Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Outrage--Hundreds of teachers excessed in District 79

From Marjorie Stamberg. See Comments at the Ed Notes Online blog.

Hi Colleagues,

When school starts Thursday, there will be hundreds of GED, ESL and other teachers "excessed" from their jobs in District 79. I am sending this out to alert teachers and educational groups throughout NYCDOE, CUNY and the New York area who need to know of this outrageous attack on NYC teachers.

The huge "reorganization" and closure of 5 GED programs for older at-risk students was announced by Joel Klein on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. The DOE intended to just ram this through, but the UFT insisted that a measure affecting some 700 teachers was subject to emergency "impact bargaining". This has thus far prevented the DOE from hiring new (lower cost) teachers to fill jobs in the reorganized GED-plus program. Nonetheless, the union acquiesced to disbanding the programs, and to a grotesque "re-interview process". This meant teachers had to "re-apply" for the jobs they had held for years, and has meant literally hundreds of teachers have been declared "unqualified" to take the new positions.

These teachers are all proven, qualified, dedicated teachers, with S ratings for years! Many have one or two masters degrees, doctorates, supervisory certificates, years of experience in teaching at-risk older and second-language students. These experienced and in many cases, highly talented educators, have been put on the chopping block to fulfill Klein/Bloomberg's mania for asserting "managerial control" through one hair-brained scheme after another.

All this at a time, when the drop-out rate of black and hispanic students is the largest in the country, when over 40 percent of English Language Learners in NYC drop out before finishing high school, when dedicated teachers of at risk and GED students are needed more than ever!

In the D79 "reorganization", many terms of the final agreement which the union signed off on June 29, have been violated by the DOE, and have gone unchallenged by the union. In fact, the UFT leadership has never provided to the teachers effected the actual text of this agreement. In June, teachers were told that if excessed, they would be in an ATR (absent teacher reserve) pool at D79, available as soon as new jobs in the District opened up. Not so. Instead, it turns out they will be put in ATR pools in other districts, so our teaching staff will be fractured and ripped apart.

Teachers at the Schools for Pregnant Teens were all "excessed" in June, after having been made the target of a vicious racist smear job in the press, which came straight out of Tweed. After teachers and community groups protested, teachers were told they would be given jobs in the LYFE centers which would be kept open. We don't have complete information at this point, but in at least one of the Pregnant Teens sites, all teachers have been excessed, and only one offered a job in another district. This gives you an idea of the scope of the purge.

At ASHS (Auxiliary Services for High Schools), about 50 percent of our staff have been excessed. We are trying to collect the figures from Career Educational Services, Vocational Education Center, Off-site Educational Services (CEC, VEC, OES, respectively).

So what has been the UFT's leadership's response? The UFT has told teachers to individually appeal and grieve if they feel they were unjustly rejected in the interview process! If they win their appeal, they will be reinstated in the "next reorganization" of D79, which could be as late as 2008. And what is this "next reorganization", about which we know nothing? This issue is not about individual appeals. This is a collective massacre of teachers' jobs!

Clearly this is part of the DOE's plans to pressure longtime teachers to retire, possibly with incentive of a "buyout" if that is a part of the next contract. Also, worrisome is the possibility of contractual acceptance of an 18-month ATR period and then you're out. Other teachers unions have swallowed this; the UFT says it won't, but who believes it?

And behind it all, is the rampaging corporatization and privatization of public schools, where teachers, kids, parents, critical thought, are reduced to the "bottom line." That's the reality of "public education" in this epoch where capitalists like Bill Gates call the tune. That's their program for OUR kids, OUR teachers--"THEIR" kids will go to private school and cruise along in a two-tiered world of the "elite" and then there's everybody else.

Meanwhile, the silence from the UFT leadership is deafening. NOT A WORD has been said in "New York Teacher" about massive excessing in D79. Clearly the UFT tops want this done without a murmur! But we are the union and we must fight.

We must get the word out about this atrocity--in the media, at parents and community meetings, at the next delegate's assembly. We have to demand that the UFT act now to STOP the massacre! We are also hearing about excessing of SpED teachers in other districts, and middle school teachers. If anyone has any information about this, please let us know.

Marjorie Stamberg
ESL teacher, GED-Plus

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