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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Modest Proposal

     Someone out there has a good idea; just because he happens to be a lawyer will not prevent me from giving his plan a little extra publicity.
     Charles Moerdler a lawyer from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, is doing some work for the UFT in a case involving the proposed closing of John F. Kennedy High School.  Mr. Moerdler has pointed out an ingenious way that the D.O.E. could have helped the struggling school to improve:
officials should have placed Absent Teacher Reserve struggling schools to decrease class size and provide extra help. However, he said, the few schools that did hire ATRs used them as hall monitors, not teachers.
     What do you say, brother and sister ATRs?  Are you ready to take on a class so that the teacher next door can work with a smaller register?  Are you ready to provide extra help to students who need it?
       Or do you prefer to spend the rest of your career as a hall monitor, or as a glorified doormat--er, 'scuse me, I meant glorified substitute. 
     Mr. Moerdler, Esq., would like to snap our chains; our Mayor, alas, would like to use them as nooses. 

A glimpse into one ATR’s life complicates the city’s policy story | GothamSchools

A glimpse into one ATR’s life complicates the city’s policy story | GothamSchools

Monday, May 23, 2011

* NYC Educator says that ATRs are
   "rotting...demoralized and demonized."

* Bookworm comments that ATRs are "caught in a scene

  from theater of the absurd."

* Yours truly, brooklynatr, says that the story of his career

  "has already been written--by Franz Kafka."

What do you say?

Post your comment below.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Non-working," "Non-teaching," "Poorly-performing": the same old lie

The same old lies are being recycled again.  
     This time it's a New York Post article (who else?) given a second life on a blog called
     The salient but fallacious quote refers to the Absent Teacher Reserve as: 
nonworking but on-the-payroll teachers from schools that have been shut down because of poor performance -- and teachers assigned only to "administrative functions." 
     Brooklynatr (my alter-ego) couldn't let that one go by, so he responded as follows: 
     I wonder if you have ever had any communication with a real, live, breathing member of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).
     I am an ATR, and by no stretch of the imagination am I a "non-teaching" or "non-working" teacher. In my present position, I teach middle-school classes every day. My preparations are made between 7:45 AM when I arrive in school--early--and 8:00 or 8:40 when my first class begins. Would you like to take my place some day in front of 33 seventh-graders who know that the "real" teacher is out for the day?

     Furthermore, I did not become an ATR due to working in a school that showed "poor performance." I was "excessed" (that's the technical term) because my high-performing school needed to downsize due to budget cuts. Since I was the teacher with the least seniority in my license area of Reading, I was the lucky one who was excessed and exiled to the ATR.

     During the nearly three years that I have been an ATR, I have taught satisfactorily at three different schools. I also spent one year working at "administrative functions": I served a useful and legally-necessary function as a General Education teacher on a Committee on Special Education (CSE). If you don't know what a CSE is, it's probably because you know very little at all about education.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The tallest protestor at the UFT rally on March 12, 2011 takes a break to tie his feet to his legs.  If Mayor Bloomberg lays off 4,000 teachers, those remaining will feel like they're teaching with their hands tied behind their backs.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chris Christie Loves Unions--Really!

New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie recently tweeted:

        There is only 1 union I like & that's me and Mary Pat, at
       the Shore, on the beach, in my Speedo.

     Is that really so, Mr. Governor?  I bet there are plenty of unions that you love.

*Don't you love corporations, which are unions for
making profit?

*Don't you love the State of NJ, which is a union for maintaining order and promoting the public well-

*Don't you love the team (that is, the union) that you
led that thwarted terrorists' plans to attack our military men and women at Fort Dix? (Your official website says that you are proud of that--and you should be.)

Don't you love the law firm (that is, the union of  lawyers) of Dughi, Hewit & Palatuccie, where you learned how to litigate?

     Mr. Governor, you really do love unions.  And if businesspeople can unionize for strength, and lawyers can unionize for strength, and terrorism-fighters can unionize for strength--THEN TEACHERS AND OTHER PUBLIC EMPLOYEES CAN UNIONIZE FOR STRENGTH AS WELL.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Respond! Inform!

     A fellow named Nick Collette recently wrote a string of mistruths about the Absent Teacher Reserve at a website called redcounty.comCheck out these whoppers:

           The union contract required that teachers be paid their full
           salaries and benefits if they are sent to the
           "Absent Teacher Reserve Pool."  These teachers, some
           being disciplined for astounding reasons, were
           being paid an average of $82,000 to sit in a room and 
           twiddle their thumbs because they failed at
           teaching the students they serve.

Donning the cape and tights of my alter ego, brooklynatr, I responded: 

 I can guarantee that I know more about the ATR than you do, because I am a member of the ATR.  I was not "sent" to the ATR for any disciplinary reason, astounding or otherwise.  Due to budgetary constraints, my original school needed to "shed" a few teachers.  The rule, as stated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, is that the teacher within a given license area who has the least seniority is "excessed."  These teachers may be assigned by the D.O.E. to another school within their district on a permanent basis, or they may be placed in the ATR (click here for details).

Becoming an ATR has absolutely nothing to do with discipline.  It has absolutely nothing to do with failing to teach.  If we had committed a serious infraction or failed to teach our students, we would have landed in the infamous Rubber Room.  The ATR , however, is for qualified teachers with satisfactory records who got pinched by the budget and by the seniority system.

What do we do in the ATR? We do not sit in a room and twiddle our thumbs.  We teach.  Many of us have steady teaching assignments just like any other teacher.  Others, such as myself, report to work every day and are given a short-term assignment to subsitute for an absent teacher--hence the name, Absent Teacher Reserve.   Believe me, substituting for 30 seventh-graders is not the same as sitting in a room and twiddling your thumbs.    
This one has a happy ending.  Mr. Collette admitted that he had been misinformed and promised that he would correct his article as soon as possible.

The lesson is clear, colleagues: It pays to respond! It pays to inform!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An ATR Speaks Out at May 5 Rally

This one needs no comment, just a note that it includes a quote from a teacher who attended one of the UFT rallies on May 5.

On Staten Island, a large crowd assembled outside Staten Island Borough Hall in a spirited rally that highlighted the plight of teachers serving in the Absent Teacher Reserve.
Dan Singleton, an ATR working at PS 22 who lost his teaching position at PS 57, skewered the New York Post and the other city tabloids for maligning ATRs.
“I didn’t even know what an ATR was until I became one when my school lost 12 teachers,” Singleton said. “The newspapers are painting a false picture of who we are. I teach fifth grade every single day. I have 25 kids every single day.  I am under the same pressures that other teachers are under every single day.”
Staten Island Borough President Emil Pietromonaco noted that three-quarters of the ATRs in Staten Island are working in full-time teaching positions.

Click here to see the full article.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ATRs: Some of NYC's best teachers

     Always on the lookout for nonsense about NYC's Absent Teacher Reserve, NYCATR found this gem on, a website emanating from the Upper East Side, the home of Mayor Bloomberg and Cathie Black: "It’s absurd to think that we could lay off some of our best teachers when there are 1,000 teachers in the absent  teacher  reserve still on the payroll."

     The author of this gem is a fellow named Jared Stone.  Using the name of my alter ego--brooklynATR--I replied as follows:

     What you don't realize, Mr. Stone, is that many of the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) are some of the best teachers in the city. They were excessed (not disciplined or demoted) simply because they were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was excessed because my school found it could afford one less teacher with a Reading license than it could before--and I was the Reading teacher with the least seniority. Like many ATRs, I have been unable to find a regular position.  Do you think it has something to do with my salary, which is commensurate with my masters degree, thirty additional credits, and 22 years of satisfactory service? Or is it because a horde of 22-year olds fresh out of college really know how to teach better than I do?