Q: Do ATRs have specific rights?
A: There are no specific rights for ATRS because they are educators like everyone else whose schools have been shut down or reorganized, or whose programs have been eliminated.
Nevertheless: the circumstances under which people must conduct their careers and plan for their future substantially changes when they are excessed. This has not been addressed by the UFT at all. ATRs become second-class educators and suffer much abuse. They are sometimes given inappropriate jobs (clerical work, deaning against their will, out-of-license teaching), overloaded with prepping for classes they have never taught, sidelined from per session and preferences. Most importantly, they are constantly being lied to: they do not know the truth about vacancies or what efforts anyone is doing to re-locate them.
Q: Has anyone been told how many real ATRs there still are?
A: The figure supplied by the DoE on Aug. 29th and undisputed by the union was 1,800 (see Jennifer Medina in the Times: “Amid Hiring Freeze, Principals Leave Jobs Empty”).
Q: Can you play a passive role as an ATR and just accept what the DoE gives you?
A: Of course. You are under no obligation to look for a job on your own. But, if a job fair is scheduled during the normal course of a school day, you must attend.
Q: Is the UFT still holding strong in contract negotiations on the question of ATRs?
A: The DoE wants to terminate ATRS when they do not find a job in a certain number of months. The UFT claims it is holding to its position that ATRs will not be terminated. Because the union agreed to the 2005 and 2007 contracts that gave principals discretion in hiring, it cannot demand that all ATRs who want positions be placed. This giveback has been one of the most harmful to veteran teachers and the profession as a whole.
Q: Are most ATRs senior educators and/or people of color?
A: There is no way to know for sure, because no one making this information available. Teachers with large salaries seem to be having the most difficulty finding a new job, and it is clear that newer and untenured teachers are more attractive to principals looking to fill vacancies because they can be asked to do many things that more senior teachers could possibly find fault with.
Q: How well informed are ATRs on the Side Agreement that’s due to expire on Dec. 1st?
A: Not much, and especially that it only applies to ATRs paid out of Central, not those who in excess but remaining in their current school (and on their current school’s budget). Heck, even the UFT keeps forgetting to mention that the Side Agreement has only applied to certain kinds of ATRs.
Q: Do principals know about the terms of the Side Agreement?
A: Some ATRs feel that principals pretend not to know about what’s in that agreement. I am not sure they are correct, since they are offered monetary benefits for hiring ATRs.
Q: Do ATRs have a functional chapter?
A: Not at this time. Some have asked for one so they could meet as a group and send reps to the DA. Weingarten opposed the idea because she didn’t want it to become a permanent category.
Q: What happened to the age-discrimination suit the UFT was contemplating because of the number of senior teachers not being able to find new jobs?
A: No one seems to know. School closings and restructuring leads to excessing. Who remains in the ATR pool after vacancies are filled tend to be senior teachers with higher salaries. It seems to have been hard for the UFT or NYSUT to prove age discrimination more salary discrimination is just as likely.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIRING
Q: Where can I find the regulations regarding how ATRs should be placed?
A: Excessing and layoff are discussed in Art. 17B and 17D. It was the 2005 contract that created the Open Market and allowed principals to deny a placement suggested by the DoE.
Q: Is the DoE playing fair with placements?
A: Under the current contract, the DoE is to try and place ATRs in their “district/superintendency,” but successive restructurings have created confusion. One ATR reports that the DoE told her there are no longer any districts, that they’ve been replaced by the CFNs (Children First Networks), which are not constrained to a borough. But schools seem to still be assigned to a “geographical district” or “community school district” as well as to a DSSI cluster on the DoE portals (i.e., websites describing each school in the system). Gone are “regions,” so the concept of someone’s getting relocated to the nearest vacancy to his or her excessing school, and failing that, moving outwards from district to region to borough, no longer seems to be in place. A grievance would help to sort this problem out. This is an example of how the details of existing contracts between the DoE and the union have been circumvented by the Bloomberg administration.
There is actually no way to tell what is going on behind the scenes. If an ATR finds himself placed out of his district, sometimes far out of the district, it's impossible to verify how many possible vacancies were bypassed through nefarious means (hiding the jobs, nepotism, etc.). Deals and exchanges are being made all the time, and sometimes principals are being forced to hire specific people under threat. There are many ATRs who feel there is no rhyme or reason to where they are being relocated.
Q: Are ATRs told the details of their status when they switch schools?
A: If you’ve been excessed, you can check your status online (the DoE alerts you by email). When you are excessed, you get a personalized form letter from your principal. If you are appointed at another school, you might receive an email like this:
Name of Applicant: ___________________ATRs should really be told out of which budget they are being paid. The personnel secretary does not have access to Galaxy and won't be able to tell. The CL should have access to Galaxy and sometimes doesn't bother getting a copy from the principal or is too busy (there's only so much CLs can do in one day). ATRs are in general afraid to ask questions and speak up for fear they will be treated as troublemakers.
EIS# / File#: ________________________
Congratulations on your selection for the position listed below through the Excessed Staff Selection System.
Location of Vacancy: __________________________
Your current Principal has been informed of this selection. You have been included in the hiring school's Galaxy table of organization with a valid, budgeted vacancy. Based on this selection, you should report to the above school on (day of the week), (date). You may contact the above hiring school if you have any questions regarding your new assignment..
Once again, congratulations on your selection and thank you for your continuing professional contributions to the New York City Department of Education and the children we serve.
New York City Department of Education
Q: Does the DoE seem to make up rules?
A: Frequently. For example, one ATR was told recently that he couldn't change to another of his licenses in order to accept a new position, that he had to continue under the license he was working under when excessed. But, there is nothing in the Side Agreement (ending Dec. 1st) or the contract restricting someone from moving to another license when changing to another school. Who knows where this came from.
By the way: in the old rules, the DoE could ask you to work in any school down from your license, but not up. In other words, if you held a JHS license, you could be moved to an elementary school under your JHS license but not to a high school. Presumably this protocol (law?) is still in place.
Q: Is there a right of return to your school should your program be re-opened?
A: To our knowledge, this question has not been answered. In 2007, the UFT was advising excessed members not to be hasty about looking for a new job on their own, as it might jeopardize their right of return to their old school.
SUPPORT FROM THE DoE
Q: Is the DoE and/or certain Children First Networks being more helpful than others?
A: We’re not sure.
Q: Can ATRS contact the DoE for help with their questions?
A: Going to the local office might get you more answers than going to the UFT. After all, the employer is the DoE, not the union.
Q: What written information has the DoE provided ATRs to help them?
A: The DoE prepared a manual for ATRs some years ago on how to improve their resumes and prepare for interviews. Perhaps people are still receiving them (we're waiting information on that). We’ve been told that the DoE tells you how to dress for an interview.
SUPPORT FROM THE UFT
Q: Does the UFT help ATRs at job fairs and hiring halls?
A: Not really. The union keeps saying that ATRs are hired at the discretion of the principal. And since they themselves negotiated the terms of the last two contracts, there really is nothing more they can say on this point.
Q: How helpful have Chapter Leaders been?
A: The UFT has asked CLs to collect information on ATRs in their school but has not directed them to reach out in particular to these people.
Q: How helpful have the District Reps been?
A: We’ve heard that some District Reps are slow to respond to questions ATRs have. Some do not seem to know about the ATR Side Agreement.
Q: Are some boroughs and district staff more helpful than others?
A: There have been times when borough offices have not answered phonecalls or emails. ATRs have to be proactive to find out what they need to know and who can help them with their questions.
Q: Did the union react to the manual the DoE prepared for ATRs some years ago on how to improve their resumes and prepare for interviews?
A: No. As outrageous and insulting a document that it was, the UFT took it in its stride. They should have instead taken the position that educators are professionals and fully capable of doing what’s necessary to find a job if they want to (and they don’t have to do anything under the current contract). The UFT’s silence on the circulation of that handbook spoke volumes on their complacency in the face of such condescension on the part of the DoE.
ATRs now coming out of the rubber rooms have not been given these manuals.
Q: What is the UFT doing about formal observations for ATRs?
A: The UFT, which negotiated the protocols and stated purpose of observations with the DoE (Art. 8J), is in no position to find fault with the way observations are being carried out — even if they are now being used to evaluate excessed teachers.
The title “ATR” encompasses a variety of circumstances in which excessed persons find themselves. The evaluation system designed in Art. 8J is clearly for people in regular positions.
ATRs acting as day-to-day subs are at the greatest disadvantage. They do not know the students who sit in front of them, and in the upper grades they generally have to wing things period by period out of license. ATRs teach from a lesson plan that has been left by the teacher. (In the best case scenario, of course. Sometimes nobody's left them any at all). They do not design their own lessons or materials and should not be judged on how they deliver something they did not write and have only just seen for the first time. There is no justification for subjecting ATRs to the observation protocols defined in Art. 8J, though most principals do, and it's amazing to a lot of us that the issue has not yet gone to grievance somewhere in the system.
ATRs teaching full or part programs out of license should also not be observed under the same kind of arrangements as regularly appointed teachers. What would indeed help these ATRs teaching out of license would be any or all of the following aids: a complete set of lesson plans for the term, PD, relief from 6-R duties, and/or per-session money to compensate them for the extra time they spend learning another subject and preparing for their classes (plans, curriculum and materials). What these people need is help, not formal, misapplied criticism that goes into their permanent files. The UFT has been entirely AWOL on this issue. It should have been demanding other protocols for evaluating ATRs now that so many excessed teachers are afloat in the system doing second-class jobs.
Q: Does the UFT call regular meetings for ATRs to help them through their ordeal and solicit questions from them?
A: Not recently. ATRs are left unsupported and uninformed through much of the year.
Q: Is the UFT trying to find out how many ATRs there still are, what jobs they are doing, and the effects of the Side Agreement?
A: The UFT has been asking CLs to collect some info on what ATRs are being asked to do, but this effort cannot bring a complete set of results. If the DoE is not providing all the info on vacancies and hirings, the UFT should be going to court to get it.
MORE ON JOB FAIRS & HIRING HALLS
Q: Are principals coming to the hiring halls?
A: Not a lot. They generally send designees to interview teachers. Not many schools are even represented.
Q: What are the job fairs like?
A: People say most who attend are black, Hispanic or Asian. The few whites who show up are mostly senior teachers.
ATRs IN SCHOOLS
Q: What can ATRs expect when they are placed?
A: ATRs getting placed in the fall have missed the preference sheets of the previous spring and should ask for one. They are always at the bottom of school seniority the first year they come into a school. Some ATRs get full programs, some partial ones, and some are asked to cover classes all day long. A lot of this work is out of license, but it is not clear how much. The UFT has made no formal objection to the amount of out-of-license work ATRs are being asked to do.
Q: What happens to school seniority and other contractual rights?
A: ATRs are at the bottom of school seniority rotation lists and may stay there unless they have the nerve to fight for their rights. Newly relocated ATRs are generally too late to apply for per session jobs or comp-time positions and have no input in the SBOs already run for the current year.
Q: Can ATRs expect a room or space of their own?
A: ATRs with programs carve out space in a school as all teachers do, but day-to-day ATR subs generally have to find hideaways for themselves. Some stash their things in the teachers’ lounge or make other (unsatisfactory) arrangements; some have been given no closet or workspace at all. The UFT has not been proactive on this issue.
Q: Does the ATR get Teachers' Choice?
Prepared for ICE by Julie Woodward