Principals union president Ernest Logan is raising questions about Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s threat to take money away from principals who don’t fill their vacancies by Oct. 30.
The point of Klein’s threat, made in an e-mail to principals yesterday and first reported by the Web site Insideschools, is to get principals who might be trying to outlast the hiring freeze to pick up “excessed” teachers from the ATR pool. Those teachers, who currently number more than 1,500, are drawing full salaries even though they don’t have permanent positions in schools. Their salaries are “a fiscal liability we cannot sustain in this budget climate,” Klein said in his letter.
But principals can’t hire teachers who aren’t eligible for their vacancies or who don’t apply for jobs, Logan emphasized in a response today to Klein’s hiring deadline. “We would like to know more about what the DoE will do if appropriate licensing matches are not made or if excessed teachers fail to show up at the recruitment fairs,” he said.
The Department of Education is requiring teachers in the ATR pool to attend borough-based hiring fairs next week, according to an e-mail obtained by union activist Norm Scott. Ann Forte, a DOE spokeswoman, confirmed that the fairs are compulsory for ATRs. But teachers in the pool are not required to apply for jobs, a contractual quirk that has made the pool a lightning rod for critics of the teachers union.
Forte said the department has granted 125 exemptions to the hiring freeze to principals who have made a compelling case about why they cannot fill their vacancies using available teachers who are already in the system.
Logan’s full response to Klein’s letter is below, followed by the letter itself:
Our school Principals have done a fine job of trying to face the daunting task of honoring the hiring freeze and still hiring the best possible teachers for their students’ educational needs. We are pleased that the DoE’s Human Resources Department will be stepping up to the plate by hosting teacher recruitment fairs for excessed teachers.
However, we would like to know more about what the DoE will do if appropriate licensing matches are not made or if excessed teachers fail to show up at the recruitment fairs.
Budget Situation and Hiring Restrictions
Thanks to federal stimulus funds, last year we were able to avoid massive teacher lay-offs and severe budget cuts that could have decimated school programs. I know the budget cuts we had to impose were painful, but keep in mind that in the years leading up to this economic crisis, we invested heavily in our schools and we’re still in much better shape than we were seven years ago.
The hiring restrictions that remain in place helped us avoid deeper cuts and have allowed you to retain your hiring power, even if they limited the talent pool. Right now, however, there are still more than 1,500 centrally-funded excessed teachers in our system, about 500 more than last year. This is a fiscal liability we cannot sustain in this budget climate, and we must reduce it. Meanwhile, there are still about 1,100 vacancies in the system in about half of our schools.
As a result, I am imposing an October 30 deadline to fill teacher vacancies. Hiring restrictions will remain in place, and for most subject areas vacancies must be filled with internal staff. Within these limitations, you may still hire whomever you choose, and you may still choose not to hire anyone. But if you don’t fill a vacancy and have that teacher finalized on your school budget by October 30, we may be forced to take back the dollars budgeted for those positions to pay for the increase in teachers in the excess pool.
In order to help you fill your vacancies, this month we are hosting borough-based recruitment fairs for excessed teachers. These events are during the school day and excessed teachers are mandated to attend the fair for their borough. Principals who have remaining vacancies that need to be filled are strongly encouraged to attend or send a representative. You should register in advance. For more information, call (718) 935-4080 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Nobody dislikes this situation more than I do. Limiting your hiring freedom goes against what I stand for, but because of the economic reality we must control costs and protect our schools from deeper budget cuts.
Despite these challenges, I am so optimistic about where we are headed. For the first time in decades, this nation is uniting around the power of education, and thanks to you, New York City is a model for what can be achieved through vision, collaboration, and hard work on behalf of our students.