When I rotated from school to school many teachers would pick my brain on various issues ranging from their pensions, work rules, discipline, or just simply to grip, lots of griping. I would be greeted with "you're so lucky to be an ATR" . They would say things like you don't have to comply with the punitive Charlotte Danielson rubric, or worry about the MOSUL, the obscene amount of paperwork, blaming us for student failure, and the administrative pressure to pass failing students. In that regard they are right. However, there is a down side in being an ATR. Just to name a few.
- A stranger in a strange school.
- Having no permanent location to call home.
- No place to store your belongings.
- Field supervisors who give you "fly by" observations.
- Few per session opportunities.
That brings me to an egregious action taken by one Principal against an ATR that has not only hurt the ATR, but shows how little the union cares about helping ATRs when targeted unfairly by a vindictive Principal.
The ATR is a 28 year veteran of the system that joined the ATR pool when his school closed. In his 28 years he never was disciplined and always received "satisfactory" ratings. He is considered an elite Math teacher and many schools recruited him to cover their Math programs Townsand Harris and Cardozo were his latest schools. However, due to his $100,000+ salary no school was willing to appoint him without changes to the "fair student funding" that discourages schools from hiring the best teachers for their students.
This year, the Math teacher rotated to a small high school in Central Queens and on his second day at the school was assigned to cover a class. Unknown to the ATR, the school had a "zero tolerance" rule about student cellphone use and when one student asked the ATR if he can take a picture of him the ATR saw little problem and allowed it. Unfortunately, at that very moment, a teacher was walking past the room and saw the student with the cellphone and told the Principal that the ATR was allowing the students to use their cellphones in class. Rather than taking the ATR aside and telling him what the rules were, he held a disciplinary hearing and give the teacher a Letter to the File (LIF) for the alleged infraction. That's right, a LIF for such a trivial action that really didn't even rate a counseling memo.
Because he received a LIF, the ATR automatically received a "U" rating, despite not having an unsatisfactory observation! The undeserved "U" rating not only was an ego deflater to a teacher who in his 28 years of teaching never even had a "U" observation but hurt him monetarily as well. You see, the Math teacher teaches Summer School and has been doing it for over two decades but because the DOE gave him a "U" rating, he could not teach summer school. Interestingly, in a year where fewer and fewer teachers are teaching Summer School and Math programs were either cancelled or reduced due to a lack of qualified Math teachers available for the Summer, an elite teacher is excluded from teaching and help struggling students to pass and graduate.
The Math teacher will grieve the unfair "U" rating but since only 0.3% are reversed, he has already contacted a lawyer to file Article 78 charges against the DOE and while it will cost him $5,000 and time, he believes that its the only way to stop the DOE abuse of the ATRs since the union shows no interest in supporting the ATR. I wish him well.
This is just another example of the hardships of being an ATR and why ideology is more important than what's best for the students at the DOE.