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.