In the pre-2005 days, there was a system based solely on seniority for half of the openings in a particular school. There was also the School Based Option transfer system where personnel committees hired UFT staff that many schools chose to use.
Article 18 (transfers and Staffing) from the 1995-2000 contract started with this line:
The Board and the Union recognize the need to maintain both staff stability and an equitable balance of experienced and inexperienced teachers in the schools.
That line really meant something until 2005. Now it is still in the contract but it is meaningless.
Article 18A of the 1995-2000 contract and the 2000-2003 contract (that lasted until 2005) based transfers solely on the basis of seniority. A teacher picked up to six schools and was given the first one where he/she had the most seniority among applicants.
Article 18A9 said this:
In the case of teachers indicating the same choice of school, preference shall be given to the teacher with the greatest seniority.
Could you even conceive of that being in the contract in 2017?
Teachers could reject schools, not principals. The penalty for teachers rejecting a transfer was not being able to use the senioirity plan the following year.
There were real restrictions that limited movement with the seniority system. Only five percent of the teachers were permitted to transfer out of a school using this plan. In addition, schools only listed half of their vacancies. The point was to give senior teachers an escape route from difficult settings like if a crazy principal took over or a chance to be closer to home. Now, teachers are trapped for the most part and principals don't want veterans because of the added cost on their budgets which in those days was not a problem.
If the seniority transfer system was not to a teacher's liking, there was the SBO transfer and staffing plan added to the contract in 1995. Personnel Committees were set up to fill vacancies in schools. Schools had to opt in to this system by 75% of UFT staff (55% after 2002) voting for a School Based Option that the principal and chapter leader signed off on. Contract Article 18F defined the SBO personnel committees:
The personnel committees shall be comprised of school staff members, the UFT chapter leader, the head of the school, and parents selected by the school's parent association. Where appropriate, others should be invited to participate. The majoirty of the members of the personnel committees shall be teachers selected by the UFT chapter.
Personnel committees with a majority of teachers hired staff just twelve short years ago!
Then there is this gem later in Article 18F:
The personnel committee will select the most experienced qualified applicant of those candidates who apply for vacancies advertised under the transfer component of the SBO transfer and staffing plan.
There were exceptions for less senior applicants with "extraordinary qualifications". The same personnel committee with a teacher majority hired new UFT staff in SBO schools as well.
If an applicant felt he/she was rejected wrongfully by the personnel committee, there was an expedited grievance procedure that went to an arbitrator. This process was fair by accounts I have heard.
Those were the options for changing schools before 2005. In addition, there were transfers to further integration and hardship transfers for travel which were basically automatic if a teacher had to travel more than 90 minutes by public transportation to get to work.
What were these progressive systems that gave teachers some real power over where they worked replaced with?
The open market. This is from the current contract:
Article 18A. General Transfers.
Effective school year 2005-2006, principals will advertise all vacancies. Interviews will be conducted by school-based human resources committees (made up of pedagogues and administration) with the final decision to be made by the principals.
That line about the final decision being made by the principal set hiring back to the 19th century - before there was competitive civil service - as it left principals solely responsible for who teaches in a school. We now have a spoils system where there is no check on principal hiring power. When Joel Klein later changed school budgets so that teacher salaries in each individual school were taken into account in a school's budget, it gave principals an incentive to shun senior teachers because of the higher costs of their salaries.
In the post 2005 contract world, the UFT would give statistics to show how the open market system was better because more teachers were transferring compared to the old seniority system. However, the UFT would only meniton the open market versus the seniority system. They never compared with the SBO system which had taken hold in a large percentage of schools by 2005. Nor did they compare the number of senior teachers moving as compared to the old systems.
From the Bible:
…23Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
I hope I am not offending any devout Christians out there by saying:
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a senior teacher to transfer using the open market system.
Senior teachers do get transfers but it looks to me that it is kind of rare.
I might like to find a school closer to home. I'm not saying I am unhappy at Middle College High School but I have a long commute from Floral Park right at the city line to MCHS in Long Island City (close to an hour and a half by public transportation and sometimes longer by car, particularly getting home) but I don't think I have much hope of being successful.
Maybe it is just me because I am a 31 year veteran teacher who puts his name to each posting on a blog critical of both the UFT and the DOE so I've been told I am blacklisted. I get it. But what about everyone else who reads this blog?
Do you find the open market transfer system to be fair?
The UFT got this language into the 2005 contract in Article 18A:
Teachers who have repeatedly been unsuccessful in obtaining transfers or obtaining regular teaching positions after being excessed, will, upon request, receive individulized assistance from the Division of Human Resources and/or the Peer Intervention Program on how to maximize their chances of success in being selected for a transfer.
I have a way to save the DOE and UFT the time and money put into more patronage for the people hired to help teachers polish resumes. Instead, just play us veterans this Steve Wynn (the alternative rock guy from The Dream Syndicate, not the hotel guy) song from 1990.
It's called "Younger". Here is the line that could be from principals to senior teachers in NYC:
"Here's the door but don't come in
Come back when you're younger"
Am I just a jaded old blogger or is this the reality out there? Please help out on this one.