Sunday, October 30, 2011


Our roaming ATR correspondent describes a week spent at Long Island City High School as a Ghost Teacher. One has to ask how the UFT and DOE came to this agreement. It is clear the DOE couldn't care less about educating children.

Today was my last day of 'ghosting' at Long Island City HS. Now entering the third month of one of the most surreal experiences of my life, I can no longer refer to my ATR duties as actual teaching. I'm speaking for my own demoralized self when I write this and do not mean to offend any other ATRs, but taking attendance, monitoring bathrooms and doing endless periods of cafeteria duty is not the work of a professional teacher.

So I 'ghost', each week haunting another NYC school building, gliding through hallways unnoticed by students, faculty, and even UFT presidents. I ghosted at Beach Channel last week, LI City this week, and next week I'll be ghosting at a hallway near you.

This morning (Friday) was my last day at LICHS, by the way. The APO (Assistant Principal Organization) wanted to see me bright and early so I floated down to his office. Our meeting was brief and to the point. "I'm required to give you an interview before you leave," he began. "We have no positions available so...consider yourself interviewed."

My fellow, apparitions, you cannot make this stuff up. As I stepped out of his office, I repeated his words to myself slowly, keeping a close eye on the second hand of my wristwatch... A five second interview! Life in the Big City, I guess, and one disturbing, narcissistic phrase lies at the heart of all this dream-like absurdity and madness: Mayoral Control.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


An ATR from Jamaica sent this email to me yesterday.

Reported to LI City HS today as five day ATR, a nice looking, modern building, six stories tall. I covered three different teachers, none of whom taught English (my certification). When I got to my last class, the freshmen all asked, "Are you our real teacher or just another sub?" I asked another teacher leaving the room why this class had no regular teacher as we steadily approach November. Her reply was stunning. "We actually have five vacancies in the building," she said. "We're in transformation, which means they're trying to cause as much chaos as possible until they can shut us down." Naturally, this is the compete opposite of what the word 'transformation' means, unless the DoE means transforming into more boutique academies and creating still more ATRs, which is exactly what they intend.

I'm certainly glad I spent my summer attending five separate DoE job fairs, while some buildings are intentionally understaffing and have absolutely no intention of hiring ATRs. I could tell from all those bobbing heads and smiling faces during July and August that no one was actually looking to hire teachers, let alone pay attention to what we were saying. Yet at this point in my career I can honestly say that I know who I'm dealing with when it comes to the Dept of Ed, a truly vicious, union busting entity. The real question I have is where my union is during all this madness. When will our pseudo-tough guy president finally step up and protect his people? I was paying tolls last week in the Rockaways at Beach Channel. This week I'm on the complete opposite side of Queens in Long Island City. The DoE is obviously testing my limits, but not one message, call, or e-mail from my union telling me to hold on, to keep fighting, to wait until things get better. So Alright, fine. I'll simply stop waiting. My fiance is a teacher in this troubled system, as well. From here on in, we are a teaching union of two.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Delegate Assembly Report

Wednesday was the first DA of this school year. Without giving away any state secrets, we will attempt to report on the DA as fast as possible.

Mulgrew report: (I was a little late)

Problems with Sesis should go to Carmen Alvarez.

New evaluation system for teachers: There is a letter out to DOE on problems with the new evaluation system because there is not a system based on trust in NYC. Cincy, Ohio and somewhere in Maryland using Danielson framework happily. Only restart and Transformation using Danielson in NYC. Everyone else is using old system. Problem is DOE implementing it properly. It looks like lawyers are in charge. Example is rubrics. Dr. Danielson horrified by DOE rubrics used in her name. Reforms won't work in top down mayoral control system.

Yesterday, UFT sent letter to DOE. Mulgrew said system is broken. DOE is looking for evidence based teaching. 26 months to go with these people in power but we don't want a broken system. UFT must be responsible. We are frustrated. DOE says all is well. DOE disconnected. DOE is calling for engagement. They don't know how to support us. Send problems with evaluation to Michael Mendel. Many schools are not ready for Danielson.

Absent Teacher Reserves: ATRs are being placed but still 1,100 atrs. People staying in district with weekly assignments. Union chapter leaders should reach out and welcome atrs each week in their schools.

Food drive at next da.

Bronx educational summit last week. Same day 28 buses and an Amtrak train went to DC for Martin Luther King dedication and also UFT raised more money than any other group in making strides against breast cancer.

UFT announced BRAVE, helping to stop bullying. Hotline for kids and parents being bullied. UFT spent 50,000 to have the anti-bullying hotline. Politicians all there and grateful to UFT. David Kazanski spoke about anti-bullying hotline run by Life-net. Hotline is up and running.

Mulgrew summarized by saying UFT is engaged in the community.

UFT giving some help to Occupy Wall Street.

Upstate slammed by Hurricane Irene. Most don't have flood insurance. Teachers upstate saving their towns. Story off press radar screen. Small union leader from upstate spoke next about how teachers were there when Wall Street was not.

Mulgrew came on again to say contract negotiations moving forward. UFT preparing for fact finding. (I don't see how much good can come from this but we won't say more.)

Staff Director Report:
Leroy Barr talked of all uft has been doing.

A delegate asked about support for laid off dc 37 colleagues. Mulgrew answered that dc37 put money on table but mayor laid people off anyway. UFT feared mayor would lay off people to make a point and he did just that.

Question about contract. No real answer. that we can report here.

Question about School Construction Authority. UFT working on PS 51 situation. SCA checking lease sights.

Julia Schlakman, excesed teacher from Jamaica, asked who represents her as an atr. Answer was chapter leader in school she is in each week.

Question about bullying by administrators. Answer was to document.

Question about class sizes where a middle school has 36 average in grade 8. Answer is to file contempt of court charges if DOE does not abide by arbitrator's rulings.

Motion period:
Gloria from gem and ice presented a motion that resolved to march to support occupy wall street by marching there after the DA. Motion received 2/3 vote to be put on agenda but time later ran out so it was not acted on.

David from Beach Channel resolved that atrs have a chapter for as long as atrs exist. He explained that atrs have a right to vote. Leroy Barr spoke against it saying said that we do not want to create a permanent chapter for a temporary position. The motion failed but got a great deal of support. Mulgrew acknowledged that voting would be a problem and they would work on it. (I voted for it.)

Regular motions were next on the agenda.

A resolution on on a DA endorsement passed easily. Dan Donovan was the candidate.

Resolution on the new evaluation system was next. VP Leo Casey spoke in support of the resolution. UFT wants this done right and will wok for that. Sam Lazarus spoke against. His school, Bryant HS, is one of the restart schools using the new system and teachers hate it. He said majority would be rated ineffective or developing. He talked about mandated, scripted lessons and teachers having to have exit slips filled out each day by each class. Teachers must rework lessons. Staff is shocked that UFT would support framework.

District rep James Vasquez spoke saying there are issues but the resolution was not about restart schools. Another two delegates praised Danielson and then the delegates overwelmingly supported the resolution. Meeting then ended.

My own feeling is that the new evaluation system will be used against us by the usual suspects and that this can never work under the current DOE leadership. I voted with Sam. A friend said that the UFT promoting Danielson sounds a great deal like 2001-02 when they touted mayoral control of schools. Look how well that turned out.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Leroy Allison was an Elevator Operator at Jamaica High School. His last day on the job was last Friday. Leroy was one of the 700 school support people laid off by Mayor Bloomberg. He had over twenty years in the system and was close to being able to retire, but since he was buying back for years where he wasn't in the retirement system, he cannot afford to leave now.

Some of you might be saying that the job title of Elevator Operator is probably obsolete and that because unions protect employees whose jobs are no longer necessary, this is why many people hate unions. Well if you say that then I can say you are totally wrong. Leroy Allison worked all over Jamaica High School. He was retrained and did much more for the school than the elevator which was often broken. The fact that the school never changed or expanded his job title is not his fault. He should not have been laid off.

Over the years Leroy's job evolved to where he was the stock person who filled all of the supply orders for the school. He was also in charge of incoming and outgoing mail for the building. In addition, he spent time helping with student entry in the morning and also toiled in the student cafeteria helping out there. Mr. Allison truly performed many tasks. Without him, I don't think I could have administered the SAT exams on Saturdays for the past decade. He was greatly respected throughout the school.

Only months away from being eligible for full retirement, Leroy was let go in a move that just shows how stupidly the school system is run. Already there is virtually no paper being distributed at Jamaica. Besides Leroy, all of our school aides have seen their hours cut leading to a potential safety crisis.

Leroy was replaced by an Elevator Operator who was excessed from another school and was able to bump him. As the city takes out their vengeance on the lowest paid employees while at the same time allowing retired administrators come to schools as paid consultants, while simultaneously collecting their Tier I pensions, many of us are enraged every day that we walk into work as we see injustice everywhere.

We can only hope that some intrepid reporter will tell the story of each of the hundreds of hard working people who were let go for no other reason than the mayor was apparently angry at their union. Bloomberg and Walcott need to be held accountable for this outrage. I am energized that the City Council held hearings on the layoffs and strongly criticized the Chancellor the other day.

Please don't let up until Leroy and every other employee has their jobs back.

Mayoral Control on Trial Saturday

Come to DC 37 on Saturday to see and/or participate in the trial that will at least let people express their anger at mayoral control .

Friday, October 07, 2011


The press has discovered that the Absent Teacher Reserves are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. We have seen the reports from the Bronx and Brooklyn meetings about how enraged the disenfranchised ATRS have become. The ATRS are now migrant workers, pushed from school to school on a weekly basis. ATRS received their new assignment for next week through a cold email from human resources. Hang in there ATRS. Between your forced weekly moves and the DC 37 layoffs, these are terrible days.

Don't despair. Come to the October 20th ATR meeting at 5:00pm at the Skylight Diner on 34th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) to discuss the next steps in the fight for dignity.

Also today, Teacher Ronin (ATR) Marc Epstein explains the folly of closing schools over at Huffington.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


We Are ATRS: Absolutely Teaching Ready –

but denied the opportunity by the Department of Education.

They’ve closed our schools, reduced the student population through charters, excessed us through outrageous budget cuts and made it illogical for a principal to hire us because we are experienced, well trained adults who insist on respect and are more than a few steps up the salary schedule from new graduates.

Demand Respect & Justice for ATR Teachers

The "hiring" freeze was not a freeze at all: ATRs must be placed before any new teachers are considered with no salary penalty to the school: The DOE claim to lift the hiring freeze this summer was bogus as principals were only required to interview 2 ATRs and then were free to hire newbies and less experienced teachers. Ex: one large HS in Queens has 5 newbie math teachers.

2,000 excessed teachers have swelled the ranks of the ATR- teacher pool as ATRs are obligated to waste time at Job Fairs that for the most are exercises in futility. This is an injustice that:

· Is unprofessional, disrespectful, demoralizing and humiliating to teachers who have dedicated years of satisfactory service to our school communities. Both a “no layoff/firing guarantee” and a permanent classroom job are what all teachers deserve.
· Is an unconscionable waste by the DOE of taxpayer money in these lean budget times, costing the city from $80 to $100M yearly.
· Discriminates against students, parents, and schools by denying adequate quality staffing.
· Foments larger class sizes and a deterioration of the quality of teaching.

The attitude that "We are lucky to have a job" is not acceptable

ATRs demand that the UFT:

· Insist on no new hiring until all ATRs are placed.

· Call for ATRs in "obsolete license areas" (like Reading) to be allowed to recertify in a new license or get the summer crash course that TFA and TFs get to allow them to fill vacancies shortage areas.

· Create ATR Chapters with elected CLs in each borough to provide fair representation: ATRs shifted from school-to-school do not have a permanent Chapter Leader to represent their interests.

· End the agreement that forces ATRs to be wandering substitutes at different schools each week: parents, especially women with young children will face child care issues due to unpredictable assignments. The UFT must recognize that the DOE aim is to drive many to the brink of quitting.

· Publicize the plight of ATRs to all teachers and the general public in all media.

Every teacher is a potential ATR through excessing, closing schools and charter school growth. We refuse to be swept under the rug by the DOE and the UFT. We need to organize ourselves since the UFT refuses to do so. We need an outreach campaign to our fellow teaching non-ATRs (but possibly soon to be) to get them on our side.

Our strength is growing. The bigger we get the better the chance the DOE and the UFT will be forced to respond in a positive manner.


What you can do: Attend meeting we are calling for ATRs on Oct. 20, 5PM at Skylight Diner (34th St. and 9th Ave)

· Attend one of the UFT borough office meetings and distribute this leaflet and ask people to join this committee.

· Join the GEM ATR Committee sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement: Email -

· Follow updates and post your stories at: &

· Support and sign the resolution at the UFT borough ATR meetings (see reverse side on some leaflets or check the blogs).


Long-term demands:

· Restore rights of excessed teachers lost in 2005 UFT/DOE contract when ATR pool was created: bring back guarantee of right to vacancy in license area at another nearby school. Put an end to current open market "principal choice."

· End fair funding formula: schools get charged for teacher salaries giving principals incentives to NOT hire higher salaried/senior teachers.

· Protect LIFO (Last In First Out), seniority and tenure contractual rights: Privatization advocates are pushing hard to eliminating tenure/seniority rights guarantees as they've done in Chicago (ATRs get 9 months) and Washington, DC (ATRs get 6 months) before they are fired.

· Fight for a diverse teaching force: ATR ranks are filled with a high proportion of Black and Latino experienced teachers. Last year, the UFT passed a resolution to protect and promote “diversity in the NYC teaching force”. Ensure that the UFT uphold the spirit and letter of that resolution.

· Stop the charter-privatization of our schools: The nation-wide and local City drive to dismantle, close public schools and replace them with non-unionized charters helped precipitate this massive ATR pool. End mayoral control of schools: none of the above happens without turning the system over to the mayor.

NEXT STEPS: ATRs will gather October 20 at 5PM at the Skylight Diner (34th St and 9th Avenue)