Sunday, November 23, 2008

ATR Step Forward?

The Side Agreement is like your favorite team winning a game on the last day of a baseball season when they have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

By James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader; Jamaica High School

For almost a week I have been studying the new “Side Agreement” between the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers concerning Absent Teacher Reserves. It is a complicated document which we posted on this blog the other day. I urge everyone to read it and come out to the rally to support ATRs at Tweed Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

I have also spent a great deal of time talking about the Side Agreement with the many ATR’s and Absent Secretary Reserves and Absent Guidance Counselor Reserves at Jamaica High School. I believe there will be a number of veteran ATR’s who will be placed in permanent positions through this agreement. That is positive but the Side Agreement really does little to address the underlying issue of teacher placement.

Under prior Contracts, when a UFT member was excessed because a school or program’s enrollment declined, they were placed in a position within their district or central program and only moved out of a district if there were no vacancies. Excessed people did not normally bump appointed people with less seniority. However, the 2005 Contract gave principals a veto over any hiring. The term ATR was put into the Contract. Basically, it said excessed people could be sent anywhere in a district as a substitute and could do nothing about it.

As Jamaica High School has been downsized, excessed members have been sent packing to other schools throughout Queens. When we had two people excessed within a license, there was nothing to stop the DOE from sending the senior person in excess clear across the borough while the junior member stays as an ATR at Jamaica. I have been telling the UFT and DOE for months about how unfair the process is. The new Side Agreement does nothing to change this. Second class status for ATR’s remains a fact of life.

When schools were closed before the disastrous 2005 Contract, the teachers who were at a closing school had preferred placement rights. The actual language from Article 18G5 stated, “All appointed and certified provisional staff from the impacted school(s) shall be offered the broadest placement choices available within the authority of the Board; and where possible, their wishes will be taken into account when placing them into positions.” It goes on to say, “These rights are in addition to any other contractual right to transfer that an employee may exercise.” Jamaica received several fine people from closing schools through this preferred placement process.

However, Article 18G5 was eliminated from the 2005 Contract and replaced by a truncated Article 18D; preferred placement was gone. No longer was a teacher virtually guaranteed a job in a school on their wish list if their school was closed. Now, we have to write a resume, apply for jobs and hopefully convince a Principal to hire us. This has become more difficult with “Fair Student Funding” which will soon make the cost to a principal on his/her budget for hiring a teacher the individual teacher’s actual salary, instead of an average of all the teachers. There is a disincentive to hire experienced people who are paid more. The new Side Agreement addresses this problem somewhat.

Under its terms, centrally funded ATR’s will have to serve as ATR’s for five months if excessed in June, or ten months if excessed in January in order for a school to be able to hire them at a discount rate. If anyone is excessed in June, a Principal would be crazy to hire them before November when ATR's go on sale. The Side Agreement would seem to favor people who have been in excess for at least five to ten months. However, in November and later in the school year, how many positions are out there? Most jobs open up in September when a school year starts. For all intents and purposes, most teachers in excess without “connections” will spend a year in exile.

After November 1 of the year someone is excessed, the Side Agreement says a Principal can hire us and the cost to his budget will be half the price of a beginning teacher for year one and the price of a starting teacher for seven more years. We get paid full salary; the Central DOE makes up the difference. This is a true discount for principals that should lessen the number of long-term ATR’s. However, as budgets are cut and more schools are closed, principals will have a strong incentive not to hire people who have not yet been discounted so don’t expect this Agreement to solve the ATR problem.

Furthermore, the Side Agreement permits Principals to try an ATR out from November to June and then excess the person regardless of seniority or the teacher can leave in June if he/she does not like the new school. Yet another second class status of teachers has been created.

Unscrupulous principals might even try to “fix” the system by engineering teacher trades. For example, Principal A excesses Teacher A and convinces the Central DOE to fund Teacher A for the year while another principal excesses Teacher B. Low and behold after November 1, the two schools magically have openings and Principal A hires Teacher B while the other Principal picks up Teacher A. Now, they have discounted teachers as they are only charged starting pay for eight years.

There are so many questions this Side Agreement does not resolve? What about ATR’s who are being used to cover vacancies in the schools where they were excessed from? There are currently three teachers at Jamaica High School who are teaching in regular positions all semester but are listed as ATR’s. The new Side Agreement does not really address the issue. In fact clause 9 which says, “ATR’s will be used for classroom assignments, e.g. push-in, pull-out, intervention, remediation, to cover day-to-day and long-term absences, to reduce class size, and other assignments within the teacher job description,” might make the situation worse. A school could say they are using ATR’s to reduce class sizes; they are not covering vacancies. I have emailed UFT Secretary Michael Mendel on this issue. I will try to update this post when I talk to him.

As for Secretaries and Guidance Counselors, their job descriptions when they are ATR’s are not addressed by the Side Agreement. Also, what about school funded ATR’s? The Side Agreement only covers centrally funded ATR’s. If someone is excessed and the school is still carrying that person on the budget, the teacher does not go on sale in November. Good luck finding a new position. If DOE doesn’t like the way the Side Agreement is going, they can easily just move the ATR’s back on school budgets. Then, what do we do?

The whole ATR debacle is an affront to civil service rules that have been a cornerstone of US policy since the Pendleton Act was signed by President Chester Arthur in 1883, after President James Garfield had been assassinated by a disgruntled job seeker. The Pendleton Act put into practice the idea that civil service jobs should be filled by competitive exams and civil service lists, rather than pull. Since the end of the Board of Examiners, (which theoretically was fair but was subject to its own corruption), hiring of New York City school teachers has basically gone back to the days of patronage.

Yes, we still need certification, but that can be easily expedited with Teach for America or the Fellows program. If someone has some kind of certificate, would they rather be the friend of a Principal or a qualified teacher who got straight A’s in a teacher education program? Personally, I would recommend knowing someone. The 2005 Contract sped the process of a return to patronage along, not only for new hires, but for people seeking transfer and those displaced because their programs were downsized or their schools were closed. Can someone show me some research that proves that patronage hiring boosts educational achievement?

To understand the folly of this system, try it with firefighters. Remember a few years ago when Mayor Bloomberg was closing firehouses. The firefighters from those houses were absorbed into different fire houses. Imagine if they had to pound the pavement and find new jobs because their fire houses were closed. There would be a public outcry in support of the AFR’s. However, with teachers, Joel Klein can make this Side Agreement and still declare in his press release, “While we continue to believe that teachers in the ATR pool should not be permitted to stay on the payroll indefinitely, this agreement represents a needed step forward.” A real step forward would be for teachers to mobilize to take back each and every one of the givebacks from the 2005 Contract that have made teaching and learning conditions next to impossible.

For now, happy pavement pounding everyone. Maybe, we should have the UFT put out a list of where every school is having their holiday parties so ATR’s can crash and make nice-nice with principals.


Anonymous said...


I just read your piece a second time. I will read it a third and fourth time, too, this week.

Thank you for a thoroughly brilliant job of analyzing this side bar agreement.

I suspect many of us will refer to it and your analysis for some time to come.

In Solidarity,

John Powers

ed notes online said...

Ditto, - Norm

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this analysis. I still do not understand the benefits of this agreement for the teachers whose salaries are centrally funded. Principals will not have any incentivite to hire them. Unless they play RUSSIAN RULETE with the ATRS and they go from one school to the other. So the principals can get the money. This is worst than the MOB. Randy what kind of agreement is this??

Anonymous said...

It would be nice for both ATR's and substitute teachers if all ATR's were placed through this agreement. The more ATR's who receive assignments, the more substitute work will be available.
As you all may know the devistation Sub Central has brought about by that automated registry, and the budget cuts on subs.
But, I agree that the only real substantial solution is to give back what the UFT gave away in our last contract agreement.
But, I do not believe the UFT likes saying.."Hey, I guess we made a mistake". They always think they do wonderful job.hey need to do some serious self examination and get real about advocating for teachers in this city.

NYC Educator said...

No, the UFT aristocracy does not admit mistakes, ever. When they started the ATR brigade, it was wonderful. When they agreed to reorg three and got an ineffectual "hold harmless" clause that helped none of the teachers whose salaries were now a factor in whether they'd receive jobs, it was wonderful. And now that they're going back a second time to correct the mistake they never made, it's wonderful again.

Kind of like the Rove take on the last eight years.

Anonymous said...

The UFT admit a mistake. That'll be the day...

Under Assault said...

Having watched this woman carefully for a couple of years now, I've moved off the position I used to have, that it's hard to tell if she was outsmarted by Klein or if she collaborated.

I now believe she collaborated, that she's in it up to her neck.

All it takes is to say No. Line in the sand. No.

She collaborates when they lower the bar at the State for certification and she goes along with it. She collaborates when she wants something, in this case senior teachers to be able to move more freely. She collaborates when she wants a piece of the action and/or the money: charter schools, staff development. She collaborates when she allows the grievance system to go down the tube. She lives and breathes collaboration.

She should stop trying to be NYC co-chancellor and start learning how to be a union leader. Somewhere along the line, she's forgotten the job description.

Under Assault said...

Forgot to bring it around to the comments....
The point in me saying all that was that I don't for a minute think any of this was a "mistake" anymore.

She meant it all.

Anonymous said...

What Union Leader in their right mind would ever give up seniorty transfers? I don't care what they offer you in exchange for it, never,ever give up SENIORTY TRANSFER!! Now Klein got his wish he can send senior teachers where he wants. Does this happen with the New York City Fire Department, or NYPD or any other city job? Why don't they have Firemen ATRs when they close a Fire house or a Cop ATR? It is because their Union Leaders are not stupid enough to give it up no matter what the Mayor offers in exchange for Seniorty Transfers. The more time you have on the job the more opportunity you should have to choose the best job site and hours that works for you! That the way it is in all job unions all over the country if not the world! You put your time in! Now you have the right to choose a better site or schudale!Our Union is the only one that has Senior teachers who have no rigth to choose where they go! They can send you anywhere and they have! But you know what, it not all of Randi fault! Some of the blame be give out to our stupid fellow teachers for voting for the 2005 contract, and voting for Randi. The Cops and the Firemen are not that stupid. If their Union Leaders even said it as a joke that they wanted to give up seniorty transfer for more money, they would get kicked out of office so hard that they would never be able to sit on their butt again!
Tilden Blue Devil.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic analysis. You should give some of your brains to the UFT leaders that are always outfoxed by the DOE. In my district teachers jobs are based on connections. I wonder if the ATRS are ever going to get an appointed job.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Randi sent out surveys asking members if they come in early, and if they wanted to be paid for that extra time. While the teachers in my school discussed the questions and all replied that we DON'T come in early before the day begins. But too many idiots said "yes," and all those young Fellows looked at that 5v year longevity like a carrot on a stick and voted for the sell out contract. Are you young punks happy with that extra $10 a week after five years?

Anonymous said...

rJames always gets to the heart of a matter well buried in the details and fine print. But school based hiring is the right thing. It should be done by a committee of respected, elected teachers. That would eliminate cronyism, the who you know factor. That is basically how the SBO transfer and staffing plan worked. Unmediated senority as the only factor in hiring does not work for schools or kids. Cops and firemen do not need the character, the dedication, the work ethic, the empathy, the intellectual ability, the emotional flexibility, the
desire to be of service to youth, and the generous
spirit that a good teacher needs. That is why they
can be treated like interchangeable parts and paid
I was elected chapter leader partially because of
our staff's deep dislike for the senority transfer
plan and the type of teacher it brought us. All
the schools that voted for the SBO transfer and
staffing plan knew what they were voting for.
They were voting to avoid "central casting."


Under Assault said...

There are two issues here, and they should never have been conflated: seniority transfer and the placement of teachers who are excessed.

It's one thing when a teacher wants to try to get a job in a school of his choice. Let him apply, and let him take his chances. Some principals want experienced people, some want to hire on the cheap. Some SBOs worked, many did not. (Principals went around them when they didn't like the choice of the SBO committee, like delaying until those applicants couldn't wait any longer and went somewhere else. There are many ways to delay and persuade.)

It's a totally different thing when a member gets excessed. Any unionist would demand that all excessed teachers be placed in a position rather than risking what we've got now: indefinite limbo and scuttled careers. But Klein didn't want to force excessed teachers on principals, and Weingarten thought it was his birthday and gave him a present.

They're separate issues.

Anonymous said...

You are a fool or an as kisser. Are you saying that the Principal, will hire a teacher based on what the so-called-committee of teachers say! Hell no! Principals hire ass-kisser like yourself. They are not interested in hiring the best experience tenured teacher for the job and the good of their students. They want to hire yes people who will pass everybody and report no incidents keeping the suspension rate down. That means they report no fights, no drugs, no theft, no students hitting other students or teachers. No that is all sweepted under the rug by your ethical Principal and his selected ass-kissing teacher staff! The good kids suffer in the end and so does the public. Because the good students have to try and surive in this hostile environment where gang members like the bloods and Creeps or Latin Kings rule the schools. The Principals try and make nice, nice with these gangsters because they don't want the suspension rate to go up, becuase Klien will then close the school and not give the Pricipal his bonus pay. I know of many cases where teachers have been hit and they are afriad to file a UFT incident report because they don't want to piss the Principal off. That report makes the Principal look bad, like he has lost control of the school. I have even seen these gangsters hit other good students who do not want to join their gang or for one stupid reason or another and the Principal tries to sweep it under the rug. I don't want to get into the details on how they do it. They just do. And anyone who believes other wise is a fool or an ass-kisser. Also everybody passes. You as a young teacher will find a way to make everybody pass weather they deserve it or not. Do you know that there are a great many Pricipals who tell their their young ass-kissing staff that the lowest passing grade you can give is a 75 not a 65 and that the lowest failing grade you can give is a 55 not a 40 or a 0. And don't get me started with that credit recovery bullcrap.(it would be pretty hard to pull that off with a senior teacher shooting off their big mouths to the union and the press over what these principals do) That way the passing rate and the graduation rate goes up, incidents go down and Klien sings oh what a great job my Principals are doing and Randi sings along with him saying her ass-kissing teachers deserve the credit as well. That way we prove that the Mayor should have absolute say and control of the schools forever! It's coming and Randi will stand aside and let it happen! I have even seen Principals change the teachers grade and even answers on state exams! Anything to get the passing rate up. But in the old days, when teachers were outspoken because they were protected against the vengeful Principal by a strong union the schools and students were better off. And let me ask you a question. You say that Principals should not be forced to take a senior teacher beause that teacher might be a bad teacher? Well who appointed that teacher in the first place! Who gave that teacher tenure! It was another ethical Principal who hired an ass-kisser like yourself. Bottom line you will always get a bad apple weather you have seniority transfers or not! But what you do get with senority transfers and tenure is a balance of power. Different opinions, outspoken teachers who will say, no! That's wrong what the pricipal is doing! The Pricipal is doing illegal stuff. The pricipal is giving jobs to his ass-kissing friends instead of finding the best teacher for the job and the kids. The pricipal is stealing, money, changing grades and test scores! If you really want to know what kind of Job the Mayor, Klein and his Principals are doing, just take a look at those students that graduate. How many of them go to college after graduation? How many have learn the skills need to be succesful in college. How many of these students can pass the cuny reading writting and math test when they go to college. Most of these graduates have to take remedial course to teach then reading, writting and math skills that they should have learn in Kleins new and improved schools head by that great principal of yours and his ass-kissing teachers like yourself. What were those words that you used in your last blog, oh yeah dedication, the work ethic, the empathy, the intellectual ability, the emotional flexibility, the
desire to be of service to youth, and the generous
spirit that a good teacher needs like yourself and your principal. You must be one hell of chapter leader, Your principal must love you, and more important Randi loves you. Do me a favor and go blow it out your ass. Who are you Charle Turner who got chased out of Canarse High School or just another one of Randi's lackey.
Blue Deveil.

Anonymous said...

The new home page looks great!


Anonymous said...

You are completely RIGHT! This was the BIGGEST BOYCOTT EVER FROM RANDi. On my way to the RALLY, I got off at City Hall station and found the UFT suits (IDs on their necks) standing just outside from this subway station. They were diverting teachers going to the Rally to the UFT office. I couldn't beleive it. What kind of a UNION do we have that does not represent people's rights.

Anonymous said...

To Blue Devil. You are absolutely correct with your analysis. I was sent to a mini school ,my third school this year and grades are given out on a routine basis. I do not see thses students doing any work all they do is play on their computers during class.
The principal stated that the passing grade is 75 and the lowest grade is 55. thsi is just another way to make his school look like it is performing at a higher level.

All incidents are hidden by giving lunch detentions instead of real suspensions this way it does not have to be reported. This is what happens when principals are given bonuses and schools are rated. the principals are under the gun and will do anything illegal to keep their jobs.
So what makes Randi think that they will hire ATR's for their staff. She must live in Disney Land if she thinks that this is going to happen.
This entire ATR situation was created by her contract and with Kleins' help. Next year beware if you do not have a job and are a still an ATR you be be out on the street. They will give all the excuses, you had a year to get a job and refused to get one, there were lists of openings etc. But it was all set up by Randi and Klein(Mr. Burns from the Simpsons) to get rid of the senior teachers. Beware.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ninja,

What does your Chapter Leader have to say about this? What school are you in?

Does your chapter leader have chapter meetings? How many people attend?

Let the blogging community know.

This sounds like the perfect school to have UFTers visit and make some noise.

Klein should get an invite.

Do you want to see Unity start moving and behaving in unusual ways?

We can have wine and cheese on hand for them if they decide to join us.

No one has to know your name.


Master Dojo

Anonymous said...

The following quote was gleaned from ICE MAIL. In it, our VP of Academic High Schools, Leo Casey, asserts like many other Unity members that alternative/oppositional voices in the UFT are somehow disconnected from reality or live in a world of idealism.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. What is the “real political world?” Where is the “real political world?” Who decides or determines what is “real” Leo Casey? This type of thinking is frightening because it relegates the realm of imagination and rationality to the far corners of the earth where it can be vaporized. In addition, it is a defeatist attitude which consciously and unconsciously maintains that we the people are merely “players, performers and portrayers” instead of active agents capable of withstanding the attacks of the ruling class, fighting back and transforming society into that which Leo Casey’s own socialist organization calls a “humane society” full of “meaningful work.”


“we are also political realists who take stock of developments in the real political
world, and not just our ideal positions. Maximalist positions of opposition to any differentiated pay and bonuses can only postpone what would eventually be forms of individual performance pay schemes which are most objectionable.”

You can read more of Leo Casey’s thoughts at the Democratic Socialists of America
Website (labor link):

In the meantime check out some blurbs from the DSA website:
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States, and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. DSA's members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly socialist presence in American communities and politics.
At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. We are activists committed not only to extending political democracy but to demanding democratic empowerment in the economy, in gender relations, and in culture. Democracy is not simply one of our political values but our means of restructuring society. Our vision is of a society in which people have a real voice in the choices and relationships that affect the entirety of our lives. We call this vision democratic socialism — a vision of a more free, democratic and humane society.
In this web site you can find out about DSA, its politics, structure and program. DSA's political perspective is called Where We Stand. It says, in part,
We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.

We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms to achieve equitable distribution of resources, meaningful work, a healthy environment, sustainable growth, gender and racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.

Anonymous said...

James, I didn't get a chance to tell you how much I appreciated your analysis of the side agreement. It was comprehensive, informative, the definitive work. It will help us all immensely.

Anonymous said...

As we consider the ATR problem, spend a few seconds considering the teachers who were forced out by constructive dismissal, where they used the rubber rooms and the kangaroo court administrative hearings to force people out. Hundreds were gotten rid in this fashion and few know about it. They are not reflected in the statistics, nor were the tears of their children in their beds as the bread winners in the families were left disgraced w/o bread.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure ICE agrees with the person who wrote the last comment. Nobody has stood up stronger for people in the rubber room than Jeff Kaufman. That is a fact.