Friday, October 07, 2011

The UFT Tried To Make "Lemonade Out Of A Lemon" But To The ATRs It Still Tasted Sour.

The union's "dog and pony show" came to Queens on Thursday to explain to the over 100 ATRs why they should be thankful that the UFT had their backs. The UFT "dog and pony show" consisted of all the UFT District Reps,the Borough Rep, Rona Freiser, and the Queens Special Rep, Washington Sanchez, from UFT headquarters were Co-Staff Director Leroy Barr who kept order and Special Representative Amy Arundell, who explained the ATR agreement. Admittedly, Amy Arundell was very impressive as she discussed the ATR situation in detail and is obviously a rising star in the union (she has always cared about teachers and that is why she was a hero when it comes to teachers). They tried to make the lemon of the deal that forced ATRs in weekly placements as lemonade and a win for the ATRs as principals will be required to fill their vacancies with the ATRs. However, to the ATRs, including yours truly, it simply left a sour taste in our collective mouths.

The Union's View:

Ms Arundell explained that moving the ATRs week to week was to stop principals from using ATRs as "free help" to cover vacancies and then jettison them at year end rather than hiring them. Now, according to Ms. Arundell, principals will be forced either to provisionally hire the ATR on their budget, or the ATR will be sent to the next school. She also stated that an ATR does not have to take the provisional placement if they don't want to and would then move on to the next school the following week. In other words, the ATRs are simply "gypsies" that move from school to school weekly or as another ATR put it " 30 schools in 30 weeks" of the school year. She claimed it was a win-win for the ATRs. She also said that the DOE developed a computer algorithm that places teachers in schools that theoretically has a need for a teacher in the subject area is based upon the "best fit" and maximizes the chances for ATRs to gain a vacant position. Based upon what I see, this algorithm is simply a joke and in the first round I do not know of any ATRs that were actually offered positions. I, myself was put in a school that didn't even have my subject area in their curriculum! I guess it is garbage in, garbage out.

What was most interesting to me was what Amy Arundell said about the "fair student funding formula" and how principals were deliberately misusing it. According to Ms. Arundell the "fair student funding formula" has never been fully implemented and that the school budget is based upon the school's average teacher salaries of 2008, with adjustments for rising teacher salaries over the years, and not the actual salaries of the individual teacher. Ms. Arundell stated that many principals claim that they cannot hire senior teachers because they cost too much. However, many of these principals are either unaware that the "average teacher salary" is used in their school budgets or uses the confusion of the "fair student funding formula" implementation as an excuse not to hire senior teachers. Her attempts to talk to the DOE about this has been met with "principals have total control of their budget and are autonomous when it comes to hiring and personnel decisions". If Ms. Arundell is correct then a fraud has been perpetrated on teachers as principals have told various Chapter Leaders that the school's ever tightening budge cannot accommodate a senior teacher when in fact, hiring the senior teacher would result in the school's teaching budget to go up by a few hundred dollars! I will publish the calculations and how it really works in my next post.

Finally, Ms. Arundell admitted that weekly ATRs better have direct deposit because the DOE will not be able to transfer checks to the schools you have been sent to and that includes pay stubs. So much for the $900 million dollars in technology the DOE spends at the expense of the schools.

The ATR Response:

By contrast, many of the ATRs felt that they are being sacrificed and abused by the ATR Agreement. That means that the ATRs will need to beg for a bathroom key, experience parking and transportation problems, and an unfamiliarity with the school, its staff, students, and culture. In other words, the ATRs felt like "outsiders" with no real connection to the schools. The union's retort was we saved 4,600 jobs. The ATRs showed no faith in the DOE developed computer algorithm or with the imposition of the hiring freeze that more ATRs will actually be hired by the principals. When it was brought out that Mayor Bloomberg had no intention off laying off his cheap "newbie teachers" and bluffed the union to give in and allowed the DOE to make the ATRs life even more miserable by making them travel to a different school every week. The union's reaction was "We saved your jobs by fighting the Mayor's LIFO bill and not agreeing to a contract that the City wants with an ATR time limit". The response by the ATRs were low-level grumbling and disbelief. Almost every ATR in the room had their own personal horror story and injustice only to hear the union act as if everything was going fine was unbelievable and just added to the growing distrust and disconnect between the union and many of the ATRs.

Winners & Losers:

That brings me to the "winners and losers" in the ATR Agreement. Let's look at the winners first.

The Union: The UFT is a winner because they made sure that no teacher was laid off. Remember, the "newbies" pay the same dues as the ATRs do, so the union gets extra dues money. The union also claims victory because they stated that principals will be forced to hire ATRs in vacant positions, assuming it is a good fit for both the ATR and the Principal. We will see about that, so far this prediction has been shown to be untrue. The union is also a winner because they can claim they stood up to the Mayor and won (if you are not an ATR).

The DOE: The DOE is a winner because the schools can use the weekly ATRs as day to day subs and save Tweed money by not paying for both the ATR and a day to day substitute. The DOE is also a winner because a few ATRs will probably get hired by the schools or quit rather then continue the weekly Russian roulette of trying to get to and fitting into the various schools in their District. In either case they are off the DOE's payroll.

The losers are:

The Principals: The principals lose because they can no longer cover their vacancies with ATRs without picking up their salaries. The question is do the principals really understand this? It seems many principals don't or won't and even into mid-October many classes go uncovered by teachers certified in the subject area as principals have been reluctant to hire qualified ATRs from the ATR pool.

The ATRs: The ATRs lose because they are being treated as "Gypsies", going from school to school weekly without any expectations to put in roots in the school community. Furthermore, the ATRs will be treated as "outsiders" and be treated simply as an expendable "tool" by school administrators. In other words, the ATRs are simply warm bodies and glorified "baby sitters". Age and salary discrimination runs amok at the DOE and the ATRs bear the brunt of the very real ageism issue that the union chooses to ignore.

The Students: The biggest losers are the students who are caught in the middle between principals not filling their vacancies and a succession of weekly ATRs with no interest in bonding with the classes that they will not have the next week. In these classes the students will suffer academically, lack stability, and lose any discipline with the parade of weekly ATRs coming and going. Imagine what emotional trauma these students will experience with such an unstable situation? This is truly a "children last" situation that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

I did not list everything that was discussed since others have already done that for the other Boroughs. Read what other Borough ATR meetings were like at NYC ATR here, here, and here.

Finally, I must appeal to my union and demand that they take action on two issues immediately. First, that the union needs to launch an advertizing campaign about how ATRs are "quality teachers" and that the DOE is wasting millions of dollars to demonize them rather than encourage principals to do what is right for the children in the classroom. Second, the union knows the vacancies in subject areas within the District and needs to take real action" to pressure principals in hiring ATRs to fill those positions as quickly as possible. The existing situation is unacceptable and intolerable.


Anonymous said...

Sadly, Tweed does not care about the kids. I was doing a vacancy in a middle school, spoke to the principal about staying(she got nasty about it stating she can 'do what she wants' and that i should not bother her b/c i'm 'just a sub'), and for the 2nd year in a row, I have seen that principals would rather hire rookies they can push and/or bully around. Principals would rather not have people who are experienced teachers and the city would love for us to quit.

Guess what, fellow ATRS? Don't quit. If you are retiring, stay an extra year. This weekly rotation will make things easy. We are responsible for nothing as visiting 'subs'

AJ said...

I am a payroll secretary and I just got a copy of an email with a list of ATRs coming to the school for the coming week. This is my first time really dealing with the nitty gritty situation of mass ATR shifting. I am deeply upset about this. I know that teachers like to know who is taking care of their payroll and who they can go to with questions. I also like to make a connection with new teachers. This is important but nearly impossible with this weekly ATR shifting system. The sad part is that there is no chance that any ATR will stay at my school because we have not one teacher vacancy. Because of that, I'm confused about why we are getting ATR teachers in the first place. I really think this was not thought out completely and is eventually going to hurt and confuse everyone. This agreement should have been put together in a more doable fashion. I would think a teacher should stay at least a month (how could a principal know a teacher in a week?) There must be a better system. I hope a better solution is put together soon for the betterment of everyone.

Anonymous said...

ATRs, think of this in another way. You're NOT subject to the new assessment rules starting this year, and fuly implemented next year. This is the final nail in the coffin of tenure, seniority, and any other job protections teachers had. This new deal includes non-stop unnanounced "informal" observations all year long, possibly leading to the "non-effective" rating, which will lead to immediate termination if it happens two years consecutivly. NO hearings, etc. Although you may be in limbo, at least your head's not waiting for an imminent "swoosh"...They have succeeded in destroying the union, tenure, AND seniority. Cuomo bypassed LIFO this's all over now

Anonymous said... should be enjoying your "free time" and the City's pension clock. For those who are close to retirement, just show up and be a wallflower. You can't be rated "inefective", if you're a sub. I would look at this as a gift from the city and the UFT-get smart! The DOE now has complete power under the Danielson plan. If they want to get rid of you, they can, AND with a lot of agravation and stress for you. ATRs traveling school to school are removed from this new horror. ATRs, you are like the new GM workers who came in and did nothing but collect a check. Look at it for what it is-free city pension time. If you're not near retirement, use the near free time to make other plans, perhaps looking into other possible city jobs, or other ways to support yourself. Use this time well! I'd rather be an ATR then in some shithole with nasty admins walking into my classroon and writing me up every other day. For if you're not one of "the chosen" in any given school, this is what will be happenning pronto.

Chaz said...

Anon 11:00

For your information some of us want and like to teach. For us it is the challenge to make a difference in a student's life that makes teaching worthwhile. It is not hanging on for a pension, it is making a difference for many of us.

Anonymous said...

Yes Chaz, I understand that. And I feel the same way. However, I'm addressing those ATRs who face major problems when, and/or if they return to active service. For if we're to believe that the DOE wants to rid the system of older, higher paid teachers, THEN under the new rating plan, they can be exterminated quite easily-so many of this target group will be in the cross-hairs.

Chaz said...

Anon 11:35

In that we agree on.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is the average teacher salary that counts on the budget but that is the average per school, not the district or superintendency like in the old days. Therefore, there is a huge incentive to hire junior teachers. Amy talking about averages were either misleading you or you misunderstood. To prove my point just take a look at any two schools. If you have a new school hiring only newbies and an established school nearby with mostly veterans, it could be costing over $25,000 more per teacher with a staff full of veterans. Don't take my word on this, look it up. Unfair student funding is in effect for sure. Just because they don't list each individual's cost to the school on the internet, doesn't mean they aren't paying more for veterans.

Chaz said...

Anon 12:09

That would be true if the "fair student funding formula" was fully implemented. According to Amy Arundell there is a "hold harmless provision" for existing schools and that the "average teacher salary is the "baseline" for the school budget.

If you believe it is different then lead me to the actual source and I will check it out.

Anonymous said...

You believe the UFT or what's on paper?

Let's take two schools in the same area. Beach Channel High School's cost per teacher is $84,325 on their official DOE budget summary page. (Go to statistics on their DOE website and then down to budget summary.)

The cost at nearby Scholar's Academy is $66,305 per teacher. That is $18,000 more per teacher at Beach Channel.

I don't see where Beach Channel gets a Hold Harmless provision in its budget. Who is making up for that $18,000 per teacher?

Experienced teachers being a drag on budgets was one of the arguments made in the school closing fights last year. Principals with veteran teachers are cheated. DOE even said it was one of the challenges these principals had to face.

Now if you are arguing that taking on an ATR won't cost against the average teacher salary, then please show me that in writing. It might be found in the same DOE paper that created the algorithm for reassigning ATRs.

An ATR on staff will eventually cost more, even if you are right. Also, that person takes their rightful place on the excessing list. I don't blame the principals for wanting cheap untenured newbies.

I fault the DOE and UFT. These two entities are making these dumb agreements and the teachers and students are suffering.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone challenged the Borough, District, and Special Reps to work in the various UFT borough offices in the same manner that teachers have to work in various schools? District Reps still teach one class. If their school is phasing out, tell them to sub on a weekly basis in various schools so they can feel the struggle of their members. I would love to see Rona work a week in the Manhattan UFT office and the following week in the S.I. UFT office and the same for all of them. If they care for the members, tell them to work in different UFT offices on a weekly basis. They need to feel the pain of the members.

Anonymous said...

Michael Mulgrew should be teaching and be subject to the same rules as all others. Fat chance that that will ever happen.

Anonymous said...

Principals didn't hire many ATRs when they got them for next to nothing. They don't want senior people. It is pure and simple age discrimination.

Chaz said...

Anon 2:05

I do understand there is an $18,000 difference between the two schools. However, the $84,000 at Beach Channel High School is their baseline salary that the budget is calculated on.

Coming from a closing school the budget was cut because the DOE starved the school financially and dumped high needs students into the school without giving the school the resources needed to support those students.

Anonymous said...

So then Beach Channel gets extra money for having higher priced teachers? Where? On what line?

Anonymous said...

No, Beach Channel gets ripped off.Higher priced teachers = less to spend on everything else.

Anonymous said...

The Times :

Chaz said...

No the baseline average teacher salary is based upon what it was back in 2006-2007 when the baseline was established.

My understanding is that the baseline "average teacher salary" was adjusted for rising teacher salaries, or so I am told. Therefore, the $84,000 could either be higher or lower than the baseline established four years ago and the school budget is based upon that baseline.

Yes, if principals could encourage many veteran teachers to leave the school and hire "newbies" at half the price, it would lower the average teacher salary compared to the original baseline and add more money to the Principal's budget. However, hiring one or two senior teachers would not significantly affect the school budget.

Chaz said...

I would be remiss to not point out that closing schools like Jamaica and Beach Channel would have average teacher salaries higher than their original baseline since 50% of the teachers have been excessed from those schools and only the longer-term senior teachers who have been in the school for many years or more are probably left.

Yes, in Beach Channel's case the school is probably being screwed when it comes to the budget.

Chaz said...

oops. The baseline was established for the 2008-09 school year not 2006-2007 as in my previous comment.

Anonymous said...

Chaz- Look at the budgets in small schools and you can easily see how hiring virtually all new teachers can save a principal a ton of money. This is age discrimination.

Chaz said...

Anon 2:32

You are correct. In those small schools where the baseline is much lower and have fewer teachers , a senior teacher can increase the "average teacher salary" by up to $5,000.

Anonymous said...

I am writing concerning the meeting for ATR's last Thursday at the Queens UFT. Could the Union have lied anymore? I think not. They have sold out the ATR population. There is NO EXCUSE for this unfair behavior. Just as there is NO EXCUSE for the Job "UN"Fairs they hold.
We were told we could only speak in question format. As soon as a sentence was spoken as a factual lead-in to a question, the person was immediately cut off and told that wasn't a question. What ever happened to free speech? The union reps were allowed to say anything that they wanted, but the ATR's were promptly cut off if they did not follow the inane rules the UFT made for them. All this was preceded by how the UFT "understands" and how they were going to right this situation, even if it means staying until 9pm so that everyone could be heard. At 6:45 they called it quits. I only have one opinion, the UFT doesn't give a damn.

Anonymous said...

They don't give a damn! And that Arundell is nasty and condescending. She told a lot of what she thought we wanted to hear and squashed any questions she couldn't or wouldn't answer! The UFT must right this ATR mess! NOW!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The ATRs need to stage a protest and demonstration in front of both UFT and DOE headquarters!

Anonymous said...


Anon 11:00 brings up a good point because I just had a similar conversation with a new ATR who is close to retirement. And basically for her it's a waiting game without the responsibility. This new agreement is a God-send over the previous agreements where ATRs were forced to teach outside their license areas and harassed by principals at their assigned schools.

And this is what's wrong with the whole ATR process. Why are some teachers getting paid lots of money to basically sub, while classroom teachers are having their stomachs tied in knots daily due to the pressures of testing and evaluations? Teachers, especially those with less than 10 years see this, and wonder if LIFO is a fair system. Reformers (and E4E) will use this to get them on their side.

In many respects the UFT is on the forefront of the deform movement. Mulgrew is now sponsoring a Charter School symposium with my dues dollars. Randi is working part-time for Broad.

I tried to explain to my friend how unfair this was to people in their 30s and 40s who put in so many years and don't have the luxury of seeing retirement around the corner. I wonder if the UFT is trying to use this great divide when they come up with a plan to further decrease seniority rules?

I sincerely hope the ATRs that do want to teach and have invested years but are not close to retirement develop a grassroots organization instead of sitting idly by and possibly losing their jobs altogether.