Friday, November 28, 2014


On Tuesday evening, I spoke on behalf of Absent Teacher Reserves at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Manhattan.  The text of the speech is below and you can watch it on You Tube if you would like (thanks to Norm Scott for the video).

To illustrate how little has changed since Bill de Blasio took over from Mike Bloomberg as Mayor and Carmen Farina replaced Dennis Walcott as Chancellor, a DOE official took down my contact information after I spoke at the PEP but I am still waiting to hear from them on what is an immediate concern. 

As part of my speech, I requested a release from being an ATR at Hillcrest to start at Middle College High School right away as Middle College wants to hire me for a leave replacement position through June.  Guess what, I heard nothing from anybody at the DOE except for an email telling me to go to Hillcrest next week.  I will have no chance to become acclimated at a new school that does not operate in a traditional way. Nothing against Hillcrest but if another school wants to hire me, shouldn't they be able to let me come there right away instead of wasting another week at a school where I am only covering classes? In the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal; it's just one little anecdote showing how little has changed in the schools compared to the past.

I also asked for the Chancellor or someone from her office to meet with representatives from the Absent Teacher Reserve Association.  Let's see if we hear back from them.

PEP Statement November 25, 2014

 Good evening Chancellor Farina and Panel members.  My name is James Eterno.  I addressed the panel many times under the previous administration mainly advocating for Jamaica HS, the 122 year old school that was closed by Chancellor Walcott but didn't fully phase out until this past June. We tried to get a new lease on life from our new Chancellor as we wrote to you in January and you sent a deputy to visit but after that we never heard from you or your office.  We had to find out from Melinda Katz, the Queens Borough President, that we were officially closed.

Since Jamaica is now closed, this fall many of my colleagues and I are now Absent Teacher Reserves. Having spent many years dedicating our professional lives to working with kids, we deserve better than to be bounced around Queens whenever administration decides to play musical ATRs.  I would like to point out to the Panel and the Chancellor some of what goes on in schools with regard to ATRs.

For example, many of us have been sent on mandatory interviews for jobs that do not exist. We are forced to go or we will have resigned our jobs. Assistant principals meet me and apologize for wasting my time.  What kind of organization sends people on phony job interviews while simultaneously  paying for coverages at the schools where we are temporarily assigned because we are not there?

There is a myth out there that all of the ATRS do not want a permanent placement in a school.  I can't speak for anyone else but I know some friends from Jamaica and I want permanent jobs.  In this ridiculous rotation system you and the UFT agreed to, two administrators have told me they like my work but nobody will hire me permanently because I'm too expensive.  This is outrageous.  Even now when middle College HS wants me as a leave replacement, I can't get released from Hillcrest by your ATR office until after December 5. Why not tomorrow? This is just ridiculous.

The rotation system has no rhyme or reason to it.  Some of us changed schools after three weeks while others are staying for six.  We have no say in it as it is apparently up to the whims of principals; some are very professional and feel for us while others are not.

Chancellor you have mentioned mutual consent hiring rather than forced placement.  Mutual consent does not apply to ATRs because we can be forced placed by any principal at any time and if we say no to the placement, we've resigned.  What kind of mutual consent is that?

Over 100 ATRs have formed the ATR Alliance.  As an employee organization, we would like to meet with you or your representatives to discuss our concerns which I have just scratched the surface of in two minutes.


Anonymous said...

Until your ATR organization hires a lawyer and threatens a class action suit, you will go nowhere. Remember when ATRs threatened an age discrimination suit? Their only problem was they believed in Randi and dropped the suit. Hire a good lawyer and you will get results.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful presentation of your position in a clear, calm, professional manner. I hope you get the meeting you asked for with the Chancellor. You're right that the system is not working for ATRs. It both saddens and infuriates me when I see my fellow educators, many who I know would be an asset to any school that "hires" them, cycle through my school. It's demoralizing for the ATRs and also makes teachers in the "host" schools keenly aware that under different circumstances this could happen to them.

I always introduce myself to any ATRs in my building and let them know that if they have any problems to let me know but I think it's great that you've formed an ATR alliance to better address the specific needs of those members. (I voted in favor of creating an ATR chapter at a recent DA, but as usual, I was not in the majority.)

Fortunately, administration in my school seems to treat ATRs (and substitutes) fairly. I often mention the plight of the ATRs at our Chapter Meetings to let the staff know that these are fellow educators and should always be treated the same way they treat other colleagues at the school. I point out how one of our highly-respected staff members came to us via the ATR rotation and also mention that I personally know and can vouch for several ATRs who've come through our doors. (One was a special education evaluator with nearly 30 years of experience. She was promoted to a SpEd position at a district office but became an ATR when her position was eliminated due to budget cuts. A lovely lady, an expert in special ed evaluations, now being used as a substitute teacher, even though she hadn't taught in a classroom for decades.)

I know the PEP limits the time you have to speak but I'm curious why you didn't bring up the Student Fair Funding formula as I see this as a major deterrent to permanent placement that ATRs and teachers with seniority face. Remove this disincentive and I think the number of teachers in the ATR pool will be reduced dramatically. Hopefully you'll have a chance to to address this if/when you're given the opportunity to meet with the Chancellor.

Good Luck!

Mary Ahern

James Eterno said...

Thanks Mary. I did bring up the Unfair Student Funding indirectly through the part where I said I am too expensive to get picked up by a school. Like you said, we have a very limited time and I went beyond the two minutes for sure.

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea.

Anonymous said...

A suit will go nowhere. We're getting our salaries and working. So what are you going to sue for - not being treated like an untenured newbie?! You guys should take a hard look at what many teachers are going through - it's not pretty.

Anonymous said...

Is it too late if you retired to join in this fight ?

Anonymous said...

Hi James,

FYI: If a principal enters you into the galaxy system for a vacancy, you are released from your ATR assignment immediately. If there were a LTA then there would be a vacancy.

I have heard a story about an ATR being given a similar story at MCHS.

You may be getting played by the admin.

Anonymous said...

The Bloomberg DOE, which btw has never left, likes to believe they have remodeled NYC schools after business.
The endless acronyms and buzz words, eduspeak and "accountable talk" makes for an unbearably pretentious atmosphere. This will forever be known as " THE AGE OF BULLSHIT".
But the sad truth is that if any business were run as poorly and incompetently as this DOE, they would go belly up and fast.

James Eterno said...

It is a leave replacement at Middle College, not a vacancy. You are not going to get me to say anything negative about Middle College High School. I am very grateful to the administration for giving me a chance. They told me they wanted to get me there as fast as they can and people are working behind the scenes to get me acclimated at Middle College even when I am still ATRing at Hillcrest. The whole ATR system is insane.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever contact the UFT or your district rep?

Ibeth said...

Thank you James for always being a voice for us and all your hard work and dedication in fighting for our teacher's rights.