Friday, January 31, 2014

Why We Must Eliminate The ATR Pool





















One of the more shameful policies implemented by the Bloomberg Administration was the establishment of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool where teachers, guidance counselors, and social workers were excessed from the 161 closing schools or survived the bogus 3020-a process, usually initiated by vindictive principals who targeted teachers they didn't like or want.  Over the many years the DOE, due to their ideological policy, wasted between 100 and 200 million dollars annually by keeping these excessed educators from the classroom, except as substitute teachers or  temporary replacements.  In the last three years, thanks, in part to our union, the DOE came up with the idiotic ATR rotation system that has turned out to be a waste of time, money, and demoralized many an ATR as being worthless.  In an era of rising class sizes, overcrowded classrooms, and the lack of "quality teachers", having over 2,000 ATRs, with most of them rotating weekly, is a complete waste of talent.  Moreover, by placing ATRs back into the classroom, the "productivity savings" of $160 million dollars yearly will help to provide cover for the City on the new contract.

In the beginning the DOE/UFT ATR committee acted in complete secrecy and the two union members on this committee were the recently retired Michael Mandel and now AFT policy person and chief propagandist of the 2005 contract, Leo Casey.  Neither Mr. Mandel or Mr Casey ever bothered to meet with any of the over 2,000 ATRs and ask them their opinion about how the ATR program should work and what they would like to see changed.  Instead these two uncaring clowns decided that the weekly ATR rotation system was a wonderful idea that would force principals to hire ATRs rather than lose them.  How wrong they were! The result was that the ATRs became traveling gypsies and many of the resigned or retired rather than submit to the indignity of being a "babysitter" and disrespected by administrators, staff, and students of the school they were assigned to.  Over 90% who were given "provisional contract" for the school year found that they were not welcomed back the next year since the DOE's "fair student funding" formula made it difficult for principals to hire them without taking a major budget hit.

Now the ATR committee is lead by Amy Arundell and Michael Sill and have brought with them a less secretive and refreshingly open approach with regard to the ATR situation.  They have reached out to selected ATRs and formed an ATR advisory committee to provide input into the process.  Yes, I am on this committee and while I cannot say if our recommendations will actually be the union's position when they talk to the DOE under the De Blasio/Farina Administration, I am hopeful that they will be and the  ATR pool will be just a bad memory next school year.

The question is what should the union's position be when it comes to the ATR pool?  Eliminate it! Here are my suggestions on just how to do that.

First, all staff funding must be put back into the hands of the DOE and away from the schools.  Under the "fair student funding" formula principals are encouraged to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers".  The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)  hiring "newbie teachers" are not considered "highly qualified" and despite the Tweed rhetoric, it's budget first and children last. That perverse policy needs to end. Teacher hiring should be based on units and not based on salary considerations. This will allow schools to reduce class sizes and obtain "quality teachers" that they presently do not have.

Second, impose a complete hiring freeze until all excessed teachers are placed within a district in their content specialty, no exceptions! Included in this hiring freeze would be a prohibition for principals to use teachers to teach out of license which is commonly done at present.

Third, have the DOE provide principals who have vacancies a list of all ATRs by seniority rank in their license area.  The most senior ATR should have the right to interview for any vacancy in his or her district with the final hiring decision kept into the hands of the Principal once the Principal had interviewed up to but no more than three ATRs. Any Principal found hiding or refuses to hire for a vacancy should lose funding for the vacancy for that year and receive a disciplinary letter to their file to remind them not to do it again.

Fourth, any ATR not selected for a vacancy will be placed in any remaining vacancy in the District or work in a school as a "push in " teacher in their content specialty at a school that both the ATR and Superintendent agree upon as a "good fit". This will minimize "forced placements".

Fifth, have buyouts.  However, I don't expect the buyout offers to be generous enough to have many takers.  A minimum of two years, with pension credit might entice more ATRs to take a buyout but I think if a buyout is offered it will be a maximum of one year in salary (probably six months) and no pension credit.

Finally, all ATRs filling a vacancy will sign a "provisional contract" that gives both the ATR and Principal the time to see if its a "good fit" for both.  It also allows the flexibility or both parties to decide if the ATR will stay in the school and obtain his or her seniority for school excessing the following year.

I will need to remind my fellow ATRs that we signed up to be teachers and that means that we should be in the classroom and making a positive difference in the children's lives.   For the minority of ATRs who prefer going week to week to different schools I must question if you're in the right profession.  Even the "worst schools" need quality teachers and it's our responsibility to lead by example.  You can disagree with me but we are teachers, guidance counselors, and social workers and we are in this profession to help the children be productive adults. Going weekly to different schools and "babysitting" doesn't help the students and that's what is most important and that's why all ATRs must be placed back into the classrooms to improve student academic outcomes..

You can agree or disagree with me but that's how I see it.




50 comments:

Pissed Off said...

I know many ATRs that are so turned off they want nothing more than a paycheck. For years, they worked hard in any class that was offered, took terrible schedules and traveled to schools far from home only to be told their services were no longer needed when June came around. One ATR I know was not rehired because the principal did not like her even though the two APs she worked for did and the kids loved her. Another was URated by a principal who walked in her room once. I can't say I blame those who don't want to work. They have been beaten down.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chaz,
What is the committee's thoughts on CTE teachers? I'm a business teacher excessed from a closing school. There has not been one business vacancy in the entire Bronx for over three years. I've been a teacher for over 23 years, never received a U, and love teaching. Bloomy has shuttered vocational schools and programs citywide. The (very) few business classes that exist ( virtual enterprise) are, for the most part, being taught by non-business teachers. There are lots of CTE teachers out there with more exotic licenses, with little or no chance of getting a position. Mr.Lara nominated me for that committee months ago but I never heard anything. I'm not an egotist but feel there needs to be a CTE ATR on that committee. Is there? While I wholeheartedly agree with most of your opinions, there are many who do not. Their viewpoints should also be addressed on that committee. Hopefully the committee was not stacked with those who are in agreement with the individual(s) who picked the members.

Anonymous said...

ATR's should not be paying union dues. The union screwed you guys royally. I'm not an ATR, but if I were, I'd really consider dropping the dues that are collected. It's not much, but it's the principle. The union pretty much sucks.

Anonymous said...

All this talk of change seems to be just that talk. Hey chazz would you want to be the teacher forced placed at campus? Cause with your red flags you will be.

Chaz said...

PO and Anon 7:58

I understand that its safer to be an ATR these days. However, it still doesn't make it right. We are teachers and we went into the profession to teach and make a difference, not to be a "babysitter".

My proposal would minimize "forced placements" and yes, my having a "red flag" will be an issue for some ignorant "Leadership Academy Principals" but a smart Principal will see past the phony "red flag" and hire a quality teacher.

As for working in a bad school? If I need to prove my ability once again? So be it, teachers should all be placed.

Anon 9:48

I have no idea who the final committee will include. Remember, its about the group and not about the person. Please use my comment section for any ideas that will help the group.

Anonymous said...

I am also a business teacher and most of the "business" classes have fallen under the social studies department. And in one school the Virtual Enterprise class is taught by an ART teacher!!! How is this fair?

Anonymous said...

No your proposal does not minimize forced placements because there are more atrs than vacancies in many districts, therefore many would be force placed as pushins to principals who do not want us.

Anonymous said...

How about offering an incentive for those too young to get out?
That would reduce the numbers!

Anonymous said...

Hey chaz great blog. Thank you for giving the teachers of this city a voice and doing what our over paid union should be doing. On another note your need to do a story on john bowne high school and its principal Howie Kwait. This guy takes the cake when it comes to inappropriate behavior and mistreating hard working professsionals

Anonymous said...

You're so right about the ATR pool. I may not want to end up in a bad school but the weekly rotations are simply a waste of resources and doesn't help the students.

Anonymous said...

I was at john bowne as an atr in the last 2yrs and heard some bad things about what's going on at the school. Just what I heard from staff members not what I witnessed. Teachers very displeased with his behavior, and that's being nice to the people in charge of that school. We all need to call the union and fight for the rights we have earned over the last 40yrs!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I do not want to be force placed after I was forced out - Do I love to teach yes - I did and I want to love it again but that does not seem possible with Danielson and with the Common Core. And I have nothing to prove for terrible principals like Ben Sherman and Jose Cruz - I will not work there and in many other schools period. How about thinking about how we have been treated how we have been screwed and demonized. Professionals choose their work environment and their office location - I will not be placed in Far Rock 2 hours from my house in a dump like Frederick Douglas Academy - How does it help anyone including the kids if I am miserable and can't face going to work everyday???

Anonymous said...

My good friend teaches at a school that is in it's final year of phasing out. I sat with him when it was announced to us back in 2009. In September 2010, we stopped accepting freshman. I began my departure while he stayed and chose to ride it out. He's still there and he's destined to be an ATR. I made a better move. I don't feel sorry for him because he chose to stay without making a better move for himself. He actually deserves to be an ATR for such a dumb move. I don't get these teachers who wind up as ATR's from the fallout of a phase out school. Hint: you don't stay for the ride, you actually look to leave. That is the mistake on the part if the individual. There is no argument when you have about 4 years to make a move, but chose not to.

Chaz said...

Anon 7:10

That's really unfair. If you are a senior teacher and with "fair student funding" who would be willing to pick up his or her salary?


If you are a regular reader of my blog you would know that most ATRs are over 50 years of age and are high salaried. There's no guarantee that your friend would have been picked up.

Anonymous said...

I think the notion that it is safer to be an ATR is being bludgeoned away by the introduction of these "field supervisors". The task assigned to them is to give as many U ratings to ATRs as possible. I was observed giving a lesson about 3 weeks ago. The regular teacher was also present. I had not taught a classroom lesson for over 2 years, was not intimately familiar with the students in the class, nor made aware of any special needs of theirs. The lesson was a la Danielson & Commie Core to the best of my ability (having attended a workshop in each, but never having gotten any real experience with them). The students were all attentive, cooperative, answered their assigned group questions, participated nicely and the lesson was precisely bell to bell. Nevertheless, the "field supervisor" was all over me because one girl had problems seeing the Smartboard PowerPoint slide--I had her move to a more forward seat, and then she could see. He claimed that there may have been more students too shy to ask for a closer seat. He claimed that my not adjusting the size of the font of the PowerPoint showed my insensitivity to student needs! Yet he also went on and on about the 11 minutes the students spent reading the 2-page text round-robin to glean from it the information they needed to answer their groups' assigned questions. And had I taken time to adjust the PowerPoint font size to even bigger than I had originally made it, trying to make it large enough for all to read, what would he have said about the minutes of idle time while I did that? He claimed that not all the students were engaged during the 11 minutes, once they found their answer and that "they were more obedient than engaged." Anyone ever hear of students being particularly "obedient"? Please let me know, I'd like to meet those students. I used 90% Regents questions throughout the lesson, yet he deemed those "not rigorous enough". Those are the very questions administrators always instruct teachers to use for preparing kids for the Regents exams. Furthermore, 2 or 3 of the students in this class were in other classes I covered after I gave the lesson, and they actually came over to me and told me how much they ENJOYED the lesson. They knew I didn't control their grade and so there was no real "payoff" in their telling me that, I wasn't being buttered up. But they chose to share that with me. Yet the "field supervisor" was tearing up the lesson for minutiae such as I'd never seen a lesson criticized for. It covered a topic in line with the week's lessons. It followed Danielson & Commie Core. It was student centered. It involved finding answers to questions and being able to cite where in the document they found their answers. It involved student delegates from each group coming up to give their group's answers. There was a brief summary I gave with bulleted points on the board, and an ending Summary Question powerPoint slide which was a Regents question from a recent Regents exam with which I assigned one question to each group. The bell rang just after the last group answered their question. What possibly could have been so wrong with this lesson that I had to defend it for an hour (yes, an hour) in a SECOND post-observation meeting? And then, the "field supervisor" asked me why I was so defensive!! I would truly like to know how an ATR, not having taught for 2 years, following an unfamiliar protocol, not knowing the students, could give a lesson that fulfilled the criteria of the department (the regular teacher told me she thought the lesson was "exemplary"), lasted from bell to bell, demonstrated the use of technology and apparently interested the students to the point that I saw no on fooling around, only on task, could be rated so harshly.

Anonymous said...

Chaz, no disrespect at all. I love your blog but c'mon man, a 4 year warning and teachers don't take the initiative to try, over a 4 year period? If I were in my 50's I would certainly have the "ride it out" mentality and float off into retirement after the phase out, or take the ATR slot for 1 year until retirement if that was the case. However, if you were not in such a position as most aren't, you indeed had a 4 year warning. C'mon man!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I prefer being an ATR...And I prefer rotating. The job, and everything about it, is a disaster. Actually, its quite pathetic having to spend my time with the lowest of the low. Students mostly have criminal backgrounds, and I don't feel like going through all the other issues...maybe later.

Anonymous said...

Chaz-Really enjoy your blog but your time on the inside is turning you into a Unity style union mouthpiece looking to spew garbage at us and call it gold. Principals don't want us for two reasons: our salary and our seniority which means we are tenured and won't be compliant. We won't work twelve hour days filling out stupid binders and writing stupid common core lesson plans and unit plans.The

Chaz said...

Anon 10:49


A Unity guy? What drug are you on.

Just because I agreed to join an ATR advisory committee doesn't make me a union lackey. My being involved shows that some people in the union want our input and I see that as a good thing.

I take my participation as a victory for common sense and an understanding that the union leadership realize that they were wrong in agreeing to an ATR pool.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:06,
I've been hearing similar outrageous scenarios from other ATRs. Why hasn't the union contacted us or protected us?
What is the union currently doing? They can gather an ATR advisory committee of hand picked members. How wonderful! How brave! Where has the union been for the last 12 years? When they formulate another asinine policy for us they'll say ," We'll we came up with this plan based on input from your colleagues." It all bull and so are you Chaz for falling for it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes being wrong is for the best.

Chaz said...

Anon 10:24

I see, you rather have us put our collective heads into the ground and pretend that we can't do anything about it but grip.

Well, I want to make a difference and since the union has reluctantly gave me an opportunity to provide input into the process for next year, I jumped at the chance.

Anonymous said...

Make an offer similar to the dc proposal for 20 years in service,pension credit no age requirement to collect , atrs will jump at that

Anonymous said...

The field supervisors are the most vile people ever

Anonymous said...

Transparency is the key! Why are being chosen over others?
Your views are not shared by many ATRs. There should be an opportunity for those who want to be involved to so. I have no choice but to "gripe"; and yes we have no voice, even if you think we have.

Chaz said...

Anon 1:12

On the contrary, most ATRs want to be back into the classroom, even if you don't. I may not speak for you but I speak for most ATRs and that's what counts.

Rather than gripe why don't you contact Amy Arundell and Michael Sill and join the ATR advisory committee?


I want to make a difference and this at least, offers an opportunity to do just that. If you don't agree, that's just too bad.

Anonymous said...

Lets have a citywide Atr meeting again or a direct email, so all our voices can be heard. Otherwise I feel like the silent majority.

Anonymous said...

maybe our choice should include continuing to rotate - I don't want to be placed in a terrible place of which there are many - I don't want to be place 2 hours from my house or even more than 60 minutes - I don't want to be rated using the disgusting Danielson - I don't want to work for crap principals- I don't agree with Common Core - I want a choice of where I end up and If I don't get one then I should have the choice to continue to rotate - all the choices suck and frankly everyone wants out

Chaz said...

I repeat we are teachers and should be treated like other teachers and that means being in a classroom and making a difference to our students. Good or bad.

Rotating weekly and not being accountable is not what we entered teaching for.

Anonymous said...

And I repeat, we are accountable...to travel 2 plus hours each way every day if that's where our weekly placement is which by the way violates the contract, if the ATR supervisor gives us a U for no reason, if we are given extra classes in a day, if we are cursed and threatened by students, etc...

Anonymous said...

First of all chaz this is nothing like the profession I entered over 20 years ago.As an atr i have witnessed so much bs window dressing going on in schools instead of real teaching that it is sickening.
Secondly I always had a say where I taught till recently-why should i be denied a say now? I applied to countless schools only to never hear from them. You yourself know that the open market is useless.
I do not want to be placed in some school with a headhunter acting as a principal. Being an atr is not how i envisioned ending my career, but then again neither is working in a toxic environment. anon 2:58 got it right

Anonymous said...

What is really sad is that teachers have asked me "how can I become an ATR ?" This is where our profession is? As an ATR this year I have been able to visit 14 schools and the gloom and doom of the teaching profession is everywhere. Our union is to blame, I dont know Chaz but those who are blaming him are barking up the wrong tree. The union which we pay dues to has looked the other way and perhaps they hope these problems will just go away. If they allow these supervisors to give U ratings to us ATRs then who is going to want to hire us if we are walking in with an unsatisfactory on our record?

Chaz said...

Anon 5:32 and 6:07

I agree with the both of you that the teaching profession in NYC is under attack and being an ATR is not a terrible situation in this environment.

However, we need to be back in the classroom and prove we are the "quality teachers" we are. Even if it means stuck for a year in a terrible school.

Anon 5:07

The contract includes hardship transfers Article 18B pg 108. Contact the union and DOE and ask for such a transfer when you are assigned to a school that is too far to travel to.

Anonymous said...

To Chaz (1:20)
I used the word many, not most. I personally would prefer to go back to the classroom; I don't know if "most " would prefer that, and if you're honest neither do you. I think it's important for all viewpoints to be represented not just those who may be in agreement with whatever the union is planning. I enjoy your blog and care about your opinion, even if you don't about mine. (I do alot more than gripe.)
Good luck with the committee.

Anonymous said...

Chaz you are doing the right thing and it makes me feel secure knowing that you will be participating with he UFT to finally dissolve the ridiculous atr pool. The elimination of the fair student funding nonsense should put an end to this insanity. You go Chaz!

Anonymous said...

That hardship stuff is garbage. DOE is denying ALL transfers, even if it violates the contract. UFT, even after grievance, does nothing. Every week, all year, same problem.

Anonymous said...

You're beginning to sound like THEM.

Chaz said...

If you really believe that then you should have a brain scan to see if you are suffering from Alzheimer's.

Anonymous said...

Anon 345pm

How can you insult him like that? I have been reading his blog for years and he has been consistent with his ideas on the ATR issue

Just because the union finally recognized that chaz is an asset for them on this issue is no reason to accuse him of selling out.

It sounds like you are jealous that the union didn't bother to select you for the ATR advisory committee.

Anonymous said...

So when will there be any announcements about the handling of the Atr situation. If they wait till the summer it may be too late

Anonymous said...

I am beginning to become concerned. The whole ATR mess will take a while to sort out, but... Carmen Farina is an educator, surely she would know these observations by field supervisors have no validity. Why has she let them continue?Does she know of their existence?




Anonymous said...

Too late for what?

Anonymous said...

As a member of the ATR Advisory board your first step is to tell the powers that be to du away with the Field Supervisors who are tormenting us!

Chaz said...

Anon 1:26

I intend to do just that. In fact, I'm going to ask the UFT t5o file a grievance on the validity of the process of using field supervisors.

Anonymous said...

simpliest solution that makes sense to please everyone. place the teachers that want to be placed-observations done by principals at the school.Rotate the ones who do not wish to be force placed taking their chance with the field supervisors.

jd2718.org said...

Hey, Chaz, thanks for doing this, and thanks for writing about it.

Jonathan
(one day over fifty)

Anonymous said...

Hey so far your suggestions sound good. I especially like the idea of possibly working as a provisional hire . A good fit is definitely necessary.
45 yr old guidance counselor.

Anonymous said...

DISCLAIMER: I'm a principal.

I just stumbled upon this piece and I think the ideas presented are unworkable. No one benefits when a teacher is forced upon a principal. Further, enacting hiring freezes, forced interviews, and the like, will contribute to increased animus between principals and ATRs--a step in the wrong direction. What I suggest the DOE do is simply allow principals to hire ATRs for free or at a year one salary rate for a period of at least five years. This provides a definite incentive for principals to consider ATRs who may not otherwise be considered because of the salaries they command. Salary should not be a factor when hiring teachers, especially when the teacher's salary will be paid in full whether trapped in the current revolving door ATR system or as a permanent, productive member of a school community. The bottom line: good teachers are needed in every classroom. No one cares if you are new, seasoned, ATR, transitionally licensed, beat charges--all of that is absolutely irrelevant. I'm more concerned about what you can offer my kids and school community today, tomorrow and in the immediate future. If you've got what it takes, I want you with my kids.

Chaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chaz said...

Mr. Principal:

I agree with you. Maybe the 2009 ATR Agreement showed be employed.