dirty little secret?

Among the new new-teacher pool: some who sat out job search

Members of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool who did extensive job searches spoke at a press conference with teachers union president Randi Weingarten at the start of the school year. (GothamSchools)
Members of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool who did extensive job searches spoke at a press conference with teachers union president Randi Weingarten at the start of the school year. (<em>GothamSchools</em>)

A teachers union source surprised me recently by pointing out what the source described as the “dirty little secret” of the Absent Teacher Reserve pool.

The reserve is the group of teachers who will become the main hiring source for principals now that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has announced a freeze on hiring outside teachers.

It includes teachers who lost their positions at schools that either down-sized or closed, but failed to find new positions, and so remain on the Department of Education’s payroll without holding an official job.

The teachers who remain in the ATR pool are a minority; many teachers who found themselves “excessed” out of schools found new positions quickly, according to a report about the pool. The teachers who did not find new positions seem to be left out for a variety of reasons. Some simply could not get a principal to hire them, despite making major efforts to find jobs. Others remained because they were doing precisely the same job they had been doing before they entered the pool, but, affordably for principals, off of the school’s payroll. (The central Department of Education’s budget covers the salaries of ATR members.)

Another group of teachers, however, the source told me, sat tight in the ATR pool out of a kind of defiance. They simply did not apply for new positions.

The story is supported by figures collected by The New Teacher Project, the nonprofit that hires and trains new teachers and studies teacher job markets around the country. The group found that more than half of ATR teachers who remained without jobs as of December of 2008 had never applied for any jobs through the online Open Market system and never attended a single job fair. That’s 723 out of 1,367 teachers who were in the ATR pool at that time.

Teachers union president Randi Weingarten has emphatically insisted that the members of the ATR pool have been slandered by the Department of Education and The New Teacher Project. At the start of the school year, she organized a press conference with several ATR members who spoke about extensive job searches that turned up nothing.

And in a recent telephone interview, Weingarten told me that not hiring ATR members is a “waste of talent and money.” “A waste of talent and money!” she exclaimed again, for emphasis.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.