We have reported previously on the often futile nature of the UFT grievance process. Yesterday, that view was reinforced during a Chancellor's level hearing where an excessed math teacher was denied the right to teach a math program.
The math teacher was excessed in June from Jamaica High School. In the fall, three new math classes were created as we started the year with scores of oversize classes. At that point, the teacher tried to exercise her contractual right of return by writing to the principal to claim those classes that are in her license area. The contract is clear in Article 17B, Rule 8 that the teacher has a legitimate claim for those classes.
Furthermore, Department of Education policy and grievance precedent used since the seventies make this case open and shut. Three classes make up a program so the teacher should be sent back to the original school and out of Absent Teacher Reserve status. This should be easy. The DOE could create two additional classes to make this a complete program and lower class sizes. As of today, Jamaica still has 34 oversize classes.
Unfortunately, in the lawless world of Bloomberg, Klein and Black that we inhabit, hurting a phasing out school now supersedes the contract and any educationally sound policy. UFT rep Bruce Zihal made an outstanding presentation at the January 4 grievance conference proving that the DOE is purposely undermining the education of 1,200 students at Jamaica High School by not allowing excessed teachers to return to the school to teach legitimate programs in their license areas.
This problem is occurring not only with the math teacher, but in multiple subject areas and it is probably happening at other schools as well. Zihall accused the DOE of deliberately swelling the ATR ranks.
To my astonishment, the Principal responded by agreeing with us. He stated that he would like to bring the math teacher and other excessed teachers back but people higher up told him he can't.
Then the Chancellor's representative and Superintendent's person tried to obfuscate rather than defend their indefensible positions. The superintendent's representative attacked us for maligning the former Chancellor. He also read an email from DOE personnel specialist Charles Peeples that said the following: "Jamaica High School is a phasing out school and the excessed staff from the school are not being returned."
I couldn't believe my ears and asked for a copy of the email. The Chancellor's rep said we could not have a copy but he read its contents again and I copied what he said word for word.
Because the school is phasing out, The DOE position is that they would rather have ATR's from other schools teach classes at a school they want to close rather than allow regular teachers to stay in their original school to teach in their own subject area, which they are entitled to do by contract.
We were under the impression that it was a proposal to phase out the 26 schools and that now there is a review period and then there will be a Panel for Educational Policy vote in February. Obviously, the DOE has made up its mind and now wants to maximize the chaos for the students and staff in closing schools.
Their motives are so twisted that they are even giving a Jamaica math teacher a sixth class and paying him extra money to cover one of the vacant classes that belong to the excessed teacher. Only in the NYC school system would management waste thousands of dollars so they can further their destruction of a school.
The absurdity of this mess knows no end as the math teacher ATR has been sent to Beach Channel High School, another school the DOE wants to phase out, where she does not have regular classes in her license. Sending our teacher back and sending a different ATR to Beach Channel would actually save the city money (they wouldn’t have to pay for the sixth class another math teacher is teaching), would result in lower class sizes at Jamaica and wouldn’t hurt Beach Channel.
In my opinion, it is clear that the DOE is intentionally undermining education at schools it wants to close. They are creating as much instability as they possibly can and they see the kids as expendable pawns in their game. We can only hope that the UFT and the press will expose the injustice and force the DOE to do right by the kids and teachers.
UFT Secretary and long time personnel specialist Michael Mendel called me twice today. He told me he is attempting to straighten this situation out with the Department of Education. We will give further details when we have them.