January 29, 2009

Follow-up on Blacklists and Music warehousing

Sometimes blog posts get to have sequels.

Back in November, I brought up the subject of blacklisting, because so many senior teachers remain in ATR limbo, way out of proportion to the number of young grad students who do land jobs. Maybe it's salary or age discrimination, and maybe there's a blacklist. We're not going to find out the back story any time soon.

In response to that post, someone sent me an account of her own job search for an AP position. Here it is with her permission, but edited a bit because it was written as a personal note and not originally for publication:
I read your writing regarding the question of a blacklist, given your HR [Human Resources] and job inquiries.

I wrote to the DOE simply because after well over 100 job applications as an AP, with stellar written recommendations from my principal (since then forced into retirement due to malfeasance) and department chair, no one would hire me. My graduate school MAED in School leadership cum was 3.83 and [I got my] undergraduate degree from NYU. I am hispanic and when invited to interviews apparently did well.

I was only asked to a second interview on three occasions. At one, the principal greeted me with her mouth full and after asking me a question, in the middle of my answer she thanked me for coming. At the second, the principal lauded me, and upon rejecting me wrote a sterling letter.

Last year I received a phone call from a superintendent in my region on a Sunday evening. He introduced himself, and I recognized his name. He told me that I had been very highly recommended by a member of his team and [asked if I would be] interested in joining his team. I paused and said YES. He asked to meet me the very next day right after school. We spoke for over two hours, during which time he introduced me to the other members of the Instructional Leadership team and welcomed me aboard. He added that all he needed to do was call my Principal. I was confident, given that my principal had written so many eloquent letters recommending me. The next morning he sent me an email acknowledging receipt of my resume and saying he would get back to me in a few days. To this day I never heard from him again. I wrote asking him to inform me of the decision. I called, and [he did not even have] the courtesy one should accord to a fellow educator. The salary jump that I was looking at had me so happy.

In the meantime I have seen new APs with less than stellar credentials obtain AP positions, and I have finally given up on the whole process.

I firmly believe that somewhere there is something or someone who has blacklisted me — in spite of my education, my SAS, SDA, experience in staff development, curriculum development, ESL, Spanish and French licenses, and experience in teaching those languages and Special Ed. It seems so peculiar that there was not one position for which I was qualified in the past four years of steady applications.

You have no idea how disheartening it is to watch such mediocre new APs come in, out of the blue with no experience, no tenure, while one has all the qualifications.

So, I guess I am just sharing what I have gone through. I have to work another ten years as a teacher before I can leave the NYCDOE. I hope God gives me the strength to stay put.
Yes, I do know how disheartening it is, and so do many others who've had similar things happen to them.

I hope more people will tell their stories, on this blog or someplace else. Everywhere, in fact.

About ten days ago I wrote something about warehousing music in New York City. Yesterday I was told my position would be closed. Coincidence?

The principal said something about the "tallies" didn't work out. For student enrollment? budget constraints? I don't know what she meant, but I do know that ATRs who are excessed out of a position in a school that hasn't closed don't save the principal money. They remain on the school's budget until they get placed in another school.

So it's far from clear why she's closing one of the positions down. Why not use the two music teachers who'll be floating in the building this spring to make two smaller music classes out of the 50 kids per class they've scheduled up to now? This would be a great chance to let the students get their required semester of high school music in a more normal — and way more appropriate — learning environment. One can only speculate on her reasoning, but I can't imagine it has anything to do with quality education for children or tapping into staff expertise.

My other question is: Whose idea was this, hers or the DoE lawyers, who seem to be running the ship. I recall a comment she made when I had a step I with her a couple of months ago: "I don't understand this stuff. I just give it to the lawyers."

What a way to run a school system.

There is a kink to this situation, because being the senior music teacher in the building, I had to be offered the remaining band position. I assume she's speculating I won't take it, and instead opt for voluntary excess.

It may be that this cavalier way of marginalizing me for the past couple of years, with one extended tour of ATR duty through improper excess (was reinstated by the arbitrators last month) and another legitimate one looming, is linked to the concurrent issue of blacklisting explained in my earlier blog.

In other words, it's hard to know whether there's a directive from the region to handle me this way or if the principal is just on some kind of personal crusade.

As a chapter leader, delegate, activist and blogger, I've certainly not been invisible. Over the past five or six years, I made no bones about the fact that one principal was a downright liar, then stood up to a Manhattan superintendent who was trying to alter the makeup of a C-30 committee I had to put together. I reported a Bronx principal to New Visions for fraud: he had me sign a document as chapter leader, then changed the text to something he knew I would not have agreed to. (Their response, by the way, was that the man and I shouldn't be in the same school. LOL.) Then, of course, there's this blog, where for a year and a half I've railed against this chancellor, his non-existent credentials for the job, and the failed system he's created the whole length of his tenure.

Some people think this school system is a game.

But who loses are the kids, and all the qualified professionals that are trampled underfoot.


  1. Woodlass, I am sure there are some blacklisted people. You could be one of them because you stand for justice. Too much coincidence about the time of your writing and the closing of your position.

    Talking about the Hispanic AP., it could be racismin. You know the new profile of BloomKlein teacher -- thin, young, blond, blue eyes. Let's see if this will change with Obama. Maybe not because Dunkin seems to be a segregationist.

  2. I had a similar experience of a principal talking to me with her mouth full. It's been a similar exercise in futility for me. A few weeks ago, I heard from a UFT person that there isn't even any way to know if the principals are looking at their mailboxes in the Excessed Staffing System and that there's no indication on our applications or anywhere that we are funded ATR's. Weingarten quickly followed with an email saying she would get on this, but I'll follow up and see. What I can't understand is how we are letting ourselves be duped over and over. What good will the raises we were given do us when, again and again, we face the possibility of being laid off. If Bloomberg were really interested in making financial cuts only and this all wasn't orchestrated to target the ATR's, he would just ask for the raises back -- and I'd gladly give mine. In exchange, I'd like my seniority rights back.

  3. Under the current contract there is no threat of being "laid off." But, we don't know what RW's negotiating behind our backs, because she's sent out two contradictory messages: No lay-off is secure and everything "is on the table."

    What you do have to be afraid of, and I brought this up at a DA a year ago, is that that in an effort to get you off a school budget (some ATRs are still on school budget), they trump up a charge against you and put you in the rubber room, where after 60 days central starts picking up your salary. Mike Mendel made light of it, and some DRs I know say they never heard of it happening. I, of course, feel otherwise. If the case against you is weak or rigged, you will probably get your job back: but as I hear it, with a good chance of a fine. That's the corrupt and icky part our union is now tolerating.

  4. Been there, done that. 5000 later...