Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The ATR Bill Of Rights

Being one of over 2,000 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) is not the most pleasant of positions.  The "ATR Agreement" is bypassed whenever possible by the DOE and our union seems powerless to enforce it. The ATRs must travel weekly to different schools within their district and are treated with disinterest or outright contempt by the school they are assigned to.  The ATR program consist of senior and higher paid teachers as principals refuse to hire them due to budget constraints imposed by the DOE using the "fair student funding" formula that discriminates against senior teachers.  Over the years I have heard many stories from the other ATRs I have encountered.  Therefore, this post spells out the "rights" that the ATR has as they go weekly to the different schools in their district.

First, and foremost an ATR has the same rights as any appointed teacher in the school that they are assigned to.  That means that the ATR is required only to do the duties the teachers are allowed to do by contract.  They are as follows:
  • Classroom instruction.
  • One period of hall or cafeteria duty but not both!
  • Other circular 6 duties (one period) when not given hall or cafeteria duty.
  • Attendance or Library
Any other duties such as secretarial or administrative duties are not appropriate and can be refused if you don't want to be assigned to it.  Contact the school's Chapter Leader if you believe you are given an assignment that is not part of the teacher's contract.

Many schools try to give the ATRs six classes.  The only time this is appropriate is when the teacher's schedule is a block schedule when every other day is a sixth period.  However, the school should give you a four period schedule the next day to compensate for it.  If the school insists that you cover six classes, let the administration know that you will be glad to do it if they pay you for the sixth period and threaten to file a grievance if they refuse,  This is enough for the school to take away the sixth period class.

In multi-sesson schools the ATR should be given one time period.  Insist that the schools adheres to the one time period.  If the school requires it, but most don't, you are to attend teacher meetings during the professional period.  However, you are required to attend open school night.

During the school year you will be contacted by various schools for a "mandatory interview" for a leave replacement or vacancy.  You are only required to attend a "mandatory interview" if its in your school district.  However, be polite and e-mail the Principal back that you are not interested in leaving your school district.  If you take a position outside your district, you have only one year to ask to be reinstated to your old district.

 All ATRs should have a bathroom, classroom, and elevator key and if the school has a parking lot, the ATR has the same rights as appointed teachers to use it if it's " first come first serve".  Moreover, if the teacher's room is locked a key should also be provided to the ATR by the school. Additionally, no ATR assigned to a scanned school should go through scanning, even if school safety insists. Finally, the school must provide a safe location for the ATR's belongings.

In some cases you will be provisionally appointed to a vacancy and at the end of May the Principal will call you into a meeting and tell you that they will not offer you the position after all.  Over 90% of the ATRs that sign these provisional agreements find themselves back into the ATR pool.   The reason being that in the first year the ATR's salary does not affect the school's budget but if the school decides to keep the ATR, assuming the ATR agrees to stay at the school, the ATR's salary gets put into the school's average teacher salary and reduces the Principal's budget.  Therefore, its goodbye to the ATR and the DOE points to this lack of retention as their basis of their false clam that the ATRs are "bad teachers".

There are many schools that the ATR should not go to.  I listed those Queens High Schools here. 
While the union will insist you have no choice but to accept a position offered to you in your district.  A simple e-mail or phone call to the Principal informing him or her that you believe that you are not a good fit for their school is sufficient for the Principal to look for another ATR.  It doesn't always work but its worth a shot.

In a year where the badly flawed teacher evaluation system is a "work in progress" when a simple state test can make a quality teacher "ineffective" because of the "high needs" students assigned to the teacher and the unworkable Danielson Framework just adds to the already stressful classroom environment, its good to be an ATR so try to enjoy your time traveling to the different schools in your district and get your satisfactory rating at the end of the school year.

Have a nice year.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Chaz! I am the atr who suggested that you write this and I really hope that atrs listen up! 99% of atrs are asked do illegal work and 99% say yes and they must start saying no immediately . It is totally wrong because it sends the 100% wrong message to administrators that they can take advantage of us and it makes it so much harder for us who do the right thing to do the right thing. So just say no! atrs will win the grievance 100% of the time. Isn't it humiliating enough to do what we do - why do some of you make it worse and do tasks that are not permitted. Thanks Chaz!

Anonymous said...

Did anyone attend the uft sponsered atr meeting held in manhattan yesterday?

Anonymous said...

ATR uft meeting 4-6 October 7 @ Halsey St. Bronx

Anonymous said...

Chaz, what will Diblasio do with the ATR crisis? Lets face it, he just can't place teachers, counselors and APs in schools......It seems to me the only way to END the ATR crisis is to move back to central funding and remove the fair student funding bull shit. Otherwise, I just cannot see any other way of resolving the crisis At my school its amazing to see social workers, teachers and 2 counselors sitting in the media lab every day on computers and not servicing kids.....As I see this though I wonder how we can get these educators back into the classrooms as it truly is a shame and every one loses especially the kids. Bloomberg will soon be a distant bad memory but in the meantime I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to get our educators back into the classrooms. In my school this month, they have such massive confusion as they are in need of counselors but not able to hire any due to budget restraints....Meanwhile the kids are crazy here, they only know how to disrespect each other and fight - YOu can walk buy any student conversation and the conversations are alwaYS THE SAME About fighting and disrespecting eaCH OTHER !!!! THEY ALL NEED GUIDAnce counselors but blooms hit does not know what the hell is going on except to get on tv and smile saying this and that fregen bastard wierdo mayor as swipe;

Chaz said...

Anon 2:52

You're right about the fair student funding formula. Either eliminate it or give principals an incentive, similar to the 2009 ATR incentive for principals to hire teachers at newbie salaries with central picking up the difference.

Anonymous said...

As someone who lives in a different borough from where she is an atr I would like to say thag atrs should never allow themselves to be placed just anywhere when this is resolved. When any person chooses a job the decision is based on location and hours and environment . We need to be able to agree to where we end up otherwise it could make for horrific circumstances for many people .

Anonymous said...

I am an ATR. The staff of the school I am

in, is truly wonderful. The Admin is

B___S___. On Day 1, they told me I would

be with a certain class. If things worked

out, I would remain. I was excited. The

week the students returned, Another

teacher told me to forget what I was told

because it wasn't happening.

Today, one teacher, with whom I have

become friendly, related to me the

following: She asked one of the APs why I

wasn't placed with the class they originally

promised. The AP told her I said I didn't

like the school and I didn't want to stay.

NEVER was I consulted or asked. This is a

bold-faced lie. I told this to the teacher.

She knows I did want to stay but the

Admin kept bouncing me around the

school instead of placing me as they

originally stated.

As most of you know, the Admin lies. Do

not trust them. I am choosing not to say

anything because I do not want to betray

my colleague. I have to be there Thursday

and Friday. Then it is off to another school

for more abuse. Yea!!!!

Anonymous said...

Any and all problems experienced by ATRs should be briefly and politely written up (no rambling diatribes) and emailed to Lawrence E. Becker (LBecker@schools.nyc.gov) with copies going to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (MBloomberg@cityhall.nyc.gov), the Panel for Educational Policy (Panel@schools.nyc.gov), Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott (DMWalcott@schools.nyc.gov), and Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, Esq. (CJackson-Chase@schools.nyc.gov)

When writing to Mr. Becker, be clear as to whether you're writing on an FYI basis, or whether you want him to rectify the problem(s). If you have a proposed solution, inform Mr. Becker of what it is.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chaze,

Can you tell me who pays for a provisional?

Thank You,


Anonymous said...

Chaz, I'm surprised at you. The policy tried before to get principals to hire ATRS and pay them newbie salaries DID NOT WORK...Do you remember? AS LONG as these so called principals have their own budget the ATR situation will continue to be a nightmare. The way I see it the only resolution would be to have the new contract remove the so called bogus fair student funding that was created by joel klein aka devil himself...

Anonymous said...

Chaz, the system is so bizarre here in the bronx where i am currently working as a ATR. The school is what is wrong with every small school created under this insane bloomterd where teachers are without rooms, counselors are without offices and the counselors are in the same closet office with the AP, secretary and a para of all people. The counselor complains he cannot work with kids due to the high traffic in the office and noise. The school has an ATR counselor who is experience and very good - we go into the media lab several times a day to pick his brain on counseling issues such as transfers from other schools, transcript credits and a myriad of college planning issues because currently we have a math teacher or the spanish teachers doing college planning. We advised our principal that the ATR counselor would be a great aDDITION to our staff and much needed but the response was the same ole story that there is no money in the budget.....BUT,BUT, how senseless is this??? We all get paid from the same place,,,nycdoe......so why the budget game...this is really one area where bloomterd has screwed up big time and I believe he does not even know it....Walcott does not have a clue lets face it the man is a mute who repeats himself daily. So, what is the answer, can anyone say Diblasio?????

Chaz said...

Anon 4:24 am

Are you on drugs????

These are the very same people at Tweed that have created the problem in the first place! Anybody who believes that wasting $160 million dollars annually by moving ATRs weekly to different schools is an effective strategy while 6,300 classes are experiencing overcrowding and the highest class sizes in over a decade needs to have their collective heads examined.

They are the problem and not the solution.

Anon 7:44 am

Provisionals are paid by the school but it can't be over the school's average teacher salary and therefore, its no cost to the school since it covers a vacancy. The difference is picked up by the DOE. However, the second year and on the school must include the actual salary into their average teacher salary calculation.

Anon 2:02

I beg to differ. Despite the negative publicity associated with Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg, quite a few ATRs were picked up since principals saw a one time chance to get experienced teachers on the cheap.

Under a more friendly administration I see even more ATRs obtaining positions using this program.

Anonymous said...

Thanks chaz, you are probably the only blogger that is informing us of our rights and how to cope with the administration's disrespect.

Anonymous said...

first weekly assignment today and I think the DOE is trying to kill me - from one hellish place to another - i can't believe we have to put up with this crap - it is criminal

Anonymous said...

@Chaz (from Anon 4:24 AM)

Yes, I actually do coke.

Diet Coke.

The decaffeinated type.

None of the people that I listed "created" the ATR problem.

The "culprits" were Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein.

Mr. Becker is a brilliant attorney, and a real mensch, besides.

Technically, he's at Court Street, not Tweed, and he doesn't necessarily share the view, "The Mayor and Chancellor are always right!" He's more of an independent thinker.

How can he even attempt to "fix" the problems if people don't inform him of the specifics?

Besides, if people are not satisfied with his decisions, then they can file appeals with Chancellor Walcott and the Panel for Educational Policy.

And then if people are not satisfied with the decisions on appeal, then those can either be appealed to Commissioner of Education John King under Education Law §310 or to the New York State Supreme Court under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

You know the administrative procedures, Chaz.

Why discourage people from reaching out?

Chaz said...

Anon 9:55

You could be right about Mr Becker and I hope he's not on the secretive ATR Committee that does not seek input from the ATRs. However, I don't see him taking principals to task when they use uncertified teachers in subject areas they are not qualified to teach in. Check my previous post for an example of this.

I would quite happy to sit down with Mr. Becker and inform him of what';s wrong with the ATR system. However, I am not holding my breath in anticipation of such a meeting.

As for a letter to the chancellor or the PEP? You sure your not putting something extra into your Diet Coke?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information, I couldn't make the Manhattan meeting but I heard the UFT said nothing.

Its good that somebody is on top of the ATR issue.

Anonymous said...

@Chaz (from Anon 9:55 AM)

The use of uncertified teachers, for more than five class hours a week, in subject areas for which they are not qualified to teach, is a violation of one of the Chancellor's Regulations in the C-200 series. I know that a previous Commissioner of Education had something to say about the practice in an appeal decision.

Write to Mr. Becker and request a meeting to discuss problems involving ATRs. "Larry" is a gentleman, scholar, absolutely brilliant attorney, and he actually has a sense of humor. He will be very interested in personnel and staffing problems out in the field (in other words, the individual schools).

Besides, he knows that if the meeting request had been copied to the "movers and shakers," then he can be held accountable if the actual problems are permitted to continue.

As an indication of Larry's good faith efforts in improving conditions in the school system, read the following publication:


It may even be highly effective to enlist the aid of teachers from various schools, and offer to include them as meeting participants, so that Larry can get a more complete view of what has been occurring.

As part of the request for a meeting, highlight the most significant problems of the ATR system. Make clear which ones are being presented on an FYI basis, and which ones require decisive corrective action.

Larry doesn't have to personally take the principals to task. What he can do is issue a Personnel Memorandum "laying down the law," and then follow up to make sure that its provisions are being appropriately implemented.

As for letters to the Chancellor and PEP, don't you think that they should be informed that Larry had been contacted?

And, if the ATR issues are ever to be brought to the attention of the Commissioner of Education or to the New York State Supreme Court, then they surely have to be brought to the attention of the Chancellor and PEP first.

No, I haven't been putting something extra into my Diet Coke, except, occasionally, Häagen-Dazs or Breyers ice cream.

Chaz said...

Anon 8:49

I can tell you if Mr Becker would simply look at the NYC high schools and see how many teachers who are NOT CERTIFIED TO TEACH EARTH SCIENCE are teaching Earth Science, he would find that the Chancellor Regulations C-200 are being violated in most of the schools.

Did you read my post about Queens Vocational High School? ZMr. Becker just needs to pull the licenses of all teachers teaching more than one class of Earth Science to see the violations.

Again I would be happy to meet with him anytime, anyplace, and with anyone.

Anonymous said...

@Chaz (from Anon 8:49 AM)

Yes, I read your post about Queens Vocational High School.

You already know Larry's Email address.

His office phone number is (718) 935-4176.

Perhaps you should just call him to request a meeting.

If he wants to see something in writing first, then Email him.

He's a very busy executive and attorney, so you have to be succinct.

Get to the point right away.

If you would like to review some of his Personnel Memoranda, then take a look at:


I haven't reviewed each and every item in the search results, but you may come up with a few interesting things or some "new" names and Email contacts.

Let us all know what happens.