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Sunday, October 16, 2011

ATR teacher can't go home again

The following report was submitted by a teacher who would like to be known as Absolutely Teaching Ready.

Occupy Wall Street protesters read pro-ATR fliers.
Notice that the protesters all appear to be dressed in
clean clothes and none of them are scratching due to lice.

I just came back from "Occupy Wall Street" and raised the issue of ATRS there while passing out fliers to the people at the School Discussion circle. There was a lot of support for us.

I've spent the week at a multi-school location, the former Wingate High School. The trail I am taking through the borough lets me relive some of my family history. Wingate was the high school many of my cousins went to. Now it is four schools and the one I was assigned to was the School of Public Service - Heroes. Or not. I will leave you to decide when I discuss my week and the behavior of the Principal, Ben Shuldiner.

A few years ago, Shuldiner made news as the youngest principal in the system. I think he should be making news for how he misbehaved towards teachers this week.  When I checked in on Tuesday, the Principal told me that since there were four schools in the building, he would send me to wherever I was needed. I said nothing, hoping the matter would not come up. The Principal told me how he had received UFT awards for cooperating with the Union.  Later that morning I was told to go upstairs and cover an 8th grade class ( I've been a high school teacher) at the School for Human Rights. When I arrived a very nice fellow who turned out to be the Principal (I didn't know it at the time) listened as I explained that my presence there was a violation of the Union-DOE agreement since I was not assigned to a campus, but to a school. I covered the class (no lesson plan was available) and spent a half hour showing pictures of Occupy Wall Street and encouraging the children to discuss the economic issues or political issues their parents may be concerned about. When I went downstairs to the Heroes school, the Principal asked me if I had a complaint about anything. I explained again that it was a contract violation to be sent upstairs. I also contacted the UFT Representative for my former school. I asked him to let me know if anything gets resolved.

There were at least two other ATRS at this location, two Haitian-American gentlemen who fit the age profile for ATRS, both in their late 50s like me. Both by the way hold math licenses, one hasn't had an appointment for three years. One was assigned to a school upstairs. When we were not assigned a class we all sat in the staff lounge of the Public Service Heroes school.

The next morning the Principal came and told our brother from upstairs he "was not allowed in the school because"--pointing at me--I had brought up the matter of assigning teachers anywhere in the building. When questioned, he told me he wanted to discuss "expectations"; I suggested we discuss my expectations, but he had other ideas. 

The following day I was assigned a teacher's schedule. The school has an SBO (School Based Option). Classes are one hour long. Some days teachers have four classes and a Professional period, other days they have five periods. Since the teacher I was assigned had only four classes that day, I assumed I would have four. An hour later, I was given another class to cover; this meant that I would teach 5 hours! When I suggested that I would like to speak to the Principal I was told that I could discuss the matter with the Chapter leader during our respective lunch periods. I did that and told the Chapter leader that as I was following a teacher's schedule, I expected to get paid for an emergency coverage. 

Again I contacted the UFT Rep. I hadn't heard back from him but the School Chapter leader had. So the arrangement for shifting us to other schools was ended (for now). Later, I also wrote to Amy Arundel who, to her credit, did write me in the wee hours of the night that I should be paid for a coverage. 

But something else that happened that day was that during our lunch hour our friend who had been chased out of the Heroes school came down to break bread with us. There were several teachers in the staff lounge. Suddenly the Principal, Ben Shuldiner, appeared and in a gruff voice demanded to know what the brother was doing there in his school. (The obvious answer, of course, was that he was eating a sandwich.)

"Get out!", he shouted at him. "Get out now!" I told the principal he was behaving inappropriately. I asked him why he was doing this. He asked me, "Is that a question? I am not going to answer it!" When the UFT brother began to get his things together slowly (i.e., not fast enough for the principal) Shuldiner told him he was going to get security. Our fellow ATR left and a few minutes later the Principal returned with a Security Guard. 

Later that day our third ATR was watching a class and as the students attended to their assignments, he opened up a  book. The Principal came into the room and started shouting at him, in front of the students, "Close the book now!" 

The three of us have talked about this and I've asked them to contact the UFT Borough Reps to complain about the way they were treated. The behavior of the Principal towards them was markedly different in tone from me. It was, in my opinion, abusive and racist. What's more, when another Principal in the building tried to speak to Shuldiner about his behavior with the ATR, he refused to meet. 

The entire week demonstrated to me why ATRS need their own chapter leaders.  I've requested that the UFT Reps develop a list of items that both UFT members who are ATRS and the Principals they are assigned to should know to maintain contract compliance. These should include the matter of multi-school locations and how ATRS can be fairly treated when assigned to schools with SBOs. 

I would like to point out that the system is ripe for abuse and without guidelines and clarity the ATRS are likely to suffer. I will keep all informed whether I get paid for the "emergency coverage" and whether or not the Principal hears from the District Rep about his abusive, even racist behavior.

Next stop? Why the High Schools for Sports Management in the former Lafayette High School Campus, Bensonhurst. I left Bensonhurst 54 years ago when I was five years old, as my family was movin' on up to Canarsie. But now I am back in the old 'hood.  I hope I have a quiet week.


  1. Thanks for posting. It is important that we get the word out.

  2. The ATRs cannot have their own chapter because the UFT and DoE are somewhat complicit in this situation. Union management has been very strong on ATRs not losing their jobs, for sure. But what quality of life for these people? Little applies to ATRs that applies to teachers in real positions. They're second-class teachers. To me that looks like the deal the union made to prevent ATRs from being downright fired, so why would they allow them to have a chapter of their own?

  3. Yes they are complicit. That said, ATRS need to protect themselves and insist on the same rights all UFT members have. I disagree that little applies, as much applies as we fight to insure applies.

    The UFT must be made to make the ATR situation an example of ageism and racism. There is surely a class action suit waiting to be pushed forward The UFT leaders have been complicit with the impoverished level of education students have had in NYC for years.

    I can remember trying to get the leadership to put a further reduction in the class size into the contract and use it as a means to build a teacher-parent-student alliance against the DOE. They refused.

    As a long time teacher now looking forward to perhaps years of ATR work, I "won't go gently into that good night." I'd rather "Rage, rage against the dying of the light!" And I want people in my predictament insuring my rights are protected. The ATR deal is an abomination. Jobs are what we need, not second class status.

  4. I have now been told to answer phones twice - both times I refused to do so and both times the APs were less than thrilled with me. The union MUST lay out a clear list of duties concerning what ATRs can and cannot do because the APs out there think they can abuse us. We all have to say no to doing administrative tasks, We can only do what other teachers do. I am already traveling about 90 minutes to my 3rd stop in ATR hell. I am not going to allow them to make it worse for me than it already is. THe union sold us out plain and simple to keep the new teachers. The new teacher should be the ATRs - not those of us who have way more than 15 years of experience, I am disgusted.

  5. They are sending us to schools far away from our homes on purpose! I can not understand why the union is not behind us! They are "randomly" sending people who live on Staten Island to the far side of Brooklyn and Brooklyn teachers to Staten Island! And the union sits back and does nothing!

  6. I love the weekly assignments. Not stuck with stupid/dumb administrators; some admin use you for budget savings but won't hire; not responsible for their daily mess; see how other schools are run; good and bad in all schools so far. meet new people; some schools no bathroom keys but workaround ok; etc, etc. For some it's hard so choice needed but don't kill weekly please. P.S. I use unlimited metro card, no parking problems.

  7. I think you are the racist not the principal. You are certainly a coward, because you didn't use your name, yet you name other people. I am a BLACK ATR teacher who has been assigned to the Wingate Campus on multiple occasions. Every ATR wants to work at the school you attack and for the principal, Mr. Shuldiner, you attack. He is the best. He is so nice and friendly. He actually treats ATRs with respect. He was the first and only principal to ever introduce me in a staff meeting. But just read what you wrote. You said you were asked to go upstairs. Why would he do that? Probably because he was asked as a favor to have you help out another school. You had a problem with it. Ok. I understand. But the principal was just trying to help his fellow principals. But then when an ATR from another school went to a school that the ATR was not assigned to that was ok? You are a hypocrite. And what is worse, the principal asked the ATR to not do it one day and then the ATR did it again the next day. That is rude and insubordinate. Did the principal assign you to another school after you did it once? No. But your friend repeated the bad behavior. What, you don't think rules apply to you? You and your friend are giving ATRs a bad name. How dare you? And then you give another example of an ATR not teaching but reading a book and you have a problem with the principal telling the ATR to not read while covering a class? What is wrong with you? That ATR should've been written up. You are the person giving ATRs a bad name. No wonder people won't hire us. I hope someone sues you to take down this post. You are giving ATRs a bad name. Mr. Shuldiner and HSPS are amazing and anyone would be happy to work at the school. I wish I could.