Friday, October 11, 2013
My Impressions Of The Queens ATR Meeting
On Thursday October 10th the UFT held an informational meeting with teachers in excess at the Queens UFT headquaters. The meeting started off with UFT Special Representative Dermot Smyth who told the approximately 100 ATRs that they should be appreciative to the union that thanks to the UFT, you are getting paid and have health benefits. Mr. Smyth further claimed Mayor Bloomberg would have given them a contract if they agreed to impose an ATR time limit. Interestingly, Mr. Smyth failed to mention it was the UFT in the first place who gave up bumping and seniority rights that caused the ATR crisis in the first place. I guess he forgot to mention that small point. He also stated that the ATR rotation system was to eliminate the 4,800 teachers the Bloomberg threatened to layoff, Of course by then the City lost the "last in, first out" (LIFO) battle and he wasn't laying off his "newbies", so it was a bluff that the UFT, for their own reasons bought into. Mr Smyth would be real good writing fiction or at least revisionist history. Oh, by the way Mr. Smyth is the UFT person to contact if you are being abused as an ATR in the Queens schools. Good luck on that.
After hearing Dermot Smyth spinning the ATR crisis to the point that it made us all dizzy, I could swear that some ATRs were barfing in their napkins, it was UFT Special Representative Amy Arundell's turn to make her case to an increasingly skeptical crowd. Amy spoke effectively and for the most part factually as she explained how the ATR system worked, or at least should work. Ms. Arundell repeated that the City was willing to give us a contract if we agreed to a four month ATR time limit, the UFT refused to even discuss it. She stated the ATR time limit is a deal breaker and repeated that the union is not willing to agree to any time limit (I guess they saw what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C.). She also claimed that the DOE algorithm is based upon potential vacancies sent to the DOE and while its not perfect it was an attempt to match schools with skills, (how has that been working? Not good if you ask me).
Ms. Arundell did explain that there is no hiring freeze and principals can hire whom they please and not hire ATRs if they so choose as long as they're willing to go through hoops and loads of DOE paperwork. The only thing principals cannot do is to hire a per-Diem sub for a long-term position and if a principal tries to do it the UFT will inform the DOE of the violation and it will be quickly handled. She also told the ATRs that they are only required to do the work the appointed teachers do that means that ATRs are not required to do hall or cafeteria duty if the teachers in the school don't do it. Moreover, if an ATR is not left lessons then the ATR should use the lesson plan that is in their subject area even if the class is not say Art and the ATR is an Art teacher. Amy also explained that if a school offers the ATR a long-term position (vacancies or leave replacements) the ATR cannot refuse the assignment. Finally, Amy Arundell stated that its not only the salary but the seniority issue complicates ATRs from getting jobs since if a principal appoints an ATR to a position the ATR's seniority would leap over less senior teachers in the school if building excessing occurs. That's why they came up with the "provisional contract". Amy also said that all rotating ATRs will either get an "S" or "U" (usually for time and attendance).
Ms. Arundell touched on the future and is hopeful for a new direction for the ATRs. She told the ATRs that the union is going to try to convince the new Administration to eliminate the "Fair student funding" and make teachers a unit and not based upon actual salary. This will probably eliminate the ATR crisis. I hope she's right.
Did Amy spin? Yes, like the 50% retention rate by schools that offer ATRs a "provisional contract" Anybody I know, and I know over 125 ATRs personally , only 2 ever received a position the next year after signing the "provisional contract". For the principals its all about the money in that second year. She also couldn't believe her own eyes that there were less than five of 100 hundred ATRs who were under the age of 40 at the meeting, no age discrimination in the ATR pool. In fact, she seemed quite upset when I said it at the meeting and refused to acknowledge the obvious.but then I didn't expect anything different. Finally, she explained that the DOE algorithm is a good thing since Principals were using ATRs for free for the school year without paying for them. She forgot to add that "we decided to rotate the ATRs weekly and make their lives a living hell so that principals could not get free labor". I guess that slipped her mind.
I must admit overall Amy Arundell was very effective, informative, and interesting and I guess I could handle the little bit of spin that was part of her presentation. I'm glad I went.