Some disturbing numbers came out recently concerning Absent Teacher Reserves leaving the New York City school system. While nobody has yet been terminated under the new weakened tenure process for ATRs that all of us feared in the 2014 contract (give the Department of Education some time) and many of the 290 ATRs who left the system retired, it is very troubling that ten ATRs "resigned" for missing two job interviews. Even if these teachers have tenure, they immediately were taken off of payroll without any due process hearing and now have to fight for their positions back. As a traveling ATR in the first three months of this school year, I could have easily been number eleven.
One of the most awful provisions of the 2014 contract says ATRs have voluntarily resigned if we miss two job interviews. The actual language states: "An ATR that declines or fails to report to an interview, upon written notice of it, two or more times without good cause shall be treated as having voluntarily resigned his/her employment." This blog was worried about the potential for abuse of this clause as early as May 6, 2014. Our fears have unfortunately been realized ten times this year. The burden of proof to show good cause for missing interviews is on us and the Department of Education in my opinion is not going to look favorably on what any of us say.
I don't know any of the particular circumstances of nine of the ten teachers who "resigned" for missing interviews but I would bet a great deal of money that most, maybe all, had good cause for being absent. The DOE fired them anyway. Tenure doesn't mean anything thanks to our union giving it away for ATRs.
For me personally, this issue resonates as I could have been the eleventh victim of Michael Mulgrew and Carmen Farina's "contract on ATRs".
I recall traveling to an interview at Bryant High School in September when the train stopped in the tunnel for a short while but eventually moved. I blogged about this in September. That could have been my first missed interview.
The second was when I was sent to one of the schools at Far Rockaway High School. There are a limited number of roads that access the Rockaways so I left my house in eastern Queens that morning a little after 8:00 am to make sure I was not late. It turned out there was a major construction project going on so traffic moved at a snail's pace for a long time (The Rockaways aren't covered in most traffic reports). I remember calling my wife in ATR panic mode that day saying I was going to miss that interview. By the grace of God, traffic finally moved and I made it just in time.
My third "near miss" interview happened when I was covering classes at Middle College High School and was sent to Hillcrest High School for an interview for a job where there was no opening. When I was in rotation, I checked DOE email every weekend to plan my interview schedule for the week. On this particular Saturday, there were no interviews scheduled for the following week so I concentrated on classes I would be covering and getting to know students in a new school.
The following Monday I was quite busy attempting to make a good impression at Middle College so I didn't check DOE email that day. When I arrived at school on Tuesday morning, the alert person in charge of coverages at Middle College was able to tell me I had to run to Hillcrest for an interview. Had she not checked or received notification, I would have missed that interview.
I quickly went online and sure enough there was a DOE email that came in on Saturday regarding an interview at Hillcrest. However, I recall checking email that Saturday and there were no scheduled interviews. Would these people back date an email and send it out later? I won't go so far as to make that allegation but I wouldn't put it past the DOE. I also won't blame them for subway delays or traffic in the Rockaways but the point is it is not that difficult to miss two interviews. Is that good cause for losing a job? No way.
Add together a couple of traffic/subway delays and some miscommunication and my twenty-eight years of teaching would have been over. I would have been off payroll and filing a grievance to get my job back. While the case would have slowly drifted though the interminable grievance process, I would have been unemployed. Tenure means nothing.
For those ten people who have "resigned", I too could be in your situation. The details of your experiences are probably similar to mine but you were just unlucky. I would gladly come to your defense; the world needs to hear from us. This ATR system is truly a nightmare.