request of members, and then the charged employees started asking for me to help their NYSUT attorney settle their cases. So, I did that. Then I was hired to work as a Special Representative and given an office at 52 Broadway, 16th floor in 2007. I was in all the rubber rooms every week (except Staten Island) until August 2010, when I left to start advocating for teachers' rights at 3020-a on my own.
I still remember when suddenly, in 2012, I heard that every charged UFT member who was not terminated at 3020-a would become an ATR. I asked where this was written down, and heard it was not in writing, it was "just the way it is."
Suddenly, teachers who had been charged with something but who was not terminated, even if completely false, who had inefficient counsel at the 3020-a and/or a biased arbitrator, became a substitute teacher/nomad, wandering week to week to a new school, replacing full-time teachers/guidance counselors for a day/week/month. How do you establish enough trust with a child to counsel him/her, if you meet them for a day or stay with them a week, then disappear? How can you teach?
Also, ATRs who are assigned somewhere temporarily, mostly a few days or weeks, often do not have access to IEPs, and don't input grades.
Students are smart enough to know that if you are not grading him/her, why bother doing the work?
This is really a black/white picture of ATRs and their bizarre situation in a school, and there are many layers of grey which I am not going into here. But the plan to remove tenure by displacing thousands of people and making it torture to remain in the DOE, certainly worked to create an environment of fear, resentment and even hatred.
It seems to me that we are seeing a return to rational strategic planning, with the new contract implying that ATRs can be placed in their content area in September. But "CAN" does not mean "WILL". Let's see.
Unfortunately, the UFT is still interested in playing-along-to-get-along with the Chancellor, Mayor, and everyone underneath. This is not going to change anytime soon, unless someone wins the $billion lottery and pays everyone to take a looooong holiday.
It is all about money, after all.
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
James Eterno agreed, saying principals often will not even consider ATR educators with years (or decades) of experience because of the higher salaries.
For Rodriguez, an uncertain summer was punctuated with the call she was hoping for; she was off the ATR pool, working as an ESL teacher as a provisional hire at a school in Manhattan. The position has the potential to extend beyond the year. But her thoughts remained with other teachers still in the ATR pool, lacking a permanent placement. Some may enjoy the substitute work, but Rodriguez was adamant that the current design of the system was wasting the talent and experience of teachers already on the payroll.