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Friday, August 26, 2011


In this age of public confession, I would like to make a confession:
I suffer from hyperlogosensitivity.
In other words, I am overly sensitive to words.  Sticks and stones might break your bones, but it's words that drive me crazy.  Maybe it's the result of my studies that led to degrees in Literature and Reading; or maybe, my hyperlogosensitivity is what attracted me to those wordy fields in the first place.  

In any case, my eyebrows arched up to my receding hairline when I read in the New York Times that the word excessed is "union language."  

Sorry, Ms. Fernanda Santos of the Times, the word excessed is not an invention of the UFT.   The word appears 61 times in a document entititled "Agreement Between the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York and United Federation of Teachers."  

A hyperlogosensitive person such as myself recognizes this as an awkward, bulky title--but also as a title packed with meaning.  It is an agreement between two parties; its content and its wording are just as much the work of Joel I. Klein as they are the work of Randi Weingarten.

And what does this venerable document say about teachers who have been excessed?  Take a look at these provisions (all from Article 17 of said document) and allow NYCATR to provide a bit of explanation:

* "Within the school, district or other organizational unit, the teacher with the least seniority within license will be the first to be excessed."  Teachers are not excessed because they have performed poorly; they are excessed because they have the least seniority within a license area.

* "Teachers in excess...must be placed in vacancies within the district to the fullest degree possible." The burden of finding positions for "teachers in excess" is upon the DOE, not the teacher.     

*  "The central board has the responsibility for placing teachers who are excessed from a school...and cannot be accommodated by their own district/superintendency."  Again, it is the DOE that is obligated to place excessed teachers; it is not the teachers' job to wander about with sheaves of resumes and attempt to sell  themselves. 

* "Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency.  The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency."  The Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) is intended to be a last resort for an excessed teacher who cannot find a principal who will agree to hire him or her.

True, a principal has a "right" to deny placement to a particular teacher.  One wonders, however, who is directing principals to deny placement to so many qualified ATR teachers?  One of my former principals once complained that directives from the DOE streamed into her email in-box "by the moment."  Principals do as they are told to do by their superiors.  If the DOE were serious about its contractual obligation to place excessed teachers in permanent positions, they would issue the appropriate directives to the principals, and there would soon be few, if any, teachers left in the ATR.   

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