August 24, 2008

ATR links — Part III: update

REVISED Mon. noon (mostly in the dark purple paragraphs below but also the additional item at the very end, Aug. 7). "ATRs" are all those excessed teachers that haven't yet been placed in positions this term and will become full-time subs.

For some ATRs, this contract has been a career breaker. The DoE is required to try to get them placed, and for the most part just hasn't bothered sending them around on inteviews. The union, which could have protested loud and long at the DoE's failure to do this seems to have had better things to do than fight for the contract — like slathering all over the Democratic candidates for a year and accessing the top rung of the AFT ladder.

For the vets who've been excessed, age and salary do not work in their favor.

THIS IS THE RESULT OF Weingarten's negotiations with the DoE, and don't tell me she didn't know what she was doing. She built a contractual mallet to end some really decent careers.

THERE AREN'T MANY UPDATES, it seems. At least not from the horse's mouth.

You would think that three days away from the start of term, at least someone at the executive end of the UFT, if not the president herself, could have sent a message of encouragement and camaraderie to all the unplaced ATRs asking them to take heart and hang in there.

This is not a good sign. When the Prez is not talking to us and pretending we don't exist, and no one's saying anything about holding onto tenure in the next contract (a year or so from now), you know they're not going to keep fighting for us ATRs too much longer. Why should they: they've got our dues, and the tenure issue is just another bargaining chip.

You want proof?

Look at Weingarten's welcome wagon for the Teach for America recruits, written up on p.35 of the current NY Teacher and online here. Not too many of those guys care about tenure, since most of them didn't sign up to stay in this job more than a couple of years anyway. What do they care about tenure. Weingarten knows that. She tells them, according to Isaac: "We have won a 43 percent raise over six years [that's a $$$ issue], but we have been fighting not only for pay and benefits [again $$$] but also for working conditions and the respect that make our profession more attractive and teaching more satisfying." Like I said: no mention of tenure, which has always been right up there near the top of the list for most people who don't see this profession as just a jump start to a corporate career.

I'm sure I'm not the only ATR who will still be subbing come September, and I'm sure I'm not the only senior ATR who's got a measly 4.5% return on my 22 applications in the year I've been without a position. This summer I did get asked in for one interview, by the way. I didn't have the guts to follow up on it, though, after reading a blog about the school telling all applicants to stay away from the place. I think the word they used was "career buster."

Weingarten seems to care enough about certain kinds of staff — potential or otherwise — to give them some real friendly greetings:

As the city’s newest teachers prepare for their first classes, the UFT is reaching out to de-mystify the path ahead and provide answers to their questions to help ensure their success. (Natalie Bell, NY Teacher, Aug. 11)

I wish someone would start ensuring my success a little. And I hate to mention it, but these people are not even "teachers" yet, in spite of what she's calling them. Heck, they're not even paying dues at this point. Certainly not the 20 years' worth I've laid out.

I don't know whether to laugh, choke, or vomit, but I don't have the time for any of that, since Prez W. seems to have so much more to say to these recruits. In a message to them on p.2 of the same edition, she begins: "You are at the start of what I hope is the most rewarding experience of your professional life: becoming a teacher in a New York City public school," and it gets worse from there. She's got the compassion to tell them not to lose faith, going on and on in this vein:
As you navigate the road ahead, remember that your union is here to support you throughout your career as an educator in New York City. We want to help you be the best teacher you can be and make sure you have the respect and salary and benefits you deserve.
Lordy, lordy. "Support"? "Throughout your career"? "We want to help you"? "Make sure you have the respect . . . you deserve"?
And we want you to stick around. [Waiting for you to prove it.] We’re tired of seeing so many promising teachers get discouraged and leave [but hope that the older ones, who have spent their careers fulfilling that promise, will get the message and leave as soon as possible.] It’s bad for our profession and it’s bad for kids [so they tell me, but I have no real first-hand experience of such matters myself].

This is really hard to take. In any case, I veer from my intention, which was to update the two compilations I made earlier this summer on what people are saying about the ATR crisis.
Part I — What the union has to say

Part II — Teacher reactions
June 9, 2008: The Evidence Free Zone of the NYC DoE and its New Teacher Project, by Leo Casey in Edwize:
"In an article 'City and Teachers’ Union Disagree on Reserve Pool' Saturday’s NY Times reported on the UFT white paper and the controversy over the NYC Department of Education and the New Teacher Projects attacks of displaced teachers in excess [aka ATRs] . . .

"For some time, the NYC Department of Education has gotten away with offering sheer assertion, unsupported by evidence, about these matters of education policy. Once again, this is their latest tack. But it is increasingly wearing thin. It is worth reviewing here just where we stand." Continues with a point-by-point response.
June 10, 2008: The Endgame: Comity or Conflict, by Peter Goodman in Edwize:
"This year the Teacher Union and the 'Keep the Promises' coalition are fighting to restore budget cuts, and Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein are dueling over the 'ATR Crisis,' in fact, comity has evolved into a rather nasty fight between the public school forces on one side and Klein, Tweed, some foundation types on the other."

He asks: "What programs will be cut/reduced? Will teachers be excessed? And, how will this impact the 'ATR Crisis'? Will the 'ATR Crisis' force the Teacher Union to negotiate changes in their contract?" and gives a recap of the back-and-forth tussle between the union and the DoE.
July 2, 2008: Delegates Tackle Excess of Excessing, by Michael Hirsch in the NY Teacher:
"In her report [at the DA], UFT President Randi Weingarten, after observing that 'excessing is the contractual word for displacement, not for layoff,' assured delegates that 'anybody excessed [is protected by] a contractually mandated Department of Education obligation to have a job. Members’ jobs are secure.' . . .

"This year’s large number of excess notices — particularly prevalent in the middle schools — is an expression of 'the human cost of the budget cuts,' Weingarten said, adding that the number of those excessed was 'one more human indicator of the magnitude of harm the proposed budget cuts will cause,' a fact the union used in making its case against the cuts to the City Council. . . .

"A flier distributed at the meeting noted how “at worst, the DOE will place the excessed person as an ATR [absent teacher reserve] either in his or her school or another school in the district. Unless the member hears otherwise,' the flier continued, 'the member should report back to his or her school on Aug. 28. Members who received excessing letters also have the opportunity to seek other positions through the Open Market Transfer plan if they wish.' Any member who believes he or she has been excessed wrongly was urged to file a grievance.

" 'The worst thing that can happen is, we get it wrong,' Weingarten said. 'I’d rather people file and be protected than not file.' "
August 3, 2008: With Apologies to Martin Niemöller
In an earlier post (May 20th) NYC Educator said he thought Weingarten was holding tough on ATR negotiations for the moment and hopes she would continue to do so. In this post he offers a revision the well-known Niemöller lines on governmental purges.
August 7, 2008: ATRS Meet, anon. article on p.27 of the NY Teacher
It's only a paragraph long and I mentioned this June 2 meeting already, but for what it's worth, here's all of it:

"About half of the 665 members in the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve pool, representing all titles covered by UFT-Department of Education agreements, were assured at a June 2 meeting that the job security that all members enjoy is in no way lessened or threatened by their status as ATRs. 'ATRs cannot be terminated. They are protected by their union contract and that contract is fixed, secure and closed,' said UFT Executive Assistant to the President Michael Mendel. After his presentation, Mendel and a number of other experts on staff at the union remained for more than two hours to answer every individual question."

That's true. They did hang out answering questions. But no one's promised any protection at the end of the current contract.

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