Sunday, July 09, 2017


To this blogger, one of the worst of the many givebacks of the 2005 contract was the end of seniority transfers and School Based Option transfers for UFT members replaced by the creation of the open market transfer system.

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.

My own feeling on the open market is to paraphrase the Bible (something not normally done here).

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.


Anonymous said...

Unqualified and inexperienced are the buzzwords of the day. Younger is better. End of story.

Abigail Shure

Anonymous said...

Previous commentor sums it up quite succinctly. As always James, thanks for putting this out there.

Anonymous said...

I've been an ATR for 4 years and have never received an interview. I have an impeccable resume and have applied to numerous schools. This is my 28th year with the DOE.

Anonymous said...

Yeah it stinks for veteran teachers, but the new system really did benefit me as a younger teacher. I was able to get out of my renewal school and get into a decent school in a location I'd never be able to under the old system (a veteran would surely have gotten placed there before me). Had one year where I got about 15 interviews, I even got a ton during the supposed hiring freeze when I was on the New Teacher Finder. There's pluses and minuses to the current system, mostly depending on how much experience you have, but the one thing for sure that needs to be changed is the fair student funding nonsense, which blatantly discourages principals from hiring/encourages eliminating older teachers. The money is there to pay us, why does it have to be allocated as dollars in a school budget as opposed to as a "unit" like it used to be? It would also make sense to have a committee hiring panel so the principal can't just hire his buddy and we have a checks and balances for their stupidity. It's very rare that I've gone on an interview and met anyone other than the principal and maybe one of the AP's.

Anonymous said...

The "open market" is not open at all! It is a complete sham! It is an unfair system where principals have all the control and power. Positions go to friends, relatives, newbies, or positions are hidden.

DOE and UFT need to come to fair agreements on hiring practices, transfers, seniority, and excessing rules!


James Eterno said...

If you think you are getting anything better with Mulgrew negotiating, you are in dreamland. The UFT won't even ask for a reasonable hiring system in contract demands. I have been on the negotiating committee the last two contracts. We never ask for the givebacks to be rescinded. I would settle for the SBO plan but the UFT will not demand it.

Anonymous said...

Go back to centralized funding! It's a no brainer, even the principal's want it.

Anonymous said...

I have been rated highly effective for four consecutive years, was selected as a model teacher by my principal this past school year. I have 18 years experience. I applied to 20 positions on open market and did not receive one response or call for an interview. Clearly my experience and salary was used against me. You can't tell me that hiring a kid out of college was taking the more qualified candidate. The open market is a sham.

Anonymous said...

Not very.

Anonymous said...

I am writing to you to let you know that the DOE has made changes to the way it will place members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool in schools. These changes reflect the UFT’s conviction that members of the ATR pool provide needed services to schools and that their work should be respected. While the DOE and the UFT have long sought to reduce the size of the ATR pool, we are pleased that the DOE is now looking to do this by matching educators and schools rather than through time limits and attacks.

These changes are policy changes — not contractual changes. First, the DOE has informed us of their commitment to fill positions that remain vacant on Oct. 15, 2017, with educators from the ATR pool. This is in contrast to the hands-off approach that the DOE has taken with principals in the past. As you know, this spring’s ATR agreement continues the agreement from the Memorandum of Agreement in 2014 that allows educators of the ATR pool to be assigned to schools in their borough. As was the case from 2014-16, ATRs can be assigned to a school in their borough with a vacancy in their license area. This has not changed.

Second, if an ATR is assigned to a school and rated Effective or Highly Effective by the school administration, absent extraordinary circumstances, the ATR will become a permanent member of the school community. This just makes sense. If a principal rates a teacher Effective or Highly Effective, and the match between the member and the school is appropriate, that principal should not send that teacher back to the ATR pool because of budget concerns or for other reasons.

The DOE is changing its own policy, but, of course, it cannot change or violate any of the terms of our contracts. As always, with your help, we will make sure that the DOE follows all contractual rules.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 7:39, where did you get that information from? I find the part about permanent placement interesting. I fully expect many ATR's to get rated developing or ineffective so they don't get appointed unless the principal realllly likes them, and with the stigma attached to ATR's I doubt this will happen in large numbers. Besides, if a school has a vacancy in October it's likely a dump where teachers are blamed for poor behavior and performance through poor Danielson ratings anyway.

James Eterno said...

It is from an email from Michael Mulgrew. It has been printed in full in a separate posting. I agree with you on the ratings and wrote that separately.

Anonymous said...

"Should not" , "policy changes" are highly subjective terms. Being rated effective or highly effective is highly suspect if our salaries are coming out of individual school budgets. What about all those ATRs that are out of license? Why not hold some meetings now to answer some these questions? As you must know, Amy, Friday is the deadline to take the 50K and retire. The DOE and the UFT don't want us, so it behoves you, chief lackey under Mulgrew, to be a little more proactive that to send an anonymous comment on here to silence the growing criticism of you, Mulgrew and the UFT.

James Eterno said...

What's Amy's anonymous comment? Which one? She didn't print Mulgrew's email in my opinion. I think that came from someone else but don't know for sure.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter if it came from Amy or not. She is the designated ATR representative and it is her duty to explain the ramifications of Mulgrew's email. I agree with 9:50.

Anonymous said...

It gives an incentive to give a final D or I to an ATR in order to get rid of him. It also will get these principals hiring newbies like never before prior to Oct 15. Mulgrew thinks everyone is stupid.

Anonymous said...

It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to utilize our skills and continue our craft. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks - principals don't want high salaried staff which the union and DOE has not been able to eliminate this threat. It is a threat because this wave of getting rid of senior salaried teachers is real and a lot of people have gotten caught up in this storm. My school had closed and I've been to schools where I ask myself: Why is it that my school closed and this school is not? Bottom line is that not all students excel and to target staff is not the right approach. Too much pressure and power is put on principals. Students do whatever they want. Many are wonderful, but to be honest many are not at this time in their lives which does not mean there cannot be change in the future.

Anonymous said...

The UFT should make that change happen but will not because they are not smart.

Anonymous said...

The Open Market can be summed up in one word: BOGUS.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing such a beautiful article.