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
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.