Dozens of first-year teachers originally slated to lose their jobs in early December have only three more weeks to secure a permanent position or be fired, a state labor arbitrator ruled today.

According to the ruling, the new teachers, most of whom were hired through the Teaching Fellows program, will go off the Department of Education’s payroll on Feb. 2 if they have not been hired by a principal by then.

The ruling concludes a months-long fight by new hires who entered a tighter-than-usual teacher labor market this fall. Facing a hefty bill for teachers who weren’t actually filling empty positions, the DOE planned to fire unplaced new teachers on Dec. 5, in accordance with a contract the teachers had signed when they accepted their spot in the Teaching Fellows program, which places unlicensed teachers in hard-to-fill positions. But the United Federation of Teachers filed a grievance contending that the teachers were protected by the job security clause in the union’s contract with the city and so should say on the DOE’s payroll.

When the issue went to arbitration in December, the union was hopeful that the teachers’ jobs would be protected through the end of the school year, UFT spokesman Ron Davis told me. But the arbitrator did not accept the union’s claim that unplaced Teaching Fellows are covered by the contract’s job security clause, instead ruling that they should be considered regular substitutes. According to the contract, regular substitutes cannot be terminated in the middle of the term. Feb. 2 marks the end of the semester in the city’s schools.

According to DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte, 44 Teaching Fellows are still without permanent positions, down from 88 on Dec. 2, the original termination date. In addition, she said seven teachers hired this fall by the DOE’s central administration still have not found positions in schools.

In an e-mail today, the UFT encouraged teachers affected by today’s ruling to attend a special hiring fair being held Sunday for all teachers who lack permanent positions. In addition to the new teachers who have never held a permanent position in a city school, the DOE employs hundreds of experienced teachers whose positions were eliminated when the schools where they worked downsized or closed.

Below, the e-mail the UFT is sending to Teaching Fellows without jobs:

Dear [Teaching Fellow],

Your job is secure through Feb. 2, 2009.

An arbitrator agreed with the UFT that the DOE did not have the right to terminate you on Dec. 5, regardless of the language in the pre-employment contract that the New York City Department of Education required you to sign.

We filed a grievance in October arguing that teaching fellows like yourself who had not found permanent positions were being improperly terminated because the DOE pre-employment contract allowing for your early termination does not supersede the UFT/DOE collective-bargaining agreement. Then we got a court injunction earlier this month preventing the DOE from terminating you until an arbitrator had ruled on our grievance.

The arbitrator found that as regular substitutes, which are covered under Article 5C3 of the UFT/DOE contract, you are guaranteed employment through the end of term, which is Feb. 2, 2009. (In addition, you will have earned one month of summer pay for working the entire fall term.) We contended that the job-security clause in the UFT/DOE contract protected teaching fellows from layoffs, but the arbitrator rejected that argument. You now have until Feb. 2 to secure a permanent assignment.

The UFT job conference for ATRs is this Sunday, Jan. 11. If you have not yet registered, sign up today. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Go here for more details and online registration.

The conference will include workshops on how to make your resume and cover letter stand out, how to create a memorable portfolio and how to ace the interview. In addition, you will be able to work one-on-one with video professionals to create your own “video cover letter” for the union’s new ATR and RTR resume bank Web site, which will be launched on Sunday. (Check www.uft.org on Monday for the link to the new Web site under “Resources for UFT Members.”)

We realize this has been a stressful time for you. We hope this news provides some relief and that the jobs conference and resume Web site help you land a position in the coming weeks.

Sincerely,

Randi Weingarten
UFT President