Most teachers without permanent positions are looking forward to a greater chance of stability after the city and teachers union last month agreed to place them in long-term substitute slots before rotating them to different schools weekly, as happened last year.
But the 300 guidance counselors and social workers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are gearing up to begin cycling from school to school for the first time.
Last year, even as other members of the ATR pool, the group of educators whose positions have been eliminated, began the rotation system, the counselors were assigned to a single school so they could work with individual students for extended periods of time. But starting next week, they will be assigned to different schools each week, dramatically changing their roles and responsibilities.
Instead of working with students one on one, the counselors will take on shorter-term tasks, city officials said. The tasks could include making classroom presentations on graduation requirements, conflict management, and the college or high school application process; organizing records; supporting the school's college counselors; and reviewing student schedules at the start of the semester.
Coming at a time when many schools have trimmed support services because of budget cuts, the change has some educators and researchers raising their eyebrows.
Teachers without positions who have been cycling through different schools each week will be assigned to more stable positions again, according to a deal that the city and UFT struck a month ago.
Under the terms of a different deal struck to avert teacher layoffs in 2011, the city last year sent members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, teachers whose positions had been eliminated, to different schools each week. The purpose of the rotation system, city and union officials said at the time, was to reduce spending on substitute teachers and increase the chances of ATRs landing a permanent job.
But the union found that some principals were filling their long-term absences with regular substitutes instead of allowing ATRs to cycle into them, according to union officials, in less extreme examples of improprieties alleged at Fort Hamilton High School. The practice let principals maintain control over their staff and allowed them to avoid hiring ATRs, whom former Chancellor Joel Klein characterized as “teachers who either don’t care to, or can’t, find a job.”
So the union filed a grievance against the city over the rotation system. The city agreed to negotiate policy changes rather than contest the grievance and risk having changes imposed by an arbitrator.
The main change, city officials say, is that any absence of longer than 29 days will be filled automatically, at least at first, by a member of the ATR pool. Previously, ATRs were supposed to fill "long-term absences," but that term wasn't defined, so it often did not happen.
So starting next week, ATRs will be assigned to fill absences of 30 days or more when the vacancy is in their geographic and license areas. Only if there is no appropriate long-term placement will the teachers continue to work as itinerant substitutes.
In the last month, nearly 10 percent of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve have found new positions, according to data the Department of Education released today.
Chart showing the exit paths of teachers from the ATR pool during October
The hiring took place during a time when the department shuffled teachers in the ATR pool to new positions every week, under the terms of an agreement with the teachers union.
The city and UFT say the agreement is meant to match more teachers with open positions. But at a union meeting for ATRs last month, some teachers speculated that the weekly assignments were intended to frustrate ATRs into resignation.
Numbers from the first month have not borne out that theory. Of the teachers who left the pool, 172 found new positions, 11 took a leave from the DOE, and 18 exited the school system entirely. Altogether, nearly 750 teachers have exited the pool since mid-August, when the city said 1,940 teachers were without permanent positions.
The new numbers show that the pool of teachers without permanent positions has settled at roughly the same size every year for three years, even though principals faced with shrinking budgets have cut jobs each summer. There are currently 1,200 teachers in the ATR pool, 77 fewer than last year at this time and 47 fewer than in November 2009.
With their schools' budgets for next year finally in hand, principals are now being tasked with cutting nearly 2.5 percent.
Department of Education officials announced the cuts this morning in an online presentation to principals, many of whom had grown anxious about heading into summer vacation without knowing how much they would be able to spend next year. School-level budgets, usually announced in late May or early June, had been held up by city negotiations over Mayor Bloomberg's threat to lay off teachers. A deal reached Friday night averted layoffs with a mix of union concessions and City Council funds.
Now, even though there will be no layoffs, schools will still suffer budget cuts of $178 million, or an average of 2.43 percent, according to the presentation. That follows a 4 percent cut last year, and school officials say many schools remain likely to trim their staffs.
"Given the current budget conditions, we expect that many schools will be compelled to excess teachers," reads one slide of the presentation. "Many of the teachers placed in excess will be capable and effective teachers, and we are committed to creating opportunities for them to be promptly hired elsewhere."
The DOE's central administration budget will fall by 13.5 percent, according to the presentation.