May 11, 2008

Picking up where I left off...

Everyone who’s read this blog with any regularity knows that it was created last fall out of anger at the UFT’s bumbling — or intentional sell-off, I still can’t tell which — of the last contract and a serious absence of damage control and union “presence.”

The continued disabilities of UFT management in these areas have undermined the careers of the most experienced and educated sector of the teaching work force, the middle- and late-career teachers. And there is little sign that UFT management will get better at their job defending teachers’ rights as long as they keep feathering their double-pension nests and seek national office.

I have been silent for a few weeks just when I could have been more vocal, as I myself am an ATR, a hot topic in the blogs and in the press.

It turns out, there’s quite a variety of us in this position. There are those who got here through school closings and those who got here through their positions being cut. Some applied elsewhere and found new jobs, others applied and didn’t, some didn’t even get interviews, and some were willing to take what comes and didn’t apply at all. There are ATRs subbing who get daily assignments and those who’ve been given full programs; some report to work and are not given anything to do at all. There are those whose salaries are being paid by Central and those who remain on the budget of their schools. Like all teachers, some are happy in their situation, others are not taking to it very well, some are being treated fairly decently and some are being harassed. You’ll never get agreement on the exact nature of the ATR beast.

What I have been told from people in senior management positions in the UFT is the following, and some of it has been expressed in press reports or correspondence:

a. Weingarten will not renegotiate the contract, as she says in her May 2nd letter to ATRs:
I wanted to personally reassure you that the UFT will not reopen the contract to negotiate any change in the terms and conditions of your employment. We have a rock-solid job security clause in our contract that does not allow the Department of Education to lay off any of our members, particularly ATRs.
b. ATRs will not lose their “jobs.” Of course, that’s the very limited meaning of the word — salary, health plan etc., and pension — not the complete one, which means your career.

c. With the changes to the transfer system, so many more teachers were able to find jobs at other schools than ever before. (That’s such a plus, in their eyes.)

d. There aren’t a lot of attacks on ATRs. Apparently they’re not being U-rated much or harassed. I was specifically reminded that if a principal wanted to push you towards early retirement by sending you to the rubber room, you’d still be on their budget. So, they’d have to keep paying your salary as well as the salary of the person who’d they be hiring to do the job you’re now doing (whether it’s daily subbing or the full-time program).

e. This section has been REVISED, after some ambiguities I didn't yet have explanations for when I first wrote it were clarified in a bit of late-night correspondence. Hats off to Chaz, who answered at least one of those questions in the comments, before I had a chance to post this revision.

I had asked at a chapter leaders’ meeting last week whether principals might be prone to dish out U-ratings to ATRs to keep salary costs down. After all, a single letter in the file can lead to a U-rating, and a U-rating has salary consequences. The response from the reps at the time didn’t solve my confusion, and they may have actually misunderstood my question. So, I wrote to a couple of CLs in ICE, one of whom dug up some wording in the UFT Chapter Leader’s handbook that said “a pedagogue who has not reached maximum may be denied a salary increment for one year.” Does that "salary increment," I wondered, refer only to a Step orto a longevity increment as well?

After some back-and-forth with the other CL and the rep again, it boils down to this: U-ratings do not prevent you from getting either the longevity increments or the raises the union negotiates with each contract. You can read about this in the DoE handbook called Rating Pedagogical Staff Members, which says under Part II.G. (Implications of an Adverse Rating) that U-ratings might cause people to “suffer the loss of annual salary increments.” Steps, it was explained to me, fall into that “annual” kind of increase, whereas longevity does not.

Glad we finally sorted that out, but back to my original question: Would a principal use a U-rating to keep a salary from getting bigger? The reps said there was no history of this kind of thing, but that if the UFT saw a spike in U-ratings at strategic points in the contract, it would . . . Well, it wasn’t at all clear what they would do, but I’m not surprised anymore at the union's incredible willingness to put its head in the sand.

f. Senior ATRs, just when they are interested in building up their salaries for that final calculation based on the last 3 years, are pretty much barred from per session. Oh, the UFT claims of course they aren't, but they’re speaking in a limited kind of way and mostly theoretically. It is true that if you are given a full program and are being paid out of Central, there’s no reason why you can’t be given a per session commitment. I’m sure it’s being done. But if you’re in a school where both you and your position have been cut and you’re doing daily subbing, HR might place you at any point in another school. I doubt in this case that your principal is going to grant you a per session program. That would mean they want your skills in the building, and by excessing you, they clearly told you they do not!

The UFT also claims you can do per session work at another school. Perhaps true, in a campus situation. But mostly, you can’t expect kids at another school to wait around for you, particularly if they’re unsupervised, until you get there from your present school.

The UFT loves glib answers to real-world difficulties.

In addition, the UFT filed an age discrimination suit against the DOE in State Supreme Court on April 7 on behalf of older excessed teachers who had not been given positions (and in some cases interviews either) for reasons of salary or age (see Dorothy Callaci’s “UFT sues Tweed for age discrimination”, April 10).

If this goes anywhere at all, it’ll amount to bupkas. I can’t see any court awarding monetary damages to any complainant for the emotional stress of being pushed out of one’s career and being left unprotected by a contract. So, have a good time with this, fellas, but I’m betting it won’t amount to anything tangible. Unless you call any win against BloomKlein something tangible, and some of us actually salivate at that thought.

For anyone who has been out of the country for the past few weeks, here are links to the ATR articles that have recently had some play. (PS: look at the hours some of these guys keep!!)

May 1, 2008 Leo Casey on “A Manufactured Crisis and an Attempt at a Naked Political Power Play”

May 2, 2008 Ron Isaac on “ATRS: How Low Can the DOE Go?”

May 5, 2008, 8:14 am: Leo Casey on “Stubborn Facts, Pliable Statistics and the Manufactured Crisis of Excessed Educators,” who lays out the UFT position that: “the “stubborn facts” are that [the DOE has] no interest in solving the problem so long as they believe that they can use it to win the power to fire educators without due process.”

May 5, 2008, 9:12 pm: James Eterno on the ICE blog: “UFT Officers Agree Not to Reopen the Contract on ATR Issue; Resolved Clauses OK but Whereas Clauses Full of Unity Distortions,” in which he spells out how there is NO job security in the present contract:
Article 17F is no longer about job security but instead covers a voluntary buyout for ATRs. The UFT's claim that there is "rock-solid job security" does not hold up under careful scrutiny. To put it another way, would you rather have a clause in a Contract that says you have job security or have the UFT leadership tell you that you have job security?
How scary is that? And he spells out a lot more over there as well.

May 6, 2008, 2:57 am : Leo Casey on “The New Teacher Project Responds.” He posts the response of Tim Daly (who heads The New Teacher Project) to the blog he had written earlier the same day.

May 6, 2008, 2:58 am: Leo Casey on “More Stubborn Facts: A Response To The New Teacher Project’s Tim Daly,” in which he concludes: “Why have the DoE and TNTP spent the last weeks trumpeting to all who will listen a cost that the author of its own analysis now concurs was misleading?”

May 6, 2008, 5:03 am: “Mayor Mike's Kinfolk Issue a Report,” which also talks a lot about New Teacher Project and their nefarious mission to obfuscate statistics and do the Chancellor’s bidding.

May 7, 2008: Eduwonkette: "Joel Klein Blames Idle Teachers for $4 Gas, Subprime Crisis," which recommends a third party study to address the suspect anaylsis.

May 8, 2008: Michael Spielman at “UFT: Tweed created job barriers for ATRs,” which mentions the The New Teacher Project: “a nonprofit organization that has millions of dollars of contracts with the DOE, runs the city’s Teaching Fellows program and manages Hiring Internal Support Centers for the DOE.”

May 8, 2008: “The New Teacher Project.” Slightly tangential, but lists all the people involved in running the NY Teaching Fellows program. Lots of outgoing bucks there.

May 11, 2008: Leo Casey on “Watch What They Do, Not What They Say…” He says that at least one school is posting an ATR position, which just shows to go you how topsy-turvy the world is for ATRs.

I'm thinking of creating a pool or two on the outcome of all this for ATRs. Gotta make up the cash losses somehow.


Chaz said...

First, only the salary steps are frozen if you get a annual "U" rating.

Second, I was told that once a teacher is removed from the school to the "rubber room", that teacher is only on the school's payroll for the next two months. This was a change by DOE in giving principals more control of their budget.

Finally, it's about time that the UFT sued the DOE. I hope your wrong and something does happen in court.

Welcome back you were missed

Woodlass said...

Thanks, that's really kind of you.

After I wrote this blog last night, I got some answers and will now re-write Section e. You are right: it's the salary steps that are frozen, but there's a bit of an explanation to it, so you might want to check back next time you visit.

Woodlass said...

Chaz, you're right about your second point, too: I just got that confirmed by a union official. This is very interesting, because the dist. reps told me something quite different, which I reported in d. above. They more or less convinced me the other day that principal's have no reason to put an ATR into the rubber room to get them off the budget. Looks like they were wrong. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Chaz said...


If the ATR is not on the school's budget in the first place, there is no pressure to "U" rate the ATR or send the ATR to the "rubber room". However, it is very tempting to send a senior teacher to the "rubber room" because of the sixty day period.

Woodlass said...

In one sense I agree with you when you say there is no pressure to U rate the ATR if they're not on the budget -- but that's only when the principal likes receiving the person from the outside. What if s/he doesn't? Or what if the person is an active unionist? or a freethinker. They might want that person reassigned somewhere else regardless.

Yes, once I found out about that 60-day rule, which is only this past week, the subject opens way up: it's no longer about ATRs, but the entire membership.

This one is big, and I am looking to learn more about how it happened without so many of us knowing about it -- including, I believe, the district reps. They're the ones last week who told me there'd be no gain in using the RR to get people removed, because the principal would have to pay two salaries: the teacher's (whom they're pushing out) and the replacement's. Did union management not clue them in either?