Friday, November 26, 2010


In the end Mayor Bloomberg will wind up getting his Chancellor according to the NY Times.

Here is some background on the potential Chief Academic Officer. I don't see much change coming but one never knows.

Let's keep pushing on and exposing this system for what it is.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


NY 1 is reporting a 4-2 vote against Black's waiver with 2 voting not at this time. Keep signing those petitions ladies and gentelmen. Remember, Steiner has the final decision.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Potentially Closing School Gets Some Positive Press Coverage

With all apologies to our friend who always accuses me of being Jamaicacentric, please allow me to introduce two press pieces on my potentially closing school.

The first is from the Huffington Post. It is a great piece written by my colleague Marc Epstein about separate and unequal schools.

The second is a summary of my appearance before Queens Community Board 8 last week from one of the local Queens papers.

As my friend Marc says, the story of Jamaica is a cautionary tale. If you don't think what is happening to us can happen to you, you need to open your eyes.

What is depressing is the UFT's lack of a response.


I arrived at Wednesday's DA when UFT President Michael Mulgrew was talking about closing schools and the process for this year.

He then spoke about the Teacher Data Reports. He stated that the Margin of Error was 61 and that if we lose in court and they are released, we still must stand behind the teachers who have data released.

Special Ed VP Carmen Alvarez reported on the special ed Raise the Bar campaign. She stated that the UFT had filed 3190 special ed complaints. She said that as a result our advocacy, thousands of children now get proper services but more needs to be done.

She also told us mandate relief has been approved by the regents. Speech has been reduced to 1 period. Furthermore, now the state will allow 14 students with IEP's in CTT classes. She concluded that we have to keep filing complaints when necessary.Mulgrew came back to say this campaign must continue on behalf of the kids.

The next topic in the lengthy President's report was bedbugs. The president stated that he was insulted by DOE saying teachers should be responsible for catching bedbugs. He went on to tell us how bedbugs reproduce as they need ten minutes of sucking human blood before sex. He continued by telling us how he wants us to catch the bedbugs and deliver them to Tweed. Many Delegates answered yes when asked if there was a bedbug problem in their schools. He reported on a DOE no bid contract where one exterminator used a toxic chemical that was not supposed to be for use in a public area. As a result, he said teachers had to have a Saturday car wash to replace supplies the exterminator destroyed.

Mulgrew followed up by talking about Klein's resignation. He said that we have been educating the public to set the record straight for the last 18 months about how Klein's policies are harming children. Wall Street Journal in a recent poll found that Bloomberg's poll numbers on education were down to 30%. He said UFT is in large part responsible for Klein resigning. The president went on to tell us that Bloomberg messed up the transformation to a new Chancellor. Klein's legacy is not good.

Selection of a new Chancellor was to go for a waiver again. Bloomberg didn't consult with important education leaders before picking Cathie Black. Mulgrew said he was hoping for a positive change in leadership and he doesn't know what to expect. Members mixed review on Black. Some will take anyone who will work with us. Mulgrew met Black for about 30 seconds. Mulgrew added that some undesirable candidates have educational credentials.

He said UFT worked closely with State Education Commissioner David Steiner last year on Race to the Top and the new evaluation system. He added it's the commissioner's decision. UFT then presented a resolution. Mulgrew wants UFT to change the law for the future. He wants stability and he argued that this is not possible under current law. He stated that we need a new law .

UFT Resolution says, "That the United Federation of Teachers support the process established by State Education Commissioner David Steiner as a credible and fair procedure for deciding on the request for a waiver from the qualifications for Chancellor of New York City public schools promulgated in state education law." (talk about not taking a stand on Black or the waiver)

High School VP Leo Casey had an amendment calling for the UFT to back a change in the law for selecting future chancellors. UFT wants to change the law to make the process more transparent in the future. David Pecoraro from Beach Channel and Unity proposed that UFT should not support the waiver unless Black commits to visiting schools before they close. Two Unity people spoke against the amendement to support closing schools.

At that point someone called the question and Sal Emanueli from Jamaica HS raised a point of order that nobody had spoken against the resolution. He appealed then for Delegates to support the amendment on behalf of closing schools or otherwise he said the resolution was too weak. The question was then called and the Unity majority by a fairly wide margin defeated any support for closing schools. This was followed by an overwhelming vote in favor of basically staying out of the waiver battle. How weak are we?

Then there was a staff director's report where the Delegates sang happy birthday to Leroy Barr. Mulgrew gave a contract update (mediation failed) and answered questions mostly critical of him for not opposing the waiver.Overall the meeting was depressing due to more UFT inaction. Or as one delegate put it, "That's two hours of my life that I can never get back."

Monday, November 15, 2010


We asked last week and nobody either at the ICE meeting or on this blog or on ICE-Mail opposed us taking a position opposing Mayor Bloomberg's appointment of another non-educator, Cathie Black, as chancellor.

Below is the link to the petition that will also send a message to state officials. Let your voices be heard. Without a waiver from education law that says the chancellor should have an education school district administrator certification, Ms. Black cannot be chancellor.

Please be sure to sign and spread the word.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ATR Q & A's


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.


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: ___________________
EIS# / File#: ________________________
Position: _____________________

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
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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?
A: Yes.

Prepared for ICE by Julie Woodward

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that Cathie Black, someone with virtually no experience in education or government, would be taking over from Joel Klein as Chancellor. Immediately after there has been controversy brewing about whether or not the State Board of Regents should grant the new Chancellor a waiver from the education law that says the Chancellor should be a licensed school district administrator. Klein got the waiver and you see how badly that turned out for teachers and students.

However, some feel it doesn't matter whether the Chancellor is an educator or non-educator. The UFT response from President Michael Mulgrew was to say, "I look forward to working with Ms. Black. As a teacher, I will help in any way I can to help the children of New York.” That doesn't say much of anything.

Should the UFT be opposing the waiver? What do you think? Please let us know.

Monday, November 08, 2010


This post is extracted from Jamaica's weekly Chapter Newsletter and it is strictly my opinion. The story concerns Jamaica but is applicable to any school that is struggling and is reviewed by the DOE and State in the process.

Jamaica High School has been denied resources by the Department of Education over the last few years since we started downsizing but that does not stop DOE officials from coming to our school to tell us how we need to improve.

I ask any school in the world to take the Jamaica challenge: Cut 30% of the teaching staff (student enrollment drop is less than half of that) and take away roughly half of the school’s space, raise class sizes beyond what the union contract calls for in scores of classes, replace an excellent Programmer and Guidance Coordinator with assistant principals who are untrained in these areas and must still also do their previous jobs, while continuing to permit unlicensed non-secretaries to perform secretarial duties. Then, place new schools in the corners of the building and equip those schools with up to date technology and provide their teachers with lower class sizes and a beautiful makeover for their parts of the building while students and staff of the old school that includes many at risk pupils are shoved into the middle of the building in obsolete rooms. Do all of this to the old school and then ask it to raise the graduation rate and promotion rate. Even set up the lunch schedule to favor the new schools. Their kids eat lunch during normal lunch hours between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. while the old school’s kids are eating lunch starting at 10:00 a.m. or after 1:00 p.m.

We at Jamaica challenge any school to thrive under these teaching and learning conditions. A Quality Review or Joint Intervention Team visit under these circumstances is a setup for failure. Separate and unequal schools are unfair and it is time for the DOE to be held accountable for mismanaging the education of our kids.

Last week Jamaica had a Quality Review-Joint Intervention Team (city-state) visit and it was a farce on a major scale. (I do not know the score we received on the QR.) I will say that the state people were quite professional in their review. From all reports they were very personable and listened to what we had to say. They did not call in the Chapter Leader for a formal discussion but we did exchange some pleasantries. It was the two quality reviewers from the city that interviewed me in one of the most bizarre interactions I have ever experienced.

I was trying to explain to these officials what we do in the Advanced Placement United States History class and how we have revived the program in the last three years and now have pupils scoring the top grades of 5 and 4 on the rigorous examination. We built up the program without the supports other schools have. The male quality reviewer cut me off in mid sentence and told me how we have an English Advanced Placement class that has 34 students in it and this is educationally unsound. He seemed to be criticizing me for this situation. I told him that I couldn’t agree more that it was unwise to have 34 in a college level class in a high school but that in actuality the class had 37 and as Chapter Leader I grieved it and 82 other oversize classes at Jamaica this fall. He would not even admit that we have oversize classes. I said the principal and DOE lawyer used the half class exception to justify them. At this point, the two reviewers looked at me like I was from Mars and would not talk about the half class size exception.

What stunned me was that they seemed to be trying to put me on the spot for the oversize classes. Were they kidding? We were truly coming from two different worlds. I mentioned the Quality Review from two years back that said we need new technology but we have lost so much funding that we can barely afford a piece of chalk in this school while the new schools in the building have modern equipment and lower class sizes. I said the education in this building is separate and unequal and our kids deserve an equal education.

I compare our plight to being in a prison where the warden cuts our food ration by 30% and then complains that we are too skinny.

There is no way around the conclusion that we believe strong forces from outside would like to destroy Jamaica High School. We clearly are being set up to fail by the Department of Education and our union’s response has not exactly been tough.

I read yesterday’s NY Post article about Jamaica High School giving away credits very closely. Even by adding over 1,000 credits to student transcripts, we still couldn’t get enough points on the DOE Progress Report for this year to get a C grade. That is hard to believe. Of course when administration took those credits away our grade became a lower D but I am still forced to conclude that they would have found a way to give us a D even if all of our students graduated in a week.
Isn’t it strange how Jamaica for at least two years in a row didn’t receive any credit on our progress report in a category called Additional Points even though our internal review shows that we have moved along English Language Learners who are obtaining Regents Diplomas? Where are our points? 

If DOE reviewed us fairly, they would have to admit we are performing miracles on a daily basis even with all of the obstacles they have placed in our way.
It looks like the DOE also under-counted our graduation rate just like they did last year. Therefore, it’s déjà vu or Ground Hog Day as we repeat the same scenario as last year. We must admit that many of us are tired of fighting with an employer that in my opinion does not play fair. However, we learned from last year’s experience and now is the time to wage another battle to keep going by exposing the truth. Hopefully, this blog piece will get the ball rolling.

As for the extra credit probe of Jamaica High School for adding questionable credits to student transcripts that the NY Post is reporting on, I agree with Leonie Haimson that principals are cutting corners all over because of pressure to boost promotion and graduation rates.

High stakes decisions based on student progress are ridiculous when the school plays only a small part in determing student performance. Outside factors are far more important according to scholarly research and common sense. Hopefully, there will be a time when sanity returns to our schools.