Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ATR Issue Brought to UFT Executive Board

by Marjorie Stamberg

Mar. 24, 2009

We were pretty effective last night in making the point at the E Board that an ATR crisis is looming, and the UFT's boosting the Side Agreement has done virtually nothing. We had two speakers, myself and Dr. Lezanne Edmond.

I had with me all the points people had sent in, but was given one and half minutes (stretched to two!), so I could only touch on the high points. I handed out the Daily News article (of March 20th) with the devastating figures that there are now 1,740 ATRs. Of these, a grand total of 16 ATRs have been hired under the side agreement, while 295 brand new teachers were hired! The Side Agreement is like putting a band-aid on a bursting artery.

The union has voted for a moratorium on hiring until all teachers who want positions are assigned -- I insisted that we need to act on this now, we cannot wait until September. And there will be far more ATRs with a number of big high schools closings. Finally, I said that the ATR situation threatens the whole union -- the Board of Ed wants a large number of people in a teacher reserve so they can fight to get rid of our no-layoff clause,

Dr Lezanne Edmond, who is a literacy specialist, and one of our ATR teachers from District 79 spoke next. She said the school system should be a mix of experienced and new teachers, with new instructors receiving guidance from the experienced ones. Instead, right now it appears that teachers are being pitted against one another and the union seems not be protecting us and working with us.

She said that many large schools are closing, adding to the ranks of the already swollen ranks of ATRs. "It is beyond me why an ad for a non-union charter school is advertised in our union paper! We pay dues for the union to protect us and right now they need to do a great deal more!"

The response --- as usual, for most of these time-servers, it was chomping on catered dinner, supplied with our union dues, and stone faces around the room. Mike Mendel spoke to me later saying cagily that they're "working on it." He had two excuses -- 1) that the Daily News figure of 1,740 is deceptive because it includes counselors, secretaries and other school staff, and 2) that a lot of ATRs don't want assignments.

I replied that the fact that not just teachers are ATRs makes this crisis even more severe. And that the UFT motion for a hiring freeze specifically states "until all ATRs who want them get positions." So that is a non-issue.

I told Mendel that many ATRs have lots of specific questions about the invidual situations. The the DOE is playing it fast and loose, making it up as they go along, and the teachers are getting the run-around from the UFT officers when they try to get help. Mendel insisted "any ATR who e-mails" him will get an indvidual response. Take this for what it's worth, but now that he's said this publicly, we should hold him to it.

So I would say, e-mail him with all of the issues that have been raised -- principals who are clueless about the side agreement; teachers not receiving surveys; teachers teaching 5 classes, but not assigned; teachers not receiving the dubious "bonus pay"; teachers teaching dangerous shop classes without license and without training; teachesr used as subs and then observed in these positions; F-status teachers being placed in classes where ATRs are there to be hired, and many more.

Mike Mendel's e-mail is, the phone is 212 777 7500.

Also, please let us know if your questions get addressed.

So, next steps? Whatever the UFT leadership is working on, they will not be challenging the basic framework that keeps creating more and more ATRs. I will set up a meeting as soon as possible, with plans to go to the Delegate Assembly to demand the union as a whole act to insist on a hiring moratorium. That's going to take mobilization. We will also raise these issues at the conference sponsored by ICE and NYCORE this Saturday, March 30 on closing schools, ATR teachers, high stakes testing, and privatization which will be held at John Jay College in Manhattan from 12 to 3.

When the union gave up seniority transfers in the disastrous 2005 contract, it opened the sluice gate for the Bloomberg/Klein to drive this truck through. The DOE wants a reserve pool, as a pressure point to end tenure and get rid of the no-layoff clause in the contract. That's why one big part of our fightback has to be to restore seniority rights in the contract.

Also we know that the AFT crisis was allowed to simmer and stew in the UFT until we engaged the issue in a strong united way, school by school. And we know we have to keep doing that.



Anonymous said...

I have been an ATR since September of last year I have sent out about 60 resumes, went into many schools to drop resumes personally after working a regular six period school day at the school I am presently serving as an ATR I have taken days off from school, just to fax principals my resume and to visit and meet with principals. One school I visited had an English vacancy I handed the principal my resume. but up to this day I was not called for an interview. I am totally fed up with this situation. I am an experienced teacher who feels so sad about what students are missing when inexperienced teacher with no class room management skills, are allowed to take our place.

Unknown said...

I hope the ATRs who have been placed there through no fault of their own can get reassigned. I think that one hiring cycle should be a long enough moratorium.
Either find a job now, when you will have a golden opportunity to get a school to take you without fear of how much you cost in comparison with another younger teacher, or compete from the next cycle on with others who badly want jobs in the system.

But I do have a problem with your original premise. You assume that new teachers are ineffective but that veteran teacher are. Neither is necessarily the truth. And further, many newer teachers will have content knowledge on such a deeper level than virtually any teacher in NYCDOE, and certainly those in the ATR pool, that it is an injustice to the children to keep them out of the classroom for any more than a hiring cycle.

Norm said...

I didn't write the piece but I do want to comment on the effectiveness of new teachers.

Let's put them in 2 classes. One is the 6 week training programs from NTF and TFA. The other is teachers who go through full-fledged college programs that include a semester or more of student teaching. The latter group is definitely more prepared to teach.

But both groups often struggle in the first year. Mostly with discipline. No matter what you know in the content area, nothing happens unless the class is under control. That is where most vet teachers have a big advantage.

My feeling is that by the end of the 3rd years there is no major difference.

That is not to say that I haven't seen many vet teachers still struggle with discipline.

Anonymous said...

I think that priority should go to the placement of ATRS as they are teachers with the type of experience that newer teachers can learn from As a newer teacher myself,I have been happy to have the oppourtunity to learn from those that have caome before me.Many of the lessons that I have learned are not just classroom lessons.Many have to do with the Mayor's brand of stinky politics.Teachers both new and old must hang together or hang separatly. If the mayor gets his way the school system will be privitized,and NONE of us will be safe!.Remember he's a business man not an educator