Report from the Brooklyn ATR Meeting (Tuesday, October 4, 2011)
By Philip Nobile
A crowd of over one hundred, mostly over 40 years of age, listened to a 45-minute presentation by Special Rep Amy Arundell and Co-Staff Director LeRoy Barr and then asked lots and lots of questions about our absurd predicament for almost two hours. The presenters were incisive and sympathetic in the information department. Apparently, they had cooled off from their hot meeting in The Bronx on Monday.
“We know the DOE will screw things up and we’ll stay on top of this,” promised Barr who repeated the party line that ATRs should be happy rather than angry with their new deal. “It was not an ATR agreement, it was a no-layoff agreement,” he emphasized. “The DOE said you didn’t work. They wanted to lay you off. We will not allow them to lay you off.”
Nevertheless, Barr’s solidarity soon evaporated when he squelched the unanimous clamor for establishing borough chapters to represent our interests. “We’re not here to talk about that,” he said, adding with typical top-down arrogance, “that’s not what you want.”
Arundell, a former middle-school Social Science teacher from the Bronx, is the UFT’s personnel person and now its designated ATR authority and apologist. She began with the mechanics of next week’s rotation and later addressed specific inquiries. Some highlights:
►Brooklyn high school teachers will be assigned to District 73 or District 76 (including, horrors, Staten Island). K-8 teachers will remain in the districts from which they were excessed. This is a contractual right.
►Principals cannot keep you in your current school unless they hire you to fill a vacancy, budget you on Galaxy, and inform the DOE. No exceptions.
►Your file stays in the school from which you were excessed and it’s unclear where files go if your school is closed.
►You can be observed anytime, even if you’re teaching out of license.
►Ratings are up in the air. No agreement yet with the DOE, but the UFT is opposed to evaluating teachers who spend only one week, or even one month, in a school.
►If you’re absent, see the payroll secretary. For long term absence, contact Special Representative Debbie Poulos. For personal days, call your District Representative.
►If you don’t get a new assignment in your DOE email by Friday, October 7, continue to report to your current school next Tuesday, October 11.
No Way In Hell Organization
Several attendees, including this correspondent, protested the UFT’s pretense of representation via strange and ever-changing Chapter Leaders and soon-to-be overwhelmed District reps as back-ups. Without chapters of our own, we are out of the normal union loop, unable to attend chapter meetings and forbidden access to Delegate Assemblies. Even our allegedly lesser brethren in rubber rooms of yore had elected liaisons and monthly meetings at 52 Broadway. Denying such basic union rights to ATRs is unconscionable.
Arundell pre-emptively defended the UFT’s third class representation of ATRs: “I will respectfully disagree that Chapter Leaders are not capable of representing you,” she said, raising her voice. “YOU ARE REPRESENTED. YOU ARE NOT A DISTINCT CLASS.”
Nobody in the audience bought this poppycock. Cheers and clapping greeted the following dissents.
►Herb Michael, former Chapter Leader, said: “I’m not convinced I’m really represented. We’re in a special situation. That’s why there’s a special agreement including a committee to review compliance. I’d feel more comfortable if some ATRs looked at it. We need to meet on a regular basis. Why can’t we have a motion on the floor to elect a chapter leader?”
This is when Barr claimed that he knew better and that we didn’t want chapters to represent us. Adopting Randi Weingarten's line against rubber room chapters, he said, “You don’t want to be in a permanent class.” Such strained reasoning--as if chapter status would mean anything more than standard representation for us outcasts. At the least, Randi appeased reassigned teachers with monthly meetings in Manhattan. But ATRs in good standing are deprived of that small kindness.
►John Lawhead said: “I’m amazed at the innocence of your assumptions. I’m in a school with no Chapter Leader. And now you’re telling us that District Leaders are going to make up the difference? What kind of union do you want to be, merely a service organization? You’ve got to use us in some way. We could be reps in schools.”
By this time, Barr was gone and Brooklyn Borough Rep Howie Schoor stood in at the podium. He was whispering in Arundell’s ear while Lawhead spoke and may have missed his larger point about the UFT’s soul. But puffing up, he said that he would make certain that District Reps did their jobs.
►Your correspondent, former Chapter Leader and three-year graduate of Brooklyn’s Chapel St. rubber room, spoke up: “I wanted to thank LeRoy for telling us what we want. But I know what we want; (turning to the audience): How many of you want a chapter for ATRs? (the room erupted unanimously in favor and I turned back to Schoor). Will you explain why we can’t have a chapter and will you give us your sign-up list so that we can better organize?
Schoor and I have a complicated history. He is a nice fellow and has been generous with his time and assistance over the years. But just as often he has failed in nerve apropos my quarrels with the UFT and DOE. For example, I sent him three emails prior to the meeting asking for permission to briefly organize ATRs on site before the start of his informational session. No response. So I renewed my request on arrival. The answer was no. “It’s our meeting,” he said. I reminded him that his Special Rep Liz Perez, speaking for Barr, originally rejected my suggestion for an ATR gathering and that today’s meeting was just as much ours as the UFT’s. That got me nowhere, of course. Thereupon I entered the packed conference room and while people finished up their noshes, I defied Schoor by introducing myself and urging my colleagues to press our agenda as outlined in a Grassroots Education Movement broadsheet handed out by Norm Scott of ednotesonline. Schoor tried to shut me down almost immediately, but let me finish without interruption.
As for our demand for a chapter, ever Schoor, the tone-deaf bureaucrat, declared that Union policy was made by the Executive Committee and Delegate Assemblies blah, blah, blah. And no, he would not share the sign-up list. In retort, I jabbed, “Such is the democracy we work in!”
As the meeting wound down, two older female ATRs summed up our frustration with cris de coeur eliciting loud cheers. Said one: “Mulgrew doesn’t seem to care. Notice he’s not here and I bet he won’t be at the other meetings either.”
And the other: “It's all about age and money. School aides are teaching classes in my school. Principals will not hire us. Where is the union in this? I want my dues back.”