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May 6, 2014
Letter from Mulgrew to ATRs suggests teachers less likely to face expedited hearings than city signaled
New details from a memo sent from Mulgrew to absent teacher reserve members, and information provided by union officials, reveal that the excessed teachers would also have stronger job protections than were originally reported or acknowledged by officials.
September 14, 2012
City bolstering ATR evaluation process, but challenges remain
A year after starting to rotate teachers without permanent positions into different empty slots weekly, the Department of Education has settled on a way to evaluate them. But the plan, hiring administrators to observe and coach the teachers in multiple placements, could be stymied if the department cannot find enough available evaluators who are up to the task. Last year, when the city launched the rotation system for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, it left up in the air the question of who would be responsible for evaluating them. Previously, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year, so principals could rate them as they did any other teacher on staff. For almost all of the roughly 830 teachers in the pool at the end of last year, district superintendents ended up issuing the annual ratings with input from potentially dozens of principals who supervised each teacher — in most cases, without conducting the formal observations that teachers are required to receive each year. But in Brooklyn, which had about 250 ATRs last year, the city took a different approach. It interviewed and selected five administrators who had also lost their positions to budget cuts or school closures to visit the teachers in their classrooms and give them feedback about their performance.
May 17, 2012
In lieu of new evaluations, city looks to options in union contract
Chancellor Dennis Walcott speaks to business leaders at the Association for a Better New York breakfast. After years of trying to win new powers to fire under-performing teachers, the city is turning to rights it has had all along. Speaking to a coalition representing the city's business elite this morning, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would move to fire any teacher who receives "unsatisfactory" ratings for two years in a row. He also announced that the city would ask the UFT to allow buyouts for teachers who have been without permanent positions for more than a year. Both policies are already permitted under the law and the city's contract with the teachers union — a fact that drew ridicule from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "It's theater of the absurd. It's getting old," he said. "I think they believe that everyone's a fool. They've made an announcement about something they already have the ability to do." Mulgrew noted that the union contract already allows Department of Education officials to do exactly what Walcott's two plans announced today would do—incentivize teachers without permanent jobs to take buyouts, and require schools to remove teachers who receive consecutive unsatisfactory ratings. He also said the buyout plan was proposed by the union several times over the past three years, but the city rebuffed it.
December 23, 2010
On his way out, Klein pushes for end to ATR pool, last-in first-out
The final installment of Joel Klein's weekly memo to principals In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he's gone. He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools. Klein's statement that "we have to eliminate the ATR pool" ratchets up the city's position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don't find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether. Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues: We cannot afford it, and it's wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That's money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need. Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. "I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid," he writes. The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter: If we have layoffs, it's unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn't mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren't among the best, but this is not an area for "group think." We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn't. Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, "Little Gidding," excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his "odyssey" as something more complex than a straight line of a progress: We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. Other curious lines from the poem: ... Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. ... Klein has sent a memo to principals every week for years. Read the full letter here and below.
October 5, 2009
Teachers contract likely to skirt ATR issue, observers say
With less than a month to go before the teachers union contract expires, labor negotiation veterans are forecasting a "bland" contract that will disappoint those advocating for drastic reforms both from the city and United Federation of Teachers. One issue that many believe will be left out of this contract is what to do about the absent teacher reserve: a pool of teachers who were laid off when their schools were closed or were let go as a result of budget cuts. Currently, there are about 1,400 "excessed" teachers who receive their full salaries though most are not teaching. In previous years, Chancellor Joel Klein has urged the city to adopt the model Chicago uses, in which teachers have a year to find new work before they're fired. When the city pushed for an 18-month period in 2005, arbitrators rejected the proposal, yet the chancellor has continuously said that this is the system he wants to see put in place.
September 17, 2009
Principals union head questions Klein's Oct. 30 hiring ultimatum
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.
September 11, 2009
UFT and city begin contract talks amid questions over pay, ATRs
The highly anticipated contract negotiations between the teachers union and the city are officially off and running. In anticipation of the UFT contract's October 31 expiration date, officials from both sides met yesterday to begin the negotiation process. The negotiations are colored by the city's dismal financial projections and the upcoming mayoral election — the UFT has yet to endorse a candidate for mayor. They are also UFT president Michael Mulgrew's first significant challenge, and are likely to be a factor when he comes up for election in the spring. Though both sides have signed confidentiality agreements allowing them to keep mum when the press pushes for details, neither has been entirely silent about changes they'd like to see made to the contract. Chancellor Joel Klein has made no secret of his desire to see the Absent Teacher Reserve drained. The pools currently holds 1,695 teachers who previously worked in schools that have been closed. Though they remain on the city's payroll, they do not have full-time teaching positions. The point of tension between Klein and the UFT is how to drain it. On Wednesday, the first day of school, Klein reiterated his support for Chicago's model, which allows teachers who've been laid off to spend one year searching for a new spot in the school system while receiving their regular salaries. At the end of that year, those who haven't landed new positions are forced to move on.
September 10, 2009
ATR pool shrinks rapidly as school starts and principals hire
The latest ATR numbers are out, and they suggest a mass exodus has occurred in the last few days. In the last two weeks, the…
January 8, 2009
DOE still recruiting new teachers, but with a smaller budget
A Teaching Fellows ad in the subway in March 2007. Photo via ##http://nyc2dailyphoto.blogspot.com/2007/03/what-is-your-first-grade-teachers-name.html##NYC Daily Photo##. I've reported before that the Department of Education has hundreds of teachers without permanent positions and that it took a judge to stop the department from firing dozens of new teachers last month. So I was surprised recently to see recruitment ads in the subway for the DOE's Teaching Fellows program, which places recent college graduates and career-changing professionals in high-need classrooms throughout the city. (Similarly startled by the ads, Pissed Off Teacher is, well, pissed off about them.) In fact, the DOE has scaled back advertising for the Teaching Fellows program by more than a third since last year. This year, the department spent $140,000 to advertise the program in subway cars and $75,000 to promote the program online, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte told me. In contrast, she said, the program's advertising budget last year came out to between $300,000 and $400,000, and had spent even more in previous years when it bought advertising in print publications.
October 15, 2008
UFT opposing Bloomberg on term limits, but not too strongly
The resolution before the UFT delegates — that any changes to term limits be made by voter referendum — passed on a voice vote this evening with no changes. But an amendment to deny UFT PAC funds to City Council members who vote to change term limits was voted down. It read: Resolved, that the UFT unequivocally oppose the city council's bill to extend term limits and the UFT will seriously consider withholding endorsements and COPE money from any Council member who votes in favor of this legislation that circumvents the will of the people. Supporters of the amendment said they were pleased by how much support it got. James Eterno, the UFT chapter leader from Jamaica High School in Queens who introduced the resolution, estimated 30 percent of delegates voted for the amendment. But someone else who was there said that less than 25 percent of delegates supported it. UFT President Randi Weingarten said the union doesn't want to make term limits a top priority.
September 24, 2008
UFT to Klein: Save money by using the teachers you already have
It will take "creative thinking and smart choices" to protect the schools from the mounting economic crisis, UFT President Randi Weingarten told Chancellor Klein in a letter today outlining three suggestions of how the DOE could cut costs and deploy its resources more efficiently. All three recommendations, if implemented, would reduce the number of "excessed" teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, who are currently under fire from The New Teacher Project for costing the system millions of dollars even though they aren't working. The UFT says most ATRs have tried for months to find jobs but that principals aren't given incentives to hire the often highly paid teachers. Weingarten's suggestions to Klein: 1. An immediate hiring freeze at the central Department of Education, and at the school and district level for any license areas where there are people in excess and available for placement. 2. A redeployment of teachers and other excessed personnel in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) into vacancies as they arise. 3. Develop a program to recertify excessed personnel in additional license areas, so they are available to fill vacancies as they arise. Read Weingarten's full letter after the jump.
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