(This post is dedicated to the students and staff of Aviation HS.)
I began my Absent Teacher Reserve journey in September after working for twenty-eight years at Jamaica High School, a school that phased out in June. I was somewhat apprehensive as a new ATR as so many people who had been previously excessed from Jamaica cautioned me how the life of an ATR is so different from that of a regular classroom teacher.
For the first seven weeks of the school year, I was assigned to Aviation HS. I had a positive experience at this excellent school working with wonderful kids and caring adults but thanks to the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, I am now forced to move on to a different school.
When I arrived at Aviation on September 2, I was somewhat surprised to discover a few people knew me through my UFT work so I felt somewhat at ease. During the first few days, the staff - including the Chapter Leader, teachers, support staff and the administration - was very welcoming and then the students were kind too when classes began.
I told the administration that I ran the College Office at Jamaica so they immediately gave me a professional assignment to assist in that office. I felt useful being able to develop trusting relationships with students and adults. Helping students with SAT applications, the Common Application, the SUNY, CUNY online process, Aviation's College Night and more was very fulfilling. I was told pupils started asking for me when I was out of the office because I had classes to cover or was sent by the DOE on one of those useless mandated interviews in other schools.
Covering classes at Aviation was not bad either. The kids usually behaved appropriately and would give me a chance to actually teach them something. The Principal noted how he saw me working diligently in his travels around the building. Unfortunately, I was also informed how the school budget is tight so they wouldn't be able to keep me there.
I have heard from several other ATRs in various schools since yesterday that they were given a similar message about how school administrators liked their work but they currently don't have a position. It does not matter how well an ATR is doing in a school, we are going to be rotated to different schools starting on Monday.
In addition, thanks to the always efficient operation of the Department of Education (sarcasm alert), ATRs received emails saying our next assignment was only for the following week while on the Excess Staff Selection System it says we will be at our next school for three weeks! Go figure. You can forward my mail to Middle College HS as that is where I am headed on Monday.
The ATR rotation system - whether for a week, three weeks or a month- is insane. How are we supposed to develop relationships with students and staff in such a short period of time? Why establish bonds when we know we will be gone in a week or a month?
The most ridiculously absurd part of this entire debacle is when people talk about school budgets as opposed to the overall DOE budget. Money to pay for a teacher is not going to magically appear on a school's budget because a school likes an ATR. Aviation cannot afford to keep me on their school budget so they have to tell me to move on. However, the taxpayers of New York City will still be paying my salary whether I am at Aviation, Middle College or some other school.
Questions for the DOE and Chancellor Farina:
1-Why can't a school keep an ATR if that person is a good fit for a particular school?
2- Is your goal to find us schools or just to frustrate us?