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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Interview, in which the ATR Teacher Meets One of the New Bureaucrats.

by Life in Limbo

Six hours. 

No, I am not kidding. 

My gift for hyperbole aside, I recently had a job interview that took up six hours of my day. 

This particular interview resulted from my experience at a recent Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) "Job Fair," and, unlike past interviews I have received, it was at a school that is a reasonable commute from my home and for a position that I, theoretically, would enjoy and find a good fit. 

I arrived about fifteen minutes before the scheduled time and was told to wait for the principal. After about half an hour, I was ushered into the office with the principal, the parent coordinator, and a faculty member. We proceeded to have a pleasant conversation and I felt that there was a chance that this could be a workable position – the principal seemed to be experienced and pragmatic (not one of those Leadership Academy sociopaths), and the faculty member and parent coordinator were pleasant, candid, and definitely people I could get along with. 

I was feeling like maybe there was something here and agreed when I was asked to wait a bit to interview with someone from the Children First Network (CFN)--so much for principal’s autonomy. I was placed in an empty office and made myself comfortable with my book. 

I waited in this office for about an hour, after which the principal came in and told me that the CFN person was on his way. Another ten minutes passed and I was told to come back in two hours as the CFN person was going to lunch. So much for the grocery shopping and pool outing I had planned for the afternoon. 

Upon my return, I waited another 20 minutes for the arrival of the CFN Human Resources Director of Talent (one of the new administrative positions recently created). 

This guy was an ignorant jerk. One of his first questions was, "Why have you been at a new school every year?" When I mentioned that this is what happens when you are an ATR teacher, he said, "Oh is that how it works? You go somewhere new every year? Why is that?" I had to explain to this guy what an ATR teacher is, and how the ATR pool works, even though I came to the interview by way of a "job fair" that was STRICTLY FOR ATRs. You’d think he’d have some kind of idea of how candidates were being selected for interviews. 

His next line of questioning focused on why the other two schools I was sent to hadn't picked me up. They didn’t have any vacancies in my area, I answered. His response? "Well, I have to wonder why they didn’t at least ask for you back." I explained that to ask me back would require placing me in a non-existent position, and he responded, "Well, I know that if you are as good as you look on paper that a principal can find a way to keep you."

"So why were you U-rated and made an ATR?" he asked.  I explained that I was never U-rated at any time and that I became an ATR teacher when the Reading department (four of us) at my school was eliminated, due to the fact that the Reading students all PASSED the ELA. He still persisted with, "I have to wonder why you haven’t been called back to your old school or either of the other two." I told him that he was asking me questions I could not answer, but that he was free to call the schools and ask the principals directly. 

He then commended me on my "honesty" and "candor" in being "forthcoming" about my ATR status and not lying or trying to hide my "situation." (As if somehow being an ATR means you did something WRONG.) Finally, he wrapped up with the following: "I have to say I have some concerns. After two years as an ATR, it bothers me that no one has picked you up and makes me think that there MUST be something wrong with you that you haven’t mentioned. It just seems like you are past your ‘sell-by’ date." I was escorted out shortly after by the principal, who had been noticeably quiet throughout my interrogation by the "Talent Coach," with the promise that I "will be hearing from" her. I am not holding my breath. 

Let’s keep in mind that this “Talent Coach” makes at least $81,000/yr and is NOT required to have any teaching experience--the job description specifies HR experience, not teaching or even administration.  The fact that he had no clue what ATR status means, how ATRs are assigned, or how one becomes an ATR is pathetic. On top of that, with all the talk about principal autonomy in hiring, I find it curious that his presence completely SHUT DOWN the principal and, apparently, overturned her decision regarding the position I was interviewing for. 

This charade lasted about six hours–most of it spent waiting–showing that the DOE has no regard for our time, regardless of the fact that I was there on my own time and of my own volition. These people had no qualms about hijacking my entire day, and did not even bother to ask if I had any other responsibilities or commitments later in the day. Apparently, if you are an ATR, you are to make yourself available to administration as they see fit, on their terms, and be prepared to stay until they no longer find you entertaining.


  1. Sorry I feel your frustration. Last year, I almost ended up in the ATR pool and I knew that once I got into it, I would never get out. I make too much money and I'm too old. Even though I'm an ESL teacher, which supposedly is a shortage area, I would have never gotten a permanent position again. I luckily was not excessed. I still have no idea why but I feel very lucky. This year, I am the most senior ESL teacher at my school. The teacher who had 1 year more experience than me retired. So I know I won't be excessed. Our union takes our dues but they don't do anything to help the ATRs. It's a disgrace.

  2. Dear Life in Limbo,

    Please note that is one of the unprofessional ways that school-based administrators and some staff members in most of the NYC Public Schools dealt with ARTs sent by the Division of Human Resources to be interviewed for vacancies. It has become too emblematic. And this is why we, ATRs, must call for the abolition of this “separate but unequal” pool of teachers that we represent because safeguards agreed to by DOE and UFT are deliberately overlooked by schools.
    UFT explains the role of the hiring committee as follows:
    “Hiring Committee
    1. A Hiring Committee shall be formed at the School and will be responsible for ensuring that the School attracts, recruits, and hires high-quality educators. The committee consists of the principal, Faculty representatives, and may also include students. Notwithstanding the below procedures, the Hiring Committee will determine the process for hiring new employees. Best efforts will be made to reach consensus on all hiring decisions, with due consideration to majority opinion. However, the principal retains the final authority on all hiring decisions.
    2. Upon knowledge of any new or open positions or vacancies, the School shall deliver to all Employees and post a list of open positions for the current or upcoming school year. The list shall contain:
    o A job description
    o Credentials and qualifications necessary to meet the requirements of the position
    o A closing date, which must be at least ten (10) working days following the posting date
    3. In evaluating candidates for new or open positions or vacancies, the Hiring Committee shall consider a candidate's
    o Qualifications and credentials, including a candidate’s ability to satisfy any legal requirements of the position
    o Prior satisfactory evaluations
    o Expertise and relevant experience
    In the absence of substantial distinguishing differences in the above criteria, length of service at the School shall be the determining factor. Moreover, the Hiring Committee shall give preference to incumbent Employees with satisfactory performance and appropriate credentialing who apply for any new, open, or vacant positions, and the School shall, upon request of the Bargaining Unit Member, deliver in writing the reason(s) why he or she was not selected to fill the vacancy.
    4. Upon written request by an Employee, Employees shall be notified by mail of any vacancies which may arise during the summer recess or during an Employee's leave of absence. This request must be in writing and must include the Employee's mailing address.”

    Had the above understanding of the teachers’ contract been followed the untoward conversation /exchange between you and the school staff members in question wouldn’t take place? Bloomberg and Klein had poisoned professional collaboration between ATRs and school administrators via the media years ago.
    In solidarity

  3. It doesn't surprise me the least. Until the union puts a stop to this travesty, more stories like yours will be the rule.

    I expect to have the same problems, at least you got an interview.

  4. The "talent coach" is probably a close relative of the principal's supervisor which would explain why the principal shut down. Nepotism thrives in this new hiring environment. You should have asked him how he got his job and what was his sell by date?

  5. I have no sympathy. In an environment where millions of Americans are out of work, you should be eager for the chance to interview and find a job, not stand-offish and arrogantly dismissive of schools run by "Leadership Academy Sociopaths" or "people I can't get along with." If you were eliminated by your school, it's because your principal didn't find your contributions valuable. If neither of the following schools decided to retain you, it's because they didn't want you there either. Frankly, based on your attitude, I can see why!

    -A NYC Teacher

  6. the guy is a total asshole...bottom line..a disgrace..and you should have contacted a union rep and filed a harrassment charge .!!!..this is a disgrace that these morons with no teaching experience get to abuse and take our inventory...weasles....!!!!

  7. I work in a CFN and I am SOOOO not surprised you were treated this way. What I am shocked at, is the fact you were even interviewed by someone in the CFN, but beyond that why this principal felt it appropriate to give such credence to the views of a non educator, especially given their lack of impact in the day to day running of the school. I am appalled!!

  8. To "A NYC Teacher" (9/16/11, 8:16 PM):
    1) You have no feeling for a colleague who was treated shabbily. I hope it never happens, but you, too, can be excessed and become a member of the ATR--through no fault of your own. If your school downsizes, your principal will choose a license and then excess the person with the least seniority within that license. It has nothing to do with talent.

    2) I question your ability to read.
    a) Ms. Life in Limbo clearly stated that she was excessed because the entire department of Reading teachers was eliminated, BECAUSE THEY HAD DONE THEIR JOB AND HELPED ALL THE STUDENTS EARN PASSING MARKS ON THEIR STATE TESTS. How do you interpret that as "your principal didn't find your contributions valuable"?
    b) Ms. Limbo clearly stated that the schools where she served as an ATR did not have any openings for her license area; yet you brazenly and arbitrarily write, "If neither of the following schools decided to retain you, it's because they didn't want you there." Perhaps you don't know that teachers in the ATR pool are sent to schools more or less randomly, with no regard for the license-area needs of the schools. This past year, I--a Reading Teacher--was sent to a school that had just excessed all its Reading teachers; despite the fact that the school had decided that Reading Teachers are an unnecessary luxury (or worse), that's where I was sent. What were my chances of being hired there? Zilch.

    Considering your poor reading skills, I hope you're a math teacher. Considering your lack of empathy, I hope you don't work with children or any other human beings.

  9. A NYC Teacher - please read more closely. You will see that the way this person was treated is completely ridiculous.

    It really angers me that people with little or no experience in education are put in these types of positions of power. They simply do not understand.

    I am so sorry you had to go through this. I encourage you to keep searching, because eventually you will end up in an interview with someone who does understand your situation and sees your talents. There are still good people in the DOE. It will just take effort and a bit of time to find them. Good luck and don't give up!

  10. It's all about money and the bottom line, so people, unless you know a way for us to make the schools money, we are out of luck....talent, skills, experience, dedication, leadership is all meaningless, so stop trying so hard to figure it all out. Good luck.

  11. CLEARLY A NYC Teacher has not been in the system very long, has no concept of the education system of NYC or New York STATE for that matter, and has no compassion, no sympathy, and no grace, (all qualities that make for the finer educator.)

    NYC ATR - I admire this blog, and the work that you do. I sympathize, I UNDERSTAND, and yes the incompetent corporate type folk that find themselves holding the control of the ACTUAL EDUCATORS should not be there. Shame on the DOE. People like YOU will become one of the lifelong teachers.

  12. NY TEACHER - Get judgmental much? Amazing how you think you know everything about me, my work ethic and me service record from a single post. I mean, you are even able to read the minds of my supervisors! Amazing. Another shining example how we seem to have lost all empathy and compassion in our society these days. Someone falls on hard times, well, they must be BAD people who DESERVE it. You must be a real pleasure to work with.

    I suggest you read up on how teachers end up in the ATR, since you seem to be misinformed. ATRs are made by seniority when a position within a license area is eliminated. In my case, it was an entire department - 4 of us - eliminated after all the kids "passed" the ELA and the City pulled the funding for the entire Reading program. My principal was trying hard to find ways to keep us up until the first day of school, but the money was never brought back. As far as the schools I was sent to as an ATR, well, they had also excessed their Reading teachers and shut down the Reading programs. So how was I supposed to get a position there?

    I hope you take some time to look into what makes someone an ATR by reading articles in places other than the "Daily News" and "Post". You could be the next ATR from your building, regardless of how much you admire your own worth and value.

  13. I am a NYC teacher entering my sixth year in the profession. I've never had the bad luck of ending up an ATR, but I truly offer you my sympathy. A major problem in education right now, in my humble opinion, is the fact that non-educators, particularly those who have never worked hard in a high poverty or otherwise challenging environment, are permitted to judge those of us who have. It is unacceptable. I am not against teacher evaluations if they are done by people who have done my job and see what I face. I love teaching (it's my second career), but in no other profession that I can think of are individuals judged and detrimentally impacted by "superiors" who have no experience in the field.

  14. I think the comments made by the representative of CFN could be pursued legally. They definitively show hiring bias not based on experience or skills. I would recommend you check that out.

  15. I tweeted this in hopes that people can see the truth about the abuses of the NYC DOE revealed. I am entering my 7th year as a teacher in NYC. Never have I been so disgusted with the demoralizing, inhumane manner in which we as well intended professionals are treated. WTF does a "talent specialist" DO other than insult people more experienced than he? I cannot believe "talent specialist" is even a title!! The comments made by this dumb oaf of an idiot were abusive, and next time you go on an interview, carry one of those mini tape recorders with you, the call channel 2 news. I'll bet many NYers would LOVE to know where those precious tax dollars are "talent specialists", and no to their children's classrooms. Boy, reading that really pissed me off!!!

    Oh yeah, and "NYC teacher", as everyone else said, grow some compassion please, and try to dig your way out of your ignorance. Try reading this:

  16. I am an atr and didn't get bumped because of seniority. It was pure BS where the principal offered me a ctt position in biology and I accepted. After writing a careers curriculum and implementing it for 5 years out of my license for his school he changed the program and eliminated my careers class because I accepted the science position. But, the pig of a liar had it all planned out. I would accept, he would change the program (another reason for excess besides seniority) and then he sent the AP with a memo telling me I am being excessed because I need to have a license in special ed to co teach ctt and the new class he created, a literacy class (which i had been pushing for and advocated for years) had to be taught by a an ELA teacher. So there was no room"" for me in the science department or any where else in the school. Then I find out he hired a student teacher from the year before who just got out of college with my exact license biology 7-12 and created a new science class for him. I could go on to talk about all the underhanded and unethical stuff he was doing but thats all said and done. For whatever reason we get excessed does NOT mean we are not masters of our craft. We wouldn't be doing this for so long if we weren't. I will just cherish the good things we did. Be oh so happy I left there with 7 excellent observations (yes you can get an excellent not just satisfactory) In 15 years I never met another teacher who had more than 1 excellent observation. I am proud of my work and I wont let these DOE politicians try to break me to cover their own ass and neither should any of you. BTW by the time I found out about the new hire, I had already been committed to another school half way into the year and didn't think it was professional to renig. By the time UFT got around to finally asking me how they can help me it was too late to do anything about it. And now that I think about it, why would I want to be where I'm not wanted because I "know too much"? Probably would have been harassed into a U rating.No thank you clean record and I will kindly move on !

  17. Why are we paying union dues when the UFT does not represent us? The DOE has to go back to central hiring and the UFT should be supporting senior teachers with tenure.

  18. I am so sorry to hear about your ATR fiasco, but I would like to take this opportunity to bring to light the other ATR's who are also seen in a negative connotation. Sadly, there are many principals sitting in ATR status, becasue their schools closed, phased out, or other circumstance, non of which were disciplinary or at any fault of the principal. But again, what is the DOE's solution? Simple....let the ATR principal work as high-paid Assistant principals in horrible schools, and continue to hire other people to sit in vacancies. When trying to go for jobs outside of the DOE possible employers ask the same questions...."well what is wrong with you that the DOE won't give you a job, when I see there asre so many openings"? The DOE fired 672 school aides, and between the Sept and October supervisory posting there were over 40 vacancies for principals, why doesn't JOHN LUI look into how many principals are collecting checks and working as photo copiers, lunch and breakfast duty attendants, and clerks (basically ATR principals work as school-aides). This is disgraceful. Bottom line ATR whether principal or teacher is a BAD place to be. You are forgotton. Oh and did I mention, they (the DOE) plan on moving ATR supervisors around just like they do the teachers? Sad but true. Somebody look into this travesty.

  19. I feel you. On some level, you want to ask, "Why are you not in industry, but in non-profit education? There must be something wrong with you if you are not using your training toward improving a company's financial situation. Are you hiding the fact that you were let go by several businesses? Or did you work for Lehman Brothers and not Goldman Sachs? Why, especially, did you come to this meeting in a most unprofessional manner, late and without either reviewing the basic terminology of DOE practices nor switching questioning strategy once I was candid with you about what I did not know?